Did this month even happen? I’m not entirely convinced it did. I am, however, very tired and feeling that whole quarantine brain fog thing often. In better news, my forthcoming third collection of poetry, Cradleland of Parasites, is just about done! I’m on the revision/editing stage right now, which is my favorite of the writing stages! When I sent my publisher a proposal last year (I think in the fall) to see if he’d be interested in a poetry collection inspired by the Black Death, obviously I never thought I’d be researching bacteria, Medieval burial rituals, different ways plague spreads, and the earliest cases of biological warfare during a time of real pandemic, but here we are. The contract was signed, I was determined, and now I just hope it gathers some interest instead of great dismay and sadness. Then again, maybe now is the perfect time to step into the Cradleland of Parasites…
Cradleland of Parasites
You will walk in blood after the birth
and the very violence of such a thing,
how an origin shreds through membrane
how copper stains your lips and tongue,
will terrorize each atom in your body.
Sickness has always been here,
waiting in light and dark, hovering
in your air, and swimming through
each breath and drop of water,
did you ever think something as microscopic
as a germ could hurt this much?
You will take my hand when the air aches
when clouds have only acid lakes to absorb,
before your organs break down into dust
before life exits your body in an angry burst,
shut your eyes, tell me what bacterium curses you.
In the cradleland of parasites, beginnings
are always brutal, the way plague rips
venomous disease from contagion’s womb
spilling her gore across a vermillion wasteland,
does love still exist in this place where flesh
spills open and the maggots come to feast?
You will walk in blood after the birth,
taste spores sprouting through atmosphere,
remember the origin must always be violent
remember humankind will not survive this,
we will rebuild our cradleland from their bones.
Well, hello there… We are still several months out from the standard release of our anthology, NOT ALL MONSTERS, but we have decided to make the illustrated special editions (in hardcover and paperback) available, starting today. These editions are only available from Rooster Republic, and will never be available anywhere else. The hardcover edition is […]
Welcome back to the fourth and final roundtable question! Thank you SO much to the authors behind Not All Monsters for sharing their ideas, insights, and inspirations! Check out all the roundtable questions here.
How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person? Who are some contemporary women in horror that you love reading?
Angela Sylvaine: I think being a writer helps me understand that every character, and therefore every person in real life, is rich and complicated. Good or bad, we all have motivations and baggage and fears and dreams. No one is just what they appear to be on the surface.
Some of my favorite recent women’s horror includes Bunny by Mona Awad, which was achingly beautiful, extremely brutal, and completely confusing. I’m still not sure I understand what happened in that book, but I was enthralled. In young adult horror, I loved both Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer and The Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand. Both featured richly developed young women as strong characters, and I love reading great YA horror.
Hailey Piper: Writing has helped process dealing with various aspects of life, and I’d like to think that gives me a better understanding of what I’m going through. It doesn’t always work, of course.
As for contemporary women in horror, that reading list is a mile long! But Sara Tantlinger, Claire Holland, Marjorie Liu, Joanna Koch, Eden Royce, Christa Carmen, Gwendolyn Kiste, Priya Sharma, Eliza Chan, Laura Mauro, A.C. Wise, V.H. Leslie, Tracy Fahey … I could go on. Forever.
Joanna Roye: Becoming a writer has actually helped me become more sure of myself, of my identity and place. By figuring out my voice, it’s helped me reflect on who I am and how I can interact with the world. I love reading Gwendolyn Kiste, Kelly Link, Tananarive Due, and Mariko Koike.
Joanna Koch: I used to do art to get the demons out. Words require commitment. I’ve become more honest with myself and with others through writing. Dare I say I’ve become more human? I guess I’m going to get kicked out of the robot club now. I was really counting on that new mechanical body. Damn.
There are too many excellent female identified authors to keep up with in horror! My TBR list is ever-expanding. It’s a good problem to have.
