Horror Beginnings: Part 1 of Fright Girl Summer Roundtable

Welcome back for a brand-new horror roundtable! In case you hadn’t heard, we’re currently in the middle of Fright Girl Summer, an awesome online book festival organized by V. Castro and Sonora Taylor. This festival, which kicked off back in June, celebrates female horror authors, especially authors of color, QUILTBAG authors, and indie authors.

So in honor of Fright Girl Summer, I’m beyond thrilled to spotlight seven incredible female horror authors for the entire month of August! For the next four weeks, we’ll be discussing what horror means to these authors, how they got started in the genre, and where they hope to see horror go in the coming years.

And without further adieu, let’s get started with Part One!

Welcome to this month’s roundtable! Thank you so much for joining me! Please tell us a bit about yourself, your work, and how you got into horror.

Eden RoyceEDEN ROYCE: I’m Eden Royce and I write a variety of genres, most often Southern Gothic, dark fantasy, and folk horror. I grew up on horror; many of my weekends growing up were spent with my mom and grandmother watching those old black-and-white Hammer movies. I’m from a culture of storytellers and I’m from Charleston, SC, a city of ghosts, and that’s always been a part of my writing.

GABY TRIANA: Thanks for having me, Gwendolyn (ever since I interviewed you for my blog The Witch Haunt, I have wanted to call you Gwednesday)!

About me, I have been writing since I was a child and publishing books since 2002, everything from YA comedy, to romance under a pen name, to paranormal suspense, to witchy horror. I’ve published with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Entangled, and I’ve indie published under my own imprint, Alienhead Press, as well. Ten novels are under my own name, five under a pen name, and 50+ as a ghostwriter. My most-read novels are The Haunted Florida series starting with ISLAND OF BONES, WAKE THE HOLLOW, and CAKESPELL.

I got into horror because I loved reading anything scary, occult, paranormal, or terrifying as a child. I was never into the books other kids were reading. I wanted my stories intense, so I was already reading adult suspense by the time I was 10. To this day, I have no idea how I ended up writing YA or romance comedies, because I never read books in those genres until I was an adult, ghostwriting for clients. In my heart, the occult still reigns supreme.

LINDA D. ADDISON: Hi, I’m Linda D. Addison, the second oldest of 10 children. I have been living in an active imagination from my earliest memories; meaning I saw magic and strange unreality in what others call Reality forever. I’m known for my horror poetry, but I also have published fiction in horror, SF and fantasy. I’ve received five HWA Bram Stoker awards for poetry and received their Lifetime Achievement award. Writing horror wasn’t a conscious decision, it evolved out of exploring my own pain/fears and my reactions to the shadows in the world.

V. CASTRO: I’m Violet, or V.Castro. I am a Mexican American woman originally from Texas.

I like writing horror that incorporates my Mexican American culture, Mexican folklore and urban legend, and writing Latinas for all the leads. I also write a lot of sex because I’m sick of our sexuality and bodies being misrepresented. If I don’t write it a man will.

I got into horror because as a mother of 3 I found myself missing something. I love my children, yet wanted something for myself. As a long time horror junkie I decided to just start. I sat down and have not got up since. Also, there is very little Latina representation in horror. I wanted to infuse my culture into my stories and old tropes.

R.J. JOSEPH: I’m a Texas based writer with the second very best day job of teaching college English classes. I got my MFA through Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. I went in as a romance writer and a closeted horror writer and came out a better writer all the way around. I also sort of fell into academia and loved it, so I stayed. I now write primarily horror creative pieces and academic pieces about horror. I mostly write about the intersections of race and gender in the horror genre and popular culture.

I’m a lifelong horror fan, having read Stephen King’s Carrie at a really, really young age. His works helped to feed my obsession with monsters, real and imagined. I come from a reading household where everyone read heavily. My father was a horror and sci-fi fan, my mother was a romance reader. It was the South, kissy kissy was bad, so they hid the romance novels and magazines. They didn’t hide the horror novels or comics. This is what they got for those half efforts.

I also have a lot of teenagers at home. My husband and I have a huge blended family of eleven. Four of those are grown up. The other seven are always around the house, devouring everything that doesn’t eat them first. They’re my locusts.

G.G. SILVERMAN: Hi, Gwendolyn! Thanks for having me! I’m a female and feminist author, currently living just north of Seattle, Washington—the conceptual home of Twin Peaks, and the real home of Sasquatch, allegedly. I’m also the daughter of immigrants.

As for my work, currently I’m focusing primarily on short speculative fiction, which lives somewhere in the shadows between horror and dark fantasy, with a bit of SF thrown in there on good occasion. I also write poetry, and it tends toward the darkly fantastical, with elements of horror.

I’ve been a horror fan since I was very young, when I got up in the wee hours on a Saturday morning and flicked on my family’s small, grainy, black and white television, and was greeted by some late night/early morning horror film. The imagery wasn’t graphic in the sense of blood and guts, but it was shocking in the sense that it portrayed a sibling potentially drowning another sibling, if my memory serves me. I remember having this sense of awakening to the frightening potential of humans to hurt each other. It made me wonder, did I have that potential? I loved my younger brother deeply, and would have been devastated if anything happened to him, so the film scared me and made me view horror as a way of learning about the world. I think this was really healthy for me, because it made me realize that though the world wasn’t 100% safe, that one could navigate it, with enough preparation.

Then I was introduced to Stephen King’s THE SHINING at the ripe old age of 9. A friend had loaned it to me, after he swiped it from his older brother. It was definitely forbidden reading material, and I snuck it home in my backpack, then read it under the covers, by flashlight. It was deeply terrifying, especially the bathtub scene, and that image has been seared in my memory ever since.

After that, I couldn’t get enough horror. Though it would be a while before I got my hands on anything adult again, I was reading everything I could find in our small town library that had anything to do with the paranormal. I remember being scared so thoroughly by vampire stories as a kid, that I locked the windows shut on hot summer nights and sweltered. Good times.

Shortly after that, I wrote my first short horror book in 4th grade, “Tara and the Haunted Doll,” named for my friend. I did the illustrations myself with fruity-smelling markers. My friend Tara was not impressed, but I had fun. The rest is history, I guess.

SONORA TAYLOR: Thanks for having me! My name is Sonora Taylor. I’ve been writing stories off and on my whole life, but got serious about it in 2016. I began to publish my work in 2017, and got my first anthology acceptance in 2018.

I like to keep my horror varied, but my work tends to be character-driven, especially with anxious minds. I also like taking innocuous things in daily life–stick figure families, a bulletin board with children’s accomplishments on them, etc.–and give them a sinister twist.

This interview series is in honor of the fabulous Fright Girl Summer, an online book festival for women in horror fiction. This year has seen many book events go to an online-only format for obvious reasons. How has this year changed your own approach to writing?

EDEN ROYCE: It hasn’t changed my approach to writing, honestly. I’m a homebody for the most part so I don’t attend many events. I’d planned to have a book launch party closer to my novel’s release date, so I may need to rethink that, but I still hole up in my office and write most days.

Wake the HollowGABY TRIANA: I was born for quarantine. I’ve always written about 2,000-3,000 words daily, and COVID hasn’t stopped that. My kids are older now, so I don’t have to keep them busy or entertained like other parents do. Only thing that has changed—my reading habits. I’m a lot more anxious these days, worrying about the state of the world, so my reading has suffered. I can’t concentrate. Instead, I find myself reading the news or going down the YouTube rabbit hole of dermatologist videos at 3 AM.

