WiHM: NOT ALL MONSTERS Roundtable Part II

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

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

 

 

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J.H. Moncrieff

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Hailey Piper

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Juliana Spink Mills

Juliana Spink Mills

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

 

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

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

 

Joanna Koch

Joanna Koch

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

 

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

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G.G. Silverman

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

 

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

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

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

2019 in Review

10907979-7F60-45BA-A881-07E7078CA2D6I keep struggling with how I want this post to start. When I reflect back on this year, even though some really great things happened, there is also a sense of relief in this year being done. 2019 came with fantastic high points, and stressful, anxiety-inducing challenges that led to some rough lows for me. Some of the most impactful lessons I learned this year were that I need to be busy — I like being busy and it helps me thrive, but at the same time if I don’t learn to manage my stress better, I am afraid I’ll drive myself into an early grave because of how damned awful stress can be on your mind, body, and willpower. I hope 2020 shows me a better way to live (honestly being an overworked adjunct has just chewed up my soul, so send me good vibes in my job search for this year, please); again, I like being busy, but I don’t like being so overworked and underpaid that I feel desperately hopeless. I recently felt so guilty that I did not make my small Goodreads goal this year, but then I remembered how long I spend reading hundreds of student papers, journals, projects, and more in order to provide substantial and helpful feedback, so hey, fuck that guilt.

I want 2020 to be a year of hope, and a year where I do not feel guilty for things like the above example. While some things are out of my control, I will do everything in my control to make it a year that I can embrace and look forward to. I like keeping my private life private, and while I share a bit on social media, it’s been really peaceful to keep much of my life to myself and to those I love. I am immensely grateful to my friends and family who have been incredibly supportive this year and all years. And of course it’s been a blast getting to know more authors, readers, and reviewers through social media — I hope to meet so many of you in person soon!

Here are a few of my highlights from 2019, and a few things I am really looking forward to in 2020!

2019 in Review:

Screen Shot 2019-12-03 at 10.41.20 AM*StokerCon in Grand Rapids, Michigan was probably the highlight of my year. I wrote a recap of that here, so I won’t echo too much again, but in a nutshell I got to hang out with some of my favorite humans in existence and The Devil’s Dreamland took home a freaking Stoker Award, so it doesn’t get much more surreal and amazing than that. I also got to sit with Gwendolyn Kiste who has become such a sweet friend and watch her win an award for The Rust Maidens, which was spectacular!

*The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes was included in Night Worms! (yay!)

*My debut novella, To Be Devoured, was released in July by Unnerving! I was nervousTo Be Devouredjune2019 about this book, so to see positive (and repulsed) receptions and reactions of this sick and twisted glimpse into my prose has been incredibly motivating. Thank you to everyone who picked up the book and dared to dine with the vultures.

*To celebrate the tenth year of Women in Horror Month this past February, I did 10 posts (9 of them feature interviews) with some incredible ladies in the genre that I hope you will check out if you did not before!

*Having my short story, “Smeared Star in Your Hands” be selected from over 700 others to be included in The Twisted Book of Shadows (I doubt myself a lot as a short story writer, so this was an amazing moment)

*Some other writing-related things I enjoyed this year included this podcast interview by Unnerving’s Eddie Generous with myself and Gwendolyn Kiste, guest editing an issue of Eye to the Telescope that featured an infection theme, writing up a post called “Killing the Tortured Artist” for the Ladies of Horror Fiction, doing this in-depth interview by David Cowen who asked such wonderful questions, and chatting about Pet Sematary with the Ink to Film Podcast!

I was fortunate to do a few other podcasts and posts this year, all of which are compiled here (plus other years) if you are interested.

*Shortly after StokerCon, Mike Arnzen and I collaborated on getting the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter up and running! We had our first two meetings this year and are greatly looking forward to the future of the chapter. Thank you to everyone who has attended meetings, helped organize events and readings, and been as enthusiastic as we are for this creation! If you are local and interested in joining the HWA and our Pittsburgh Chapter, email us at hwapittsburgh@gmail.com

 

Bring on 2020:

What am I working on for 2020? Right now it feels like a million things, but let me share what I can…

Screen Shot 2019-04-28 at 6.23.47 PM*My third poetry collection, which is inspired by the Black Death and other plagues and diseases is coming along (I should be able to share more about this soon!) — you can read a poem from the collection below!

*I am currently working on a really cool collaborative project, but that’s all I can say for now 🙂

*I am so looking forward to working with my mentee through the HWA Mentorship program! (*waves* hi Angela!)

*Also looking forward to FINALLY attending Scares That Care! I will see you in Virginia this summer if you’re going — please come say hi!

