Category Archives: Interviews

For the Love of Horror: Part Two of the HWA Poetry Showcase Roundtable

Welcome back for Part Two of this month’s author roundtable series! Last week, we met the awesome poets of the HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume 6 and learned about their pieces for the anthology. This week, we’re discussing what drew them to horror in the first place.

So once again, let’s take it away!

How did you first become drawn to the horror genre? Was it a specific story or film that caught your attention, or the general feeling that horror inspires?

CURTIS M. LAWSON: I would credit either A Nightmare on Elm St. or John Carpenter’s adaptation of Christine for sparking my love of horror and dark art in general. It all began in the horror section of the video store as a kid.

PETE MESLING: I know I’m not the first to say this, and maybe you’ll get a similar answer from others in this round table, but it’s true: some of us are simply born with an attraction to the dark. I was writing horror stories in my dad’s legal pads when I was seven, and I remember being an elementary school student and feeling absolutely mesmerized by the artwork that always accompanied Halloween. Even the cheesiest bats, ghosts, haunted houses, and vampires sparked my imagination. By fifth or sixth grade I had discovered Poe and Orwell, and I grew up in the ’80s, so I was there for the explosion of that whole scene: Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, Stephen King—not to mention the horror films that were being churned out like canned tuna back then.

CARINA BISSETT: My roots in horror come from the fairy tales I devoured as a child. When I wasn’t buried under stacks of library books, I spent my time reading the classics in The Companion Library series (1963), which features 28 tales including The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Arabian Nights. But my favorite of all was the double-sided volume containing Andersen’s Fairy Tales on one side and the Grimm Fairy Tales on the other. This one volume has been read so many times the binding has crumbled, the spine is cracked, and the only thing keeping it together is a large rubber band. Over the years, it was the blood-soaked originals that helped me to survive, just as they still help me process the world today.

ROBERT PAYNE CABEEN: The Universal horror movies were certainly my gateway to the genre, but when I discovered EC horror comics, when I was in art school, I was all in. Al  Feldstein was one of the most important horror writers of the 20th century. He wrote and edited those amazing comics–he even illustrated many stories and covers. I’ve heard Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, R.L. Stein, George Romero, and many others credit EC Comics as their earliest inspiration to write horror. I’m just another of Al’s mutant spawn. He was my friend and mentor. I was proud to dedicate my Bram Stoker Award to him in Providence.

MONICA S. KUEBLER: My mother used to watch Doctor Who on TV when I was very young. The theme music drew me in and the aliens and monsters glued me to the set. From there, I kept exploring and expanding my genre horizons.

MICHAEL ARNZEN: I think growing up in Amityville, NY, during the time when the DeFeo murders transpired (I saw the funeral coverage on the TV news as a child) and working in a store downtown when The Amityville Horror book was released made a real impact on me. But even more so, my father used to take me with him to the theater when I was a wee lad to see all those classic 70s golden age horror films because my mother wouldn’t go — Jaws, The Exorcist, The Omen… I remember them all vividly.  Sure, he’d cover my eyes during the gory and sexy parts… but that only made my imagination kick into overdrive. Probably too young to know any better, I started reading the novel tie-ins related to all these films and others I’d heard people talking about and the rest was history.  After I started reading Stephen King much later, I knew I was forever a horror fan, and started trying my hand at it myself.

ADELE GARDNER: I’ve loved spooky stories ever since I was a kid, even when they scared the pants off me.  I remember being terrified of two children’s books in particular: The Frightful Nobody (based on the song by Bonnie Sanders and Susan Green; illustrated by A. Jefferson) and What Was I Scared Of? (i.e., the Pale Green Pants, by Dr. Seuss).  While these books still give me the creeps, I never stopped wanting to read them…even when I had to call my dad in the middle of the night to hide The Frightful Nobody under the sofa cushions downstairs!

RISSA MILLER: As a little girl, I was sure I saw ghosts and other entities in the world around me, and often drew them or wrote about them. I still have many of the drawings and can sharply recall the beings that inspired them. As I got older, I fell in love with the vampires of The Lost Boys, as well as the early work of R.L. Stine, back before he even started Goosebumps! The thing is, many people recognize the fear factor in horror, but not the recognition of self. The monster or vampire or witch is frequently thought of as “other,” but to me, in my own life and work, I see the monster as just another piece of the experience of living. Trying to understand and embrace the monster in ourselves is why horror resonates.

E.F. SCHRAEDER: Hmm, 150 words! A combination of things drew me to horror, and I remember lugging around a pocket Poe for quite a while as a kid (I still have it, beautifully worn at the edges). Fueled by librarians, I was fed a steady diet of American gothic growing up, and I developed an abiding fondness for writers that looked at the underbelly of things, noticed the unobserved, or held a slightly weird POV. In terms of films, Hammer Horror and Roger Corman films were early favorites; by the time I encountered the sci-fi-horror thrill ride Ripley delivered in Alien, I was all in.

SUZANNE REYNOLDS-ALPERT: I’ve always been drawn to horror, but my “gateway drug” was scifi. Two of my favorite movies from childhood were Planet of the Apes and Alien.

MARTY YOUNG: I blame my dad! He worked in a video store when I was young and would bring home boxes filled with video tapes that needed checking for broken or crinkled tapes, that kind of forgotten thing! He loved horror and would let me sit with him and we’d ‘check’ the horror movies together. Then I met Freddy and discovered Fangoria, and I was hooked.

ROBERT CATINELLA: Every person knows disgust, unease, fear and have had moments of extreme emotion, so every creator has a history to pull from that is instantly relatable. This is double edged because anything created with less than full honestly will instantly be recognized as disingenuous. Horror is catharsis. Such primordial feelings in safety provide a release that can make someone feel alive.

A part of me wants to point to the works for Alfred Hitchcock as the main cultivating factor in my horror upbringing, but every time I think back, I always am faced with the gaunt and cackling face of the crypt keeper. My siblings and I would stay up late on Saturday night pretending to watch SNL, only to watch Tales from the Crypt on late night network television.

NICOLE CUSHING: I went to my first funeral (and touched a corpse for the first time) in 1979, when I was six years old. So I gravitated to spooky books and television shows because they seemed to acknowledge an aspect of life that ordinary children’s entertainment didn’t. Mr. Rogers never took a field trip to a funeral home, am I right? 

G.O. CLARK: My earliest exposure to horror was old movies on the TV. Dracula, The Wolfman, et al. Books followed later in life, like The Exorcist, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Interview With The Vampire, and more. I read all kinds of books, whatever grabs my interest, more non-fiction at this point in my life.

DAVID SANDNER: Horror scares me. It works on me. I have become used to how it works and what to expect, and yet…I am not inured to it, and that fascinates me. I think it’s funny that we entertain ourselves by scaring ourselves. Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is the first horror story to have a lasting impact on me…the monsters have the solidity of their particular weirdnesses…they seem real, but the method used to subdue them—staring at them and commanding them to be still—is singularly unconvincing. The monsters are real and you have no defense. Terrifying! Loved it!

INGRID L. TAYLOR: I was raised on horror movies and books. When I was a kid, my mother worked long hours so I’d rent horror movies and watch them while I waited for her to come home. They were fun and thrilling for me, although there were times when I scared myself quite badly. I particularly liked The Exorcist, Alien, and Pet Sematary but I’d watch anything from the horror section. I read Poe and Hawthorne when I was quite young, and moved on to Stephen King and others. I think I gravitated to horror as a way of coping with the uncertainties and cruelties of life. Horror is not afraid to shine a light into those hidden areas of darkness, and to me, that made it the most real of genres. I believe that horror not only entertains, but also provides incisive social commentary by peeling back accepted norms to interrogate the values and beliefs that lie underneath.

JOHN CLAUDE SMITH: My parents were fans of horror and science fiction, so I was raised in an environment where the weird and dark were welcome. I distinctly remember seeing TV shows like the original Outer Limits and Night Gallery and how they left a big impression. This, along with the books my mother had dealing with the psychic sciences and UFO abduction and ghosts, well, my fascination for horror was fueled from the get-go. Add to this, when I was about 7-8 years old and my mother gave me a horror anthology that opened with a H.P. Lovecraft tale, one of his more fantastical ones—I believe it was one of the Silver Key tales—the ambience in that tale haunted me for quite a while. The power of words to take me there—I was hooked!

TRAVIS HEERMANN: I remember always being fascinated by it. I remember sitting straight up in my bed when I was four years old, head covered by my blanket, afraid to move or the werewolves would get me.

A few films from childhood stuck with me. I can remember being unable to sleep after some of them even if they were ostensibly comedies, in particular I happened to catch The Fearless Vampire Killers one night at a sleepover when I was maybe seven or eight, and that was the beginning of my horrified fascination with vampires, reinforced by catching the opening of one of the Hammer Dracula films on late-night TV, and being so horrified I shut it off and ran from the room.

I used to page through issues of Eerie, Creepy, Famous Monsters, Fangoria and Starlog at the drug store magazine rack, even though I could never bring myself to buy a copy. They were too expensive for what I could manage as a 10-12-year-old, and I think my parents would have had a conniption. Those magazines felt so grown-up and transgressive. I did have a fair stack of horror comics as a kid, though, like DC’s House of Mystery. That was a favorite.

ANN K. SCHWADER: When I was extremely young, I met up with Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt.”  I’ve been attracted to the H / SF borderline ever since.