LINDA D. ADDISON: My day job until six years ago was computer software development, so it was easy to accept events going online. However, I didn’t realize how much I was used to traveling to other locations for conventions, etc. and now without that travel I’m saving money and time, but I also greatly miss spending time with other writers. There are days when I am writing more and other days that getting writing done is difficult, because the entire planet is in stress, not just my own life.

V. CASTRO: With my children around I had to get creative with time. The anxiety that comes with all the uncertainty has also required me to take more time to clear my head. With that said, writing is always a safe haven for me. I have actually managed to write a lot.

R.J. JOSEPH: I absolutely love what V. Castro and Sonora Taylor have done with Fright Girl Summer. I hope Fright Girls have the entire year of seasons, for eternity! One thing about the pandemic is I get to spend time in my favorite place: my home. I’ve always felt most comfortable in my little cocoon, surrounded by our things, puttering about. My commute to work is super long because of Houston traffic, so when I go to campus, I have to time comings and goings to avoid the longest times. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted and the kids are wanting to know what’s for dinner.

Sycorax's DaughtersNow that I’m already at home, I have time to do so much stuff. Like, pretend to be a domestic goddess who cooks and makes all these crafty things. I get to be the doting abuela to my darling little grandboo. The biggest impact: I’ve felt relaxed enough to start writing again. Frustration with the genre gatekeepers and so few opportunities held me in a perpetual state of anxiety about even attempting to write while I was also juggling work and home. With the escalation of the Black Lives Matter movement and what just might be sincere overtures by some publishing gatekeepers, I’ve found myself willing to start submitting more.

G.G. SILVERMAN: This year, in truth, has been difficult, because it seems that basic survival is about ten times harder (I’m looking at you, pandemic!), which makes writing time more fractured. That said, I’m committed to continuing the work, and having to find ways to cocoon away from the distracting news cycle. I did somehow write a slew of poetry so far this year, and one piece of new short fiction, and have to remind myself that any progress, however small, is progress. Those other stories that are halfway done, they will eventually be born.

Regarding events moving online due to the pandemic, I must say that as a person who has struggled with disabilities, I think the move toward more accessible events by streaming them is fantastic. There are so many people who were previously shut out to certain things because of physical limitations. Now I can attend classes or readings anywhere from the comfort of my home. I hope that after the pandemic, we as a society consider making physical events more inclusive by streaming them for the sake of those who are physically prevented from attending in person.

SONORA TAYLOR: Honestly, it’s made writing harder. You’d think being home more would mean more time to write and to write even more. I certainly thought so. And while I’ve gotten stuff done, the mental toll has had a greater effect on my ability to sit down and write than I anticipated.

It’s made me learn to be gentler with myself and understand that it’s okay to pace myself when it comes to writing stories. What’s meant to be done will get done.

So that’s Part One of our roundtable! Join us again next week as we discuss these fantastic authors’ journeys through the publishing industry as well as the books on their TBR list!

Happy reading, and happy Fright Girl Summer!

This is Horror: Interview with Michael David Wilson

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to feature the fantastic Michael David Wilson! Michael is the founder of This is Horror, an amazing website and resource for the horror genre, as well as an accomplished author in his own right. His new book, The Girl in the Video, is out now from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.

Recently, Michael and I discussed his inspiration (and almost-origin story) as a writer, his new and forthcoming work, as well as his favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process.

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

I’ve recently heard several writers, including Nick Mamatas and Max Booth III, say writers need to get better origin stories so I’m tempted to tell you about when I was four years old and a group of men wearing horse masks and brandishing machetes stormed the house and held my family hostage. They only agreed to release us if the firstborn made a blood oath there and then vowing to become a professional writer. As the firstborn, that responsibility fell to me. I say tempted because none of that actually happened so I’ll have to disappoint Mamatas and Booth and tell you something more cliched but at least authentic.

Stories have always been an important part of my life. Since I was a kid my mother would read bedtime stories to me. To begin with it was the likes of Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton, then when it came to choosing my own stories I selected tales by Roal Dahl and a little later, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. I remember reading George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roal Dahl and deciding to write my own rip-off version on an Acorn Computer. I also wrote stories about animals going on adventures because that seemed to be the thing to do (thanks Homeward Bound and Watership Down) and at nine years old I wrote the weird Jack and the Beanstalk inspired tale, James and the Chocolate Tree which I described at great length on an episode of the Ladies of the Fright podcast.

But I think my fascination with darker tales started with my grandmother. When I was young I’d stay over at my grandparents’ house and she’d tell me ghost stories and detail strange supernatural occurrences in England. The lines between what was fiction and nonfiction blurred so much that it would be impossible to tell you which events supposedly occurred and which were just stories. It was then that I experienced my first adrenaline rush as a result of horror stories and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Haruki Murakami, Jack Ketchum, and Ania Ahlborn are up there with my favourite authors. Right now I’m reading Wolf Town by Jeff Strand—I love the witty minimalist dialogue and the way in which he blends horror with pitch black laugh-out-loud humour. I’m also reading Mackenzie Kiera’s All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current, coming out later this year via Unnerving. Talk about a book that doesn’t hold back! It’s sexy, it’s extreme, it’s daring, it’s in your face, it’s unflinching, and it’s hilarious. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but for those with the stomach, turn the page, Mackenzie will show you a good time and then she’ll mess you up.

Congratulations on the release of your book, The Girl in the Video! What was the inspiration for this story, and what was the process like as you were writing it?

I was taking part in the ‘write one story per week’ challenge in 2017 when Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing put out a call for their anthology, Lost Films. I love the work that Lori and Max do at PMMP and I think Lost Signals is amongst the best anthologies released in recent years. Naturally I started drafting up ideas for stories that might be suitable for Lost Films. Pretty soon I had a story that was far longer than the maximum word count for stories in the anthology. I mentioned it to Max and he said to send it his way and to my delight PMMP decided to publish it as a stand-alone.

As for inspiration and process, when I’m writing for a theme I like to take the James Altucher approach: if you can’t come up with a good idea, come up with twenty ideas. This is along the lines of giving yourself permission to suck. I’ll start writing down 20 ideas and then seeing which ideas might just work. I’ll often combine elements from each of the ideas until I have a basic premise. For The Girl in the Video I knew early doors that it was going to involve an English teacher in Japan receiving strange videos. I wanted to examine the worst possible outcome when you click that unsolicited link, combined with the claustrophobic nature of being in another country where the native language is not your own, and of course there’s the exploration of the darker side of technology and just how much of our private lives we’re putting out there for anyone to access. The Girl in the Video is pitched as The Ring meets Fatal Attraction for the iPhone generation. If that sounds like your thing and you like dialogue-heavy, minimalist fiction, with dark humour, this one may be for you.

I’m a planner, so I knew the main beats of the story and how it would end before writing anything but I’m not too precious about the plan, if I have to change course during the writing then so be it. Funnily enough, that’s happened a number of times with my collaboration with Bob Pastorella, Peeper Ritual. What start off as a short novella became a 45,000+ word novel.

I absolutely love the cover for the book. Who’s the artist, and how did the cover develop?

That’s Pye Parr. I’ve known him since I worked at Rebellion Publishing (2000 AD, Solaris, Abaddon Books) and he’s done the cover art for a number of This Is Horror titles (perhaps most notably A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman). I knew I wanted him to do the cover art for my debut book and to my delight PMMP were onboard. As I’ve worked with Pye, I trust his judgment and we have the cover art process streamlined—I send him the story, he reads it, he comes up with four rough cover concepts, I tell him what I like and don’t like and then he drafts something up. After that we go back and forth until the cover is perfect. In early drafts the cover was more black and red but as soon as Pye started messing around with all those bright colours The Girl in the Video cover reached the next level. I couldn’t be happier with it and I love how many people have commented on the cover, too. It’s been a delight to see so many people photographing it on Instagram for the bookstagram community.

