Category Archives: Interviews

Fierce Destroyer: Interview with Nadia Bulkin

Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to feature author Nadia Bulkin. Nadia’s fiction has appeared in Nightmare, The Dark, Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and is forthcoming in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Nine. Her debut fiction collection, She Said Destroy, is due out later this year from Word Horde.

Recently, Nadia and I discussed her development as a writer, her process of putting together her first collection, as well as her plans for the future.

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

It’s kind of a cliche, but I truly just love telling stories. Before I could easily write, I would re-tell the abridged version of classics like The Prince and the Pauper to my mom, who would write it down for me. By the time I was nine I knew I wanted to be a novelist, though I only started publishing short stories to earn money when I was 21. By now it’s like muscle memory. Even when I don’t have time to write, I write – sometimes useless trash, but arcs and characters nonetheless. Nothing beats the vicarious adrenaline of a well-crafted, heartfelt, gut-wrenching story. My favorite writers who have knocked me down and dragged me through the mud are Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Shirley Jackson, Franz Kafka, Paul Bowles, Joseph Heller, and most recently, Francine Prose.

Congratulations on your upcoming short fiction collection, She Said Destroy, due out in August from Word Horde! What was the process like as you put together this collection? Were there any stories you planned to include but decided to leave out? Any other surprises in the process of compiling a book?

Thanks very much! Mostly, it gave me the chance to define myself as a writer. When I first started selling stories, I didn’t really know what direction I wanted to go in, and I wrote some stuff that was well-received that I, personally, thought was really dire and not-me. It wasn’t until a little later that I embraced being a politically-themed horror writer, and only in the past couple years am I selling the sort of stories I actually want to write – so this was about boiling down everything I’d done to the core: who am I really? And what emerged were dark stories about people pushed down a supernatural road of no return; some motivated by fear, or anger (disguised fear), many motivated by love.

As you write your short fiction, do you have a certain method to crafting your first drafts? Is there an average length of time it takes you to write a story, or does each one vary wildly from the others?

I mull a lot and outline a lot. I binge on research and movies and music to help the mulling process (like mulling wine, you know?). I’m obsessed with structure and symmetry (my stories are always divisible by five). By the time I’m done with all that (which can take about a month), the story-writing itself takes a week if I’m really lucky, or a month if I’m unlucky. I edit as I go and abide by the Joe Lansdale / Nick Mamatas school of single drafts only.

She Walks in ShadowsYour settings are very rich and well-crafted, with plenty of vivid details to immerse the reader. Do you have a certain setting that’s your favorite? How much research do you do in advance when working on a setting that perhaps you’ve never or not often used before?  

Well, thank you! The easiest setting for me is contemporary semi-rural Nebraska, though my favorite is Java in the 1990s. I try hard only to write settings I have personally experienced, because I hate it when people write about places I know (especially Indonesia) in a manner that doesn’t feel genuine. If forced to use an unfamiliar setting, I try to go for overtly weird and dream-like and faintly but not specifically recognizable. I try to be really careful with how I use linguistic indicators. And if I can’t avoid it, yeah, I do as much from-a-distance research as possible and beg forgiveness from the gods afterwards.

If forced to choose, do you have a personal favorite story you’ve written?

This is tough because I have a soft spot for several, but probably “Absolute Zero,” which is included in She Said Destroy. I’m not sure I could tell you why, except that it was so tough to wrangle the themes I wanted to convey while keeping them all under control, and I was proud that I pulled it off.

In addition to your fiction, you also write nonfiction essays on your blog and other sites. How is your process similar (or different) when working on nonfiction versus fiction?

Similar in that I mull and outline obsessively. Dissimilar in that I have way less discipline with non-fiction because I’m usually really emotional about the subject matter, so it takes me far more attempts to create something vaguely appropriate for external consumption!

What upcoming projects are you working on?

In addition to making sure She Said Destroy successfully launches, I’ve got to get half-a-dozen short stories packed up for various destinations. I’m also in the longest wrestling match of my life with a novel that’s a fever-dream fictionalization of the 1965 anti-Communist coup in Indonesia. Basically House of Cards except with a post-colonial slant, chaos demons, and psychics on government retainer.

Tremendous thanks to Nadia Bulkin for being part of this week’s interview series! Find her online at her author website as well as Facebook and Twitter!

Happy reading!

Devoured by the Light: Interview with Michael Griffin

Welcome back! This week, I’m pleased to spotlight author Michael Griffin. Michael’s short fiction has appeared in Apex, Black Static, and Strange Aeons, among other outlets, and his short stories were collected in The Lure of Devouring Light, released in 2016 from Word Horde. His debut novel, Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone, debuted earlier this year from JournalStone.

Recently, Michael and I discussed his inspiration and process as an author as well as his advice to new writers.

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

Michael GriffinMy journey toward becoming a writer was gradual, and unfolded in phases throughout my teens and twenties. I’ve always been a lover of books, and my desire to write grew out of my enjoyment of stories, that pleasure of visiting a world created by someone else. I experimented with writing in various genres and styles, and took a long time to find a mode that really fit. The stories I want to create take place in a world that seems exactly like our own, but transformed or shifted in some way to create a tension or confusion between aspects expected and unexpected.

Though I read lots of work that is more straightforward or less “weird,” many of my favorite writers do something more or less like what I describe. They present a world most of us would recognize, where the concerns of the characters resemble our own concerns — job, money, love, family — and add to that a level of confusion or unreality, or a distortion of time, or a confusion of cause and effect.

Some of my favorites include Laird Barron, S.P. Miskowski, Livia Llewellyn, John Langan, Richard Gavin and most recently, Michael Wehunt, whose debut collection made a big impression last year. I have so many other favorites — for example, I’m reading Brian Evenson’s latest and it reminds me “Oh yeah, another one of my very favorites,” I almost forgot — that it’s impossible to do justice to them all, either by listing them in situations like this, or reading everything they put out.

Congratulations on your novel, Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone, from JournalStone. Tell us a little bit about your process in writing your debut novel.

Hieroglyphs of Blood and BoneThank you! A first novel is an exciting milestone for any writer, and I’m excited to have JournalStone involved. Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone is a story I’ve been trying to tell for a while. I always struggled to convey what I imagined that it ought to feel like, until I realized it needed to be much longer. Basically, I had an idea for a novel and I’d been trying to find a way to tell it as a short story. What it needed was the time and space to intimately reveal Guy’s gradual slippage from frustrated loneliness into an obsession so deep, he begins to detach from all other aspects of his life. That change needed to be shown not from the outside, but from inside Guy’s emotional state, which required a close-focus exploration of all his fears and desires, as he looks for something to grab hold of. Now I feel like it tells the story, and reveals the character Guy, I always had in mind.

Congratulations are also in order for your fiction collection, The Lure of Devouring Light, which was a huge critical success last year. What was the process for selecting the stories for the table of contents, and what was the biggest thing you learned from putting together and promoting a collection?

The Lure of Devouring LightAgain, thanks. It’s been a great experience in too many ways to list. I was so fortunate to find a publisher as great as Word Horde to release my first book. That helped give it a nice boost, sort of an instant credibility based on all the other great stuff Ross Lockhart has released through Word Horde before and since.

As to how it came together, I had some early guidance from writer and editor Joe Pulver, who really pushed me to begin preparing for the future possibility of that first collection, even before all the stories were ready. His idea was that I should start thinking in terms of a cohesive collection and build toward it, rather than just handing over whatever stories I had available whenever some publisher came calling. Often writers assume a first collection should come out as soon as they’ve written enough stories to fill a book, but it’s important to exclude anything, especially earlier work, that fails to match the quality or the “feel” or what the book ought to be.

That was the most important lesson that was reinforced through this process. You’ll only ever have one first collection, so it’s important at that stage to respect the notion of the book as a somewhat lasting artifact, rather than just flinging together random stories in a kind of giddy exuberance.

You’ve now written both short fiction and novels. Do you find your approach is different depending on the length of the story?

