National Poetry Month Guest Post: Sara Tantlinger — Ladies of Horror Fiction

Killing the Tortured Artist By Sara Tantlinger Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines poetry as “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.” Poetry is about how we experience life, whether the poems are personal or taking on a fictional arc…

via National Poetry Month Guest Post: Sara Tantlinger — Ladies of Horror Fiction

WiHM, Not All Monsters, and More, Oh My!

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 6.22.45 PMThis month I was really lucky to feature nine incredible ladies of horror and their work. I had intended to feature 10 ladies to echo the decade mark for Women in Horror Month’s existence, but unfortunately my last guest had some scheduling conflicts, so rather than scrambling and begging someone to do a last minute interview, I decided to write something up myself!

If you missed the nine interviews, please check them out here because holy smokes, these ladies are up to some incredible, wicked works that you don’t want to miss. A huge thank you to everyone who took time out of their schedules to join me and share more about their work, processes, identity, and more.

In addition to the interviews, I wrapped up some final decisions for the Not All Monsters anthology this month (to be published in 2020 with StrangeHouse Books). The listing is now closed, but if you’re curious about the info/theme, I’ll link it here. The anthology wasScreen Shot 2019-02-27 at 6.39.02 PM an open call for women who write horror, and I am pleased to say I received nearly 300 submissions from all across the globe! That’s a lot of badass ladies writing amazing, vicious, gorgeous, darkly beautiful stories out there.

*Side note — if you submitted to the open call awhile ago and have heard nothing back, keep an eye out. We have decided to send out the acceptances in batches in an effort to keep the book fresh in peoples’ minds since the publication won’t be until 2020. Read more about that on the publisher’s post here.

This anthology was without a doubt the biggest thing I have been an editor for to-date, and I loved it! I hope I have the opportunity to edit more things like it in the future. Here are some things I learned so far, but it’s not over yet:

*Sending out rejections is AWFUL and I hate it…but it’s a necessary part of the job. I also think most people understand that it isn’t personal, it’s all professional and based on what works best for the theme/anthology/goes with the other stories without being too similar, etc…

*Reading that many stories IS overwhelming, and I think I will adapt a better method the next time I do this

*However, seeing the creativity and different way women approached this theme was amazing

*There were a lot of similar themes based around abuse and other trauma in the stories that was heartbreaking because I just knew that so many of those writers had probably experienced something in their own life that may have led to bleeding out some cathartic remedy onto the page. So if you submitted, no matter what happens with your story, I hope you were able to purge some of the bad out and breathe a little easier. You are brave, and amazing, and I love you.

*Women are incredible. But you and I already knew that 🙂 And if anyone ever complains that there aren’t enough women writing horror out there, send them to me. I know about 300 women who are.

February has been a heavy social media month for me, and I think I’m due for a break to work on some of my own projects. Until then, happy writing. Let’s celebrate women in horror all year long!

 

Interview: Sara Tantlinger on Serial Killer H.H. Holmes, Writing Poetry, and Why We Love Horror #HookonWiHM #WIHMX — Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK!

Today is the second part of a two-part interview I’ve conducted with horror writer and poet Sara Tantlinger, the first being about writing and publishing at The Horror Tree, a site that focuses on being a horror author’s resource. Additionally, I had this interview scheduled and ready to post today as part of my #HookonWiHM […]

via Interview: Sara Tantlinger on Serial Killer H.H. Holmes, Writing Poetry, and Why We Love Horror #HookonWiHM #WIHMX — Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK!

WiHM Interview with Christina Sng

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 Christina Sng! I adore Christina’s work and am thrilled to have her here today. Not only is she so talented, she is one of the kindest writers I have had the pleasure to interact with. Happy reading!

ChristinaSngChristina Sng is an award-winning poet, writer, and artist. Her work has appeared in numerous venues worldwide, including Apex Magazine, Dreams and Nightmares, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, New Myths, and Polu Texni. She is the author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2017) and Elgin Award winner ASTROPOETRY (Alban Lake Publishing, 2017). Her poems have received nominations in the Rhysling Awards, the Dwarf Stars, as well as honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and the Best Horror of the Year. Christina is also an avid gardener and an accomplished musician, and can be found most days in a dark corner deadheading her flowers while humming Vivaldi to the swaying branches.