You’re widely known in the horror community as the founder of This Is Horror. How has your work for the site and in particular your work as an interviewer shaped your writing?

At this point I’ve now interviewed hundreds of writers and heard so many pieces of writing advice over the years. Funnily enough it was you, Gwendolyn, who said “when it comes to writing advice—your mileage may vary”. I take a similar approach to writing and indeed all advice, it was Bruce Lee who said: “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own”.

Now the writing advice is great in terms of the technical aspect of the craft but perhaps what has been more useful for many listeners are those talking candidly about mental health struggles, work-life balance, family-writing balance, perseverance, dealing with failure and rejection, and time management. It’s one thing to teach someone how to write well but you also have to learn how to practically be a writer under your own unique circumstances. A lot of creatives are likely to be far harsher to themselves than they are to others. Don’t say something to yourself you wouldn’t allow someone else to say about you. Be kind to yourself. Work hard and persevere but also give yourself a break.

Perhaps the thing above all that helped me as a writer was giving myself permission to be me and to write in my own authentic voice. For a number of years I wondered if in interviewing masters of horror like Ramsey Campbell and Adam Nevill if I’d inadvertently created a situation where whatever I put out I would disappoint people because the writing I produced bore little resemblance to those I interviewed. Of course this was bollocks, not least because I’ve interviewed such a wide range of authors from Victor LaValle to Nadia Bulkin to Elizabeth Hand to David Moody to Peng Shepherd etc. etc. As soon as I let go of having to write how one might expect the founder of This Is Horror to write and I just wrote as my authentic self, I wrote easier and I wrote better. My writing is minimalist, dialogue heavy, awkward, dark, at times humorous, and above all it’s authentically me. Perhaps it’s horror, perhaps it isn’t but what matters is it’s the fiction that best reflects me as a writer and what do you know people are responding to it well, too. I mean, praise from Josh Malerman, Brian Keene, Alan Baxter, and David Moody—a review from Mother Horror in Cemetery Dance … are you kidding me?! Surreal and gratifying.

Your next book, House of Bad Memories, is due out next year. What can you share about that story?

It lands via Grindhouse Press and I’m pitching it as This Is England meets Prisoners meets Peep Show. I reckon it’s darker and more unrelenting than The Girl in the Video though it’s not without its humour. It’s set in the UK and if it were adapted for film I could see someone like Shane Meadows as the screenwriter and director.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process? What’s your least favorite part?

When the first draft is going well that’s very satisfying. I also like the final draft where I’m just tinkering with word choice and looking at the story on a sentence by sentence level.

My least favourite part is when I wonder “what if this was all a fluke?” or “what if I’ve told all the good stories I have to tell?” or “what if I’m actually just a bit shit?” Model illogical, of course, but what I’m saying is self-doubt’s a bastard.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m just fine-tuning Peeper Ritual with Bob Pastorella which should be out later this year. I’m also in the early stages of a collaboration with Max Booth III called Wounded Duck. My current long-form solo project is called She’s Gotta Die—it’s Kill List meets Weekend at Bernie’s meets The Wicker Man.

Huge thanks to Michael David Wilson for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him online at his website as well as Twitter and Instagram at @wilsonthewriter. Also, check out This is Horror at its main site and on Twitter and on Instagram!

Happy reading!

Summertime Scares: Submission Roundup for July 2020

Welcome back for July’s Submission Roundup! This month offers plenty of fantastic opportunities, so if you’ve got a piece seeking a home, then one of these markets might be a perfect fit!

First, a disclaimer as always: I’m not a representative for any of these markets. I’m merely spreading the word. Please direct your questions to their respective editors.

And with that said, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Fantasy Magazine
Payment: $40 per poem; .08/word for fiction
Length: up to 6 poems; up to 7,500 words for fiction
Deadline: July 8th, 2020
What They Want: The recently resurrected Fantasy Magazine is currently seeking poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction in the fantasy genre.
Find the details here.

Tor’s Nightfire
Payment: Advance & royalties
Length: Novellas & Novels
Deadline: Submission period is open from July 15th to July 22nd, 2020
What They Want: For one week only, Tor’s Nightfire imprint will be open to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors only. The editors are seeking adult horror fiction.
Find the details here.

Lackington’s
Payment: .01/word (CAD) with $25 minimum
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: Opens to submissions on July 14th, 2020
What They Want: Open to stylized speculative fiction. The current theme is Archives.
Find the details here.

Mythic
Payment: .01/word
Length: 2,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: July 31st, 2020
What They Want: Currently open to fantasy and science fiction stories.
Find the details here.

Typehouse Literary Magazine
Payment: $18/flat
Length: up to 5,000 words for fiction and up to 6 poems
Deadline: July 31st, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide variety of genres. Also, the editors are specifically seeking work from Black authors.
Find the details here.

Cemetery Gates Media
Payment: .05/word
Length: 3,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: August 1st, 2020
What They Want: This horror anthology is seeking short fiction about “local lore or location-based oddities.”
Find the details here.

Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 2,000 to 8,000 words
Deadline: August 1st, 2020
What They Want: This anthology is looking for horror fiction inspired by Grindhouse cinema and featuring a strong female lead.
Find the details here.

HWA Scholarships
Payment: Scholarship amounts vary
Deadline: August 1st, 2020
What They Want: Open to members of Horror Writers Association, there are currently multiple scholarships available, including for horror nonfiction, dark poetry, women in horror, and more.
Find the details here.

Eerie River Publishing
Payment: Varies; between $10 to $25 CAD
Length: 5,000 to 15,000 words for With Blood and Ash anthology; 2,000 to 8,000 words for It Calls from the Sea anthology
Deadline: August 1st, 2020 for With Blood and Ash; September 15th, 2020 for It Calls from the Sea
What They Want: Currently open to two anthologies including the ocean-themed horror anthology, It Calls from the Sea, and the elemental magic horror anthology, With Blood and Ash.
Find the details here.

Something Good to Eat
Payment: $100/flat
Length: 2,000 to 10,000 words
Deadline: August 21st, 2020
What They Want: This Halloween-themed anthology is open to a wide variety of horror fiction.
Find the details here.

Ladies of Horror Fiction Scholarships
Payment: $100 scholarships
Deadline: August 31st, 2020
What They Want: Open to women authors, the Ladies of Horror Fiction are currently offering ten $100 scholarships.
Find the details here.

Angry Robot Books
Payment: Negotiable
Length: 60,000 words minimum
Deadline: September 30th, 2020
What They Want: The editors are specifically seeking science fiction/fantasy novels from Black authors who currently do not have literary agents.
Find the details here.

Neon Hemlock Press
Payment: Royalties negotiable
Length: 17,500 to 40,000 words
Deadline: October 5th, 2020
What They Want: Novella submissions now open to Black authors only. The editors are seeking all speculative genres, including but not limited to horror, science fiction, fantasy, and the Weird.
Find the details here.

In Darkness Delight: Fear the Future
Payment: .03/word ($150 maximum)
Length: 2,500 to 4,500 words preferred (up to 7,500 words will be considered)
Deadline: November 15th, 2020
What They Want: This Corpus Press anthology is seeking horror fiction with futuristic themes.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Lamplight and Forests: Interview with Christopher Stanley

Welcome back for this week’s interview! Today I’m happy to feature Christopher Stanley. Christopher is the author of The Lamppost Huggers and The Forest is Hungry, among many works of flash fiction.

