WiHM Interview with Gwendolyn Kiste

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 Gwendolyn Kiste! Gwen’s debut novel The Rust Maidens was released in November this past year and it quickly became one of my favorite recent horror novels. I am thrilled to get to know more about her amazing work. Happy reading!

Gwendolyn Kiste Full-Color Headshot

Gwendolyn Kiste is the author of The Rust MaidensPretty Marys All in a Row, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare, Shimmer, Black Static, and Interzone, among others. A native of Ohio, she currently lives on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. Find her online at gwendolynkiste.com

 

 

 

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…)? 

GK: I’m a horror fiction writer. Over the past five years, my work has primarily been Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 4.28.13 PMshort fiction, which includes my first collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, which was released through JournalStone in 2017. I’ve also written a dark fantasy novella from Broken Eye Books about the Marys of folklore called Pretty Marys All in a Row, as well as my debut horror novel from Trepidatio, The Rust Maidens, that just made its way into the world this past November.

ST: Congratulations on the success of The Rust Maidens! It’s an incredible debut novel and I madly adored reading it. Your prose in the novel and in And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is so gorgeous and poetic. Have there been any particular influences or inspirations who have helped you discover your storytelling voice over the years, or has it developed more from any certain techniques or processes you use?

GK: First off, thank you for your kind words. That means a lot, especially since I admire your work so much, Sara!

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 4.27.58 PMIt’s definitely been an incremental process of discovering my voice as a writer. Lots of trial and error, for sure, and the process is still ongoing. Hopefully, it always will be. I have certain inspirations—Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter—but there have been a lot of other influences that have sneaked in there too. Everyone from Edward Gorey, Richard Matheson, and Ernest Hemingway to Sylvia Plath, Edith Wharton, and Jane Austen have had varying levels of impact on me and how I see the craft. With techniques, perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is to open up more and just let it flow. Don’t be afraid to dig deep into yourself and explore the uncomfortable or frightening places of yourself. When I look back over all my work so far, readers have responded the most to the stories where I was at my rawest and most honest.

At the same time, there’s also something strange and magical in writing. No matter how much you research and refine, there are times you have no idea where it all comes from. That’s probably one of the many things that keeps me intrigued as a writer, the mystery of it all.

ST: I really like your point about the always ongoing process of discovery — I think that’s definitely what makes writing so unique and magical. There’s always room to grow and learn.

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?

GK: Both my parents are fans of horror, so the genre has always been part of my life. In that way, horror is like home to me. It feels oddly safe and comfortable. But it goes deeper than that, too. I was recently having a conversation with a writer friend of mine, and we were going through lists of things that scared us as children. In the course of that conversation, I realized just how many fears, both irrational and rational, I’ve had over the years. Horror has without a doubt helped me with those fears. Having an oasis where fear is not only acceptable but openly welcome makes it easier to express my anxiety without worrying so much about being ridiculed for it. It allows me to go into those depths and look at what scares me and work through it. Writing doesn’t necessarily “fix” the anxiety, but it does allow me some semblance of control over it. In that way, I feel like I wear the fear, rather than it wearing me. That alone is such a huge influence that the horror genre has: to empower you, even at your most afraid.

ST: I now want a t-shirt that says, “I wear the fear” — love that!

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?

GK: The main advice I have for writers in general is to just keep going. Even when it gets hard, keep moving forward with your work. For female writers in particular, this is probably even more important advice, because being a woman in a male-dominated industry is challenging, to say the least. It can be demoralizing to see yet another table of contents with only one or two (or no) female writers. But that means we need these new voices in the genre.

As for what I wish I knew ahead of time, I’m honestly glad I didn’t know everything that I know now. Sometimes, just jumping in and going for something is the only way to do it. I’m afraid that if I knew then what I know now about publishing, then I might not have wanted to move forward. It can be a hard industry with a lot of rejection and a lot of unexpected disappointments, but there are so many wonderful things about it too. Even on the worst days, I’m very glad I’m a writer, so it’s probably best not to know every bad thing that can (or will) happen, because you can so easily lose sight of the good. And there is good, so much of it fortunately, and that’s worth pushing through the bad.