ST: Christina’s poetry book, A Collection of Nightmares, is an incredibly beautiful and dark compendium, which earned her a Bram Stoker Award for poetry, and she is the first Singaporean to win the accolade! Congratulations on all your hard work and success! I know you are always writing and sending new work out. Did having your collection do so well let you breathe for a few moments before working on something new, or did it pressure or maybe inspire you to get right back into writing the next project?

CS: Thank you so much for your well wishes! Part of me still thinks I dreamed it all. 😀 I do feel compelled to get my next collection out sooner, which is a good thing or else I could be sitting on it for another twenty years like I did the first one!

ST: I’m already looking forward to it!

You also do some beautiful artwork, and from the pieces I have seen online, the work often contains fantastical or science-fiction themes. Do you approach horror and science-fiction in a similar way, or does your process differ when you’re concentrating more on one theme than the other?

CS: Thank you for your lovely words on my artwork! With art, I tend to go where the inspiration takes me, be it science fiction or horror or fantasy. Art, for me, is deliberate. I need to be absolutely calm or in a rage, my mind “in the zone” before my hand will paint or draw. Conversely, with poetry and fiction, it just flows. I often puzzle at the difference. Maybe it is simply that I’ve just had more practice writing over the years.

When I paint, I tend to stick to one theme till I’ve exhausted myself of it. When I am painting in oil, I try to master the sky and grass. With ink, it is always a tree and everything around it, usually a darkness or space objects. Clearly, I have mastered neither because I am still at it. 😀

To tell you the truth, the familiarity is comforting. Art brings me a sense of peace and completion, probably because when it is done, it is done. What you see is what you get, and if it looks nice, it goes on the wall. There aren’t many on the wall!

ST: I love that contrast between your processes for writing and art. I also wish you many more paintings to hang on the wall! 

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?

CS: I think growing up in the 80s helped, being immersed in an era where horror was completely revered. As a child, I spent a lot of time alone, playing in a shadowy haunted house built opposite a former World War II torture chamber. With such a legacy, I was wary but I never saw anything supernatural. After a time, the dark no longer frightened me. I felt safe in the pitch black and became drawn to horror like a honey bee to a flower.

Horror movies were huge on TV back when we had just 4 channels. My older brother is a big fan and introduced me to the genre when I was 7. This was a time when there was no remote control on a video recorder to fast forward the scary bits, so I sat through them, mastering the art of defocusing my eyes when I didn’t want to see what was on the screen.

My first horror movies were The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, and Hell Night. That is possibly why I am not fond of slasher or supernatural horror but much prefer creature features with vampires, zombies, demons, and giant monsters that like to eat people, as evidenced by my absolute favorites from that era: Demon Knight, Invitation to Hell, The Bermuda Depths, The Blob, and Deep Rising.

In bookshops, there were shelves and shelves of horror novels and I devoured every one I could get my hands on. I must have read each of my favorite novels at least 20 times in my life. Over the years, I have justified my huge library by reading my books over and over. It appears that my son has inherited this trait from me. We will need floor-to-ceiling bookshelves very soon. I better go pick up carpentry.

ST: I’m all here for floor-to-ceiling bookshelves! I love that your son has inherited that trait, too. 

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?

CS: Just write. Write something every day. Use prompts if nothing inspires you. It creates Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 6.58.13 PMa habit of writing that keeps you going.

Connect with other writers. Writing can be a lonely journey without others who understand the writing life and support you.

ST: 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?

CS: I can’t name just one. Women in horror have been incredible. We are a tribe. Each woman inspires me in so many ways, most of which is how we all play our part in keeping us together as an inclusive and supportive community.

I greatly admire you, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Gwendolyn Kiste, Stephanie Wytovich, and so many other women interviewers and reviewers who take time out of your own hectic schedules to give women in horror a space to showcase and promote our work. My publisher Jennifer Barnes who has been the gale force behind so many magnificent books by women.

Women editors with whom I’ve worked with many times and who I can’t stop writing for, including Teri Santitoro, Terrie Leigh Relf, Dawn Albright, and Susan Shell Winston, among others.

