Chromophobia Roundtable 4

Question: I’m saving my favorite question for last because obviously, we have to talk about color! Without giving away any big spoilers, tell us a little bit about your story in Chromophobia. How did color (or colors) inspire the tale? Please feel free to share any other general thoughts on how color can influence a story, especially a horror story.

Nu Yang: I wanted to explore a person’s “aura” in “Elegy.” When I was a newspaper reporter, I had the chance to go ghost hunting with a team of paranormal investigators, and I learned about orbs and what different colors represent when they are captured in photographs. I thought that was an interesting idea. Then, I imagined what it would be like to be missing an “aura” or essentially the color of a soul. Colors usually indicate life, so if someone is missing the color of their soul, what would that mean? My story explores that possibility.

Lillah Lawson: “Burn the Witch (Red)”is a gender-swapped retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a fantastical horror story, incorporating elements of traditional folk and fairy tales from our childhoods. It’s not a gory slasher, but I hope it’ll unsettle you anyway. I grew up with this huge tome of illustrated Grimm’s fairy tales; while the stories were the usual ones you remember, those illustrations were dark. I wanted to write a fairy tale like that, for grownups – one that has teeth.

K.P. Kulski: Color is always a big part of my stories and the opportunity to write to this for Chromophobia was quite exciting. Every story I write has a color scheme in my mind, even if it’s not all on the paper. Kung Fu films like Hero and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon where color plays a big role in each scene has been an influence in how I envision my own scenes.

For Chromophobia, my story “From These Cold Murky Depths” came to me as a dark version of the beach discovery scene from the Little Mermaid, but with quite different power dynamics. A shadowed beach where forms are hard to differentiate, the blue-black of the lapping ocean hinting at the unknowable things it holds, a midnight sky, a new moon, then the rich shimmer of golden hopes, metallic kisses, and the smears of blood it all leaves behind.

Horror and color are intimate partners because color gives distinct impressions. Red for anger and love, red for death. Black for the scary things in the dark. Green that suffocates and infects. Our associations are ingrained into the subconscious and deeply connected to survival instincts. The perfect playground for horror storytelling.

Sonora Taylor: My story, “Eat Your Colors,” is about a woman who gets more than she bargained for when she follows an influencer’s recommendation to improve her eating habits. I’m familiar with all the ways diet culture seeps into our everyday lives and how easily it controls our thinking–I’ve been fat since I was eight years old and no one has let me forget it, especially the media showing me thin bodies that got that way by just eating this or restricting that. I often see the phrase “Eat your colors” sprinkled around food and health posts, and separated from diet culture, it’s not bad advice: It’s the idea that if you eat every color of the rainbow that day, you’re getting the most nutrients. But even something as innocuous and common sense as that can lead to compulsions, stress, or otherwise unhealthy relationships with food; especially in our diet-obsessed culture that’s also obsessed with organic, fresh, raw, and the best possible way to consume that food. You can’t just have tomatoes–they need to be heirloom varieties! What are you doing with those canned vegetables? Eat them fresh! And don’t even think about adding a dressing or dip.

The woman in “Eat Your Colors” ends up in an extreme situation when she takes the influencer’s advice, one that’s highly fictionalized. But a lot of what she goes through mentally was inspired by my own dieting stressors. The scene where she has a back-and-forth about spinach was very personal in terms of how one talks themselves into going against their own intuition in pursuit of following some kind of rule to be healthy. It’s agony–one that’s very profitable to a lot of people.

J. B. Lamping: I wanted to subvert the idea of pastel colors being soft and delicate. I wanted to show how the crisp white and yellow of daisies can be used in a different way. We tend to think of bolder colors as sharper and tougher. I wanted the scariest place to be a pastel kitchen. 

Chelsea Pumpkins: I was so intrigued by this call when you first posted it: an anthology of women writing horror inspired by color. I stewed on the prompt for a while until it hit me, right in the uterus.

For many women, menstruating is a mundane fact of life. It’s something we live around and tolerate, but rarely talk about. Over time it’s been considered sinful, taboo, disgusting, and so we’ve been taught to hide it. But under the surface, we’re enduring a transformation, and often it brings pain, emotions, and…its own catalog of colors. Women—check. Horror—check. Colors—check. This is what I wanted to write about!

My story is ultimately about transformation. It’s rooted in a somewhat-universal experience, but morphs into something perhaps more ominous.

Jacqueline West: With my Chromophobia story (“Bluettes”), I wanted to play with the way colors and memories interact. Often we’ll recall a thing as looking a certain way, and then when we see that thing again after a long span of time, our memories and reality will be dramatically different—and still, we’ll swear that house was white, or that his eyes were brown, not blue. That’s a thread that runs through a lot of my fiction: Differences in perception, a character seeing or sensing things that others can’t. In my story, the narrator’s reality is layered with colors and memories of colors, and under those layers are truths about awful things that may have happened, but that she hasn’t yet faced.

Red Lagoe: As much as I love red, choosing that color felt too obvious considering my name. So I closed my eyes and let some colorful imagery come to me. One of the first things I pictured was a sunset. A busy summer boardwalk, backlit by the setting sun—a tangerine sky. An image so beautiful, I wondered what could be horrific about it. We as writers are told to write what we’re afraid of, so for this setting, I wrote just that. Every moment, no matter how lovely the setting seems, girls must keep an ever-present mindset that someone might be targeting them. Just like every other girl, I grew up with a fear of being taken. Now that I’m older, I still fear being a target for assault, but I have children to worry about too. It makes me ask, “How civilized can we really be if we must train our children to evade predators of our own species?” It’s infuriating! “Tangerine Sky” explores those fears and frustrations.

Jess Koch: “Hollow Bones”is a story about a woman who makes a radical choice to change her life in hope to get back something she lost. To her, color represents beauty and worthiness. Without giving too much away, I was inspired by colors in nature and in particular the colors of tropical birds for this story. I started thinking more seriously about the role of color in stories–and specifically horror stories–after watching Midsommar and seeing that horror can be bleak and terrifying but also visually beautiful.

