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: 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.


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.


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.     


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.


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


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.


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


Edward Gorey

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a piece of advice you’d give to women just starting in the field, or what is something you wish someone would have told you before you started getting involved with horror projects?

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

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

ST: Wonderful advice!

I know there are thousands of incredible horror ladies out there, but who is one woman in horror who inspires you particularly? What is it about this person’s work or personality that speaks to you?

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

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

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

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

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

ST: What are you working on this year or what do you have coming out? Where can we find you to keep up-to-date with your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





WiHM Interview with Kathryn E. McGee

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 Kathryn E. McGee! Not long ago she was a guest on the Ladies of the Fright podcast and I adored her feature on haunted houses. I wanted to find out more about Kathryn’s work. Happy reading!

KathrynEMcGeeKathryn E. McGee’s horror stories have appeared in Gamut Magazine and anthologies
including Dead Bait 4, Horror Library Vol. 6Winter Horror Days, and Cemetery Riots. She has an MFA in creative writing from UC Riverside Palm Desert and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. Her monthly horror book club, The Thing in the Labyrinth, meets late at night at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. She is also co-author of DTLA37: Downtown Los Angeles in Thirty-seven Stories, a non-fiction coffee table book about Downtown L.A. For more information, please visit http://www.kathrynemcgee.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…)?

KM: Thanks for including me! I write horror fiction. I’ve published a handful of horror short stories and have a novella in the works. I also moderate a monthly horror book club at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.

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?

KM: I’ve always been drawn to the dark and supernatural and love writing in a genre where anything goes. Stories that are bizarre but also relatable give me the sense that there is more out there, there’s always something left to discover. That feeling of the potential in things, what could happen, is so exciting to me. I think horror also offers an amazing opportunity to express ideas through metaphor. Some ideas are too difficult to understand without that kind of abstraction. The haunted house story, for example, offers a wonderful framework for plot and character development. There’s nothing like trapping a protagonist in a bad place with a haunted history and watching them try to sort out their internal issues while lost in an endless hallway, while seeing ghosts appear in the mirror, while avoiding that dead woman waiting for them in the closet that looks a little too much like their mother.

 ST: I’m a fan of the metaphors as well, especially since so much of horror reflects society back at us in one way or another.

I loved your guest spot on The Ladies of the Fright Podcast where you showcased your background expertise on haunted houses and how the way we occupy space can completely change human behavior. Do you have anything in the works for (or have you ever thought about writing) a non-fiction book exploring all the excellent points you discussed on the podcast? 

KM: Thanks for listening to the podcast. It was really fun discussing haunted house fiction—one of my favorite topics. I would love to write a non-fiction book or essay about it at some point. While in my MFA program a few years ago, I gave a lecture on why Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 10.17.39 PMcharacters tend to stay in haunted houses, as opposed to simply leaving when the ghost shows up or when bad things start happening. I focused on examples like Fall of the House of Usher, The Haunting of Hill House, Burnt Offerings, and The Shining. Since then, I’ve been reading haunted house stories written more recently in an effort to study how the form is evolving. The way we use domestic space is always changing and it’s interesting to see how fiction responds. I just read Dale Bailey’s recent novel In the Night Wood and was blown away by how he did something new with the form. To answer your question, I don’t have any non-fiction in the works, but I’ve been continuing to think about the subject and would definitely like to write something on the topic soon.

ST: That research sounds great! Please do keep thinking about doing something down the road with that topic 🙂 I’d love to read it.

In addition to writing, you also moderate The Thing in the Labyrinth, a monthly horror book club at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles! Do you think being active in book discussions has helped your writing or inspired ideas within your own writing? Does living in LA creep into your writing, too? I imagine the unique culture of LA must come with some inspirations for horror? 

KM: I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to moderate the book club. We have a really smart and fun group of people attending, and the discussions have been great. Plus, we meet late at night in the dark, which makes it even better. So often you read a book on your own and just move on to the next one. Having to sit down every month and figure out questions to ask the group and ways to tease apart the story—what the author was really trying to get at, how they crafted the narrative—has been really cementing the stories in my mind. We’ve been reading mostly new releases. Staying on top of what current horror authors are doing has given me a ton of fresh ideas. It’s a great way to study the craft of writing. I always go home feeling inspired.

Life in LA can’t help but creep into my writing. One of my best friends finally told me I needed to stop writing stories that start with people driving, but I sometimes find it impossible to think of my characters doing anything else! Also, the city has a ton of unique history. There’s so much here. Lots of potential settings. I work as an architectural historian, so I’m often doing site visits in old buildings and learning about obscure aspects of local history. There’s something new around every corner and I find it to be a constantly engaging environment.

ST: Your job sounds fascinating! The history must be amazing for inspiring new story ideas, and just learning about the obscure aspects in general seems really intriguing.

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?

KM: Just keep writing, keep getting feedback, and write more. It’s terrifying to share your work the first few times you do it. It’s actually scary every time. But you get used to that fear. You stop feeling ashamed when you write something that doesn’t work, because sometimes you write something that does. Horror is such a wonderful vehicle for self-expression. It allows us to express our feelings on some of the darkest subjects. You might think your ideas are too weird or that no one will relate, but there might be someone out there who needs to hear what you have to say. Keep writing, relish the strange.

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?

KM: I think Carmen Maria Machado’s work is amazing. Her collection, Her Body and Other Parties, is so beautifully written. She deals with issues regarding the female experience in a fresh way with stunning prose. Her story, “The Resident,” is my favorite in the collection. I read it as a modern retelling of The Haunting of Hill House and was so inspired by how well it was written that I felt emotional by the time I got to the end.

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?

KM: I just hope women and diverse authors continue to create the meaningful art they are already making within the genre. While horror can be extremely fun and entertaining, it also provides a wonderful framework for telling important stories with relevant social or cultural messages. I’ve read many books by both men and women this year that have done an amazing job of conveying current topics of critical importance. Samantha Schewblin’s Fever Dream, Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World, and Jennifer Wolfe’s Watch the Girls are all good examples.

ST: Great points. I loved Tremblay’s novel, and will definitely be checking out those other two works!

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?

KM: I’ve been focusing on longer works and recently finished writing a novella about a haunted studio apartment. I’m also editing a novel, which is a dark thriller set in a historic hotel in Los Angeles. Information about my other work and book club is on my website at www.kathrynemcgee.com. I post about what I’m reading on Instagram @kemcgee30.

ST: Thank you so much, Kathryn! I am already eager to get my hands on that novella.

Make sure to follow Kathryn and her work! It sounds like she has some amazing things brewing. Catch her on Twitter @mckat30 and check out The Last Bookstore!

I HIGHLY recommend the LOTF haunted house episode: https://www.ladiesofthefright.com/podcast/2018/10/30/lotf-23-tropisode-2-haunted-houses-with-kathryn-e-mcgee

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

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!


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!