ST: Those are great points! Even through the challenges, it’s difficult to imagine not being a part of this wonderful madness called writing.

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?

GK: Christa Carmen. Her first collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, was released last year, and it’s one of the best debuts in a long time. The stories run the gamut from heartbreaking and quiet to visceral and supremely intense. Such a huge range, especially in a first book. Christa’s also a personal friend, and one I’m so fortunate to have. Her positivity and support of other writers is so inspiring. It’s one thing to be incredibly talented—and she most certainly is—but to also be such a huge force of good in this industry only makes her that much more amazing.

ST: I really enjoyed Christa’s collection, too. I can’t wait to see what else she does!

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?

GK: This has been said so many times before, but I think it’s worth repeating here: my hope is that one day we’ll not only not need a Women in Horror Month, but that the notion of having to dedicate a special month to female authors will seem really dated. I want to see a future when women writers are given as much time and space on bookshelves as male authors, and that people will take that as second nature rather than something they need to consciously consider.

Fortunately, in the five years I’ve been writing professionally, I do feel like things have improved. Not as much as we’d like obviously, but with the continued steam that Women in Horror Month has gained and now the year-round dedicated team at Ladies of Horror Fiction plus, of course, all the constant hard work of female authors in the horror community, we’re absolutely making strides. That gives me hope, which is what gets me through and helps me wake up every day and get back to writing.

ST: I’m with you 100% on all of that.

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?

GK: This year’s new releases are mostly short fiction for me. I have stories forthcoming in Welcome to Miskatonic University from Broken Eye Books, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence from Pantheon, and the Haunted Houses anthology from Flame Tree Press, among a few other publications that I don’t think I can officially announce quite yet. In terms of current projects, I’m finishing up a novella that deals with doppelgangers and cinema and the insidiousness of nostalgia, and I’m pretty excited about it. I’m also in the early stages of outlining a new novel, as well as in the even earlier stages of putting together my second collection. Never a dull moment in a writer’s life!

As for other writer-related activities, I’m also excited to be heading out to some events in the next few months. I’ll be at The Outer Dark Symposium in Atlanta in March, and at StokerCon in Grand Rapids in May. It’s always helpful and inspiring to get away from the computer screen for a couple days and be surrounded with other writers.

Anyhow, in the meantime, anyone who wants to keep up with me can head over to my website at gwendolynkiste.com. I’m also fairly active on Facebook and Twitter, so you can find me there as well. I tend to talk mostly about writing, movies, witchcraft, and my cats, so be warned! 😊

ST: Thank you so much, Gwen! I’m really looking forward to StokerCon and saying hello to you there. I can’t wait to read your new work that’s coming out this year, too. Cheers!

Make sure to follow Gwen’s links and social media up above. This is a writer whose work you don’t want to miss.

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

WiHM Interview with Rachel Autumn Deering

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!

rad

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 Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 7.01.53 PMpretty 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?

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 7.01.06 PMRAD: 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.

ST: Thank you so much to Rachel for joining us. Check out her website and Twitter to stay updated on her amazing projects!

Check back on Monday to read about my next guest! 

WiHM Interview with Michelle R. Lane

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 Michelle R. Lane who has a debut novel releasing this year! Read on to find out more.

Michelle-Lane.jpgMichelle R. Lane writes dark speculative fiction about women of color who must battle their inner demons while falling in love with monsters. Her work includes elements of fantasy, horror, romance, and occasionally erotica. In January 2015, Michelle graduated with an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her short story, “The Hag Stone,” appears in the anthology Dark Holidays, available from Dark Skull Publications. She lives in South Central Pennsylvania with her son.

 

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…)?

