WiHM: NOT ALL MONSTERS Roundtable Part IV

Welcome back to the fourth and final roundtable question! Thank you SO much to the authors behind Not All Monsters for sharing their ideas, insights, and inspirations! Check out all the roundtable questions here.

How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person? Who are some contemporary women in horror that you love reading? 

 

angela-sylvaine-

Angela Sylvaine

Angela Sylvaine: I think being a writer helps me understand that every character, and therefore every person in real life, is rich and complicated. Good or bad, we all have motivations and baggage and fears and dreams. No one is just what they appear to be on the surface.

Some of my favorite recent women’s horror includes Bunny by Mona Awad, which was achingly beautiful, extremely brutal, and completely confusing. I’m still not sure I understand what happened in that book, but I was enthralled. In young adult horror, I loved both Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer and The Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand. Both featured richly developed young women as strong characters, and I love reading great YA horror.

Hailey Piper: Writing has helped process dealing with various aspects of life, and I’d like to think that gives me a better understanding of what I’m going through. It doesn’t always work, of course.

As for contemporary women in horror, that reading list is a mile long! But Sara Tantlinger, Claire Holland, Marjorie Liu, Joanna Koch, Eden Royce, Christa Carmen, Gwendolyn Kiste, Priya Sharma, Eliza Chan, Laura Mauro, A.C. Wise, V.H. Leslie, Tracy Fahey … I could go on. Forever.

Joanna Roye: Becoming a writer has actually helped me become more sure of myself, of my identity and place. By figuring out my voice, it’s helped me reflect on who I am and how I can interact with the world. I love reading Gwendolyn Kiste, Kelly Link, Tananarive Due, and Mariko Koike.

Joanna Koch: I used to do art to get the demons out. Words require commitment. I’ve become more honest with myself and with others through writing. Dare I say I’ve become more human? I guess I’m going to get kicked out of the robot club now. I was really counting on that new mechanical body. Damn.

There are too many excellent female identified authors to keep up with in horror! My TBR list is ever-expanding. It’s a good problem to have.

Fellow “Not All Monsters” authors I’ve loved reading include Christa Carmen, Jessica McHugh, and Hailey Piper. Piper is a favorite who I’ve watched grow tremendously over the past year. I can’t wait to see where she takes her work in the near future. Writers who glean literary respect beyond the genre like Carmen Maria Machado, Kathe Koja, and Alma Katsu blow me away with vastly different but equally rich and complex works. Some women I’m planning to read more of soon include Georgina Bruce, Gwendolyn Kiste, Damien Angelica Walters, Claire C. Holland, Laurel Hightower, Stephanie Wytovich, and Christina Sng. I do love a good horror poem, and your name definitely goes on my list! I’m honored to talk with you, Sara!

Leslie Wibberley: CNF allows me to explore my reactions to problematic events in my

Leslie Wibberley

Leslie Wibberley

life, either in the past, or as they unfold. Once the emotion settles, the act of writing those reactions on the page allows me just enough distance to be objective, helping me to work through the issues.

Fiction does the same. Placing my characters into challenging situations and playing with their reactions, often helps me in my own life. But unlike CNF, I’m the one who chooses the final outcome, and I love the heady sense of power that brings.

A few of my favorite women in horror are Angela Slatter, Kelly Link, Carina Bissett, Angela Carter, K.T. Wagner, Shirley Jackson, and a fresh new voice in the horror world, whose writing is as lyrical as it is disturbing—Sara Tantlinger.

Christa Carmen: Being a writer has helped me as a person in that it gives me a creative outlet for all the things I love or fear or obsess over or just want to know more about in the world. Being a horror writer in particular allows me to grapple with issues that worry me or invoke unease, and I’m grateful that I discovered early on that it was, indeed, horrorfiction that allowed for this in-depth exploration as opposed to, say, poetry or creative nonfiction, because I’m far better at penning a horror tale than I am at conceptualizing a memoir or stringing together a haiku.

Some contemporary women in horror that I love reading are Gwendolyn Kiste, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Nadia Bulkin, Ania Ahlborn, Jac Jemc, Alma Katsu, Christina Sng, Elizabeth Hand, Nancy Holder, Joyce Carol Oates, Claire C. Holland, Anya Martin, Erin Sweet Al-Mehari, Renee Miller, Theresa Braun, Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, Damien Angelica Walters, Lauren Groff, Caroline Kepnes, Ruth Ware, Sarah Pinborough, and all the amazing women in the Not All Monstersanthology.

