Fantastic Talent: Interview with Larissa Glasser

Welcome back for our first interview of March! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight the amazing Larissa Glasser! Larissa is the author of F4, a novella from Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author series, as well as numerous short stories.

Recently, Larissa and I discussed F4, as well as her story for last year’s Tragedy Queens anthology, along with what she’s working on next.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Larissa GlasserI started writing steadily during high school. Up to then, I had thought I was going to be a musician. I’d studied jazz guitar for about five years, and during my teens I balanced music and writing, and I found a creative outlet with each, although each is a different creative process. I played in a lot of bands, which was usually a collaborative effort, jamming and improvising whereas writing is usually a solitary process. Gradually I became more involved with writing and it took over. William S. Burroughs and Clive Barker were huge influences on me when I first started writing. There are so many authors of whose work I admire and study now, but a few writers who totally changed my universe are Clark Ashton Smith, Monica J. O’Rourke, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Damien Angelica Walters. Then there’s Torrey Peters, she’s a trans writer out of New York and her work really liberated me, encouraged me to come out of my shell with writing trans narratives. Along with Torrey, Jack Ketchum also recently changed my outlook–his work taught me how horror can be character-driven to a greater effect, that our uniqueness in our own trauma helps us resonate with the reader.

Your novella, F4, was released last year from Eraserhead Press to rave reviews. How did this book develop? How long did it take you to write it, and did the process have any surprises along the way?

F4 came from so many different places. I had thought of the middle part first, inspired by coverage of the Taylor Murphy assault trial. Laverne Cox (trans lady actress, Orange is the New Black) was reporting on it for The Huffington Post where she detailed the media’s horrific treatment of the main prosecution witness Claudia Charriez, a trans woman Murphy had physically abused during their relationship. I morphed this tabloid journalism with my main protagonist Carol, a witness to a murder who then becomes a target of media harassment just because she’s a trans woman. This all still happens in real life, and as a former journalism student I wanted to call that out.

I also grew up with kaiju movies. When I was a kid I used to watch Creature Double Feature on Saturdays, and those were usually Godzilla and monster movies. They made a huge impression on me, larger than life beings stomping cities into paste and they wouldn’t stop until they just got bored. A lot of the kaiju films haven’t aged well, but they fired my imagination back then and I wanted to infuse that enthusiasm into the concept of F4. My degrees of success or failure on that front are up to the readers–the trans readers, especially.

F4Your story, “Rituals of Gorgons,” was featured in last year’s highly regarded Tragedy Queens anthology. What was the inspiration behind this particular story?

In 2016, I had an opportunity to participate in a writing workshop created by Topside Press specifically for transgender women. Topside had pretty much been one of the first presses to spotlight trans authors and release their work. Previously to that trans women hadn’t had much representation in mainstream publishing. Anyway, this workshop got about fifty or so trans women together from all over the planet, and I workshopped an excerpt of a story about the trans daughters of rockstar celebrities who both fall in love while being plagued by the paparazzi. After I met Leza [Cantoral] of Clash Books and she told me about the idea for the Sylvia Plath-Lana Del Rey theme of the anthology, I wanted to morph the story idea into “Born to Die” by Lana Del Rey and “Edge” by Sylvia Plath. The latter mentions “a Greek necessity” so that brought Gorgons to mind, and I decided to roll with that.

I’ll share here that I’m going to expand the “Rituals of Gorgons” idea into a new work with the same basic trans lesbian love story idea. But this will have more of a folk horror theme. I’m developing into a novel with the working title “The Brightening.” I’m excited about it.

What is it about speculative fiction, in particular horror and bizarro, that appeals to you as a storyteller?

I grew up with horror and sci-fi, and more recently bizarro for me seemed like the perfect genre to mash the two and expand them into new places. I also grew up with British comedy, and that early 1980s show “The Young Ones” still seems like greatest precursor goddess of bizarro. You could have non-sequiturs and sudden infusions of the ridiculous in a situation and since the writers had built that world with the four main characters who couldn’t have been more different from one another and yet were stuck together in that dilapidated London apartment, everything could still entertain the audience. I think what made “The Young Ones” work so well is because it aired during an oppressive political climate of Reagan-Thatcher-Pinochet. It was also the final end run of The Cold War so their absurd, violent sense of humor also played into that. Laughter and satire are great remedies for fear. So that’s how I see horror and bizarro working well together.

To follow up on that last question, what would you like to see as the future for horror and bizarro?

I’d like to see more queer voices in both, and to see them get recognition. I don’t know if I’ll be part of that, but I’ll do my best and to raise the voices of others like me and to encourage them.

Do you have any specific writing rituals, such as writing at the same time or writing to certain music?

I usually just write when I can, usually in the evening because I am a terrible morning person. I usually write to ambient or chamber music, because lyrics distract me.

What’s next for you?

As I work on my next books, “The Brightening” and “Princess of Rabies,” I’ve got a busy con schedule ahead, including but not limited to Necon, StokerCon, The Outer Dark Symposium, and Necronomicon. I’m also doing research about my dad, who was a spy during The Cold War. That could turn into a nonfiction book, hopefully. On the professional front, I’m looking into academic library jobs in New York City so I can finally relocate to Brooklyn (if anyone hears of anything, please hit me up).

Tremendous thanks to Larissa Glasser for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at Twitter and on her blog!

Happy reading!

Writer’s Luck: Submission Roundup for March 2019

Welcome back for March’s Submission Roundup! This month, there are a ton of great submission calls, so if you’ve got a story seeking home, then maybe one of these markets will be perfect for you!

But first, a regular disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these markets, so please direct your questions to the respective editors. And with that, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives
Payment: $50 plus percentage from Kickstarter profits
Length: Final stories will be 5,000 to 10,000 words; must pitch editor first
Deadline: March 15th, 2019 for pitches
What They Want: The awesome John Linwood Grant is seeking pitches for his anthology that will feature supernatural Sherlock Holmes stories.
Find the details here.

Flame Tree Press’s Gothic Fantasy series
Payment: .06/word
Length: 2,000 to 4,000 words
Deadline: March 24th, 2019
What They Want: The themes for the next two anthologies in the Gothic Fantasy series are Detective Mysteries and Epic Fantasy.
Find the details here.

Wickedly Abled
Payment: $10/flat
Length: 1,500 to 5,500 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2019
What They Want: Fantastic editor Sumiko Saulson is seeking horror and dark fantasy stories written by disabled authors that featured disabled protagonists.
Find the details here.

Letters from the Grave: A Collection of Epistolary Horror
Payment: .05/word
Length: up to 10,000 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2019
What They Want: Open to horror stories told in an epistolary format.
Find the details here.

The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg
Payment: .01/word
Length: 2,000 to 5,000 words, with approximately 3,000 words being the ideal length
Deadline: March 31st, 2019
What They Want: The editors at Weirdpunk Books are seeking stories that take inspiration from the work of filmmaker David Cronenberg.
Find the details here.

Hinnom Magazine’s Weird Tales
Payment: .06/word for fiction; $65/flat for poetry
Length: 1,000 to 6,000 words for fiction; no length restrictions
Deadline: April 15th, 2019
What They Want: Seeking weird fiction and cosmic horror in the style of Weird Tales written by female authors.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Looking to the Horror Future: Part Three in Our 2019 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back for the final installment of our Women in Horror Month roundtable! February went far too quickly this year!

The last couple weeks, we’ve discussed favorite female authors writing today along with challenges that women in horror face in the industry. Today, to wrap things up, let’s talk about the future of horror and what these seven amazing authors have in the works!

What are your hopes for the future of horror? In what ways could we all be striving to make the industry more equitable for everyone? 

CHRISTINA SNG: I hope to see exciting new ideas and stories bringing horror to the masses, like how Linda Addison’s poem inspired Jamal Hodge’s film MOURNING MEAL and how Josh Malerman’s BIRD BOX was simply revolutionary to me. And on that note, blind readings. That’s the most equitable way really. Let the work sell itself.

STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH: I want to see a horror genre that is more inclusive and diverse (especially with our anthology TOCs), and I think we’re making strides to get there, but I also think we need to continue to be welcoming and supportive of book reviewers and all the work that they do for us. For instance, Ladies of Horror Fiction is doing a magnificent job of promoting and supporting women in the field, and then services like Nightworms, which is a monthly curated horror-to-read-and-review delivery service, is a unique approach to reading/reviewing, not to mention a wonderful marketing tool to/for our genre.

S.P. MiskowskiS.P. MISKOWSKI: We can all recognize that the genre has room to grow. Competitiveness in horror is self-defeating. It makes people look stupid and bitter. More diversity, a wider range of styles and approaches and experiences, can only make things more interesting.

Accept the fact that change requires action. A correction is needed before things become equal (and once that happens, we can stop trying so hard). This is where we are, on the verge of great changes, but we’re not there yet. To get there, you do have to plan some outreach. If you want talented women and people of color to contribute to your anthology, you might have to introduce yourself. You might have to be explicit in stating how open you are to diversity in fiction.

JULIA BENALLY: My hopes for the future of horror is that regardless of gender, people can publish good horror stories that send chills up the spine, that there won’t be anymore of this backbiting, statement-making, and offended-at-everything-under-the-sun bull crap that’s going on now, and that strong male and female characters can be accepted together, along with the weak ones, be whatever gender they may, and that writers can follow the one rule of writing that’s been torn down, that we can create whatever we want, and that every mold, old and new, can just be obliterated along with those who try to make molds. I think the best way is in the individual author’s hands. We don’t have to submit to this.

SABA SYED RAZVI: I’ve been really delighted by the popularity of spooky poetry and stories, lately. I hope that we continue to see more books of poetry, more collections of short fiction, more anthologies, and more novellas in the future. I’m pleased, too, that more films, television shows, and graphic novels are including the efforts of women. I love the idea that the horror industry can move toward a more equitable space. I hope that the field of horror continues to embrace the marginalized, the nonconformists, the weird, the rebellious, the unexpected. I hope it continues to embrace notions of intersectionality, transcendence, transgression, multiculturalism, gender equality in its topics, texts, and artworks in addition to its authors. The more we start to hear these varied voices tell stories, the more we are likely to hear what it is they are saying, too. I think that Speculative Literature in general, and Horror in particular, have always asked us to consider the things that challenge our senses of comfort, safety, and stability — and as long as we continue to push that envelope and do just that, instead of falling into formulaic traps that ask us to consider only purity of approach, or scarcity of expression, or conformist attitudes toward what frightens and delights us, we have a good chance of discovering newer kinds of horror — not just new monsters, but new approaches to the feeling of being alive, afraid, and energized by the fear that all of those things are as precarious as our ideas of what the world should be. As our world changes — and isn’t it always changing? — our awareness of what scares us in the world should change, too.

SARAH READ: I want to make sure Women in Horror Month is inclusive for all who identify as female in any way, to any extent, and it needs to work at being inclusive for women of color and women with disabilities, too. It needs to keep its focus intersectional, or it does more harm than good and shouldn’t exist at all. I hope that inclusiveness will enrich the genre with delicious new horrors of diverse imaginations.

Emily CataneoEMILY B. CATANEO: Gatekeepers are so important. We are all socialized to respond to specific stories about specific types of characters, and oftentimes, that socialization corresponds to our identities. If our gatekeepers were all socialized to respond to the same kind of story, well, that won’t lead to breadth and variety in our genre. We need more gatekeepers from different backgrounds and with different tastes, and we also just need more: more magazines, more anthologies, more publishers. There’s room for all of us in this field; we simply need to make that room.

What’s next for you?

CHRISTINA SNG: I hope to finish my next poetry collection by the first half of the year which is ambitious because life gets pretty busy and I only have the night to work on my poetry. If I fall asleep, that time is gone so chocolate is my best friend. I also have a children’s chapbook to complete, a haiku book to finish editing, and a novel in three parts to begin. If only time turners exist…

STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH: Right now, I’m finishing up an apocalyptic science fiction poetry collection titled, The Apocalyptic Mannequin, and it’s going on two years in the making right now, so it’s definitely my baby at the moment. I wanted to push myself to work on something new for my readers, and while there’s still a lot of my personal style in the book, the subject matter, approach, and themes are a tad different.

PariahsI’m also working to put out weird horror novelette this spring titled, The Dangers of Surviving a Slit Throat. This, too, is a bit different from me as it’s my first attempt at something bizzaro (ish), and it’s something that I’ve wanted to write ever since my aunt gifted me an antique radio. Matthew Revert did the cover art for it, too, so I’m beyond excited to put it in everyone’s hands soon!

S.P. MISKOWSKI: I’m writing a new novel, and I hope to have news about that in the coming year. Fingers crossed!

JULIA BENALLY: Writing is what’s next for me. “Pariahs” is out, and now I’m working on the second book, and trying to get a bunch of my other short stories published. Other than that, who knows what the future might bring.

SABA SYED RAZVI: I mentioned some of my ongoing projects earlier, so I think I’ll have psychopaths, robots and demonic faeries on the brain for a while. I’m working on some stories that have to do with magic/sorcery, necromancy, divination, genies, a series of poems about tarot cards, and a novel that isn’t itself horror but is all about people who love horror (and so it is maybe a sort of commentary on the social implications of how we transgress and transcend what we love when we love the shadows and the darkness). If all goes well for me, I hope that this will be a productive writing year, and that maybe during the next Women in Horror Month, I might be able to talk about some completed new projects! 🙂

The Bone Weaver's OrchardSARAH READ: I’ll be doing lots to promote my new novel, of course, and I’ll be at StokerCon and WisCon this year. I’ve just sold my debut collection to Trepidatio, so I’ll be working on that as well! And I’ll be wrapping up edits on my second novel shortly and sending that off into the world. I’m currently writing my third novel. I’ve had a few short story invites for 2019, so hopefully those all come to fruition. Pantheon Magazine will be taking a short hiatus while our publisher finishes up a new degree (and while I do this three books in one year madness), so I’ll have a little more writing time this year! I plan to put it to good use. I’ll also be spending time in Denver, New Orleans, and Chicago, hawking books so I can buy more books.

EMILY B. CATANEO: I’m finishing up my second short story collection in the form of my MFA thesis; it’s called Vainglory and Other Stories, and it’s a mixture of realism, fantasy, and everything in between, but every story features a so-called “bad woman” (some of them misunderstood, some of them actually deeply flawed). I’m also working on a novel, as of yet untitled, about spooky happenings by the ocean. It promises to be very gothic.

And that’s our roundtable for this year! Tremendous thanks to these seven fabulous female authors! It was an absolute pleasure talking with each of them!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Recommended Reading: Part Two in Our Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back for part two of our Women in Horror Month roundtable series! Last week, we checked in with our authors about what they’ve been working on and what Women in Horror Month means to them.

This week, we’re discussing all about recommended female horror authors along with the publishers that support them! So let’s take it away!

Let’s focus on the positive for a moment: who are some editors and publishers that have shown their dedication to supporting female horror authors?

Christina SngCHRISTINA SNG: All of the editors and publishers I’ve worked with have been supportive, as well as many who haven’t yet accepted my work but have taken the time to advise me on improving my writing, of which I am deeply grateful for, Linda Addison, Dawn Albright, Mike Allen, F.J. Bergmann, Charles Christian, CC Finlay, Vince Gotera, David C Kopaska-Merkel, Terrie Leigh Relf, Teri Santitoro, David Lee Summers, Susan Shell Winston, to name a few. Our community has been kind and supportive to both old faces and new during the early days of the Internet (showing my age here) and now, although as with every community, there will be exceptions.

STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH: Personally, I have to give a massive shout out to Christopher Golden, Gabino Iglesias, and Shane Douglas Keene, all three of who are feminist warriors for the women in our field. There’s often not a day/week that goes by where they aren’t supporting, marketing, or promoting female writers on their social media feeds, and it’s really refreshing to see this.

S.P. MISKOWSKI: In my experience: Joe Pulver, Ellen Datlow, Ross E. Lockhart, Kate Jonez, Jess Landry, Justin Steele… I’ve met some wonderful people in horror and weird fiction.