*One of my biggest goals this year is to write a novel I’ve been plotting; if I can get a draft done by the end of the year, I’ll be thrilled

Not All Monsters*And finally, perhaps what I am most excited for….NOT ALL MONSTERS! (!!!!) This gorgeous book brought to you by Strangehouse Books will be out in Fall 2020. It is all full of deliciously dark stories by women who write horror, and I cannot wait to get this beautiful beast into your hands. Check out the TOC here.

It has been an honor to be the editor for this project, truly. Huge thank you to Nicholas Day and Don Noble for their organization, team work, art work, and for being lovely humans.

 

 

*All in all, 2020 is shaping up to be busy. I am excited for the challenges, for the late nights and early mornings, for new adventures and for something that I hope continues to give me courage. I wish you all nothing but amazing successes in the new year.

And finally — thank you to everyone who voted on my Twitter poll for which poem I should share from the new collection. I hope you enjoy reading this piece, “Blackbirds, Black Death”

 

Blackbirds, Black Death

Blackbirds outside my window
have you come to take me away?
My sister is dying, but together we waste
and count the days, the days, the days…

I’d rather follow you into the skies
away from choking black smoke,
away from dark soil where death blooms
on grotesque petals and charcoal stems
swell until blood drips down the stalks.

Bells sing distorted songs in the distance
chiming again for departed souls, striking
melodies against the harsh growl of thunder,
but sister still dies, crinkled like a lifeless spider
in my arms, for she is dead, and I am dead
in this place the blackbirds call home.

When blackbirds come to drain my blood,
their beaks stuffed with straw and juniper
I offer my eyes as penance for sin, to combat
God’s severance, but we are despised
and left nothing but rot, and ruin, and rats.

When blackbirds come to take her away at last,
we decompose together, imprinted memories
stain childhood blankets, infection reeks
from frayed threads as doctors dressed in black
pretend they are birds, but it is too late,
and I no longer count the days, the days, the days…

We twine together and choke, smoldering embers
of our home reach across the floor
colored in our bloodletting, yet the smoke
smells like mint as the blackbirds retreat,
and we will never follow them into the skies.

Because when blackbirds come, they are but men
buttoned up in masks, coats, and presumptions
that they know better, they know a cure,
but they know nothing except death,
the scent of putrid bodies mixed with herbs,
the swelling of buboes before they burst.

Sister, we once planted imaginary gardens
for imaginary birds, but now blackbird men
have materialized from that secret place
and stand guard outside my window,
have they come to take me away?

Dear sister is dead, so together we waste
and count the days, the days, the days…

 

 

 

 

 

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!

WiHM Interview with Rachel Autumn Deering

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

My next guest is Rachel Autumn Deering! She’s pretty metal, is so much fun to talk to, and is a fantastic writer. Read on!

rad

Rachel Autumn Deering is a rock ‘n’ roll witch with a heart of slime. She lives with a bunch of monster masks in suburban Michigan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

RAD: Hey, it’s my pleasure! Thanks for having me.

It truly feels like I’ve always been into horror. I had an uncle who would babysit me a lot while my dad worked and he was really into creature feature movies and old horror comics and heavy metal music, so I was exposed to darker ideas from a very young age. I think by associating those things with my uncle, who was a generally happy and positive person, I realized horror wasn’t something awful or forbidden or made for bad people, but it was something to be enjoyed on a certain level, you know? I would put on a tape of cartoons and a tape of something like Night of the Demons back to back and could see the value in both. It was never a taboo thing in my family so I never treated the horror genre as anything more than great stories.

Of course some of that stuff scared me stiff, but I loved it. Horror media was something I consumed in a way that seemed to stick with me more than the rest. And those darker themes carried me through my childhood and into my adult life where I applied a horror sensibility to nearly everything I did. My career started with horror comics back in the early 2000s. I was living in Columbus Ohio at the time and writing for a local horror-themed rock ‘n’ roll comic. From there I went on to write and self-publish a horror comic series until that was eventually picked up by a publisher in the UK, and all along the way I landed gigs with various publishers to write comics like Creepy and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and so forth. I released a really hefty hardcover horror anthology comic in 2014 called In the Dark, and was nominated for the Eisner and Harvey Awards for that work. During my time in comics I also wrote supplemental lore for the horror video game Diablo III, but that’s been my only experience with the interactive media side of things. From comics, I transitioned into writing prose with my debut novella, Husk, and I’ve been firmly planted in the literary garden ever since. I’ve gone on to write a number of short stories for various publishers, design a small handful of book covers, and I’m currently editing a witchy anthology for Titan in the UK with my good friend Christopher Golden as well as chipping away at two new novels, one of them co-written with Irish author Matt Hayward.

And, lest you think I’m not busy enough, I am also the lead vocalist and primary lyric writer in a horror-themed heavy metal band called Cryptlord.

ST: I love your extensive background — I’m also amazed you have time to breathe. Rock on! Women being drawn to horror has always made perfect sense to me as a way to confront our own daily horrors, to unleash the brewing darkness in our heads, and as a way to just have fun with our creativity. What draws you personally to the horror genre?