Briana McGuckin: It comes back to that idea of subverting power as therapeutic. I have cerebral palsy, and when I was a kid – when I started writing – I was skin, bones, and surgical scars. I was in and out of a wheelchair. The only extra-curricular activity I did was dance class, as physical therapy – but there were recitals, so I always felt I was bringing everybody else down. When I rode the short bus, I got shoved in lockers and called “retarded.” I knew I was smart. It’s not that you believe what bullies say about you – it’s that you know they’re wrong, and yet there’s no changing the atmosphere. You don’t make the rules. But when you write, you control everything. You can put down what it feels like to be you, and no one can erase it. It gives you space for your narrative.

As for contemporary women in horror, I just read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It’s packed full of everything you want in a classic gothic horror novel – the old house, the weird family, things being on fire – and yet it’s so readable for a modern audience. It feels like rich, aged, time-tested fiction.

Jennifer Loring: Much like reading, writing helps you become empathetic. This is especially important when you’re writing characters that aren’t representative of yourself, as I often do. Being a writer has also helped with my anxiety disorder; I used to avoid public speaking and social events in general, but now I love attending conferences and conventions and getting to know other writers. As far as contemporary women horror writers, I love Gwendolyn Kiste, S. P. Miskowski, Livia Llewellyn, Gemma Files, Kristi DeMeester, Betty Rocksteady—and you, of course! 😊 Also, despite not being “horror” writers per se, Gillian Flynn and Sara Gran have written some pretty horrific stuff (Sharp Objectsand Come Closer, respectively).

J.C. Raye - Mercury

J.C. Raye

J.C. Raye: I am ashamed to say that I have learned more about geography, culture, and world history from writing my first dozen short stories than during my entire K-College education. I spent the first twenty years of life trying to get by without studying all those juicy details which make a story rich. Now, I can easily spend two weeks seeking out exact names of native foliage for a midwestern ghost town, studying traditions of Vietnamese paper-lantern making, or discovering what caves exist off the coast of Ireland.

I love reading ANY women in horror. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And the darkness of a woman’s imagination truly has no bottom. Want to stay up nights? Yeah? Read a horror story concocted by a woman.

Juliana Spink Mills: I came to writing late, though I’ve loved words my entire life. I only started writing seriously when I turned 40 and my kids were old enough to not need me all the time. Writing grounds me, but also gives me room to spread my wings and soar. It’s something all mine, a myriad of secret worlds to explore and special places only I can access and bring to life. Writing completes me.

As for other writers, I tend to read more fantasy and sci fi than horror, though there is a lot of bleed-through (ha! blood!) from one to the other. I loved Holly Black’s Folk of the Airtrilogy, for instance, which is technically fantasy but does have some horror elements. Northern Irish writer Jo Zebedee definitely blurs that line between horror, sci fi, and fantasy, and I’m a huge fan of her work. In her Waters and the Wild, for instance, she goes quite dark indeed. And in terms of actual horror writers, you can’t go wrong with the fabulously talented Gwendolyn Kiste.

G.G. Silverman: Writing has helped me have a safe space to explore my own thoughts and feelings. It has also helped me become more empathetic, and notice more about my surroundings, and about people. It forces me to be mindful, and present, and to witness. It has also brought me great friendships, people I’m certain I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for my writing habit.

As for contemporary women in horror I love reading, I really love Carmen Maria Machado. Joyce Carol Oates’ work is also really amazing. Then there are peers who are doing great stuff, like Sarah Read, Stephanie Wytovich, and Gwendolyn Kiste. There are so many great female voices in horror. It’s an exciting time to be a writer *and* a reader.

Amy Easton: For me, writing is invaluable for making sense of the world and my place in it – I would be far less grounded without it. I love bringing narrative elements into my therapy work and horror is particularly well-suited for meaningful representation. I tend to read nonfiction soam excited to explore the darker side of fiction through the works of my anthology sisters! As for recommendations, current favorites are Kier-La Janisse’s House of Psychotic Women and Sady Doyle’s Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers.

Kayleigh Barber: I think being a writer has helped me in so many ways. It’s helped me

Kayleigh Barber

Kayleigh Barber

develop my sense of empathy, as well as helping me step out of my comfort zone. There have also been times when it’s been an escape, a way to step back from life or even my own brain and work through things in a way that I can shape and control.

For female horror authors, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Sara Tantlinger. To Be Devoured still makes me shudder when I think of certain scenes. Mira Grant’s Feedtrilogy is one of my all-time-favorite reads. Donna Lynch’sChoking Back the Devilwas wonderful. I also have books by Gwendolyn Kiste, Sara Gran, and Christa Carmen that I can’t wait to read!

Annie Neugebauer: Writing has helped me in more ways than I can easily pin down and articulate. I do know that writing has been a creative outlet for me, of course, and a way to better understand myself and other people. It’s one of the ways I process life and explore the world. It’s also an escape: something that’s mine and only mine that can always be exactly what I want it to be. It’s given me empathy, wisdom, healing, understanding, joy, and contentment. But all of that sounds trite compared to how it feels.

