‘I Can See Your Lies’ Author Izzy Lee On Family Trauma And Making Art

i can see your lies

Filmmaker Izzy Lee does it all. She directs, writes, produces, makes props, does special effects makeup, and even acts. She founded and runs the production company Nihil Noctem Films, where she’s made over a dozen shorts. Now, she’s adding author to her resume with the release of her novella I Can See Your Lies, out now from Dark Matter Magazine. With this project she’s tackling intergenerational trauma, ghosts, supernatural powers, and so much more.

Read the novella’s synopsis below:

Fin’s reality is crumbling. Her husband has abandoned her, she’s now a single mom to a nine-year-old daughter, her Los Angeles home is sweltering, and she’s being haunted by disturbing hallucinations that make life a waking nightmare. Are the visions a product of stress, trauma, psychosis, or something else? The answers to those questions become more clear when Fin starts digging up dark secrets connected to her mother’s cold-case disappearance, a once-rising actress who mysteriously vanished in 1979. Will Fin slowly unravel the truth? Or will it remain hidden forever beneath the glitz and glamour of illusion?

We spoke with Lee about moving into the publishing world, finding catharsis through writing, and her upcoming feature.

Dread Central: I’m excited to talk to you about all of the things that you’re working on, but most importantly, we are talking about your new novella, I Can See Your Lies. So how did this whole thing come about?

Izzy Lee: Well, I’ve been writing short stories for about a decade on and off. It’s been a really nice avenue between shorts or pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, trying to get funding for that elusive feature That never happened until I took matters into my own hands and did a Kickstarter. So here we are, and in between pitches and shorts and traveling to festivals was when I was like, all right, well, what if I do it the reverse way? What if I actually write a book and then I do the screenplay after that?

DC: Smart. Very smart. I was going to ask if this is a story that you want to eventually turn into a film. Is a feature what you envisioned for this project?

IL: Oh yes. I still have to bring myself to start writing said script adaptation. But I mean, it’s not like I’ve been lazy either.

DC: I was going to say, it sounds like you’ve got quite a bit of things going on right now. For people who aren’t familiar with the story, can you tell us a little bit about I Can See Your Lies?

IL: I Can See Your Lies centers on Finn, who is a beleaguered mom in a really bad marriage, who has the uncanny ability to tell when people are lying to her by way of this weird, oily, black bubble manifestation popping up on other people’s faces when they do lie. The problem is her daughter, Marnie is also now developing a very similar ability, but also even more terrifying abilities as well. And in between all of this, Finn decides to go see what really happened to her mom. She travels up to coastal Oregon in search of her missing actress mother this one last time. She’s got a couple of clues, a couple of weird things happen, and even weirder things start happening and some really spooky shit.

DC: I also like how you tackle intergenerational trauma. I’m curious why that was something you wanted to tackle in your work and why that was such a draw for you in this story particularly.

IL: Yeah. I grew up as a child of a narcissistic parent, and that had a lot of chaos and turmoil and a lot of neglect and abuse in my life. I decided never to have kids, and I was just so afraid of passing down this trauma. I’ve spoken to so many horror creatives, whether it’s in literature or film, and a lot of us come from a very similar background, and it is so interesting to me. It’s horrifying, but it’s also like you peel back the layers of what is it that happened here and how do we make it better and how do we survive, thrive, grow, and help each other? You know what I mean? So it’s kind of like writing this book put me in a really fucking dark place.

But at the same time, I felt it was important to connect with people who have also had similar experiences and maybe don’t know quite how to get out of such a dark place. And let’s be honest, we don’t get the kind of justice we should usually in real life. So putting it in any sort of creative medium is I think really cathartic. So I made sure to have a little bit of mentions there at the end.

DC: Good, I’m glad. What are you hoping readers get out of I Can See Your Lies?

IL: If they come from a similar background as I do, I hope they feel a little better. I hope they feel less alone, and if not, I just hope they’re entertained by a great story that took them someplace. This book speaks to women and female-identifying people a lot. So far I’ve been hearing some really wonderful things. It’s starting to resonate with the right people, and that’s anything I ever wanted. So yeah, it’s been really nice so far.

DC: Amazing. Especially after putting so much of yourself into a piece of work and putting it out in the world, it’s got to feel fulfilling and helps with the catharsis a bit.

IL: Yeah, I mean, I feel like it’s the only way to really make art. Somebody said it, I don’t know if it was Jordan Peele or if he was quoting from somebody else, but I feel like it’s really true: “The more personal your art is, I feel like it’s also more universal too, in a really strange, counterintuitive way. But I do what I do to not just make myself feel better. It’s cheaper than therapy.

DC: Do you see yourself writing more novellas as maybe a full-length novel in the future?

