Category Archives: Interviews

Future and Advice: Part Four of the 2021 Women in Horror Roundtable

Welcome back to the final part in our Women in Horror Month Roundtable! Today, we discuss the best writing advice these authors have received along with what they’ve got planned next!

So let’s take it away!

What advice would you like to give to women who are just starting out in the horror genre? Also, is there any particular piece of advice you’ve received over the years that has stuck with you?

HAILEY PIPER: Find your sisters in the genre; we uplift each other. Know that taking time and space for you to write is not a selfish thing, because inevitably someone is going to tell you it is. They’re wrong. The piece of advice that’s greatly helped me is to treat rejection as part of writing, not as an adversary. I like that better myself; I’m not about adversaries and conquering. Everything exists in cycles.

JESSICA GUESS: Honestly, just write what you want. Boring white men do it all the time. Don’t hinder yourself by thinking, “Will people get this? Will they like it?” The question is do you like it? Does this story do something for you? If it does something for you then it will probably do something for someone else.

GEMMA AMOR: My number one piece of advice: don’t compare yourself to others. My second piece of advice: other authors are not the enemy. This genre has a wonderful community that works best when we work to lift each other up, rather than tear each other down. I think as a general rule, treat others as you wish to be treated, and just try to build up as regular a routine as you can, writing every single day- it really is the only surefire way to get any significant body of work down. Don’t be daunted by what you deem as the success of your peers or those around you, and keep your eyes firmly fixed on your own work, making it the best it can be. Also, promote, promote, promote- we all have to do it, there is no shame in it, and anyone who makes you feel icky about trying to sell your own work so you can earn an income from it can, quite frankly, get in the bin ( or trash can for your American audience ha). The best advice I’ve ever received from anyone has been the simplest: just keep going, a bit like that fish in Finding Dory. Keep swimming. Don’t give up. You may or may not be an overnight success -if you are, amazing. If not, it takes years and years to build skills and a readership. Don’t be afraid to dedicate yourself to the long haul, and Just. Keep. Going.

L. MARIE WOOD: Write what you want to write.  Basic, right?  But for me no truer words have ever been said.  Writers are often told to write to fit specific markets, to make their characters fit certain categories or to make their stories more mainstream.  I remember that I jumped on that bandwagon once and wrote a story that I didn’t enjoy – not the writing, not the editing, not the reading – not one second ever.  The work was meh because I had been meh throughout the whole process.  I don’t want to feel that way when I write.  I want to feel excited by my characters, pleasantly surprised by their decisions, proud of the outcome.  I think readers like to read stories that make them feel some combination of those things too.  So, write what you want to write and see where that takes you.

Years ago I was told to keep writing.  It was something that a person who had read my first few short stories said.  We met at a signing and they were excited to meet me because they had read my work (!!!).  At the end of the conversation, he said, “Keep writing!” and my mind snatched the phrase out of the air to store in my mental safe.  His parting words make their way out of their locked box when I am busy and haven’t sat down to write in a week or when I am sure I have run out of ideas to write about.  It’s the cheerleading I didn’t know I needed.

Keep writing.

You betcha.

ANGELA SLATTER: Gods, there’s a lot but I think the following are probably most relevant at the moment:

  1. Don’t self-reject from anthologies. Send your work everywhere, do not stop. If no one gets to read your work and see what you can create then it’s going to be very hard to get published. A lot of women writers automatically say “Oh, I’ll never be accepted for such-and-such an anthology” – but you know what? You just might.
  2. Watch what other women writers further on in their career do – and if you can adopt the confidence of a mediocre man or a five-year-old in a Batman t-shirt, then you’re well on your way. Build a network of other female writers and help each other along whenever you can.
  3. Don’t answer reviews.
  4. Never stop learning.
  5. Never give up.

K.P. KULSKI: Write what makes your heart flutter in dark joy. Be true to yourself because writing fiction can be one of most honest things we can do. Also, you are the only one who gets to decide if you have a shot at your dreams, no one else can make that decision for you and once you do, don’t let anyone convince you to give up.

I also firmly believe in pushing each other up, in publishing, as writers and as women. Celebrate the success of others, they worked hard too.

DONYAE COLES: My advice is that there is no limit. Write whatever fucked up thing you just thought about, write it, it’s fine. And also, go ahead and just submit that. Keep submitting, someone will eventually say yes.

LAUREL HIGHTOWER: Get involved! I realize I just got done saying you can’t stay plugged in all the time, and social media isn’t for everyone, but every single good thing that’s happened in my writing career has been through Twitter. Join groups like the Ladies of Horror Fiction, read and plug other writer’s books. And don’t be afraid to embrace writing what speaks to you. Make it female as hell, make it gay, imbue it with every part of your personal experience. Make it brutal or quiet or whatever speaks to you. It’s recent advice, but Tim Waggoner noted in WRITING IN THE DARK that his agent told him not to be afraid to write horror, and that was big for me. I’d been twisting myself in knots trying to write something that wouldn’t get endless rejections that boiled down to “too many ghosts.” Guess what? I love ghosts, and I love horror, and it’s my genre. So write what brings you joy.

What’s next for you? What projects are you working on now, and what do you have coming out in the near future?

DONYAE COLES: As I am answering these questions I have a couple of full manuscripts that will be going on submission soon. One is a slasher, the other is Gothic. Fingers crossed, trying to get that book money. I have shorts coming out in a Cemetery Gates antho, Nightmare Magazine, Pseudopod and Fantasy Magazine so follow me on twitter to keep abreast of those.

JESSICA GUESS: I have short stories out now in Shiver: A Chilling Horror Anthology and We Are Wolves. Right now, I’m plugging away at another novella. I don’t know when it will be done but I think it’ll be a good one.

GEMMA AMOR: I have a whole host of projects I am working on, some I can talk about and some I can’t. I’m currently writing a haunted house book called Six Rooms, due to be published by Cemetery Gates Media soon, and have another collection of travel-themed horror stories coming out as soon as I can get around to finishing it. I have some exciting things in the works with the wonderful NoSleep podcast, and various other podcasts- including working on the second season of Calling Darkness with co-creator and co-writer S.H. Cooper. I’m working on some awesome book cover art for various clients and am keeping my fingers and toes firmly crossed for some exciting projects I’ve been working hard on to come to fruition- half of this game is about waiting for things to land, but I’m getting better at being patient (I’m really not ha ha).

Mostly though, I am just looking forward to a return to some semblance of normality, to meeting some of the community in person, and to rediscovering the joy of writing- so I guess, watch this space, because when this is all over I am coming for you all with a huge bottle of gin in one hand, and hugs aplenty.

L. MARIE WOOD: So many things!  I mentioned that The Promise Keeper is coming out in February.  I will also have a few other releases this year, including the second book of The Realm series called Cacophony, which comes out in October.  I will be presenting at the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference at StokerCon and I’ll be ready for MultiverseCon later in the year.  There are other things that I can’t talk about yet (ooh, so cloak and dagger!) but check me out online to stay up to date:

www.lmariewood.com (there is a blog you can sign up for!)

Twitter:  @LMarieWood1

FB: www.facebook.com/LMarieWood

ANGELA SLATTER: I’ve just sent in the final edits for The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales to Tartarus Press – they’ll publish that mosaic collection in Feb. And my first novel for Titan – a gothic fantasy called All the Murmuring Bones – is due out in March. Next I’m finishing off the novel Morwood (also for Titan), A Holy Darkness (a novella with J.S. Breukelaar), Darker Angels (a novella for Electric Dreamhouse Press), and starting to write The Bone Lantern for Absinthe Press.

K.P. KULSKI: I am working on a project that I’ve shelved many times. I don’t think I knew how to tell the story just yet. After some urging from my old critique partners, I was convinced to pull it back out. It’s the right time, the story entwines Korean folktales, shamanism with Celtic mythos. Something of a portal fantasy, but dark and desperate, filled with brutality and beauty—all seething in the forest.

I am also working on what I think will be a novella but possibly a novelette. The story originally started as a short but grew into something bigger. I’ve been calling it my “the Yellow Wall Paper meets Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away” story and of course, there are witches.

LAUREL HIGHTOWER: I just finished a total rewrite of a manuscript, SILENT KEY. I’m letting it pickle a bit, then hope to edit and submit this year. I’ve got several short stories coming out in anthologies this year, and would love to put out a short story collection, and I’m working on several collaborations I’m excited about. There’s nothing solid on publications, but hoping that will change soon!

HAILEY PIPER: Right now I’m nailing down details on a work in progress from December 2020, a few short stories that I need to get finished up, and finalizing details for 2021’s releases. In spring, The Seventh Terrace will release my first short story collection, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy, and later Rooster Republic via Strangehouse Books will release my first novel, Queen of Teeth, a story of body horror, first in hardcover during the summer and then in paperback around November 2021. And then there’s a smattering of short stories appearing in Dark Matter Magazine, Far From Home, Hymns of Abomination, and more.

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month! 

Rituals and Chaos: Part Three of the 2021 Women in Horror Roundtable

Welcome back for part three in our 2021 Women in Horror Roundtable! Today we talk all about how the upheaval of the last year has affected our authors’ writing as well as the self-care rituals that help keep them on track.

So let’s take it away!

How has the upheaval of 2020 affected your work? Do you find yourself writing more or less often, and have the themes of your writing changed at all?

JESSICA GUESS: I’m writing less. I don’t have any other answer. It’s crazy because I have the motivation to write as well as the ideas, but the will isn’t there. Everything that’s going on plus work, plus taking care of my mom has pretty much taken all the energy I have. Right now, I’m reading more and watching more horror movies to distract myself.