As far as contemporary authors go, I’m absolutely obsessed with Tana French’s work. She’s incredibly brilliant, whether veering toward or away from horror. I also consistently love Gillian Flynn, Laurell K. Hamilton, Gemma Files, and Sarah Waters. And I’ve read fantastic books lately by Zoje Stage, Catherine Burns, Lauren Beukes, and Marisha Pessl. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many women crafting incredible short fiction, for example, that I can’t even begin to list them all!

J.H. Moncrieff: Writing has helped me use my voice to educate and inspire others, and hopefully help them see things differently. When I’m writing regularly, I’m a much happier, more content, and focused person. I’m never lonely because my characters surround me. Writing helps me unpack a lot of negativity, worries, and fears that would probably otherwise drive me crazy, like the poaching and senseless killing of animals (see #1). As for contemporary women in horror, I love Catherine Cavendish, Somer Canon, Lee Murray, Susan Hill, and Sarah Pinborough. I’m probably forgetting many, so please forgive me.

Sam Fleming: I’m neuro-atypical and have hypergraphia. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. It took about four decades for me to start submitting, though, and I need to differentiate between the writing I do because I haveto, and the writing that tells stories. Being the kind of writer who sends stuff out has made me much more robust to, and yet also open to criticism, and taught me to be kinder myself. I am a terrible perfectionist, and competitive to boot, but you can’t control what an editor wants to see. You might have a great story and still see it rejected, because it wasn’t right for that market at that time. It has enabled me to segregate personal criticism from criticism of my work, and my time in crit groups has taught me to be more sensitive to other people. I’m so much better at tailoring a message for my audience than I used to be.

I have favourite stories rather than writers. I loved Michele Paver’s Dark Matter, and Carole Johnstone’s “Better You Believe”. That said, if a contents page lists Kelly Robson, A.C. Wise, Leah Bobet or Gwendolyn Kiste, I’ll probably read those stories first.

Jessica McHugh

Jessica McHugh

Jessica McHugh: I don’t think I’m great at expressing myself verbally. When I was a kid, I’d often sit up in bed at night besieged by anxieties I couldn’t articulate, so I’d just scream at the top of lungs. My poor parents probably thought I was being murdered the first time it happened. Even when I got better at discussing my feelings, I’ve always felt more comfortable channeling them through a character. Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say,” and that rings true for me as well. Writing is screaming at the page, and editing is figuring out why I needed to scream in the first place.

When it comes to contemporary women in horror, it almost hurts not to list 20+ names because there are so many kickass ladies rocking the genre right now. Some of my favorites are Betty Rocksteady, Damien Angelica Walters, Stephanie Wytovich, Sarah Pinborough, Carmen Maria Marchado, Sheri White, Emma Johnson, Sarah Read, Tananarive Due, and Lucy Snyder.

K.P. Kulski: Writing is the ultimate outlet. There’s that great quote attributed to Sappho floating around the internet, “what cannot be said will be wept.” I really want that quote to be something Sappho said, but there is no proof of that. However, I love the quote even if she didn’t say it. I think it also describes what writing can do. Fiction can be the display of truth through the creation of lies. Words like sorrow and rage by themselves convey nuanced meanings, but works of fiction give us the depth of the meaning. We can say, “I am sad” but saying it with a story is the weeping of truth that cannot ever be given proper justice without the fiction.

I can gush forever about writers, especially women writers. I recently read Shawna Yang Ryan’s Water Ghostsand it is the most crushing, beautiful and haunting story. It flits along the threshold of horror, but that’s something about it that I absolutely adore. I’m a fan of graphic novels as well so I have to mention Marjorie M. Liu’s Monstress series, not only is the story and world gripping, the art by Sana Takeda is horrifying and breathtaking and gorgeous all at once. I had the honor of being at a poetry reading with Donna Lynch, Saba Razvi and a woman named Sara Tantlinger… you might know her. I’m pretty sure I looked like a rabid fan as I immediately purchased their work so I could spend my life reading their books by candlelight. I may have also used their poems to curse the wicked. As one does.

WiHM: NOT ALL MONSTERS Roundtable Part III

Welcome back! If you missed Part I and Part II of my roundtable with the amazing authors of Not All Monsters, make sure to check them out. Nick Day recently sent me a hardcover proof of the book, and it’s safe to say I’m obsessed and this book is going to be a beautiful collector’s item.

What would be your dream job besides being a successful author?

Annie Neugebauer

Annie Neugebauer: Probably a professional organizer and/or interior designer. I have a passion for home aesthetics, and a knack for helping people sort through their clutter. On the other hand, I can also easily imagine loving being a lit professor!

Angela Sylvaine: I would love to be a chef or a food critic. I enjoy cooking and when I travel, I love to try new and interesting foods.