Fellow “Not All Monsters” authors I’ve loved reading include Christa Carmen, Jessica McHugh, and Hailey Piper. Piper is a favorite who I’ve watched grow tremendously over the past year. I can’t wait to see where she takes her work in the near future. Writers who glean literary respect beyond the genre like Carmen Maria Machado, Kathe Koja, and Alma Katsu blow me away with vastly different but equally rich and complex works. Some women I’m planning to read more of soon include Georgina Bruce, Gwendolyn Kiste, Damien Angelica Walters, Claire C. Holland, Laurel Hightower, Stephanie Wytovich, and Christina Sng. I do love a good horror poem, and your name definitely goes on my list! I’m honored to talk with you, Sara!
Leslie Wibberley: CNF allows me to explore my reactions to problematic events in my
life, either in the past, or as they unfold. Once the emotion settles, the act of writing those reactions on the page allows me just enough distance to be objective, helping me to work through the issues.
Fiction does the same. Placing my characters into challenging situations and playing with their reactions, often helps me in my own life. But unlike CNF, I’m the one who chooses the final outcome, and I love the heady sense of power that brings.
A few of my favorite women in horror are Angela Slatter, Kelly Link, Carina Bissett, Angela Carter, K.T. Wagner, Shirley Jackson, and a fresh new voice in the horror world, whose writing is as lyrical as it is disturbing—Sara Tantlinger.
Christa Carmen: Being a writer has helped me as a person in that it gives me a creative outlet for all the things I love or fear or obsess over or just want to know more about in the world. Being a horror writer in particular allows me to grapple with issues that worry me or invoke unease, and I’m grateful that I discovered early on that it was, indeed, horrorfiction that allowed for this in-depth exploration as opposed to, say, poetry or creative nonfiction, because I’m far better at penning a horror tale than I am at conceptualizing a memoir or stringing together a haiku.
Some contemporary women in horror that I love reading are Gwendolyn Kiste, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Nadia Bulkin, Ania Ahlborn, Jac Jemc, Alma Katsu, Christina Sng, Elizabeth Hand, Nancy Holder, Joyce Carol Oates, Claire C. Holland, Anya Martin, Erin Sweet Al-Mehari, Renee Miller, Theresa Braun, Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, Damien Angelica Walters, Lauren Groff, Caroline Kepnes, Ruth Ware, Sarah Pinborough, and all the amazing women in the Not All Monstersanthology.
Briana McGuckin: It comes back to that idea of subverting power as therapeutic. I have cerebral palsy, and when I was a kid – when I started writing – I was skin, bones, and surgical scars. I was in and out of a wheelchair. The only extra-curricular activity I did was dance class, as physical therapy – but there were recitals, so I always felt I was bringing everybody else down. When I rode the short bus, I got shoved in lockers and called “retarded.” I knew I was smart. It’s not that you believe what bullies say about you – it’s that you know they’re wrong, and yet there’s no changing the atmosphere. You don’t make the rules. But when you write, you control everything. You can put down what it feels like to be you, and no one can erase it. It gives you space for your narrative.
As for contemporary women in horror, I just read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It’s packed full of everything you want in a classic gothic horror novel – the old house, the weird family, things being on fire – and yet it’s so readable for a modern audience. It feels like rich, aged, time-tested fiction.
Jennifer Loring: Much like reading, writing helps you become empathetic. This is especially important when you’re writing characters that aren’t representative of yourself, as I often do. Being a writer has also helped with my anxiety disorder; I used to avoid public speaking and social events in general, but now I love attending conferences and conventions and getting to know other writers. As far as contemporary women horror writers, I love Gwendolyn Kiste, S. P. Miskowski, Livia Llewellyn, Gemma Files, Kristi DeMeester, Betty Rocksteady—and you, of course! 😊 Also, despite not being “horror” writers per se, Gillian Flynn and Sara Gran have written some pretty horrific stuff (Sharp Objectsand Come Closer, respectively).