Recently, Christopher and I discussed favorite authors, inspirations, and what’s next.

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

I’m not sure anyone in their right mind decides to become a writer! It’s always seemed like more of a calling to me – like vampire slaying but with pencils instead of stakes.

I do remember when I decided I wanted other people to read my stories. I’d just found out I was being made redundant after eleven years in a job, and I wanted to make some changes. So I signed up to Tom Vowler’s excellent short-story writing course, and I joined Bath Company of Writers. These two things turned a hopeless coffee-shop writer into a published, hopeless coffee-shop writer.

As for favourite authors – there have been many. Outside of horror, I’ve enjoyed the novels of Delillo, Franzen, Eggers and Palahniuk. My favourite horror authors at the moment are Paul Tremblay, John Langan, Andrew Michael Hurley, and a multiple Stoker-award winner named Gwendolyn Kiste. Am I allowed to say that? Ah, what the hell.

Can I also give a shout out to Ellen Datlow and all the other editors who work around the clock to produce volume after volume of incredible horror stories?

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your collection, The Lamppost Huggers. What can you tell us how about how this particular collection developed?

Thank you! I started writing flash fiction when our second child turned out to be twins, because I had neither the time, nor the energy, to continue writing short stories. Being a member of the Bath Company of Writers also nudged me in this direction, because the other members included my good friends Diane Simmons and Tino Prinzi (co-directors of the UK National Flash Fiction Day).

I started writing horror flash fiction after I stumbled across the first volume of The Molotov Cocktail Prize Winners anthology, which is a stunning collection. So much beauty and imagination! I suffered a lot of rejections on the road to winning their quarterly contest with a story called ‘Gettysburg,’ but I got there in the end.

Over the past few years, no one has championed my writing as much as The Arcanist. I think I’m right in saying that my story ‘Oymyakon’ is their most read story ever (or maybe it’s ‘Lepidoptera’ – I’m not sure). After I won their annual flash horror contest for the second year in a row, I reached out to the editors (Josh, Andie and Patrick) and asked if they would consider putting out a collection of my horror flash fiction. The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales is the result, and it’s been a real collaborative effort.

Your book, The Forest Is Hungry, was released last year through Demain Publishing and their Short Sharp Shocks! series. What can you share about that project?

The Forest is Hungry is a fast-paced novelette about nature fighting back. There’s something sinister growing in the forest next to main character’s house, something that will threaten the lives of everyone in his neighbourhood before the day is out, starting with his daughter.

I have a lingering sense of guilt about this story. I originally wrote it for a weird nature anthology that got cancelled, so I submitted it to Weirdbook instead. Doug, the editor, passed on the story but very kindly said if I could fix a minor plot point, he’d be happy to see it again in the next submission call.

I fixed the plot point on a sunny Sunday morning in February 2019. At the same time, I noticed a writer friend of mine was having a novelette published by a new publisher, Demain Publishing. I figured there was no harm in sending off a query email, and amazingly The Forest is Hungry was accepted within a couple of hours.

The Forest is Hungry was published as Book #16 in the ‘Short Sharp Shocks!’ series in April 2019. It was my first standalone publication, and it’s been very popular with fans of the series.

But I still feel bad I didn’t send it back to Weirdbook.

What in particular draws you to the horror genre?

House of Leaves. The Haunting of Hill House. The Shining. The Loney. The Fisherman. The Rust Maidens. A Head Full of Ghosts. Shouldn’t the question be: what’s wrong with people who aren’t drawn to the horror genre?

I go to horror because I recognise the landscapes and characters, but I know there’s an imagination at work that means anything is possible. And that’s exciting.

Do you have any writing rituals (e.g. writing at the same time every day, or writing while listening to music)?

I have writer friends who listen to music but it’s never worked for me. Being a songwriter, I have such a strong connection with music that, if I’m listening to it, I’ll probably hear a chord change or a riff that inspires me, and then the story is forgotten while I fetch my guitar.

I’m not sure I have any writing rituals – should I make some up? I write in the mornings before the kids come downstairs but that’s out of necessity. Sometimes I get an hour, sometimes ten minutes, and either way it’s fine with me. With great children comes great responsibility (and frequent interruptions and soul-crushing tiredness). I wouldn’t change a thing.

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

That’s a bit like asking me to choose between my kids. When the writing is going well, I love characters, dialogue and setting equally. It’s satisfying to read stories back after they’ve been published and think yep, I nailed that. But like kids, there are days where these things make me want to scream.

What are you working on next?

Right now, I’m making the final edits to a novelette and a novella, both of which are unlike anything I’ve written before. They’ve both forced me to write about things which are uncomfortable and challenging, and I think maybe this is one of the jobs of a horror writer, but it’s so hard. I guess that’s why I’m not rushing to finish them. I really want to get them right!

I’m also thrilled to say I’ve had a mini-collection of short stories accepted by Demain Publishing. That’s all I can say about this one at the moment, except that there’ll be announcement in due course.

Where can we find you online?
The best place to find me is on Twitter @allthosestrings. I also have a brand new website, christopherstanleyauthor.com. Sign up to the blog for updates on The Lamppost Huggers and my other projects.

Thanks for all the great questions, Gwendolyn.

Big thanks to Christopher Stanley for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Queen of Horror: Interview with Lisa Quigley

Welcome back for this week’s author interview series! Today I’m thrilled to feature Lisa Quigley. Lisa is the co-host and co-creator of the award-winning podcast, Ladies of the Fright, as well as a horror fiction writer. Her debut novella, Hell’s Bells, was released earlier this year from Unnerving.

Recently, Lisa and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as how music plays into her work.

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

I don’t actually really remember deciding to become a writer. It’s like that Ursula K. Le Guin quote, “When people say, ‘Did you always want to be a writer?’ I have to say no! I always was a writer.” From as early as I can remember, I have been interested in books and stories and writing. I don’t know what it’s like to just read a book and enjoy it—although I do enjoy books—but for me, reading is always, and has always been, accompanied by an inner voice that says yes! I want to do this, too.

I have too many favorite authors to name them all here. But first and foremost, the most formative: Neil Gaiman. In my late teens/early 20s I drifted away from reading and writing (even though both always called to me) but a lot of it was feeling uninspired by what I read and and a lack of confidence in my own abilities. I knew I was a writer, but I didn’t think I had the talent. I didn’t know about things like revision yet! I thought, if it wasn’t coming out in a way that matched the books I read, that was that. Anyway, when I was maybe 19 or 20 or so, a boyfriend gave me Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I had never read anything like it. Gaiman’s work opened me up to a whole new kind of story, a whole new genre. I really credit that discovery with leading me down the path to where I am now–the road to horror!

I also love Joe Hill, Kat Howard, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman, Grady Hendrix, Hailey Piper, Sara Tantlinger, and well, YOU! 😀 But truly, there are so many more authors I’m leaving off.

Congratulations on the release of Hell’s Bells! What can you share about the inspiration for your debut novella?

Thank you so much! I am so excited. It’s so weird because the inspiration for this book came from….everywhere. I pulled so many different pieces of my life from various times in my life and mashed them all together in a story. I think the germ of it, though, comes from my experiences growing up in an extremist-religious household. I had a best friend (who was a Christian) during my high school years, and it was so funky to navigate the intensity of teen friendship coupled with the unrealistic Christian expectations placed upon us. Emotions are already so heightened at that age, and you’re just trying to figure out who you even are in the midst of it. I wanted to write about what that felt like.