JULIA BENALLY: I will say The Horror Zine, The Wicked Library Podcast, I’ve enjoyed stories from Black Static Magazine, Liquid Imagination, and Another Realm Magazine has good ones.

SABA SYED RAZVI: I feel like this is a challenging question for me because it can be so variable. I hope to learn more about this from the other panelists, but here is what comes to mind: I’ve seen a lot of positive attention in the HWA Newsletter, recently. Many of these are not strictly horror, but friendly to/welcoming of the genre. Hyacinth Girl Press. Sundress Publications. Coffee House Press. Menacing Hedge. Raw Dog Screaming Press. Fairytale Review. Finishing Line Press. Agape Editions. Ugly Duckling Presse. Chax Press. Fiction Collective 2. University of Hell Press. Rose Metal Press. Future poem Books. VIDA. I feel like my awareness of those who are supportive is often colored by my enthusiasm or awareness at any time. I’m often surprised when I see the catalogues of presses or the tables of contents of magazines, only to find that the male voices outnumber the female. I think this is a really great question, and that maybe it would be a great topic to explore during Women in Horror Month. I think I’m going to make it my mission to find a more thorough answer, this month…

Sarah ReadSARAH READ: Ellen Datlow, Andy Cox, Sean Wallace, Jess Landry, Dan Coxon, and Richard Thomas have been phenomenal. If you’re looking for women in horror, their publications should be first on the list. And many others are making great efforts toward being more diverse and inclusive in their work. I see more effort and accountability. There’s still a long way to go, but things are happening. Awareness is definitely happening, and I think any editor today who puts together an all-white-cis-male horror anthology knows that they’re going to be alienating a lot of their potential audience. And if they don’t care, well, that tells us everything we need to know about what not to read.

EMILY B. CATANEO: Michael Bailey, of the aforementioned Chiral Mad 2 anthology, has elevated quite a few female voices lately; Jess Landry, of Journalstone/Trepidatio Publishing, has edited a variety of female-written novels and short story collections in the past few years; and Sean Wallace and Silvia Moreno-Garcia over at The Dark have shown a dedication to diversity in their magazine, especially working to elevate the voices of women of color.

Who are a few female horror authors you wish more people were reading? Likewise, what are some recent horror books or stories by women that should have gotten more attention?

CHRISTINA SNG: I think your fiction is mesmerizing. I love Caroline Yoachim’s flash fiction. The poetry of Linda Addison, Marge Simon, Jennifer Crow, Christa Carmen, Sara Tantlinger, Erin Sweet-Al Mehairi, and Stephanie Wytovich.

Sheet Music to My Acoustic NightmareYour incredible THE RUST MAIDENS, Caroline’s SEVEN WONDERS OF A ONCE AND FUTURE WORLD, Linda’s CONSUMED, REDUCED TO BEAUTIFUL GRAY ASHES, Marge’s WAR, Jennifer’s THE FIRST BITE OF THE APPLE, Christa’s SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLOOD-SOAKED, Sara’s THE DEVIL’S DREAMLAND, Erin’s BREATHE, and Stephanie’s SHEET MUSIC TO MY ACOUSTIC NIGHTMARE. Powerful, evocative work.

STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH: Oh! I love making author/book recommendations, so some absolute must-reads are:

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked by Christa Carmen
• “Slipping Petals from Their Skin” by Kristi DeMeester
Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall
And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste
I Am Not Your Final Girl: Poems by Claire C. Holland
• “The Changeling” by Sarah Langan
• “Horror Story” by Carmen Maria Machado
• “Death’s Door Café” by Karron Warren
• “Necksnapper” by Emma Alice Johnson

S.P. MISKOWSKI: Anyone who likes subtle psychological and supernatural horror, especially ghost stories or strange stories, ought to read Lynda E. Rucker. She has two superb collections in print—The Moon Will Look Strange and You’ll Know When You Get There—and her stories are frequently published in annual ‘best of’ anthologies. One of her stories won a Shirley Jackson Award.

The Worst Is Yet to ComeIf you write horror or aspire to, I also recommend the fiction of Lucy Taylor, Lisa Morton, Lisa Tuttle, and Gwendolyn Kiste. I’m not including you to be nice because you invited me to your blog. I think what you’re doing, formally, stylistically, is unusual. When the right structure meets the right theme in a Kiste story, the effects are stunning, amazing.

JULIA BENALLY: I have a small list of who I’m a fan of: Scarlett R. Algee, you, Miracle Austin, and Jamie R. Wargo. But as for the new, I’ve found only one. Her name is Barbara Avon. She usually writes romance, but she also hops into horror. She had a book called “Speed Bump” that came out last year. It’s about this guy trying to get home for Christmas and he has several freaky adventures along the road. Her stuff reads like watching a movie. You can just see everything play out so well. Another book I really enjoyed was by Jamie R. Wargo, called Coyote Ridge. That one was really fun to read. These two people run over a coyote puppy and unleash these monsters from legend on themselves. I am a monster fan, so I was all about this. Both of these books are on Amazon.

SABA SYED RAZVI: So, writers whose works (which I consider horror, but which may also be categorized differently by the author) I’ve been reading recently include Elizabeth Hand, Quintan Ana Wikswo, Joyelle McSweeney, Caitlin R Kiernan, Lucie Brock-Broido, Stephanie Wytovich, YOU (Gwendolyn Kiste!), Nikki Ducornet, Shelly Jackson, Kit Whitfield, Elizabeth Kostova, Damien Angelica Walters, Marge Simon, Christina Sng, Marjorie Liu, Lee Murray. I find women’s voices are finding expression in poetry and short fiction often, lately. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve read in the past few years. As always, I think the Stoker ballot is a great source for good new works, but so is the Elgin Award nomination list (it isn’t always horror, but there’s some good overlap).

SARAH READ: I want to see more people reading more horror in general–especially from women and genderqueer authors, but a few of my recent favorites are: Letitia Trent, Eden Royce, Caitlin R Kiernan, Jordan Kurella, Rena Mason, Lisa Morton, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Nnedi Speaking to Skull KingsOkorafor, Premee Mohamed, Gwendolyn Kiste, Maria Haskins, Helen Oyeyemi, Karen Runge, Emma Johnson, Nicole Givins Kurtz, Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Tananarive Due, Jessica McHugh, Helen Marshall, Gemma Files, Angela Slatter, Anya Martin, Julie C. Day, Carina Bissett, E. Catherine Tobler, JS Breukelaar, Kaaron Warren, Maria Dahvana Headley, Megan Arkenberg, Rhonda Eikamp, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and a few dozen others, but I should stop or we’ll be here all day. There are hundreds. Anyone who says it’s hard to find is reading with blinders.

EMILY B. CATANEO: These days, I’ve actually been reading more fiction that’s classified as literary, because of the aforementioned MFA program, so I feel out of the loop in regards to women who are writing fiction that’s classified as horror. However, I do want to draw horror fans’ attention to the fact that plenty of literary-classified fiction is actually tinged with the horrific. Clare Beams’ We Show What We Have Learned and Other Stories, for example, is crawling with gothic creepiness. And Otessa Moshfegh’s Eileen is a thriller for the ages.

Thanks again to our amazing featured authors, and head on back here next week for the final part of this year’s Women in Horror Month interview series!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Fear and the Feminine: Part One in Our 2019 Women in Horror Roundtable

So welcome back for the official kickoff of our Women in Horror Month Roundtable! I’ve already introduced my fabulous interviewees last week, so in the spirit of the season, let’s just charge forth, shall we?

First off, welcome to this year’s Women in Horror roundtable! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your latest or forthcoming releases.

Stephanie M. WytovichStephanie M. Wytovich: Thank you so much for having me, Gwendolyn!