J.C. Raye: I am ashamed to say that I have learned more about geography, culture, and world history from writing my first dozen short stories than during my entire K-College education. I spent the first twenty years of life trying to get by without studying all those juicy details which make a story rich. Now, I can easily spend two weeks seeking out exact names of native foliage for a midwestern ghost town, studying traditions of Vietnamese paper-lantern making, or discovering what caves exist off the coast of Ireland.
I love reading ANY women in horror. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And the darkness of a woman’s imagination truly has no bottom. Want to stay up nights? Yeah? Read a horror story concocted by a woman.
Juliana Spink Mills: I came to writing late, though I’ve loved words my entire life. I only started writing seriously when I turned 40 and my kids were old enough to not need me all the time. Writing grounds me, but also gives me room to spread my wings and soar. It’s something all mine, a myriad of secret worlds to explore and special places only I can access and bring to life. Writing completes me.
As for other writers, I tend to read more fantasy and sci fi than horror, though there is a lot of bleed-through (ha! blood!) from one to the other. I loved Holly Black’s Folk of the Airtrilogy, for instance, which is technically fantasy but does have some horror elements. Northern Irish writer Jo Zebedee definitely blurs that line between horror, sci fi, and fantasy, and I’m a huge fan of her work. In her Waters and the Wild, for instance, she goes quite dark indeed. And in terms of actual horror writers, you can’t go wrong with the fabulously talented Gwendolyn Kiste.
G.G. Silverman: Writing has helped me have a safe space to explore my own thoughts and feelings. It has also helped me become more empathetic, and notice more about my surroundings, and about people. It forces me to be mindful, and present, and to witness. It has also brought me great friendships, people I’m certain I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for my writing habit.
As for contemporary women in horror I love reading, I really love Carmen Maria Machado. Joyce Carol Oates’ work is also really amazing. Then there are peers who are doing great stuff, like Sarah Read, Stephanie Wytovich, and Gwendolyn Kiste. There are so many great female voices in horror. It’s an exciting time to be a writer *and* a reader.
Amy Easton: For me, writing is invaluable for making sense of the world and my place in it – I would be far less grounded without it. I love bringing narrative elements into my therapy work and horror is particularly well-suited for meaningful representation. I tend to read nonfiction soam excited to explore the darker side of fiction through the works of my anthology sisters! As for recommendations, current favorites are Kier-La Janisse’s House of Psychotic Women and Sady Doyle’s Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers.
Kayleigh Barber: I think being a writer has helped me in so many ways. It’s helped me
develop my sense of empathy, as well as helping me step out of my comfort zone. There have also been times when it’s been an escape, a way to step back from life or even my own brain and work through things in a way that I can shape and control.
For female horror authors, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Sara Tantlinger. To Be Devoured still makes me shudder when I think of certain scenes. Mira Grant’s Feedtrilogy is one of my all-time-favorite reads. Donna Lynch’sChoking Back the Devilwas wonderful. I also have books by Gwendolyn Kiste, Sara Gran, and Christa Carmen that I can’t wait to read!
Annie Neugebauer: Writing has helped me in more ways than I can easily pin down and articulate. I do know that writing has been a creative outlet for me, of course, and a way to better understand myself and other people. It’s one of the ways I process life and explore the world. It’s also an escape: something that’s mine and only mine that can always be exactly what I want it to be. It’s given me empathy, wisdom, healing, understanding, joy, and contentment. But all of that sounds trite compared to how it feels.
As far as contemporary authors go, I’m absolutely obsessed with Tana French’s work. She’s incredibly brilliant, whether veering toward or away from horror. I also consistently love Gillian Flynn, Laurell K. Hamilton, Gemma Files, and Sarah Waters. And I’ve read fantastic books lately by Zoje Stage, Catherine Burns, Lauren Beukes, and Marisha Pessl. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many women crafting incredible short fiction, for example, that I can’t even begin to list them all!