My approach is definitely different, and I’m still learning how best to write an effective short story, even though I’ve written many. The reason I struggle with this is that I tend to want to cram in too much story, too many scenes and details, and end up with an agonizing process of cutting words, shaving down every scene, struggling to reduce and pare away. Often I’ve work months on a story, with most of that time spent just going over and over it, evaluating every word and sentence, really obsessing way too much about every last detail.

With a novel, and really the same is true for novellas, I can spend more time and effort developing the world and the characters, and seeking interesting ways of making everything more complex or resonant. I’m able to write sentences that unfold more naturally, and seem to have an easier rhythm. I compare writing longer works to jogging or hiking at a comfortable, consistent pace, whereas writing shorter pieces feels to me like trying to do a very precise and complicated dance within the confines of a tiny room.

That may sound as if I don’t love short stories, which isn’t really true, but given the kind of narrative voice which seems most naturally to flow out of me, as well as my preference for telling stories with a lot of inward psychological intimacy, I have an easier time working within wider boundaries. More and more, I will probably shift toward working more on book-length stories, which will mean writing only a handful of short stories per year, rather than a dozen or so.

What advice do you have for writers who are just getting started in publishing and are finding all the rejection a bit daunting?

My advice would be the same bit of insight that helped me get through it myself, which is to recognize that it’s something everyone must go through, and an essential part of the growth and maturation process for every writer. Finally I stopped worrying about whether it was taking longer than it should, or whether the rejections were “fair” or not, and focused on what I could control. I decided to focus on writing the very best stories I could, and to aim higher than merely to write well enough to be published. I wanted to write stories so compelling, editors would want to find a way, even with limited slots available, to publish my work.

Soon after I shifted my focus to aspects under my own control, such as writing more often, working harder and acting like a professional even before I actually was one, I began to break through in terms of quality. Then publications began to rack up quickly. When I see writers saying “My goal is to have five acceptances this year,” I think they’re doing it wrong, because they’re setting a goal over which they have zero control. It’s a recipe for frustration and self-blame, which is how those nagging thoughts of “I’m not good enough” and “I’m never going to make it” come about.

The sooner the writer moves beyond that stage and focuses on themselves in a mature way, the sooner they’ll make progress, if they have it in them as a writer.

What projects are you currently working on?

I spent February trying to work my way out of a weird lack of rhythm, a kind of halting productivity, since we sold our house and moved across town at the latter part of 2016. I’ve always been good at working steadily, and have rarely taken breaks longer than a day or two. Luckily, I had several finished works in the pipeline, so I have stories coming out throughout the next year or so, not least of which is this new novel.

The projects I’m shuffling and trying to start moving forward soon include a longer spec novel, five or six short stories for anthology invites which I’ll spread throughout the year, and several planned novellas which I see as a series exploring the backstory of one of the characters from my story “Firedancing,” a man called Old Mallard who is “One part Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, one part Kwai Chang Caine.”

Big thanks to Michael Griffin for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his author website as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Heart of the Story: Interview with Juliana Spink Mills

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Juliana Spink Mills. Juliana is a speculative fiction author based in Connecticut. Her debut novel, Heart Blade, the first in a multi-book series, debuted last month from Woodbridge Press.

Recently, Juliana and I discussed her evolution as a writer as well as what’s she’s learned so far from writing her Blade Hunt Chronicles series.

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

Juliana Spink MillsThank you for inviting me. I love your interviews, and I had so much fun answering your questions. As for writing, when I was a teen I always told myself I was going to be a writer someday. But somehow it got sidelined for way too long. Finally, when I turned forty, I picked up my dream, dusted it off, and told myself to stop messing around. I finished my first novel, a middle grade adventure story, two months later. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad; it was a ‘real’ novel, with a beginning, middle, and end. I was hooked! I haven’t stopped writing since.

My first love will always be kid lit. I grew up on a lot of classic English authors such as C.S. Lewis, E. Nesbit, and Arthur Ransome. Tolkien was my gateway into ‘adult’ fantasy. Currently, some of my favorite authors (I have too many to list them all!) include Brandon Sanderson, Cinda Williams Chima, Rick Riordan, and Victoria Schwab. I read a lot of YA and middle grade fiction in between huge tomes of epic fantasy, and I love snappy urban fantasy by authors such as Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, and Elliott James.

Congratulations on your debut novel, Heart Blade, from Woodbridge Press! What was the inspiration behind this book?

Thank you! I’m so excited. I can’t wait to share Heart Blade with everyone. As for inspiration, I needed a break from a novel I’d been querying with no success, so to take my mind off things I blasted out a ten-thousand-word short story in two days. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about the main character, Diana, a half-demon. I imagined she had a younger sister, a runaway named Del, and I wrote a short scene about her. Heart Blade evolved from that one scene in my head.

You have a sequel to Heart Blade, also forthcoming from Woodbridge Press. What challenges did you face in expanding the universe of your characters, and was there anything easier about the second book when compared with the first?

I’m working hard on Night Blade, the second book in the Blade Hunt Chronicles series. I think one of the main challenges in writing a sequel is making sure not to lose track of all the plot threads I set up in the first book, while at the same time expanding the story to show new sides of it and to embrace new plot and character arcs. It’s so much fun getting to broaden the Blade Hunt world, but at the same time I’m constantly worried I’ll forget to include something important from the first novel. Also, with two more books planned in the series, I need to remember to leave space for the story to grow.

The easy bit is not having to create a whole new world; I already have the set up to play in, and I already knew most of my book two characters.

Heart BladeYou’ve written both short fiction and novels. Do you find your approach is different depending on the length of the story?

Definitely! A short story is like a streamlined version of a novel, pared down to absolute basics. You need to be able to give readers a feel for a much wider world, while at the same time focusing on a tight storyline and remaining within the constraints of word-count and format. I find short stories a lot harder to write, to be honest. I always want to add either too much detail, or not enough. I used to be a regular in the SFFChronicles.com flash fiction competitions, and when I first started trying my hand at short stories they were either way too short, flash fiction style, or too elaborate, with novel-length pretensions.

In addition to your fiction, you are also an interviewer on your blog! What inspired you to start your interview series, and what’s the most important thing you’ve learned through talking with other writers?

I love interviewing other authors. When I first started writing, I obsessively read writer blogs for clues on how to figure out my own approach to it all. I think the interviews came from that curiosity, the desire to understand a little about someone else’s process and inspiration. I think one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is just how vast and varied the writing world is. Everyone is unique; there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do things, only what works or doesn’t work for you.

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

Setting and mood come first, I think. Because that usually inspires the rest. But my favorite bit is figuring out the plot. My first drafts are all plot-focused. It isn’t until I start revising and editing that I start adding layers to my characters and fine-tuning the dialogue.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m finishing Night Blade, the sequel to Heart Blade, and on the side I’ve been outlining book three, Star Blade. I also have a half-finished science fantasy YA that I’m itching to get back to at some point, inspired by the 1980s gold rush in the Brazilian Amazon.

Big thanks to Juliana Spink Mills for being part of this week’s interview series! Find her at her website as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Happy reading!

Looking to the Future: Part 4 of Our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion

Welcome back to the fourth and final part of our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion! To close out our month-long series, these amazing authors and I chat about their hopes for the future of horror as well as what each of them has planned for the coming year! And once again, if you need to familiarize yourselves with my featured authors (and all their varied accomplishments), head on over here for a quick refresher!

So let’s finish this up in style! Take it away, ladies!

What is your hope for the trajectory of the horror genre over the next couple decades? What would you like to see more of in horror, and what would you like to see less of?

Kristi DeMeester: I’m hopeful quiet horror becomes more mainstream. With I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House on Netflix, I’m hoping for an uptick in less gore and more atmosphere.

Miracle AustinMiracle Austin: I hope that all women will be paid more attention to and offered diverse opportunities to have their works exposed in various outlets. So many still have no idea how many women love to write and read horror tales.

