Non-residency Student: So what genre do you write in?
Non-residency Student: Horror? Really? But you seem like such a nice person, why would you write horror?
*cue dramatic eye-rolling and desire to breathe fire*
The above conversation was one I had during my second Writing Popular Fiction (WPF) residency at Seton Hill University (SHU). The student was at the school in a different program, an older gentleman, and perfectly pleasant to talk to minus the aforementioned excerpt that made me want to jump up on a table and yell, “PRAISE SATAN THE DARK LORD” just for dramatic effect because “but you seem so nice” is one of the most irritating, condescending things you can say to a woman who writes horror. I don’t know if men in horror get told such things, but if they do I’m willing to bet it happens much less.
Awhile ago I read an article on the lovely Tracie McBride’s Exquisite Corpse blog titled “9 things female horror writers are sick of hearing” and what is the first bullet point? Answer: “But you seem so nice!”
After Non-residency Student fed me the “but you seem like a nice person” line, I responded with “nice people can write horror, too.” I don’t remember his response very much. It was mostly a splutter and a kind of “yeahh, but….” I’m not sure where this idea came from that “nice” girls don’t write horror, but it makes me want to sacrifice a goat or something. Should I be glowering in a dark corner wearing a shirt that says “Evil Shrew”? Does that mean I can write horror then? I’m terribly sorry to all the people I’ve been polite to. I’ll make sure to let you know I secretly dream about boiling your guts from now on.
Is there some standard personality that must be attached to writers of various genres? It’s always odd to confront a perception when it’s said to you candidly in a setting where, up until that point, you had been very comfortable in your surroundings. Let me move on from the older, white man who questioned the young female horror writer (can we dismantle the patriarchy yet?), and talk about how much I love my peers and mentors at SHUWPF because never would one of those fellow writers say, “You writer about blood and death? But you seem so nice!” Instead they would ask you about your work, and listen to you gush about the latest project you’re passionate about. What makes this community the absolute best is that your fellow writers will gush over your work with you. The atmosphere is encouraging, supportive, and safe. It doesn’t matter here if you write about death and blood, knights and castles, aliens and cyborgs, intense love affairs, and the works. The SHUWPF community is all-embracing. And we’re nice people. A little weird, often introverted, occasionally grumpy in the early morning after late nights, but always kind and supportive at the end of the day.