DONNA LYNCH: There’s no short answer for this, haha! I actually just wrote a very long essay about it for Speculative Chic. As a little kid I loved Poe, I loved scary stories, but I was terrified of horror movies. And I was convinced everything was haunted, me included. My first horror movie was Burnt Offerings, followed by Friday the 13th—which ruined me—but the first one that won me over was The Lost Boys.

I had some very dark experiences as a child so my relationship with horror was very complicated. In some ways, it still is. We’ve been together for a long time, probably before I really wanted to be. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome, haha!

LORI R. LOPEZ: I would have to say yes to all of those.  I love creating monsters.  As a little girl, I was obsessed over a storybook with monsters, Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and Frankenstein movies.  By Fifth Grade, the Mary Shelley novel followed by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, plus the movie version and Nosferatu, and so many other classics of cinema since I was small:  The Birds, The Blob, The Mummy, The Wolfman . . . on and on.  I even won a scholastic award for a Werewolf play in Seventh Grade.  Richard Matheson’s work in film and television hooked me.  I was clearly drawn to Horror throughout my childhood.  That never went away.

ANNA TABORSKA: When I was little, I used to watch Hammer Horror films, which I loved. But it was George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD which made the greatest impact on me at the time and stayed with me. I started reading horror in primary school at age ten (Guy N. Smith) and continued throughout secondary school (Stephen King, James Herbert, Ramsey Campbell and the Pan Book of Horror anthologies). All of these served to reinforce and fuel my love of horror.

EV KNIGHT: When I was in sixth grade, I got my first library card (for a library outside of my school) and found a book called Pet Semetary by Stephen King. I lived on top of a hill above my grandparents’ farm house. My uncle and aunt lived across the drive from the big farm house. Dense woods bordered the field behind the house along the hill. It fit all of King’s setting descriptors and made the book so alive to me, that I swear I heard the wendigo every time I made that walk down to visit. That experience awakened my imagination and made even the mundane walk down a hill into an adrenaline-fueled adventure. I wanted more, and the more I read, the more I wanted to try my hand at writing scary stuff.

DAVID POWELL: I can’t remember not loving horror, but the first thing that scared the bejesus out of me was Invaders from Mars. I was eight years old, and the terror of not being able to trust the adults you depend on rocked me. And stayed with me. Horror’s power to make you look at the underside of everyday things is important to me.

MICHAEL BAILEY: In school, I hated reading, mostly because we dissected books until they were unenjoyable. It wasn’t until a friend of mine started bringing ‘inappropriate’ books to class, some author named Stephen King, that I realized books could be fun. These books were doorstops, and intimidating, but my older sister read this guy too, so I knew something was there. And then in eighth grade I had a teacher obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe, and we studied his work throughout the year. “The Tell-Tale Heart” taught me what could be done in as little as a few thousand words. Infatuated, I read everything by Poe, and eventually moved on to Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451 the only required book I ever loved) and finally King. I didn’t start writing until long after high school (other than nonfiction and poetry), then dabbled in college. Half my age ago, I wrote my first piece of fiction, a horror story. Now I have to convince myself not to write my own doorstops.

GERRI LEEN: I’m one of the last years of the Baby Boomers, and I think I fell for horror by watching the original Dark Shadows when I was a kid. Most of my friends wanted to marry Barnabas the vampire; I wanted to be Angelique the witch. Then later Night Gallery and Kolchak: The Night Stalker and the movie Trilogy of Terror kept my interest in horror strong—and my lights on at bedtime (that damn doll still gives me the creeps). Even the original Twilight Zone had quite a few horror episodes (I was addicted to the reruns).

NACHING T. KASSA: My dad introduced me to horror. He started showing me movies like King Kong, and Dracula (1931) when I was four. He also read me Edgar Allan Poe stories like “The Cask of Amontillado.” When I grew to be a teenager, we watched tons of Eighties horror together. I especially enjoyed A Nightmare on Elm Street and Stephen King’s Silver Bullet.

LISA MORTON: It’s something I’ve always loved. As a kid, my parents watched horror movies with me and my dad and I made the Aurora monster models together, so I was almost born into it, I think.

LEE MURRAY: In the same way that data regresses to the mean, I believe all writers, given enough time, will regress towards horror because it is in the darkness that we explore the things that really matter: things that hurt us, that scare us, and which define humanity.

TRISHA J. WOOLRIDGE: I believe I came to horror the way many people came to horror, or the Goth scene… I was mercilessly bullied at school, so I learned from a very young age the extent of evil that humans are capable of. I knew monsters were real; I saw them on the playground every day, in the lunch room, two desks over in a classroom. My family didn’t have a lot of money; books were the cheapest and most abundant entertainment. Between libraries and my mom’s love of yard sales, I was never without a whole world I could escape into that fit right into my hands! My favorite books were anything genre: science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I got metaphors; I could channel heroes and monsters in real life through books and take some control over them because they were in my head. Words were a tool for dealing with one’s greatest hopes and fears, and that was a bit of magic that sparked in my mind—another means of agency in a world that didn’t make sense.

STEPHANIE ELLIS: I’ve always preferred the darker side of films and fiction but it has never been about a specific work. I’m not one of those who avidly watches every horror film (I’m no good with slasher films) or reads every book, so when others quote their ‘pedigree’ and the age at which they started on this path, I always feel a fraud. For me, it’s very much the feeling horror inspires. The moment which makes the flesh crawl or you feel, during the twilight hours – which is my favourite time of day – there is something more to this world. I suppose you could say it’s the psychology of horror which draws me in.

PETER ADAM SALOMON: I’d written novels that hadn’t sold which were not horror. So, as I tried to figure out something new to write about twenty years ago, I re-read all my old poetry and realized that all the good poems were ‘dark.’ The more horror poetry I read, the more I realized I’d found my home. And then, when I started writing horror novels, those were the ones that sold. Growing up I read all the usual suspects, with a particular affinity for Poe, Eliot, and Coleridge and the dread their poetry always seemed to touch upon.

SARA TANTLINGER: I started reading the Goosebumps and Fear Street books around 4th grade, and I was just so drawn to these bizarre stories that were unlike what we were reading in classes. Later in middle school, I discovered Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King. I was lured into the macabre beauty Poe created, and then the way Stephen King could create a horror story that both disturbed me yet tugged at my heartstrings. I knew I wanted to explore this world more.

OWL GOINGBACK: I was first drawn to the horror genre by a book I read when quite young, titled The Ghost of Dibble Hollow, about a farmhouse haunted by a spirit from the Revolutionary War. I’ve been a big fan of ghost stories and historic places ever since. Shortly after that I discovered Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and fell in love with all the classic monster movies and horror films. I’m still a big monster kid at heart.

LISA LEPOVETSKY: My interest in horror came from my parents’ fascination with the genre; my father read my brother and me stories from Poe and Serling and Matheson and Shirley Jackson when we were young.

MARGE SIMON: I was bedridden for long periods when I was child and I read for entertainment. I loved folklore, such as Baba Yaga, and myths and legends which have many shades of darkness, especially for a child’s fertile mind.

DEBORAH L. DAVITT: Horror is a genre that I dip in and out of like a stream. When it’s appropriate to a science fiction or fantasy story, when the going gets rough, horror elements enter. I write a lot of dark stuff, but only rarely do I go full horror—and when I do, it’s often psychological. (“Last Week I was Esther,” at Pseudopod is a good example of my brand of horror.) Authors that have inspired me include King and Barker, but also Tim Powers—where the horror comes from within, a byproduct of human existence and frailty.

COLLEEN ANDERSON: I’d say it was an accident. I was writing SF and fantasy and kept getting rejected with the editors saying, “we don’t do horror.” I thought I was just writing normal spec fic but I guess it was darker edged. Early horror movies, Vincent Price, Ray Bradbury and a tumultuous family life must have mixed into a strange stew. I like to look at the scary, twist its head and see what pops out. I sometimes stick characters into unpleasant sword of Damocles situations and see what happens.

That concludes Part Two of our Poetry Showcase roundtable! Please head back next week as we discuss our authors’ favorite horror poetry!

Happy reading!

Bite-Sized Horror: Part One of the HWA Poetry Showcase Roundtable

Welcome to this week’s brand-new author roundtable. For the entire month of December, I’m over the moon to be spotlighting the poets of the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase, Volume 6. There’s so much talent in this group, so I can’t wait to share their thoughts on the horror genre, literature in general, and their future plans as authors.

So let’s go ahead and let them take it away, shall we?

Congratulations to all of you for being part of this incredible table of contents for the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume 6. Please tell us a little about your piece in the anthology.

CURTIS M. LAWSON: Thank you! This is only the second poem I’ve had published, so it’s incredibly exciting to be included.  I keep having that impostor syndrome paranoia that someone’s going to find out I’m not a “real poet” and kick me out.

My piece, White Night and Black Stars, is a narrative poem about obsession with an ambiguous supernatural element. The most interesting thing I could point out about it would be the theme of atonality. In the last stanza I break away from the established rhyme scheme for a single line to highlight that concept.