Nina D’Arcangela and Erin Lydia Prime for the wonderful Ladies of Horror Flash Project. They have inspired me through flu and drought to write numerous poems and stories, one of which has just been nominated for a Rhysling Award and another which is my very first sale to Daily Science Fiction!

Women who run and support the organizations that promote horror, such as Lisa Morton, Rena Mason, Angel Leigh McCoy, Kathy Ptacek, FJ Bergmann, Diane Severson Mori, Renee Ya, Deborah P Kolodji, and so many more.

Linda Addison and Marge Simon who have been titans and community leaders in the industry, always supportive and kind. Their work is exquisitely beautiful and their embrace of poetry, fiction, and/or art as one practice has inspired me to do the same. I am so grateful for the advice and support they’ve given me over the years. I would not have made it here without them.

ST: Wonderful, thank you for all these great names for us to know and keep up-to-date with! And congratulations on the Rhysling nomination and sale to Daily Science Fiction!

One of the reasons I enjoy Women in Horror Month is because it gives us a chance to both reflect on how horror is evolving and reacting to societal and cultural changes, and it allows women to highlight the issues and obstacles we are still facing. What are your hopes for the future of women in horror, or just for keeping the momentum going all year long for more diversity within the genre?

CS: I hope that our stories become brighter, more hopeful, and joyful as a reflection of a better, kinder world for women.

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?

ACollectionofNightmareswithStokerAwardCS: I expect to finish my next three collections of poetry this year—one horror, one haiku, one children’s, get more fiction published for my eventual short story collection in 2028, start on my already-drafted three-part novel (I hear my muse laughing her head off at this one), and write more dark poems before the light overwhelms me.

Facebook carries my latest updates, Twitter is updated about once a week, and my website, if the planets align, once a fortnight.

Thank you so much for this wonderful interview! 😀

 

 

ST: Best of luck! And I am totally in awe that you have a project for 2028 planned already! That’s amazing. I’ll eagerly await all your forthcoming work. Thank you, Christina! 

Be sure to keep up with Christina’s work on her website, http://www.christinasng.com and connect on social media @christinasng.

Ordering information for A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES: http://bit.ly/acollectionofnightmares

 

 

WiHM Interview with R. J. Joseph

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 R.J. Joseph! I am thrilled to share her wonderful perspectives in the answers below, and encourage everyone to check out her work. Happy reading! 

Author Central PicR. J. Joseph is a Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has finally discovered the joys of writing creatively and academically about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

R. J. is absolutely thrilled to have a story in the 2018 Bram Stoker Award nominated anthology Sycorax’s Daughters and a featured poem in the Horror Writer’s Association Poetry Showcase, V. When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or six of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry hellbeasts.

 

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…)?

RJJ: Hi, Sara! Thank you so much for having me over to chat. It’s always a pleasure to talk with someone who crafts wonderful interview prompts and questions.

I’ve been a fan of horror since I was a young child, and that has been quite a long time. I devoured everything horror related: books, movies, comic books—everything. But even though I’ve been a lifelong fan, I haven’t always felt comfortable enough to create my own manifestations of horror. It was difficult to reconcile my desire to explore the horrific with my Southern Baptist upbringing and my femininity. I would write things and hide them because I wasn’t sure what their, or my, reception would be. I’d send out the occasional story and get good feedback, but I’d always go back into what I thought was safer space.

Then, I finally found a horror writing tribe at Seton Hill, and those magnificent creatures accepted me as one of their own. I couldn’t deny that part of my creativity any more. Since venturing out, I’ve found that my horror creator persona lends herself best to short stories, poetry, and academic writing. The academic part was a bit of an accident that has worked out pretty well because I love picking stuff apart. I’ve just started on my first screenplay and a novella that has been waiting around in my head for years finally might see the light of day this year.

ST: I love that combination of using the feminine along with a Southern Baptist upbringing to inspire stories. I bet that leads to unique ideas. Good luck with the screenplay and novella, I’ll keep an eye out for them! 

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?

RJJ: Horror is really cathartic, and honestly, living as a black woman has shown me many horrors. I’ve always seen the monster hiding underneath the veneer of regular life, fooling everyone into thinking it isn’t a monster. My fascination grew when I figured out the monsters fool us so many times because we want to be fooled. Sometimes I wanted to be the monster and lean into the freedom and exaltation provided in the shadows. I think it’s easy to want to lean into monstrosity when the monsters have so much power. I like to examine why all the monsters aren’t allowed to unleash that power. Also, I just have an innate darkness. I present as a bubbly, outgoing suburban mom type, but inside beats a murky heart powered by an even darker soul.

