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!

Crows and Corpse Flowers: Interview with Ronald J. Murray

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Ronald J. Murray. His debut poetry collection, Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower, is forthcoming from Bizarro Pulp Press, an imprint of JournalStone.

Recently, he and I discussed his inspiration as a writer and how the Pittsburgh area influences his work as well as what he’s got planned next.

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

My only vivid memories from elementary school are sitting in the library, listening to our librarian read to my class, so I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve always been fascinated by the art of storytelling. However, I found out that writing was a part of me when my seventh-grade literature class took turns reading paragraphs from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” My parents got me The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe the following Christmas, and with a mind full of terrors and mysteries and vicariously experienced losses, I began experimenting with my own stories and poetry.

I’d have to say that my favorite authors are (have I mentioned Poe?) Neil Gaiman, Josh Malerman, Patrick Rothfuss, Steven Erikson, Junji Ito, Sara Tantlinger, Claudia Gray, Timothy Zahn, Robert W. Chambers, and H.P. Lovecraft. This is probably cheesy to say, since you’re the one interviewing me, but I really enjoyed your collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, and it’s definitely listed among my favorite books.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your poetry collection, Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower. What can you share about how this book developed?

Thank you, thank you! The funny thing about Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower is that I consider it to be an accidental poetry collection. I was going through a pretty severe depressive episode at the time I was writing it. I’d take cigarette breaks at work and just write these bursts of emotion in my notepad app on my phone. I’d go out for cigarettes at home and do it again. I’d just jam my thumbs onto the touchscreen keyboard any time I felt the fiery whirl of anxiety rise in me, whether I was in bed or taking my dog for a walk or drinking my morning coffee. Then, I put them all in a Word document so I didn’t lose them and realized I had forty poems about the same thing, using the same metaphors. So, I put them into a manuscript and gave them a collective title and sent them to Jennifer Wilson to be edited. From there, Nicholas Day and Don Noble acquired the collection for Bizarro Pulp Press, and here we are, with Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower available in print on June 29th of this year.

What draws you to horror poetry in particular? Is horror your favorite genre of poetry, or do you widely read other genres as well?

I feel like I am drawn to horror poetry because dark imagery packed into powerful sentences just resonates with me as a person. I’ve always been a dramatic, emotional person, and I’ve always been drawn to the dark side of life.

I’ve been reading a lot of horror poetry lately! I just finished the HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume VI. There is a lot of great work in there! Other recent horror poetry collections I’ve read is Stephanie M. Wytovich’s Hysteria, Sara Tantlinger’s Love for Slaughter (for the second time; god, I love that collection), and Donna Lynch’s Choking Back the Devil. But, I am a fan of poetry in general, especially love poems and just anything generally moody.

How does your approach differ when writing poetry as opposed to fiction?

Fiction, for me, takes a lot more planning to write than when I am writing poetry. Though, lately, I’ve been playing with discovery writing, or “pantsing,” and just taking notes on important story elements that I want to revisit later in a separate notebook so I don’t forget them. It is more careful and calculated.

When I write poetry, it’s like I’m quietly screaming whatever comes crawling out of my heart at my notebook or notepad app or word processor. Then, I step away from the piece for a couple of days until it becomes a stranger and edit it then.

You reside in the Pittsburgh area. With Romero’s zombie legacy looming large over the region, do you find that living in such a horror-centric city influences your work?

I know that I like to work in the café at the Monroeville Mall Barnes & Noble because it feels good to say I’m writing in the Dawn of the Dead mall! I do feel like the general air of horror interest in Pittsburgh helps to keep me exploring the horror genre. There is also a lot of amazing artistic talent in this city, especially in horror, and being around that talent definitely influences me to keep pushing myself forward in the constant development of my skills as a writer.

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

Developing characters would have to be my favorite part of the writing process. I love figuring out what makes my characters click, what makes them do what they do and where that will lead them and how the consequences of their actions will affect their changes as the plot rolls forward.

What are you working on next?

I just finished a new chapbook of poetry about the pain of failed love, which uses a lot of dark, sad imagery to get its message across. Once I edit that and send it to a second set of professional eyes, I’ll start shopping it around for publication. Otherwise, I’m playing with a lot of ideas for pieces of longer fiction, including trying to solve some seemingly insurmountable issues with a novel I’d been working on for some time. But those projects are still in their infant stages, so I can’t say much about them.

Big thanks to Ronald J. Murray for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his website as well as Twitter and Tumblr.

Happy reading!