Jeanne E. Bush: Color can add so much to a story. Darkness can express fear or evil; a pink sunrise in the morning can show hope; red is blood; green is nature. I knew immediately that I wanted to submit to the Chromophobia anthology because the idea of color used in horror is so intriguing. With my story, “Wheels”, I knew the story I wanted to write, a woman caught in a precarious situation. As the story unfolded, instead of forcing the use of color, the colors unveiled themselves and were influenced by the story. It was a magical event. I wanted the colors in my story to add both a melancholy mood and a dreamy quality. As beautiful as a rainbow is, there are many colors outside of that spectrum, and for my story, the colors I used gave it a depth that I didn’t expect.

Tiffany Morris: I wanted to play with a little bit of literalism around having “the blues”, and mental illness as a sort of possession, so the two came together in interrogating what it would be like to be ‘possessed’ by a color. Color itself is kind of contradictory – it speaks to our radical subjectivity in terms of preferences and perceptions, but also operates in a shared cultural language of symbolism. As such, I think color is a great tool for creating and emphasizing uncanny inversions and strange symbolism.

G.G. Silverman: My story, “The Gray”, is inspired by my experience of living in the Pacific Northwest for the last decade, and how atmospheric conditions affect so much of our lives here. I wanted to take the mood I’ve encountered in many of my wilderness and coastal explorations, or even at home in my neighborhood, and use that as inspiration for a terrifying ubiquitous threat. When the call for submissions for Chromophobia opened, I had been tumbling the story around in my head for about a year, musing about it every time I was outdoors on our characteristically gray days. 

Color can influence a story on many levels, from the obvious to the more subtle. I once took an enlightening writing workshop taught by the Chilean author Lina Meruane, of Seeing Red, and she gave us an exercise to write while informed by the energy of a color, even if we didn’t explicitly name the color. It was an incredibly thoughtful exercise and I learned a lot from it.

To that end, I’m really excited to see how my fellow Chromophobia authors explored color!

Geneve Flynn: My story “Double Happiness” revolves around the Chinese practice of ghost marriage. Dying unwed brings great shame to families, so the families will sometimes match their son or daughter to another deceased person. Not all arrangements are above-board because of the unbalanced ratio of males to females in China; there have been cases of grave-robbing and murder in recent years.

In Chinese culture, the color red is considered very auspicious. It symbolizes joy and luck, and is often used at weddings to wish the couple vitality and fertility. Couples are gifted money in red packets with the logograms for double happiness printed on the front.

In western society, red often signals danger, or bloody horror. It’s fascinating that color can mean such different things in different cultures. I played with the two opposite meanings to create a tale about greed and just desserts.

I think color can foreshadow the terror that’s to come if you play to tropes, but it can also surprise the reader and create a nice, jarring juxtaposition that will put the reader on the back foot.

KC Grifant: In my day job I’ve learned a lot about neuroscience, including how the brain is influenced by the space (shapes and colors) around us. Studies have demonstrated that spatial environments can have a dramatic, though temporary, effect on our brains’ activities in areas ranging from retail to healthcare. For example, the same food served on differently colored plates can lead to a person reporting different tastes. While visual artists have a deep understanding of color, I think the use of color to elicit emotion is sometimes under-appreciated in writing.

I had fun experimenting with drawing out and honing color themes in “The Color of Friendship” in a way that is hopefully subtle but effective. In it, a sickly green hue underlies the tone of the story—that murky, icky feeling that embodies a life that hasn’t gone according to plan, a wrong turn that is hard to shake. Coupled with the character’s dissatisfaction is the intense jealousy and resentment toward her friends, who seem to have the secret to securing the successful life she wishes she had. And, since it’s horror, the story shows what happens when those bottled feelings and emotions finally find an outlet.

Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito: I’m inspired by Chinese mythology and folklore.  Color plays a big part in Chinese superstition and tradition.  Red is often associated with good fortune.  Red clothes for a wedding and red signs/posters for Lunar New Year.  White, on the other hand, is the color of mourning clothes.  And, black, can portend something ominous.  For my story, Hei Xian, I wanted to invert the connection of the color red with love/fortune to create the fear factor tied to black.  Everything in the story focuses on the effect of color and superstition on relationships and decisions.  I had this story in my head for a long time and was so grateful for the Chromophobia call that finally pushed me to write it all out.

EV Knight: My story “Red Light/Green Light” was inspired by my childhood days spent playing at my grandmother’s house and the inevitable pains that come with growing up especially as a girl/woman. When I look back in my memories, the colors at my grandmother’s are so much more vivid than any other time in my life. There were neighborhood kids and cousins to play games like Red light/green light with. Most importantly, my grandmother and I had this close relationship that made me feel safe, happy, and invincible. But life happens, we grow up, people who are fixtures in our lives grow old and pass away. I tried to take all those emotions and put them into a story as a homage to my love for my grandma who would have been 100 years old this year.

Kathryn E. McGee: My Chromophobia story, “Golden Hour,” is about a selfie museum gone wrong. I think there’s something inherently unsettling about selfie museums and have been wanting to use one as a story setting for a while. For those who haven’t gone down this rabbit hole, selfie museums are spaces designed around providing backdrops for selfies. They often have themed rooms and lighting engineered for photography. I’ve been following the Museum of Ice Cream on social media for some time. That one has a multitude of colorful rooms decorated with ice cream-themed backdrops seeming to escalate in their whimsey (a ride-on animal cookie, a banana swing) and climaxing in a room consumed by a giant pool filled with plastic sprinkles. The sprinkle pool selfie (taken on your back making sprinkle-snow angles) seems to be the shot everyone makes sure to get. I couldn’t help relating this sequence of unusual and colorful spaces to the color-specific rooms in Poe’s story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” in which the rooms get increasingly creepy, culminating in the dreaded black-and-red room. This line of thinking influenced my own story, which relates the colorful, seemingly harmless rooms of a selfie museum to one visitor’s dark thoughts and feelings.