IL: I hope so. I do have time. I will probably try to make time because while this was really, really fucking hard, the book’s only been out a week and it’s been very fulfilling and I don’t have to go and pitch any finance bros to make a novel happen.

DC: I was curious about what you learned being in the literary publishing world versus the film world and what that experience was like for you. You’ve obviously had so much experience in the film world making shorts, pitching features, and working in that space. So what was it like moving into a very different creative space?

IL: The only person I really ever had to rely on a hundred percent was myself. So that was fucking awesome. I mean, it was on me to get up every day to start thinking about, “All right, what am I going to continue on with this story?” It wasn’t a story that I outlined. They call it pantsing. It’s more like a British term, which is writing without an outline, which is what Stephen King does. It comes to you and you just write. You think about it, you think as much as you can, of course. And then you just write. I would ask myself questions, what if this or what that? Or what if this didn’t happen? You know what I mean? I find that asking myself a lot of questions helped me get to places I might not otherwise.

I don’t know if I’ll continue writing without outlines. We’ll see what happens. I guess it’s a big question in the literary world. People have arguments about it. Are you a pantser? Are you a plotter? Meaning you outline. But yeah, I mean, so I wrote this massive thing. I pitched it to Sadie Hartman at Dark Heart Books who had her own label under Dark Matter Inc. And she said, hell yes, let me talk to the publisher. He liked the idea and I sent the manuscript and they said yes. Then I had to do some developmental edits, which meant they weighed in and they gave their opinion on what else should happen or shouldn’t happen. I worked on that all last summer. Working with the cover artist was super cool. I loved that. I know

DC: The cover is so good. Oh my God, it’s such a good cover.

IL: Yeah. Mad respect for actual artists. Real human artists, by the way.

DC: Yes. Everyone, real human artists are very important. Only use them for anything forever.

IL: God, yes.

DC: That is my statement on that.

IL: I have a BFA in illustration, so yeah.

DC: That’s so cool. I didn’t know that.

IL: Yeah, I mean, it’s not something that I really talk about a lot. One of my goals was I’d like to illustrate book covers and album art and things like that, all these jobs that were going away already as I was graduating because we had to be a graphic designer instead. I’m like, “I don’t like that shit. It’s not what I do.” So I’m more of an abstract painter these days. But having the illustration training really helped, not just for art, but in filmmaking. I know how to frame something. I know about color theory, I know about perspective, and things like that, so it’s been pretty helpful as a filmmaker to have that background.

DC: Well, I know that you’re in post for a feature. Can you tell us anything about it at all?

IL: So we’re assembling our very first cut, and it’s one of those scary things where you’re like, why did I ever think I could do this?

DC: Isn’t it fun? You’re like, I have ruined everything. Everything is terrible, and I don’t want to look at a single second of it. No, thank you.

IL: It is such the artist’s way to hate the very first iteration of a film, but we’re not alone. Scorsese has said your first cut will make you hate everything about life and yourself and things. I don’t know what his quote was, but I’m paraphrasing. But then he’s like, it’s get better. I’m like, all right. So I’m not alone. That’s good.

But the feature is called House of Ashes. Since we live in an ever-evolving terrifying police state, it’s based on what we were thinking was a fictional type of story, but now it’s becoming ever more real. So it’s about a woman who is put under house arrest for the crime of having a miscarriage. 

We wrote this a year ago, and it’s become more and more real, and it’s terrifying. I don’t know how to feel about any of that because yeah, obvious reasons. But while she’s under house arrest, there’s also a lot of really weird and freaky shit that happens. She’s moved in with her new boyfriend, she’s a widow, and her husband died under mysterious circumstances. She was suspected and then cleared. She’s lost her business. The whole world is pretty much against her. And out of necessity, her new boyfriend/old high friend Mark moves in to help her out. And things get insane.

I don’t want to spoil shit, but they get pretty fucking weird and creepy, and I really, really love what we did. We get some incredible footage. Everybody on the team was a rock star and knocked it out of the fucking park, so the cut will get better. Lots of weird practical effects.

DC: Izzy, you have very good, weird, practical effects in a lot of your shorts. So I was hoping for as much amazing, weird, practical goop as possible.

IL: Oh, hell yeah. There’ll be a little bit of CGI, but mostly it’s in camera. There is one thing that I built that probably most people will think is CGI, but I built a storm cloud in a bedroom. I built it out of a sheet and pillow stuffing, and we put in some flashing, I’m trying to remember what they call them. They’re like these cool little light boxes that our camera team had, not quite LEDs, or maybe they are, but they’re like these cool little rubbery box-looking things, and it makes it stormy. We attached it to the ceiling fan in the bedroom, and it looks fucking amazing.

I Can See Your Lies is out now./se



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