Hell’s Bells features a group of girls in the early 1990s, which brings to mind some films from around that time period like Heathers and The Craft. Did any films in particular inspire you as you were creating your group of female friends?

Oh man, I’m so glad you asked that! Clearly, I was a teen in the 90s. My characters are just a little older than me, because I wanted to write about a very specific time in the 90s and I needed them to be a certain age. But yeah, I mean, when pitching my book I have called it The Craft meets My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Those kinds of movies with “girl gangs” were a huge part of my teen years. And as much as I LOVE The Craft, for its nostalgia and cultural iconic ness (is that a word?) I also can recognize from the vantage point of time that it is problematic. There was a lot in that movie that focused on the toxicity of female friendships, and the danger of young women have “too much power.”

I also grew up watching allllll the teen movies. And SO MANY seemed to have this running theme of like…”being weird is not okay.” I am thinking of films like She’s All That and Never Been Kissed. In She’s All That, the guy doesn’t fall in love with her till she loses the glasses and paint-spattered overalls. Many of us likely remember the iconic scene of Rachel Leigh Cook walking down those stairs to “Kiss Me,” in that little red dress with her face made up and her hair in a chic cut and her glasses gone. There was also The Princess Diaries, where Anne Hathaway becomes desirable after her curly hair is smoothed into submission and her eyebrows are tamed. Or Miss Congeniality, where Sandra Bullock’s FBI partner doesn’t realize how incredible she is until she is turned into the perfect beauty pageant contestant. I could go on and on, but everyone probably gets it by now.

In my novella, I wanted to call back to that time and those experiences and those films, but I also wanted to subvert them.What if we owned our weirdness? Why should we change for anyone? And what if the girls’ friendship be the ultimate source of their strength, instead of their downfall?

Music is a huge part of your fiction. Do you listen to music while you’re writing, and if so, can you share a sample of your playlist?

It really depends. I go in phases. Sometimes I want to write in silence and sometimes having music on helps me really get in the zone. My writing-music tastes are very different from my listening-for-pleasure music tastes, though. I can’t really listen to music with lyrics or stories while I write. I get too distracted, I want to sing, I want to dance. So I need pretty ambient music for writing. Lately I pretty much only listen to the Interstellar Soundtrack to write. I haven’t even seen the movie, lol. But I was listening to a podcast (Sarah Enni’s First Draft, I believe) and it was recommended. And…I can’t really describe what happens to me when I listen to it. It’s like I escape through some writing-portal and write from a liminal space. There are so many different emotional highs and lows, it’s wonderful. Also, because I’ve used it so much to write to, I pretty much just have to hear the opening notes and it signals to my brain that it’s writing time. I love it!

Some of the other dark ambient music I enjoy while writing: Lustmord, Brian Eno, the It Follows soundtrack, Cities Last Broadcast, The VVitch soundtrack, Sleep Research Facility

The occult also plays a big role in Hell’s Bells. Were you like the girls in your story and fascinated by the occult when you were a teenager? Or has that interest in exploring it in your work come later?

I have always been interested in the occult, but with my upbringing, I didn’t have much room to explore those interests as a teenager. I was instilled with a lot of fear and myth around it all. I mean, I did have a few “non-Christian” friends (rare) who would try “Light As a Feather” at sleepovers, or we’d have “seances” (all inspired by The Craft, by the way.) But it was always half hearted and with a lot of giggles. It always intrigued me, but I had a lot of fear around it to unpack.

As I got older, and as I veered away from a Christian worldview, I was always interested in witchcraft. Reading about the occult and alternative spiritual paths has been a huge part of my own personal development so I think some of that will always seep into my writing. But I also like to approach it all with a sort of “reverent irreverence” (phrase borrowed from a favorite witch, podcaster (The Witch Wave), and writer of mine, Pam Grossman.) I treat my spirituality with a sense of play, never wanting to get too caught up in my own “dogma.”

In addition to your writing, you’re also a podcaster! You and Mackenzie Kiera host the award-winning Ladies of the Fright. How did your podcast come about, and what’s been the most surprising or exhilarating part of doing the show?

Mackenzie and I met in graduate school (UCR Palm Desert Low-Residency MFA program….an incredible experience!) and were pretty much joined at the hip upon meeting. We had always wanted to collaborate, but we weren’t sure exactly how or what that project would be. We had talked about starting a literary magazine or something similar, but it never felt right (or like it was work we actually wanted to take on!)

In the middle of 2017, I moved from California (where I had lived for 11 years) with my husband and 8 week old son (!!!) across the country to New Jersey. My husband is from here, and we really wanted family support after our son was born. There is so much for us here, and it’s clearly where we are meant to be, but I have struggled to root into my new life here. I feel a lot of grief for the life I left behind, the community I worked so hard to build. It was hardest in the beginning, when I was immersed in the underworld of postpartum (which can already be an isolating time) while also feeling severed from my community. I was lonely and sad and uprooted.

I started listening to podcasts while I walked with my son, and one day I texted Mackenzie, we should start a horror book podcast. We’ll just read and talk about the books we like, since we are doing that anyway. Why not record our conversations? Maybe one day we could interview some authors too. She was all about it and in two months, we had the show up and running. We had no idea it would even resonate with anyone! We just wanted a way to feel connected from across the country, and to be creative in a more connected way. Writing is in our blood and it’s lovely, but it can get lonely. And there is a lot of waiting involved. Waiting for rejections (mostly, ha!) and acceptances. This gave us a new project to be excited about—one where we had creative control and didn’t have to wait for a “yes” on, either.

The most surprising and exhilarating part? First—that anyone else listened or cared! We were just doing it for us. In a lot of ways, it was a creative lifeline. We had no concept that anyone might actually be interested in hearing what we had to say. I think the most exhilarating moment was at Stoker Con 2019 (last year, when we could breathe around each other, ha!…feels like a million lightyears away!) We had just finished moderating a packed panel, and afterward someone came up to us, all excited. She told us that she and her husband were huge fans of the show and they listened to the show together. She asked if she could get a picture with us, and said her husband would be so jealous she got to meet us! It was such a surreal and special moment!

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just put the finishing touches on a novel (currently called The Forest, but that could always change if it’s published?) I wrote that book while in the darkest part of postpartum, and the idea came to me when I used to walk in the woods with my son strapped to my chest in a baby carrier. It was my way of processing my experiences of new motherhood and postpartum anxiety. I’m currently shopping it around to a few places, nothing concrete—but the book has my whole heart in it and I believe it will exist in the world some day.

Beyond that, I’m just playing—I’m in the early stages of conceptualizing a few different projects, and enjoying being in this creative space where ideas are percolating but not quite risen to the surface. It’s a very mysterious part of the creative process and I’m leaning in to it.

Where can we find you online?

Social media: I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @ laquiglette. I’m also working on revamping my website, which is down right now, but will be www.lisaquigley.net once I get it up & running again. And of course, you can find the podcast at www.ladiesofthefright.com, twitter @ LOTFpod, and Instagram @ ladiesofthefright.

Thank you so much for having me! It’s been a delight!

Big thanks to Lisa Quigley for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

A Summer of Stories: Submission Roundup for June 2020

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! There are plenty of great opportunities right now, so if you’ve got a story seeking a home, then one of these markets might be a perfect place to send it.