Spring Prose and Poetry: Submission Roundup for May 2020

Welcome back! I hope you’re all doing well out there, and that everyone is staying safe. This month, there are plenty of great submission calls, so if you’ve got a story seeking a home, then perhaps you’ll find a place to send it from the list below! Or if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration right now, maybe one of these calls will get the creative juices flowing.

Either way, let’s get on with this month’s Submission Roundup, shall we?

Submission RoundupLuna Station Quarterly
Payment: $5/flat
Length: 500 to 7,000 words
Deadline: May 15th, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction from female-identifying authors.
Find the details here.

HWA Horror Poetry Showcase
Payment: $5/flat
Length: up to 35 lines
Deadline: May 31st, 2020
What They Want:  Open to HWA members, this annual anthology features horror poetry of all subgenres. Also, along with Carina Bissett and editor Stephanie M. Wytovich, I’m pleased to be one of the judges of this year’s showcase! Send us your best and coolest horror poems!
Find the details here.

Occult Detective Magazine
Payment: .01/word for fiction ($50/max); .01/word for nonfiction ($30/max)
Length: 3,000 to 6,000 words for fiction; 2,000 to 4,000 words for nonfiction
Deadline: June 5th, 2020
What They Want: Open to fiction that features characters who “investigate or explore the strange and unusual” as well as articles and essays about occult detectives.
Find the details here.

Typehouse Literary Magazine
Payment: $15/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.
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 seeking horror fiction inspired by Grindhouse cinema and featuring a strong female lead.
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!

Mythic and Apocalyptic: Interview with EV Knight

Welcome back for this week’s featured author interview! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight the fabulous EV Knight! EV’s debut novel, The Fourth Whore, was just released through Raw Dog Screaming Press to much acclaim, and she has even more horror fiction on the way later this year from Unnerving.

Recently, EV and I discussed her inspirations as well as what it was like writing her first book.

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

I have always been a voracious reader, my grandmother read Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales to me every night growing up which I think is what made me seek out the darker side of literature. When I was in sixth grade, I read my first Stephen King book–Pet Semetary and I was hooked. I loved the way he wrote, the way he put words together and the stories he told. Not only did I want to read more of his work, I wanted to write like he did. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. Of course, up until then, I wanted to grow up to be a doctor so of course my family preferred that dream and continued to encourage medicine as a career and writing as a hobby. So, it wasn’t until I completed medical school and had been working as a physician that I began to revisit the idea of writing more seriously.

My favorite writers…there are so many. Clearly, I love Stephen King but lately, I have been reading a lot of Ania Ahlborn, Josh Malerman, Victor LaValle, and my literary hero: Shirley Jackson.

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, The Fourth Whore! What can you share about the inspiration for the book?

The inspiration for The Fourth Whore came during the 2017 Women’s March in D.C. I was there and marched beside so many amazing people. I kept hearing women invoking the name Lilith and after some research, I knew I had to have her in my novel.

What was it in particular about Lilith and the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse that made you want to tell their story?

After discovering Lilith’s religious mythos, and hearing the phrase “the war on women” over and over that year (2017), I imagined a war started by women. And since I was using Lilith’s religious background, I went to the Book of Revelation and looked into the “end of the world” scenarios. In my mind, Lilith wanted to wipe out the world as is and bring on a new world where women would rule. She wanted to write her own “Bible.” The Four Horsemen, to me made for a good plot of four different ways to bring about the end of the world and could easily be renamed “The Four Whores” because it was the very thing Lilith was “taking back.”

What were the biggest surprises for you as you wrote and edited your first book?

The process of writing a novel is long and complex! You think you know your story and characters and won’t forget details, but you do. And I had to go and decide to write a novel with multiple character’s story lines woven together so keeping track of where I was and where each character was at any given time, was so stressful.

By the time, I got to the end of the story, I didn’t think I ever wanted to look at it again. But then, you have to edit. If I had to do it all over again, I would have probably chosen a more straightforward story for my first novel and worked my way up to something like this. That being said, I learned so much about myself, my process, and the industry in general, it was a good experience.

What draws you to horror as both a writer and a reader?

Horror is the great escape. It’s the endorphin rush, the blood pumping, thought provoking study of all the things that we as humans keep locked away in darkness of our imaginations. All those “what ifs” that never left us from childhood. It allows us to get in touch with our animal brain. I love that about us as a species. The things we, as adults would never admit out loud—that our hearts still beat a little harder and we quicken our steps after turning out the basement light to head back upstairs. When our child swears there is something under their bed or in their closet and we have to look, there is that tiny voice inside that says “there might actually be something there.” I love that. I love feeding that idea.

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

I am a plotter. I plot overall, and then I replot each chapter before I write it. I love it. I love the brain storming aspect. The planning part is the most enjoyable.