I’ve been working in the horror industry for a little over seven years now, and I write, teach, mentor, and tutor writing (fiction, poetry, and nonfiction) for a living. I’ve had five collections of poetry published through Raw Dog Screaming Press, one of which (Brothel) brought home the Bram Stoker Award in 2016. My graduate thesis, a religious horror/dark fantasy novel titled The Eighth was published in 2016 by Dark Regions Press, and it also helped earn me my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

My latest book, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare came out in 2017 and it’s a collection of poetry that is more or less a confessional dirge filled with ghosts, heartache, and naturally, a little (just kidding—a LOT) of blood.

Christina Sng: Hi Gwendolyn! Thank you for inviting me to this year’s Women in Horror roundtable. I’ve been writing horror for as long as I can remember and began submitting work in 2000. My first sale was to Dreams and Nightmares. I took a decade off writing to raise my kids (not much of a multitasker I am) and returned with my first full-length dark poetry book A Collection of Nightmares and a science fiction chapbook Astropoetry in 2017. This year, I’m back to putting poems into collections and hoping they find a home.

S.P. Miskowski: I’m a fiction writer with a lifelong respect for horror. My childhood reading was eclectic, anything from Vladimir Nabokov to Ira Levin.

Generally speaking, my work is about the nightmares just below the surface of everyday life. Many of my main characters are women, often doing and saying things women are not supposed to—in other words, being human. I think equality means being respected, and perceived as human and therefore fallible. My obsessions are existential: What does it mean to be human in a universe entirely indifferent to humanity?

My latest book is a short novel, The Worst Is Yet to Come (published by JournalStone/Trepidatio). It’s a stand-alone horror story about two very different teenage girls and how they alter one another’s lives, but it overlaps with and is related to four previous books comprising the Skillute Cycle (published by Omnium Gatherum), set in a fictional town in Washington State.

Julia BenallyJulia Benally: Hi, Gwen! Thanks for having me here. This is so much fun. So, a little about me. I’m an American Indian who used to have a fish. I love to cross-stitch, I enjoy singing, dancing in my room where nobody can see me, and I love driving through the mountains and listening to beautiful music, because it stirs my muse. So it drives me insane when someone gives me a ride and turns their music off so they can do small talk with me. As of now, I’m getting my second reprint for 2019. It’s called “Kittylyn,” and it will be featured in Another Realm Magazine. This little story kept getting rejected by editors left and right, and now suddenly it’s in demand. It’s almost like a Cinderella story, but I didn’t mean for it to be. Therefore, saying I had put my own twist on Cinderella wouldn’t be right. Also, my book Pariahs is out, and I am so excited, and thrilled, and I touch it and look at it every day, still not exactly sure if it’s a hallucination. This one’s about a twelve year old boy being terrorized by a fallen demon-killer who’s claimed him as his son. This world, and this story, is full of monsters and soulless creatures. I’ve seen it classed online as not only folk horror, but also adventure and thriller.

Sarah Read: Hi, I’m Sarah Read. I write horror and dark fantasy fiction. I have a few dozen short stories scattered about (soon to be unscattered into a collection from Trepidatio Publishing), and my first novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, was just released. I’m also the editor for Pantheon Magazine. Our latest anthology, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, has just come out and is not to be missed!

Saba Syed Razvi: Thank you so much for Inviting me to participate in this Roundtable. I think Women in Horror Month is such an important endeavor, and I’m honored to be here — and to hear about the experiences and thoughts of the other panelists!

I’m a writer who feels an interest in the intersecting spaces among and between genres, ideas, and experiences, so I find that my own work overlaps many spaces, but tends to find itself most usually settled in darkness and in shadow. Not that I’m into being morbid for its own sake, necessarily, but I find a certain beauty in the grotesque, and in the ways in which we approach the macabre and the morbid, the ephemeral and the phantasmagoric, the occult and the elusive. I tend to trace these threads in my work, no matter the genre, whether I am working on academic scholarship, short fiction, essays, or poetry. I like the weird and the strange, the way it nudges us out of the ordinary into something more real. It is my hope that my feelings of fascination come across in the work I write, too. I feel that language is in many ways itself haunted, that it haunts me, too…and I think that comes through in my work. My most recent collection of poetry is “heliophobia”, and I’ve been really enjoying the chance to give readings from it. I’m recording some of the poems for those who may want to hear them, and posting them on SoundCloud at times; that’s been an interesting project because I don’t have any experience with recording, but I have a great enthusiasm for giving readings!

Saba Syed RazviAs far as new material goes… I have a few things in the works, at the moment, but they are in process, which is an exciting phase to be in. I’m finishing up work on a long collection, a cycle of poems that center around a man who has murdered his wife and is sculpting a replacement of her…sort of erasing her consciousness rather than uploading or preserving it; the work focuses on the notion of artificial intelligence, and how our own biases inform the way we can know things, the way we define them or delineate between them, the way we attempt to negotiate our fears through our relationship to them, and it pays a lot of attention to the idea of dissection, taxonomies, destruction, and disempowerment, of a fear and terror born of powerlessness. It focuses on a darkness that is somewhere between the exhilaration of experiment and the clandestine cover-up of a crime, building its fragmentary narrative through currents of violence and violent impulse, as investigated through the materiality of the language and the flat plane of the page. I’m also working on completing a long poem about a predatory game hunter and a ghostly faerie woman that he has captured; it takes place in a castle in Ireland, along the Blackwater (a river) and tackles ideas about freedom and domestic imprisonment, the monstrosity of obligatory motherhood as a stifling condition, and the desperation in magic borne of captivity. Lately, I’m interested in this space between magic and making, and my short fiction is wading its way through representations of madness and the occult. I’m really drawn to the paranormal in my short fiction, so I hope to share a bit of that in the forthcoming year, too.

So, I think I have a lot of things sort of…. in the works, but they may be a little while in the works before I can say they are forthcoming.

Emily B. Cataneo: Thank you so much for putting this together, Gwendolyn! I’m a writer and journalist originally from New England and currently based in Raleigh, North Carolina. My stories fall into several different literary categories—fantasy, realism, magical realism, etc.—but almost all of them are tinged with some kind of creepy, gothic, or horror element. If you’d like to check out some of my recent work, you can read a piece of mine in Nightmare called “Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice,” which is about murderous witches, or a reprint that just came out in Lightspeed, called “The Emerald Coat and Other Wishes,” which is about a coat that transports its wearers to a realm from which they can never return.

How did you first learn about Women in Horror Month, and what are your thoughts on it? Do you think over its decade of existence that it’s helped to raise visibility for female horror creators?

Stephanie M. Wytovich: I got on the WiHM train back in 2014 after I graduated with my MFA, and I thought that it was such a fantastic concept to highlight women and their work in the horror industry. Mind you, I think every month should be WiHM, i.e. we shouldn’t stop celebrating women’s voices when February is over and long gone, but I do like the concentrated support it gives everyone.

And sure, it’s frustrating that we still need something like this, but for better or worse, I think anything that showcases new/seasoned voices and allows women to be seen and heard is a good thing.

A Collection of NightmaresChristina Sng: I first learned about Women in Horror Month on Facebook. I think it is awesome and there’s a sense of sisterhood around it, which I love. It has definitely raised visibility for female horror creators and it’s wonderful to see.

S.P. Miskowski: Like most people, I heard about WiHM via social media. I tend not to think of myself while writing. By that I mean I don’t think of myself as a person who fits a category. So a reminder that, in fact, my writing may be identified (by the world) by my gender—this is always startling, at first. Then I remember, “Oh right, I have this layer of identity, like a bulky suitcase, to carry around with me. People who see me will reduce me to this one thing and make assumptions about my gender, my age, my life, my beliefs.” It’s a pain in the ass.

Of course we all deal with this, all people have to deal with some degree of objectification. People of color face many more assumptions about who and what they are. The world is a place where you’re constantly told who you’re supposed to be, and anything you do to upset the status quo counts against you. The smaller the community in which you reside, the more that community tries to keep you in one category because it makes life simpler.

I don’t know how much WiHM has helped. Has it made women horror writers more visible? Maybe. Does it let people off the hook, so they only have to think about women in the genre once a year? Probably. Is it an annual reminder that a shocking number of people can still only name two or three women—all dead—who wrote horror? Definitely.