J.H. Moncrieff: Writing has helped me use my voice to educate and inspire others, and hopefully help them see things differently. When I’m writing regularly, I’m a much happier, more content, and focused person. I’m never lonely because my characters surround me. Writing helps me unpack a lot of negativity, worries, and fears that would probably otherwise drive me crazy, like the poaching and senseless killing of animals (see #1). As for contemporary women in horror, I love Catherine Cavendish, Somer Canon, Lee Murray, Susan Hill, and Sarah Pinborough. I’m probably forgetting many, so please forgive me.
Sam Fleming: I’m neuro-atypical and have hypergraphia. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. It took about four decades for me to start submitting, though, and I need to differentiate between the writing I do because I haveto, and the writing that tells stories. Being the kind of writer who sends stuff out has made me much more robust to, and yet also open to criticism, and taught me to be kinder myself. I am a terrible perfectionist, and competitive to boot, but you can’t control what an editor wants to see. You might have a great story and still see it rejected, because it wasn’t right for that market at that time. It has enabled me to segregate personal criticism from criticism of my work, and my time in crit groups has taught me to be more sensitive to other people. I’m so much better at tailoring a message for my audience than I used to be.
I have favourite stories rather than writers. I loved Michele Paver’s Dark Matter, and Carole Johnstone’s “Better You Believe”. That said, if a contents page lists Kelly Robson, A.C. Wise, Leah Bobet or Gwendolyn Kiste, I’ll probably read those stories first.
Jessica McHugh: I don’t think I’m great at expressing myself verbally. When I was a kid, I’d often sit up in bed at night besieged by anxieties I couldn’t articulate, so I’d just scream at the top of lungs. My poor parents probably thought I was being murdered the first time it happened. Even when I got better at discussing my feelings, I’ve always felt more comfortable channeling them through a character. Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say,” and that rings true for me as well. Writing is screaming at the page, and editing is figuring out why I needed to scream in the first place.
When it comes to contemporary women in horror, it almost hurts not to list 20+ names because there are so many kickass ladies rocking the genre right now. Some of my favorites are Betty Rocksteady, Damien Angelica Walters, Stephanie Wytovich, Sarah Pinborough, Carmen Maria Marchado, Sheri White, Emma Johnson, Sarah Read, Tananarive Due, and Lucy Snyder.
K.P. Kulski: Writing is the ultimate outlet. There’s that great quote attributed to Sappho floating around the internet, “what cannot be said will be wept.” I really want that quote to be something Sappho said, but there is no proof of that. However, I love the quote even if she didn’t say it. I think it also describes what writing can do. Fiction can be the display of truth through the creation of lies. Words like sorrow and rage by themselves convey nuanced meanings, but works of fiction give us the depth of the meaning. We can say, “I am sad” but saying it with a story is the weeping of truth that cannot ever be given proper justice without the fiction.
I can gush forever about writers, especially women writers. I recently read Shawna Yang Ryan’s Water Ghostsand it is the most crushing, beautiful and haunting story. It flits along the threshold of horror, but that’s something about it that I absolutely adore. I’m a fan of graphic novels as well so I have to mention Marjorie M. Liu’s Monstress series, not only is the story and world gripping, the art by Sana Takeda is horrifying and breathtaking and gorgeous all at once. I had the honor of being at a poetry reading with Donna Lynch, Saba Razvi and a woman named Sara Tantlinger… you might know her. I’m pretty sure I looked like a rabid fan as I immediately purchased their work so I could spend my life reading their books by candlelight. I may have also used their poems to curse the wicked. As one does.
Kindle E-book (using my Kindle Unlimited free trial because I’m stupid poor)
What does carrion taste like? Andi has to know. The vultures circling outside her home taunt and invite her to come understand the secrets hiding in their banquet of decay. Fascination morphs into an obsessive need to know what the vultures know. Andi turns to Dr. Fawning, but even the therapist cannot help her comprehend the secrets she’s buried beneath anger-induced blackouts.
