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!