Julia Benally: So the first time I ever heard of Women in Horror was from you, Gwen. I was totally confused about it, but now I think it’s really fun. I like having a month dedicated to women horror writers. I’m pretty sure it has raised visibility, because now lots of people know about it, and it’s their chance to find new authors to read, and for authors to find new readers. That’s the most important to us authors than anything else.

Sarah Read: I don’t remember exactly how I learned about WiHM. Twitter, probably? I do think it has increased visibility, yes. Women in Horror Month lists and features were the first places my name ever appeared as a horror author, and it’s where I’ve discovered other names that have since become some of my favorite authors. From an editor’s perspective, I know those lists are a great place to look when I’m reaching out to writers for new work.

Saba Syed Razvi: I first learned about Women in Horror Month through the Horror Writers Association! I hadn’t known anyone else who was involved in it or who worked with it, but a stray mention on the website caught my attention.

HeliophobiaRight away, I loved the idea of celebrating women in horror, especially because, so often, women are victimized by horrific and violent acts or creatures in horror stories and film. Because I am interested in how gender is represented in literature and pop culture, and also how it plays a part in the ways in which we interpret it, I found myself immediately fascinated. A simple search on YouTube brought up so many videos that I really enjoyed watching and listening to — and brought my attention to so many writers whose works I had not yet read. I was pretty excited about that. Because my emphasis has traditionally been on the mainstream or experimental “literary” approach, and often moored in academic presses, I hadn’t encountered many of the names or books mentioned. Women in Horror Month also opened up my awareness of indie publishing in a big way, too. And, I imagine that when people stumble across the idea, they suddenly have at their fingertips a lot more resources than they knew about before.

I definitely think it has brought more visibility to the female creators of horror — but I also think it has built a sort of community, an awareness that women’s voices do matter in this space, the validation of the idea that horror can be much more than simple male aggression, that Medea is just as scary as Freddy Krueger and therefore just as meaningful however disparate they seem, and a sense of dynamism that invites more participation. For me, knowing that a designated month existed in which we could honor women in the field reminded me of all the nuances of it, the many ways in which horror could be enlivened, shared, and appreciated. I can say that my searches online since that first discovery have introduced me to the work of many writers whose material I would not have encountered otherwise, many frameworks for exploring and discussing them that I did not have before. As a movement, it has brought not only awareness and visibility for women writers and creators of horror, but also a reminder that these voices are not anomalous interlopers, but artists who should be celebrated. I love the positivity of the movement!

Emily B. Cataneo: I think Women in Horror Month is something that shouldn’t have to exist; in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need it. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and I do think that Women in Horror Month has helped raise visibility for female horror creators over the past decade. I also think that the publishing industry as a whole, although it has a very long way to go, has slowly started to awaken to its representation problems. It could be that Women in Horror Month is part of a larger shift in the industry. Is this a lasting change? I certainly hope so.

So that’s part one of our interview series! Head on back here next week for even more Women in Horror Month celebration!

Happy reading!

February Fiction: Submission Roundup for February 2019

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of very cool submission calls this month, so polish up those stories and poems! But first, a word from the webmaster (as in, me): I’m not a representative for any of these markets; I’m just spreading the word! If you’ve got any questions, please direct them to their respective editors.

And now onward to February’s Submission Roundup!

Submission RoundupLackington’s
Payment: .01/CAD
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: February 10th, 2019
What They Want: Open to stylized speculative fiction. This issue’s theme is Voyages.
Find the details here.

Alban Lake Publishing’s parABnormal Magazine
Payment: $25/flat for original fiction; $7/flat for reprints; $3/flat for poetry
Length: 4,000 to 8,000 words for fiction; 1 to 100 lines for poetry
Deadline: Ongoing
What They Want: Open to paranormal short stories and poetry.
Find the details here.

Hinnom Magazine
Payment: .02/word for fiction; $50/flat for poetry
Length: 1,000 to 6,000 words for fiction; no line limits for poetry
Deadline: February 28th, 2019
What They Want: Weird fiction and cosmic horror stories that are grim, otherworldly, and/or morally ambiguous.
Find the details here.

Triangulation: Dark Skies
Payment: .04/word
Length: up to 5,000 words (approximately 3,000 words preferred)
Deadline: February 28th, 2019
What They Want: Speculative fiction that deals with the theme of star-filled skies.
Find the details here.

Letters from the Grave: A Collection of Epistolary Horror
Payment: .05/word
Length: up to 10,000 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2019
What They Want: Open to horror stories told in an epistolary format.
Find the details here.

The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg
Payment: .01/word
Length: 2,000 to 5,000 words, with approximately 3,000 words being the ideal length
Deadline: March 31st, 2019
What They Want: The editors at Weirdpunk Books are seeking stories that take inspiration from the work of filmmaker David Cronenberg.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Women in Horror Month 2019 Roundtable Coming Soon!

Welcome to February, and more importantly, welcome to Women in Horror Month! I am super thrilled that I’m once again doing a roundtable interview series to celebrate the month!

So before I start unveiling the Q&A next week, allow me to introduce our incredible authors who are part of this year’s interview series!

Julia BenallyJulia Benally began on a dark and stormy night on the Fort Apache Reservation. She loves to run around in the mountains, snow is her element, and wonders at strange people who love the desert. In 2009, she graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah and began her long painful climb up the writing mountain. Her book Pariahs came out almost without her knowing because she wasn’t sure how to work the publishing button, and went through a slight panic attack. She’s been published in several magazines over the years, including The Horror Zine, Hellbound-books’ anthology Graveyard Girls, Liquid Imagination and Enthralled Magazine.

Emily CataneoEmily B. Cataneo is a writer and journalist. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Nightmare, Lightspeed, The Dark, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and her debut short fiction collection, Speaking to Skull Kings and Other Stories, was released from Journalstone in 2017. She calls New England home, and is currently based in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she’s completing her MFA at North Carolina State University. She’s a 2013 Odyssey Writing Workshop and a 2016 Clarion Writers Workshop graduate. She likes hats, crafts, and dogs.

S.P. MiskowskiS.P. Miskowski is a recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies including Haunted Nights, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, Darker Companions: Celebrating 50 Years of Ramsey Campbell, and The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten. Her second novel, I Wish I Was Like You, was named This Is Horror 2017 Novel of the Year, received a Charles Dexter Award from Strange Aeons, and was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award. Her books have received three Shirley Jackson Award nominations. Her latest novel, The Worst Is Yet to Come, is available from JournalStone/Trepidatio.

Saba Syed RazviSaba Syed Razvi is the author of the Elgin Award nominated collection In the Crocodile Gardens (Agape Editions) and the new collection heliophobia (Finishing Line Press), which appeared on the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Award, as well as the chapbooks Limerence & Lux (Chax Press), Of the Divining and the Dead (Finishing Line Press), and Beside the Muezzin’s Call & Beyond the Harem’s Veil (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in several literary journals, as well as in anthologies such as Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace, Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War Faith and Sexuality, The Loudest Voice Anthology, The Liddell Book of Poetry, Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity, The Rhysling Anthology, Dreamspinning, & The Horror Writers Poetry Showcase Volume V. Her poems have been nominated for the Elgin Award, the Bettering American Poetry Awards, The Best of the Net Award, the Rhysling Award, and have received a 2015 Independent Best American Poetry Award. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston in Victoria, TX, where in addition to working on scholarly research on interfaces between contemporary poetry and science, on mysticism in speculative and horror literature, she is writing new poems and fiction.

Sarah ReadSarah Read is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in Gamut, Black Static, and other places, and in various anthologies including Exigencies, Suspended in Dusk, BEHOLD! Oddities Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, and The Best Horror of the Year vol 10. Her novel The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is now out from Trepidatio Publishing, and her debut collection will follow in late 2019. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pantheon Magazine and of their associated anthologies, including Gorgon: Stories of Emergence. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association. When she’s not staring into the abyss, she knits. Keep up with her at www.inkwellmonster.wordpress.com.

Christina SngChristina 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 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. Visit her at http://www.christinasng.com and connect on social media @christinasng.