Ali Seay: My story “Nesting” is about a widow’s devastating loss and the urge to give up totally. I know the first thing that sprang to mind when I read the Chromophobia call was the song “Yellow” immediately followed by a mental image of the chakra chart. I read (very briefly, this was not in-depth research by any means) that the yellow chakra (solar plexus) could come into play with rebirth. The overall feel of my piece is a weird juxtaposition of utter despair and an exhausted kind of hope. The color yellow is not one that rushes to mind when thinking of horror, so I liked that a lot about my brain’s choice (lol). Red and black are the most obvious, so a sunny color usually associated with happiness was an interesting turn of events.

Pippa Bailey: “Achromatica” is less about colour and more about the absence of colour. I wrote the story in the wake of the George Floyd murder. I spend a significant amount of time thinking about the importance of colour in the world and what would happen if everything was white. I hadn’t meant for the story to reflect anything more than what it is, a story of an unknown creature’s impact on our world. As I wrote, it became so much more. I found myself looking at the effects of whiteness on our planet and the damage it causes, not only at a social and cultural level but down to the very basis of the scientific impact on our surroundings. We need colour; we need variation; we need the inclusion of everyone and everything. You can’t think of love without red, coffee without rich hues of mahogany, sunshine without its glorious yellow, and the crispness of green grass on a dewy morning. Horror is crimson blood, ochre mud on knees, the bloom of a violet bruise on scarred knuckles, and the crystalline blue of an eye, staring through a hole in the wall. We live a rainbow existence, and we need to keep it that way.

Jo Kaplan: I’ve been fascinated by impossible colors for a while. Colors outside of the rainbow aren’t new to horror (see “The Color Out of Space”), which makes sense in a genre interested in exploring beyond ordinary experience. We can see chimerical colors, temporarily, by staring at one color long enough to fatigue receptors the eye and then looking at another color. Hyperbolic orange, for instance, happens if you stare at cyan and then look at orange. The afterimage is a super-intense orange. You can see self-luminous red by staring at green and then looking at white, which creates a red afterimage that is somehow brighter than white. Then there’s stygian blue: both very dark and impossibly saturated. Stare at bright yellow and then look at black, and you’ll see a blue afterimage that is as dark as the black. It’s a color we’re not supposed to be able to see. Would staring at such a color for too long begin to affect not just our sight, but our minds? In what strange depths might we discover not just our attempted recreation of the impossible color, but an actual manifestation? That’s what was on my mind when I wrote “Stygian Blue.”

Lauren C. Teffeau: Well, my story “Gray Rock Method” is more or less literalizing the metaphor for a technique used for coping with high-conflict individuals. I’ve put my own twist on it, of course. I hope my use of color heightens the dramatic tension and highlights the emotional arc of the main character. Color has lots of unconscious symbology that is always fun to play with as a writer, and it can be a really great shortcut for punching up the atmosphere in a story. I can’t wait to see how the other anthology contributors have used it in their stories!

Bindia Persaud: My story takes place in a quasi-matriarchal society where traditionally female arts (in this case, textile arts) occupy a higher, more honored place than they do in our world. In this world, color, instead of being merely ornamental and decorative, is of vital importance.

Christine Makepeace: Well, my story involves some body horror, and no spoilers, but the insides of bodies are very colorful places. Color is always a great way to communicate mood and help readers see the world you’ve built more clearly.

Christa Wojciechowski: I’ve been studying color lately for my current series-in-progress. It’s a fascinating topic. Objects don’t really possess color in the way we intuitively think about it. They reflect a color of light. As humans, we assume that what we see is objective reality. We are only seeing a version of it. Other organisms in the animal kingdom see an entirely different world. The mechanisms that allow us to see and use color in our brain are mind blowing. We are lucky to perceive such a beauty. My sister is blind, so I never take the ability to see color for granted.

We human have attached emotion to color. It makes an instant impression and can be more efficient in triggering a response than a handful of words. In “The Oasis”, I used colors to make the atmosphere and tone more vibrant and palpable. I also like to invert their associations. For example, green makes us think of plants, growth, freshness, and life. On the flip side, green can signal putrefaction or infection. Red symbolizes love, but it can also tell us death is near. If you see too much red, things are not going well! I like to play with those juxtapositions.

Chromophobia Roundtable 3

Question: I always love reading recommendations, so I have to ask, who are some contemporary women in horror who we should be reading? Any favorite books by women in horror that you hope other people will check out if they haven’t yet?

Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito: I’ve loved reading the Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Growing up, I didn’t see myself represented in that much American horror. Things are changing and I’m really enjoying reading horror from diverse storytelling perspectives. 

And, I love Wendy Wagner. Nightmare Magazine is such an awesome labor of love. I slush read for them. And her new book, The Deer Kings, is great.

Jeanne E. Bush: I have been happy to see so many published novels, poems, and short stories written by women. It’s a special time for women in this genre and I can’t wait to see where it goes. The latest books I’ve read by women have been amazing. Recent authors include Gwendolyn Kiste, Sarah Pinborough, Elizabeth Massie, Alma Katsu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Sarah Waters, Toni Morrison, and Cynthia Pelayo, to name a few. I like them because they write strong women characters who figure out how to survive.

I also started reading more horror poetry by authors such as Linda Addison, Stephanie Wytovich, and Strangehouse’s very own Sara Tantlinger. The poems these women write make me want to read even more horror poetry! I recently read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. These aren’t considered horror novels necessarily, but the ideas in these books, set in a dystopian time, are so frightening! They are quite a lesson in unfolding the story slowly and with tension. If you haven’t read these, I strongly recommend them!

Christa Wojciechowski: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a treat for classic gothic lit fans. My favorite books may not be purebred horror, but they have dark psychological themes.