ML: My primary creative outlet is writing, but horror almost always finds its way into other things that I do. Even if I’m decorating Christmas cookies, I use cutters shaped like tombstones, conjoined twins, bats, and witches. Each year I attend a cookie decorating contest with friends, and several of my cookies won this year, including an Illuminati-themed eyeball cookie and a voodoo doll. One year, I made stuffed voodoo doll ornaments for my friends and family and I still hang mine on the tree. My interest in horror was groomed by my family who were avid readers of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and later, thanks to me, Clive Barker. Saturday afternoons were spent watching Hitchcock films or Hammer Horror on Creature Double Feature. I remember writing some stories with dark subjects as a kid, but I don’t think I wrote my first horror short story or poetry until I was a teenager. At that time, I started devouring every vampire novel I could get my hands on and I’ve never stopped.

ST: Congratulations on your forthcoming novel Invisible Chains with Haverhill House Publishing! That’s very exciting and I can’t wait to read the book. What are your favorite elements that you’ve incorporated into the novel? What was the most challenging?

ML: Thanks, Sara. I’m excited about having my first novel published, but also very nervous. Invisible Chains is a horror novel, but the elements of horror are primarily based in the horrors of historical slavery in America. The novel is a fictional slave narrative told from the POV of a young slave who experiences a lot of terrible things first-hand and witnesses other slaves being tortured and killed. This is an uncomfortable topic and I look forward to and dread having people read the novel.

There were a lot of challenges in writing this book, and even though slavery is obviously horrific, I struggled with whether it would be considered a horror novel by mainstream readers. There are monsters, human and supernatural, there’s magic and rape and torture. All these elements come together to create a horror story in my opinion, but as a woman of color writing about a woman of color, it isn’t always clear where my stories fit even when they have elements of horror in them. I think the challenge for many women of color writing horror, is to simply be considered horror writers and published as such. Fortunately, Haverhill House recognized my work as horror, and have been kind enough to publish Invisible Chains.

ST: 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?

ML: Well, aside from being raised on a steady diet of horror fiction – novels, film, and television – being black and female in America can be a horrific identity to occupy. Writing horror seems natural to me. I wouldn’t say that I’m a pessimist, but I often see the darker aspects of life and I tend to expect the worst-case scenario in most situations. Racism and sexism are simply part of being black and female in America. Navigating this landscape can be treacherous at times and when people reveal their true faces, like monsters hiding behind masks, life can seem very much like a dark fairy tale or a horror story. Who do you trust? Is it ever possible to feel “safe”? So, telling the stories of women of color surrounded by monsters seems like the most natural thing to me. But, my stories, no matter how dark the subject, still have the possibility for hope and strength and growth and survival.

Horror, unlike any other genre, allows you to really dig deep into your emotions and show the world through a skewed lens that may make sense to someone going through similar struggles. Horror opens itself to allegory and gives writers a space to explore the darkness inside and outside, and no matter how bizarre or terrifying, you can almost always find a nugget of truth about humans and the society they live in.

ST: Those are wonderfully profound points for all of us to think about. The threads between horror and identity, especially for women and minorities, can truly change how a story is written and how it is perceived to different readers, 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?

ML: Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Don’t worry if your story is going to upset a particular demographic. Write the story you need to tell and don’t be afraid to tell the truth. Tell the truth, because there’s probably someone out there who needs you to tell that story and they might not have the words to tell it themselves. I still struggle with this myself, so it’s a work in progress. Each story I write makes it easier to tell the truth. So, keep writing and don’t worry if your story makes people uncomfortable. That’s kind of the point.

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?

ML: At the moment, I’m reading Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth, and I am connecting with this story in ways that are both comforting and disturbing. I’m only half-way through the novel and I am seeing myself in Suzette. While my son isn’t maliciously trying to get rid of me, I see a lot of parallels to what I have experienced in terms of raising a child with behavioral problems that aren’t easily diagnosed. My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder roughly two years ago, but we are still struggling to get him all the support and resources he needs. I need. I can really relate to Suzette in terms of witnessing behaviors that others may not see and having to fight to get an appropriate diagnosis and support. This is especially difficult as a single mother. So, even though Suzette is living a nightmare, I resent the fact that she is financially secure and has a reasonably stable partner. How screwed up is that?