PETE MESLING: Well, “A Return to Chaos” is pretty short, so saying too much might spoil the fun. But what I set out to do was draw a condensed picture of the end of the world. I like the incongruity of something as epic as the apocalypse being told very sparingly. And talk about not needing to reach for metaphor! I think the poem’s relationship to questions being raised in the times we’re living in is fairly obvious, kind of the way radioactive monster movies in the 1950s reflected a universal fear of nuclear holocaust. I hope it has that kind of resonance anyway.

CARINA BISSETT: My poem “Lepus antilocapra” includes my history of living in the Southwest for nearly two decades and combines it with issues of domestic violence. As a domestic violence survivor, I wanted to examine the truths behind the decision to finally leave a toxic relationship. In these situations, there is always a piece of you that gets left behind. Some of us lose more than others. The Sonoran Desert, with its cycle of life and death, seemed a perfect backdrop to strengthen the theme and imagery intertwined in this series of couplets.

ROBERT PAYNE CABEEN: Thanks for asking, Gwendolyn. I’m excited to be part of this stellar anthology. I never submitted in the past because most of my poems are so damn long–like Coleridge long. But since I did the cover art for this year’s Poetry Showcase, I wrote a short poem for a change. The cover illustrates SECRET, a tale of domestic violence and a woman’s brutal secret. She tells no one but a solitary crow her secret. The bird listens with patient attention and flies away. You’ll have to read the poem to find out what the crow does next.

MONICA S. KUEBLER: My poem “Conjuring Monsters” is one of those poems that has a bit of a dual meaning. On the surface, it’s about my fiction-writing process, but it also has a deeper current running through it, wherein I’m questioning the sort of people I draw into my life.

MICHAEL ARNZEN: This rarely happens, but “He Carves Wood” actually came to me in that hypnagogic morning state where you’re only half awake and don’t want to get out of bed yet. It wasn’t that I was dreaming about a woodworking murderer, per se, but that phrase that recurs throughout the poem — he carves wood…he carves wood — was chanting in my brain as some kind of inescapable line.  I was lucky enough to write this down when I finally did fall out of bed and crawl over to the computer, and I let the cadence just carry my mind as I wrote the first draft. I LOVE IT when that happens — when it all flows and feels like it isn’t writing at all. But then came the edits, of course, which, um, hammered and cut it into proper shape. It’s a creepy serial killer poem, but maybe it’s about poetry too, I don’t know. I was immensely pleased to learn it was chosen as one of the top poems to be “featured” in the book, too. The lesson? Trust your unconscious.

ADELE GARDNER: The varied inspirations for “Home Inspection” include encountering historical hair art for the first time at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York (creepy and oddly beautiful and often sad); the fear that a particular bedroom in my house may be haunted, based on several nightmares; and the wish that there had been an opportunity to spend a night in my house before buying it, for mundane reasons (I might not have done so had I known how loud the road is; I’m a very light sleeper). Somehow all these things combined in the back of my mind when I wasn’t looking, to give me this chill.

RISSA MILLER: My poem in the anthology is The Temptress. It’s part of a larger collection where the Temptress is both a literal and figurative presence. Who doesn’t know temptation, after all? A temptress can be a real, living being, but also a feeling, an object, even a figment of our own mind. This poem introduces the idea that everyone experiences both need and temptation, and that sometimes, such alluring moments can be quite dark.

E.F. SCHRAEDER: Hi and thanks for inviting us. It’s amazing to be part of a project featuring so many great contributors to the genre. At its core, my piece, “Good Until The Last Drop,” is best summarized as a poem about despair and the real life horror of running out of options.

SUZANNE REYNOLDS-ALPERT: My poem, “It is Forever Stalking You,” is based on my experiences dealing with bouts of depression. I wrote it during my last episode and putting that horrific reality to paper was extremely cathartic.

MARTY YOUNG: I don’t often write poetry. Actually, I only write poetry when I’m going through tough times. I have a book at home filled with pieces I’ve written during various dark periods of my life. ‘Not Enough’ comes from that book. I went through a time where I just couldn’t write. I couldn’t face the page and had no ideas in my head. As I said in a story once, I wrote my head empty and it never filled again. So that poem was my frustration, and my way of seeing that there was something much deeper going on than just a lack of ideas.

ROBERT CATINELLA: I wrote Neighbors to highlight the contrast between the way people think about others versus how they think about the natural world which is always around them. We humans live in a funny position, connected to and defined by nature while also feeling independent from it. I chose the first and last stanzas deliberately for the emotional impact they convey. All the intermediate stanzas went through quite a bit of flux with the order changing up to the last minute and with three other complete ones being cut for flow reasons. More than that, I hoped to give my readers a childlike joy in trying to figure out what animal each stanza was describing.

NICOLE CUSHING: “The Art” is about a witch’s struggle to learn spells, and a writer’s struggle to develop her skills, and an eccentric’s struggle to accept her eccentricity. 

G.O. CLARK: My poem “Suitcase Tombstones” was based on a passage from the memoir, “Milking the Moon”, by Katherine Clark & Eugene Walter. Walter was staying in Parisian hotel after WWII, one with a rat problem in the attic where luggage left behind by Jewish tenants was stored. The hotel manager knew the tenants were never coming back, but left things as is for years, the rats gnawing on the suitcases et al. The poem is a simple snapshot from a very dark moment in history, the Holocaust going way beyond any fictional horror.

DAVID SANDNER: My poem, “A Killer Doesn’t Kill Because He has a Knife,” is a “first line” poem, with a weird sentence that got stuck in my head and pushed me to figure out what comes next. The full sentence is “A killer doesn’t kill because he has a knife/ but because he has a life to take.”  I liked the off-kilter rhyme between knife/life, and the way I sort of do and sort of don’t understand what it means. It seems to be advice, but who said you have to kill because you had a knife? The narrator is clearly off-kilter, too, and I followed up on that, looking for what other kinds of surprising advice the narrator had to share, building the poem off this mysterious first line that popped in my head. Where did the line come from? I don’t know.

INGRID L. TAYLOR: Thank you so much, Gwendolyn. I’m honored to be part of this collection. My poem “Possession” started out as a reflection on obsessive love in its various aspects. I imagined a woman who visited a coffee shop every day and became obsessed with the barista, and I started playing with images around that theme. The images that came forth were both sinister and sensual, and led me to think about possession as an expression of love that can be both destructive and cathartic—an ultimate surrender and metamorphosis. My notions of possession are informed by Judeo-Christian tradition, but also the Egyptian tradition of spirit possession called zar, which I learned about while living in Cairo some years ago. All of these elements influenced the final form of this poem.

JOHN CLAUDE SMITH: On occasion, the other arts besides writing—music, visual arts—often inspire the words to flow for me. My poem, “In the City of Dead Dreams,” was my response to the painting The Snow Queen Flies Through the Winter’s Night by Edward Dulac. The illustration depicts a rooftop view upon which the Snow Queen resides, yet because my initial observation came without the title, I saw her as a ghostly spirit. One who had died there, come to haunt the city. Combine this with a conversation with a fellow writer, and my poem was born.

TRAVIS HEERMANN: Mine is a poem called “The Depths Yawned Wide”, sonnet with a Lovecraftian theme.

ANN K. SCHWADER: “In Our Last Darkness” is one of my few syllabic form poems: 14, 10-syllable lines.  14 lines because sonnets are pretty much how I breathe.  The first line popped into my head months before I figured out what to do with it.

DONNA LYNCH: Thank you! I’ve always been a visual person, even when I write, so I see pieces as though they’re a movie still. With ‘Star’ I pictured a lovely living room belonging to someone I’d describe like Ed Gein, but with money and refined taste. A psychopathic patron of the arts.

LORI R. LOPEZ: Thank you, Gwendolyn.  It’s wonderful to be here, and to be part of another Poetry Showcase.  The T.O.C. for this volume is pretty fabulous!

I often tell stories with my verse.  My poem “Collection” travels deep under the surface to a shady sector ruled by an imperious male figure who demands his due.  This character embodies vileness and ego and corruption, an unpleasant presence at the depths of a tunnel.  For those who must face him, there is no turning back or aside before meeting his demand.  Until, that is, a very grim female arrives to collect at the same time as deliver.

ANNA TABORSKA: Hi Gwendolyn. Thank you for including me in your roundtable interview series! My piece, VICTIM, is inspired by the crime drama and true crime TV shows I watch. I have long considered the world a cruel and terrifying place, and I’ve tried to put that across in my poem.

EV KNIGHT: H.P. Lovecraft said the strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. My poem titled Nothing pays homage to that. What we do not see, cannot feel, cannot touch is terrifying because nothing could be anything. Nothing is always present, always lurking. Death is the ultimate nothing. Nothing leaves us to our imaginations; all possibilities are on the table.

DAVID POWELL: “Scylla’s Proposition” is about an impossible choice, about the consequences of making deals with monsters. Much is promised, but everything is lost if you refuse the deal. It’s actually a moment from a story which I haven’t finished yet, but Linda Addison (in her course at Horror University) advocated using poetry to get “unstuck” when writing prose. I’m a believer in that.