Tampa by Alyssa Nutting is a wild ride. Nutting commits to her depraved character with the same relentlessness as Brett Easton Ellis wrote Patrick Bateman. Delightful and appalling.

Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan. A witty female protag, and existential crisis, debauchery in a foreign land, and doomed lovers. All my favorite elements!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell is about a young girl who becomes her professor’s Lolita. Vanessa’s teenage and adult points of view show how her perspective has changed as their affair comes to light amid the #metoo movement. Russell walks the razor’s edge in this story. I loved the psychological depth and complexity of the relationship. Just brilliant character work.

Bindia Persaud: Recently, I’ve enjoyed two short story collections: Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties and Julia Armfield’s Salt Slow.

Red Lagoe: All of them! There are so many.

Laurel Hightower’s Whispers in the Dark and Crossroads were fantastic, and her short fiction packs a punch. Hailey Piper is basically the queen of indie horror right now, so go pick up anything by Piper if you haven’t yet. Jessica Guess knocked it out of the haunted amusement park with Cirque Berserk, and I’ve loved her short fiction too. Looking forward to seeing what she’s got for us next. Short or long fiction, check out anything by V. Castro. Her novel Queen of the Cicadas was beautifully written. Dark, grisly, and gorgeous. I could go on and on.

But my favorite contemporary story by a woman in horror goes to the editor of this anthology, Sara Tantlinger with her book To Be Devoured. I adore everything about it. The insanity, the intensity, the gut-twisting gruesomeness, the heart, imagery, symbolism… Seriously, I think everyone needs to read it.

Kathryn E. McGee: 

I highly recommend Sara Gran’s novel, Come Closer, which is an enthralling demon possession story. Sarah Langan’s novels, Good Neighbors and Audrey’s Door are two of my absolute favorites. Mackenzie Kiera’s novella, All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current is wonderfully clever, touching, and funny. Tananarive Due’s novel, The Good House is a terrifying and gorgeous haunted house story. Lisa Quigley’s novel, The Forest, is a fabulous survival story about a mother and her infant son.

Sonora Taylor: I adore V. Castro. I’ve read almost everything she’s written. She creates amazing characters and just slices through you with a sentence or an observation. My favorites from her are Sed de Sangre, Hairspray and Switchblades, and Goddess of Filth.

Other women authors and the books I recommend: Eve Harms (Transmuted), Laurel Hightower (Crossroads), Jessica Guess (Cirque Berserk), Gemma Amor (Six Rooms), Alexis Henderson (The Year of the Witching), and Red Lagoe (Lucid Screams).

I have so many favorites and I want to apologize in advance for anyone I inadvertently left out! I’m always recommending authors on Twitter and on Goodreads if you want ongoing recommendations.

Nu Yang: I’m currently reading Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz . I think the title says it all!

Christine Makepeace: I’ve been reading a lot of Tananarive Due’s work and can’t recommend it highly enough. Her writing is so immersive, and I always find myself heavily invested in her characters. The Good House is one of my favorites.

K.P. Kulski: I’m always singing the praises of Nuzo Onoh, Unhallowed Graves and The Sleepless are among my favorites. Aliya Whiteley’s The Beauty ranks up there as one of the greatest mind-bending works I’ve read. Marjorie Liu, who writes the Monstress graphic novels, also has a short story collection out called The Tangleroot Palace and there’s a few stories in there that lean horror. I particularly recommend “Sympathy for the Bones” *chef’s kiss*. The work that Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn are doing with their anthology Black Cranes as well as the addition of Christina Sng and Angela Yuriko Smith for their poetry collection Tortured Willows, just dark, gorgeous, and cuts so deep. I can’t recommend them enough.

EV Knight: Women in horror are so amazingly talented. There are so many it’s tough to pick a few, but I’ll go with some recent favorites: Fairest Flesh by K.P. Kulski, Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper, Tidepool by Nicole Willson, and The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling.

Jess Koch: A few great contemporary horror writers are Carmen Maria Machado, Mariana Enríquez, and Kelly Link. I would recommend picking up anything they’ve written but if I had to choose one to start with it would be Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link.

Geneve Flynn: Oh my gosh. How much space can I have? Here goes:

All of the Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women contributors—Alma Katsu, Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Rena Mason, Christina Sng, Elaine Cuyegkeng, Nadia Bulkin, Gabriela Lee, Grace Chan, and Rin Chupeco. I’d also recommend the following authors: Alp Beck, Angela Slatter, Carlie St. George, Carol Gyzander, Cassandra Khaw, Cindy O’Quinn, Crystal O’Leary Donaldson, Deborah Sheldon, Doungjai Gam, E. Lily Yu, E.V. Knight, G.G. Silverman, Gwendolyn Kiste, Isabel Yap, Jess Landry, Jill Girardi, K.P. Kulski, Lauren Elise Daniels, Linda D. Addison, Lindy Ryan, L. Marie Wood, Lisa Morton, Lucy A. Snyder, Rebecca Campbell, Rebecca Fraser, Sarah Read, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Stephanie Ellis, Stephanie M. Wytovich, and Yangsze Choo.

I could go on and on. There are so many talented women writers producing interesting, powerful stories today.

As for books, I’d recommend anthologies by women editors, which center or simply feature women writers, such as Not All Monsters (I know, I know, total suck-up move, but this one blew my mind), and Paula Guran’s and Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best series. Generation X-ed, edited by Rebecca Rowland, is terrific too. Anthologies are always a great place to find new authors.

KC Grifant: Dead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn utterly blew me away with its fascinating and disturbing prose and plot. I could not put the book down, which is rare for me.

The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper was another one that was completely absorbing and a cosmic tale unlike any others I have read.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado is a brilliant horror collection that stayed with me long after I read it.