So, what speaks to me about this novel isn’t just that I can directly relate to the characters, but Stage has this remarkable ability to depict the horrific in everyday life and take it to a level that makes it scarier because you realize that lots of people are living this horror in our current society. And, she does a great job of showing the imbalances between women’s work and men’s work and how women are expected to be perfect no matter what traumas they face. I think it is a wonderfully written modern tale of the horrors of being female in America without relying too heavily on the trope of motherhood and insanity like so many horror films seem to be doing these days. You’d think the only people going crazy in our society are upper-middle class white mothers. I’m here to tell you, that just isn’t the case. Just once, I’d like to see a horror film that features a single black mother struggling to pay her bills while seeking help with her child’s behavioral problems and simultaneously being blamed for them. That will make you crazy.

ST: 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?

ML: I’d like to read more horror fiction written by women of color, trans women, any woman who has a unique perspective on horror and how they relate to it. I’m a bit of a voyeur and I want to see inside other people’s minds and experience their fears through the lens of different cultural experiences and realities.

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?

Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 7.50.28 PMIn January, my short story, “Crossroad,” was published in the anthology Terror Politico: A Screaming World of Chaos, from Scary Dairy press. The anthology is loaded with great stories that follow the theme of political horror.

My goal for 2019 is to draft the sequel to Invisible Chains, and I’m currently working on a story for an anthology coming out later this year that looks at the monstrous feminine.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know all there is to know about me and what I’m working on. I also have a blog, Girl Meets Monster, where I feature the work other horror writers and review horror fiction, films, and TV shows.

ST: Thank you so much to Michelle for joining us. I so enjoyed reading her responses and thoughts on women in horror. I encourage everyone to follow her delightful blog and keep up with her work. Looking forward to reading Invisible Chains!

Check back on Friday to read about my next guest! 

 

 

 

WiHM Interview with Toni the Reader!

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 second guest is book reviewer and podcast host Toni, whom you might know as one of the great minds behind the Ladies of Horror Fiction! I am so excited to get to know more about Toni.

img_20180625_182916-2Toni is the owner of the blog The Misadventures of a Read and one of the co-founders of The Ladies of Horror Fiction. She is also the host of the Ladies of Horror Fiction podcast. She lives in Arizona with a houseful of boys and dogs. She loves anything that is related to horror, dark fiction and coffee.

 

 

ST: First of all, I want to say thank you for being such an integral part of The Ladies of Horror Fiction! It continues to grow and prove itself as an invaluable tool for promoting women in the genre. What has its creation been like for you? What do you envision for its future?

Toni: Thank you! Ladies, keep writing these fantastic books that everyone needs to read! I need some more poetry Sara!!!

The creation of the LOHF has been amazing. We have discussed and mapped out each step to roll things out slowly. The awards have been in discussion since August of last year. We wanted to make sure that everything that we do is thought out and maintain the integrity of the organization.

ST: As a reader, reviewer, podcast host, and more, I’m not sure how you find time to breathe! Is The Ladies of Horror Fiction Podcast the first podcast you have been a part of? How is it different than reviewing and helping to manage the website?

Toni: LOL…breathing and sleep are completely overrated. Yes, the Ladies of Horror Fiction podcast is the first podcast that I have been a part of. I listen to a lot of podcasts and I love the platform. One of my goals last year was to start a podcast. But I didn’t know what I wanted to talk about. When we founded the LOHF it gave me a topic that I am truly passionate about.

I find that I am doing a lot more research into whatever topic I am talking about. When I write a book review, it tends to be more about my feelings or what I get out of the story or writing. Whereas, with the podcast it is more topic based. With the topic I want to ensure that I have done enough research, so I don’t sound like an idiot. LOL. But I love it so much and it has been so much fun.

