Debut Novella Release!

I am so excited to share that my third standalone book is being released today! This is my debut novella, and I am thrilled to finally unleash its darkness. It is available in paperback and on Kindle here!

The wonderful and talented Gwendolyn Kiste and Christa Carmen blurbed the book — check out what they had to say!

“Sara Tantlinger’s To Be Devoured capitalizes on our macabre preoccupation with the uglier side of nature, with love that topples into obsession, and with madness that is strangely beautiful in its barbarity. Her writing is equivalent to those unremitting avian beings her protagonist is so enamored of: It will hook its talons through your flesh, sink its neck into the ribboned edges of your wounds, and only relinquish your blighted body when it has swallowed your very soul.” –Christa Carmen, author of Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, winner of the Indie Horror Book Awards for Best Debut Collection

“Vultures, obsession, and an unnatural hunger: What more can you want in a horror story? With To Be Devoured, Sara Tantlinger has done it again as she ratchets up the terror in wonderfully surprising ways while crafting prose that’s always a heady blend of the vicious and the vibrant. A book that’s absolutely not to be missed!” –Gwendolyn Kiste, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rust Maidens

 

To Be Devouredjune2019

 

Monsters, Infection, and Carrion

ICYMI

*The cover for Not All Monsters, designed by the magical Don Noble, is live! I’m in love with it and want the design framed above my bed. It’s gotten fantastic responses so far, which makes me hopeful there will be good interest in this anthology and the future things we may have plans for… 😉 Stay tuned. There’s so much I want to say about the stories in the anthology, but I’m going to save it for later since the book won’t be out until Fall 2020. Good things are worth waiting for, my friends. We’re taking our time to make something really spectacular.

Not All Monsters

 

*There are 5 days left to submit to Eye to the Telescope #33 with the theme INFECTION, which I am guest editing. PLEASE read guidelines carefully. Poems MUST have speculative elements for full consideration. Deadline is June 15th. I look forward to your deadly contagions. I’ve already received hundreds of poems, so it’s going to be intense narrowing these down!

*If you missed it, Gwendolyn Kiste and I were interviewed by Eddie Generous for the Unnerving podcast. We talked about StokerCon and read excerpts from our upcoming books! My novella (paperback and eBook) will be out July 29th, but if eBooks are your thing, you can pre-order those.

Pre-order Gwendolyn’s chapbook here!

To Be Devoured-2*Speaking of my novella, the first early review is here! Thank you so much to Joe and Charlotte at Horrorbound for the review and interview. The review is lovely and made my entire month:

“While the story was fantastically and grotesquely perfect, it is not just the plot that has me gushing over this. The language in this novella is both beautiful and disturbing. Tantlinger shows off her mastery of language with incredibly poetic lines throughout the novella. I was in awe of the contrast between the perfection of the words used and the twisted subject matter they described.”

*Also last week, I stepped into Stephanie Wytovich’s Madhouse for an interview where we chatted true crime, H.H. Holmes, and more. Thanks so much to Stephanie for having me and providing great questions!

*Thanks for catching up with me — I’m working on story edits for Not All Monsters now and reading through the 300+poems I’ve received so far for ETTT, so maybe next month I’ll be caught up and get back into my own WIP project 😉

StokerCon 2019 Recap

Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 9.04.46 PMWhat a weekend. Where do I even begin? StokerCon 2019 was an amazing adventure. Right off the bat I have to say my favorite thing was the support of this community. Seeing the amazing work that everyone is doing is really exciting. I think it also encourages each one of us to do our best and challenge ourselves, too. I look forward to the HWA’s continued outreach for diversity and inclusiveness. This is an area I am really aiming to be more proactive in, as well.

I don’t think I could capture everything in a recap post, but here are some highlights from my favorite parts of the trip:

*Reuniting with friends and making new ones — I’m going to try and remember names here, but if I leave anyone out it’s because my brain is fried, so I apologize if I miss anyone!

Something I was really excited about this year was that my good friends from graduate school, Kristy and Mike, were able to attend. Hanging out with them and catching up was wonderful. They are two of the best people I know (and are both killer writers). I also got to catch up with many people I haven’t seen in so long: The brilliant EV Knight who has a debut novel coming that I cannot wait to read; Bill and Jeanne Bush, Linda Addison, David Cowen, Marge Simon, Nick Diak, Matt Betts, Brian Keene, Wile E. Young, Chad Stroup, Tim Waggoner, Donna Munro, Hanna Gribble, and more — it was fantastic seeing you all again!

Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 9.03.33 PM

Myself with Sarah Read and A.E. Siraki!

I also FINALLY got to meet online friends in person, which was so delightful. These people included Gwendolyn Kiste, Gabino Iglesias, Sarah Read, A.E. Siraki, David Busboom, Kathryn McGee, RJ Joseph, Kathleen Kaufman, Leza Cantoral, Christoph Paul, Gaby Triana, Cina Pelayo,  — even though some conversations were brief, it was incredible seeing you all in person. I hope we meet again! (sorry if I missed anyone, like I said, brain = dead)

*The poetry reading with Saba Razvi and Donna Lynch. This was honestly the most fun reading I think I’ve ever done.

 

The atmosphere was so relaxed, the three of us were into each other’s work, and everything was fun and supportive.

Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 9.03.56 PM

Queens of Horror Poetry 😉

We had a great Q and A session with the audience after our readings, and I think we just really dominated as women in horror who write bloody good poems. Getting to know both of these ladies better and spending time with them was a real joy. Please check out their work!

*Panels: Moderating the historical horror panel was incredibly fun. I received great feedback from the attendees, which didn’t surprise me because the panelists are literal superstars, and their answers to my questions were informative, inspirational, and

Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 9.04.33 PM

The awesome panelists for Historical Horror

genuine. Thank you again to Lisa Morton, Lisa Kroger, Kevin J. Wetmore, Alma Katsu, and Kathleen Kaufman.
*I was also on the weird poetry panel moderated by the wonderful David Cowen. I had a great time with my fellow panelists answering David’s thoughtful questions and delving deeper into how weird poetry can be defined.
*Also, the panels I attended were really fantastic overall — everyone killed it this year. Thank you so much to the organizers, Brian Matthews, and all the volunteers.

*And of course, the Stoker banquet Saturday night. Saturday was especially exciting to

Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 9.03.15 PM

Some of my favorite people in the world. I think this is our album cover. Ha.

me because Nick Day and Don Noble, the minds behind StrangeHouse Books, made a crazy one-day trip just to come hang out and be supportive of my nomination. This meant the world to me (and still does). I am still stunned, humbled, and thrilled that The Devil’s Dreamland took home the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry Saturday night. Being nominated along with such great talents (Donna Lynch, Marge Simon, Alessandro Manzetti, Bruce Boston, and David Cowen) was a huge honor. I could not believe I was even nominated.

I sat with a wonderful table at the banquet, which included the lovely Gwendolyn Kiste. The fact that we both got to share our wins together was really incredible. The whole experience has been surreal. Again, thank you to everyone who has supported the book and myself in any way. It means the world. You can watch the speeches from the livestream on YouTube — they start around the 3:50:00 mark, and then the first category starts around 4:19:00. As I mentioned in my speech, having my former thesis mentor, Mike Arnzen, be the one to announce that I won was a pretty special moment. Hearing my friends cheer and whoop and clap, having friends and family text me congrats and raise their glasses, was all something I will never forget. It’s giving me goosebumps and making me grin as I write this out. I love you all to death. Thank you for your support and faith when I could not always see it in myself.

Huge congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

 

 

*I always learn so much from these experiences. This year, I think I am finally learning that sometimes you may encounter someone who decides to snub or dismiss you for whatever reason, but that it always says more about their own insecurities and issues than it does your talent and how damned hard you work. I don’t have time for people like that. Instead, I am going to continue to surround myself with supportive friends and company who have often taught me and are continuing to teach me to believe in myself. The biggest thing I really did learn from this con experience is to simply believe in myself and my work, to understand that I do belong in this world and community. To all who have helped show me that through all the support and love, thank you.

It’s doubtful I’ll make it to StokerCon UK 2020, but I will absolutely see you all again in Denver for 2021!

To Be Devoured

The pre-orders for my debut novella, To Be Devoured, are now live on Amazon here! All other versions will be available when the book is out on July 29th from Unnerving.

To Be Devoured-2

From the back cover:

What does carrion taste like? Andi has to know. The vultures circling outside her home taunt and invite her to come understand the secrets hiding in their banquet of decay. Fascination morphs into an obsessive need to know what the vultures know. Andi turns to Dr. Fawning, but even the therapist cannot help Andi comprehend the secrets she’s buried beneath her anger-induced blackouts.

Her girlfriend, Luna, tries to help Andi battle her inner darkness and infatuation with the vultures. However, the desire to taste dead flesh, to stitch together wings of her own and become one with the flock sends Andi down a twisted, unforgivable path. Once she understands the secrets the vultures conceal, she must decide between abandoning the birds of prey or risk turning her loved ones into nothing more than meals to be devoured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WiHM Interview with Christina Sng

This year we are celebrating a decade of showcasing women in horror! In honor of something so close to my heart, I am featuring ten amazing ladies in horror on my blog all month long to celebrate their incredible creativity and work in the field.

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

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

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

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

ST: I’m already looking forward to it!

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

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

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

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

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

Women being drawn to horror has always made perfect sense to me as a way to confront our own daily horrors, to unleash the brewing darkness in our heads, and as a way to just have fun with our creativity. What draws you personally to the horror genre?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for this wonderful interview! 😀

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

WiHM Interview with R. J. Joseph

This year we are celebrating a decade of showcasing women in horror! In honor of something so close to my heart, I am featuring ten amazing ladies in horror on my blog all month long to celebrate their incredible creativity and work in the field.

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

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

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

 

ST: Thank you so much for taking the time to share more about your work today. To start, tell our readers a little bit more about your background with horror? What creative outlets do you channel horror into (writing, art work, film, design, research, etc…)?

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

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

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

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

Women being drawn to horror has always made perfect sense to me as a way to confront our own daily horrors, to unleash the brewing darkness in our heads, and as a way to just have fun with our creativity. What draws you personally to the horror genre?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and on her personal Facebook or official author Facebook

Follow her blog at rjjoseph.wordpress.com

Check back on Wednesday to read about my next guest!