I carry notebooks, note cards, and sticky notes everywhere. I have a giant dry erase board in my writing room for mind maps and note taking. For me, it’s like mining for gold. Working an idea until it shines. That is, without a doubt, my favorite part.

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

I have a novella–Dead Eyes–coming out in November from Unnerving. It is part of the Rewind or Die series celebrating the 80’s horror film craze. I had so much fun rewatching a lot of those old films from my middle school sleepover days in order to write it.

My next big project is a four novel series centered around a commune that once belonged to a hippie cult calling themselves the children of Demeter. They disappeared overnight in 1973. Since then, the land has been dead and barren, but maybe not everything at the commune has died.

Tremendous thanks to EV Knight for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at Twitter, Facebook, and her author website, and also check out her podcast Brain Squalls!

Happy reading!

Fiction for the End of the World: Submission Roundup for April 2020

So a lot has happened in the world since the last Submission Roundup. Wherever you are, I hope above and beyond all else, you’re keeping safe. Plenty of writers out there haven’t found much time to write in the last month, and if that applies to you, that’s okay. Taking care of yourself and others is an absolutely valid and highly recommended way of spending your time these days.

That being said, if you have managed to get a little bit of writing done (or if a beloved story you submitted has found its way back to you from a slush pile), then perhaps you can find a good match in one of the markets below!

So for those of you with stories seeking homes, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Strange Lands anthology
Payment: .08/word for original fiction; .06/word for reprints
Length: 2,000 to 4,000 words
Deadline: April 5th, 2020
What They Want: Part of Flame Tree’s Gothic Fantasy series, their latest anthology will focus on speculative fiction with strange and distant settings.
Find the details here.

Electric Spec
Payment: $20/flat
Length:  250 to 7,000 words
Deadline: April 15th, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction.
Find the details here.

Translunar Traveler’s Lodge
Payment: .03/word (minimum $20)
Length: up to 5,000 words
Deadline: April 15th, 2020
What They Want: Open to fun speculative fiction stories.
Find the details here.

Bracken
Payment: $15/flat for poetry; .04/word for fiction ($50 minimum)
Length: up to 100 lines for poetry (shorter is preferred); up to 2,500 words for fiction
Deadline: April 20th, 2020
What They Want: Open to poetry and short fiction that explores “human nature as part of nature.”
Find the details here.

Punk: An Anthology of Poetry
Payment: $10/flat
Length: no line limits
Deadline: April 30th, 2020
What They Want: Open to poetry that explores the meaning of the word, “punk.”
Find the details here.

Luna Station Quarterly
Payment: $5/flat
Length: 500 to 7,000 words
Deadline: May 15th, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction from female-identifying authors.
Find the details here.

HWA Horror Poetry Showcase
Payment: $5/flat
Length: up to 35 lines
Deadline: May 31st, 2020
What They Want:  Open to HWA members, this annual anthology features horror poetry of all subgenres. Also, along with Carina Bissett and editor Stephanie M. Wytovich, I’m pleased to be one of the judges of this year’s showcase! Send us your best and coolest horror poems!
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

A Haunted House Haven: Interview with Tom Deady

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to feature author Tom Deady. Tom is the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer behind Haven, Backwater, and Weekend Getaway, as well as numerous short stories that have appeared in Hardened Hearts and Unnerving, among other outlets.

Recently, Tom and I discussed the inspiration behind his new book, Coleridge, as well as his favorite part of the writing process and what he has planned next.

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

I think I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, I just didn’t do anything about it for a long time. Haven was written in fits and starts between 1995 and 2010. When that was finally finished, I decided to take my writing seriously. I got my Masters in English and Creative Writing and have been writing ever since.

Anyone who has read my work knows Stephen King is a major influence in my writing, but there are so many writers I admire. Early Dean Koontz, Shirley Jackson, Rio Youers, Josh Malerman, Tana French, Peter Straub, C.J. Tudor, Simone St. James…I could go on and on.

Congratulations on your new book, Coleridge! What can you share about the process behind this story?

Coleridge started out as a short story for a modern gothic anthology. Like many of my stories, the characters took over. I had originally planned a traditional haunted house story, but Dalia, Zadie, and Slade had other plans. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, It’s a little out of my comfort zone as a writer so I’m pretty nervous about how it will be received.

Coleridge is all about a very creepy, atmospheric house with a dark history. What are your favorite haunted house stories or films? Was there one in particular that really helped to inspire this book?