ST: Do you think women reviewers, especially women who review horror, have any challenges that they have compared to other reviewers? I know as a woman who writes horror fiction, there is always the challenge, or at least the question of, “am I being taken as seriously as male authors?” So, I wondered if women reviewers face anything similar?

Toni: Yes, we do. It is the whole stereotype that girls can’t like horror and there is going to be some horror that is too extreme for our delicate sensibilities. Over the past year we have seen women reviewers get bashed for having opinions regarding some horror tropes that may not be to the reviewer’s taste. It is unfortunate, that in 2019 we still have this divide between men and women in the horror industry.

ST: 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?

Toni: I have always read horror. When I was younger it was about the thrill of feeling scared. As I got older, my relationship with horror has changed. It is a place where monsters are fictional instead of on the news.

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?

Toni: The one piece of advice I would give to a woman starting out in the field is not to be afraid. Fear of being successful, fear of failure can totally torpedo so many of our dreams. Just keep pushing through the fear.

Okay, so I have another piece of advice. Historically, women as we are growing up are taught not to push ourselves forward, not promote ourselves. We need to use the tools available to promote ourselves. Talk to people about our work. Use the resources that are currently out there to get the word out.

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?

Toni: There are three women whose work truly speaks to me. Gwendolyn Kiste, Kristi DeMeester and yourself. Each woman work speaks to me in a different way.

DeMeester’s work speaks to me on a familial level. It plays on my fears as a woman and parent.

Kiste’s work is beautiful and lyrical. It presents horror in this beautiful lyrical way.

Your work takes things that are horrific and make them beautiful.

ST: Aw thank you so much! I’m honored to be mentioned with Gwen and Kristi! 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?

Toni: My hopes are women horror writers become more main stream. There are so many amazing women horror writers that need to be shouted about from the rooftops.

Personally, diversity in horror is going to drive the genre forward and out of the shadows. When you walk into a book store there should be more than just Stephen King and Anne Rice. We should have more variety in main stream horror as it opens up different dimensions of horror.

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?

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 8.01.55 pmToni: This year we are working on the Ladies of Horror Fiction awards!! (Get your work in ladies!!) We are also working on getting more guest posts from woman that are in the horror industry. We have also added a new series for the podcast where I get to read and talk about the original ladies who wrote horror. Which is amazing. There are many different projects that we are working on so keep an eye on our social media accounts and our blog!!

 

Meet the team behind the Ladies of Horror Fiction here!

Keep up with Toni’s reviews at The Misadventures of a Reader 

and on Twitter @Toni_The_Reader

ST: Thank you so much to Toni for joining us. I enjoyed learning more about the industry from a reviewer’s perspective! I am thrilled to see what all the Ladies of Horror Fiction have brewing for us!

Check back on Wednesday to read about my next guest! 

 

 

 

 

WiHM Interview with Karlee Patton

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 first guest is Karlee Patton, whom you might know as the artistic mind behind A Stranger Dream. I am so excited to get to know more about Karlee.

karleepKarlee Patton is a Horror Illustrator and Fine Artist living and creating in a small town called Duryea located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She received her BA in Visual Art from Keystone College with a concentration in painting and drawing in 2017. She was the Keystone College Outstanding Graduate of the Year (2017) and won numerous awards for art and poetry at Keystone including the Edward M Cameron IV Poetry Award (2017), Keystone College Outstanding Achievement Award for Excellence in the Arts (2017),  Undergraduate Research Poetry Award (2017), 1stPlace at the Keystone College 2ndAnnual Draw-a-Thon, was Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities (2017), was a Keystone College Presidential Fellow, and a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society. Along with being an artist, she is a heavy reader as well as a closet writer, which got her into the business of creating bookmarks. Her self-started business, A Stranger Dream, allowed her to take her love of reading, writing, and drawing and intermix them. She creates one-of-a-kind illustrations and transforms them into extraordinary bookmarks that seem to come to life. Her passion to be creative and unusual certainly is exhibited through her life and work, and you hardly ever see her without a good horror novel, or a paintbrush.