GEMMA AMOR: Gosh, my writing life changed in every single way imaginable. I am a mother, and schools have been closed, so my day job quickly became my second job that was often carried out in the small hours of each morning and that grew so draining my writing certainly suffered as a result. I likened it to trying to wade through cold porridge- everything felt stodgy and bland and just lacking in any spark or vitality. That being said, I did manage to push through and meet most of my obligations, but it was the toughest work year of my career and the toughest year of my life on a personal level, so yes– it came out in my work, which I think was a lot bleaker in tone now I come to think about it. I plan on addressing that with future works, and I want to get back to what I think made my writing pop before this giant coronavirus shitshow came along– having fun with the words again. Because if it isn’t fun, what’s the point? Perhaps easier said than done right now, but it’s there as a goal– have fun writing again.

L. MARIE WOOD: I just finished writing my second novel of the year last night and, while waiting for the manuscript to print because I am old school and intend to mark it up with my red pen, I took stock of my output in 2020… and… I’ve written A LOT.  Just under 300k words and they were a mix of novels, short stories, essays, presentations, screenplays, novellas, and even a poem stuck in there for good measure.  I wrote because I had the ideas.  I wrote in the middle of the night because that was when I had time –- that is usually when I have time, so nothing really changed there.  I did not write about the pandemic or its effect on me or the world around me.  That is not what I normally write about -– it is, indeed, too realistic to provide the escapism I strive to provide and look for in my own reading selections.  So, even thought we suffered considerable strain this year, I did not let that worm its way into my work.  The writing itself – the normalcy of it – was cathartic.

ANGELA SLATTER: I found in the first three weeks of lockdown in Australia, I was kind of lost. There was no inspiration to write, everything felt like we were living in a horror novel – which is very different from just imagining it for the purposes of writing! Like pretty much everyone, I wasn’t sleeping well, lots of nightmares, the constant stress sitting on your chest when you were awake, and of course watching a lot of income dry up as face-to-face teaching and appearances were off the table. But gradually I just kept pushing and the words started to return, so it became a kind of therapy – the only thing I could do, I guess! So, in the end I’ve been pretty productive this year. I’ve probably written more out and out horror this year, with less shall we say metaphorical padding to take the edge off? “The Wrong Girl” (Nightmare, 23 Dec 2020) is one of those stories with a lot of blood and flesh in the teeth.

K.P. KULSKI: 2020 was one hell of a century. I have hopes for 2021 but with this last year under our belts, I’ve learned to be extremely anxious about having hope. My writing time has been dented by what a lot of parents are experiencing, virtual school and trying to balance it all. I also moved in 2020, so that was added craziness.

With that said, I spent a lot of time thinking about racism in particular, which led to thinking more about my own hapa experience and of how much my immigrant mother went through. I poured that pondering and emotional energy into a novella. I’m finding the theme popping up more in my stories, along with a subsequent sense of isolation.

DONYAE COLES: I wrote a lot less in the beginning of everything but I’ve been writing a lot more since September. The themes in my writing haven’t really changed because the things my writing deals with (race, gender, poverty) haven’t really changed.

LAUREL HIGHTOWER: My writing has ebbed and flowed a bit this year –- part of it is the mental grind of worry about the pandemic and political situation, the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. It’s impossible to be unaffected by that, and on top of it, my toddler son has been home from daycare since March. My husband and I are both working full time from home, so my days are long with no breaks until late. I’d been writing only during his naps on weekends, but then his sleeping got erratic and I panicked. I really felt like I’d have to put writing on hold, but then I listened to writers like Hailey Piper, Red Lagoe and Jonathan Janz, who (without the slightest judgment on anyone else) are committed to making it work into their schedules. I found time in the mornings, and in the evenings, and since I’ve been writing everyday now, I feel much more in the flow of it.

Whether it’s fully related to the upheaval of the year or not, I do think my work has become a lot more personal, and observant of the frustrations of my situation. I love being a woman, and I love being a mom, but there are unbelievable rifts between what’s expected of women versus men. I’m not saying that in a man bashing spirit, or writing that way either, but out of a desire to examine my own feelings, express them in a horror palette, and maybe find ways to improve my situation.

HAILEY PIPER: I probably wrote about the same amount of work, but the shape certainly changed. I spent 2019 largely writing short fiction. In 2020 though, I wrote only a few short stories and instead channeled the time and energy into three books. The energy to it changed, too, maybe from lack of public socialization. My approach has become wild and unapologetic. The world is a chaotic place, so why hold back our own feminine chaos?

Writing is a tough business to say the least. Do you have any particular self-care rituals or ways that have helped you cope with being part of an often difficult industry?

JESSICA GUESS: I try not to take things personally. I learned that early on with doing workshops. You can’t take anything anyone says about your work personally. You have to remember that readers are coming to your work with their own perceptions and worldviews and sometimes they’ll put things on your work that you didn’t intend. Or they’ll have expectations that you weren’t trying to reach. I’ll never forget one workshop experience where the instructor accused me of having a racist stereotype of Asians in my short story when the character in question was actually a Black Trinidadian. She accused me of other stuff too that had nothing to do with my story. I was hurt for a while, but I kinda knew that she was putting her own stuff on my work. It wasn’t me. She didn’t even read the story carefully to know the ethnicity of the character she was mad about and she’s a famous writer and creative writing instructor! If she can do that, what do you expect of the average reader?

GEMMA AMOR: Lots. Having strict rules about what I am comfortable engaging with on social media has been the most significant act of self-care I could have initiated for myself and I continue to hold to my rules every day. I have extremely firm boundaries surrounding who I want to communicate and interact with, and that is okay– often throughout my life I have felt apologetic for not enjoying something, or not getting along with certain people. But it’s ridiculous to assume you are going to get everyone to like you or be everyone’s cup of tea– the world just doesn’t work that way. So I stick to my boundaries and it makes me a lot less anxious about myself and my place in the world as a result.

Other than that, I walk, a lot, to take care of both my brain and my body, I will often figure out a tricky plot point that way, or else, in a scalding hot bath. I love baths. I think I might be part-mermaid or eel (or manatee).

I also have about three or four dedicated beta readers/editorial type folk who often help carry me through the difficult part of writing a novel or anything of great length– particularly that stodgy middle bit of a novel that everyone hates– I find that reaching out to them for reassurance and feedback is an incredibly important part of my creative process, and I value them enormously.

It sounds a little hippy as well, but one of the best ways I find to be kind to myself in this often emotionally charged and rather cutthroat industry is to enjoy the work of my peers and help promote them where possible. I literally jump for joy when I see a fellow writer land an exciting contract or tv show or whatever– it gives me hope and a real sense of community, which I personally find really inspiring and fuels me on. I think sometimes people can find that ‘Pollyanna’ attitude disingenuous or frustrating, but one thing I have learned is that the feeling of being isolated (a huge issue for me at the moment what with multiple lockdowns in the UK thanks to corona) really does exacerbate imposter syndrome and your creativity by a significant amount– only the other day I was talking about always feeling on the fringes of things, and never quite belonging to any one place. This is a nasty and insidious ideology that can nip a burgeoning writing career at the bud, and one way I get around these feelings is to immerse myself in other people in my genre. I mean, I just prefer to try where possible to think outside my own personage– having said that, writers by nature spend a lot of time thinking about themselves and talking about themselves because they are quite literally selling themselves to their readers, and as I get older I am increasingly aware of this. I’m not a huge fan of me, me, me, so I try and interact with others as much as possible.

Having said that, the last year has been an absolute slog. I have found reading anything longer than a few hundred words almost impossible, so I feel I’ve fallen behind in purchasing and reading the works of my peers– but I hope to get back on the case soon– the apocalypse can’t last forever, right?

L. MARIE WOOD: Interesting question!  I think that, at the beginning of my career, I would have answered quite differently than I will now.  I can remember going out to dinner to get my mind off of a rejection letter or getting my nails done to try and drive away my frustration over my perceived lack of progress.  Not so anymore.  Rejections will come – they are part of the cycle, and while I don’t like them any more now than I did before, I recognize their role in the general scheme of things.  I still get irritated by them but if I had intended to write when one came in, I don’t throw in the towel for the day and come back later.  Writing time is precious these days, so write, I will… after a few sips of wine and a few deep breaths.

ANGELA SLATTER: I try really hard to recognise when I’m grinding my gears: if I haven’t had a proper rest or just refilled the creative well by reading, going to the movies, binge-watching tv series, taking walks, talking to the dogs, etc. Just generally making a point of stopping until I catch up with myself and feel more focused and inspired.

K.P. KULSKI: Alone time is important to me and can be a challenge to obtain, but I have learned that my introvert soul doesn’t do well without a solitary well refill. I have to take time to myself just to be alone with my thoughts. I take as many opportunities to do this as I can. Reading is always a good source of self-care, either dark fiction or history is my jam.

Another thing that always gives me a sense of peace is reading to my kids. We’ve enjoyed a lot of stories together especially mythology from around the world.

DONYAE COLES: I do a lot of art but I don’t think that’s self care really because that’s just. . . the other thing I do with my time. I read a lot. I knit and crochet. I am a creative or I am a cozy creature doing soft things wrapped in a blanket, there is no in between.