Stephanie M. WytovichStephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich at https://www.stephaniemwytovich.com/ and on twitter @SWytovich.

So those are the seven fabulous women that I’ll be featuring in the coming weeks! As always, be sure to head on back here throughout February for all the interview goodness!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month

Monsters, Devils, & Other Beasts: Interview with Orrin Grey

Welcome back! Today, I’m excited to feature author Orrin Grey. Orrin has written numerous short stories, which have been published widely as well as collected in Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and his most recent book, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

Recently, Orrin and I discussed his new collection, the influence of slasher films on his fiction, as well as his upcoming appearance at The Outer Dark Symposium in March!

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Orrin GreyI’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I think that at some point, when I was a kid, I realized that writers were the people who made up all the stories I loved, and from then on I wanted to be one of those people.

As for favorites, I could go on forever. My single biggest influence, always, is Mike Mignola. He’s who I want to be when I grow up, but I can’t draw, so I do this instead.

When it comes to Old Dead White Guy authors, the big three for me are Manly Wade Wellman, William Hope Hodgson, and E.F. Benson. I was also hugely influenced by early Clive Barker, not to mention, just, tons of others. Just tons. One of the reasons I like to do my author’s notes in my collections is so that I can call out influences as they happen, because there are always way too many for questions like these.

Congrats on the recent release of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales! How did you select the stories that were included in this book, and what themes in particular were you looking to explore?

Your first two collections, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings and Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, were released in 2012 and 2015 respectively. How was your process different (or the same) in putting together each of your collections? Do you have different considerations for each book, or do you approach all your collections in a similar way?

GuignolSo, I decided to cheat a bit and answer all of these questions in one block, because the answer to one of them informs the answers to the others, and vice versa. Basically, each of my three collections was assembled differently, in no small part because I was in a very different place in my career when each one came out. Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings was my first collection, but I had been writing stories for years, so when I was putting it together it was just kind of a situation of, “what are the best stories I’ve written so far, and which ones fit together.”

When it came time to publish Painted Monsters, I had a lot more published stories under my belt, and so I had the opportunity to do something different. With it, I had a very specific theme in mind. I had written a lot of stories that dealt with horror film–either head-on or more surreptitiously–and I decided that I wanted to release a collection that mapped the history of horror cinema, from the German Expressionist films of the silent era to the found footage ghost movies that were in theaters when I was writing.

With Guignol, I didn’t have the same kind of theme in mind, but I was also drawing from stories written across a smaller period of time. The stories in Painted Monsters span years of my writing, with a few of them having been written back before I was writing for a living. By contrast, all the stories in Guignol were written over the last couple of years, and they were written during a time when I was dealing with a lot of stress and trauma, which found its way into my writing. As such, while Guignol doesn’t have the high-concept of Painted Monsters, there are certainly themes that run through all the stories in it, about dealing with trauma, and the ways in which the past is never as far behind us as we might like.

With any collection, only certain stories are going to “fit,” and sometimes what that actually means is as nebulous as a gut feeling. In the case of Guignol, I had originally intended to include a story called “The House of Mars” and not to include the story “Dream House,” but I couldn’t make the collection come together. My wife is the one who suggested that “House of Mars” didn’t fit, and after dropping it out and putting “Dream House” in, everything suddenly snapped into place.

Your recent story, “The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene),” appeared in The Dark last summer. What was the inspiration behind this story? Also, did you have any specific actresses in mind as the inspiration for the mother character?

There were a lot of factors that went into me writing “The Hurrah” how and when I did. I wanted to write about horror conventions, and I wanted to write about my own changing relationship with the genre, which I’ll talk a bit more about below, but mostly, I had seen the 2015 film The Final Girls, which is this surprisingly touching movie about a young woman trying to establish some connection with her dead mother through this low-rent slasher film that her mom was in once.

I loved that idea, but the movie tackled it so well that I knew I couldn’t just borrow it whole cloth, so I ended up taking it in a different direction.

In the story, I mention Jamie Lee Curtis and Jessica Harper, and if I had any one person in mind, it was probably the latter. But if I was going to dedicate the story to someone, it would be the women who played all the other girls in those slasher movies. The ones who didn’t get to be final girls. The promiscuous best friends and the caustic sorority girls. Nancy Loomis in Halloween or Margot Kidder in Black Christmas.

Painted MonstersStill keeping with this theme, what in your opinion is the perennial appeal of the slasher film? Do you remember the first slasher film you saw, and do you have a personal favorite?

Actually, when I was younger, I didn’t much care for slasher movies. I watched the later installments of the big three (Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street) of course, and I’m of the age where Scream was a big thing for me, but I tended to dismiss slashers in the same way that a lot of people do: as little more than rote body count movies with (for me) boring monsters, or no monsters at all.

It wasn’t until I re-examined the slasher genre from a new perspective–which I picked up thanks to writers like Adam Cesare and Stephen Graham Jones–that I started to get the appeal of the form. To some extent, then, writing “The Hurrah” was a way for me to chart my own changing relationship with slasher films.

As for favorites, my top pick from among the many titles that aren’t part of the big three franchises would probably be the much-maligned April Fool’s Day.

You are slated as a guest for The Outer Dark Symposium this March in Atlanta. You were also a guest last year at the symposium in California. What makes this convention one that you’re eager to be part of? Also, in general, do you tend to get out to a lot of conventions, and if so, what’s made the experience a worthwhile one for you?

I’ll be completely honest and say that part of the reason I made it a point to go to last year’s Outer Dark Symposium is because it was held in the Winchester Mystery House, which is someplace I have always wanted to visit. But I would probably have gone anyway. The Symposium is just a really interesting experiment to me–one long track of panels that everyone attends, so no one misses anything, and laser-focused on the Weird in fiction and media–and the people who put it on are always great fun to hang out with.

I try to do one or two conventions every year. I think the most important thing about them, for me, is just getting to meet people. I find that once I’ve interacted with someone in person, even once, it changes my interactions with them online. I can put a voice, a face, a set of mannerisms to the words on the screen that helps me to interface more naturally and easily. Plus, as someone who is a bit of a homebody, they’re among my only bits of in-person socializing each year.

What’s next for you?

I’m a pretty dedicated short story writer, so the answer to “what’s next” for me is almost always “more short stories.” I recently wrapped up a “story cycle” of linked tales that either have appeared or are slated to appear in various places, and I would love to get them collected together in the near future. I’m also trying to do more film writing. At the moment, I regularly contribute Blu-ray reviews to Signal Horizon and Unwinnable, and I’ve got a follow-up to Monsters from the Vault, my book of essays on vintage horror films, coming out later this year.

Where can we find you online?

My website is orringrey.com and I’m Orrin Grey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Phil Gelatt is trying to get me to sign up for Letterboxd, so when I do that, I’ll be Orrin Grey on there, as well.

Big thanks to Orrin Grey for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

THE RUST MAIDENS is on the Preliminary Bram Stoker Awards Ballot!

So in case you haven’t already heard my screams of joy on social media, I’m beyond thrilled that my debut novel, The Rust Maidens, made it on the 2018 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot.

*insert many, many more screams of joy here*

Now it’s important to note that this is not a nomination, as this is only the preliminary ballot; voting on the official nominees starts this week, with the final ballot being announced in late February. But to make it this far is so truly wonderful, humbling, and exciting.

The Rust MaidensThe Rust Maidens has been out for just over two months now, and it’s been such an incredibly wild ride so far. Last week, I announced the Spanish translation of the novel, which will be released in 2020, and I’ve been fortunate to get some really positive feedback from reviewers. And now is a good time to turn it over to the quotes, since otherwise I’ll just keep babbling with mindless joy (and nobody wants to read that).