K.Z. Morano: The horror genre is constantly evolving and that’s one of the many things I love about it. This is what makes this genre immortal. Already, we’re enjoying a vast selection of subgenres from fantasy horror to noir horror to bizarro horror. Even so, I’d very much like to witness the revival of extreme horror done the right way. You know, the way Poppy Z. Brite did it. I’d like to read horror that’s ferocious and fearless and emotionally honest and raw. I hope that fewer horror authors would be forced to “tone down their voices” in order to be accepted.

Wendy Wagner: I think that after the success of The Conjuring, The Witch, Blair Witch, and Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s novel HEX we’re going to see a lot of witch stories for a few years. There’s already a lot of weird witch SF coming out, and I think that will ripple through horror a bit. I’m down with that. I think it’s time for a witch renaissance! But I’m never going to get enough haunted house stories. 🙂

Lori Titus: I would like to see more women, people of color, and non-Western settings in horror. I want to see less torture porn and more movies with substance. Stories about flawed humans can be just as scary (if not more) than the serial killer/monster like Freddy or Michael Myers. And it’s not to say that those creatures don’t have their place, too. It just seems that horror goes through these phases where it’s only one thing—all serial killers, all vampires, or all Bigfoot. Variety is always good.

Farah Rose Smith: I hope to see horror make a distinct turn away from using sexual assault and misogyny as the primary platform for female characters. I’d like to see diverse authors make strides. The flourishing of the intersectional horror movement. It’s important that we move towards destigmatizing mental illness as well, by incorporating greater sensitivity and research when writing about it. Ultimately, I long for the death of the male gaze in storytelling, but we are a long way from making that happen.

Eden Royce: I’d love to see the definition of horror widen. It has a tendency to be dominated by the Eurocentric male view of what is fearsome or frightening. Chesya Burke’s article in Nightmare Magazine explains this well. Also, I want to see more horror films and webseries written and directed by women. I also hope we can throw off the stigma that comes with horror, especially for women writers. I see so many books that are categorized as “paranormal” in order to avoid using the term “horror” when the works clearly fit into the latter category.

Scarlett R. Algee: Well, I’m hoping to see more women 🙂 Less zombies. I am sick unto death of zombies and I’ve never quite worked out what their appeal is. I’m not a Walking Dead fan, and I can count the number of good zombie novels I’ve read in the past year on one finger. More psychological horror. Stories and films that don’t rely on outside monsters, but that show us we’re the monsters. Keep the gore offscreen and give us the dread, give us those subtle little touches that keep us awake at night.

Julia BenallyJulia Benally: I’d like to see horror that actually makes me shiver. Some horror should be classed in the genre of “stupid” because the story had no meat to it. I want to see better endings. How many stories choke at the end because somehow the evil ghost is a victim? WHATEVER! EYE ROLL! I’d like to see less of women’s privates. One can argue it shows vulnerability, so why are mostly women naked? That dude who wrote the story for the Silent Hill movie said women are good in horror because they’re ALREADY vulnerable. AKA she’s there to satiate horny sickos in the name of vulnerability. The only scary part about that is making rapists think about getting me. House of Wax with Vincent Price did the naked thing, but they showed the woman shoulders up. The focus was not her body, but the actual scene.

Tell us about your latest writing and/or editing projects. Also, what upcoming projects can we expect from you in the next year?

Lori Titus The Art of ShadowsKristi: Currently at work on stories due to anthologies and waiting to hear back on a handful of stories out on submission. Once those are off the list, I can circle back to working on my third novel. My debut novel, Beneath, is forthcoming from Word Horde in April.

K.Z.: I’m happy to share that one of my stories will be included in an anthology with tales written by Filipino authors. The stories are all set in the Philippines (or an alternate version of the Philippines). It’s not a horror antho but is instead made up of various stories in different genres. I’m actually looking forward to introducing more Filipino readers to my work.

Miracle: I’m in the process of working on edits for my upcoming YA/NA eclectic collection, Boundless—a work that almost was not published, which is another story of course. It will possess free-verse poems and short stories, which I hope will evoke many emotions. The expected release date is late January 2017. I’m also working on a short story for a YA Anthology to benefit Autism with 12 more amazing authors. It’s titled Ever in the After—fantasy and supernatural tales. Spring 2017 is expected release date.

Wendy: Editing-wise, I’ll be doing my usual stuff over at Nightmare this year, which is always fun. I love reading horror slush and working with horror writers—it’s an absolute joy. I have a story coming out in Pseudopod’s Artemis Rising project—it’s called “Drift Right,” and I think it’ll be podcast in early March. (It has creepy sea lions in it!) I also have a slightly spooky science fiction novel coming out this summer. It’s called An Oath of Dogs, and it features corporate cover-ups, murder, creepy alien beings, and some very scary dogs.

Sycorax's DaughtersLori: I have a lot on my plate. This month (January) I will have a new novel out called Blood Relations, about a religious cult and their enemies, who practice magic. There have been disappearances of young people in town, and the local sheriff struggles to solve the mystery before something worse happens. I will also be promoting The Art of Shadows, the second book in The Marradith Ryder Series. In this installment Marradith is tasked with finding Rafael Castillo, her missing boss. But as it turns out there are bigger enemies around than the one who abducted him. My plans are to write the third installment of Marradith’s story this year. But first, I have a new story I have already started on which I want to complete. Meanwhile I am also doing my usual ghostwriting work and some editing for author Kody Boye. Also, [I have a story in the anthology] Sycorax’s Daughters, along with a lot of other, great female black authors.

Farah: I am pretty swamped with projects at the moment. The third issue of Mantid Magazine will start coming together in late Spring. I’ll be posting updates to the submission guidelines in early February. I’m always in the process of writing short fiction and poetry, though the most important writing at the moment is a novel I’ve been working on for 4 years that is (finally) almost finished. An extended philosophical essay is in fragmentary form on my desk, as is the concept art for an interactive art exhibition that I’ve been developing over the past few months. All of this will have to take a back seat to some short films I am slated to produce this Spring. All in all, quite busy, and feel quite fortunate to be, especially with the excruciatingly slow pace that I need to work at.

Spook Lights 2Eden: Spook Lights 2: Southern Gothic Horror was just released in January 2017. I’m working on a novelization of one of the stories from my first collection, Spook Lights. I have a story in Sycorax’s Daughters, a collection of horror fiction and poetry by black women authors coming out this month (February 2017) and one in Shadows Over Main Street 2 (publication date TBD).

Scarlett: I’ve done copy editing and proofreading for two upcoming Woodbridge Press releases (Explorations: First Contact at the end of January, and Heart Blade by Juliana Spink Mills, coming in February.) I’m terrifically pleased with both of those and I think they’ll be phenomenal. I’ve also just written another episode of The Lift, for you podcast fans, that will drop later this year, and I’m hoping this is the year I get a good novel/long novella plot dropped in my brain.

Any final thoughts on Women in Horror Month for 2017 (or any thoughts about your plans for Women in Horror Month for the years to come)?

Kristi: We’re here every other month of the year as well. 🙂

Miracle: I hope that Women in Horror Month continues to receive hot attention by the industry and readers. One day, I also hope that there will no longer be just one month dedicated to women horror authors because there will be so many women involved in so many media vehicles, which will become the norm. I’m very grateful that a few doors have opened for some women, but it sure would be nice if all the doors opened for anyone who wish to transform her dreams into reality and to become visible by all.

SanitariumK.Z.: A lot of people are still wondering if women really have a place in horror. Let’s show them that we do. WIHM is a start. Soon, hopefully, it won’t take a month-long celebration every year for people to recognize that women have and always will have a place in the genre.

Wendy: I always see people complain about the need for Women in Horror month—and about the need for Black History month, Indigenous Peoples Day, etc. Yes, it sucks that white male cultural products get the lion’s share of attention. It sucks that we need to have special occasions to call out the contributions of other kinds of creators. But I know I’ve learned a lot from these kinds of promotional activities. Working on Lightspeed and Nightmare’s Destroy series taught me more about women, LGBTQ, and people of color working in my field that I learned in a lifetime of library use. So I’m glad these things exist. They’re a great way to help people broaden their genre experience. And heck, they’re fun, too!

Lori: I just hope everyone will take the time to sample work from some of the excellent women writers who grace the genre.