Other modern women authors of novels and short stories I have really enjoyed include Gwendolyn Kiste, EV Knight, Donna J.W. Munroe, Nicolle Wilson, Alex Woodroe, Victoria Nations, Cynthia Pelayo, Kathryn McGee, Kate Maruyama and so many more!

Jo Kaplan: A couple of recent favorites include Soon by Lois Murphy, The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell, The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher, The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, and Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan.

Tiffany Morris: Obviously, there’s a lot of great work out there from authors in this anthology, as well as from our editor! Aside from that (which is a good start), everyone needs to read the story collection We Are Here To Hurt Each Other by Paula Ashe. It’s a brutal and astonishing journey through the inhumanly human.

Ali Seay: There are so many which is a good thing for readers! The first that spring to mind are Hailey Piper, C.V. Hunt, T.C. Parker, Lisa Quigley, Laurel Hightower, Samantha Kolesnik, and J.A.W. McCarthy. I could go on but I’ll behave.

Chelsea Pumpkins: You must read The Good House by Tananarive Due. Not only is it my favorite horror book, or favorite women writing horror book—it’s my favorite book, period! Due builds tension that permeates and lingers, and she neatly ties together an intricate web of details. It’s equal parts creepy and satisfying. Her collection Ghost Summer is fantastic too.

I’ve likewise been haunted by Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica. I’ve never read anything so bleak and gruesome, yet strangely sterile. I’ve found that the world she created is transferable to a lot of corners of our own world, which is a frightening realization.

I’ll also pick up anything with Caroline Kepnes or Samantha Kolesnik on the byline, and most recently I’ve enjoyed V. Castro’s Goddess of Filth, LaTanya McQueen’s When the Reckoning Comes, and Tiffany Jackson’s White Smoke. My TBR can’t get enough women in horror!

Pippa Bailey: One thing that makes my heart sing is knowing that I am sharing pages in Chromophobia with some of the many incredible, unsung women of horror. I love that many of the names I list here will also appear on other people’s lists; it only goes to show that through our determination to promote women in horror, our voices are being heard. Please go seek out Laura Mauro’s Sing Your Sadness Deep, Penny Jones’ Matryoshka, Marie O’Regan’s Celeste, Priya Sharma’s All the Fabulous Beasts, and Sue York’s On the Cusp of Sleep.

G.G. Silverman: There are so many great authors and books—it’s an exciting time! One of my favorite contemporary horror novels by a female author is Mona Awad’s Bunny. It’s trippy and weird and terrifying but also darkly hilarious. A modern masterpiece. I gobbled it in one sitting.

J. B. Lamping: I recently read The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. It was wild and weird, and I didn’t expect it to go where it went. I also read The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. It was so interesting and at times a little gross but I couldn’t stop reading it. I loved Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Perfect gothic novel. 

Lauren C. Teffeau: I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from reading Wait Till Helen Comes and The Doll in the Garden by Mary Dowling Hahn in middle school. As a result, I have to be in the right mindset to approach horror media and don’t actively seek it out unless it’s filtered through the speculative fiction umbrella. That said, I’ve found the horror short fiction from A. C. Wise, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia to all be top quality.

Lillah Lawson: I love thrillers written by women. I’ve read so many great ones in the past few years, but one that stands out in particular is A Peculiar Curiosity by my friend and Regal House Publishing sister Melanie Cossey. It’s a Victorian-era horror novel that is genuinely scary. It has all the best elements: the mad scientist, the quiet dread of an unreliable narrator, the slow descent into madness, the frenzied, bloodied conclusion – plus rats! 

Jacqueline West: If anyone hasn’t already read Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES or her memoir IN THE DREAM HOUSE, I can’t rave about them enough. I also loved, loved, loved Shirley Jackson’s collected letters, which were just published last year. They’re such an incredible window into her process and thoughts and daily life. And there’s so much fantastic middle grade horror being written right now, by authors like Justina Ireland, Daka Hermon, Lorien Lawrence, and Ellen Oh.

Chromophobia Roundtable 2

Question: I think horror is such an eclectic genre. We have a ton of great sub-genres that stem from it, and horror also allows writers to push past a lot of boundaries. What draws you to writing horror in particular?

Jacqueline West: Ever since I was a (high-strung, anxious) child, I’ve been drawn to scary stories. Horror fiction has provided space for me to explore my own many, MANY fears, to examine and confront and survive them. As a writer, I even get to play with those fears. I turn them around, I reconstruct them, I use them like shades in a paintbox—hey, a color simile! And to me those darker shades are often the most intriguing and beautiful ones.

Red Lagoe: I grew up on the slashers of the 80s and loved every second. But as I got older, I saw beyond the layer of blood and guts spilling and scabbing at the surface. Horror has the ability to explore the darkest crevices of the human mind, to open scars, to cut into our hearts, or to navigate emotions, whether it be grief or fear or rage. We all hurt. We all bleed. And we all heal or die after the trauma. But either way, we’re never the same. And horror allows us to talk about that, unfiltered & unapologetically.

Lillah Lawson: I’m fairly new to the genre – this is only my second horror short (I’m also working on a thriller novel, but it’s in the early stages). My Dead Rockstar trilogy loosely falls under the horroromance genre, which is a newer one.

I’ve always loved reading horror, but it has taken me a while to feel comfortable writing it. It’s all about pacing, tone, and the things you don’t say. To me, the best horror is the stuff that leaves things unsaid; the unsettling questions that linger like a bad taste in your mouth. That feeling of unease you can’t quite identify.

Lauren C. Teffeau: What I like about horror is the way it allows writers to compartmentalize our fears and uncertainty. By putting them into a story, and then taking the time to revise and refine that story, I come out at the end of that process in a better place having put in the work to understand the source of those fears and to brainstorm the possible trajectories those fears can take. It sounds like some kind of psychological training montage, I know, but if I can look into the abyss and make sense of one teeny tiny slice of it for myself and potentially my readers for a very particular set of story conditions, that’s a win—particularly during this time of upheaval we’re all going through.

