This year we are celebrating a decade of showcasing women in horror! In honor of something so close to my heart, I am featuring ten amazing ladies in horror on my blog all month long to celebrate their incredible creativity and work in the field.
My next guest is Rachel Autumn Deering! She’s pretty metal, is so much fun to talk to, and is a fantastic writer. Read on!
Rachel Autumn Deering is a rock ‘n’ roll witch with a heart of slime. She lives with a bunch of monster masks in suburban Michigan.
ST: Thank you so much for taking the time to share more about your work today. To start, tell our readers a little bit more about your background with horror? What creative outlets do you channel horror into (writing, art work, film, design, research, etc…)?
RAD: Hey, it’s my pleasure! Thanks for having me.
It truly feels like I’ve always been into horror. I had an uncle who would babysit me a lot while my dad worked and he was really into creature feature movies and old horror comics and heavy metal music, so I was exposed to darker ideas from a very young age. I think by associating those things with my uncle, who was a generally happy and positive person, I realized horror wasn’t something awful or forbidden or made for bad people, but it was something to be enjoyed on a certain level, you know? I would put on a tape of cartoons and a tape of something like Night of the Demons back to back and could see the value in both. It was never a taboo thing in my family so I never treated the horror genre as anything more than great stories.
Of course some of that stuff scared me stiff, but I loved it. Horror media was something I consumed in a way that seemed to stick with me more than the rest. And those darker themes carried me through my childhood and into my adult life where I applied a horror sensibility to nearly everything I did. My career started with horror comics back in the early 2000s. I was living in Columbus Ohio at the time and writing for a local horror-themed rock ‘n’ roll comic. From there I went on to write and self-publish a horror comic series until that was eventually picked up by a publisher in the UK, and all along the way I landed gigs with various publishers to write comics like Creepy and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and so forth. I released a really hefty hardcover horror anthology comic in 2014 called In the Dark, and was nominated for the Eisner and Harvey Awards for that work. During my time in comics I also wrote supplemental lore for the horror video game Diablo III, but that’s been my only experience with the interactive media side of things. From comics, I transitioned into writing prose with my debut novella, Husk, and I’ve been firmly planted in the literary garden ever since. I’ve gone on to write a number of short stories for various publishers, design a small handful of book covers, and I’m currently editing a witchy anthology for Titan in the UK with my good friend Christopher Golden as well as chipping away at two new novels, one of them co-written with Irish author Matt Hayward.
And, lest you think I’m not busy enough, I am also the lead vocalist and primary lyric writer in a horror-themed heavy metal band called Cryptlord.
ST: I love your extensive background — I’m also amazed you have time to breathe. Rock on! Women being drawn to horror has always made perfect sense to me as a way to confront our own daily horrors, to unleash the brewing darkness in our heads, and as a way to just have fun with our creativity. What draws you personally to the horror genre?
RAD: I honestly can’t be certain. I don’t tend to analyze the how and why of things I enjoy. I think if I had to venture a guess, I’d say I like the idea that there’s something out there scarier than my fellow man. That no matter how awful people might be, there’s something more to fear in this world. In that way, I suppose horror is a sort of redemptive thing for me. The older I get, the less I write about creatures and the more I have made humans the focus. That tends to be the narrative arc for most people, I think. We get older and we lose our rose-colored glasses, and we shrug off the presumptions of innocence, and we start to see the world in a much more mature (and oftentimes sinister) way. I don’t want that to be true, but at this point in my life that’s how I feel. I’d love to go back to relating to the fun, campy, redemptive sort of horror some day but given the current social climate, I don’t imagine I’ll be holding my breath.
ST: I think you’re spot on with that observation about the narrative arc and how writing changes as we get older. Your bio mentions you are from the hills of the Appalachia. I think Appalachian horror is an underrated subgenre that more people need to explore. The environment is so rich for storytelling. How has the surrounding and culture crept into your work?