MICHAEL BAILEY: “Shades of Red” is as a direct result of a lockdown at our daughter’s middle school. We trust our schools to keep our children safe, but what happens when that trust is broken? Not long after the wildfires that raged through Sonoma County and took our home, and while still recovering, we received an automated call: “[ school name redacted ] is under lockdown. Plan accordingly to pick up your son and / or daughter at the front office starting at one o’clock.” Something like that. The time may be different, but it was middle-of-the-day and now a blur. The message was vague, and so we suspected an active shooter situation, or a bomb threat. With no way to contact either of our children, we dropped what we were doing and drove straight there. Numerous vehicles from the sheriff’s office were parked out front, and already a line of parents leading to the front office, everyone asking, “Are we even safe, standing here? Have you heard what’s happening?” One by one, students were escorted from their classrooms to the office; not even the children knew why, other than spreading rumors. Everyone expected gunshots. The next day we learned that a twelve- or thirteen-year-old had painted I’M GOING TO KILL EVERYONE on a wall in one of the boy’s restrooms (‘everyone’ spelled wrong). An empty threat, but enough to impact every child and parent and teacher at the school forever more.

GERRI LEEN: To tell much about “Terroir” would be to give a lot away, but I can talk about the birth of it. A Whisky Cast podcast discussion on terroir got me thinking of ways to play with the concept and I definitely saw it as a horror poem, not a story. I was really happy with the result and am so thrilled it made it into the showcase.

NACHING T. KASSA: My poem, “Silken Whispers, Crimson Blooms,” tells of an encounter between the narrator of the poem and Slit-Mouth Woman. The Urban Legend of Slit-Mouth Woman or Kuchisake-Onna is famous in Japan. It concerns a Samurai and his beautiful but unfaithful wife, Kuchisake. When the Samurai discovered his wife’s infidelity, he disfigured her by slitting the corners of her mouth. Then, he cut off her head.

Kuchisake-Onna became a Yurei, a nasty ghost. For hundreds of years, she’s haunted the streets of Japan. In these modern times, she often wears a surgical mask and when she confronts you on the street, she will ask if you think she’s beautiful. If you say no, she cuts off your head. If you say yes, she cuts your face to resemble her own. The only way to escape her is to distract her and run away. But, sometimes, that doesn’t even work.

LISA MORTON: Thanks, Gwendolyn! My poem “Meeting the Elemental” was inspired by my continuing research into ghost lore. Elementals are considered to be the most frightening spirits, so much so that many paranormal experts feel they represent something that was never human. I thought it would be interesting to explore encountering something that terrifying.

LEE MURRAY: Dear Christine is a deeply personal poem, inspired, dredged up by recent events. This time, I felt I had something to say.

TRISHA J. WOOLRIDGE: Thank you! My piece, “American Body Horror” comes from several years of fighting with doctors about my health—and the continued fight for me and most women. Especially women who are overweight. For years, I was told my crippling pain was “normal,” that I was lazy and not trying hard enough to lose weight or reach my “full potential.” Long story short, only in the past few years was I diagnosed with several issues, including ADHD, which all contribute to weight and all of the other symptoms that I was told would go away if I could just make my body meet the conventional standard of beauty. Come to find out, it’s been over 20 years of serious issues ignored because doctors couldn’t see beyond my being fat. And this is a regular, exhausting battle for women. It’s gruesome, cruel, and horrific… and with all the recent diagnoses and getting my hands on all the research I can, I finally found words to express that.

STEPHANIE ELLIS: Stringed Pearls came about as a result of my eldest daughter, Bethan, telling me about the Japanese forest known as Jukai (the Sea of Trees), where people go to commit suicide. I had never heard of it but watching footage of Azusa Hayano, patrolling the area, revealed so many tragic stories, it had quite an impact. As he walked, he would stop where discarded belongings remained, or talk to someone camping there to make sure they were ok (camping is not permitted, those he finds are usually the ones contemplating their deaths.). He would pass trees where frayed ropes hung down and goodbye notes were nailed to trees. The sheer volume of suicides made me feel as if something was calling these people to its branches, something enticing, something which saw their deaths as a thing of beauty and not to be denied. I gave the forest its voice.

PETER ADAM SALOMON: My poem, Conception, started with the thought ‘how are ghosts born?’ and went from there. I was trying something new, for me, with rhythm and atmosphere, and trying to rhyme without rhyming so the reader isn’t really sure where the rhymes are, if they’re even there. It felt as though that disjointed feeling worked for it even though that’s not typically my ‘voice.’

SARA TANTLINGER: Thank you so much, Gwendolyn! I am thrilled to be included in another HWA Poetry Showcase, especially alongside such wonderful talent. My piece is titled “Diaphanous”, and as the title suggests, it plays off the idea of something being delicate. In this case, it refers to a man who tries to grow and water a gossamer girl in his garden, only to have such translucent love go terribly wrong. I love when horror can take something beautiful and turn it dark and monstrous.

OWL GOINGBACK: My poem is titled “Dance Macabre,” and it’s about the relationship between a mortician and his deceased customer. I worked as a cemetery caretaker for eight years, and got up close and personal with thousands of dead bodies. I also became friends with a lot of funeral directors, and heard some insane stories about things that happen in a mortuary late at night. My poem was inspired by those stories.

MARGE SIMON: “The Exile” was originally inspired by a prompt given out by Nina Archangela for the Ladies of Horror Facebook blog. It was one of four images she chose from Pixabay. Mine was as described in the poem, and as I often do, I wrote several alternative versions. The final version that appears in the Showcase has both pathos and passion, relating to the Native American gods.

DEBORAH L. DAVITT: “Apotemnophilia” was born at the intersection of psychology (it’s a condition in which someone believes that a limb they possess doesn’t belong to them. Some people go so far as to amputate legs or arms.) and, well, X-Com games, in which critically-injured soldiers who suffer amputations become the heart of mech units. What, I wondered, would it be like to suffer that kind of psychological issue in a world in which that technology existed—and how would the combat veterans feel about such a volunteer?

COLLEEN ANDERSON: I wrote Stardust specifically for the Poetry Showcase. I don’t often write in couplets so I wanted to explore the form. As well, I don’t often write SF poetry so I challenged myself to SF Horror. What is our greatest fear? What is the terrifying side of space? And stardust, while it conjures David Bowie for me, it also is made of destructions—of planets, asteroids, meteors. This poems compares the beauty of space with the terror.

And that’s it for Part One of our author roundtable series for December! Head on back next week as we discuss our poets’ love of the horror genre!

Happy reading!

Fantastical Fun: Interview with Jamie Lackey

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Jamie Lackey. She’s the author of Left-Hand Gods, Moving Forward: A Novella of Life After Zombies, and The Blood of Four Gods and Other Stories, as well as an accomplished editor.

Recently, Jamie and I discussed her inspiration as a speculative fiction author as well as her genre favorites and her writing plans for the future.

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer–the first thing I remember writing is retelling of Disney’s The Little Mermaid when I was in elementary school, and I just never stopped. Though I did stop copying Disney movies. Eugie Foster, Peter S. Beagle, Octavia Butler, and Lois McMaster Bujold are some of my favorite authors.

You’ve written in the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres. Do you remember your first experience with speculative fiction? What are a few of your personal favorite genre books or films?

I think the first speculative book I read was The Hobbit, in about third grade. The Last Unicorn is one of my favorites for both books and movies. I also really enjoyed both the book and movie of The Martian. I also really love pretty much every Pixar movie.

You’ve written a great deal of flash fiction, which I personally feel is one of the most unsung yet wonderful lengths of fiction. What is it about this particular length of stories that appeals to you?

I like how direct it is. There’s not a lot of time in flash fiction for red herrings or digressions that don’t really matter to the story. I’m a pretty impatient person by nature, so it always makes me happy when a story just gets on with it. I also like how quick it is to both read and write. As a writer, I really like finishing things, and flash fiction stories are about the easiest things to actually finish.

You’ve been a slush pile reader as well as an editor, both at Electric Velocipede and on the Triangulation anthology series. How has being on the other side of things changed your perspective of the writing process?

It helped me to understand that rejection really isn’t personal. It also helped me to see things that lots and lots of people do that don’t really work and try to avoid those things myself.

You’ve written a novel as well as over 150 short stories. How does your process differ between long versus short fiction?

Short fiction is sooo much easier for me. The process is essentially the same, but longer things are so much more work.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: plotting an initial idea, working on a first draft, or polishing up an almost-finished piece?

I think the polishing up is my favorite step. That’s when I think about theme and that sort of big picture thing, and when the story really coalesces into what it’s going to be.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on one novel–a Pride and Prejudice retelling where Mrs. Bennet trades Lizzie and Mary to a witch to make Lydia a boy.

I’m also working on a handful of short stories.
1. An epistolary story where the letters are from an artificial intelligence that can travel from one person to another by eye contact, and addressed to a girl whose mind it lived in for a few years.
2. A fantasy story where the emperor stole all the magic in the world and doles it out as he pleases.
3. A group of angels meeting up to make people’s days better in tiny ways.
4. A hollow earth story with feathered riding dinosaurs.

Big thanks to Jamie Lackey for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find her online at her website as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Lyrical Curses: Interview with Candace Robinson

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m pleased to feature Candace Robinson. Candace is the author of numerous books including Clouded by Envy, Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, Lullaby of Flames, and Bacon Pie, among others. She also runs the popular blog, Literary Dust, which features author interviews and reviews.

Recently, Candace and I discussed her new book, Veiled By Desire, as well as her love of horror and her upcoming projects.

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

I first decided to become a writer senior year of high school when we had to do an assignment where we had to write down our thoughts for a certain length of time. Somehow my thoughts turned into the start of a story! But I didn’t actually write my first story until years later! Some of my favorite authors are Holly Black, Sarah J. Mass, Natalia Jaster, and Brenna Yovanoff!