Briana McGuckin: I was an academic librarian before I started pursuing my MFA full-time, and that was close to perfect for me. I love doing research, and I love re-framing ideas to help people understand them or see them in a new way. I got to do a bit of teaching in that position, and I wish I could do more. I just want to get to the bottom of everything – anything, whatever’s weighing on a person’s mind when they talk to me. They’re the same, I think – emotional upset and the thirst for knowledge – because that’s when we want to know things: when we feel we’re missing something important. I’ve been told I missed my calling as a therapist. But my favorite writers are my therapists for the time that I am reading their work, so maybe I’m still well-situated for that.

Juliana Spink Mills: Travel writer! Especially now that my kids are nearly done with high school and almost ready for college…

I traveled a lot when I was younger; to Australia and around Europe. All over Brazil. To Peru with my now-husband (and then-boyfriend). A group of us once drove over 8,000 miles from Brazil to the southernmost tip of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, and back again, crossing Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina. I’ve skied the Rockies, the Alps, and the Fitzsimmons Range. After college, I spent two months backpacking Canada by myself. I love traveling. And hey, I could write my fiction at the same time; perfect!

Leslie Wibberley: I used to want to be a forensic sculptor, but sadly computer-generated images and reconstructions have now made that occupation obsolete.

I sculpt, but only as a hobby. But if I couldn’t write I’d be a professional sculptor. For me, sculpture is the only thing that has ever come close to the magic of writing. In both, we create something from nothing. Beautiful works of art from amorphous lumps of clay or imaginary worlds filled with people who don’t exist, doing things that never happened, using only thoughts and words.

Amy Easton: I think I am lucky enough to have it! I am a therapist working with survivors of trauma and there is nothing else I would rather do. One day, I hope to be able to live in the woods with a whole pack of dogs but I don’t think there’s much money in that path.

Christa Carmen

Christa Carmen: I’d either do something with animals—but something wild like assist a team of Australian biologists in cloning the DNA of a Tasmanian tiger to bring the striped marsupial wolves back from extinction—or something with the occult, like become a traveling tour guide for the most haunted places in America or the most sought after spirit photographer this side of the Great Beyond. See, this is why my actual dream job is to be a successful author, because the jobs I just described are ridiculous and seem completely made up.

Joanna Koch: Personal masseuse to an immortal and benevolent cat deity. Preferably a chunky ginger boy.

Jessica McHugh: I love dancing. In my life, I’ve been a ballet and tap dancer, a stripper, a Just Dance and DDR enthusiast, and I even trained to be a ballroom dance instructor. I don’t know how I’d make money doing it these days at nearly 40 years old, but hey, I guess that’s why it’s a *dream* job!

Jennifer Loring

Jennifer Loring: I did my undergrad in studio art; being an artist was my first real “dream job.” Obviously it didn’t work out, but I still dabble in several media—painting (digital and acrylic), collage, mixed media, book-making, photography. I’m debating whether to put an online store back up. I love a good side-hustle, but I’ve already got a day job and the whole writing thing!

K.P. Kulski: Archaeologist. I would be the female version of Indiana Jones. I would fight Nazi’s and make grand archaeological discoveries. Honestly, I’d also be happy being an archaeologist who lived in reality. I’d love to specialize in the ancient Celtic, Norse and Mongolian cultures. Yes, all three. I don’t care how far Mongolia is from the other two. I do what I want.

G.G. Silverman: I have always loved nature, and in our current time, news of places like Australia being destroyed by wildfire has really gotten my attention. I’m currently exploring opportunities to learn about how to make a better impact on the environment—whether or not that translates to a job that earns money remains to be seen. It’s important work, regardless.

I also love visual art, and am a graphic designer for my day job, so I’m looking at ways to expand my offering as an artist to include things that are more illustrative—successfully selling more visual art would absolutely be a dream come true.

I also love teaching (I currently teach creative writing at my local college), and community-building, and in the future I hope to build some kind of space (real or virtual) that brings people together to work on their own dreams, and support each other.

Hailey Piper: Multiverse cartographer. I’d write a guidebook and draw maps to parallel universes so people would know which to travel to … there are still books involved, but that’s different from being an author, right? There’s walking involved!

Art work by Don Noble

J.H. Moncrieff: A forensic psychologist (profiler) or a marine biologist, but since I haven’t actually done either job, it might be best to try them out first. I have been a journalist, a publicist, an editor, a marketer/communications specialist, and a teacher.

Sam Fleming: Climate Research Scientist in Antarctica? Dragon whisperer? Raven wrangler? When I was little, I wanted to be James Bond. I was oblivious to the misogyny, as a clueless 7-year-old, but being sent to dangerous places to save the world from bad people appealed. The Armed Forces wouldn’t have me.