J. B. Lamping: I just don’t like happy endings (I’m kidding, mostly). A horror story can draw out so many emotions. not just fear or anxiety. It can give you excitement, revulsion, panic, elation, satisfaction. I don’t feel like other genres can put you through as much emotionally. I love ambiguous endings as well, which are perfect in horror. The audience is always imagining things worse than you could describe it.

K.P. Kulski: Oddly enough, I feel like horror has chosen me. I grew up submerging myself into poetry, fantasy, and history books to escape home life. From the Wheel of Time series to Emily Dickerson, I read continuously and voraciously. When I sat down to write my own stories, the pain came out every time, always in the form of morbid darkness. I’ve embraced it and love the genre for exactly this. There is no other genre that fits my voice as horror does.

Jo Kaplan: Judging from my answer to the first question, you might say I have a morbid sense of humor. I’ve long delighted in the way horror subverts the status quo, transgresses beyond what is considered acceptable in polite society, and plumbs the depths of humanity by forcing us to confront our darkest impulses and our place in the universe. It’s a way of living through intense experiences vicariously. I think horror teaches us a lot about ourselves.

Kathryn E. McGee: I love how extreme and truly surprising horror stories can be. The fact that the genre can be profound in reflecting life’s horrors and absurdities while simultaneously telling a high-stakes story about a haunted house, a homicidal clown or a demon burrowing inside your soul makes it so intensely entertaining.

Jess Koch: I find there’s a lot of freedom in horror to play with tropes, twist expectations, and play with genre. I’m particularly drawn to writing stories that play with elements of horror but might not sit that comfortably on the horror shelf.

Jeanne E. Bush: This is such an exciting time to be a part of the horror genre, especially as a woman writer. So many subgenres have opened up and are available for writers to explore. Splatterpunk, gothic, poetry, body horror, or comedic horror all give us the opportunity to express ourselves in this genre. I’m a person who has always been afraid of many things, so it’s fun to play on those fears, to write them out and to face them. Somehow writing about the scary stuff makes me feel stronger. I’ve read so many genres in my lifetime, but writing horror stories is not only fun, but it lets me explore the darker regions of my imagination. The sky’s the limit with where my vision and creativity can take me.

Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito: My grandmother. We watched a ton of American horror movies when we immigrated to the U.S. Horror was easy for her to understand with limited English. Watching her watch horror made me want to write in a genre that has the potential to bridge gaps and barriers between cultures and language. Everyone knows what it is like to be scared. It’s the perfect genre to bring people together.

KC Grifant: My favorite subgenres are cosmic and weird horror—really anything to do with the unknowable terrors beyond our everyday lives. As a kid, I was fascinated by the sense of something unthinkable in the darkness, and adored the disturbing endings in the Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt and Goosebumps. I had a lot of anxiety and horror was a way to deal with those fears. Scary stories show you that things could be just as bad as you think—and in fact worse—but you can survive it (at least as the reader). Facing that terrible unknown in fiction can be a very cathartic experience. Horror also helps me accept that one can do everything “right” and things can still go horribly wrong due to our misconceptions or circumstances beyond our control.

G.G. Silverman: In writing horror, I love the ability to revel in atmosphere and the unseen. I love that I can plumb the subconscious for weird imagery and explore things that genuinely terrify me.

Geneve Flynn: I don’t think I can help it. I was recently invited to contribute to an anthology that called for humor with a “dash of darkness,” and it was such a struggle—I don’t do just dashes! I went through countless story outlines and rewrites before I finally managed to get something that worked. My brain naturally heads down dark and creepy alleyways.

I also happen to think that horror is one of the most honest genres, and has the capacity to say things that sometimes aren’t allowed in polite company. I have to admit that I get a special thrill when someone tells me my story kept them awake at night, or affected them deeply, and that I don’t seem the sort to write such things. As a woman, there’s a lot of pressure to be nice, to be a nurturer, to make space for others. Horror gives me the permission to be as forthright and shocking as I want to. It’s quite a heady rush of power.

EV Knight: It’s always the feeling of “that could really happen.” Even in books of the paranormal or the monsters. Horror authors have a way of making their characters so realistic, so “everyday” that you relate to them, find yourself going mad along with them or fighting evil beside them. It crosses the boundaries into the safety of our daily life and takes us on a rollercoaster ride. No other genre does that for me.

Christa Wojciechowski: Strangely, I never set out to write horror. My first attempt at fiction was in 2012 for National Novel Writing Month, when I planned to write a romance just to see if I could do it. What came out was so dark and disturbing, it freaked me out. Clearly, I had some issues to resolve.

As I continued to experiment with writing, I realized that dark fiction was my happy place. I don’t write about monsters or demons. I don’t have to. Human beings are mysterious and frightening enough. What’s funny about humanity is that good and evil are our constructs. The universe is oblivious to our pain, fear, and anger. We create huge, unnecessary drama for ourselves. So I like to use horror to explore psychology and motivation behind our desperately clutching species. When we have a deeper understanding of why we do what we do, heinous or good, then we ground ourselves in our own truth. Knowing ourselves and forgiving ourselves empowers us to have more compassion and appreciation for all we experience.

Christine Makepeace: For me, the draw to horror is its ability to be both literal and metaphorical at the same time.

Pippa Bailey: I’ve always enjoyed horror, whether watching, listening, reading, or writing. I love that horror isn’t constricted by society’s boundaries placed upon other genres. For example, if you’re approaching a murder mystery, you’d expect a resolution, an answer to the question set to the audience at the outbreak. If you’re looking at romance, you’re expected to create a barrier to love for your main character, have them rediscover themselves, and fall in love with the person who had been there all along. Of course, I’m just throwing generalizations out there. Horror means never having to say; I’m sorry I stabbed your mom, ate your cat, and found romance, whilst fighting a sock monster, in the portal, inside the arsehole of a taxidermy goat that stands at the entrance to the blood museum of Sodom and Gomorrah. Horror is fluid, and I adore it in all its squishy, sticky moistness.