RAD: I honestly can’t be certain. I don’t tend to analyze the how and why of things I enjoy. I think if I had to venture a guess, I’d say I like the idea that there’s something out there scarier than my fellow man. That no matter how awful people might be, there’s something more to fear in this world. In that way, I suppose horror is a sort of redemptive thing for me. The older I get, the less I write about creatures and the more I have made humans the focus. That tends to be the narrative arc for most people, I think. We get older and we lose our rose-colored glasses, and we shrug off the presumptions of innocence, and we start to see the world in a much more mature (and oftentimes sinister) way. I don’t want that to be true, but at this point in my life that’s how I feel. I’d love to go back to relating to the fun, campy, redemptive sort of horror some day but given the current social climate, I don’t imagine I’ll be holding my breath.

ST: I think you’re spot on with that observation about the narrative arc and how writing changes as we get older. Your bio mentions you are from the hills of the Appalachia. I think Appalachian horror is an underrated subgenre that more people need to explore. The environment is so rich for storytelling. How has the surrounding and culture crept into your work?

RAD: Well, Husk was set in a small Kentucky town with small Kentucky townfolk, so it’s Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 7.01.53 PMpretty easy to see the influence there. I’ll almost always have at least some passing mention of Kentucky or a small town somewhere, even when the story is set in a larger city. Often a character will have a certain way of speaking that makes them a little more down-home and friendly, especially if they’re the central antagonist. I don’t know why I love a friendly villain, but I’m guessing that comes from the hills in some way, too. People tend to tell me I’ve got a very straight-forward, no-nonsense way of telling a story that somehow finds a way to still be lyrical. That comes from my childhood, sitting around on porches, listening to the adults telling stories about loving and lusting and fighting and fishing. I moved away from Kentucky before I began my writing career, but I’ll always carry Appalachia in my heart.

ST: Along with writing, you have designed book covers (the cover you did for the upcoming book Limbs from Grindhouse Press is still hauntingly fresh in my mind!), and you have extensively written, designed, edited and more in the comics industry. What are the challenges you have faced as a woman in these industries? What changes would you like to see in the future to help make these industries more diverse?

RAD: Outside of the few odd comments about my looks, I haven’t come up against too many knuckleheads myself. And I’m thankful for that because I’ve heard some stories that’ll make you mad enough to fight. It might be that I’ve got that rough and tough lesbian edge that keeps me from having to deal with the nonsense, where someone else who might be a little more soft-spoken and gentle in demeanor would be seen as an easier target. It might just be the company I tend to keep, but it feels like creative industries as a whole are being dominated by forward-thinking, progressive people who show an active interest in making the working world a better place for women. There will always be holdouts and radicals who try to keep women from achieving anything meaningful, but it seems to me that those types are increasingly more afraid to speak out. I think it’s only a matter of time before their kind dies off completely and there will be no more reason to make a fuss about gender in any industry. I know there are people out there who struggle every day with their identity and how it impacts their work-life. I would not, for a second, want to discount their experiences and I’ll be there to stand with them any time I’m needed, but I try to have an optimistic outlook for the future. Here in Michigan where I live, we appointed a woman to every statewide office in this most recent election, and even sent a decent chunk of ladies up to Congress. That’s massive progress, and I find a lot of hope in that.

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

RAD: I’d say you shouldn’t wait around for someone to give you permission to tell the stories you want to tell. You don’t need a publisher to say it’s okay to write your book. You can distribute your work through Amazon these days and get it out to anybody in the world. Do your own thing, be unique, be the exact type of writer you want to be and don’t ever flinch. Definitely don’t try to hide your femininity or feel like you need to be as macho as the dudes to fit in and be taken seriously.

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

RAD: I like Sarah Pinborough quite a bit. It seems you can’t really put her in a box when it comes to her writing and I like that. She’s definitely horrific, but I don’t think she feels the need to be defined as a horror writer. I read Behind Her Eyes last year and it really had an impact on me. I hadn’t been that thoroughly entertained in a long time, by a book or a movie or anything else. She incorporates elements of thrillers, romance, body horror, paranormal, and everything in between and it makes for a really wild ride. I have her new one, Cross Her Heart, on my night stand now and I’m looking forward to being able to dedicate some time to that.

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

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 7.01.06 PMRAD: I am finishing up the all-female witch anthology, Hex Life, for Titan Books at the moment. After that, I will be writing a non-fiction history book for an existing horror franchise that must remain nameless until after it is announced. I have a number of short stories coming out in various anthologies this year as well as my novel Wytchwood Hollow and the novel I’m co-writing with Matt Hayward called Pestilent. You can find me on twitter @racheladeering to keep up to date on all of those projects and more.

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

Check back on Monday to read about my next guest!