RAD: Well, Husk was set in a small Kentucky town with small Kentucky townfolk, so it’s pretty easy to see the influence there. I’ll almost always have at least some passing mention of Kentucky or a small town somewhere, even when the story is set in a larger city. Often a character will have a certain way of speaking that makes them a little more down-home and friendly, especially if they’re the central antagonist. I don’t know why I love a friendly villain, but I’m guessing that comes from the hills in some way, too. People tend to tell me I’ve got a very straight-forward, no-nonsense way of telling a story that somehow finds a way to still be lyrical. That comes from my childhood, sitting around on porches, listening to the adults telling stories about loving and lusting and fighting and fishing. I moved away from Kentucky before I began my writing career, but I’ll always carry Appalachia in my heart.
ST: Along with writing, you have designed book covers (the cover you did for the upcoming book Limbs from Grindhouse Press is still hauntingly fresh in my mind!), and you have extensively written, designed, edited and more in the comics industry. What are the challenges you have faced as a woman in these industries? What changes would you like to see in the future to help make these industries more diverse?
RAD: Outside of the few odd comments about my looks, I haven’t come up against too many knuckleheads myself. And I’m thankful for that because I’ve heard some stories that’ll make you mad enough to fight. It might be that I’ve got that rough and tough lesbian edge that keeps me from having to deal with the nonsense, where someone else who might be a little more soft-spoken and gentle in demeanor would be seen as an easier target. It might just be the company I tend to keep, but it feels like creative industries as a whole are being dominated by forward-thinking, progressive people who show an active interest in making the working world a better place for women. There will always be holdouts and radicals who try to keep women from achieving anything meaningful, but it seems to me that those types are increasingly more afraid to speak out. I think it’s only a matter of time before their kind dies off completely and there will be no more reason to make a fuss about gender in any industry. I know there are people out there who struggle every day with their identity and how it impacts their work-life. I would not, for a second, want to discount their experiences and I’ll be there to stand with them any time I’m needed, but I try to have an optimistic outlook for the future. Here in Michigan where I live, we appointed a woman to every statewide office in this most recent election, and even sent a decent chunk of ladies up to Congress. That’s massive progress, and I find a lot of hope in that.
ST: What is a piece of advice you’d give to women just starting in the field, or what is something you wish someone would have told you before you started getting involved with horror projects?
RAD: I’d say you shouldn’t wait around for someone to give you permission to tell the stories you want to tell. You don’t need a publisher to say it’s okay to write your book. You can distribute your work through Amazon these days and get it out to anybody in the world. Do your own thing, be unique, be the exact type of writer you want to be and don’t ever flinch. Definitely don’t try to hide your femininity or feel like you need to be as macho as the dudes to fit in and be taken seriously.
ST: Great advice. I know there are thousands of incredible horror ladies out there, but who is one woman in horror who inspires you particularly? What is it about this person’s work or personality that speaks to you?
RAD: I like Sarah Pinborough quite a bit. It seems you can’t really put her in a box when it comes to her writing and I like that. She’s definitely horrific, but I don’t think she feels the need to be defined as a horror writer. I read Behind Her Eyes last year and it really had an impact on me. I hadn’t been that thoroughly entertained in a long time, by a book or a movie or anything else. She incorporates elements of thrillers, romance, body horror, paranormal, and everything in between and it makes for a really wild ride. I have her new one, Cross Her Heart, on my night stand now and I’m looking forward to being able to dedicate some time to that.
ST: What are you working on this year or what do you have coming out? Where can we find you to keep up-to-date with your work?
RAD: I am finishing up the all-female witch anthology, Hex Life, for Titan Books at the moment. After that, I will be writing a non-fiction history book for an existing horror franchise that must remain nameless until after it is announced. I have a number of short stories coming out in various anthologies this year as well as my novel Wytchwood Hollow and the novel I’m co-writing with Matt Hayward called Pestilent. You can find me on twitter @racheladeering to keep up to date on all of those projects and more.
Check back on Monday to read about my next guest!