Sonora Taylor: I have a dark sense of humor, one that leads me to look at (seemingly) innocuous things and add a dark twist to them. What if a stick figure family on the back of a car window signaled a body count? What if a murderer’s mother displayed trophies from their kills on the wall like a painting or perfect test score? What if someone could see the dead, but no one wanted to talk to them? Even though the stories I write usually come from thoughts that make me laugh, they ultimately become more dark than dark comedy; and horror is a natural response to what happens when the characters’ journey is no longer a laughing matter.

Chelsea Pumpkins: I absolutely love the creativity and imagination that is the foundation of the horror realm. One of the scariest things we face as humans is the unknown, and horror creators plunge themselves right into that deep dark place simultaneously devoid of rules and full of possibilities. From that amorphous blank space, they tap into the most elemental instincts of the human condition—fear and survival­—and they emerge with a fresh idea, new monsters.

I also find horror to be a source of bonding. When writing, I investigate the things that scare me. By tapping into my own fears and anxieties, I create an experience born from something personal with the hope it’ll resonate with others. And the magic is that it usually does! The individual can become universal, and there is beauty in that. What’s more powerful than your most private vulnerabilities being seen and validated?

I was inspired to try my hand at writing after reading lots of short fiction. It’s not a format I grew up with, and I never really pictured myself writing a whole novel. Once I saw what was possible—that big stories could be told in few words—I wanted to try!

Nu Yang: I like exploring the dark side of people, places, and things. Whether it’s supernatural or human, evil exists in the world. But why does this evil exist? How was it created? Where did it come from? Can it be destroyed? Those are all questions I like to explore in my fiction. And as a horror writer, I get to create fear, but I also get to control that fear. I can turn it up or dial it down as much as I want!

Bindia Persaud: I’m drawn to horror because it’s more visceral than other genres, and it allows one to approach difficult and painful topics in a slantwise fashion, so to speak.

Tiffany Morris: I love the expansiveness of horror, which is also part of why I write both horror fiction and horror poetry. As a genre, a mode, and a style, horror points to the dark that exists beyond the bright veil of our mass culture’s many distractions. What I love about horror is confrontation: it allows us to turn over the rocks of consciousness and reveal the rich, subterranean, shadowy life that teems underneath.

Ali Seay: The honesty of it. You can lay out all your fears—rational or otherwise—and it’s going to resonate with someone. Fear is a great shared experience.

Chromophobia Roundtable 1

Question: Let’s start with a little icebreaker. You can have dinner or a drink with any fictional character, who do you choose and what are you eating or drinking with them?

Ali Seay: This is an impossible question because there are so many possible answers. I guess I’ll have to go with the first person who sprang to mind—Jud Crandall from Pet Sematary. He was always one of my favorite characters from the time when I first discovered horror. I can picture sitting on the porch drinking Arnold Palmers and talking with Jud who reminded me very much of my grandfather. Much like my grandfather, I bet he could spin a tale that has very little to do with anything and yet is still utterly entertaining.

Tiffany Morris: The three witches from Macbeth! Or any one of them, I suppose, if we’re being strict about interpretation. We could do divination out in Scottish forests and drink strange potions and punish people for their hubris via semi-cryptic prophecy.

Bindia Persaud: It might be fun to spend some time with Merricat Blackwood from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s probably wise to refrain from eating or drinking anything when she’s around, though.

Nu Yang: I’m having dinner with my favorite Avenger—Steve Rogers! I would probably introduce him to sushi (my guess is he has never tried it), and then a round of karaoke and sake afterward.

Chelsea Pumpkins: Of course I get stumped by the ice breaker—Tough one! I’m much more apt to become infatuated with subjects of non-fiction, and most of my favorite books feature miserable or unscrupulous characters. Teenage me would never forgive me for not choosing a romantic dinner with Legolas, but I’m going to go out with Joe Goldberg from Caroline Kepnes’ You series.

We’ll get some apps and beers at a bar that’s not too fancy, but not too hipster (Joe would hate that). I’ll probably order a fresh pale ale, and I think Joe will go for a simple, clean lager. Given his history, I’ll need to take some precautions. First off, he’ll need to be crystal clear that this is not a date. Then I’ll carry a burner phone and lock my real phone and credit cards in a safe; I’ll wear a couple different tracking devices; and a friend will post up in a hidden corner of the bar to keep tabs on me.

Once my safety is secured, I look forward to getting drunk and talking shit with Joe. I think we’d have compatible senses of humor. We’ll chat about books and movies, and judge the local bar patrons.

Sonora Taylor: I’d love to share a bourbon or a fine brandy with Hobbes from “Calvin & Hobbes.” It’d be fun to talk philosophy and current affairs with him.

Pippa Bailey: I would have dinner with Death. I’d suggest pizza, but she’d prefer afternoon tea. So we’d get dressed up and go to a disgustingly posh restaurant, all bells and whistles, switching out the Earl Grey tea for flutes of champagne. We’d scoff the cakes and sandwiches and drink far too much bubbly, cackling over the state of the world. Death and I would stumble, a little worse for wear out of the restaurant, accompanied by disgusted looks from the upper echelon of class, or as we’d call them under our breath, wankers, and into some dive bar, collapse into a couple of comfy chairs and guzzle tankards of pain, sorrow, and despair until the world melted around us and nothing remained but the warmth in our bellies, the saccharine smell of sweat on old leather seats, and the sea of time stretched out before us, waves of darkness soon to follow.

Christine Makepeace: I would love to have tea with Eleanor from The Haunting of Hill House.