Farah: I do hope people will take the opportunity to celebrate Women in Horror Month by reading works by women and diverse authors and attending screenings of films directed, written, and produced by women. Regarding the future, it is a mission of mine to grow Mantid Media into a full-fledged small press, releasing works by women and diverse fiction writers as a matter of course. I would encourage people to keep their eyes on Mantid Magazine and submit fiction to us when we are open to them, hopefully on May 1st.

Eden: I’m just so pleased at the success Women in Horror Month continues to achieve and I love chatting with the women authors and artists I meet and delving into their work. For Women in Horror Month in the years to come, I want to be able to promote more of their work as well as release more of my own.

Scarlett: I’m going to spend this year’s WiHM reading a lot and finding new favorites. In years to come, I hope to be more physically involved. We’re voices to be heard. We’re the future.

Tremendous thanks to these nine fantastic authors for being part of my Women in Horror Discussion. Please read their work, now and every other month of the year. The horror genre is so much stronger thanks to their contributions!

Happy reading!

The Art of Advice and Support: Part 3 of Our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion

Welcome back to Part 3 of our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion! This week, these nine awesome authors and I talk about the great people in the horror industry who support women as well as their advice for those female authors just getting started in the industry. (And if you haven’t already, be sure to read the bios on my featured authors!)

So let’s get started for this penultimate installment of our Women in Horror Month celebration!

Unfortunately, there are still too many barriers for women in publishing, especially in genre fiction. However, instead of focusing on the far-too-common experiences many of us have had where someone wouldn’t give us a chance because of our gender, let’s flip it around and shine a light on those who have made publishing a better place to write: specifically, who have you met in this industry who has been supportive of your work in particular or supportive of women in horror in general? Who are those editors, authors, and publications you can count on to support female horror authors year-round, not just in the month of February?

Kristi DeMeester: S.J. Bagley and Simon Strantzas are hugely supportive as is Scott Nicolay. Ellen Datlow and Paula Guran, obviously. Sean Wallace over at The Dark. Constance Ann Fitzgerald over at Lady Box Books. Molly Tanzer. Silvia Moreno Garcia. Michael Wehunt. Shannon Peavey and Kelly Sandoval at Liminal Stories.

Miracle Austin: I must confess Sirens Call Publications, Sanitarium, Dark Eclipse, and many other anthologies allowed my voice to be heard. I’m extremely thankful for and always will be. These publications accepted some of my stories throughout the year.

K.Z Morano.: The lovely ladies at Sirens Call definitely deserve to be mentioned. I’d like to thank Gloria Bobrowicz, Nina D’Arcangela, and Julianne Snow for the support they give female horror authors, especially for opening the doors to newbie female writers in the genre. Also, there’s Fox Emm who included lots of female horror writers in the extreme horror anthology “Bad Neighborhood”. Some people think that women are incapable of writing hardcore horror. This blogger/editor proved them wrong with this kick-ass collection.

Wendy WagnerWendy Wagner: The vast majority of the people I’ve worked with are real champions of women working in horror. I probably wouldn’t work with them if they weren’t! I can’t say enough good stuff about Ellen Datlow, John Joseph Adams, and Ross Lockhart. I feel like Ross and John—who are both editors and small press owners—are working their hardest to find and promote the work of women in this field. I love working with those two!

Farah Rose Smith: There are tons of folks who are consistently supportive of women in the horror genre. So many that it would be impossible to name them all. This alone speaks to how far we’ve come towards equality, though there is still an enormous need for further improvement. Sam Cowan at Dim Shores, Michael Kelly at Undertow Publications, Justin Steele at Strange Aeons, Mike Davis at Lovecraft Ezine Press, and Ross E. Lockhart at Word Horde consistently support and publish women. Scott Nicolay is an avid supporter of diversity in weird fiction, and does so consistently on his podcast The Outer Dark. I’m immensely grateful for his presence in the community, as he was one of the biggest supporters of Mantid Magazine when it first came out of the gate, and also supports and promotes numerous other publications that aim to elevate diverse writers. There are countless writers who make a point of reading, supporting, promoting, and encouraging women and diverse writers in the community, so one need not let the voices of entrenched misogyny frighten them away. We’re always aiming to elevate women over at Mantid Magazine! I’d encourage people to keep an eye on both Lethe Press and a new magazine called Nasty Writers.

Eden RoyceEden Royce: I’ve had wonderful support from so many people. To name a few: Ashlee Blackwell at Graveyard Shift Sisters, the authors at Colors in Darkness—Mya Lairis, Dahlia De Winters, and Kenya Moss-Dyme, Sirens Call Publications, Patricia Flaherty Pagan at Spider Road Press, Linda D. Addison, Kinitra Brooks, Ph.D., Susana Morris, Ph.D., Carolyn Mauricette, Mark Taylor, Roma Gray, Lincoln Farish, Jack Wallen, Armand Rosamilla, Horror Addicts, Terror Realm, Gregory Norris, Joey Pinkney, The Wicked Library, The Horror Honeys, and FIYAH Lit Mag.

Scarlett R. Algee: Sirens Call Publications may be a “for the love” market, but they have, quite possibly, the nicest editorial team I’ve yet worked with. Among the big names, Tor is responsible for my having read a lot of female authors I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. And of course, I have to give Sanitarium Magazine a shoutout, because that’s where I got the push that made me think “hey, I can do this”.

Julia Benally: Well, there’s Daniel Foytik from The Wicked Library. Farah Rose Smith from Mantid Magazine. Then of course there’s you.

What advice do you have for female horror authors who are just getting involved with the industry?

Kristi: Keep writing. Keep submitting. Dust yourself off when you’re rejected. Mope a little if you need to. It’s okay. Keep writing. Get better.

The Bell HouseMiracle: I will say to surround yourself with a positive circle of true supporters, usually small and that’s a good thing, because there will be so many times you want to give up because of the rejections and various disappointments you’ll endure. Those who you would expect to clap for you may not. You need positive cheerleaders to encourage you and positive affirmations to walk this industry’s twisty road.

K.Z.: This industry has a reputation for being inhospitable to females. Don’t let that intimidate you. There are more successful female horror writers than you think. Most of them are just shelved under “dark fantasy”, “gothic”, etc. If you’re a female horror writer who wants to make it in this industry, my best advice to you would be to seek out and read the works of fellow female horror authors and gain inspiration from them. Don’t pressure yourself into “writing like a man” or writing under a male-ish pseudonym. Instead, just focus on writing well and on finding your own unique voice as a writer. Write like a woman. Write like you and the rest will follow.

Mantid Issue 1Wendy: Work hard and then work harder. Don’t give up or give in. Look for reputable presses and magazines and stick with them, because they will have your back when the trolls come looking for blood.

Lori: I would say, first of all, focus on your writing. We never get to the point where we perfect it, but we can reach a point where we are able to see our mistakes and come up with better ways to fix them. When you have done all you can do for a manuscript, learn how to give it to a good editor. Someone who will not only catch grammar slip ups and anachronisms, but someone able to give you advice about the big picture. Marketing is important, but the focus has to be on the actual work first.

Farah: Unfortunately the best advice I can give doesn’t involve writing or the creative process, but how to navigate the industry and community hardships that often come with trying to pave your way in the “business” of writing. I would advise young women to weed out fake friends, not allow themselves to feel diminished by the success of other women, form sister-like bonds with women who share your personal and professional values, support diversity in your community by reading/writing/promoting works by diverse authors, don’t compromise your voice to make a sale, be exceedingly polite, and don’t make any decisions that make it hard for you to sleep at night.

Spook Lights: Southern Gothic HorrorEden: Don’t bend to what you think publishers or readers want and don’t chase what’s popular. Write what speaks to you and do you best to cultivate your own voice. Read widely—speculative fiction and literary, indie and traditionally published—it can help you learn what works for you in a story and what doesn’t. It will also expose you to various methods of storytelling you might not otherwise come across.