ST: Such a poetic answer! I really like the image you paint here, of that freedom the shadows may hold.

We both recently had the honor of having the top 3 featured poems, alongside the wonderful Donna Lynch, in the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume VYour poem “So She Burns It All Down” is a fiery, heartfelt piece that I adored. Have you been writing more poetry? How does your process for poetry compare to writing prose?

RJJ: That was such an exciting honor! I read yours, Amalgamation, and rooted for the monster. She was perfection, exactly the type of monster I long to see more of in the horror genre. I wanted her to finally lean in and accept her power as a beautiful creature, even though I enjoyed the tension that existed within her.

I have been writing more poetry, but poetry is an almost lyrical process for me, one that’s slower than writing prose. First, a character or setting comes to me and I study how the character moves and exists in space or how the setting uses the area around it. This movement provides me with the rhythm of the poem. The words then start to dance to those beats. The way I arrange the words and the way they sound, when it works well, ultimately become a manifestation of that character or place.

Writing prose is based more on my inquisitive nature. I’m full of questions. I can see something and my mind immediately goes to question what I’m seeing and the circumstances surrounding the situation. The stimulus can be as innocent as hearing a noise that intrigues me or walking through a garden looking at the plants. The whole story might come to me all at once, or in vignettes. I play around with it inside my head until I think I can type up a reasonable draft. Sometimes I sit with stories for years before they’re ready to be birthed into the universe.

ST: Thank you for your kind words on my piece, too! I really enjoyed reading about your processes above.

Some of the other recent books you have had pieces published in include Sycorax’s Daughters and Black Magic Women, two really beautiful collections. What were the inspirations for your work in these anthologies?

RJJ: I’m really proud of both of those books and honored to be included alongside the other contributors. Most of my works revolve around various aspects of trying to navigate the societal expectations often placed on black, female beings. In “To Give Her Whatsoever She May Ask”, from Sycorax’s Daughters, I was inspired by the idea that Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 7.18.44 PMsometimes we’re betrayed in ways we can’t imagine, such as by our own bodies and our faith. Ingrid relies on her faith to give her what her body desires and is unable to produce, but when she realizes that may not work, she decides to ask for help somewhere else. I’ve found myself in that position many times, questioning why things didn’t work the way I wanted them to and having a hard time accepting that maybe my desires weren’t meant to be. That faith can be fragile.

“Left Hand Torment”, in Black Magic Women, was my first effort at historical horror. I’m fascinated by historical horror stories and I just don’t see them done a lot by modern horror writers. (This is a good place to tell you I can’t wait to read The Devil’s Dreamland. I’m sure it will give me the creepy, historical delight I enjoy so much.)

I wanted to write about a black woman who was doing something in the past other than Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 7.18.12 PMnavigating chattel slavery. Black women were doing other things throughout history, like taking advantage of social systems and practices to gain social and financial freedom. Placage, a form of common law marriage practiced in New Orleans during the 18thand 19thcenturies between black women and white men, often provided the women entering into these arrangements with binding agreements where they could own property and their children could inherit assets from their fathers. I wanted to tell the story of a young woman in such an agreement, where the desire for freedom and positioning in society led her to the horrors of being considered someone’s property. Her arranged union was a different type of bondage from chattel slavery, but still bondage, nonetheless.

ST: Thank you for sharing some background inspiration for your stories!

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?

RJJ: I wish someone would have told me that some gatekeepers would defend the gates for a really, really long time, and continue to provide fertile ground for sexism, racism, and other bigotry. There have been numerous people of color and people of varying gender expressions allowed to play in the horror arena, especially during the past few years, and I’m excited about that. But it seems superficial. I feel there are still practices in place that make it super hard for us to really break ground and build permanent residences here. I see resistance in places where I would think it wouldn’t exist and I realize that although many of us have done this long enough to not let that resistance stop us from producing and staying in the game, a newer and less experienced writer might not have that same experience. They might be turned off or scared away from working in our industry because they just don’t feel welcome or safe.