Christa Wojciechowski: I think every writer most wants to meet their own characters in real life, but I will not bore you with that. If I could choose another author’s character, Anne Rice’s Pandora jumps to mind. I revisited that book in 2020 while in lockdown and enjoyed it immensely. Pandora lived through fascinating times, from Ancient Rome to modern day, and used her strength, intelligence, and resourcefulness to navigate a man’s world like a boss. I’d love to ask her about all she’d seen and done, make her my BFF, and then convince to her to give me eternal life. I’m still so sad Anne Rice is no longer with us.

EV Knight: I gave this a lot of thought. And a theme came out pretty quickly. Norman Bates? Hannibal Lecter? Patrick Bateman? Obviously, I want to chat with a killer, I want to get inside their head. But who?

Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter Morgan. That’s my answer. He’s safe–at least for me, I don’t meet his criteria but he is an emotionless psychopath/sociopath. He wants to tell someone; he wants someone to try to understand him. I want to get inside the head of a killer. We’re perfect for each other. Obviously, we’d have Cuban sandwiches and maybe a blood orange mimosa.

Geneve Flynn: The Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I’d have to say Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore. I love to read and write horror, but when I hang out with folks, I also like to laugh, and those guys would be so much fun. Can you imagine the stories that would go around the table?

I’d order in Chinese takeaway in those white cardboard boxes. We only have clear plastic containers in Australia, and eating out of a white cardboard box with little fold-out flaps seems like such a New York thing to do. And we’d drink boba tea, just because little black goo balls seems like something Egon would appreciate as a collector of “spores, molds, and fungus.”

G.G. Silverman: I would invite Sethe from Toni Morrison’s Beloved to put her feet up and rest awhile. I’d make biscuits and we’d slather them with butter, and we’d sip warm, sweet milk.

KC Grifant: If we’re going with a relatively modern literary fictional character, I’d have to pick Sherlock Holmes. Ever since I was a kid I was fascinated with this iconic character – I even visited his “house” at 221B Baker Street on a trip to London many years ago. It’d be awesome to have the chance to pick his brain as an adult, maybe learn a few observation tips over dinner, and hopefully hear him play the violin. Plus, the selfie would be epic.

If we’re going with any fictional character, I’d select Athena because Greek mythology had a hugely formative influence on me as a second-generation Greek American. I’d ask her if she has any advice for our current global crises and who in the pantheon is her ride-or-die.

Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito: Great question. I’ve always been fascinated with Lady Meng in Chinese Mythology. She’s an immortal who waits for the souls of the dead to cross over the Bridge of Forgetfulness. On the bridge, she brews the Tea of Oblivion. Once you drink it, you forget the joys and pain of your mortal life and re-enter the cycle for reincarnation. So, she’s basically a barista for the deceased. 

I probably wouldn’t drink anything she made for me, but it’d be interesting to see what other drinks she mixes up for dinner.

Jeanne E. Bush: What a fun question! Do we have to choose only one? I always enjoy strong female characters in the stories I read. In my younger days I might have said Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice because Elizabeth was so smart, bold, and clever. Today I’d likely choose someone with plenty of adventures who had great tales to tell. One that comes to mind is Annie Hebley from The Deep by Alma Katsu. She worked on the Titanic and interacted with so many famous people. It seems as if she’d have very interesting stories to share. Since Annie was born in Ireland, maybe we’d enjoy some delicious Irish stew with a good single malt whiskey.

Jess Koch: It would have to be the main character from Fleabag and I have to assume we would be drinking canned gin & tonics.

Kathryn E. McGee: Annie Wilkes from Misery, so she can motivate me to quickly finish my next novel. I’m sure she’d want me to drink coffee to keep up the productivity, but I think I’d ask for a cocktail or glass of Dom to take the edge off any anxiety and keep the creative juices flowing.

Jo Kaplan: Hannibal Lecter. I’ll be eating whatever gourmet feast he cooks up… perhaps with a nice chianti.

K.P. Kulski: Is it too easy for me to say Tyrion Lannister? I would greatly enjoy an evening of alcohol and conversation with my dear complex friend who has already kept me company many an hour. I’m sure there would be wine… lots of wine in a palace somewhere. We will probably have a meal made with rare and expensive ingredients.

Next, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel. Absolutely going to be in a bar, probably while traveling world. We will drink excellent beer, dance to music, and laugh our asses off. Food will be from a late-night restaurant that specializes in quick meals for folks drinking until the wee hours.

J. B. Lamping: I’d love to drink champagne with Jay Gatsby. He’s such a beautifully tragic character. He made so many bad choices but somehow remains so hopeful.

Lauren C. Teffeau: Philip Marlowe. I’ve always had a thing for film noir and the hardboiled detective fiction that inspired it, so it would be a hoot to sit down with him over a bottle of bourbon and talk about how he sizes up characters and criminals as well as the nuances to the moral code he follows in his work as a private eye. Since writers and detectives often explore the human condition from opposite directions, we can learn a lot from each other—assuming he’d have the patience to shoot the shit with a wisecracking dame like myself.

Lillah Lawson: My first thought was Pennywise, but I suppose I’d be on the menu if I did that!

I’m going to take it back super old-school and have dinner with Roderick Usher and the narrator from Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. Usher is your typical sort of brooding, Byronic hero, with a dash of Munchausen-by-proxy – he’d be insufferable, but also incredibly entertaining. I suspect he’d have really, really good wine. And maybe I could figure out what one earth was going on with that house!

Red Lagoe: Stephen King’s Carrie. Maybe we’d go grab some pizza and soda after school, or some forbidden dish her mother wouldn’t allow. Sometimes, all it takes is one friend, one positive person, one point of light in a person’s life to keep them from breaking. Maybe Carrie wouldn’t have snapped if there was just one person to go grab a bite and vent with after school. Plus, if I can’t have telekinetic powers, then I may as well have a friend who does.


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: 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.

Joe 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

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: 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

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: 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: 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: 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.

Joe 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: 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!

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: 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?



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. 


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.


Christa Carmen: I 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. 

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: 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.

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, and connect on social media @christinasng.

Ordering information for A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES:



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

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!