Julia: Horror is an art form, not a bowl of disgusting trash slapped together with every nasty element ever invented. Take the alien from Alien for example. The creature was freaky; its slime served the alien. Imagine if the director focused only on the slime?

Scarlett: Don’t let anyone tell you that women can’t write horror. (Quite a few of us live with it just by virtue of our biology, after all.) Don’t give up. You’ll get rejections, and they’ll hurt, but keep going. Your voice matters.

And that’s Part 3 of our discussion! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 from earlier this month!

Happy reading!

Favorite Authors and Least Favorite Tropes: Part 2 of Our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion

Welcome back to our Women in Horror Month celebration! For Part 2 of our Women in Horror 2017 discussion, these nine amazing authors and I discuss their favorite writers and stories as well as the female-penned stories they wish had gotten more attention in the past year. Plus, we talk about crafting female characters in horror and the tropes that sometimes go with them.

So without further adieu, take it away, ladies!

Who are your favorite female horror authors, and which of their stories in particular have resonated with you?

Kristi DeMeester: Livia Llewellyn creeps under my skin like few other writers. Her stories are unnerving and linger after having finished them. Her stories “The Engine of Desire” and “Omphalos” are things of terrifying loveliness. My God. She’s so good. Damien Angelica Walters spins tales that somehow combine the lightest touch with horror. It’s terribly difficult to select just one of her stories because I’ve read so many. Grab her collection Sing Me Your Scars or her novel Paper Tigers, and you’ll see what I mean. Priya Sharma’s “Fabulous Beasts” was one of my absolute favorite stories last year. Sarah Langan’s novels are so incredibly wonderful. Helen Marshall’s collection Gifts for the One Who Comes After is a book I can read again and again. “In the Year of Omens” encapsulates everything I love in a spooky story. Kelly Link blends strangeness into her stories that is the exact right level of disquiet. Her collections are also go-to reads.

Miracle Austin: The fantastic Shirley Jackson and Toni Morrison are two of my favorite horror authors—I have many more. “The Lottery” by Ms. Jackson and Beloved by Ms. Morrison are two that I continue to think about frequently—very powerful works!

KZ MoranoK.Z. Morano: Some of the female horror authors I admire are Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Gertrude Atherton, Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, Kelly Link, Kaaron Warren, Karen Russell, Kathe Koja, Helen Oyeyemi, Gwendolyn Kiste, and Damien Angelica Walters. I’ve always been a fan of Anne Rice’s sensual and savage portrayal of vampires. And Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was one of the first books I borrowed from the school library. One of my favorite short stories in the horror genre is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” And then there’s Livia Llewellyn’s beautiful and brutal masterpiece, “And Love Shall Have No Dominion” which still revolts, terrifies, and enthralls me in equal measures.

Wendy Wagner: I love Tananarive Due: her novel The Good House is set in the Pacific NW (I’m a PNW native), and it was just thoughtful and creepy and a great example of the haunted house genre. I love haunted house stories. I re-read The Haunting of Hill House almost every year. (Shirley Jackson, the author of Hill House, is a huge influence on me.) I’m also a huge fan of Daphne DuMaurier. The Birds is legendary, but I think her literary thriller, Rebecca, is my favorite work by her. It’s so moody, so full of character. It’s one the greatest character studies of all time. The Hitchcock film does it very little justice.

Farah Rose SmithFarah Rose Smith: Oddly enough, my favorite female authors don’t fall within the horror genre, but perhaps use horror elements to bolster their narratives (Anya Seton and Clarice Lispector, primarily). As for horror-proper, I’ve tend to gravitate towards the weird, poetic, decadent, gothic, and surreal. I hold K.J. Bishop (THE ETCHED CITY) and Livia Llewellyn (FURNACE) in high esteem. One can never go wrong with Shirley Jackson (THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE). And one can’t really call themselves a horror person if they’ve neglected Mary Shelley (FRANKENSTEIN, duh).

Eden Royce: Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Blue Lenses”, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle—I can see that story playing out in my hometown of Charleston. Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Voodoo Dreams series. I also love Alyssa Wong’s work; her story “Scarecrow” is fantastic.

Scarlett R. Algee: Oh gosh, the dreaded ‘favorite author’ question! Ruthanna Emrys–“The Litany of Earth” still astounds me, and I’m immensely excited that Winter Tide is coming. And Octavia Butler: she’s not thought of as a “horror” author, obviously, but “Bloodchild” scared the hell out of me and gave me nightmares.

Julia Benally: So far, I love your stories and I’m beginning to love Scarlett Algee’s stories. I absolutely adore your “The Clawfoot Requiem.” That one had me on the edge of my seat. I also loved your “The Little Girl Who Came From the Sea.” I loved reading “Tomb Wife” from Scarlett.

Related to the last question, what recent story (or stories) have you read in the last year that was written by a female horror author but didn’t get as much attention as you think it deserved?

NightscriptKristi: Carrie Laben’s “Postcards From Natalie” from The Dark. WOW. So good. Cate Gardner’s “As Cymbals Clash” also in The Dark.

Miracle: There are many, but I’ll have to say Cemetery Tours by Jacqueline E. Smith and Skin Witch: Tales of Soucouyants by Chanel Harry.

K.Z.: I think everyone should check out “When You Work for the Old Ones” by Sandra McDonald and “A Diet of Worms” by Valerie Valdes. I came across these stories in Nightmare Magazine so I suppose they reached a lot of readers. Even so, I would recommend these tales to those who haven’t read them yet. Nightmare Magazine features female horror authors a lot and that’s one of the many reasons why I support it.

Wendy: Oh, “The Low, Dark Edge of Life,” by Livia Llewellyn, no doubt. It ran in the December issue of Nightmare Magazine, and it’s just fantastic. I see it as the kind of story if Lovecraft had been born a woman—a furious, brilliant, fierce woman. It’s a burning fever dream of weird.

Pathfinder TalesFarah: Two of my stand-out favorites this year in the weird genre both came from Dim Shores. The first was SPLIT TONGUES by Kristi DeMeester. The other was GRASS by Anya Martin. Everyone I encounter raves wildly about the brilliance of ECSTATIC INFERNO by Autumn Christian. I would highly recommend picking up a copy of that as well. And there are, of course, many writers pouring into the genre from all walks of life that will undoubtedly produce memorable works in the years to come. I look forward to reading and working with them.

Eden: The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh. Her brand of African horror resonates with me and is a refreshing change from some of the mainstream portrayals of Nigerian/Igbo culture. I absolutely love “Who will Greet You at Home” by Lesley Nneka Arimah as it shows how magical realism, fantasy, and horror intertwine. Priya Sharma’s “Fabulous Beasts” is also a wonderful read as is Vicy Cross’ Tuesday Apocalypse.

Audrey at NightScarlett: One stands out: Aliette de Bodard’s “Lullaby for a Lost World“. It’s from Tor, so I was a bit surprised that I ran across it on Amazon and hadn’t already heard of it. It’s a beautiful and horrifying story about making sacrifices for what is perceived as the greater good, and what happens when that illusion of greater good is broken.

Julia: Personally I don’t think anyone gets as much attention as they should. We all go through so much pain to write a story and then the readership is small because people don’t read as often as they used to.

When you are crafting female characters in your writing, do you consciously steer clear of the usual tropes of horror, or do you allow the individual story to take shape and see where it takes you?

Kristi: I’m not much of a planner, so I tend to just let the stories take me where they will. My favorite stories are the ones that put girls/women in strange moments where the outcome will drastically change them and then let them work themselves out. Or not.

DollK.Z.: Most of the time, I just let my characters shape themselves. Still, I’m careful not to misrepresent my own sex. There’s already too much of that going on in horror films, stories, and novels. So, each time I create a female character, I ask myself: “Would a real woman actually do/say this?”

Miracle: I usually allow the story to take shape and allow characters to take the reigns, which is the best part of writing to me. I revise, when needed, of course.

Lori: I really try not to use the tropes in obvious ways that have been done too often. The thing about tropes is they do give the reader benefit of the familiar. But with so many books out there, you really have to change things up in order to tell a story which feels different. As a reader I enjoy stories which challenge my expectations. Everyone loves a good twist! I try to surprise myself with how I can craft the story into something different.