ST: Your excellent points go right into my next question.

One of the reasons I enjoy Women in Horror Month is because it gives us a chance to both reflect on how horror is evolving and reacting to societal and cultural changes, and it allows women to highlight the issues and obstacles we are still facing. What are your hopes for the future of women in horror, or just for keeping the momentum going all year long for more diversity within the genre?

RJJ: I hope that more varying experiences and expressions will continue to be embraced within the genre. Get Out was earth shattering because it introduced the idea that racism is a repulsive horror, so works that examine it fit squarely within the horror genre. The terror faced by the parents of the disabled children in Hereditary and A Quiet Place showed that fraught situations which anyone would find dreadful are utterly petrifying for families with disabled members. Stories told through varying gender lenses are necessary so we get a truly diverse array of what scares different people with different experiences.

There are still naysayers who say these voices don’t belong in horror, that social justice efforts are being forced on audiences who only want the same fare they’ve been given repeatedly. These people would rather see the genre cannibalize itself by producing and celebrating the same stories based on the same ideas by the same writers over and over again, growing stagnant in its refusal to mature and represent more citizens of the world. I hope the authentic, varying voices soon start to drown those out. This innovation and freshness is necessary if we want the genre to continue on into perpetuity and gain new fans.

ST: I’m with you 100% on that, and it’s one of the reasons why I am constantly drawn to horror. It provides an outlet to come face-to-face with the very real horrors and terror we create as a society every day. I try to believe that confronting those realities will generate important conversations.

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?

RJJ: I remain in perpetual awe of Linda Addison. She’s simply marvelous. Not only is she a brilliant writer who can create magic from mere words, but she’s a delightful person. I let my membership in HWA drop for a couple of years because I really struggled with whether or not membership and the community provided the support I need as a black, female horror writer. But then I saw Linda in action. I listened to her words and watched what she did. She gives back to the horror community in ways that often go unacknowledged. She’s always willing to give a word of encouragement without the practiced air of someone who just goes through motions. Her kindness is genuine. Also, she manages to provide editorial feedback that doesn’t leave you feeling eviscerated but is honest and always makes the piece better than it was before.

Without knowing of my struggles and doubts, Linda showed that she is and always has been an integral component in building an organization and shaping an industry that will be good for all horror writers. She has single-handedly—and I’m pretty sure, unknowingly—been responsible for me continuing to renew and participate. Through her example, I’ve realized that I want to engage with the community and give back where I can.

ST: Linda is amazing! And like you said, her kindness is so genuine and encouraging.

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?

RJJ: Right now, I’m working on my first draft of an academic essay for the collection Not a Fit Place: Essays on The Haunting of Hill House, edited by Dr. Kevin Wetmore. I’m not sure if we have a publication date just yet, but I’m thrilled to write a chapter about this series. I’m in my element when I get to examine and analyze and put different ideas together.

I currently have a few short stories out with editors, so I’m hoping those find homes. Also, I’m working on a novella and screenplay, as well as pulling together short stories for a story collection to shop around. I hope to have good news on those before the end of the year.

My Amazon author page is where I usually keep releases updated.

Uncovering Stranger Things: Essays on Eighties Nostalgia, Cynicism and Innocence in the Series made it onto the preliminary ballot for the Stoker awards in the non-fiction category this year. I can’t even brag about my own essay in the collection because the others are beyond remarkable.

I’ve enjoyed chatting with you and I look forward to reading more of your work, Sara.

ST: Wonderful! I can’t wait to see what you create in the future. Thank you so much for sharing your insights today.

Keep up with R.J.’s work and thoughts on her social media! Find her on Twitter @rjacksonjoseph and Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph

and on her personal Facebook or official author Facebook

Follow her blog at rjjoseph.wordpress.com

Check back on Wednesday to read about my next guest!

WiHM Interview with Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

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 Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi! Erin has so much experience in the field, and is a true champion with all the different hats she wears. I am thrilled to learn more about her work today. Happy reading!