 

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…)? 

KP: My love of horror began when I was in grade school. I found the book In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. I was most infatuated by the story in that collection called The Girl with the Green Ribbon. This story starts out sounding like a fairy tale, but spoiler alert: at the end, Jenny’s head falls off when the love of her life unties the green ribbon around her neck.

I would check out this book from the library as often as possible just to bring it home and read it to my brother with my “creepy witch voice” before bedtime. I just recently bought his daughter a copy because she is already taking a liking to the horror genre. She loves when I tell her the monster in my basement will eat her if she acts up (which makes her act up more because she wants to meet him!) and already is growing a keen addiction to skeletons “ooooo, spooky!”

I always loved to watch horror films especially the old ones, but my favorite subgenre of horror is the supernatural. My favorite thing to do on a Sunday is sit on the couch in my PJs and watch Ghost Hunters or Supernatural. I also love to read any book with a title beginning with “The Haunting Of…”  or anything about exorcisms.

kp work1

Patton’s gorgeous artwork! This reminds me of Poe’s “The Black Cat” and I am in love with it!

However, I’ve never really created anything to do with horror until college. My research in college began with magick and symbolism. I created my own set of symbols to tell stories in my paintings. My paintings and drawings were generally low-key and some would say, creepy. The main character of this body of art was a black cat with white eyes that glowed from within. The cat was the symbol representing myself and my consciousness and was my way of inserting myself into the story. I was unable to finish this body of work in college due to time restraints and my research had me studying deeper into things like witchcraft, the afterlife, and the underworld. My final body of work in college consisted of large abstracted paintings that all derived from a domestic cat skull. (No cats were harmed!) It was hard for some people to see that they were cat skulls though, so I generally tried to not tell them at my exhibit’s opening night. A lot of people were set back by the fact that they were cat skulls when they found out, and thought I was a little whacky!

ST: 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?

KP: I am personally drawn by the artistic freedom to be a “little whacky.” If I painted a skull around here, you guys would love me for it. It’s socially acceptable to think of dark things in this genre and not be charged with insanity. Horror unleashes my inner psychopath.

Women being drawn to horror makes my heart so happy. I hate the generalization that women have to be cute and proper and passive. I love to be in your face, loud, and maybe even a little frightening. If a woman with a ton of confidence, their own mind, and their own individuality bothers you, you need to grow some balls.

ST: Your creations for A Stranger Dream are amazing. I’m obsessed with the bookmarks. Did your artwork always lean toward the darker side or is that something that has developed over the years?

KP: As I said in my big long tangent I went off on in the first question, my artwork didn’t seem dark to me, but to others they were definitely leaning to the dark side. My cat skull

kp work 2

Patton’s beautiful cat skull series of work.

series was about being a vessel, and about celebration of the bones that contain our spirits and the things our spirits can latch onto, but, when the general public sees a skull, they think of death. But, as J.K. Rowling once said, “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

The artwork for my bookmarks sprang from my love of reading and writing, and honestly when I first started A Stranger Dream, I was all over the map. The first few bookmarks I created were for Harry Potter, then IT, and then Beauty and the Beast respectively. I actually even made bookmarks for Six of Crows! I do love to read a wide variety of books including YA, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi so I am not ashamed of creating these things and may even do so again in the future. Some of my favorite fandoms include The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, and of course, Harry Potter. I began to stick solely to creating horror pieces when I fell in love with the amazing online community, and my creative freedom felt unleashed from there. I always wondered where my artwork fit in the artistic community and wondered what my calling was. I’m proud to finally announce, horror is my passion. I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged anywhere, but I belong here, amongst you. I belong to the horror community.

 ST: Your website mentions that you now write graphic novels, illustrate for other authors, and are creating book covers for horror novels. Congratulations on how your beautiful work has taken off! Do you have any favorite projects you have worked on over the years, or is there something in particular you’re really looking forward to working on? 