Farah: I do make a strange point of avoiding any heavy gender, race, or orientation markers in short fiction unless they have a significant purpose or use within the narrative because I want it to be an immersive experience rather than a preachy one. I tend to write male characters at that length, only really feeling comfortable writing women in longer pieces because I think there needs to be more room to maneuver. At least with the kind of things I am trying to say. I try to approach creative ventures with intersectional feminism as a guiding light. As for tropes, I don’t normally employ them, but only because the stories I write elevate atmosphere and mood over events.

Julia Benally The Wicked LibraryEden: I don’t consciously steer away from horror tropes in my writing; I think telling the story takes precedence. Get the story written first, then you can edit it later. But having said that, I grew up around so many fascinating, yet flawed women that I tend to write characters that possess a variety of traits that make them full characters, not perfect creatures.

Scarlett: I have things I make conscious efforts to avoid. No rape (it almost never serves the plot, in my experience). No scantily clad women being chased upstairs by axe murderers. 95% of my horror protagonists are female, and they have minds of their own, so I just let them drive the story, even though they usually come to bad ends. That’s actually another reason I like horror–the general lack of “happily ever after” is quite in tune with my experiences.

Julia: My characters form themselves after the story does. And then based on how the character is, the story is edited accordingly. Whenever I consciously try to make changes to a character, they throw a fit and won’t work for me. Sometimes I feel like it’s not up to me to steer them in any one direction. They like steering themselves.

So that’s part 2 of our Women in Horror Month Discussion. If you haven’t already, please check out Part 1 from last week, as well as the bios for all these wonderful writers!

Happy reading!

Ladies of the Macabre: Part 1 of Our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion

A big welcome to February and the always awesome Women in Horror Month! This year, I’m celebrating in a big way! As I mentioned last week, this month is all about female horror authors, in particular these nine incredible writers whose work and work ethic I admire wholeheartedly.

So for the first installment of our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion, let’s start at the beginning. Today, I talk with our incredible female horror authors about what drew them to the genre and what this year’s auspicious Women in Horror Month means to them.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be speaking with each of them again about their inspiration and favorite authors as well as where they hope that the horror genre is headed in years to come.

So let’s get started with this celebration of some of the awesome ladies of horror!

As a writer, what attracts you to the horror genre? Also, do you remember your earliest experience with horror, either as a reader of horror literature or a viewer of horror films?

Kristi DeMeesterKristi DeMeester: The unknown and unsettling has always held a dark kind of seduction for me. That moment of breathlessness as you wait for the door to open without knowing what’s on the other side? It lets you teeter on the edge of something terrible, which is in its own right, a form of beauty. My first experience was my mother letting me watch Fright Night when I was four or five. I fell in love with Chris Sarandon. I was hooked after that.

Miracle Austin: My exposure to horror/suspense arenas occurred prior my junior high years. My mom used to listen to an AM radio station, cannot recall name, on Friday nights that aired creepy stories. I was sold instantly and couldn’t wait until the next airing. Horror/suspense just meshed with me from the start. I craved horror…

K.Z. Morano: My earliest exposure to horror was watching Filipino horror flicks as a kid. The “special” effects were horrible but the aswang and other monsters of Filipino folklore terrified me more than the vampires and werewolves in Hollywood movies. From those films, I realized that horror isn’t just about scaring the heck out of people. Horror has a way of revealing people’s truest natures. Horror brings out the best and the worst in people. Horror is honest. That, I think, is what drew me to it in the first place.

Wendy Wagner: When I was about nine, I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew. One of my sisters had gotten it from the library, and the whole family was passing it around. It creeped me out, but I loved it, too. I would read a story and then vow I wasn’t going to read another, and then I’d go looking for the book and read another one. I spent the next three or four years devouring a ton of ’80s horror. Writing horror is just fun. I like trying to spin a gory, disgusting scene. I like trying to create something that really challenges social norms. What I love best, though, is writing something that gives me that goosebumply, uncomfortable feeling. That’s the very best.

Lori TitusLori Titus: I am an inquisitive person. I love theorizing about what the world could be like. Horror offers the perfect opportunity to speak deep truths, address taboos and painful subjects, while being entertaining and not preachy about it. I was raised on horror movies and looked for scary books as soon as I was able to read, so it’s no surprise it became my favorite genre.

Farah Rose Smith: I’ve always found horror media to be a powerful platform, not only for storytelling, but for catharsis. It has a transformative power that is too often neglected by the literary community. My earliest experiences with the genre were typical of a 90s kid. Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, So Weird, MST3K, and so on. My Dad was a big fan of both horror and science fiction, so most of my interest in it came from him. I’ve always been a dedicated Vincent Price fan. In the realm of literature, Lovecraft, Poe, and Hoffmann were my anchors. Though they’ve shifted significantly in my hierarchy of admiration in favor of more obscure writers, I still hold their works in high esteem.

Eden Royce: I grew up in a family that embraced death. From a young age, I was told where my grandmother’s plot and insurance paperwork were stored. You know…just in case. My parents speculated on what would kill others and were many times, correct. I found early on that what was normal for me was off-putting or creepy to others. So I decided to write stories where the strange people were the main characters, and they handled life in the way that’s normal for them. Turns out most people considered that horror.

Scarlett R. AlgeeScarlett R. Algee: I can think of a couple of things that attract me to horror. One, it provides a sort of “safe space” to explore things you’re afraid of–fear is a powerful emotion but can also be, oddly enough, an exhilarating one. Two–and this sort of plays off the first–as a writer, horror lets you play with things that you couldn’t do in real life without consequences. Still upset at the kid who took your lunch money in third grade? Make them a character. Kill them horribly. It’s cathartic. My earliest exposure to horror was through film: namely Jaws and Orca and Alien. I was really young, but something stuck, and here we are.

Julia Benally: After some deliberation, I do believe I enjoy scaring people. And it’s so interesting. I get some seriously good villains from the horror section of my brain. My earliest, earliest that I can recall is that whenever we visited my grandparents, it never failed, my uncles had either Aliens or Predator on.

As a female horror writer, what does Women in Horror Month mean to you? How do you plan to get involved in the month’s activities?

100 NightmaresKristi: This year, I hope to see the awareness the month brings leak into all of the other months of the year. I’d love to see the request for a list of female horror writers posed later in the year include more than the (obviously fantastic) standards of Shirley Jackson, and Mary Shelley, and Joyce Carol Oates. I like to promote my fellow female writers all year, so I plan to continue doing that.

Miracle: It’s a huge honor to have a month dedicated to women in horror! I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected for this interview with you, Ms. Kiste.  I hope to submit a story or two to Sirens Call Publications, one of my favorites, and collaborate with as many as possible during that special month, pending my writing schedule.

K.Z.: WiHM means a lot to me as a horror writer and as a fan of the genre. This annual tradition is essential in shining the spotlight on lesser known female horror writers. More than that, WiHM introduces fans to fresh, high-quality horror fiction. To celebrate Women in Horror Month 2017, I’m making a massive list on my blog featuring female horror writers. Most of these authors are in the small press and deserve more recognition than they get.

Lori: Since we don’t get equal time, it’s a good way to spotlight talent and get our stories out there. Though I will be promoting my own work as always, I am looking forward to finding a few female authors whose work I haven’t explored yet.

Farah: Women in Horror Month has played an enormous role in furthering the inclusion of women and diverse media creators within the genre. I continue to hear people say negative things about it, mostly rooted in the argument that allotting one specific month to celebrate women in the genre is not conducive to inclusion. I disagree with that sentiment. People tend to forget (especially when thinking from places of privilege) the amount of work that still has to be done to pave the way for women in media. Many are often blinded by their own success or opportunities and can’t quite comprehend that there isn’t one clear-cut way to achieving publication or “success.” If we have to pay the dues of heavy-handedness now so that our daughters won’t have to by insisting upon being seen and heard with emphasis, so be it. I plan on spending the month researching and reading contemporary works by women, particularly in the weird fiction and Bizarro genres, and attending screenings of films created by women.