Your new book, Veiled by Desire, is due out this month. What can you share about the process for this book? How long did it take you to write it, and what was the inspiration behind it?

This was actually the first idea I ever had for a book which dates back to 2003, but it literally took me forever to get the full story in my head. I ended up writing several other books before it finally came together. I even ended up writing Clouded By Envy first, which is a prequel of sorts. Anyway, I wrote the first draft within a month in September of 2018!

You’re a fan of horror, and your darkly fantastical work often reflects that love. How did you first fall in love with horror? Do you remember the first horror film you saw or horror book that you read, and do you have a current favorite?

I’ve been watching horror movies since I could pretty much walk, seriously. I’m not sure if my parents should have been letting me watch these movies, but they did lol! The first one I recall ever watching would have to be Nightmare on Elm Street which I still love today! My all time favorite horror movie is either May or The Bride of Frankenstein.

You live in Houston, Texas. How, if at all, do you find your hometown influencing your writing?

Well, I live in Deer Park, and for Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, I actually used the town as the setting for it. Actually, most of my books that take place in the real world are set around here!

All of your covers are so beautiful! What’s been the process behind the artwork for your different books?

I actually suck at designing covers, so this is actually all thanks to the wonderful cover designers! I really wish I could design and do stuff the way they can.

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

I’d have to say Lyrics & Curses. It technically doesn’t come out until November 2020, but it’s set in 1985, and I just love 80s stuff so much! Plus, those characters are my babies!

What projects are you working on now?

I just finished up a short story and am trying to revise another old manuscript, so hopefully I can make those readable!

Where can we find you online?

Website: http://authorcandacerobinson.wordpress.com

Blog: http://literarydust.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/literarydust

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/literarydust/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/literarydust

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16541001.Candace_Robinson

Tremendous thanks to Candace Robinson for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Deep Water: Interview with Chad Lutzke

Welcome back for this week’s author interview. Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Chad Lutzke. Chad is the author of numerous books including The Pale White, The Same Deep Water as You, Stirring the Sheets, and Out Behind the Barn with co-author John Boden.

Recently, Chad and I discussed the inspiration behind his recent novellas as well as his process as a writer and his future plans.

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

I didn’t really start taking writing seriously as something I’d like to make a career of until 2014. At the time, my favorite writers were the usual suspects: King, Koontz, McCammon, Barker, and Poe, but since then I’ve had a far greater appreciation for Ketchum and Lansdale.

Congratulations on the recent release of The Pale White! What was the inspiration behind the book?

Thank you. I wish I had something cool to give you, but the truth is I don’t really remember. Sometimes ideas just pop into my head. That was one of them.

I absolutely adore the cover for The Pale White. It’s so evocative and tells such a story on its own. Who is the artist, and how did the cover develop?

Thank you. Zach McCain did that cover. He also did Out Behind the Barn, The Same Deep Water as You and Halo of Flies. It was just something I envisioned. I drew a sketch of it and sent it to Zach along with very detailed instructions on how I want the girls to look, the house, the stained glass and even the hues. Zach is great at giving me exactly what I ask for.

Earlier this year, you also released The Same Deep Water as You. What was the inspiration and process behind this book? How did it differ from your process with The Pale White?

The Same Deep Water as You is about 98% nonfiction. It was my life in the year ’89/’90. I took the liberty of adding a few things, but for the most part its autobiographical and an experiment for me to write…my idea of dark romance that was basically just for me. Fortunately, people seem to connect with it. Because nearly all of it’s true, it came out very fast. I wrote it in 10 days in a notebook by hand. The Pale White took much longer. It was something I kept putting on the back burner.

Your work often falls in the novella category. What is it that draws you to this length of stories? Also, how is your approach different or similar when working on short stories versus longer fiction?

I like a small cast of characters in isolated incidents. I’m not into long, drawn-out characterization, going on for pages with character backgrounds, and I’m also not big on description. Mix those dislikes with my love for lean prose and you get a shorter book. Often times the short stories I write are nothing more than me starting with an intriguing opening sentence. Something that hooks me enough to keep writing, with the need to know where it’s going. Eventually things come together and the pieces fit. It sounds messier than it is. While I still pants all of my books, I usually have more of an idea on where it’s headed before I start one.

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

Probably developing characters, particularly if I have no idea where things are headed. I love that spontaneity. It keeps me interested. Once I get a better idea of the character, I fill in the blanks later, but the most fun is getting there.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m finishing up a crime noir book called The Neon Owl and slowly writing another book with John Boden. I’m also writing a book with Boden and Bob Ford, which is in the early developmental stages. I have another project I’m doing with another author, but it’s too early to spill the beans on that one yet.

Huge thanks to Chad Lutzke for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him online at his website!

Happy reading!

Poetry of the Night: Interview with Cina Pelayo

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight Cina Pelayo. Cina’s an accomplished and award-winning poet and fiction author with numerous books including Poems of My Night, Santa Muerte, Loteria, and The Missing.

Over the summer, Cina and I discussed her inspiration as an author, her gorgeous covers by Abigail Larson, and her future writing plans.

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

I started writing in high school, but non-fiction. My undergraduate degree is in journalism and I worked as a freelance journalist for about 10 years before moving on to fiction writing. I started writing fiction while pursuing an MFA. I have always loved horror. I watched my first horror movie at 5 and was pretty obsessed with all things horror to the point that my mother consulted with her priest about my obsession with horror movies, books, magazines and fascination with the occult. She wound up throwing away my Ouija board, but I put my foot down on horror movies and books and she left me alone from there thinking it was a phase. I guess it wasn’t a phase?

What draws you to horror? Do you remember your first experience with the genre, and do you have a favorite film or book that serves as your horror go-to?

I live in inner city Chicago – not the suburbs where most people live who say they live in Chicago. I’ve seen it all. Gangs. Guns. Drugs. My elementary school friend is serving life for murder. A classmate from high school was paralyzed days before graduation. I’ve covered stories as a journalist where I’ve showed up to the scene and the body is still there on the ground for all to see. Those things don’t leave you. They become a part of you. That together with my mother’s wild religious superstitions (We once had a quasi-exorcism in our house) have stayed with me. My mother has also had her fair share of exposure to horrific crimes that she has shared with me. A neighbor girl from her town was abducted and raped and killed and her dismembered body was discarded in her parent’s trash can. My mother also recalls people’s fears of witches and the occult from her town and she’s shared these stories with me. My father has shared stories of strange occurrences from his town as well.

I wish I could say that fiction has been my sole inspiration, but it’s really been non-fiction that has influenced my fascination with the horror genre. Why do people do horrible things to one another? What is their motivation?

In terms of my first exposure to the horror fiction genre it’s seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was about 5-years-old while my brother was baby sitting me. Freddy is forever my first and favorite. In terms of a horror book that is my go-to, it’s The Exorcist. When I think of all of the horror novels that I wish I could write it would be that one.

You’ve written both fiction and poetry. Is your approach to writing the same or different depending on the medium? Is there one you prefer over the other?

Different. With fiction I am much more organized and structured, and sometimes it’s a really grueling experience with editing and rearranging scenes and understanding the logic and motivation behind what is going on. I think of it mathematically sometimes, if this plus this then it equals this, and then I wind up overthinking what is going on, how I am saying it and even where it’s located in the story. Sometimes that overthinking stunts me, I freeze, and I just stall writing.

With poetry, it’s much looser and I feel more at peace with what I am doing. It feels closest to painting for me when I write poetry. Yes, there is some editing and rearranging of things like with fiction, but I really enjoy writing poetry. It’s musical. It’s beautiful, and it’s much more personal for me.

You recently were a judge for the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume 6 alongside Christa Carmen and editor Stephanie M. Wytovich. What was that experience like, and do you foresee more editing work in your future?

Stephanie and Christa are two of the most wonderful horror writers working in our genre today. Both of them are incredibly smart and talented and just very pleasant to be around and talk to. I enjoy their work tremendously and I just enjoy them as overall people. It was a joy to be able to work on this project and I still can’t believe I was able to do that.

I’m not really an editor. I am in awe of those who edit. I’ve been trying to revive my indie press (Burial Day) for some time and that’s probably the most editing I will allow myself to do so that I can focus on creating.

Your books all have such beautiful covers! What can you share about the process of working with your cover artists?

Thank you but I can’t take credit for that. That is really the work of Abigail Larson. She’s a genius and I have been working with Abigail for about 10 years now. She is extremely busy (which is fantastic) and so I am lucky when she has availability. I usually send her a few ideas… all notes and not visuals because I really want her to come at it through her lens. She’s brilliant and always creates something perfect for my work.

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

Poems of My Night is the most personal. Santa Muerte is my first published work so that will always be a special piece for me. Loteria was my thesis, so it’s special because of that. I have really enjoyed my short stories lately. I have one coming out soon for a Puerto Rico charity anthology edited by Angel Luis Colon from Down and Out Books – Pa Que Tu Lo Sepas, and that is my favorite short story I have written in some time. I also really like the short story I wrote for She’s Lost Control.

What projects are you currently working on?

I feel like I have been editing this novel for two years… and that’s because I have. I’m trying to wrap up a detective-horror novel right now. After that, I’m likely going back to my YA horror roots but I’m not completely certain yet.