I love haunted house stories. The Haunting of Hill House is a classic, and while the Netflix show really just used the name, it was a fantastic series. The Elementals by Michael McDowell is a master class in creating the slow burn and creepy atmosphere. The Marsten House in ‘Salem’s Lot fascinates me, I’d love a prequel that focuses on what happened there before Barlow and Straker arrived. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons and The Invited, Jennifer McMahon’s latest are both unique takes on the haunted house.

I can’t say there was one in particular that helped inspire Coleridge, I think they all did in some way.

You’ve been steadily releasing new books, starting with your novel, Haven, in 2016, which won the Bram Stoker Award. How do you find time to write? Are there certain tips you use to keep yourself focused, or particular writing rituals that have helped you over the years?

Finding time to write is never easy. I’m a night owl, so a lot of my writing is done after the rest of the family is in bed. I’m fortunate to have an incredibly supportive wife who helps carve out writing time for me.

One thing that has always worked for me is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’ve done it for the past six years and made fifty-thousand words three times. I finally figured out why it works: keeping track of word count. I started doing that this year and it helps me a lot. I can’t hide from the spreadsheet and its empty cells on days I don’t write.

I don’t have any life-changing words of wisdom. I started taking my writing seriously pretty late in life, and I feel like I have a LOT of stories to tell, so time is a great motivator for me.

In addition to your novels and novellas, you’ve also written a number of short stories. How is your approach to your short fiction different or similar to your approach to writing long fiction?

Short stories are honestly not my favorite format, whether reading or writing. I grew up reading the doorstop horror novels of the eighties, so character development and subplots are everything to me. Short stories are too abrupt and always leave me wanting to know more.

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

Character development. Obviously, all three are important, but for me, stories are ultimately about people. Watching a character grow (or devolve in the case of some) as a story progresses is what fascinates me. I look at books like It by King and Summer of Night by Dan Simmons as the blueprints for character development. The depth and complexity of each player in those stories is amazing.

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

After Coleridge, I’m going to release a short story collection. Details aren’t worked out yet, but it should be out this summer and featuring some great artwork by a very familiar name. I have a short story called “The Legend of Stingy Jack” in Haverhill House’s folk horror anthology Would But Time Await that should be out in the fall. Early next year, my novel, The Clearing, is due out from Vesuvian Books. This one has been in the works for a while and I’m very excited about it.

Where can we find you online?

The best place to get in touch is www.tomdeady.com. All my social media links are there, as well as the link to my Amazon author page and the opportunity to purchase signed books.

Tremendous thanks to Tom Deady for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

March Into Fiction: Submission Roundup for March 2020

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of cool opportunities this March, so if you’ve got a story seeking a home, maybe one of these markets will be the perfect fit.

First and foremost, a disclaimer as always: I am not a representative for any of these publications; I’m simply spreading the word. If you have any questions, please direct them to their respective market. And with that, onward with March’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Flame Tree Publishing’s Gothic Fantasy series
Payment: .08/word for original fiction; .06/word for reprints
Length: 3,000 to 7,000 words
Deadline: March 15th, 2020
What They Want: Flame Tree is seeking short stories for their popular Gothic Fantasy anthology series. The current theme is Lovecraft Mythos.
Find the details here.

Third Flat Iron Publishing’s Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses anthology
Payment: .08/word
Length: 1,500 to 3,000 words
Deadline: March 15th, 2020
What They Want: This science fiction anthology is seeking stories of positive futures.
Find the details here.

Podcastle
Payment: .08/word for original fiction; $100/flat for reprints over 1,500 words; $20/flat for flash fiction reprints
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide array of fantasy stories.
Find the details here.

Clockwork, Curses, and Coal: Steampunk and Gaslamp Fairy Tales
Payment: .01/word
Length: up to 7,500 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2020
What They Want: A fairy tale anthology of Victorian steampunk.
Find the details here.

Midnight in the Pentagram
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2020
What They Want: Silver Shamrock Publishing is seeking short fiction about the occult, possession, demons, and satanism in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen, and Creepshow among others.
Find the details here.

Bracken
Payment: $15/flat for poetry; .04/word for fiction ($50 minimum)
Length: up to 100 lines for poetry (shorter is preferred); up to 2,500 words for fiction
Deadline: April 1st, 2020
What They Want: Open to poetry and short fiction that explores “human nature as part of nature.”
Find the details here.

Bronzeville Books
Payment: .08/word
Length: up to 3,000 words
Deadline: Various deadlines, depending on project
What They Want: Editor Sandra Ruttan is seeking short stories for Bronzeville Books’ forthcoming anthologies Rigor Morbid 2 and Happy Hellidays.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Into the Future: Part Four in Our 2020 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back for the final installment of our Women in Horror Roundtable for 2020! February always goes by way too fast! At any rate, let’s check in with these awesome interviewees one more time and find out what they’ve got planned for the future!