LAUREL HIGHTOWER: Stepping away has been the biggest, and most effective way I’ve cared for myself this year. Things happen in the world, in our community that need addressing, and I’m all for that. I don’t believe in putting on a good face and keeping things surface level so that resentments and straight up wrongs fester. But everyone has their threshold. I reached a point of anxiety this summer that stopped me from sleeping for about a month. That’s simply not feasible – it’s miserable, I have no childcare, and there’s no way to take a day off and rest. I realized it’s not healthy for me to be connected all the time, and that I need to protect myself from certain situations. In the same vein, I stopped reading reviews of my work, because it got to the point where it was hurting my feelings. I don’t believe in censorship of reviews – people should feel comfortable voicing their opinions about what they read, and even if my best friend hates my work and gives it one star, we’re still cool. But when it’s taking up head space, it’s time to stop. Oh, also massage, when possible. I am horrible at relaxing, so making myself leave the house and lay still for an hour is immensely helpful.

HAILEY PIPER: Having good friends who understand has been truly helpful. We keep check on each other, hear each other out, offer advice and solace. I’m tremendously lucky to have made friends with such wonderful people in the community. Reading also helps. I crave reading time desperately; it helps shut away everything else. A good reading session is especially cleansing.

And that’s it for Part Three of our roundtable! Join us next week for the conclusion of our Women in Horror feature for 2021!

Happy reading!

Genre Favorites: Part Two of the 2021 Women in Horror Roundtable

Welcome back for Part Two in our Women in Horror Roundtable! Today we discuss what draws these eight amazing authors to the horror genre as well as their favorite reads by women in horror over the last year.

So let’s take it away!

What draws you to the horror genre? Do you feel like horror is particularly suited to address the experiences of women?

JESSICA GUESS: I’m drawn to horror because the stakes are always high. The main character is fighting for their life or the lives of people close to them or their immortal soul or something. For the second part of your question, I mean the genre itself proves that it is suited for women. I don’t know the exact percentage of horror movies with female lead characters, but I’d bet it’s extremely high. Part of setting the atmosphere in a horror movie is having your lead character be in some state of vulnerability. There’s a perceived built-in vulnerability with women because we’re seen as weaker. Added on to that the fact that it is indeed scary to be a woman.

GEMMA AMOR: I really do. This is probably because I lean heavily into the type of horror writing that serves as an exsanguination of my own personal traumas and history and experience, and that, by nature, has involved many themes and issues deemed ‘female’ in nature (I often write about my struggles with postnatal depression, for example). I think if you are looking for other issues that are increasingly being explored in the horror space, everything from motherhood to body trauma to identity crisis to being told to ‘smile’ on a daily basis by people who expect a certain behaviour from a certain section of society- many of these are unique to the experience of being or identifying as a woman, and horror feels like a perfect genre within which to explore that- whether it is by stint of using a ghost as a metaphor for loss or pain, or werewolves or wendigos to explore empowerment, or psychological horror to showcase some of the more complex, nuanced emotions surrounding the loss of a child, for example- this is definitely the most versatile and accommodating genre to address the unique and individual experience of being a woman, in my opinion.

This is partly what draws me to the genre and always has, this, and the fact that within horror, your imagination can really run riot. There are no boundaries with horror- I adore the extraordinary freedom that affords me as a writer.

L. MARIE WOOD: I have always written psychological horror fiction.  Since the age of five I have been interested in the thing that hides in the shadows, the fear of the unknown.  With such a specific sub-genre, one that lends itself to the tenets of thrillers and mystery and suspense so easily, infusing subtle fear into a realistic landscape has always fascinated me.  Indeed, I have always looked at life with my head tilted at an angle because I see the thing lurking behind the tree at the park, even when no one else does.  I don’t know that I think that horror is particularly suited to address the experiences of women, but I do think that it provides a platform for alternative mindsets, for outcomes that are not traditional, for the hero to be the skinny girl in the corner rather than the big, burly guy standing out in front.  In that way the playing field can be made equal, creating opportunities for new approaches in storytelling.

ANGELA SLATTER: Again, I think it’s the link to fairy tales – my reading matter as a kid (and the stories that were read to me by my mother) all came from the old-style fairy stories. Unsanitised, frightening, nightmare-giving bedtime stories. I think horror speaks very deeply to women’s experiences in the world: regarded as “carriers” for children, still subject to death in childbirth in a world with so many medical advances, no control over our own bodies, we’re most frequently the victims of crime – and more often than not we’re murdered by someone who’s supposed to love and protect us. So, yes, it is particularly suited to addressing women’s experiences!

K.P. KULSKI: I find horror to be perfect to externalize the all too often, very personal and internalized trauma that many women experience. It is the mental health toll. The everyday erosion of someone’s humanity. In horror, we can put that on display, erode the flesh of someone physically and we can see the viscera.

For example, maybe every time she’s harassed on the street she loses something of herself. In horror we can make this physical and bring home the depths of the horror of those experiences. It becomes a lot more difficult to argue that something is not painful when there is blood. Horror also allows others to experience the fear and struggle in a personal way.

DONYAE COLES: Gods, I’ve always been here. I think I’m just like this? Probably because my mom let me watch the Dungeon and Dragons cartoon and Billy Idol videos or she listened to Thriller too much. Actually it might have been 80s MTV who knows! I’ve always been drawn to horror movies and ghost stories. Life is full of creep.

I think that horror is really good at unpacking the experiences of women many of which always contain some element of terror long after you’ve come through the other side. I feel like horror stories aren’t ever really over, they’re just asleep for awhile and that’s part of what makes them scary because this thing can always come back. And that’s a lot of the experience of being a woman.

The things we go through aren’t ever really over, they’re just asleep in us and maybe they never wake up for us again but the cycle is forever and we will always, always carry that inside of us, whatever it is. And I think horror tells those stories a lot better than fantasy or science fiction where you leave the planet or you slay the beast but with horror, you know, it’s always ready for a repeat. The book can never be destroyed, the tomb can only be so sealed, the curse has been put to rest FOR NOW.

LAUREL HIGHTOWER: What initially drew me to horror was the thrill – I love ghosts and ghost stories, and have always enjoyed that delicious little chill that comes with settling in for a scare. The concept of employing it as a vehicle for addressing the experiences of women has occurred to me much more recently – it came about by accident. I’m not someone who ever thought I was capable of writing short fiction. In 2020 I started to try, because I had a couple of ideas that seemed right for the length. After a false start or two, I realized what was fueling my ideas was the daily truth of my existence as a woman. I wrote a short story about what happens when women are told to smile, and another about body dysmorphia after having a child. I’m older now, and maybe a little more irritable, and some of the things I’m stewing on come out best as a pithy horror story. Maybe it doesn’t solve the intrinsic, societal aspects of what I’m pissed about, but it gives me a constructive vehicle to express how I feel about it.

It’s also been eye opening, and a bonding experience, to read the experiences of other women in a short story format. When we started receiving stories for WE ARE WOLVES I was struck by what a range of tone and subject matter there was, and saw through the eyes of other women what they perceived as horror. I treasure that, and have been seeking out more works of that nature, because the more experiences and viewpoints we’re open to, the better we’re able to understand and appreciate one another.

HAILEY PIPER: Absolutely; we live and breathe horror. Where we go, what we can do, when, what happens to our bodies; it’s all steeped in horror. I think horror comes naturally to us, especially when we look it in the eye and then embrace it. For me, I’m drawn to dark fiction because horror is healing, empowerment, honesty. I find validation in its stories of pain, hope in its triumphs, be they human or monstrous. And any weirdness helps my weirdo self feel like I belong.

There was a lot of tremendously great horror written by women in 2020. What are your favorite horror stories or books by female authors from the last year, in particular works that you wish would have gotten more attention?

JESSICA GUESS: Seeing Things by Sonora Taylor was an awesome read. Sonora’s writing is humorous and terrifying at the same time. I love it. Also, All You Need is Love and A Strong Electric Current by Mackenzie Kiera was another amazing novella from Rewind or Die. There were so many great books by women in that line up—Food Fright, Hells Bells, The Kelping—they were great reads.

GEMMA AMOR: Well, if I’m allowed to do this, it was actually the anthology of female-centric horror stories I co edited with Laurel Hightower and Cina Pelayo called WE ARE WOLVES, published in December 2020. All proceeds of the book go to the survivors of abuse, assault and harassment via various charities (including The Survivor’s Trust), and the story brief was to write about ‘the author’s individual experiences of being a woman,’ and the trauma or horror to be found in those experiences. The resulting collection of stories from a huge pack of women and those who identify as such is one of the most stirring, raw, emotional bodies of work I’ve had the pleasure of reading and I am insanely proud to have helped bring the project to life. I hope to make the first donation as soon as the first royalty payment clears in Feb, and I cannot wait to share the details in the community.

L. MARIE WOOD: One of my favorites reads of the year was Michelle Renee Lane’s Invisible Chains.  The pacing was superb and her vampire… oh, dear.  I wouldn’t mind meeting him to… discuss a few things.  😊  I appreciated the dive into the psyche of the slave who worked inside the mansion rather than in the fields – this perspective is often minimized, if addressed at all.  Add to that the element of magic – such a fantastic read.  I would love to see more buzz about this book.  I am also partial to the vampire anthology, Slay.  Full disclosure – I’m in this one.  That said, the collection of stories here is unique in that they investigate vampirism from different angles, and all through the lens of the African diaspora.  It’s a unique volume that I hope people continue to sink their teeth into (pun intended… and yes, I am that corny!).