Tremendous thanks to Cina Pelayo for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find her online at Twitter and her website!

Happy reading!

Angels and Regret: Interview with Simon Bestwick

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m pleased to spotlight author Simon Bestwick. Simon is the author of Wolf’s Hill, Breakwater, and Angels of the Silences, along with many short stories that have appeared in venues including Black Static, The Devil and the Deep, and Best Horror of the Year.

Recently, Simon and I discussed his new collection, And Cannot Come Again: Tales of Childhood, Regret, and Innocence Lost, as well as his inspiration as an author and his writing plans for the future.

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

Simon BestwickI honestly can’t remember how it started – I’ve been making up stories, or trying to, since I was very young. When I was at school I would turn any essay I was given into an excuse to write a story, usually horror or SF. I attempted my first novel at 14. (It was terrible.) In my late teens I decided to be an actor but retained an interest in writing, trying my hand at screen and stage plays. But it wasn’t until I left university and got stuck in a soul-destroying day job that I really buckled down and got writing fiction again in earnest. I didn’t need money or a movie camera or a cast of others to write a story. And by then I felt that if I wanted to call myself a writer, I had to actually write. So if I made a decision at any point, it was then.

I struggled to write anything I remotely liked through the back half of 1996, and then, on Boxing Day, I wrote my first proper short story, ‘Once’. After that I wrote a story a week, firing them off to the small press magazines that were everywhere at the time. And that was the start.

Oh God, there are so many favourite authors, and my list is ever-changing. Joolz Denby is one favourite – she’s an extraordinary poet and novelist (her novel Billie Morgan is utterly devastating). Another is Ramsey Campbell, who’s still producing consistently excellent fiction fifty years after he started. Joseph Roth is one I’ve recently discovered – The Radetzky March, Confession Of A Murderer, The Legend Of The Holy Drinker. Ray Bradbury for the extraordinary lyricism of his writing. Many individual books have stayed with me – Trevanian’s The Summer of Katya, Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army, Simon Louvish’s The Therapy Of Avram Blok. There are a lot of newer and emerging authors whose work I love too – Priya Sharma, Laura Mauro, Steve Hargadon, Helen Marshall. I also love the work of Cate Gardner, although she never likes me saying so in public because I’m married to her! Come back tomorrow and I’ll give you another list.

What can you tell us about your new collection, And Cannot Come Again?

It’s out now in ebook, paperback and hardback from ChiZine Publications. The subtitle is ‘Tales of Childhood, Regret and Innocence Lost’ – those were the themes the half-dozen stories I most wanted to include seemed to share, so I pulled the rest of the collection together around that.

It’s a bit of a retrospective, because there are stories in there from my first three full-length collections, along with previously uncollected tales and an unpublished novella that gives the book its title. I’m very proud of it – I think it’s a strong and varied selection from the stuff I’ve done. It also has an introduction from Ramsey Campbell, which is definitely one off the bucket list.

What draws you as a reader and a writer to horror and weird fiction? Do you remember your first experience with horror and/or weird fiction? Do you have a favorite book or film in those genres?

Horror and SF were always blurred together for me when I was little, probably due to growing up with TV programmes like Tom Baker-era Dr Who and Blake’s 7. Terrance Dicks’ Dr Who novelisations were some of the first books I read that weren’t specifically for children. Thanks to the local library, I also discovered huge numbers of horror anthologies and collections. Helen Hoke edited a series of alliteravely-titled anthologies (Demonic, Dangerous and Deadly was one) filled with great quality horror fiction: there were stories by Joseph Payne Brennan, John Collier, Fritz Leiber, Stanley Ellin, Robert Graves and many, many others. The Gruesome Book (edited by Ramsey Campbell – that name pops up again!) caught me with the title. Mary Danby’s Fontana Books Of Horror (the fourteenth volume, which is very hard to find, has a story called The Boorees by Dorothy K. Haynes that scared the hell out of me and is still superb.) Barbara Ireson edited anthologies like Creepy Creatures and Fearfully Frightening which included works by Joan Aiken, Theodore Sturgeon, Patricia Highsmith and so many more.

But one of the biggest formative works for me was a thick tome that belonged to my grandfather, called A Century Of Thrillers. It was my first introduction to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, among other things. ‘The Masque Of The Red Death’ terrified the hell out of me, and I loved it.

As you can tell, I first encountered horror literature in the form of short fiction, which is often where it’s at its best. I went through a period of deciding genre fiction, especially horror, was trash (probably after reading far too many trashy ‘80s horror novels!) but was lured back into it by Nicholas Royle’s Darklands anthologies, which demonstrated brilliantly that you could use horror fiction to write about anything at all.

As for TV and film… I’ve already mentioned the influence of Dr Who and other 1970s and ‘80s TV programmes. There was a huge amount of excellent work done in that period (along with a lot of pulp – maybe that luxuriance, and the freedom to experiment that kind of popularity brings, is why it was such a fertile time) which has had a huge influence on my generation. You can see it particularly in the films of Matthew Holness (A Gun For George, The Snipist) and particularly in last year’s brilliant and unnerving Possum.

There were the BBC’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, The Nightmare Man, the old Hammer films I’d be able to watch on a black and white portable TV if I could stay awake late enough. I saw John Carpenter’s The Thing and John Landis’ An American Werewolf In London when I was about eleven or twelve, and was alternately terrified and awed. (In the case of American Werewolf, I also laughed out loud on many occasions. And then there was Jenny Agutter. Possibly one of my first crushes there…)

In terms of what’s out there now, the wealth of new material – good new material – is possibly as rich as what was around in my boyhood. Films that have impressed me lately include Willow Creek, Grave Encounters. The Perfection, Hereditary, Get Out, the aforementioned Possum, and many others. Books? Any of Reggie Oliver’s story collections, or Lynda E. Rucker’s. Laura Mauro’s Sing Your Sadness Deep; Priya Sharma’s All The Fabulous Beasts. Gateways To Abomination by Matthew M. Bartlett. Any of the late Joel Lane’s story collections. I suppose I shouldn’t say that I’m looking forward to reading yours too, Gwendolyn, but I am!

In addition to your own writing, you also run an interview series on your blog. What inspired you to become an interviewer, and what, if anything, have you learned about the craft of writing from talking to other authors?

Partly curiosity about how other people work, partly because it was an excuse to chat to authors I like and admire, and partly out of a kind of enlightened self-interest. If you have a blog or website, you obviously want people to visit, but if all you ever do is talk about yourself and your achievements, no-one’s going to be interested. Making it as much about other people as you can is the best way to make your blog/site as interesting a place to visit as possible.

The interview I’m proudest of isn’t on my blog, however: back in 2012 I interviewed Joolz Denby about her work for This Is Horror. She still rates it as one of the best-researched and most interesting ones she’s done.

As to what I’ve learned – that virtually every writer of any worth has long periods of thinking they’re rubbish, and that everyone has different working methods. It’s about finding what works for you, putting in the hours, and not giving up.

You’ve written both short and long fiction. Do you have a preferred length as a writer? Also, how does your approach change (or stay the same) depending on the word count of the story?

It does change. With short fiction, it’s easier to dive in with only the vaguest idea of what you’re doing (with a single opening image or line or a situation or incident in mind) and winging it from there. For longer work, I usually need to sketch out some sort of outline, however vague. I have done a couple of novels where I outlined in incredibly fine detail before getting started, but generally, I prefer to keep it light, maybe outlining individual chapters as I get to them.

Up until about 2008, I was mainly a writer of short fiction, although I racked up a number of unpublished (unpublishable?) novels. Then I wrote Tide Of Souls for Abaddon Books, and my focus has tended to be on longer work ever since. I find it harder to write short fiction now; the advantage of longer work is that you can just sink into that world and write another 1,000 or however many words each day. That works on novellas too; I’ve written two this year which I think are as good as anything I’ve done.

I think on the whole I do prefer the longer work now, but I’d like to write more short stories, even so. As I said, when it comes to horror, that’s often where the strangest, best and most exciting work gets done. Novellas make a nice midway-point between the two.

You’ve been writing for a number of years now. What’s a piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Write what you love, tell the stories you want to tell, don’t get bogged down in concerns about whether it’ll sell or not. Also: write every day. Draft, redraft, get it as good as you can, then send it out and keep sending it out when it gets rejected. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but always try and learn from them.

What projects are you currently working on?

I try to keep a few things on the go at any one time – so I’m currently rewriting a gigantic epic novel for my agent, while also typing up another novel I basically composed on a dictaphone last year (five minutes of recorded stuff at a time), and working (slowly) on my first screenplay. Meanwhile I’m working on a novella in longhand during my breaks at work. Once the epic’s been completed, I’ll be trying to start a new novel.

Where can we find you online?

I have a blog, which I really need to use more often! Resuming those author interviews would be a good start…

I’m on Facebook, and have a page there too, and I tweet as @GevaudanShoal. There’s an Instagram page also, though I haven’t put that to use yet.

Finally, there’s a Patreon page, where I’m serialising a comedy/SF/horror/thriller novel called The Mancunian Candidate, plus posting stories and an occasional serial.

Tremendous thanks to Simon Bestwick for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Sun Dogs and Singing Sadness: Interview with Laura Mauro

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature Laura Mauro. Laura is the British Fantasy Award-winning author of numerous short stories, and her debut collection, Sing Your Sadness Deep, is out next week from Undertow Publications.