Erin Al-Mehairi Bio PhotoErin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She is an author and has twenty years of experience in her field in jobs as a writer, a journalist, an editor, and marketing and public relations professional/publicist among many other things.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving in 2017, was her debut collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories. Upon publishing it hit #2 in women’s poetry holding for weeks behind New York Times best-selling author Rupi Kaur’s second release. In its past year of publishing, it has hit the Top 5 Amazon paid best-selling lists in women’s poetry and horror short stories multiple times. Her work has been called raw, honest, evocative, beautiful as well as clever, brutal, and chilling by industry professionals, reviewers, and readers alike. She has stories and poems featured in several other anthologies and magazines (Hardened Hearts, Enchanted Magazine, PEN’s My Favorite Story, and Dark Voices) and was the co-editor of the Gothic poetry and short story anthology Haunted are These Houses.

She continues her own businesses, Addison’s Compass PR, in which she’s worked for business and non-profits both, and Hook of a Book Media, the latter of which currently takes up most of her time as she does editing, publicity, and consulting for many authors. Proudly born in England, Erin now writes multiple stories, novels, and poems from the forests of rural Ohio where she frets over her three children and a cat.

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…)? 

Erin: My background with horror: For about eight years I’ve been a reviewer, interviewer, journalist in horror (in conjunction with other genres too); a content reader and editor for five or six years in horror (an editor of all things much longer); a publicist for over seven years in horror (in the field much longer).

I wasn’t allowed to watch, read, or talk about horror growing up even though Nathaniel Hawthorne is in my maternal ancestry tree. I am still not allowed to say the word horror to my 80-year-old mother. In her defense she did give me my overall love of reading though and introduced me to Frost, Thoreau, and Dickinson poetry. I was first introduced to Edgar Allan Poe and Shirley Jackson in middle school and high school and I loved them. Later, they would resonate with me enough to become some of my greatest writing influences, coupled with study at college of Hawthorne, Joyce Carol Oates, and F. Scott Fitzgerald to name a few.

I wrote some dark poetry off and on in my life (mostly stemming from grief and loss but predominately wrote more about nature, life, love) but didn’t really delve into writing horror elements into my poetry or prose until five years ago when I started a revenge novel featuring Emily Dickinson’s ghost (which I am still writing – forever writing). I expanded to writing more dark poetry three years ago and more short stories in the last few. Before writing horror, my focus was on the historical and middle reader novels I had started. Once I began to get a feel for the exhilaration that comes with writing a twist, surprise ending, or getting my darkness out onto the paper, I couldn’t stop. However, I am a very cross genre writer and my work often features many influences and is hard to put into a category. I’m experimental and like to try new things.

I suppose the only creative outlet I channel horror into is writing – journalistic, poetry, and prose. I do research for fiction writing and articles. I enjoy researching serial killers. Though I like to do various types of art, I’ve not ever done anything horrifying! I do sometimes have to design ads or flyers for horror writer clients in our public relations work and that’s fun and I have art directed quite a few horror covers for publishers and authors.

ST: That Emily Dickinson inspired novel sounds so cool! Please keep writing it, and of course please keep writing your gorgeous poetry 🙂 

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?

Erin: I could probably list all the things you said there as a precursor to the question. Further, I think as someone who is a natural empath and someone sensitive to so many of the forces around us, I am drawn to both darkness and light. I love exploring in my

b88af56cff0f5be0020a4081e266238f--edgar-allen-poe-edward-gorey

Edward Gorey

work how they intertwine. I love the creative outlet that horror gives, such as loving when I first read something like “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe and the rush I got from the atmosphere, tension, and the ending—same as I get with watching Hitchcock. I’ve infused that now decades later into my own writing, as my challenge in writing, or what makes it the most fun for me, is the adrenaline rush of pulling off a surprise or shocking ending. I like to make people feel uncomfortable sometimes with my writing, and I don’t mind feeling uncomfortable while reading. Give me your every scar on the page and let me bleed mine. If you talked to me on a daily basis or face-to-face, you’d probably not sense this at all in me! Horror writing really lets me have an outlet. I love reading horror, and writing it too I suppose, because of the element of humanity. It’s real, not fake, most of the time. I also like the shock value and the adrenaline rush I get from a good twist or surprise ending in a book or when I am writing a story and I pull one off on the reader.

ST: I so agree with that aspect of horror as an outlet. Great points.