I’m not sure it’s wise to have a dream job. You always have to sacrifice something, and then wonder whether or not it was worth it. If you can find something that makes you want to get up in the morning and do it, and someone is willing to pay you for it, then that is as close as you can get to a dream job. I know what I want from a job – to be needed and wanted (not the same thing), a moderate degree of excitement, plenty of variety and challenge, a degree of autonomy that equates to being left to get on with it, and knowing my efforts will leave the world a better place. Preferably without having to talk to too many people, but where I can bring my dog.

So battlewitch in charge of guarding a powerful sacred relic on a remote island, I suppose.

Joanna Roye

Joanna Roye: Running a horticultural garden to propagate native species of plants. Or bee-keeper, opossum rehabilitator? Something in the area of wildlife conservation.

Kayleigh Barber: I would love to open a bookstore, possibly with a café attached. Did you finish book 1 in a series at midnight, and now you need book 2 and some caffeine stat? Come on in, or choose the delivery option at checkout!

J.C. Raye: Goats. I’d like to raise them. Run with them. Build massive wooden jungle gyms for climbing and watch them knock each other off in their seemingly endless game of king of the mountain. That game never gets old with goats. Watch them sometime and you’ll see.

WiHM: NOT ALL MONSTERS Roundtable Part II

If you missed Part I of our roundtable, find it here!

If you could transport yourself to any time period and place for a year to write a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose to go?

 

 

J.H. bio photo

J.H. Moncrieff

J.H. Moncrieff: I’m working on a series set in ancient Egypt, which has been a complete nightmare. It would be so much easier to just live there for a year, and experience things as they actually were.

Joanna Roye: The Terminal Classic period of the Mayan empire, either in bustling Chichen Itza or the partially abandoned regions of central Peten. 

 

Sam Fleming: All my stories are alternative Earth stories (even the ones set very far away start here if you go back into their history far enough – I’m one of those writers who keeps world bibles). They are set in places that are familiar, but not exactly the same as here. I have a story in Clockwork Phoenix 5that is set in a version of our world, but say, twenty minutes into the future (to quote Max Headroom), and with added magic. If I could spend a year in the ancestral pile of the family that world revolves around, I would love to do that. So many stories! It would be like John Crowley’s Little, Bigas told by Scottish Twitter. And yes, for those who are interested, “Pretty Little Vampires” is set in the same universe as “The Prime Importance of a Happy Number”.

Jennifer Loring: That’s a tough question! I think I would probably want to be in Paris during the time of the Decadents and Symbolists. Despite being not particularly women friendly, I love so much of the literature and poetry that came out of the period, and I imagine it would be very inspiring for my own work in turn. 

 

Hailey Piper author headshot large

Hailey Piper

Hailey Piper: Assuming I was completely safe to write? I’m not sure where, but the time period would be among prehistoric humanity, when our species seemed to have little chance of survival, the shadows loomed largest, and we were first developing the concepts that would both explain the world and help it haunt us for ages to come.

 

 

Kayleigh Barber: I’d have to say sometime between the late 70s/early 80s. That’s when the slasher genre really took off; I’d love to write a book along that same vein.

Jessica McHugh: 1920s Baltimore. I’ve always loved the ‘20s, but I recently did a lot of research about living in Baltimore during the prohibition era for a Booze & Bites tour I lead in Frederick, MD, and I would love to set a novel there one day.

J.C. Raye: Oh my! England. Medieval times. Swords and sorcery and all that jazz. Wait, no! I completely forgot about The Inquisition. Those heresy-battling folks were quite fond of us roguey-breasted types. Maybe that’s not too good an idea. Ok. Well how about the Golden Age of Piracy then? 1700’s or so. Buccaneers. Tortuga. Life at sea. Oh. Right. The woman thing again. And there were only a few BlackBeard-ettes at the time. My understanding of history is that those gals didn’t end well at all. Hmm. What about the future then? Um, no. Civilization will probably morph into some Soylent Greenscenario, Charlton Heston or no. Women becoming the furniture which accompanied any apartment rental. Yeesh. This is hard. No point time-traveling to write the book if the chances of getting it back to the publisher are slim to none.

You know what? let’s just go with Central Jersey in 2020. That I can handle.

 

Juliana Spink Mills

Juliana Spink Mills

Juliana Spink Mills: I think I’d go and stay with my grandparents in the south of Brazil in the early 1950s. They lived in a self-contained company village belonging to a meat packing corporation, with its own stores and port, and a private railroad connecting the docks to the cattle ranch and processing plant. My mother always tells stories of running wild with her friends as a child, biking everywhere, playing by the railway tracks, and fishing from the docks. It’s basically a writer’s dream setting, with every possible element in one neat package: small town, farmlands, sea, port, railroad… It’s all there!