“The first full length novel from Kiste comes out of the gate swinging” — Signal Horizon

“Kiste makes her novel debut with this dramatic and absorbing story… This is a tale of friendship, monsters, and growing up, a lyrical and character centered story filled with danger and horrible consequences” — Booklist

“This is radioactive storytelling that hides at margins. It’s plutonic. It’s not a weapon until you realize that it is… Gwendolyn Kiste’s debut novel The Rust Maidens is a phantasmagorical slice of Americana in a long decline.” — Hell Notes

“… a startlingly original first novel from an author with a steady and powerful voice. The risks it takes in developing its themes are fresh and original and pay off handsomely.” — Ancient Logic

“A fantastic debut novel.” — The Horror Fiction Review

The iMailer newsletter from HWA went out earlier this month, which included a special link to download The Rust Maidens, but if you missed that email, then it bears repeating: if you’re an Active or Lifetime member and would like to read my debut novel, please email me at gwendolyn@gwendolynkiste.com, and I would be thrilled to send you a copy of The Rust Maidens!

Congratulations to everyone on the preliminary ballot! It’s a truly amazing group of authors, and I’m so thrilled to be among so many fantastic horror creators! Eeeeee!

Happy reading!

Breathe Deep: Interview with Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to be featuring the amazing Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi! Erin is the author of the dark fiction collection Breathe. Breathe. as well as numerous short stories and poems. Erin is also an avid supporter of her fellow writers and can often be found on social media promoting dark fantasy and horror releases.

Recently, she and I discussed her inspiration as an author, her work in public relations, and how the Ohio landscapes influence her writing.

When did you first decide to become a writer? Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

Erin Sweet Al-MehairiOh, I don’t think I ever made it a point to decide. I just WAS a writer. I never believed in myself much about anything as a kid, but I dabbled in many creative types of things. My parents taught me to be an avid reader and my mom kept me busy in arts and crafts; I kept myself busy playing in the woods and carrying back mud and clay from the creek. I think eventually around junior high I just started to play around with words much as I did with any other art form, as a means of expression. However, I can’t remember the first story or poem I wrote. I wish I could!

My junior year of high school my English teacher encouraged me by saying I should consider writing long-term based on what I wrote for her. I enjoyed reading a lot and thought what it would be like to write a book, specifically at that time Sue Harrison, internationally best-selling author of Mother Earth Father Sky, but thinking I’d never be capable, but at that point she became an inspiration to aspire to lofty goals (and many years later I’d get to become friends with her and let her know!). Poetry seemed a natural start to dabble in and I loved Poe, Frost, Dickinson, Longfellow. During this time, I had written some poems, one of them after my aunt passed from ovarian cancer, which later won a regional contest, and a holiday essay, which won our local newspaper’s contest. For the latter, I got to meet the editor and attend a luncheon and tour the newspaper building.

After that experience, in my senior year, I became editor of our high school newspaper, got the Journalism bug, and then got a substantial scholarship to a university for their Journalism/Communications/English program. At the university level, I became absorbed in using all my writing, and a few years in with my editing (being news editor of the university newspaper), for journalism and non-fiction narrative and didn’t have much time for creative writing outside of classes, except a little poetry. I joined their poetry press organization (as an assistant editor), which two of my English professors managed. They were/are award-winning poets in my state and I was lucky to be able to work on some projects with them. During dark or lonely nights awake, I still put my pencil to notebook and wrote my feelings down that way, in lyrical or poetic styles, experimenting with words, but only for myself.

Ultimately, I wanted my writing to make a difference one day on environmental, animal, political, health, and cultural issues. I wrote and edited plenty of stories, but they were all non-fiction, at first. There are all forms of being a professional writer, and I’ve been a writer and editor for twenty years now in various jobs. My poetry carried through much of that time, though it always remained on the back burner. I wrote a few stories after I had my first child, but all my binders (I write mostly using pencil and paper first) were thrown out by my ex! This is still a huge loss for me still today. The only writing I have is whatever is still at my parent’s house from before I went to college or were written within the last thirteen years. So, like I said at the start, I honestly can’t remember the first fiction stories or poetry pieces I wrote as a youngster before college, but they usually had to do with nature, animals, or fantasy, or dealing with life moments – I wasn’t into writing horror or dark fiction then – and most of my writing still features those elements.

To make a long story short, I think I just evolved into a writer… and being a writer and editor, claimed me in so many ways. I thought I could only do right by my family though being a professional non-fiction writer and editor or have a respectable job in this or a journalism and PR field. No one ever taught me or encouraged me about writing fiction or poetry to put into print that others might read. I lost decades of fiction and poetry to this mind-set. I’m only trying to make up for it now.

And you better believe because of this I encourage all three of my kids in various writing or art endeavors. My eleven-year-old even has an Instagram page of her poetry!

Your dark poetry and short fiction collection, Breathe, Breathe, came out through Unnerving last year. What can you share about the process behind this book? How long have you been working on the pieces in the collection, and how did you choose which ones to include?

Breathe. Breathe.I had some of the poetry written in my stash of unpublished poems. They were a way to allow myself release from the pain I had experienced in my life. Some were a release of my emotions, some were offering hope after looking back over a decade of pain, some were channeled into characters. I re-edited these with a current look and saw a foundation in some of them to build on. I gathered those, and wrote a couple more, plus two short stories, for a chapbook version. When Eddie at Unnerving gave approval for an expanded version, then I put fire to my pencil and I wrote more. My head was all in the same space with the themes within Breathe and I didn’t have too much trouble including almost all of the new ones I’d written. It was as if the collection was writing itself, causing me to meditate, release, grow, and heal, all in a very short period.

I mostly decided which ones based on the major theme of ‘breathing,’ in all its various forms, including ‘not breathing,’ which can be breathing through pain, anxiety, murder, restlessness, trauma, etc. I looked at what I had and then what I needed to write. Next, I chose based on sub-themes of domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault, healing from trauma, if they were Gothic in nature and fit the theme, and finally, I chose to focus on writing about creatures and monsters from nightmares that my mind created or from folklore. I let myself explore humanity, within all these various themes and subjects, and address how far we’ll go as humans to heal pain. Fear was also a major component. All of that encompasses breath, and how when we can’t breathe, we are stuck inside our minds.

Beyond that, I tried to choose an array of poems and stories that really showed off all my writing and touched elements of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, literary, crime, and which highlighted various types of poetry forms and dabbling. I possibly covered way too much ground with this one collection, but I also feel that in explaining all of that, it also did bring itself together in a magical way I can’t explain.

I wrote or chose everything to be in line with the major theme and all the sub-themes to tie threads through it all as a cohesive piece. Sometimes it was subtle, but all of them had some sort of breathing element to it, even if it was just subliminal breathing through fear, pain, loss, or just being chased, murdered, or anxiety-ridden, to simply, literally not being able to breathe. Sometimes it was an unstated statement of “this is what happens when you can’t breathe anymore and anger overtakes you.” The collection is divided up into Acts 1 and 2: breathe through fear and breathe through pain for the poetry and then the section on short stories.

Do you have a specific approach when you sit down to write a piece? Also, does your process differ depending on whether you’re writing fiction or poetry?

I don’t really have a ritual or set approach. I don’t outline, currently. I’m a pantser. I believe in writing full force, just letting it all spill out first, and then doing multiple revisions. With my writing and editing clients, or writing friends, I give them this advice too. It’s what I live myself, so I don’t get too caught up and held up because I only have infrequent moments of writing time. Many people overthink a piece and then never finish. It’s important to get down a first draft, then go back and work on it. I try not to be too calculated, or I can freeze. My mind seems to work best when I don’t “think” and just write. Of course, that probably works best with short stories and poetry, which at the moment is what I’m more productive on, so I do feel the process varies. I often won’t know where a story is going until my pencil scratches it onto the page (yes, pencil and paper). I find myself lucid about 4 or 5 a.m., right after the witching hour, and I scrabble down ideas, poems, or a few pages on a short story. Some longer stories I might stay up past sunrise working on, others I’ll take the idea and formulate a more fleshed out piece later. I write more in the winter, because I have more time then, and that affects my process too, but I’m stealing from all the ideas I had from a summer outdoors too. I’ll often edit something an embarrassing number of times, or leave it sit for months and come back to it and edit it again. As for writing on novels, that’s a bit more complicated. There is more in-depth research. There are more things to tie-up and flesh out. I haven’t used an outline in writing any that are works in progress, but I do formulate ideas ahead of time. The process differs here in that I have to carve out time and really concentrate in chunks and also there is much more editing time. I edit things an overwhelming amount of times. Like this interview I spent six months editing. LOL!