ANGELA SLATTER: In this, the Year of the Plague, my reading has been surprisingly thin on the ground – I guess all of my time went into writing and teaching to keep the bills paid in 2020. My 2019 picks, however, are Karen Runge’s Doll Crimes, S.P. Miskowski’s The Worst is Yet to Come, Kaaron Warren’s Oil Into Bones, and J.S. Breukelaar’s Collisions. Oh 2020: Lisa L. Hannett’s Songs for Dark Seasons and Marjorie Liu’s Monstress! In general, always go for Cat Ward, Priya Sharma, Laura Mauro, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Gemma Files, Cassandra Khaw, Helen Marshall, Gwendolyn Kiste, Kathy Koja, Lisa Morten, Helen Oyeyemi, Liz Hand, AK Benedict, Marie O’Regan, Alison Littlewood, Linda Addison, Cate Gardner, Livia Llewellyn, Tanith Lee, Tananarive Due, Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Robson, Lisa Tuttle, Mariko Koike … obviously not an exhaustive list!

K.P. KULSKI: My favorite book I’ve read this year was Francis Cha’s, If I Had Your Face. It sounds like a horror title, but isn’t technically, but it really hits all the strangeness and horrifying realities of plastic surgery culture, the horrible dehumanizing pressure. That book crumpled me up into a ball and rebuilt me all over again. It’s one of those books that I suddenly think about, like holding a familiar stone, turning it over and over to discover new cracks. The characters were so human and tragic.

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Maria Bazterrica is an amazing book and deserves all the buzz. It really makes you think about how society deems who is human and who is not. This is a concept I talk about a lot about when teaching history because it allows a deeper understanding of societies. The concept and the book will make you a bit sick to your stomach.

Patricia Lillie’s collection, The Cuckoo Girls really needs more attention. Lillie is fantastically skilled in writing quiet horror. The reader gets to stand in the lamplight but the monsters are at the edge, just far enough in the shadows to terrify but still mysterious. Her stories are so wonderfully creepy. “In Loco Parentis” and “Mother Sylvia” in particular were chilling. I hope more readers get a chance to discover her work, I highly recommend it!

DONYAE COLES: “The Silence of the Wilting Skin” by Tlotlo Tsamaase. This book was gorgeously written, like a dream and was the horror of a very Black and POC experience, the violence of colonialism and gentrification. It’s classified as science fiction but this was a horror story. I loved it so much.

“Cirque Berserk” by Jessica Guess was great. It was B movie perfection which is so nice to see from a Black woman. So often our work is like, it HAS to have great meaning and this was just fun? It was Black Girl Magic but with bloodshed and I dig that.

“Sed de Sangre” by V. Castro. Erotic horror is one of my favorite things and she just does it really well. It’s bloody, it’s sexy, it’s great.

I also really dug Hailey Piper’s “The Worm and His Kings” and Joanna Koch’s “A Wingspan of Severed Hands”. Cosmic horror done painfully right and these two actually read really great together.

LAUREL HIGHTOWER: Oh, my, wasn’t it ever! Definitely a bright spot in an otherwise crazy year. I loved HAIRSPRAY AND SWITCHBLADES by Violet Castro, which came out early in the year through Unnerving’s Rewind or Die series. It was powerful, culturally rich, female led, unapologetically sexual, and packed with action. I loved the different take on the shifter trope, and the bond of the two sisters. The villain, too, was remarkable and well crafted. Cina Pelayo’s INTO THE WOODS AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH was heartbreaking and accessible – a collection of 109 poems about missing women that illustrate how prevalent a problem it is, and how little is often known about them, or done to bring them home. I just read SALTBLOOD by T.C. Parker, as well, which is a fantastic genre blending tale with deft social commentary, mystery elements, and folklore. Very effective, and highly enjoyable.

HAILEY PIPER: Probably the earliest standout was Hexis by Charlene Elsby, which I consumed and adored and have returned to. True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik is a testament to writing about horrid events with gorgeous prose, Lisa Quigley’s Hell’s Bells dug deep into my heart, and then there was the Black Cranes anthology edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn that gathered work by Asian women or women of Asian diaspora, and the stories were incredible. I particularly want to highlight “The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter” by Elaine Cuyegkeng; its generational conflict and dissection of expectation and identity absolutely floored me. Crossroads by Laurel Hightower tore at my heart, as did Into the Forest and All the Way Through by Cynthia Pelayo, and I need to stop; I could go on and on.

And that’s it for Part Two in our Women in Horror Month Roundtable! Join us next week for Part Three in our celebration!

Happy reading!

Fearsome and Female: Part One of the 2021 Women in Horror Roundtable

Welcome to part one of my annual Women in Horror Month Roundtable! As always, I’m super excited to celebrate Women in Horror Month every February, and this year, I’ve got an incredible group of female authors to spotlight.

So let’s get this fabulous roundtable started, shall we?

Welcome to my 2021 Women in Horror Roundtable! I’m so excited to be talking with all of you! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work in the horror genre.

JESSICA GUESS: My name is Jessica Guess. I’m the author of Cirque Berserk, the fourth book in the Rewind or Die novella series. I have a blog called Black Girl’s Guide to Horror where I talk about horror movies and books. I’ve been writing horror since around middle school.

GEMMA AMOR: It’s a pleasure to be here! My name is Gemma Amor and I am a horror fiction author, podcaster, voice actor and illustrator from Bristol, in the UK. I’ve been writing full time for around two years, now, and haven’t regretted the decision to go all-in for one second. My written works to date include two short story collections (CRUEL WORKS OF NATURE and THESE WOUNDS WE MAKE), one novel (WHITE PINES), and two novellas (GRIEF IS A FALSE GOD, and the Bram Stoker Award Nominated DEAR LAURA). I am also the co-creator of the comedy-horror audio drama podcast ‘Calling Darkness’, starring Kate Siegel, and regularly feature on the hugely popular NoSleep podcast, a horror fiction anthology show. You can also find me on various other podcasts, a few audiobooks (I recently narrated THE POSSESSION OF NATALIE GLASGOW by Hailey Piper), and my art on a few book covers floating around (including a couple of my own), with more to come.

L. MARIE WOOD: Thank you so much for having me!  My name is L. Marie Wood and I am a psychological horror author.  I’m still getting used to calling myself an award-winning author and screenwriter but I was fortunate enough to win the Golden Stake Award for my second novel, The Promise Keeper, and I’ve had the honor of taking the Best Horror and Best Afrofuturism/Horror/Sci-Fi screenplay awards at a few film festivals, so I guess it applies. My short fiction has been published in several publications including Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire and the Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology Sycorax’s Daughters.  I am the horror track Director for MultiverseCon, the Director of Curricula and Outreach for the Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF.org), and every now and then you might find my nonfiction work popping up in places like Vampfest and the upcoming effort Conjuring Worlds: An Afrofuturist Textbook.

ANGELA SLATTER: My work kind of slips between fairy tales, urban fantasy and horror. There’s always a fairy tale motif in what I do, probably because I regard the original fairy/folk tales as our original horror stories. Stepmothers set to dance in red hot iron shoes, parents deserting children in forests, fathers either eating their children or trying to marry them: horror. I’m the author of four novels, two novellas and ten short story collections.

K.P. KULSKI: It is lovely to participate in this year’s roundtable! Thank you for having me. About me, well, like everyone, I’m a soul wrapped in blood and tissue, the torture of this state began for me in Honolulu, Hawaii. My dad was an American sailor and my mom an immigrant from South Korea, so I’m what some mixed Asian folks identity as, a hapa, which comes with some challenges.

With a parent in the military, I moved around a lot as a kid. As an adult I went on to join the military as well. I served for nine years in both the U.S. Navy and Air Force, which gave me a chance to go to school for my two passions: history and writing.

I am also a mom to two amazing kiddos who are the stars of my life. My husband and I spend most of our time trying to keep up with them. End result, we are very tired.

All my work so far has been in the horror genre, although it often straddles the line between horror and dark fantasy, as well as historical fiction. I’m excited that my debut novel, Fairest Flesh, released at the end of last year. There are also various shorts that can be found in publications such as the Not All Monsters anthology and Unnerving Magazine. I was honored to be among the spotlight poets for the HWA Poetry Showcase. My writer passion is using feminism in my horror, it really is the perfect lens to reveal the painful and all too often common experiences of women.

DONYAE COLES: My name is Donyae Coles and I write primarily weird horror. I def decided I was going to be a writer later in life so I often feel like a little baby writer even though I’m old (I’m in my late 30s). My work tends to be gory, graphic, and very strange. I’m also an artist so in general I spend a lot of time creating. My work tends to be focused on race, gender, and income inequality. The real horror is capitalism, white supremacy, and the patriarchy kiddos. But also sometimes the randomness of a universe that doesn’t care about you, I like to mix it up.

LAUREL HIGHTOWER: I’m so pleased to be here, thank you! I’m a litigation paralegal and mom to a three year old, and I love bourbon and ghosts. I’ve published a horror novel, WHISPERS IN THE DARK, and a novella, CROSSROADS, and several short stories in anthologies. Last year I worked with Gemma Amor and Cina Pelayo to edit and curate a charity anthology, WE ARE WOLVES, and I’m very proud of it. I’m also one third of the Ink Heist podcast team – we’re a podcast for readers, and interview horror and crime writers, and we usually have a new episode every week.

HAILEY PIPER: Hi, thank you for having me! I’m Hailey Piper, and I write horror and dark fantasy of all kinds, often with a queer agenda. My books include The Worm and His Kings, The Possession of Natalie Glasgow, and Benny Rose, the Cannibal King. I also have a few dozen short stories in places such as Daily Science Fiction, The Arcanist, Flash Fiction Online, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, anthologies from Grindhouse Press, Cemetery Gates Media, and more. I live with my wife in Maryland, where we spend weekends raising the dead, and you can find me on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays or at www.haileypiper.com.

This is the twelfth year of Women in Horror Month! Do you remember how you first heard about Women in Horror Month, and do you have any special plans for how you’re going to celebrate?

