Betty Rocksteady wasn’t born with that name, but she was definitely born “Betty Rocksteady.” Her gloriously grotesque illustrations and lusciously lurid prose could only be attributed to someone with such a unique byline.
But there is definitely a method to her magical madness…
You are equally adept as both an illustrator and an author, combining these talents in creative, unique ways. Do you find one more artistically fulfilling than the other, or are they intrinsically inseparable?
Writing and art always felt like they went together to me. The best books are always illustrated - Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz were two childhood favorites. Then Clive Barker's Thief of Always made a big impression as well. I'm really excited to be putting out books that have my mark all over them, both with my words and my illustrations!
There was a long time in my 20s where I thought I wasn't cut out to be a writer and I abandoned the thought of writing almost entirely. I spent that time reading a ton, of course, but I kept teaching myself to draw and working through tons of books on it. When I decided to start taking my creative side seriously, I took on writing and art at the same time - designing my first couple of prints and writing my first stories. It always kind of flexes back and now between which one feels the best at the moment. Sometimes one is fun and the other feels like WORK but it changes which is which.
Do you identify as a “Bizarro” author or do you eschew categorization altogether, essentially creating your own genre, even though it’s harder to market your work that way?
I've never identified as a bizarro author, but there are definitely bizarro elements in some of my work! Most notably, Arachnophile (an erotic love story between man and spider) was my first book and it was released under Eraserhead Press' New Bizarro Author Series.
I've always thought of myself as a horror writer primarily, but my definition of horror is really broad. Basically anything where something terrible happens! I don't think I create my own genre per se, but a lot of different genres show up in my work - from bizarro, to body horror, to extreme, to cosmic. I don't worry about categorizing or marketing until the work is finished, unless I'm writing for a particular call.
What motivates you the most when embarking on a project of any size or nature?
Brainstorming is the most fun part of writing for me. When I am able to free associate things together and figure out what I want the project to look like or feel like - then the thing that motivates me is getting it to look like the shape I have in my head. I plan extensively beforehand, write messy rough drafts, and then chip away at them and polish them until they are as close as they can be to what I envisioned. The rough drafts are always the hardest part for me - I hate getting them down, so I do it as quick as possible and motivate myself by remembering they are never as bad as I think they're gonna be, and that precious EDITING comes next, where I can make it how its supposed to be.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
Well, I grew up reading Stephen King, and Christopher Pike, and R.L. Stine, probably like every horror writer in my age bracket! My absolute favorite short stories that really encompass everything I love about the genre are Sredni Vashtar by Saki and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins.
Artistically, black and white and pen and ink is my jam. Edward Gorey and Virgil Finlay are particular favorites, but lately I've been huge into old 1920s-1930s cartoon illustrations like Betty Boop and Bimbo. Anything old and strange and wiggly. Those artistic influences show up a lot in my illustrations for THE WRITHING SKIES.
What’s next for you?
That's a great question! I've recently taken a short break from writing but I'm ready to get started again soon. I have two things in mind - one is a collection of interconnected short horror stories that feature forbidden feline mytos, and the other is a novel about a town where no one ever dies, unless they are willing to suffer.
I've been finishing up some commissioned illustration work and after that I'd like to just mess around with drawing again, and do a lot more weird cartoon stuff.
That sound good to me! Cheers and thank you, Betty!
Betty Rocksteady's BIO:
Betty Rocksteady is a Canadian author and illustrator that blends explict content with dramatic secrets and surrealist nightmares. Her short fiction has appeared in Looming Low, Lost Films and Eternal Frankenstein. Her newest novella THE WRITHING SKIES was released in September 2018. Find out more at https://www.bettyrocksteady.com/