You are currently based in Ohio, my former home state and beloved birthplace. How, if at all, do you find the landscapes of Ohio figuring into your work?

Haunted Are These HousesLandscapes of Ohio feature predominately in my work, as does the whole of nature. Author Mike Thorn said in his review of Breathe. Breathe., in reference to my poetry, “…often depict speakers seeking solace (or warding off danger) in the ludic spaces of the ‘natural world’ – rife with references to forests, lakesides, nonhuman animals and insects.”

I am very inspired in my writing by outdoor places like rivers, forests, lakes, and oceans from all over the world, but most often the Ohio landscape too because of Lake Erie and all our amazing rivers and waterfalls. Water and nature have always been a great love of mine and have always touched my writing somehow. I grew up reading thinkers and poets like Frost, Thoreau, and Dickinson and they inspired me to write about my love of nature. I like to be outdoors when the weather is nice, which is why half of the year in Ohio is often hard for me to endure – though I do try to pull references into my writing from the other seasons as well. In the winter I am so melancholy, which I suppose also seeps into my dark fiction/poetry!

I enjoy hiking and being by the water in Ohio, frequenting Lake Erie shorelines, and you’ll find many references in my past work, and in my upcoming work, to the landscape of the Great Lakes. For instance, my poem “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Tale” was inspired by our lovely Marblehead Lighthouse and “The Driftwood of Wishes” came to me after I walked past a very large half of a tree, with its mangled roots prominent, that had been stripped bare by the water and washed in to the shoreline of Lake Erie where I was taking a walk. Sea glass and seashells from the lake have also been a common theme in my work. “The Lure of the Witch” came during a springtime drive, before the trees bud or flower blooms, in the time after winter in Ohio where everything is wet, bare, and rain and the creeks run high. My Rumpelstiltskin-like short story in Hardened Hearts, where you and I share a TOC, called “The Heart of the Orchard,” was inspired by my love of the many apple and peach orchards in Ohio.

I also like to road trip to rural places in Ohio, on the byways and highways, and off-beaten paths, being a history lover, and I enjoy all the historical elements and architecture our state has to offer. This all inspires me creatively. The rural areas bring thoughts of haunted, creepy things or tales of loss as it’s so old (and you know… rusty!), as well as its own blend of domestic horrors, and the cities, like Cleveland, bring about motivations for characters and setting. The artistic scene in Ohio inspires me too and I often come away with an idea after I’ve been to a gallery or museum or library (so many historic ones – the architecture and stained glass – Oh!) or garden. There are so many little towns and road way stops along the old highway routes, the method travelers used more often before the interstate was built, that are dilapidated but timeless. A bygone era, a step back in time, a horror story waiting to happen. Often times, real horror stories do. It’s also quiet, desolate, and removed from society. I love traveling these roads and picture all the stories going on around me. You’ll often find me telling people that a story or poem first breathed into life when I was riding in the car.

In addition to your writing, you also work as a marketer and publicist in the publishing industry. Has your work in marketing the books of other authors changed how you approach the marketing for your own books? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with writers out there about good tips for promoting their work?

It’s hardest to promote your own work, I think. If I hadn’t had the community support for my work, I don’t know how I’d have done it. I force myself, as a role model to my clients and other authors, to push my work, because I don’t want to be a hypocrite, and because I know it works, but yes, I get massive anxiety every time I post about myself. It really does work best, especially around release, to have lots of other people sharing links, posts, reviews, etc. That is one of the major keys to success in indie horror, I believe.

I don’t think my approach has really changed. I’ve done public relations, media relations, marketing for so many years for so many different things (a healthcare system, a hot air balloon festival, clothing, music, art, government, libraries, non-profits), so I usually take what it is and look at it individually to see all its positives I can offer to promote it. Each author I work with now I view as an individual brand and business. Identify the brand, its target, its current reach, its positives and negatives, and come to a solution, advice, method of play. It’s really no different with my own, except I do believe it works best when an author works with someone (and their publisher) as a team. As I said, someone else supporting and word of mouth is huge.

Hiring a publicist in indie doesn’t mean you can sit back because you’re shy or too busy, generally, depending on how well known you are, your likability factor, your back catalog, and what not. Readers and social media followers are still going to want YOU. So, hire a publicist, and better yet, what I’d prefer to be viewed as, a public relations professional who can consult with you and help you grow. Listen to them when they give you advice on how to present and focus yourself and sell your own work alongside what they are putting out for you. You can’t just hire a blog tour company, or a publicist, and sit back and expect it to work and produce all sorts of reviews and sales for you. It doesn’t work that way.

Hardened HeartsI find that a majority of writers are stubborn. What I’ve done for my own book is put into action what I can’t get most other authors to do (bless the ones that listen). And that’s build yourself as the brand. Once readers like you and support you, they will buy anything because they like your writing and will always read you or they will want to support you at least. I looked at my collection and all the sorts of themes I could pull out of it for various targets and I used that to push out cool references and facts, especially on Twitter. I focused on folklore for a while, tagging #folklorethursday for instance in statuses where I mentioned something folkloric in one of my poems or stories, other months I’ve mentioned my advocacy for domestic violence awareness and showed how my book helped me start to heal, and I also promoted my reviews, but the main thing is I’ve jumped on as many interviews as I could whether print or podcasts. I wrote guest articles with good SEO tags for my book because those are lasting ways for people to find you in a Google search as well as a way for readers to get to know you better.

I’ve been easily promoting my book in any spare time I had for a year now and people are still buying and promoting it, because others are still talking about it on social media. I’m still getting asked for interviews, I just wrote a handful of guest articles for a one-year anniversary celebration, and reviews still roll in.

I’ve been around the indie horror and historical book world for eight years and the voluntary promotion of OTHERS is a must. I still do reviews when I can and host people on my blog. I share other’s work on my social media (and not just those who are my clients). Once you help others, for years before you put out a book, or ongoing, or after you put out a book, people will support you. The right people will, anyway.

Out of your published work, do you have a personal favorite piece?

Picking a favorite piece of writing work is like choosing my favorite child. I have three children and I could never pick a favorite, so though I have many more pieces of work that are my babies too, it’s still hard. I like different ones for various reasons.

From Breathe. Breathe., most people’s favorite is “Dandelion Yellow” due to how they said it was shocking and unforgettable, and I did enjoy writing it, even if it is painful, and consider it one of my best pieces. However, I feel my personal favorite short story so far is “Life Giver of the Nile,” about a woman in modern Egypt’s encounter with the goddess Anuket. This not only stems from my love of Egyptology, but also channels scenes from a re-occuring nightmare of my childhood in which I was being drowned, and I’d wake up gasping for air. I loved being able to write about the streets of Cairo, the Nile, and enjoyed creating the characters.

As for my poetry, from Breathe. Breathe. I’d say maybe “Earl Grey Tea,” which was inspired by the writings of Agatha Christie (and to his horror, a gift of a beautiful tin of this favorite kind of tea of mine from my son). The poem blends my love of mystery, history, and the 1920s and is one of many domestic horror pieces in poetry or prose that I like to create.

I also liked the one I wrote for Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale and folklore magazine, called “Chained by Love,” about the medieval mermaid Melusine and her lover Raymond. I have an obsession with mermaids.

What upcoming projects are you currently working on?

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

I’m also working on a short story collection based on the works of Van Gogh. In larger works, I’m working on a novel still that I’ve been picking away at for years. It’s a revenge novel, featuring an abused woman and the ghost of Emily Dickinson. It takes place in Emily’s hometown. I’m excited for this one.

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

And I am going to be working soon on a few pieces for several anthologies I was invited into for 2019 and some poems and short stories for magazine invites as well.

Hopefully, my friend Duncan Ralston and I will start to flesh out some work on a novel together which features our mutual interest in cults.

Besides that, I’ll be editing more novels and coaching authors starting in January and I will be looking for more options available in which I can curate and edit another anthology.

Big thanks to Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

Happy reading!