Julia: After hearing of it I was pretty intrigued. Since it’s new to me, I think I’ll watch it for awhile and see what’s up.

MantidScarlett: Since I deal with a lot of health issues, I’m not entirely sure how active I’ll be (and I tend to not be an “event” person anyway). I do enjoy doing interviews (haha) and online discussions. Those are always fun. I’m glad Women in Horror Month exists, on one hand; it’s about time we got some recognition. On the other, part of me says that we shouldn’t need a month: excellent work is excellent work all the time. The horror community doesn’t quite seem to be at that place yet, though.

Eden: For me, Women in Horror is every month. I do what I can to promote my sisters in horror all year long. But Women in Horror month is when the rest of the world turns their eyes to what we do. This year, I’m releasing a second collection of Southern Gothic short stories, called Spook Lights 2. As Women in Horror month coincides with Black History Month, I’m writing a series of blog posts for Graveyard Shift Sisters that highlights black women horror writers then and now, including a giveaway of two of my favorite horror novels.

So that’s Part One of our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion. Head on back here next week as we discuss favorite authors and how these ladies craft female characters of their own.

Happy reading!

Women in Horror 2017 Discussion Coming Soon!

Women in Horror Month is finally here, and I am super thrilled that this blog will be participating in a big way this year! Throughout the month of February, I will be interviewing an illustrious group of female authors and editors who are writing some of the very best horror out there today!

And who might those fantastic writers be? Well, let me tell you all about them! Here are the nine authors who I am honored and excited to have interviewed for this forthcoming feature! Big thanks to each and every one of them for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m looking so forward to sharing their responses throughout the rest of the month!

Kristi DeMeesterKristi DeMeester is a horror author based in Atlanta. Her fiction has appeared in Apex, Shimmer, Black Static, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, among others. Her chapbook, Split Tongues, was released last year through Dim Shores, and her debut novel, Beneath, is coming soon from Word Horde. Find her at her author website.

KZ MoranoK.Z. Morano is an author of short fiction and poetry. Her collection, 100 Nightmares, was released in 2014 to rave reviews. The collection, which blends folklore and fairy tales, features one-hundred stories told in exactly one-hundred words and includes dozens of illustrations. K.Z.’s fiction has also been featured in The Sirens Call, Vignettes from the End of the World, and Gothic Tales of Terror, among others. Find her at her author website.

Miracle AustinMiracle Austin is a novelist and short fiction author. Her stories have appeared in The Sirens Call, Sanitarium Magazine, and The Wicked Library, among other outlets. Her debut YA novel, Doll, was released in 2016, and her fiction collection, Boundless, is coming soon. Find her at her author website.

Julia BenallyJulia Benally is a short fiction author based in the Southwest. Her work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, The Wicked Library, Mantid Magazine, and more. She recently completed her first novel, Pariahs, a dark fantasy set within an American Indian world. Find her at her author blog.

Scarlett R. AlgeeScarlett R. Algee is an author based in Tennessee. Her work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Morpheus Tales, and numerous Popcorn Press anthologies. In addition to her writing and her steampunk-inspired jewelry line, she is also an editor who has worked with numerous fiction writers as well as small presses including Woodbridge Press. Check her out online at her author site.

Eden RoyceEden Royce is an author of short and long fiction. Her novella, Containment, debuted in 2013, and her short fiction has been released through Spider Road Press, Blood Bound Books, and The Sirens Call, among others. She is also the author of the acclaimed fiction collection, Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror, as well as its sequel, Spook Lights II. Her nonfiction appears regularly at Graveyard Shift Sisters. She is the recipient of the Speculative Literature Foundations Diverse Worlds grant. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, she now resides in England. Find her online at her author website.

Wendy WagnerWendy Wagner is the editor of Nightmare and Lightspeed as well as an author of short fiction and novels. Her short stories have appeared at Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Farrago’s Wainscot, among others, and her novels, Starspawn and Skinwalkers, have been released as part of the acclaimed Pathfinder Tales series. Find her online at her author site.

Lori TitusLori Titus is a speculative fiction author and editor out of California. Her novels include The Bell House as well as books in The Marradith Ryder series, including Hunting in Closed Spaces and The Art of Shadows. She has also had multiple short stories published, and she has worked as the editor of Flashes in the Dark. Find her at her author website.

Farah Rose SmithFarah Rose Smith is the editor of the acclaimed Mantid Magazine as well as a fiction writer in her own right. Her work incorporates elements of surrealism, eroticism, and death and decay, among other themes. In addition to her writing and editing, she is also an experimental filmmaker through her company, Grimoire Pictures Studio. Find her online at her author and filmmaking site.

So these are the amazing women who will be appearing on my blog throughout February! Definitely head on back here every week for the entire month to read more about their inspiration and favorite authors as well as how they got involved with the horror genre and where they hope to see it go from here!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Ashes to Ashes: Interview with Lindsey Beth Goddard

Welcome back! Today, I’m pleased to feature author Lindsey Beth Goddard. Lindsey’s work has appeared in Dark Moon Digest, The Wicked Library, and The Sirens Call, among other outlets.

Recently, Lindsey and I discussed her inspiration as a writer, her short fiction collections, and her new book, Ashes of Another Life, available now from Omnium Gatherum.

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

Lindsey Beth GoddardI don’t think I ever decided to become an author. Ever since I can remember, I wrote. In first grade, I won the Mother’s Day poetry contest for the entire school (grades K-5), and that’s when I realized I could touch people with my words. Through poems and essays and stories, I had a voice. I’ve always been introverted – private, shy. Writing things down was a good way to think, to vent and to communicate. Much easier than expressing myself verbally. Yeah, I’d say it was love at first write.

Some of my favorite authors are Robert McCammon, Ray Bradbury, Oscar Wilde, Emily Bronte, Gary Braunbeck, Lisa Morton, Stephen King, Graham Masterton, Poppy Z. Brite, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, Philip K Dick, Richard Laymon, Poe, and many, many more.

Congratulations on the recent release of your book, Ashes of Another Life! What served as your primary inspiration for the book, and how long did it take you to complete the project?

Thank you. It all started when I began reading the biographies of former FLDS cult members. They are brave and enduring individuals. Literally trapped, kept under constant surveillance, and forced to marry men several decades their senior, escape was not easy for the females. And males are liable to be shunned by their families and cast out of the community for the smallest infraction. A teenage boy caught with a collection of “worldly” possessions such as CDs could be thrown, penniless, into the outside world with nowhere to go. Rebellion is met with harsh consequence, and physical and mental abuse is used to eradicate free thought. I became so obsessed with studying this cult, I had to write a story about it. The process took over a year, but I love the results.

You have several collections of your short fiction available, including The Tooth Collector and Other Tales of Terror and Quick Fix: A Taste of Terror. What was your process in selecting the stories for each collection, and do you have plans for another fiction collection in the future?

Selecting the stories was easy. I chose the best of my reprints. A lot of these stories appeared in anthologies by small-press publishers who have since disappeared, so I wanted to give them a permanent home. In my latest collection, The Tooth Collector, I included a story that had previously appeared on an episode of the Wicked Women Writers Challenge podcast. I chose that one for the same reason: to give it a permanent home in print. My stories are like my children. I must take care of them!

In about a year, I’ll have another collection available through Burning Willow Press called Secrets of the Slain. What makes this collection interesting is that it’s a mixture of poems and stories and will include two unpublished stories that have never appeared anywhere else, one of which is a novelette. So, yeah, keep your eyes peeled for Secrets of the Slain. It’s a good one.

Ashes of Another LifeYou’ve written both short stories and now a longer fiction project with Ashes of Another Life. Does your process differ from short versus long fiction? Do you find yourself drawn more to the compact arcs of short fiction or the more complex arcs of long fiction?

Oh, yes, the writing process differs between short and long fiction. You have to make every word count in a short piece, a challenge I’ve always enjoyed.