JESSICA GUESS: My novella came out during WIHM last year so I got tagged in some promotional stuff. Before then, I didn’t know there was a Women In Horror month at all. For this year, I’m going to catch up on some books that I missed or didn’t get a chance to finish. I’m reading True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik and I want to finish The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper. I’ll probably also watch a bunch of horror movies but I’m always doing that.

GEMMA AMOR: I think I stumbled across it on Instagram a few years back, being very new to the author scene and very green in general about trends and hashtags and key dates in the publishing and writerly calendar. I love the fact that for a good month, so many of my peers and friends get the boost and lift they need to help raise awareness of them and their work, but I do also wish the onus was as heavy in terms of inclusivity and prevalence of women within the horror genre for the rest of the year, too– it’s not like we cease to exist come March 1st. That being said, I now look forward to the dedicated articles and showcases I know will be circulating throughout February– it tends to be an exciting month for me, now.

Having said that, I have no special plans, per se– just to keep on doing the thing, putting the words down on the page, working hard and lifting as many women as I can, as often as I can– in that sense, it’s pretty much business as usual.

L. MARIE WOOD: I sort of found myself in the middle of Women in Horror Month in the early 2000s.  I can’t remember which  broadcast I was on, but I was brought in as part of this celebration – a celebration I had been unaware of minutes before!  I played along, ‘Woohoo!  Go us!’ and reminded myself to remember that February was important moving forward!

February is my birth month as well as Black History month, so I have always considered it pretty special.  This year the re-release of my vampire novel, The Promise Keeper, will be coming out in February and I will be toasting it as part of my month-long celebration of all things me.

ANGELA SLATTER: I honestly cannot recall! It was a few years ago when someone invited me to participate. I will probably celebrate by writing a horror novella with J.S. Breukelaar.

K.P. KULSKI: For myself, I can think of no better way to celebrate than by writing more horror and continuing being a woman. Luckily, I like both very much. Women in Horror Month really didn’t get on my radar until I was working on my MFA. Progress like this really makes my heart palpitate. Progress and coffee, the fuel I run on.

DONYAE COLES: I do! I was writing a newsletter for this website that doesn’t really exist anymore called Cult Movie Mania like a decade ago. I was looking for my next topic and that’s how I discovered it.

I don’t have any special plans. I do try to consume work by women and boost their books and stories but that’s every month to be honest.

LAUREL HIGHTOWER: I first heard about it through the Ladies of Horror Fiction – I hadn’t realized it was a thing, and it was so much fun to find all the wonderful books I’d never known I was missing. I imagine I’ll celebrate by reading and lifting up as many women horror writers as I can! I’m so happy to be part of a community that has these kind of recognitions, as a reminder for us to break out of our normal and seek out female voices in horror.

HAILEY PIPER: I first heard about Women in Horror Month in 2018, and I have a distinct memory of that being my first encounter with horror poetry. I grabbed up The Devil’s Dreamland by Sara Tantlinger and I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire Holland, both of which began a fiendish appetite for more dark poems. I can’t say I have special plans to celebrate, as I read women’s horror the most all year, but I’ll definitely be hopping into the Ladies of Horror Fiction reading prompts and trying to hit them all.

And that’s it for Part One of our Women in Horror Month Roundtable. Join us next week as we discuss what draws these authors to the horror genre and their favorite horror books from the last year!

Happy reading!

Writing Revelation: Interview with Donna J.W. Munro

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Donna J.W. Munro! Donna is the author of numerous short stories, poetry, as well as her debut novel, Revelation: Poppet Cycle Book One.

Recently, Donna and I discussed her new novel as well as her inspiration as an author!

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

I’ve always been a writer, but I think it really clicked for me when I took my first college level writing class. I did it with my husband and my awesome father in law. We encouraged each other and in that class, my icky stories got visceral reactions from the critiquers.  There’s magic in moving people to anger or excitement or fear with the words you’ve crafted. It felt witchy to me, so of course I wanted more. I think that’s when I first started to submit my writing with an inkling that I could become an author.

Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, the dark fantasy/cozy horror masters are at the top of my list of favorites, but Ray Bradbury and Theodore Sturgeon probably shaped my storytelling more than anything. I love making the monster an object of love, not pity. Turning the tables in a story and subverting horror into a romance between the subject and the reader fascinates me. Current authors I read with this sort of “turn the trope inside out” mastery include Nalo Hopkinson, Lucy Snyder, and (ahem) Gwen Kiste.

Congratulations on your new novel, Revelation: Poppet Cycle Book One! What can you share about your process for writing this particular book?

This is my first published novel, though I’ve written others. My process is pretty straight forward. I start with an idea. What if the dead could be revived as servants to do the jobs we hate? Then I start to think about who should tell the story. In this first book, my protagonist is a 16 year-old rich girl benefiting from the production of the dead. I had this image of a girl loving this dead thing that followed her and did things for her. I’m a history teacher, so my long fascination with the  screwed up zeitgeist of the Antebellum south informed the society of my book. Kids in the old south loved their enslaved caregivers like mothers and played with enslaved children like they were brothers. But at some point that love had to be crushed out of them so that they could become slave owners.

That process horrifies me. Brainwashed people growing up with this scar on their souls. And how terrible for the enslaved people to have to love these people who’d eventually turn on them.

This story isn’t about southern US slavery, but that zeitgeist shaped the conflict my protagonist is feeling. She’s on the cusp of adulthood and facing that change.

That conflict births all the others in the book.

I like to start my plotting with “One Page Novel.” It’s a brilliant method I learned in a class you can access at The Lady Writers League. There’s even a template for scrivener based on the program that I use to keep track of things.

Other than that, it’s butt in chair, fingers on keys, and suffering right along with my characters.

Your poem, “Call the CCC, Your Psychic Repair Team,” was recently published in the HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume VII anthology. What can you tell us about the inspiration for this particular poem?

That’s a fun story. I love writing short stories, especially flash fiction. Poems are a  mystery to me. I’m stunned by the work Stephanie Wytovich, Sara Tantlinger, Anton Cancre, Marge Simon, and Linda Addison are doing. Horror and beauty and words that weave a dream. I’m stunned by them all the time. That said, I do a weekly flash fiction contest at Obsidian Flash where we post prompts and I usually do story after story. One week it was a circle of robed acolytes with their arms raised around a busted up car. The poem flowed out and I giggled the entire time I wrote it.

You’ve written a wide variety of work, from poetry to short fiction to novels. Do you have a favorite form as a writer? How does your approach differ (or stay the same) depending on the length of the work?

I love writing a good short story. There’s nothing like achieving a beginning, middle, and end along with character growth and conflict in 1000 words or less. About three years ago, when I emerged from a serious low point that lasted years, I started the Ray Bradbury approach to short fiction. He said, “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” That changed my life! Since then, short stories have written me through bad times and depression and isolation. My best medicine is completing a story every weekend, no matter what ails me.

I’m a total pantser for a short story. I look at a prompt and start writing. Usually, something very close to the end product tumbles out of me.

For novels, I’m a plotter at first and a pantser inside of the scenes. Still, I’m much more deliberate in the long works because I don’t have a mind for detail.

Do you have any particular writing rituals, such as writing with music or writing at a certain time of day?

I like loud, old music, anything 60s-90’s I don’t have a ritual because I’m a teacher. I have to write when I don’t have other things going on, sometimes in the morning. Sometimes in classes when the kids don’t need me, I get 500 words in. Mostly I force myself to write between 5 and 7pm because that’s manageable with the rest of my life.

Also I’m lazy so I need the block of time I set out to be like my “job.” Thank goodness for my supportive hubby. I disappear every day and when I come back he tells me how proud he is.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: brainstorming new ideas, working on a first draft, or editing your work?

The longer I’m at this, the more I like the polish. My first draft is usually really complete, but it’s that last 10% that makes the work shine. I have an incredible developmental editor, Anna LaVoie at Literally Yours Editing, who helps me tease out real character depth. I love getting the edits from her… little fixes make all the difference.

Grammar editing? That sucks.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m writing a story a week and sending them out to find homes all the time. Anyone interested in my short stories can check my website for updates on what’s being published where. Aside from that, Runaway: Poppet Cycle 2 is in polish edits and Revolution: Poppet Cycle 3 is about halfway written.

Huge thanks to Donna Munro! Find her online at her author website as well as Facebook and Twitter!

Happy reading!

Mold, Leeches, and Speculative Fiction: Interview with Rick Claypool

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature author Rick Claypool. Rick is the author of The Mold Farmer and Leech Girl Lives.

Recently, Rick and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as his favorite parts of the writing process.

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

I was always making up weird creatures and stories when I was a kid. There was one point when I decided I was going to write a book of short stories based on Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. I was like 10 and I don’t think I got much further than designing a cover with drippy skulls and things. I started taking writing seriously in college, when my professors turned me on to boundary-pushing writers like Samuel Beckett and Kathy Acker. I wanted to write bleak, hilarious books. Bleak, hilarious, and minimalist. I always sort of have one foot in the like, weird speculative fiction camp and one foot in the offbeat literary camp. There are so many authors I’m excited about right now. Brian Evenson, Aliya Whiteley, Oliver Zarandi, Lincoln Michel. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by Joy Williams and Sam Pink. I could go on and on.

Congratulations on the recent release of your novella, The Mold Farmer! How did this particular story develop?

Thank you! The initial idea for The Mold Farmer was to tell the story of a character caught up in and utterly exploited and pretty much destroyed by a system that doesn’t care at all about humanity. So, capitalism. But capitalism taken even further than its current extremes, because in the post-apocalyptic world of The Mold Farmer, it is these non-human beings who are in charge. They have no qualms about just completely using people up and throwing them away when they’re finished with them. So, more like Lovecraftian horror capitalism. I mean, there have been political cartoons since the Gilded Age depicting capitalists and corporations as monstrous tentacled things, squids and such. Also, there are parts where the main character really really really has to pee, and these were inspired by a time when I really really really had to pee.

