Welcome back for part three in our Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! This week, we’re focusing on the advice that these seven fantastic authors would offer to new female horror writers as well as what different subgenres of horror they might like to explore in the future!
So let’s take it away!
What’s the most important advice you would offer to a female horror author who’s just starting out?
GABY TRIANA: Just write what you write. Don’t worry about industry trends, don’t listen to your agent (ha!), just write what’s inside of your heart, and your passion will come through. When that happens, like-minded readers will find you. You will become the only person who can write your story exactly the way you can. Before you know it, you will carve out your own niche. Don’t second-guess yourself. You are amazing exactly the way you are. Just write your passion!
LINDA D. ADDISON: It’s very important to write what comes/appeals to you, without editing yourself, without judging whether you should be writing it. Write it as well as possible and submit to the top markets. Why not?
Read everything, not just what you like to write, other genres, forms. Try writing other things, to exercise your writing muscles. I’ve been journaling since high school; my journals are the source of most of the writing I’ve published. I write everything that crosses my mind: themes, characters, dialogue, anything that finds its way into my mind.
R.J. JOSEPH: I haven’t pulled out of my middle-aged cynicism far enough about this genre to really offer really positive advice. Sigh. However, I will borrow some that I repeat to myself often. I had the chance to sit in on a talk with Tananarive Due a couple of years ago. As I mentioned earlier, I love her work and have been frustrated that I don’t see people paying her to be all over the horror genre. I asked her if she was frustrated at having been at this for so long and watching folks act like Jordan Peele (who’s a genius, by the way) is the first black person they’ve ever seen do horror. She basically said she didn’t have the time to be frustrated because she stayed busy writing, writing, and writing. She said that by not dwelling on frustration, she had tons of work to pitch when the door opened in horror for Black people. I see that worked for her.
I would say to a new female horror writer: things aren’t as equitable as they should be for us just yet, but if you keep writing, writing, and writing, you’ll have a slew of work up for grabs when the door finally gets kicked down. Just don’t let the lack of opportunities get you to stop writing. If you can stop writing, you probably should.
V. CASTRO: Don’t compare. It is so hard to not to compare your journey to someone else’s journey. You can be happy for someone’s success and feel like a failure if you are not achieving the same.
Publishing is full of rejection and false starts. Keep going and put on blinders if you must. Write what feels right for you. No one else can tell your story.
G.G. SILVERMAN: First and foremost, embrace the darkness and write what you want to write. Ignore anyone who says that because you’re a woman, you can’t (or shouldn’t) write horror. Stick to your guns.
Also, horror, historically, has been treated as the lesser-loved stepchild of the literary world, but I think women are changing that viewpoint because of the nuances and expansion they’ve brought to the genre, and I think all writers benefit from having women in the genre.
So, ladies, if you’re writing something that feels bold and risky and you’re unsure of it and afraid to go forward, dig deep and keep going, because what you’re most afraid of is exactly the kind of work you should be doing, because it’s work that hasn’t been done yet, and the literary world needs it.
SONORA TAYLOR: Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, your books, and your accomplishments. Women are raised to be silent or, at best, humble about their accomplishments. Saying “I wrote a book and I’m proud” is not arrogant. Posting a link to your book and asking people to buy it is not being annoying. You need to market yourself! And, you need to market yourself with confidence. If you’re nervous about putting yourself out there, keep it simple. Something like, “My novel, X, is now available! Give it a read.” Easy, nothing asshole-y, and honestly, if someone thinks that’s annoying, that’s on them, not you.
Are there any subgenres of horror (e.g. body horror, sci-fi-horror, etc.) that you haven’t explored yet in your work but would like to? Likewise, are there any mediums (e.g. poetry, long fiction, nonfiction, novels) that you’re looking forward to writing one day or perhaps exploring more than you already have?
EDEN ROYCE: I’d love to tackle a horror romance and a horror crime noir. Possibly in the same book. My debut novel, Root Magic, is a first for me in many ways. Not only is it my first novel-length work, it’s my first work for a middle-grade age group (8-12). But I’ve found a lot of adults love reading middle-grade work, as well. Especially this kind of Southern Gothic with folklore, monsters, and magic.
GABY TRIANA: I’ve always wanted to write sci-fi horror. ALIEN is still one of my most favorite movies ever, and it’s always been in the back of my mind to write something set in space. Besides that, I think I’m perfectly happy writing witchy occult novels. It’s taken me a while to find my way home. Now that I’m here, I’m going to explore more. The only other format I’d be interested in writing, only because they say I write in a cinematic, scene-setting way as is, is screenplays. Otherwise, I’m perfectly happy with full-length novels!
LINDA D. ADDISON: Per subgenres, I write what comes to me without knowing what labels it would fit. I’m also inspired to try new things, so I can’t tell you what may come next, but I suspect something different.
I’ve avoided novels most of my career because I was afraid of starting one and getting lost in it, but I just finished my first novel! I have plans for several other novels. So we’ll see how that works out.
R.J. JOSEPH: I’m always dabbling in poetry because I just love how words feel and look and I like playing around with the space they take up. I’m not nearly as good at it as I’d like to be, so I’ll keep practicing. I haven’t written a novel length work since my grad school thesis (which was a romance novel, anyway), so at some point, I would like to write a horror novel. That goal is quite daunting, though, because my brain mostly works in short story or comic book form for horror. I’ve started but not finished a couple of horror novellas that I want to get back to at some point. My most recent forays in a slightly different direction has been towards screenplays. When I write poetry or short stories, I always see the stories in my head. A couple of short stories I wrote won’t stop haunting me until I finish their screenplays and give them some chance to be seen in film.
V. CASTRO: I just go for it. I explore all areas because I feel life generates experiences that can be expressed in all subgenres of horror. For me, the story dictates the length. You never know until you begin walking the path.
G.G. SILVERMAN: In truth, I feel as if I could stand to explore body horror a bit more, especially since my whole life as a woman, with experiences of disability, feels like body horror, haha.
As for future mediums, someday I will likely plunge into long fiction again, and I want to continue to get better at poetry.
SONORA TAYLOR: Hmm, that’s a good question! I actually love body horror but struggle with writing it. My short story, “Always in My Ear,” actually started as one that was more body horror-oriented, with the devices that people use to listen to podcasts 24/7 having dangerous effects. However, my story kept struggling until I shifted the focus to the two women and their violent personalities instead (though the devices still make an appearance). Maybe I’ll take another crack at body horror in the future, but a lot of what I write is centered on the mind.
I’d love to try writing a screenplay. I love writing dialogue and would find it interesting to write a story in my head truly cinematically. I’ve written short scripts and a treatment for a TV show once (it was a class assignment, nothing actually on TV), and would like to do it again.
And that concludes part three of our Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! Head on back here next week for the final installment in our series!
Happy reading, and happy Fright Girl Summer!