Recently, Laura and I discussed her new collection, her process as a short fiction author, and what she’s working on next.

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

I guess I never really decided as such. It’s just a thing that sort of happened! I’ve been writing in some capacity or another since I was very young – my mum has poems I wrote at 6 years old. So I’ve always known that writing is something I enjoy doing. During my teens and early twenties I half-wrote epic fantasy novels (inevitably rip-offs of JRPG games I’d enjoyed), dabbled in cyberpunk (and realised I know nothing about technology, so gave up) and wrote a lot of fanfiction for various fandoms. (I still write fanfiction now, when I have the time.)

Around 2011 or so I started writing short stories, just because there were ideas in my head that I really wanted to pry out, and I’d never tried writing short original fiction. At that time, I had no intention of publishing – it just wasn’t something I’d considered. So I posted some of the stories on my then-blog, just so they would be out in the world somewhere. Unexpectedly, I received a message from a writer who went on to become a friend, asking why I wasn’t submitting my stories anywhere. So I did. After a load of rejections I finally sold my first short story, ‘Red Rabbit’, in 2012. It was around then that I realised this was something I actually wanted to keep doing.

Huge congratulations on your forthcoming collection, Sing Your Sadness Deep. How did you choose the stories to include in the table of contents? What particular themes does the book explore?

Thank you very much! My back catalogue is still relatively small, but I knew I didn’t want to just throw everything I’d ever written into the collection. I wanted to curate it so I felt at least that it was representative not just of the writer I am today, but this whole period of my life so far. Because I haven’t been writing that long, relatively speaking, so it still feels like I’m in the process of becoming a ‘proper’ writer! The stories in the collection span the whole range of my career so far, right back to the very beginning. I’m a bit nervous about this, actually. I’m worried that people will either read my early stories and think I’ve lost it, or alternatively will like my later stories but think my early stories are rubbish. But those older stories are still an important part of who I am as a writer, so to paraphrase a very wise friend, you just have to let the book go out into the world and people will make of it what they make of it.

In terms of themes…I don’t consciously write with a theme in mind, but it’s been pointed out to me a couple of times that I tend to write about outsiders, and ‘the other’. And specifically that I approach ‘the other’ with compassion. There’s a quote from my favourite ever book, Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson, which I keep coming back to: “There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything’s quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep—then they appear.” I’ve always related to this as a bit of an oddball who only really comes alive in winter. So I guess I tend to write about those ‘night animals’, because someone has to tell their stories.

The cover of your collection is an instant classic. It conjures images of fairy tales, horror, and the kind of delightful creepiness that Edward Gorey specialized in. What can you tell us about how that cover came to fruition? Who’s the artist, and did you have any input on the cover’s development?

Thank you, I love it! So the artwork is by Stephen Mackey, whose art is just so gorgeous, these surreal and dreamy images which tread the line between spooky and beautiful. The cover design was by Vince Haig, who I think has done an incredible job of turning a piece of artwork into a fully realised book cover. Michael Kelly at Undertow initially sent me through a selection of preliminary cover designs based on Stephen Mackey’s art, but the moment I saw the fox I knew that was the one. I love foxes anyway, but there was something about the whole feel of the cover, that kind of suspenseful, eerie atmosphere it evokes. I instantly knew that this was the artwork I wanted my stories to be represented by.

Congratulations on your Shirley Jackson Award nomination for last year’s “Sun Dogs.” What can you share about the inspiration and development of that story?

Thank you! ‘Sun Dogs’ was a weird one in that the title came first. The only thing I was certain of initially was that it would be set in the desert. Do you ever go wiki-walking? Where you start off on one Wikipedia article and then click on a bunch of interesting links from that article, and click on links in those articles, and before you know it it’s 3am and you suddenly know everything there is to know about rural towns in Chernushinksy District in the Ural Mountains of Russia? It was like that. I started reading about deserts, then zeroed in on the Mojave, then read about people who live ‘off-grid’ in the desert. And then I fell down a rabbit hole reading about preppers – people who obsessively ‘prepare’ for some nebulous civilisation-ending event, which was both fascinating and a bit terrifying. The story itself spiralled out of those subjects.

You’re an accomplished short fiction author. Do you have a specific approach to writing your short stories, or does each one develop organically on its own?

They all tend to happen organically. Most of the time I have some kind of central concept or event or place that I know I want to write about, but the meat and bones of the story only tend to become apparent once I sit down and start writing. More often than not, I know how a story ends before I sit down and write it, but how I get there is a complete mystery.

In addition to your own fiction, you’re also a reviewer. What inspired you to become a reviewer, and what if anything have you learned as a storyteller by reviewing the work of others?

Reviewing is hard! I strive to be completely objective about the books I review and that can be difficult because obviously you never really want to say anything bad about a book. All writers know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a bad review! But at the same time I think it’s important to be truthful. I’ve very rarely read a book that didn’t have at least one or two good points, so I’ll always try to balance criticism by noting those things I enjoyed. I’ve been lucky so far in that all the books I’ve reviewed for Black Static have been really enjoyable, so it’s not been too difficult to be both honest and positive. It’s very interesting to review books whilst simultaneously wearing your ‘reader’ and ‘writer’ hat. Mostly I tend to note the things I enjoyed for whatever reason and consciously try to replicate that effect in my own work.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am finishing up a Master’s in Modern and Contemporary Literature and am deep in the process of writing a 15,000 word dissertation on liminal physical spaces in horror fiction, which is both really interesting and way more difficult than I anticipated, particularly with the introduction of spatial theory. Outside of university, I am chugging away at a project which I hope will become a novella or novel – weirdly enough, it’s also about liminal spaces. I may be mildly obsessed.

Where can we find you online?

I tweet at @lauranmauro, and I blog here and there at www.lauramauro.com. I’m also on Facebook and Pinterest if that’s your thing.

Tremendous thanks to Laura Mauro for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Don’t Go Back: Interview with Howard David Ingham

Welcome back to this week’s author interview series! Today, I’m thrilled to be featuring Howard David Ingham. Howard is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide to Folk Horror, which is one of my very favorite books from the last year.

Recently, Howard and I discussed their inspiration as a writer, how they chose the films for We Don’t Go Back, and what they have planned for the future.

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

I have always wanted to be a writer, right, since I was a queer and awkward teenager.

True Story. I started writing professionally because of a job I had writing manuals and marketing material for this one horse software firm years ago now. I was asked one day to design a brochure for a new product, and my sleazy boss told me to put a flowchart on the cover and make it look like a breast. In profile. Because “sex sells”, apparently. With like a voluptuous curve here. And a rounded and fulsome curve here. And a pointy bit here. I spent a week following his remit to the letter, while all the time making it not look like a breast, because at this point I still had my dignity (although some years later I’d sell it on eBay. But I digress). After a week of rejected designs, my sleazy, greasy-haired boss came and stood at my desk, staring as I mangled yet another version in Adobe. And he said, “Look. Can’t you just make it a bit more pert?” And that was the precise moment I decided that I needed to go freelance.

My favourite authors? I love Angela Carter. No one writes like she wrote. Flann O’Brien’s work is existentially terrifying and hilarious at the same time, and The Third Policeman is my favourite novel by some distance. I have always loved Jorge Luis Borges’ way with a short, short story, and he’s been a big inspiration to me. As for film writing, no film book has affected me as much as Kier-La Janisse’s House of Psychotic Women. It’s the film book I dream of being half as good as.

Your nonfiction book, We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide to Folk Horror, is one of my very favorite books of the last few years. It has been an invaluable resource to me, and it’s also filled with witty and insightful essays about each of the selected folk horror films. You touch upon this in the book, but for those who haven’t been fortunate enough to read it yet, when did you first hear about folk horror, and what were your initial impressions of the subgenre?

Well that’s complex. But in 2016, I heard that folk horror was a thing because of several friends of mine (particularly my frequent collaborator and podcast buddy Jon Dear) who had begun to get enthused by it. I checked it out and discovered that in fact “folk horror” was a name largely given to most of my favourite films and TV plays. And that I’d always been into folk horror, since I was a kid. I just didn’t know there was a name for it until pretty recently.

I grew up in the 80s, the son of a psychic and a magician, and I caught the tail end of that period where daily horoscopes were on the morning news and TV and film were, at least here in the UK, indefinable spooky. Haunted. I grew up with Bagpuss, and Moondial, and as I got older and discovered films like The Wicker Man, Carnival of Souls and the classic BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas (which my father particularly loved), that love of the spooky and occult I’d always had thanks to a childhood steeped in occult ephemera stuck with me.

Were there any films in particular that you would have liked to include in the book but that you decided to omit? Any newer folk horror films that have been released since then that you feel would fit well in the table of contents?

There were only so many 1960s and 70s European and British horrors I could include. I decided for example that I probably could have left out The Devil Rides Out and The (1966) Witches. Tombs of the Blind Dead didn’t make it in because I have a hard aversion to zombie films.

I regret not including either Straw Dogs or Deliverance. I nearly wrote about A Cure for Wellness, but thought better of it. Arcadia literally came out within weeks of the final proof of the book coming out; Apostle and Requiem probably would have made it in if I’d left it a few months but neither is that good, so maybe I dodged a bullet there.