Your debut novel, Leech Girl Lives, was released in 2017. What was the inspiration for it?

Capitalism again! Haha. Ok to be more specific, supply chains. Sorry if this sounds super dull. So many products come from raw materials that are extracted from the earth under incredibly dangerous, exploitative conditions and then assembled under incredibly dangerous, exploitative conditions and then sold to us in a way that completely erases this production process, as if rather than some other country with underpaid workers and lax labor laws, they’ve been handed down from some sort of near-future technological utopia. And I wanted to explore all of this through a weird as hell, pulpy sci-fi page turner. So (spoiler alert!) what Leech Girl Lives does is ask, what if instead of people on one continent enjoying the spoils of people being exploited on another continent, it was people from the future enjoying the spoils of people being exploited in the past?

How has 2020 affected your writing, either in the themes you’re writing about or your productivity overall?

Since March, I haven’t been able to write anything besides the reports I write for my day job. (I’m a research director for Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting corporate power.) Because for the most part when I’m not working, I’m parenting. Or panicking. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration. This year has been just so exhausting. I started playing video games again for the first time since I was in my teens. Hollow Knight has been terrible for my productivity. But good for my mental health, I think.

Your work often delves into speculative territory, in particular science fiction with a focus on environmental themes. What draws you to this area of literature?

I like to play around with big ideas. Big ideas and big emotions. And I like making up weird creatures and horrible situations. And the weirder the creatures and the more horrible the situations, the more interesting the story is to me. So I guess science fiction is the category that most lets me get away with doing the stuff I want to do. I get excited every time I find an excuse to add another monster to the story I’m working on. And if I’m interested and having fun writing the story, I think that comes through for readers.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: developing new ideas, working on a first draft, or polishing up an almost finished project?

Developing new ideas. It’s where the surprises live, and it happens at every stage of the writing process. Specifically my favorite part is working through narrative problems, like when I need to figure out a way to get the characters to do something in a way that’s plausible in the context of the story and honest for the characters and also unexpected. I want my readers to think that anything could happen. So when I have an idea that surprises me in a way that makes me laugh out loud and scribble it down and wonder how the hell I’ll ever pull it off, that’s the best.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m about 100 pages into this insane novel about these creatures that have been poisoned by magic pollution. They all live in this shitty town on the moon. Three creatures in particular go on a quest in response to a mysterious message from Earth, a cry for help. All my stuff is kind of weird but when it’s finished I think it’ll be the first of my books you could properly categorize as bizarro. What I’m going for is something like Aqua Teen Hunger Force meets Russell Edson. The working title is Super Worm Moon. I’ve hardly been able to work on it at all over the past year, but I think I just came up with the ending like last week.

Where can we find you online?

Oh crap I need to update my website. I’m on Facebook and Twitter, @weirdstrug. I post too much. A lot of it is just mushroom photos. Really cool mushroom photos though! The website is rickclaypool.org.

Big thanks to Rick Claypool for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

A Night for the Devil: Interview with Curtis M. Lawson

Welcome back for the last author interview of 2020! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Curtis M. Lawson. Curtis is the author of the novel, Black Heart Boys’ Choir, and his new collection, Devil’s Night, among other works.

Recently, he and I discussed his inspiration as a writer, his podcast, Wyrd Transmissions, as well as what he’s got planned next!

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

I spent most of my teen years and early twenties playing in metal bands, where I wrote almost all of the lyrics. When I was 25 my last band broke up I decided that I wanted to explore a more solitary form of self-expression. I was passionate about all kinds of genre fiction and people had always told me I had a way with words, so I decided to give writing a shot. I toyed around with short stories, but mostly I wrote comic scripts at first. I spent about 10 years writing comics without much success.

Eventually I ran out of money to pay artists and wrote a novel called The Devoured, more as a pragmatic choice than an artistic one. I fell into a publishing deal for that first book and it was more successful than any of my comics had been, so I decided to turn my focus to prose. Five years later and I have four novels, two short story collections, and a novella under my belt. I’ve been very fortunate, and it seems like I made the right choice in jumping mediums. I have to credit those years making comics for teaching me how to tell a story though, and for bringing a cinematic element to my work.

As for my favorite authors, there are some of the bigger names you might expect like H. P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Robert Bloch, Kurt Vonnegut, and Neil Gaiman. John Langan, Jeffrey Thomas, and Caitlin Kiernan all immediately come to mind as well.  I also draw inspiration from visual storytellers like Quentin Tarantino, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Frank Miller, and Sam Keith.

Congratulations on the release of Devil’s Night! What can you share about your latest book?

Devil’s Night is a collection of short stories that all take place over the course of Devil’s Night in 1987 in Detroit. Each story is a standalone piece, but there are threads that connect them here and there, and they all come together to tell the bigger story of the city itself.

There are several recurring themes, symbols, and a sort of shared mythology between the tales, but each has a unique feel. Because of the structure of the book I was able to explore several different kinds of stories in the collection while keeping the theme consistent. There are some weird fiction stories, a bit of dark fantasy, and a few pieces of visceral horror without any sort of supernatural element. Despite their differences, each serves to more richly paint the picture of the night as a whole and look at recurring themes through different points of view.

Weird House Press has released the book as a signed and numbered limited edition hardcover. It’s a gorgeous book and features 9 full-color interior illustrations by Luke Spooner of Carrion House. It’s the kind of volume I always fantasized about for my work and I’m incredibly thankful to Weird House for investing their time and money to create such a beautiful edition.

Last year saw the release of your novel, Black Heart Boys’ Choir, which garnered a lot of praise and made the Bram Stoker Awards Long List. What was the inspiration for that book?

Black Heart Boys’ Choir is a story of music, madness, and obsession. At its most basic, it’s about the psychology behind mass shootings. That was the impetus for the project. There are plenty of people who are vastly more qualified to talk about gun control and mental health, but I don’t see many folks discussing the deeper roots of the problem. I wanted to explore the inner and outer pressures that push troubled young men to commit these terrible acts of murder and suicide. I wanted to explore the sense of anomie in our society and how generations of adults have failed so many of our children on very basic levels. The book isn’t meant to romanticize these tragedies, nor is it intended to serve as an apologist manifesto for the killers, but I hope that it might get people asking some of the right questions.

Black Heart Boys’ Choir was largely inspired by experiences and feelings from my youth. I like to call it emotionally autobiographical. I drew a lot from the resentments I felt when I was younger and from traumatic experiences I experienced as a kid. The criminal activity in the Scandanavian and German black metal scenes were also a major influence on the narrative and the characters.

You’re also a podcaster with your awesome show, Wyrd Transmissions. What inspired you to create your own show, and what has been the best part of it so far?

Honestly, the show is just an excuse for me to talk with awesome people. I realized a while back that one of my favorite things to do is have interesting, meaningful conversations. I like to talk about art, books, music, and philosophy. Wyrd Transmissions gives me the opportunity to do that, and with a wide array of people with unique, interesting perspectives.

I’ve had so many incredible guests, but the high points might have been my discussions with S. T. Joshi and Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey is a living legend and one of the nicest, classiest people in the business. It was insane to get to chat with him and absorb some of his wisdom and experience. Joshi also has a lot of incredible insight and has served in so many roles in this business, so we were able to hit on a ton of topics. Joshi has been one of my biggest supporters. He’s been incredibly kind and generous to me, so it was nice to have a real conversation with him, rather than an email exchange.

You’ve written a wide variety of work. Do you find that you prefer short fiction or longer fiction? Do you have a different approach depending on the length of the project? 

I enjoy short stories, but I prefer writing longer fiction. My mind naturally gravitates to stories that have a little more going on. The sweet spot for me is that short novel length, just around 50-60k words. It gives me enough time to develop my characters and my world, to establish themes and motifs, and to unravel a plot with twists and turns. I’m a big advocate of brevity, so I try not to overburden the reader with too many asides and I do my best to cut out anything that might cause the story to drag.

My process is much more relaxed for short fiction. With short stories I plan out my beats and major plot points, but I let the rest come about organically as I write. When it comes to something like a novella or longer, I plan it out like a train heist. I have everything from plot points and character arcs to themes and symbolism mapped out on color coded index cards. It’s pretty nerdy, but it works for me.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: establishing setting, crafting dialogue, or developing characters? 

I would have to say developing characters. I sometimes joke that I’m a method writer. There is something very satisfying about figuring out who a character is—their motivations, their insecurities, their mannerism and idiosyncrasies. In most cases the character directs the trajectory of the story, and sometimes they throw a monkey wrench into your outline. It’s kind of cool when that happens and they derail the story in a way that you didn’t expect.  That also leads to my second favorite part of writing, which is the problem-solving aspect of stringing together a narrative that’s logical, well-paced, and emotionally captivating.

What projects are you currently working on? 

There are two projects I’m actively working on. One is a novella for a shared universe project. All I can really say about it is that I’m kind of terrified and thrilled to be included in the author lineup for this one. My name will be appearing with some of the folks I most admire in the horror world.

I’m also working on a new novel for Weird House Press. It’s a Lovecraftian story, drawing upon the Cthulhu mythos and New England’s rich and creepy history. I was reluctant to do something in that sandbox at first, as I have a profound fear of messing it up, but I found an idea that I think is fairly original and captivating.