First, a disclaimer as always: I’m not a representative for any of these markets. I’m merely spreading the word. Please direct your questions to their respective editors.

And with that said, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Allegory
Payment: $15/flat
Length: up to 5,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide array of speculative fiction.
Find the details here.

Women of the Woods
Payment: .01/word
Length: 2,000 to 8,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2020
What They Want: This anthology is seeking dark fantasy and quiet horror stories with lore or myths about “women who dwell in the forest.”
Find the details here.

Blood Bath Literary
Payment: $30/flat GPD
Length: up to 2,000 words for fiction; up to 30 lines for poetry
Deadline: July 1st, 2020
What They Want: Open to Black authors and artists only for the rest of the month, the theme for the current anthology is Vampires. The editors are seeking short fiction, poetry, and artwork.
Find the details here.

Gothic Blue Book, Volume 6: A Krampus Carol
Payment: $50/flat
Length: up to 3,500 words
Deadline: July 5th, 2020
What They Want: The editor is seeking short horror fiction set in a monastery, convent, or castle and also featuring a Christmas, Krampus, or a winter theme.
Find the details here.

Mythic
Payment: .01/word
Length: 2,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: July 31st, 2020
What They Want: Currently open to fantasy and science fiction stories.
Find the details here.

Typehouse Literary Magazine
Payment: $18/flat
Length: up to 5,000 words for fiction and up to 6 poems
Deadline: July 31st, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide variety of genres. Also, the editors are specifically seeking work from Black authors.
Find the details here.

Cemetery Gates Media
Payment: .05/word
Length: 3,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: August 1st, 2020
What They Want: This horror anthology is seeking short fiction about “local lore or location-based oddities.”
Find the details here.

Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 2,000 to 8,000 words
Deadline: August 1st, 2020
What They Want: This anthology is looking for horror fiction inspired by Grindhouse cinema and featuring a strong female lead.
Find the details here.

HWA Scholarships
Payment: Scholarship amounts vary
Deadline: August 1st, 2020
What They Want: Open to members of Horror Writers Association, there are currently multiple scholarships available, including for horror nonfiction, dark poetry, women in horror, and more.
Find the details here.

Something Good to Eat
Payment: $100/flat
Length: 2,000 to 10,000 words
Deadline: August 21st, 2020
What They Want: This Halloween-themed anthology is open to a wide variety of horror fiction.
Find the details here.

Neon Hemlock Press
Payment: Royalties negotiable
Length: 17,500 to 40,000 words
Deadline: October 5th, 2020
What They Want: Novella submissions now open to Black authors only. The editors are seeking all speculative genres, including but not limited to horror, science fiction, fantasy, and the Weird.
Find the details here.

In Darkness Delight: Fear the Future
Payment: .03/word ($150 maximum)
Length: 2,500 to 4,500 words preferred (up to 7,500 words will be considered)
Deadline: November 15th, 2020
What They Want: This Corpus Press anthology is seeking horror fiction with futuristic themes.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Summer Skin and Night Sun: Interview with teri.zin

Welcome back for this week’s interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature author teri.zin. teri.zin who writes under the name Zin E. Rocklyn has been published widely, including at Tor.com and in anthologies including Sycorax’s Daughters and Nox Pareidolia.

Recently, she and I discussed her inspiration as a writer, her favorite authors, and what she’s planning on writing next.

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

I never really thought I could hack it as a professional, but it feels like i’ve always written. i enjoyed stories and storytelling; it was fun to come up with worlds and make friends with characters. I think I started writing stories in earnest when I read the Fear Street series by RL Stine around 9yrs old. I remember the first character I’d created who I truly fell in love with: MoniLove Monet. She was everything I wanted to be when I was going to be a teenager. Things turned out much different, except for my love of horror, that only increased.

My favourite authors are NK Jemisin, Octavia Butler, Nathan Ballingrud, Clive Barker, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Helen Oyeyemi, Stephen Graham Jones, and Kathleen Collins, to name a few. There are too many!

Congratulations on the recent release of “The Night Sun” at Tor.com! What can you share about how this particular story developed?

The beginning of the story was sitting in my notes on my phone for literal years after seeing a drawing that struck me. It was until I went to Viable Paradise in 2018 did I have the opportunity to work on it. I had no idea where it was going when I jotted it down, but the prompts we received helped click things into place. The title came from a brain fart. The moon was full and gorgeous one night on Martha’s Vineyard and I mouthed Night Sun instead of full moon. I’m terrible at titles so I just ran with it.

Last fall, your story, “Birds,” was released in Nox Pareidolia from Nightscape Press. What was the inspiration for this story?

I have a deep desire to explore complex familial relationships, especially between a mother and daughter. Though the story is about two sisters, it is the mother’s treatment of either daughter that influences their relationship. As with most of my stories, it was also born of frustration. I was seeing a lot of calls for diversity but only a certain kind of acceptable diversity. It was diversity through a very white lens, a lens not exclusive to just white people either. So I wanted to write something where there are no heroes and the ugliness of white supremacy could be shown: you can have Black friends, lovers, coworkers you get along with, that doesn’t mean you’re not racist.

Your debut short story, “Summer Skin,” appeared in the highly lauded Sycorax’s Daughters in 2017. What is it about body horror that draws you in as an author?

Growing up, I had terrible eczema and when it was my turn for the chicken pox, I got the blisters instead of the itchy welts (trust me, it’s gross). It was traumatic having skin that was actively attacking itself, creating sores and crusty wounds that kids would point and laugh at or be obnoxiously disgusted by. It was also terribly painful. I battle chronic pain and PCOS, plus I was the kid always getting injured in some way. Horror is cathartic for me. It helps me process when my skin rebels, when my body is twisting upon itself. It helps me externalise the pain of depression and the constant discomfort of anxiety.

Are there are other subgenres of horror that you’re particularly eager to explore in your writing?

I love Gothic horror and would love to tackle it! Sci-fi horror and horror-westerns interest me, too.

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

Aw, man, that’s tough! I’d have to say crafting setting is the most fun for me. I like feeling creeped out and it’s even better if I can create it for myself!

What’s next for you? What projects are coming out soon? What are you currently working on?

I hope to have some work out soon! Right now, I’m working on a dark fantasy novella and several horror short stories. Times are a bit tough for creating, but I’m still plugging away!

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on Instagram at teri.zin or Twitter at intelligentwat. My website terizin.com is still under construction.

Huge thanks to teri.zin for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Stay Scared: Horror Events to Keep You Busy in Quarantine

So we’re entering our thousandth week in quarantine, which means we’re all past due for our Jack Torrance moment. The ennui of not being able to be out in the world coupled with the gorgeous summer weather are definitely getting many of us down. But before you pick up the nearest ax and chop down your family’s door just to say hi, consider attending one of these fabulous online events instead! That way, you’ll get some obligatory human interaction and have a whole lot of fun in the process.

Profs and Pints Online: Folkloric Felines
What could be better than learning about folklore? Learning about folklore AND cats, that’s what! Brittany Warman and Sara Cleto, the co-founders of Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, are hosting Folkloric Felines, an exploration of cats in folklore and fairy tales.  From the Yule Cat of Iceland to Puss in Boots, this lecture has got all the best tales for you cat lovers out there. This one is coming up tomorrow night, Friday May 29th, so if you’re interested, get to registering here!

Nightworms’ Celebrate Horror 2020 with Mother Horror
The incredible Mother Horror is having a birthday this month, and to celebrate, she’s hosting a weekend-long reading series from May 29th to 31st with authors of some of her favorite books she’s read so far this year! (Full disclosure: yes, I’m one of the authors, but even if you don’t want to hear me read, there are plenty of other fantastic authors to check out!) There’s a special Nightworms YouTube Channel, and you can learn even more about this event on the official Nightworms site!