 

Christa CarmenI have actually been working on a novel for the past year set in Rhode Island at the end of the 19thcentury, and I would love to be transported back to that time period to see just how well my research has served me. New England is a place that has inspired no shortage of isolation and hopelessness, both in the people who have called it home and in those individuals who’ve felt compelled to write about the region; I’d be curious to witness some of the paranoia and fear that caused events like the Salem witch trials or the Mercy Brown vampire incident of 1892—which is what my novel is based on—firsthand… from a safe distance of course, so I could avoid being burned or stoned or having my tuberculosis misdiagnosed as vampirism! 

Leslie Wibberley: Salem, Massachusetts in the year 1692, just as the witch trials were beginning. I’d love to write the story of a powerful witch who changed the outcome of those trials by educating the people who would listen, and destroying those who wouldn’t. 

 

Joanna Koch

Joanna Koch

Joanna Koch: I’m torn. I can imagine so many fascinating times and places! I’d adore the chance to live contemporaneously with either the Impressionists or Surrealists in France at the height of those movements and just hang out. Painting, writing, arguing, starting scandals, and destroying everyone’s idea of good taste. What a blast.
I’d also like to visit our future, maybe after Mars has been terraformed by say, 2190. I’d like to see how we evolve as humans — will we become more mammalian (emotional, warm, connected), integrated with machines and technology (intelligent, efficient, individualized) or something utterly unpredictable? I’d like to see how leaving or losing our home planet changes us. Actually, can I have more than one year, please?

 

Briana McGuckin: I’m working on a gothic novel that’s a cross between Secretary andTess of the D’Urbervilles – a Victorian BDSM novel. And I’m trying to show what responsible BDSM looks like, because I think what we tend to do more often is make Dominants titillating villains and then “fix” or tame them, which is problematic for readers owning their desires and for the BDSM community. Anyway, believe it or not, the Victorians got up to some kinky stuff. I’d love to plop myself down in the middle of those secret spots because, even having done the research, I still can’t quite make the high-society drawing room and bondage play mesh in my mind. It’d be fun to be a fly on the wall, to really get the feeling right, because I think of BDSM as sort of like dreaming, or therapy: it’s a way of processing the rest of one’s life, for catharsis. There are powerful forces at work on you whatever time period you live in, and BDSM lets you subvert that power – lets you play with it, for a little while. Against what were those Victorians rebelling? You’d have to be there, to sense it.     

GGSilverman_Dec2018

G.G. Silverman

G.G. Silverman: The Victorian period seems super interesting to me. The way melancholy, memory, and mourning was so ritualized, with its own uniform: mourning jackets, and jet jewelry, and jewelry made from a loved one’s hair. I would love to explore that some more.

 

Amy Easton: I was three years old when the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl took place and I grew up with an awareness of the impact of this terrible event. I visited Pripyat a decade ago and fell in love with the abandoned beauty and the incredible resilience of those still living and working there. To live in Ukraine during the 80s or 90s and write about the affected communities, wildlife and environment would be a wonderful experience.

Annie Neugebauer: Hmmm. Dangerous question! If I’m granted some sort of safety net that protects me against, say, catching the plague or being kidnapped by pirates, I’d love to go to a castle in the south of France in the early 1600s to research for my gothic novel series. If there isn’t any “save game” button, I think I’ll stay right here and keep using research and my own imagination. 🙂

K.P. Kulski: I have to write a book? I mean, my choice would be a shieldmaiden during the Viking Age, so I probably won’t have a lot of time for writing as I will be cutting down my enemies and stealing their stuff. In this imaginary life, there wouldn’t be sexism, there would be antibiotics, daily baths and I would be the best fighter on Earth. To be fair, the Norse were remarkably well-bathed and groomed for their time, but more cleanliness is good. Eventually, I become a general of a whole army of shieldmaidens and we take over the world.

Women in Horror Month 2020: The Authors Behind NOT ALL MONSTERS

This year for Women in Horror Month, I am ecstatic to bring you a roundtable feature each Monday with the authors behind Not All Monsters, an anthology by women in horror that will be out later this year from Strangehouse Books.

Thank you so much to the authors who could join me and so generously shared their time by answering these questions. You can check out the bios for all the authors in the anthology here.

Enjoy!

Without giving away any spoilers, tell us a little bit about your story in the Not All Monsters anthology. What’s the title? Was there any particular inspiration behind the tale? 

 

K.P Kulski

K.P. Kulski

K.P. Kulski: I think as women we are all so intimately aware of the threat of sexual violence as well as the emotional destruction of body shaming and beauty standards. Too many of us are more than just aware. “Black Feathered Phlogiston” is about being pissed off as hell. It’s about women who are just done with the whole system. We’ve been eating shit for so long that it changes us. Phlogiston was an 18thcentury pseudo-science word for the element believed to be contained within every combustible. Like something just waiting to be ignited. The black feathers refer to harpies, cause harpies are cool.