For me, writing shorts has been more of a necessity than a preference. Raising three children has left me with very little free time. Short stories have allowed me the instant gratification of being published without the endless hours of work. The story arc of a novel is preferable, though. It allows more room to explore my fictional world and all its characters. That’s definitely the direction my work is heading now.

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

Characters. I love developing characters.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

I’m trying to focus on a novel at the moment. I’ve had fans request a poetry book, but I’m not a prolific poet. I’m a sporadic poet at best! Haha. So I’m sure we’ll see a novel before that poetry book ever happens.

Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?

In the hands of the masses!

Big thanks to Lindsey Beth Goddard for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her official website as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Happy reading!

One-of-a-Kind: Interview with Alex J. Murd

Welcome back! For this week’s interview, I’m thrilled to present artist Alex Murd. Alex’s work has appeared in venues such as The Wicked Library and The Lift, among others.

Recently, we talked about Alex’s inspiration, process, and all those amazing upcoming projects through Crazed Pixel Comics!

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become an artist, and who are some of your favorites in your field?

Alex MurdI love icebreakers, especially when they involve a rocks glass, good bourbon, and a dash of bitters.

My pursuit of art can’t be defined by a single moment, as I always knew I wanted to do something art-related. I didn’t always know what kind of art I would be creating, but held firm to the certainty. I was supported in my endeavors, and let my artistic niche find me. I’m only a lucky fool that it ended up being such a sexy one.

Artists that I admire, and can’t hold a candle to, consist of dead-and-gone to walking-around-town: Schiele, Klimt, Stuck, Tom of Finland, Mignola, Fyodor Pavlov, Los Bros Hernandez, Seatlleites Laura Graves and Eli Tripoli, Portlander Scott Roller.

Every creator feels like they are missing people in their ‘thank you’ speech, but these are off-the-cuff entries. Each of these artists have some facet I admire and respect.

What is your process as an artist? Do you work at a certain time of day or for a certain length of time? Do you work with music playing or without? Any other habits about your working style you’d like to share?

Process, oh goodness, how much time do we have here? Not very much, I’m guessing, so I will try and be concise. The take away from this is: what process?

I am a creature of whim. I can be very taken by some kind of inspiration or a moment, and run with it. My creative bouts are fickle. Inspiration and I play games with each other. Sometimes I win, sometimes it is the victor.

It’s all about the music. Music, as a medium, has inspired more characters, scenes, feelings, drawings, and carnal acts than any other medium, for me. I enjoy being a creative hedonist and seducing myself into creating: mood music befitting the project, twilight into the night, giving myself a mental massage before I begin. I’ll create a scene for myself, before I gorge myself on the artwork. And when I’m spent, that’s it. I’m done. Tapping out.

I enjoy being ‘taken’ by something and exploring its surfaces and inner workings before sinking in. If that sounds like an innuendo, it’s because it is. It’s totally like foreplay and sex.

There, that’s a way better analogy: my process is like taking someone to bed. You set the mood, you both have fun and explore, then you get down to the dirty work until you’re so worked up into a fervor you can’t possibly take anymore, then post-coital cigarette and ‘was it good for you’s’ all around.

And then there are always those projects that are fast and dirty, just to get the itch scratched. Sometimes, even in public. Lunchtime sketches, and have to jump out of the shower to jot down that idea, I’m lookin’ at you, you naughty, naughty ideas.

You have created a number of gorgeous pieces for The Wicked Library and The Lift (your cover art for Brooke Warra’s “The Dance” seriously stopped me in my tracks). Is your process different when you’re designing art based on a specific story, and how do you pick which image or scene to depict?

I’m flattered, and thank you for that. My Lift piece for Brooke’s “The Dance,” was one of my favorites to create. I enjoyed trying to conjure a good image from that story to best show Tommy’s feeling of isolation in his handicap.

The best aspect of creating individual illustrations from these amazing stories, is the selection of what to portray. I try and let the stories tell me what image or scene will best encompass their overall feeling, and engage a reader/listener. I read it once, off the cuff jot down the first images that impacted me, then process of elimination. What one has the best combination of honesty from the text, intrigue, and most important: mystery. I want to get people hooked on these tales. From there I think of an engaging style to draw the piece in, befitting the text. For example; I didn’t draw a garish cartoon for Aaron Vlek’s disturbing tale, “The Wet Man.” That style would be inappropriate for the weight of the story.

Alex MurdI work with Dan, since he is a gateway to the authors, and see how everyone is feeling about the idea I submit. Dan is an excellent backboard and I enjoy his collaborative efforts very much. He now knows how I work well enough to give me more free reign on a piece. But, it still never hurts to submit an idea. He’s told me I disturb him. I’m still proud of that one.

Creating illustrations from such a wide variety of voices is an absolutely different process, than creating of my own volition. I very much enjoy the challenge and exercise involved, trying to help bring someones’ words to visual life. The biggest impact is hearing how the author feels about it. If they enjoy it, duty finished.

Every artist sometimes faces that awful moment when it is either difficult or altogether impossible to create something new or keep working on a given project. When this happens to you, how do you work through these creative blocks?

I’ll let you know, when I know, dear. The best I can. Switching gears and trying to make myself walk away, which is no easy feat. When this happens I latch onto any fresh wave of inspiration: music, movies, books, a conversation. I take it and run, to try and break the spell. Even if it is simply a small sketch, or jotting down some words. The first strike is the hardest. Any time you create, no matter how small, it’s worth something.

Deadlines, as we all know, can be a lifesaver. Sometimes, even at a moment of losing inspiration on a project, if someone else is counting on it, you fortify and finish the damn thing. Then collapse and go brain dead with pointless and lovely guilty pleasures.

Out of your body of work, do you have a particular favorite piece?

I’m really not the kind of fella that ‘kisses and tells’, but there are pieces that tug deep on different heartstrings.

My first collection of ‘Cinder’ comics, along with my first ‘Little Black Book’, are two works that I hold dear.

‘Cinder’, my slice-of-life comic filled with alternative characters of every sexuality, and my collection of alternative and queer porn art, ‘Little Black Book’, helped me break artistic barriers, within myself. Being queer, these works give me a chance for catharsis and experimentation. I love exploring sexuality, and figure work, so these titles have become a perfect match. They remind me to keep playing around, and stay true to what I like.

If my putting my fetishes out there for others to read gives some other strange soul solace, my job was done well. Nothing like encouraging the freaks to stay freaky.

On a more saccharine note, an illustration of my ‘Satan’ character, Jasper, reuniting with a long lost lover, is warming. A creature spending eternity watching favored souls blink in and out of its existence, running into a now very old flame, and sparking as if it were yesterday. I find it very sweet.

I may revel in drawing dirty pictures, but it is no secret I am a hopeless romantic.

What projects are you currently working on?

My selection process is as follows: take yourself out of the frying pan, and place directly in fire. Too much is what. I have such a web of reserves, I pull out depending on my mood. Rotating artworks that can be added to, until they are submitted to print before CrazedPixel Comics takes to the road for con season.

Always room for more erotic and pornographic artworks for my ‘Little Black Book’ series. Some fresh pieces for ‘Cinder’. New prints. And I have a written horror comic that is dying to get drawn. Now if only a certain artist would get off of their ass, and give it some attention before it becomes a poltergeist…

An ongoing project is a series of original artworks for charity, specifically reputable women’s or any kind of minority rights funds. In lieu of payment, I ask for proof of donation to said charities, and I mail the original artwork. Something small I can do to help combat small mindedness.

And always The Lift or The Wicked Library artwork, time permitting.

Where can we find you online?

Our main comic hub, with most of our work, is available to read at crazedpixel.com. On it you can find our social media links.

My NSFW tumblr page, Smolder Sessions, where I house my art pieces, erotic, and risqué art, is alexjmurd.tumblr.com.

Physical copies of artwork and comics available through our store https://squareup.com/store/crazedpixel-comics.

And thank you, Gwendolyn, for the interview and for keeping your awesome lady-writing-self out there, for the world to read: you better keep that in here!

Big thanks to Alex Murd for being part of this week’s artist spotlight!

Happy reading!