Howard David Ingham’s Lecture Series
If you follow my social media, you’ve probably already heard me yelling from the rooftops about the awesome writing of Howard David Ingham. I met Howard last year at StokerCon, but I already knew their work from their incredible Stoker-nominated book, We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide to Folk Horror. Howard also does unbelievably great lectures on topics as unique and vast as folk horror, cult cinema, and identity horror, and they’ve even served as moderator for a masterclass last year with Ari Aster of Hereditary and Midsommar fame. Now Howard has taken their lectures online; you can find the whole series here, with the first seminar, “The Scam from Atlantis: The Occult Roots of Fake Archeology,” scheduled for June 1st. Be one of the very cool kids, and get your ticket now by heading on over here. As someone who’s attended Howard’s past lectures, I can tell you with gusto that you won’t regret it.

Sundays with Dracula
Several years ago, my husband and I were fortunate to visit The Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia. A beautiful historic 19th-century building packed with so many incredible treasures, including countless rare books, it’s a must-visit locale… once the world opens back up. For now, however, the museum has been hosting Sundays with Dracula, a live virtual conversation featuring one chapter of Dracula every week from now through November. It’s a great way to take a fresh look at the classic novel. Plus, they’re also featuring rotating guests including Dacre Stoker, Leslie S. Klinger, Grady Hendrix, and yours truly. Come to support a fabulous museum; stay for lots of vampire discussions!

Boroughs of the Dead: Macabre New York City Walking Tours
Author Andrea Janes not only writes about ghosts, she also hangs out with them. As the owner and founder of Boroughs of the Dead, a tour company based in NYC, she knows all the best spooky stories that will leave your horror-loving heart chilled and thrilled. Right now, with the city and the nation still under social distancing orders, all the tours have gone virtual. From the spooky history of Greenwich Village to Edgar Allan Poe’s connection to the city, you can learn all about the specters of Manhattan and then some. Best of all, the virtual tours are currently available for free, so check out their next virtual tour date and get ready for some hauntings!

Raw Dog Screaming Press’s Literary Events
Even before quarantine, Raw Dog Screaming Press has been championing online events as a way to ensure that those who can’t travel to conventions still have a way to interact with those in the community. In keeping with that commitment, they’ve been hosting some fabulous author launches. Next up is the book launch for Albert Wendland’s new science fiction poetry collection, Temporary Planets for Transitory Days: Poems of Mykol Ranglen. The event is on June 20th and will feature a reading and an interview with the author.

Raw Dog Screaming Press is also organizing Writing in the Dark, a three-day conference in September led by Tim Waggoner, so consider this your early notice about that fantastic event as well. It’s sure to be a seriously great opportunity that horror writers won’t want to miss.

Fright Girl Summer
With all the in-person conventions canceled for the summer, it can be so disheartening to not have the sense of community that so many great cons foster. Fortunately, authors V. Castro and Sonora Taylor have got you covered. Their Fright Girl Summer is a book festival dedicated to women in horror, with a particular focus on women of color and QUILTBAG authors. This event will last all summer and will feature everything from interviews, readings, and essays to book promotion, free fiction, and an artist bazaar. Head on over to the brand-new website to learn more, because this is going to be one truly fantastic event series!

That’s all I’ve got for now, but if you know of even more awesome online horror events, please feel free to comment on social media!

Stay safe in quarantine, and happy reading!

Roller Skates and Horror: Interview with Jessica Guess

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight Jessica Guess! Jessica is the author of Cirque Berserk, a new novella from Unnerving’s Rewind or Die series.

Recently, Jessica and I discussed how she got started as a writer as well as her working process and what awesome horror she’s got planned next.

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

In my junior year of college, I watched a Ted Talk on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert and she said, “Why are we afraid to do the thing we feel God put us on this earth to do?” Until then I was trying to be a doctor or a lawyer, you know, really safe career choices my Caribbean parents would approve of. I hated it. The only thing I enjoyed, the thing I felt compelled to do, was write. After I watched that Ted Talk, I decided to go for it. Some of my favorite authors are Stephen Graham Jones, Gillian Flynn, and Marlon James.

Congratulations on the release of Cirque Berserk! What can you share about how this story developed?

I got the idea after watching The Strangers Prey at Night. The way they used 80s music in that movie was immaculate. That night I got the image of a character on roller skates doing something horrible to another character while DeBarge’s Rhythm of the Night played in the background. I asked myself, why are they doing that? Why are they on skates? Where are they? And the story developed from there. Another thing that helped the story develop was that I wanted to see a slasher story with a strong emotional center. A lot of times, slashers are considered shallow, but I wanted something with a heart that was as strong as the hook.

What in particular draws you to the horror genre? Do you remember your first horror film or horror book?

I know this goes against evolutionary instinct, but I like being scared. It’s kind of a rush. When I was younger, I considered it a challenge. Like, if I could watch something scary and not be completely terrified, then I won. That’s where it started, but now I love it because horror is a genre where the stakes are always high, so it feels like it really matters. I don’t remember my first horror film, but I always say it’s either Brides of Dracula or A Nightmare on Elm Street because those are the earliest in my memory. As for books, it’s probably The Girl Who Cried Monster by R.L Stine. I read that one in elementary school and loved it.

You’re the founder of the fantastic site, Black Girl’s Guide to Horror. When did you first decide to create the blog, and what’s been the most exciting or surprising part of running the site?

I decided to create Black Girl’s Guide to Horror when I finished graduate school and the job search was going terribly. I needed something to take my mind off everything and I wanted to talk about horror movies, so I made a blog and it grew from there. I don’t know if anything is exciting, but there’s a lot that’s been educational. I like learning about all kinds of writing and blogging is its own specific genre. It’s taught me a little about search engine optimization and what audiences like to hear about when it comes to horror.

Your short story, “Mama Tulu,” appeared in Luna Station Quarterly. What was the inspiration for this piece?

Both my parents are from Jamaica and there are always stories about obeah women or obeah men. For clarification, obeah is just what we call voodoo. My mom especially told me some pretty scary stories when I was a kid about obeah women. One day I got this image of a girl walking through some tall grass and bushes in Jamaica. She was on her way to a wooden shack in the middle of the night and I decided to write it. I had to ask why would she be doing this at night? In Jamaica, it’s taboo to go to obeah people. You can be shunned, so it would have to be done in secret and I realized that’s where the girl was headed. The story grew from that.

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

If I had to choose, I’d say brainstorming is my favorite. I love coming up with an idea and plotting it out a bit before I write it. I always have to know who my main characters are and what they want and why they want it before I write anything. That’s my favorite part.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on an erotic horror story and a script about a haunted childhood home. Both of them are in the early stages meaning I’m still getting to know the characters.

Where can we find you online?

I’m on Twitter at @jessiguess90 and @BlackGrlsHorror and you can always stop by Black Girls Guide to Horror dot com. You can also pick up my book Cirque Berserk on Amazon.

Tremendous thanks to Jessica Guess for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Dark Blood and Poetry: Interview with Emma J. Gibbon

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m excited to be talking with author Emma J. Gibbon! Emma’s debut collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is set for release later this month from Trepidatio Publishing.

Recently, Emma and I discussed the inspiration behind her new collection as well as what draws her to the horror genre.

