Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to feature author Claire C. Holland. Her debut poetry collection, I Am Not Your Final Girl, which was released in February, absolutely knocked my socks off, and I’ve been raving about the book ever since. So naturally, I had to invite Claire on my blog to talk more about her fantastic new book!
Recently, we discussed Claire’s inspiration for I Am Not Your Final Girl as well as her first experience with horror films and her future plans as an author.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My mom is a reading specialist and she deeply encouraged my writing from a young age, and my dad is also a writer so of course he did as well. It’s one of the only things I’ve ever felt I was really good at, so I’m not sure I had a choice. I’ve been a freelance writer for a long time now, but this is my first foray into self-publishing; it’s been exciting!
My favorite authors are the ones who write prose as if they’re writing poetry – I love beautiful language. Janet Fitch, Francesca Lia Block, Laura Kasischke, Nova Ren Suma, Joyce Carol Oates. They’re incredible wordsmiths.
Your marvelous poetry collection, I Am Not Your Final Girl, recently debuted to fantastic reviews. Tell me a little bit about your process in selecting and curating this fantastic group of poems about the female characters of horror. How did you decide which characters to include, and how did you settle on the order of poems in the book?
Thank you so much for your kind words. I started writing the book because I was so consumed by the news surrounding the 2016 presidential election; I felt powerless and angry, and it felt natural to channel those feelings through some of my favorite women characters from horror. I’ve always found the concept of the final girl to be inspiring, and there are so many to choose from today, it was more a matter of narrowing the characters down at first.
The book is split into four sections – Assault, Possession, Destruction, and Transformation – with the characters growing fiercer and the poems becoming more empowered as you read through them. I think I wrote it that way because I was making my own journey through grief and helplessness to a stronger, more proactive state.
How did you first come across the concept of the Final Girl? What was it about this archetype that drew you in?
I’m not sure when I first heard the term “final girl,” but I remember reading Carol J. Clover’s Men, Women, and Chainsaws when I was younger and finding it a revelation. Even if I didn’t realize it as a teenager, horror was there for me at a time when most of society wasn’t truly there for women at all. Horror gave me these tough, badass women to root for and emulate, and it showed me that there isn’t one “correct” way to be a woman. My favorite characters are often anti-heroines or “unlikable” women, which can be difficult to find outside of horror (though the landscape for complex female characters is getting better). In short, horror and the final girl concept gave me a diverse range of female role models that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I also love that the final girl trope continues to evolve as more and more women enter the horror genre.
Do you have a personal favorite piece in the book? Conversely, was there one that was the most difficult to craft?
The first and last poems in the book – “Rosemary” and “Sophia” – are probably my favorites because they just felt right almost as soon as they were on the page. They were actually the first and last poems that I wrote, and it felt very full-circle to come to that final poem. It’s about Sophia from the movie A Dark Song, and she’s a character that finally achieves a sense of peace after losing her child and going through this incredibly arduous and frightening process to see him again. Corny as it may sound, I felt a real sense of gratitude and serenity after finishing that poem.
The hardest poems to write were the ones in the “Transformation” section of the book. I wanted the final section to be an encouraging call-to-action, but I wasn’t entirely at that point, mentally, when I was writing all of those poems. It was easy, for example, to write the “Destruction” poems because I had so much anger to vent; when it came to doing something about that anger and thinking about the next steps, though, that was harder.
What’s the first horror film you remember seeing, and what was your reaction to it?
I think my first “horror memory” is walking in on my family watching Scream one night when I was supposed to be in bed. I was probably eight years old, and I walked in during the opening, right at the moment when Drew Barrymore’s boyfriend is murdered by disembowelment. I was absolutely horrified and disturbed, and did not handle it well (there was a lot of crying). On the other hand, I remember loving Hitchcock’s The Birds as a kid. Just ask my parents – “pecked to death by birds” was my favorite would-you-rather scenario for years.
I absolutely love the cover design of your book! It looks like a perfect relic of the 80s and 90s VHS heyday of horror! Who designed the cover, and how did the artwork develop?
Thank you! I drew the cover myself and then edited it in Photoshop. I knew I wanted it to be reminiscent of old VHS horror movies and pulp novels, so I culled inspiration from a bunch of different film posters like Halloween and Repulsion, among many others. A little fun fact is that the girl on the cover is loosely modeled after Amber from Green Room. Editing the drawing was the much more difficult part, as I have little Photoshop experience. Luckily my husband is extremely talented in digital media and he walked me through a lot of the editing process. I also consulted a ridiculous number of online tutorials.
I know it’s very early to ask (and almost a cliche when it comes to horror), but are you considering a sequel to I Am Not Your Final Girl? Even if you’re only thinking of a sequel hypothetically, are there any Final Girls you would like to include in a follow-up?
There are absolutely some final girls I wish I could have included, but couldn’t fit in for whatever reason: Ginny from Friday the 13th Part 2, Sidney from Scream, Erin from You’re Next. And of course there are fantastic new horror movies with tough female characters coming out all the time these days, so I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to fill up another book with them. That being said, it’s not in my plans right now to write a sequel. I have another horror-related idea I’m currently fleshing out (which still involves a strong female element), so I’m hoping that might become my next book of poetry. I want to keep going with the themes of I Am Not Your Final Girl, but I also want to mix things up a bit.
What other projects are you currently working on?
As I said above, I’m tentatively diving into another feminist horror poetry project, but I have a lot to think about before it’s a real idea. It’s very different from I Am Not Your Final Girl in terms of form, but I want to try something new. A friend of mine also pitched what I think is a great idea for a horror podcast, so I might make a little foray into the podcasting world (purely for fun). I’m mainly excited to keep meeting people in the horror and poetry communities through my work and the work of others. It’s been wonderful to connect with so many talented people who are passionate about the same things I am.
Tremendous thanks to Claire C. Holland for being this week’s featured author. Find her online at her website as well as on Twitter!