You wear many, many different hats between writing, editing, promoting your clients, and balancing your personal life! I think that’s something a lot of women can relate to since many of us understand what it’s like to adjust to a multitude of roles in life. Do you think these roles have influenced your writing at all in terms of process or even the themes you have written about? I feel like I can see some of this in your collection Breathe. Breathe.

Erin: Most likely, but I feel more like my entire life journey influences the themes I write about. I can see why you’d mention if wearing so many different work hats while balancing personal life influenced my writing – due to breathing and the anxiety element of sometimes being overwhelmed with juggling a work load – but mostly I feel that being a domestic violence survivor, a rape survivor, chronic illnesses, going through motherhood with three children on rocky terrain (as our foundation has been at times), divorce, partnership, abandonment, mental illness in those around me, death of so many loved ones, loss of a pregnancy and dealing with being an age to have no more children…I feel like those things define my writing more, if we are speaking in terms of how my life roles influence my writing.

Breathe BreatheAs for wearing many hats for work, I’ve tended to do that over the course of several decades primarily as a way to escape issues, and deal with sadness or anxiety, which isn’t always a good thing because you become overworked and more tired and more anxious in the end. It’s a quick fix for that moment – a way to let your mind focus on something else, but sometimes it brings along its own issues. And so yes, that ball of bad energy ignites into writing sometimes. Now, I’m working on that – starting in 2019 – as I’ve made time for more fiction and poetry writing, it is starting to be my escape instead for all of it and I’m loving it so much more that way! Wearing all those work hats almost cost me my life last year, and I don’t want to go back to that place again. Motherhood of three might have caused me the most stress in terms of wearing multiple hats, but in the end, it’s my kids who save me from myself every time and make life worth living. They are my most supportive encouragers of my writing too! If I have to slow down and choose less hats, especially being 44, then that’s what it will take to have a better quality of life. Teaching myself to just… breathe.

ST: Thank you so much for sharing those personal influences on your writing. I think it’s important for others, especially women, to read answers like that as we each deal with our own demons and ghosts.

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?

Erin: I never thought about it in terms of advice solely for women, though I get asked the question a lot in general. When I started diving into the horror genre and online social scene of it eight years ago, the men were very friendly and the women more reserved. Also, there were fewer women published. In some regard, I still think the first part is so, even if way more are published. I attribute that now, in my experiences, to the fact that men are more aggressive about their promotion, and women tend to hold back. I would encourage women to not be at all shy to ask other women for interviews, e-mail them to introduce themselves, or surely, read their work, even though the books by males bombard the streams. Of course, I do see that in the last couple of years, women have truly broken-down barriers in the genre to the point that there is more social media exposure now for them and their voices can be heard loud and clear. Reach out to other women and make connections, support each other, help each other, don’t compete. There is more than enough room for everyone in my opinion.

I suppose that would be my advice to all: Don’t compete when you can embrace others, collaborate, motivate, and stay out of the drama. Do not let the drama makers and the trolls in the horror genre get you down. You’ll always have someone who hates you no matter how kind you try to be to everyone, but if you’re a good person who supports others and is hard working at their craft, you’ll have plenty more who will love you. I also want to keep urging women to submit, submit, submit and submit a wide variety of places. I also want to encourage women in horror to keep writing from their hearts, don’t second guess themselves, don’t sit on manuscripts and don’t put yourself or your writing last, and take more chances.

ST: Wonderful 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?

Erin:  Shirley Jackson. Shirley Jackson is one of the best writers to ever have written, male or female. Some of our best male authors site her as their influence, such as Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Paul Tremblay, and more. Her ability to create tension shirley jackson fearand atmosphere, such that we often attribute to Hitchcock, should be attributed to Jackson! Her voice speaks inside your own head and I’ve never, in all my years of reading, had another be able to do that as well. She is a master of mystery, suspense, foreboding, psychological deconstruction and construction, empathy, and emotion. Jackson primarily wrote while raising four kids in a fifteen-room old farmhouse— can you imagine the chaos? I myself can relate to having to work and write while raising three, and sometimes five, children. As well other parts of her life are an example of my past – her husband, who was a professor, was in charge of the money, only doling her out a stipend he deemed fit, even when she eventually made more than him after “The Lottery.” She was isolated at home and only wrote in her spare quiet moments. A lot of her confinement as such from her husband played into some of The Haunting of Hill House. I think writing was her escape too and her legacy. She also had problems with her health, as I’ve battled, and was on a lot of prescription drugs – often writing some of her best work on them! In my own writing, she (and Charlotte Perkins Gilman) have inspired me to intertwine and tendril these themes—loss, isolation, depression—things that haunt you.