Joanna Koch: My story “The Revenge of Madeline Usher” makes no secret about its inspiration. At age eleven, I discovered Poe. I was obsessed. Of course, I didn’t know the word misogyny and didn’t apply any sort of critical framework to his writing. Revisiting “The Fall of the House of Usher” decades later, Madeline’s near absence from the tale shocked me. Her presence haunts the original, yet she never speaks. She has no “screen time” besides the male glimpse. She’s not there long enough to call it a male gaze! I recognized this situation all too well. How many women have I known who were eclipsed by men, regardless of their importance in a family, job, or community? How many have been left out of history, and the arts and sciences?

I wanted to give Madeline a voice, and turn Poe’s (unintentional) misogyny inside-out. I also wanted to play with his style, and indulge myself with elaborate sentence structures and ten pound words. For this story, I let my purple prose flag fly.

Christa Carmen: I’ve always been fascinated by the ‘but he was such a nice guy’ refrain that occurs after the Ted Bundys and John Wayne Gacys of the world are discovered. When Ariel Castro was found to have kidnapped three the women, keeping them locked in various parts of his Cleveland, Ohio home for eleven years, neighbors and family members recalled going to Castro’s house for BBQs and Thanksgiving dinners. Castro’s own inability to see himself as anything but a “nice guy “and “not a monster” is beyond horrifying, and that dichotomy between the way monstrous men see themselves and the actual, barbarous ways they harm the women unfortunate enough to land in their paths was the inspiration behind this story.

The title, “And Sweetest in the Gale is Heard,” is a line from the Emily Dickinson poem “Hope is the Thing With Feathers,” and arose from my musings over what could possibly be strong enough to carry someone through the trauma of being held captive by a vile monster in a basement without egress. I realized that, in a situation so appalling, a feather may be plenty strong enough to place one’s hope upon, when hope is such a fragile thing.

Leslie Wibberley: My story, “Unfettered”, first took life in a story generation class taught by the wonderful Carina Bisset. In these classes, Carina pairs fairy tales, folk tales, or world myths with a scientific theme. “Unfettered” was inspired by the fairy tale The Firebird, and bioluminence. After a long journey that encompassed multiple versions and countless rounds of revisions, it arrived at its final destination. A magical realism tale featuring a former ballet dancer whose career was cut short by a terrible car accident, and the abuse she suffers before her resourcefulness and fortitude lead her to a new world of infinite possibilities.

Briana McGuckin: “The Good Will” envisions an after-life in which gods are dress forms

McGuckin_Briana_Una_Photo

Briana McGuckin

and the soul is a quilt. It’s a playful take on ancient Greek philosophy. Socrates says that there are “forms,” or blueprints, for everything. There’s a form for a tree – the perfect tree. But there are also forms for truth, justice, goodness – things that confuse us in the mortal world because they are imperfect, clarified to their essential parts.

According to Socrates, when a soul leaves the body, it looks upon these forms and understands what truth, justice, and goodness actually are. When the soul enters another body, it gets distracted and forgets. This is meant to explain learning – how we come to know things we don’t know. Socrates says we are remembering.

So, I sent a character through that process, to meet the (dress) forms, and I based her on my mom – not the events of her life, but her struggle with identity. It felt important to the theme of remembering, because she remembers stuff she wishes she didn’t. But I believe that her knowledge of her past is essential to her deep inner strength because she knows what she survived; she knows she is a survivor.

Jennifer Loring: My story is called “A Certain Age,” and it was inspired by the Filipino legend of the aswang. This creature can represent a number of monsters (vampires, witches, werewolves, etc.), but during the day it blends in with regular people. At night, it shape-shifts to hunt. “A Certain Age” is about racism and misogyny, and always feeling out of place. The aswangseemed like the perfect vehicle for telling that story.

Juliana Spink Mills: My story “The Sugar Cane Sea” started, as many stories do, with an image. A farmhouse I remember visiting as a child in my home country Brazil, nestled like a gemstone in the middle of a sea of shivering, rustling sugar cane. From there, the questions emerged: why would my main character be there? Was this a safe port from a storm, perhaps? And if so, whatwas the storm that drove her there?

There is a lot of farming in the state of São Paulo, where I grew up — sugar cane, yes, but also oranges, coffee, cattle, and others. I visited a lot of farms and sitiosin my years in Brazil, and it was fun to draw out images from my past and stitch them together into something new — and perhaps a little more sinister than my sunny childhood memories!

G.G. Silverman: My story is called “The Miraculous Ones.” Inspiration came from a few places—my love of sea monsters, my Italian heritage (the setting was loosely based on the village my dad came from in Italy), and my experience as a recently disabled person. I wanted to explore the superstitious culture of my heritage, and I also wanted to write a story where baking somehow factored in (my dad was also a baker, in one of his first jobs in America). Plus, I was obsessively watching The Great British Baking Showat the time, and was hungry, A LOT.