I know that it’s currently very chic to undermine and deconstruct Lovecraft, and that has been done very effectively by some talented writers, but that’s not what I’m trying to do. The book isn’t going to be a simple pastiche, either. I guess it could be described as a love letter to Lovecraft and to our shared home of New England. I’m hoping that I can channel all the things I admire about Lovecraft’s work and world, reframe them with more modern storytelling sensibilities, and present them in my own voice. Time will tell if I pull it off!

Where can we find you online?

My website is curtismlawson.com, but I’m pretty active on facebook. You can also find me on Instagram @curtismlawson or twitter @c_lawson.

Big thanks to Curtis M. Lawson for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

To Helminth and Back: Interview with S. Alessandro Martinez

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m pleased to feature S. Alessandro Martinez. He’s the author of numerous short stories as well as the forthcoming novel, Helminth!

Recently, he and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as his love for horror and his hopes for the future of the genre.

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

I’ve been voraciously consuming books ever since I learned how to read. But as for writing my own stories, I started sophomore year of high school. I remember writing this violent dragon story for my English class. The teacher wasn’t that thrilled about it, haha. I also recall entering a short piece into a Star Wars fanfiction competition that same year, which I won.

Congrats on the forthcoming release of your debut novel, Helminth. What was the inspiration for this book?

Thanks! One of my all-time favorite locations for horror is a cabin in the woods, which is where my novel takes places. (I probably have Evil Dead 2 to thank for that.) There’s just something about the isolation, the absolute pitch-blackness when the sun goes down, the silence, the way the trees can hide the shadowy presences that like to lurk in the dark corners of our seemingly mundane world. The forest is primeval, and a perfect place to discover horror that is way older than humanity.

As for the inspiration for what Rei and her friends find out there, and what happens to them, well…I can’t say without giving some things away. But I can say there are some influences from Lovecraft, Cronenberg, some Barker splashed in there, and maybe a pinch of dark fantasy.

You’ve written a number of short stories over the years. How was the process of writing a novel different (or the same) as writing short fiction?

With a novel, you have much more room for everything. With a short story, you have a word limit, and you need to get everything you want to say into a nice compact package. With a novel, I can take more time setting a scene, giving intriguing backstory, or building up characters’ personalities and their relationships.

What first got you into the horror genre? Do you remember the first horror film you saw or first horror story you read?

I started watching horror movies when I was like five or six. My grandpa would take me to the video store so I could rent whatever I wanted, then we’d go home and watch it in the backroom, because that was the only TV with a VCR. It was almost always a horror movie that little me picked. I’d study all the VHS covers and choose one I thought looked the scariest. So I have my grandpa to thank for letting me do that. Of course, I had plenty of nightmares back then, but it was so worth it. As for books, my mom would let me pick almost anything I wanted at the bookstore. I obviously loved spooky things, so I’d pick whichever book (kid or adult) looked the most intriguing.

I don’t remember exactly what was the first horror movie I saw, but the earliest memories I have of watching horror movies are Child’s Play, The Evil Dead, and Trilogy of Terror. That little Zuni fetish doll that came to life in Trilogy of Terror scared me so much. It kind of still does…

As for horror books, I read tons of Goosebumps and other kid horror stuff. But I also remember reading authors like Stephen King, John Saul, and Bentley Little way, way before I was old enough to.

What are a few recent horror books you’ve read that you would recommend?

I’d recommend Diabhal by Kathleen Kaufman, The Troop by Nick Cutter, Devolution by Max Brooks, The Toll by Cherie Priest, The Nefarious Necklace by Kelly Evans (as K A Evans), and Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare.

What are your hopes for the future of horror?

Horror does seem to have had a big resurgence this last few years, doesn’t it? I see so many new horror movies and shows being added all the time to Netflix and Hulu. We horror fiends even got our own horror streaming service, Shudder. I would love to see this enthusiasm with horror books as well. Get more horror literature into the mainstream!

Also, one thing bugs me to no end: When people do enjoy horror, they want to label it a “thriller” or something. They’re like, “Oh, this was actually good. It can’t pooooossibly be horror.” (Insert snobby accent there.)  I wish people would stop that, haha.

What projects are you currently working on?

The very first novel I wrote is an epic fantasy with necromancers as the good guys. I’m still enthusiastically pitching it and shopping it around. And you know, there might be some…connections between Helminth and that fantasy world….

I’m in the last round of editing the sequel to that fantasy novel, and I’m also working on a cryptid horror novel, a horror/superhero novel, a haunted house novel, and an adventure/horror novel.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me at my website: https://salessandromartinez.com/
I’m pretty active on Twitter: https://twitter.com/The_Morda_Shin
And if anybody is still on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/salessandromartinezwriter/

Big thanks to S. Alessandro Martinez for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

A Sinister Quartet: A Roundtable with Mythic Delirium

Welcome back! This month, I’m thrilled to feature a two-part spotlight on Mythic Delirium and their new collaborative book, A Sinister Quartet! This expansive omnibus features a brand-new novel from acclaimed author C.S.E. Cooney, a novella from Mike Allen, and the debut novellas from Jessica P. Wick and Amanda J. McGee.

Recently, I talked with all four authors about this fabulous new project, from its inspiration to why they’re writing in the horror genre!

Tell us a little about your latest project A Sinister Quartet. What inspired your particular story in the book?

C.S.E. COONEY: I feel like I always say this–only it isn’t always true!–but this one came from a dream I had. I don’t remember much about the dream, but I remember I was living in Rhode Island at the time, with my mother. I remember the scene with the sacrifice pretty vividly, and later a wild attempt at escape that ended by drowning in a river. I remember it had something to do with the movies, the desert, and strange angels. After my first (failed) attempt, I contacted a filmmaker friend of mine–Magill Foote–for some resources on the history of cinema, a subject I know very little of, hoping to give my secondary-world fantasy a bit of foundational structure through late 19th/early 20th century technology.

AMANDA J. MCGEE: I wrote “Viridian” about a year after my honeymoon in Vermont, where we had some excellent adventures. Vermont was just one of the places we visited, but we had so many odd and serendipitous experiences there I knew I wanted to write about it at some point. About a year after that I lost my favorite new aunt-in-law to cancer, which rekindled some old memories of similar losses that I found myself suddenly dealing with. The whole process of getting married was oddly stressful, though it turned out well, and I think I had that in the back of my mind when I started working on the story. It’s not exactly what I intended to throw in when I set out to write a Bluebeard retelling but I guess the best writing is personal.

JESSICA P. WICK: I wanted to write about a sister and brother and have their relationship be the important one in a story. I also wanted to write about a katabasis, a fairyland, and people making decisions that weren’t good for them. Then Ravenna pretty much just took over the story and told it to me. There’s definitely some Tam Lin influence here, maybe also a little of my trip to Central Europe. I know when I began writing “An Unkindness,” I had no idea how it was going to turn out, or even what was really wrong with Ravenna’s brother. Next project, I want to focus on a story about ladyfriends who are grown ass adults with lives.

MIKE ALLEN: “The Comforter” continues the story begun in (and expands the monster mythos invented in) my horror tales “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker.” I didn’t write “The Button Bin” with intent to write a sequel, much less multiple sequels, but at the end of “The Quiltmaker” there are two children left alive whose situations are . . . let’s say, markedly different, yet related. After the publication of “The Quiltmaker,” I started wondering what would happen if, a few years later, one child tried to contact the other, which led to the couplet “how you and I are kin / my mom stole your mom’s skin.” The rest of it grew tendrils from that morsel.

I perhaps made a risky choice in presuming that “The Comforter” is so strange that it won’t matter that much if readers come to it without having read the earlier stories, but reactions so far seem to indicate I made a winning bet, whew!

How did A Sinister Quartet develop? Had you done a collaboration like this before, or was this your first time putting together a project with other authors?

C.S.E. COONEY: Mike Allen has probably answered this, but we’d been playing with the idea of combining our novella forces for a while, and either shopping something out or putting something together ourselves. It burgeoned from there into something rather more symphonic. I’m so pleased, both to have virtually “met” Amanda J. McGee and her wistful, lucid prose, and to see more work by Jessica P. Wick, of whom I’ve long been an ardent admirer, out in the world for others to slaver over.

AMANDA J. MCGEE: This is my first time participating in any kind of anthology really. It’s been a project of firsts for me — first published novella, first time working with a small press (or any press for that matter), first contemporary work. I’ve really enjoyed all of it. Mike, Claire, and Jess have been wonderful to work with, and I don’t think “Viridian” would have been as strong of a story without their input.

JESSICA P. WICK: The credit for A Sinister Quartet coming together as well as it does all goes to Mike Allen, who I’m sure will have more intelligent things to say about its making. I was familiar with Mike’s button bin world (pause here for a deep shudder) and I’ve long been an ardent fan of C. S. E.’s work, but I had no real idea what I was getting into with their pieces here, and this was my introduction to Amanda McGee’s awesomeness. The fact that these works all echo one another and seem to be playing on the same themes — to me, that was just a really marvelous surprise. Mike Allen’s a sharp, apparently tireless editor and co-creator, and I’m really just honored to have Ravenna included in the project.

MIKE ALLEN: I’ve worked with both C.S.E. Cooney and Jessica Wick before, as both publish-er (the Mythic Delirium zine, the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, C.S.E.’s World Fantasy Award-winning collection Bone Swans) and publish-ee (C.S.E. edited my novel The Black Fire Concerto for Haunted Stars, Jess published my poetry in Goblin Fruit), while Amanda McGee is a new recruit. I consider A Sinister Quartet the unofficial sixth volume in the Clockwork Phoenix series.