ST: YES, I’m with you 100% on Shirley Jackson. It’s so cool to see her influences on contemporary writers, too.

One of the reasons I enjoy Women in Horror Month is because it gives us a chance to both reflect on how horror is evolving and reacting to societal and cultural changes, and it allows women to highlight the issues and obstacles we are still facing. What are your hopes for the future of women in horror, or just for keeping the momentum going all year long for more diversity within the genre?

Erin: Just from three years ago to now I’ve seen a giant leap in promoting women in horror all year around. More and more females are promoting each other, more men are promoting and supporting women, there are more females in horror, and I think that huge strides have been made in many ways. Editors and publishers in the last few years have made it a point to make sure there is more of a percentage of women in anthologies and that their publishing line is publishing more women. I think that the social media awareness, coupled with the amazing work being pumped out by women, has really started to take hold. I know that myself three years ago I barely knew any women in horror, let alone worked with them. I had a long list of men I worked with and read, even though I’ve always been a huge women’s empowerment person in my daily and regular business life!

I am so happy to be able to work with women in horror now and to be able to call so many friends. A lot of that had to do with women others introduced me to through women in horror projects each February. I hope that this continues to build and grow and will reach across all sections of the horror community, but I am hopeful that it will. I think with reviewers finally also embracing reading women and supporting and promoting them (I found that both male and female reviewers in the past tended toward male authors) that this will only be more of a year-round thing. And I think reviewers probably have not idea how instrumental they’ve been in getting women published by promoting them more and through reviews of our work.

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?

Erin: I’m working on a poetry-only collection featuring water elements, in which the writing is fairly completed (paper and pencil, need to type and edit). Water has always been a huge source of inspiration for me, as stated above, supplying me with energy, both physically and mentally. I feel at peace by the water, but also the anger and danger in its depths. I can channel emotions, and give and take emotions, near the shoreline. I believe water has special power for me. There will be sadness in this collection, but also sea monsters, ship wrecks, and coastal village intrigue. I’m a huge fan of the last three. I hope others like it, but I’m writing it because it’s fun for me! I’m looking for a publisher for it. <– gasp

CoversI’m also working on a short story collection based on the works of Van Gogh I’m really excited about—I love art and so much of it inspires my work, but his particularly has been speaking to me. In larger works, I’m working on a novel still that I’ve been picking away at for years. It’s a revenge novel, featuring an abused woman and the ghost of Emily Dickinson. It takes place in Emily’s hometown. I’m excited for this one and hope to find more time to work on it.

And since writing my Vahalla Lane series in Breathe. Breathe., I’ve had some good response to it and so I’m writing on a novella when I have the chance featuring the story of one of the women, both in prequel and in sequel to what happens.

And I am going to be working soon on a few pieces for several anthologies I was invited into for 2019 and some poems and short stories for magazine invites as well, all so far due this first quarter of the year. I recently received two acceptances on a poem and short story so my year started off nice!

Hopefully, my friend Duncan Ralston and I will start to flesh out some work on a novel together which features our mutual interest in cults. And my other friend Dustin La Valley and I are talking about doing some beautiful collaboration featuring micro shorts.

Besides that, I’ll be editing more novels and coaching authors this year and spend less hours on the publicity realm for them and I will be looking for more options available in which I can curate and edit another anthology.

ST: I am already excited for that next poetry collection! The sea is one of my favorite places, so anything with water elements is going right to my TBR pile. Best of luck! Sounds like you have a busy year ahead, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for any new releases from you.

Thank you so much, Erin! It’s been a blast reading about your work and what’s to come!

Make sure to follow Erin’s social media to keep up-to-date with all the incredible work she is doing. Check out her website, Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

You can also find her on Facebook (personal as Erin Al-Mehairi or Hook of a Book), Twitter @ErinAlMehairi or Hook of a Book, Instagram, Pinterest, and her Amazon or GoodReads pages!

Check back on Monday to see who my next guest is!