PS: Hi Victoria. What’s in your room at The Hyde Hotel?
VHL: A woman, a Picasso painting and fifty shades of blue.
PS: Why blue? Tell me about the art influences that run through the story?
VHL: I was at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona a few years ago and was really struck by Picasso’s blue period. I didn’t know much about it at the time but found myself much more moved by this earlier period in his career, than by the cubist work he is more famous for. I’d also watched Dr James Fox’s documentary series, A History of Art in Three Colours and found the idea of seeing the world around us through one colour particularly interesting. Blue is a supremely important colour in terms of historical and cultural associations but also has a strong link to our psyche, as I think Picasso’s blue period exemplifies particularly well.
PS: Your story draws on women’s visibility/ invisibility, colour and madness. Did The Yellow Wallpaper influence you at all?
VHL: Not overtly, but I think ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ has certainly influenced the themes and concerns I’m interested in exploring as a writer. Actually, at the time of writing ‘The Blue Room’ I was researching material for my novel, most of which was centred on nineteenth-century attitudes and practices associated with women’s health, which included hysteria and mental illness. My background is in nineteenth-century gender studies, so perhaps some of these aspects filtered through.
PS: What appealed to you about the hotel as a setting?
VHL: I liked the fact that it draws on a particular topography we associate with the genre but allows for lots of different spaces, rooms, basements, breakfast rooms, to be exploited by the writer in new ways. Also, hotels provide anonymity and there’s something very engaging about all these people coming and going over time and the things they potentially leave behind. That was certainly a consideration in my story; the pain that my protagonist brings with her, colours her experiences, whilst The Hyde Hotel is an accumulation of all this pain from its previous residents.
PS: Do you have a favourite story in the Hyde Hotel collection yourself?
VHL: I think the anthology contains some absolutely brilliant stories from some very talented writers but if I had to pick just one, I’d say that I particularly liked Alison Littlewood’s ‘The View From the Basement’. As an opening story, it sets up the anthology particularly well, exploring the dimensions of the hotel and alluding to things supressed and buried.
PS: What’s your favourite hotel story/ film?
VHL: The Shining is one of my favourite books of all time. There’s something particularly creepy about an empty hotel, off season. I also really like R.B. Russell’s story ‘Night Porter’ in Shadows and Tall Trees, issue 6, which has a lovely dark and surreal quality to it.
PS: Do you have any new projects you can talk about?
VHL: My debut novel, Bodies of Water is due out from Salt Publishing on May 17th. The story takes place in what was once a hydropathy establishment (a hotel of sorts) beside the Thames, where affluent Victorians went to take the Water Cure. But it isn’t the water treatments but the river itself that accounts for the strange occurrences that take place inside Wakewater House.
V. H. Leslie’s stories have appeared in Black Static, Interzone, Shadows and Tall Trees and Strange Tales IV and have been reprinted in a range of ‘Year’s Best’ anthologies. Last year saw the release of her short story collection Skein and Bone and she was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award in the category of novelette. She is also a Hawthornden Fellow and has recently returned from the Saari Residency in Finland, where she was researching Nordic water myths for her PhD in English and Creative Writing. Her debut novel, Bodies of Water is due out from Salt Publishing later this year. More details on her work can be found at www.vhleslie.wordpress.com