Her girlfriend, Luna, tries to help Andi battle her inner darkness and infatuation with the vultures. However, the desire to taste dead flesh, to stitch together wings of her own and become one with the flock sends Andi down a twisted, unforgivable path. Once she understands the secrets the vultures conceal, she must decide between abandoning the birds of prey or risk turning her loved ones into nothing more than meals to be…
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Women Writing Horror: The Importance of Female Representation in My Favorite Genre
As a little girl growing up with a love of all things horror, I got a lot of funny looks from people – family and friends included. I was the only bookworm in my family, and the only person interested in the things that went bump in the night. Trying to explain to my teachers or guidance counselors that the stuff I read and watched wasn’t unhealthy for me – especially in comparison to what my real life was like – wasn’t easy.
While I had what most people would call a “rough childhood”, there were a lot of good, shining points throughout, and one of the brightest of those points was my love of books. Reading transported me to another world, one where the bad things happening around me weren’t really there and couldn’t do any more…
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Welcome back! If you missed Part I and Part II of my roundtable with the amazing authors of Not All Monsters, make sure to check them out. Nick Day recently sent me a hardcover proof of the book, and it’s safe to say I’m obsessed and this book is going to be a beautiful collector’s item.
What would be your dream job besides being a successful author?
Annie Neugebauer: Probably a professional organizer and/or interior designer. I have a passion for home aesthetics, and a knack for helping people sort through their clutter. On the other hand, I can also easily imagine loving being a lit professor!
Angela Sylvaine: I would love to be a chef or a food critic. I enjoy cooking and when I travel, I love to try new and interesting foods.
Briana McGuckin: I was an academic librarian before I started pursuing my MFA full-time, and that was close to perfect for me. I love doing research, and I love re-framing ideas to help people understand them or see them in a new way. I got to do a bit of teaching in that position, and I wish I could do more. I just want to get to the bottom of everything – anything, whatever’s weighing on a person’s mind when they talk to me. They’re the same, I think – emotional upset and the thirst for knowledge – because that’s when we want to know things: when we feel we’re missing something important. I’ve been told I missed my calling as a therapist. But my favorite writers are my therapists for the time that I am reading their work, so maybe I’m still well-situated for that.
Juliana Spink Mills: Travel writer! Especially now that my kids are nearly done with high school and almost ready for college…
I traveled a lot when I was younger; to Australia and around Europe. All over Brazil. To Peru with my now-husband (and then-boyfriend). A group of us once drove over 8,000 miles from Brazil to the southernmost tip of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, and back again, crossing Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina. I’ve skied the Rockies, the Alps, and the Fitzsimmons Range. After college, I spent two months backpacking Canada by myself. I love traveling. And hey, I could write my fiction at the same time; perfect!
Leslie Wibberley: I used to want to be a forensic sculptor, but sadly computer-generated images and reconstructions have now made that occupation obsolete.
I sculpt, but only as a hobby. But if I couldn’t write I’d be a professional sculptor. For me, sculpture is the only thing that has ever come close to the magic of writing. In both, we create something from nothing. Beautiful works of art from amorphous lumps of clay or imaginary worlds filled with people who don’t exist, doing things that never happened, using only thoughts and words.
Amy Easton: I think I am lucky enough to have it! I am a therapist working with survivors of trauma and there is nothing else I would rather do. One day, I hope to be able to live in the woods with a whole pack of dogs but I don’t think there’s much money in that path.
Christa Carmen: I’d either do something with animals—but something wild like assist a team of Australian biologists in cloning the DNA of a Tasmanian tiger to bring the striped marsupial wolves back from extinction—or something with the occult, like become a traveling tour guide for the most haunted places in America or the most sought after spirit photographer this side of the Great Beyond. See, this is why my actual dream job is to be a successful author, because the jobs I just described are ridiculous and seem completely made up.
Joanna Koch: Personal masseuse to an immortal and benevolent cat deity. Preferably a chunky ginger boy.
Jessica McHugh: I love dancing. In my life, I’ve been a ballet and tap dancer, a stripper, a Just Dance and DDR enthusiast, and I even trained to be a ballroom dance instructor. I don’t know how I’d make money doing it these days at nearly 40 years old, but hey, I guess that’s why it’s a *dream* job!