Midsommar, on the other hand, missed the cut by a year, but I can’t imagine not including that should I do a second edition.

So many moments in We Don’t Go Back really stopped me in my tracks, but probably none more so than your decision to include Winter’s Bone as a folk horror film. As a huge fan of the film, that selection—and your subsequent write-up—just blew me away. What is it about that film in particular that first made you think of it as a folk horror film? Considering that’s an entirely realistic film with no fantasy elements, how important of a role do you think the supernatural plays or doesn’t play in folk horror?

I think the main thing that differentiates folk horror as a genre is that it’s primarily the horror of folk, that the hauntings, or happenings, or violence are centred on ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary lives. For all that it’s often framed as being a more tasteful sort of horror, a kind of middle class horror (with a very middle class fan base), folk horror is stridently political and concerned with working people. The supernatural is really just a metaphor for the horrors that are visited upon ordinary people and which they visit upon each other.

Winter’s Bone is all about the horror of folk – just because the rural conspiracy isn’t pagan or supernatural, doesn’t mean that it isn’t very much a story about those exact horrors, and its chainsaw-centred denouement is quintessentially folk horror. It’s also really fucking brilliant.

We Don’t Go Back was very appropriately nominated in the nonfiction category for the Bram Stoker Awards this year. Where were you when you found out you were nominated, and what was your first thought?

I was sitting down, taking a rare breather on a Saturday afternoon, and I got a message from a really lovely guy – a HWA member – called Ben Monroe who was the guy who urged me to submit the book in the first place, and without whom I’d probably never have had the stones to. Anyway, Ben congratulated me for being nominated, and then a few minutes later I got a phone call by Steve Horry (who drew the wonderful cover that isn’t unrelated to the book getting noticed long enough for people to consider it for awards) who literally stopped driving his car, full of his family, and stopped in a car park so he could be wildly excited for me.

I thought, no way, there must be some mistake. Especially since in the preliminary ballot there was some heavyweight academic writing.

Then I saw that It’s Alive was also nominated and the world righted itself, because I knew right then there was no way that book wasn’t going to win. But because of that, I just enjoyed what I had. I think that getting nominated for something like the Stokers with a book I wrote, edited, print designed and self-published is a special thing.

Just once, and just for the first time, I won at self-publishing.

What are your hopes for the future of folk horror? Or do you think there even is a strong future for folk horror?

I think when Rolling Stone (or whoever it was) does a profile on Black Philip, the phenomenon is at its peak and I think we’re in a late stage of a latter day folk horror boom. We’re going to see an increasing number of very derivative films – we already are, in fact, I mean Apostle was basically just a frantic game of Folk Horror Bingo, for example. Back in the 70s, folk horror was an accidental genre. It wasn’t that people deliberately made folk horror films, they made films that fit the preoccupations of the time and years later people started calling them folk horror. I mean if you want to be a purist, literally the only folk horror film made before about 2010 was Blood on Satan’s Claw, because that’s the only one that got called that before then. Now, though, people are treating it like a brand, like a Thing, and that means that we’re getting films that fit a formula.

It’s not over, because in a sense these conversations are never really over, but I suspect that in a couple of years the mainstream will find a new sort of horror movie to be excited about.

But not before Kier-La Janisse’s documentary about folk horror Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched comes out, because I’m one of the talking heads in that one and I’ve always wanted to be in a film and I’m proper excited about that.

I’m looking so forward to your next nonfiction book, which is all about identity horror. What can you share with us about that project?

Identity Horror is a term that I came up with independently, but I am about 99% certain I wasn’t the first to come up with it, which is probably a sign I’m on to something.

The Question in Bodies, which is one of several I’m working on (I’ve also got a companion to We Don’t Go Back on the cards and a book called Cult Cinema, which is about bad religion in film) is the title of the project. Body horror is part of it, but it’s also about how that affects who we are. I identify as nonbinary, pansexual and neurodiverse, and a lot of this stuff speaks to me, since a lot of the films I’ve been looking at are about the challenge to human identity in the face of existential threats – inner changes reflect external traumas. Your great book The Rust Maidens is very much an identity horror.

The films I’m looking at are often queer, and they actively queer the human self for better or worse, with odd penetrations, or psychological transformations. You get films about parenthood, gender, race, sexuality. Films featuring doppelgängers and brainwashing. Cronenberg is a touchstone, obviously (Videodrome! eXistenZ! Crash! Shivers! The Brood!) but you can see the themes in a surprisingly large range of movies. Like Possession, with its crazy marriage break up, tentacle infidelity and disease-God; or Upstream Color, where identity theft is something that literally happens to a couple of people who share its trauma. A lot of these films might have difficult content, so you’ve got The Skin I Live In, which I’m still not sure is transphobic or transadvocate, and Lucille Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution where body horror and weird hybridisation is a vehicle for extreme child abuse, making for a super queasy film. And as for Tetsuo, you can sum it up with one word: drillpenis.

Anyway. I’m still staking my claim as to why identity horror is a valid subgenre. I’ll be working on this for a while yet.

You’re also a fiction writer. What are you working on in terms of fiction at the moment?

I’m always writing short stories, and recently I did some for a role-playing game called Threefold and another one, a folk horror game called Solemn Vale.

As for my personal work, the last thing I put out was a collection called this is not a picture. I’m about halfway through resurrecting an abandoned dystopian scifi comedy horror called P Squared, which I stopped working on first time because it was the most depraved, vile and unsettling thing I’d ever written. It’s about the commodification of human identity, and it’s sort of deliberately extreme, all splattered with blood and semen. It’s got a time travel temp agency, a character who accidentally sexually harasses themself, doppelgängers, clones, non consensual brain surgery and ridiculous amounts of sex and violence. The last chapter I edited has a scene where a university department commits an explosive mass suicide, and the slang term a character uses for this is a “hard Brexit”, which I guess is where my head is right now.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me at Room207press.com, but also at M4DeathTrip.podbean.com, where Jon and I are about to begin a new season of podcasts. I’m all about the crowd funding, so I guess I would be remiss not to mention patreon.com/HowardDavidIngham, where most of my blog writing finds its home first before being released out into the wild.

Tremendous thanks to Howard David Ingham for being part of this week’s author spotlight!

Happy reading!

Shining Legacy: Interview with V. Castro

Welcome back! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight the fantastic V. Castro. V. is the author of Maria the Wanted and the Legacy of the Keepers as well as numerous short stories. I was fortunate enough to meet V. at StokerCon this year, and I knew I had to invite her to talk with me here on the blog.

Recently, V. and I discussed her new novel as well as her inspiration and hopes for the future of horror.

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

I’ve always loved books. Writing happened later in life because I never had the confidence to pursue it. A few years ago, I was in a bad place emotionally and felt I had nothing to lose. I was nearly forty and all those insecurities that held me back previously no longer existed. It’s a nice freedom to write with a fuck it all flag in your window. With that being said, my mother recently gave me a vampire book I wrote at nine years old! Masterpiece.

I don’t have favorite authors because I am discovering new favorites all the time. The books that shaped me were; Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz, The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Stand by Stephen King.

Congratulations on the release of your novel, Maria the Wanted and the Legacy of the Keepers. What inspired the book, and what has been the most surprising part of the experience, either writing or promoting it? 

Maria was not a main character, however, the more I thought about her, the more I felt she was important to write. She needed to be fleshed out because my kindle was full of straight white males. No shade, but there is a real need for narratives from females and people of color.

The most surprising part is that people have embraced me. The horror community is AMAZING, and I can’t tell you how many Latinx folks have reached out to me on Instagram excited about a strong Latina with her own story. There is a massive gap in the adult horror market for people of color. Most people don’t see this because they are represented. It isn’t only vampires that don’t see their reflection.

What draws you to horror and dark fantasy? Do you have a first memory of the genres growing up?

The first part of my life was not easy. Horror was an escape. There was no one to monitor what I was doing so I watched most horror films when they were on TV. Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark was my bible for years. The horror I was reading made me forget the little horrors that I experienced in my life.

You’re an incredible supporter of your fellow authors, both in person and on social media! You’re always promoting others and being such a positive force in the industry. In that vein, what advice do you have for other authors just getting started in the industry, especially female authors? 

My first and foremost advice is just be cool. There is never a reason to be rude or dog another author. It makes you look like a jerk and there are enough of those in the world.

I also feel that women are stronger together. The Suffragettes would have never accomplished half of what they did by being bitchy and divided. If we want things to change it should be shoulder to shoulder.

Which part of the writing process is your favorite: writing dialogue, creating setting, or crafting characters? 

Crafting characters because I only write main characters that are Latina. We see so few Latinas as main characters, we need to shine.

What are your hopes for the future of the horror genre?

I want more diverse stories. There are so many folk tales and urban legends from different cultures that are creepy AF. But women are KILLING it. I think the future is female.

What projects are you currently working on?

The big news is I will be co-editing a Latinx horror anthology with Bronzeville Books, Latinx Screams. I can’t wait for this to drop because it is all our nightmares and dreams from our own voices. Given the current climate, I feel this is very important right now. Submissions are open!

I have a ton of projects out and I’m just waiting for those emails.

Where can we find you online?

I am active on Twitter and Instagram as @vlatinalondon or my website www.vvcastro.com

Tremendous thanks to V. Castro for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!