Amy Easton

Amy Easton

Amy Easton: My story is “Wasted”. It was initially inspired by media coverage of convicted rapist Brock Turner but is also a reflection on the assumption that teenage girls hold all the sexual power within intimate relationships, as well as the weird conflation of sex and violence which seems so prevalent in Western societies.

Angela Sylvaine: The title of my story, “Antifreeze and Sweet Peas”, is a nod to Arsenic and Old Lace. Let’s just say poison is involved in both. The inspiration came as I thought about vigilantism. As a woman, I often feel that the system isn’t doing enough and that some of those who are guilty, particularly powerful or seemingly upstanding men, don’t get the punishment they deserve (for example, the many examples of convicted rapists receiving minimal jail time or probation). This tale follows a woman who is uniquely qualified to dispense justice when society fails to stop predators and explores the moral grey area and consequences of being a vigilante. 

Annie Neugebauer: “The Problem With Being a Monster” is a quirky story about a monster longing for human connection. It took its own path once it got going (as any good story is wont to do), but I started out aiming for that sweet spot between funny and scary that “Subsoil” by Nicholson Baker lands so beautifully. I think mine ended up more between funny and sad with a dash of macabre, but I’m not mad about that.

J.H. Moncrieff: The title of my story is “The Heart of the Lion”.It was inspired by the real-life death of Cecil the Lion. I’m a huge animal lover, and the thrill killing and poaching of animals infuriates me, so I thought it would be fun to write a story where the animals get revenge.

68856097_2506265212752389_3077253190370983936_o

Art by Don Noble

Jessica McHugh: My story “This Can Happen to You” was inspired by a real-life lottery win. In 2017, a Massachusetts woman won the largest single-ticket jackpot in North American lottery history and took the lump sum. Almost immediately, people were judging her for the decision, and I was so confused as to why strangers thought they deserved an opinion about it. Add in the fact that lottery winners in Massachusetts (and Florida, where my story is set) aren’t allowed to remain anonymous after claiming their money, and I had a bunch of elements perfect for an intrusive horror story.

J.C. Raye: The fine print and the aftermath. That’s “Cake”. Most of the fairy tales we clung to as children tie up the details oh so neatly at the end, don’t they? The pendulum swings one way or another. Main characters are either rewarded for their goodness and sacrifice, thus acquiring that dream come true, or are punished for their wickedness and greed. Here, you’ll find neither. Here, you’ll find the hell which exists between.

Hailey Piper: My story is “Without a Face,” and it follows Mercy Harper at her 30-year class reunion. A horrid incident at a now decades old fencing tournament has kept her away, but circumstances have pressed her to face the past. Only, a fencing mask has no face, and she sees that darkness everywhere she looks. I was inspired both by a fascination with the way a fencing mask obscures the fencer’s face and that attending a class reunion sounds like an absolute nightmare.

Joanna Roye: For “A Portrait of a Girl in Red and Yellow I was inspired by the true crime tale of the Three Sisters in Black. They were a triad of women who made a living via insurance fraud and eventually murdered their niece by drugging her and drowning her in a bathtub. I was fascinated by the alternate modes of power available to women of that era. How they can be twisted toward cruelty or embraced as secret freedoms. 

Kayleigh Barber: People tend to stop and stare at notorious things, but what happens when those things stare back?  “Midnight in the Garden of Life and Death” is about Jo, who works at a rather infamous farm near her hometown, and what happens one festival night when curiosity finally catches up with the cat.

Inspiration-wise, I was digging around on the internet, as you do, trying to come up with an idea for a story. Somehow in my searching, I came across a picture of a pitch-black apple. What sort of orchard would grow pitch-black apples? Thanks be to the Google Gods, because after the question popped into my head, I had to answer it.

Sam Fleming: Like many in the UK, I feed the birds in my garden. We Brits spend £200 million (about $260,362,000) on garden birds every year. More than half the UK’s species of birds dine out at our expense. One Christmas, we had family over, and one looked out

Sam Fleming

Sam Fleming

and said, “You’ve got a rat.”

Sure enough, there was a large specimen of brown rat performing acrobatics to get to the sunflower seeds. We could either tolerate the rat – which we did until another half dozen appeared – or… Not.

“Pretty Little Vampires” came from that, from experiences I had when I was warden for the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire, and with various would-be witchy types in general. There’s a naivete in certain samples of the pagan population, which I used to think was just ignorance but later decided was willful. I don’t want my characters, particularly not the women, to languish in willful naivete. It’s one thing to start out believing that all is white candles and roses, but it’s another to maintain that belief in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Women are more than capable of dealing with bad things. Even when men are giving them bad advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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!