Jennifer Loring: I did my undergrad in studio art; being an artist was my first real “dream job.” Obviously it didn’t work out, but I still dabble in several media—painting (digital and acrylic), collage, mixed media, book-making, photography. I’m debating whether to put an online store back up. I love a good side-hustle, but I’ve already got a day job and the whole writing thing!
K.P. Kulski: Archaeologist. I would be the female version of Indiana Jones. I would fight Nazi’s and make grand archaeological discoveries. Honestly, I’d also be happy being an archaeologist who lived in reality. I’d love to specialize in the ancient Celtic, Norse and Mongolian cultures. Yes, all three. I don’t care how far Mongolia is from the other two. I do what I want.
G.G. Silverman: I have always loved nature, and in our current time, news of places like Australia being destroyed by wildfire has really gotten my attention. I’m currently exploring opportunities to learn about how to make a better impact on the environment—whether or not that translates to a job that earns money remains to be seen. It’s important work, regardless.
I also love visual art, and am a graphic designer for my day job, so I’m looking at ways to expand my offering as an artist to include things that are more illustrative—successfully selling more visual art would absolutely be a dream come true.
I also love teaching (I currently teach creative writing at my local college), and community-building, and in the future I hope to build some kind of space (real or virtual) that brings people together to work on their own dreams, and support each other.
Hailey Piper: Multiverse cartographer. I’d write a guidebook and draw maps to parallel universes so people would know which to travel to … there are still books involved, but that’s different from being an author, right? There’s walking involved!
J.H. Moncrieff: A forensic psychologist (profiler) or a marine biologist, but since I haven’t actually done either job, it might be best to try them out first. I have been a journalist, a publicist, an editor, a marketer/communications specialist, and a teacher.
Sam Fleming: Climate Research Scientist in Antarctica? Dragon whisperer? Raven wrangler? When I was little, I wanted to be James Bond. I was oblivious to the misogyny, as a clueless 7-year-old, but being sent to dangerous places to save the world from bad people appealed. The Armed Forces wouldn’t have me.
I’m not sure it’s wise to have a dream job. You always have to sacrifice something, and then wonder whether or not it was worth it. If you can find something that makes you want to get up in the morning and do it, and someone is willing to pay you for it, then that is as close as you can get to a dream job. I know what I want from a job – to be needed and wanted (not the same thing), a moderate degree of excitement, plenty of variety and challenge, a degree of autonomy that equates to being left to get on with it, and knowing my efforts will leave the world a better place. Preferably without having to talk to too many people, but where I can bring my dog.
So battlewitch in charge of guarding a powerful sacred relic on a remote island, I suppose.
Joanna Roye: Running a horticultural garden to propagate native species of plants. Or bee-keeper, opossum rehabilitator? Something in the area of wildlife conservation.
Kayleigh Barber: I would love to open a bookstore, possibly with a café attached. Did you finish book 1 in a series at midnight, and now you need book 2 and some caffeine stat? Come on in, or choose the delivery option at checkout!
J.C. Raye: Goats. I’d like to raise them. Run with them. Build massive wooden jungle gyms for climbing and watch them knock each other off in their seemingly endless game of king of the mountain. That game never gets old with goats. Watch them sometime and you’ll see.
My Women in Horror Month interview series continues today with an interview with award-winning author Sara Tantlinger! Read on to learn more about this amazing writer and poet.
Sonora: How long have you been writing poetry? Has your poetry always been infused with horror? When did your verses start to gain a sinister or macabre twist?
Sara: I started writing some very angst-filled poetry back in middle school. It was definitely a way for me to cope with the grief I was feeling at that time to try and deal with the sudden loss of my dad. I am not one to talk about my feelings and inner turmoil a lot, so turning to notebooks and writing became my therapy. I think over the years, poetry has become the most organic way for me to deal with extreme emotions like that. It’s a pure and unfiltered way to…
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