As for how it came together, to try and keep it concise: about four years back C.S.E. and I had discussed appearing together in a book that would’ve been like one of those old Ace Doubles, two novellas (in her case it ended up being a full novel!) back to back with two front covers. That proposal never got off the ground — but I made the call that the book that could have resulted deserved to see daylight in some form, and set A Sinister Quartet in motion without quite knowing yet it was going to be a quartet. At about this same time, I read an early draft of Amanda’s “Viridian,” and C.S.E. put Jessica’s “An Unkindess” in front of me, and I saw threads that could connect.

Each of you has written in numerous genres, including fantasy and science fiction. What inspired you to write this book that focuses more on horror?

C.S.E. COONEY: I didn’t set out to write horror. I’m not sure I ever set out to write any particular genre; it’s only, I sort of see the world mythically, even the one I live in. That we’re living in dark times, that the dream upon which my story was based had embedded nightmarish aspects, and that I knew I’d be in a collection with Mike Allen—whose own “gross-outs” of fiction are epic—and therefore decided to up my own grotesque game a bit, probably all informed my prose on a subliminal level.

AMANDA J. MCGEE: It’s funny because I don’t know that I intended to write horror when I set out. I saw “Viridian” as more of a contemporary fantasy ghost story thing. I wasn’t sure how to market it. Mike, of course, immediately saw it for what it could be. I didn’t think of myself as a horror writer before that but I can see horror elements in some of my previous work now. It’s kind of freeing actually.

JESSICA P. WICK: I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my natural inclination is just to wander my stories through the Dark. I give credit to fairy tales and a love of mischief and a hope/despair relationship with the human race, all of which lends itself well to telling darker stories. But I certainly didn’t think before, just for example, writing a certain scene in “An Unkindness,” ‘I want to make sure this is so horrific that when I express squeamishness irl to someone they’ll exclaim ‘YOU, who’s so cruel to [REDACTED]’ in tones of disbelief.’ (And yes, that did happen to me. And made me laugh. But it was unexpected.)

MIKE ALLEN: You may have noticed my co-authors laying the blame for this at my feet, hah, hah! I am certainly the capital-H Horror writer in the set, though I don’t limit myself to that.

It kind of goes back to the seed of the whole project — had that original proposal come to fruition, the book would have come out from a house known for horror and the Weird, and my half of the “double” was always going to be “The Comforter,” which is cut from the same mercilessly nightmarish cloth as its predecessors. It made sense for the other stories included to incorporate macabre turns and dark themes.

Huge thanks to the authors of A Sinister Quartet! Head on back here next week for Part 2 of our roundtable discussion!

Happy reading!

Appalachian Horror: Interview with Timothy G. Huguenin

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Timothy G. Huguenin. Timothy is the author of Unknowing, I Sink and the forthcoming Schafer.

Recently, he and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as how his home state of West Virginia inspires his work.

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

Writing is the one thing that I can almost always remember wanting to do. In first grade, I got in trouble for Xeroxing all the pages of a Nate the Great book because I wanted to “make my own book”. That was my first lesson from my parents on copyright protection! Mom told me then, if I wanted to make my own books, I would have to write them. In second grade, I wrote and illustrated my first short story called “Tom and the One-eyed Dragon”. Dad kept it and we both forgot about it until our family moved when I was in high school and he had to clean out his office. To read it now, it’s pretty hilarious.

Stephen King is, of course, one of my favorite authors. And it’s not just his scary stuff—my favorite of his books is 11/22/63, which isn’t even a horror novel. Edgar Allan Poe introduced me to the genre when I was a teenager, and he continues to be an inspiration to me. I’m very interested in Appalachian literature, especially writers from my home state of West Virginia, which has produced some truly phenomenal writers who don’t get enough attention today. I’m thinking primarily of Davis Grubb (author of Night of the Hunter, among others) and Denise Giardina (her book set during the Mine Wars, Storming Heaven, is one of my favorite books of all time). Over the last few years, I’ve really been digging into the weirder side of the horror genre. In my opinion, Thomas Ligotti is one of the most innovative and unique horror writers of our time. I also really like Robert Aickman, though I haven’t read as much of him as I would like. Michael Wehunt has the perfect combo of weird horror and lyrical Appalachian prose. I love Greener Pastures, and I can’t wait for his next book.

Congrats on the recent release of your new novella, Unknowing, I Sink. What was your inspiration in writing this book?

Thank you! And congrats to you on Boneset and Feathers and your deal with Saga Press!

You know what, I can’t for the life of me remember where I first got the idea for Unknowing, I Sink. But I reckon the novella shows some influence from Ligotti and Aickman. I started it at the beginning of last year as a short story, but then it just kept going. And it took me quite a while to write, only making progress in fits and starts for most of the year. I was going through some pretty hard bouts of depression that year, which slowed me down a lot. But that dark season also informed a lot of the story and character development. It certainly wouldn’t have turned out the same if I was in perfect mental health the whole time. Still, I wasn’t able to make serious progress and finish the story until after I had rearranged my life and got a bit of a grip on my depression and anxiety.

Your book, Schafer, is due out in 2021 with Bloodshot Books. What can you tell us about your process in writing this one? How is it different from (or the same as) your previous work?

The idea for Schafer came to me while I was re-reading Poe’s “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.” Though I ain’t sure Poe meant it that way, I found the concept of a personal hypnotist/physician very insidious, giving yourself completely to someone’s control like that. Nearly immediately, the character of Doctor Wolfgang M. Schafer entered my head, and I sat down and wrote the prologue. I don’t think a passage has ever come to me as fluidly, quickly, and completely as the opening of Schafer. Even after revising the novel several times, I probably changed at most two or three words of that prologue. In fact, I posted it on my blog soon after writing it, if anyone wants a taste: https://tghuguenin.com/2017/02/02/prologue-to-an-unfinished-work/

The rest of it wasn’t nearly as effortless, but still a lot of fun. I found out that Poe had a strong fascination with the then new “science” of mesmerism and animal magnetism, so I read the other stuff he wrote in that vein and incorporated more of his ideas into my book. None of the hypnotism in Schafer is scientifically accurate, far as I know; I purposefully wrote it as if the quackery rampant at Poe’s time was somehow true. As I wrote, I realized it was becoming something of a vampire novel, though without any literal vampires. I kept that in mind and leaned into it some as it developed.

Like almost all of my other work, Schafer is set in West Virginia—Augustus Valley, in fact, which is a fictional town that has shown up in some of my shorter works, including Unknowing, I Sink. Though I generally set my novels and short stories in the present, or some nondescript time period, Schafer is set in the early 1990s. It has a bit of a Stranger Things vibe, in fact, as the main characters are in high school at the time.

You’re located in West Virginia. How, if at all, does the area inspire your writing?

I grew up in Davis, West Virginia, and I’ve lived in several different parts of this state. WV is an extremely unique place, misunderstood and often neglected place by many people—you wouldn’t believe how many times we have to tell others we’re not a part of Virginia. We’ve been our own state since 1863, thank you very much. There is a particular sense of place here, an identity and loyalty West Virginians bear which I have not found to the same degree in most other places. I love these old hills and the people. That is a big reason I continue to set my fiction here. There are enough outsiders writing about WV who don’t understand us. I want folks to see my own take on horror and West Virginia, kind of like Stephen King with Maine. Also, West Virginia just drips with natural beauty, in every season. So description of the natural setting really shows up in my stories a lot.

Sometimes I tell people West Virginia is almost like another country. It is beautiful and quirky and mysterious and old and crotchety but not without hope for growth. I’m afraid that I could write about WV all my life and still not be able to paint a thorough and appropriately nuanced picture of her. But I’ll probably keep trying.

You’ve written short stories, novellas, and novels. How is your approach the same or different depending on the length? How do you decide whether a work will be short fiction or longer fiction?

Usually when I plan to write a novel, I’ll have maybe a general concept and a character or two and let them stew in my head a while until I think they got enough of their own life for me to start writing something. So far I haven’t  tried to write a novel and had it become a short story or even a novella (though I have abandoned a couple novels). But like I mentioned earlier, I have started some stories I intended to be short and had them turn out much longer than anticipated. I usually take Stephen King’s advice: just let the story decide how long it wants to be.

If forced to choose, what’s your favorite part of the writing process: drafting new ideas, working on a first draft, or polishing up an almost-finished piece?

Probably the polishing part. As much as I love discovering a new story and new people as I write, ain’t nothing like having written something. I find a lot of satisfaction in the sense of completion I get after finishing a first draft, even knowing that I still have revision work ahead of me.

What projects are you currently working on?

Last July I finished another novel called Order of Worms. After that, I felt pretty emptied out for a while. Just this week I finished a new short story, currently titled “The Yellow Carousel”, that’s all I’ve written since Order of Worms. Other than that, mostly I’ve just been trying to get an agent for OoW.

I’m also letting a few bigger project ideas slosh around in my head until one of them gels into something I can work with. I’ve been wanting to try a screenplay for a while. I also want to see if I could write a few middle grade books. But I might play it safe and do another adult horror novel. Who knows?

Where can we find you online?

My website is tghuguenin.com. If you have trouble remembering how to spell that, you can also use mountainhorror.com. I love to connect with readers and writers! There is a contact form on that page that anyone can use to send me a note. I am also on social media, unfortunately. Here are links to all that:
facebook.com/tghuguenin
twitter.com/tghuguenin
instagram.com/tghuguenin
goodreads.com/tghuguenin

I use those mostly begrudgingly, but I really do love email. If you want a sure way to connect with me, use my website contact form, which goes straight to my inbox. You can also use the address contact@tghuguenin.com.

Thanks so much!

Big thanks to Timothy G. Huguenin for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!