KP: I haven’t published anything yet, but I am working on writing the words to my very first graphic novel. Of course, it is about a haunting! It will all be done in digital painting, and if you are on my patreon, when I have some artwork completed, you will be the only ones to see sneak peeks on it before it’s released! I also have a few small chapbooks up my sleeve that I hope to share soon!

None of the work I have done has been released yet, but I recently did a book cover for Edward Lorn! He is the first book cover I have done, and I really hope to do more in the future because I had a blast doing it. This book hasn’t been released yet either, so keep your eyes peeled!

Another project that I’ll be doing in the future, is a collaboration with J.Z. Foster! We will be creating a graphic novel together, and I’m so stoked for this project. It’s still a long way off so don’t expect it any time soon, but I have goosebumps just thinking about it!

ST: I never hear enough about women in graphic design and horror artwork as much as I want to. I think it’s probably an even more difficult field to solidly break into because it’s been male-dominated for so long, much like comics. What kind of impact do you think more women in horror art could have, or what unique qualities will they continue bringing into these fields?

KP:Women generally have to fight harder in order to be taken seriously. So, when you have HEARD of a woman in art, or you have HEARD of a woman author, she is usually a BADASS. For this reason, I think a woman’s work will always be better because she freakin’ fought for that. She busted her butt making it happen. So, I believe women in horror will always break the boundaries, raise the bar, and will always take it to the next level.

I love to show people what I’m made of, and I can’t wait to release my own comics and blow everyone’s mind.

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?

KP: One woman who always makes my heart flutter is Emily Carroll. She is a kick ass graphic novelist who creates stunning images and books that you just need to have on your shelves. Her stories are short, but pack just enough punch. The artwork is what truly sends her stories over the edge for me. Whenever I’m working on my graphic novel, I have a stack of woman-powered graphic novels and novels next to me that I use for reference and take note of how they got something to happen in their novels. Emily Carroll is always in my research stack and I seriously look up to her.

Emily has a new book that is available for preorder right now on amazon!

It is called When I Arrived at the Castle and it is set to release on June 19, 2019.

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?

screen shot 2019-01-17 at 2.58.43 pm

Karlee’s work is a horror lover’s dream! You have to check out her website and shop. Links below.

KP: This year, I won’t really be “restocking” my shop with old designs, but I will do it on occasion to have big sales etc.. My plan is to create more artwork and new designs constantly so that the bookmarks will “retire” faster. Meaning, I will create new designs and there might only be 50 of them in existence. I think this will make my work more collectible for those who collect them. I’m also toying with the idea of numbering my bookmarks, so those people know they have a collectible in their hands.

My goal for this year is to finish my first graphic novel. So hopefully by 2020 you will have some spooky goodness in your hands!

Get exclusive peaks into Karlee’s work through her patreon account.

To see her new artwork for bookmarks as she creates them, and to keep up-to-date with her releases, follow Karlee on Instagram: www.instagram.com/astrangerdream

on twitter @astrangerdream

To see her amazing shop, visit www.astrangerdream.com and to see her fine art, follow this Instagram:

www.instagram.com/karlee.patton

ST: Thank you so much to Karlee for joining us. As you can see, she has a beautifully macabre and creative mind, and I strongly encourage everyone to keep up with her work and support our fellow horror sister!

Check back on Monday to read about my next guest! 

The Devil’s Dreamland by Sara Tantlinger #PoetryReview — Sci-Fi & Scary

Title: The Devil’s Dreamland | Author: Sarah Tantlinger | Publisher: StrangeHouse Books | Pub. Date: 11/20/2018 | Pages: 121 | ASIN: B07KQMCR3Z | Genre: Horror poetry | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Source: Received from the author for review consideration The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H.Holmes H.H. Holmes…

via The Devil’s Dreamland by Sarah Tantlinger #PoetryReview — Sci-Fi & Scary