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

It didn’t come all at once for me, I sort of realized in stages. I’ve always been a reader. As soon as I knew how I just read whatever I got my hands on. I started writing poetry at first, in my teens, and then went on to short stories mainly. I think confidence was part of it, and also not really knowing where I fit in, in all of it so getting very close to publishing but not quite. Weirdly, something clicked when I turned forty—just being a lot less afraid of failure and really not caring what people thought. I began making connections in the horror community and getting my work out there and it worked! I started getting publishing credits and such very quickly. I feel like one of those actors who get called an overnight success when actually they’ve been working at their craft for years!

My favorite authors! I know I’m going to forget someone but off the top of my head: Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, Daphne du Maurier, George Saunders, Kelly Link, M. Rickert, Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Donna Tartt, Stephen Graham Jones, Sarah Monette, Mervyn Peake, V. C. Andrews. I do read a lot of horror, but I’m pretty omnivorous when it comes to books. I read all kinds of things.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your debut collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet! What can you share about this book? How did you choose the stories to include, and is there a particular theme or themes in the collection?

Thank you so much! Dark Blood Comes from the Feet is a collection of seventeen stories. Some of them have been previously published, but most are original to the collection. I would say that they come from the last decade of my work. They’re mostly horror, but they do dip into other genres too. “Sermon from New London” is post-apocalyptic, for example. As a reader, I like to see a range of different stories in a collection so as this is my first, I really wanted to show people what I could do. I went for the most variety of styles and moods and settings. I know that one of my strengths is my versatility and I heavily favor first person narrative so I wanted to show that. That said, there are themes and motifs that do reoccur because my own preoccupations find their way into my work. You will find a lot of references to illness and in particular, tuberculosis, you will find women characters who have deviated from “normal” lives, there are geographical places I return to and I often make people who are not usually in the limelight the protagonist. I have a huge chip on my shoulder about being a woman from a working class background so that comes through. In my stories, the monsters usually win and are not necessarily the ones you should fear anyway.

What draws you to the horror genre? Do you remember your first horror film or horror book?

I think it’s just in my DNA, honestly. I come from an ex-mining town in Yorkshire in the UK. There’s a saying “It’s grim up North” and it’s not just the weather! I say this with a lot of love but my people are a morbid, darkly comic bunch. I tell stories to my husband (who’s American) about my childhood and it just sounds…Dickensian. I intend to write a short nonfiction piece about it all. I just need to find a publisher interested in Yorkshire Gothic!

At a very young age, I used to beg my mother to let me stay up to watch Hammer Horror films and Tales of the Unexpected (based on Roald Dahl’s short stories for adults.) I was too young to remember actually watching them now, except for Tales of the Unexpected’s intro, which I highly recommend on YouTube, it’s mesmerizing. When video stores became popular, my brother and I used to go and look at all the covers in the horror department. Our favorite covers were The Lost Boys and Fright Night, but I think the first one we could convince someone to rent was Love at First Bite. When we finally got our hands on Lost Boys, we watched it every day. I still know all the words.

The first horror book I remember was the first book I ever bought for myself at a Scholastic book fair in middle school! It was called something like Ghosts, Spirits and Spectres and was an anthology of classic and contemporary ghost stories. It had a picture of a cursed doll on the front. I read that thing so many times it fell to pieces. My favorite in there was Laura by Saki. I really have been myself for a very long time.

What is it about the short story format that appeals to you as a writer?

It’s definitely the format that I feel most confident in. I love writing poetry, but it has a lightning from the sky element to it that I can’t quite understand, whereas as I reader I have always favored short stories—I’ve always been a big reader of anthologies and collections. I’ve read a lot of them. It’s a place I feel comfortable in. As a reader, I like the way I can fully immerse myself in a space/time in one short sitting. I like the focus of them. I like open endings where I can imagine a life for the characters after.

When I was a teenager, in the golden MTV years of the nineties (in my opinion), I really wanted to be a music video director. I think what I really wanted to do, and what appeals to me about writing short stories, is to convey a very condensed, intense experience where theme and language and imagery can combine in a compact space. You have to get your characters and setting and mood established fairly quickly, and I like the challenge of those constraints.

You write both fiction and poetry. How does your approach to each form differ, and how is it similar?

They’re similar as in they tend to come out of my brain ooze in an almost unconscious way. I mull things over, worry at them, have obsessions that I read and well, obsess about, and it all turns up in my work, no matter the format, and in such a way that I rarely realize until later. I can identify what time in my life I wrote something without looking at dates because I recognize what my concerns were at the time but it’s retrospective. I have no idea when I’m actually writing it.

As I’ve said elsewhere in this interview, poetry often comes to me in a flash. That first draft comes out whole, then I leave it for a while and go back to edit when it doesn’t feel like it’s from me. Short stories are a much longer process. I am getting quicker, but some of the stories in the book took up to ten years to find their “final form.” Ray Bradbury in Zen and the Art of Writing (which I loved) compared ideas to trying to befriend cats. You have to act casual at first, like you’re not that interested. George Saunders said something similar and I can’t find where I read it for the life of me but he talked about seeing it in the corner of your eye, letting the ideas sidle up to you. This is how I write stories. Elements of them come to me and start connecting together, then eventually a piece’ll connect where I am ready to start writing. Then I have to Jedi mind trick myself into believing I’m not really writing a story, no, I’m just noodling around, no pressure…until I have something. As you can probably guess, I’m not much of a planner.

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

Dark Blood Comes from the Feet is my first book so I’m going to say this! It’s been a dream of mine to have my own collection for a long time and now it actually exists! As far as individual stories go, it’s like choosing between children but the two that stand out to me the most as I write this are “Cellar Door” and “This is Not the Glutton Club.” “Cellar Door” is a story that I really wanted to write for a long time. It has some of my favorite things in it—an unreliable narrator, a haunted house, spatial weirdness, which is something that genuinely terrifies me, and the house is based on my actual home. I wanted to write it so badly that I was scared I couldn’t do it justice. In the end, I nanowrimo-ed it so I wouldn’t get in my own way.

“This is Not the Glutton Club” is memorable because I wrote it while bedridden with double pneumonia! It’s my version of a nested story about a group of Victorian gentlemen who catch illnesses on purpose. I couldn’t sit at my desk, so I handwrote the first draft for the first time in years. I realized how much I missed the experience of writing like that, and I’ve been using that method ever since. I also crowdsourced the research I needed for that story using my phone and Facebook because I was so sick—I have very clever and generous friends.

As for my poetry, I would say “Fune-RL” which is up for the Rhysling this year! Not only did it get in Strange Horizons, which is a dream market, but it was one of those rare times when I knew I had something. I wrote it early one morning (which is unheard for, for me. I am emphatically not a morning person) and it just…came out, pretty much as it was published. It was only looking back at it that I could see all of the things that I had been thinking about and worried about all woven into one poem. It felt close to magic.

What projects are you currently working on?

Oof, that’s the question. I’m in a bit of limbo at the moment, partially pandemic related but not entirely. I think it’s about time I wrote a novel and I did write some notes before Covid hit but I’ve got quarantine brain right now and concentrating on anything is hard. I think I’ve got enough material for a poetry collection so that’s a possibility and I have some short stories that I want to write and edit. For now, I’m in input rather than output mode. I’m reading in short spurts (quarantine brain, again), catching up on shows that I missed, re-watching favorite movies. I know that my brain is churning away in the background and I’m hoping it’ll let me know what project I should do next.

Tremendous thanks to Emma J. Gibbon for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website and on Twitter!

Happy reading!