There are so many writing conventions and readings year-round in the horror genre. What are some events that you’ve attended or would like to attend that have valued women’s voices in the genre?

V. CASTRO: I have to give props to the HWA for making a huge effort when it comes to diversity. I attended StokerCon last year and plan to go again this year because the panels were diverse and interesting.

TERI.ZIN: The Outer Dark and ReaderCon, for sure. To be fair, I haven’t been to many conventions outside of those two, but I’ve felt supported so thoroughly at both. I recently attended NecromoniCon which is aggressively white, but the Board did everything they could in their power to help me feel safe.

LISA QUIGLEY: Stoker Con is the only one I’ve attended so far, and I absolutely love it. If I can only attend one con a year, it’s going to be that one. I definitely feel that they value and uplift not only women’s voices, but also those of all underrepresented communities. The panels are (from my POV, at any rate) effortlessly diverse. It’s a great time.

MACKENZIE KIERA: Stoker Con has never failed to delight. The panels seem to be very equal when it comes to maintaining a gender balance. I’d really love to go to KillerCon one day; I hear nothing but good wonderful things. And if you’re in LA, they’ve got a killer book club called “The Thing in the Labyrinth.” That’s run by a friend of the fright: Kat McGee.

LARISSA GLASSER: I’ve been so lucky to be included in the programming for The Outer Dark, Necon, Necronomicon, StokerCon. I never expected to be, but know that horror and genre fans/artists are some of the kindest, most inclusive people in the universe. I’ve been looking for that my entire life. I also adore Boskone, although I haven’t been involved in programming yet, I love to lurk.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: Primarily, I have attended StokerCon and its previous iteration, World Horror. While certain members of the HWA have been racist, sexist and homophobic, I genuinely believe that the organization is making an effort to be more inclusive and representative of the diversity among horror writers. It would be naive to say that as a genre we have overcome discrimination and prejudices, but I have faith that most of the people within the HWA have the best intentions in their hearts and are consciously working toward building a diverse community of writers.

I attended my first Camp Necon this past summer, where I released my debut novel, Invisible Chains. It was a diverse and welcoming environment that provided space for all voices to be heard. If you haven’t attended Necon, I highly recommend it and you will definitely see me there this year where I will undoubtedly drive Tananarive Due insane with an unending stream of questions and praise while I try to convince her to become my mentor.

Last year I was supposed to attend the first Multiverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, which actively works to showcase the diversity of writers, educators, cosplayers, filmmakers, etc. within the speculative fiction writing community. Unfortunately, I had to back out at the last minute because of financial issues, but I’m hoping to attend in 2020.

And, I’ve been invited to attend GenCon this year as a guest author. I really don’t know much about the con, but I am looking forward to going and learning more about it.

ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: I keep so busy with three, growing kids who are now 20, 16, and 12 that I haven’t had much time to go to events in all these years. My money and my time has always been on them when I’m not working long hours in publishing. My son is a sophomore in college in DC and so traveling money goes first to taking him to and from the 8 hours or to visit him. I love to visit historical places and hike and explore on weekends with my family and so I usually prefer to do this. I try to support what I can online, and I’d love to start going to some conventions, but I think I’d probably prefer to go to writing conferences. I’d love to one day be invited to participate in a panel or to help, but that will be only if it doesn’t interfere with kids. My girls being in sports, musicals, and other things really eats up my weekends too. I am hoping to get to a Scares that Care though, being in VA, and then also to StokerCon 2021. I’d love to throw together something for us PA and OH to do!

I can’t answer the second part of the questions as I’ve not been to any but from what I’ve seen online HWA does this well with StokerCon and a lot of women go and have their voices heard on panels.

As far as other conventions I view online, so many are film horror focused, but it seems they really do appreciate and showcase their women pretty well. I don’t know anything behind the scenes so it might not be the case, but I know that through social media I learn a lot about women in film and I’m really glad for those that promote them so we can learn about them.

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

V. CASTRO: In February Hairspray and Switchblades from Unnerving will be released.

May is Latino Book Month and I am curating a Latinx dark fiction and Horror book bundle for StoryBundle.

TERI.ZIN: I have a short story titled The Night Sun being published by Tor.com in March of 2020. I’m currently working on edits for my novella about a pregnant woman stuck on a boat on a drowned planet. She’s not happy about it, to say the least, lol. I’ve always got multiple stories and novel ideas I’m tossing around, but there is another novella and novel I hope to finish in 2020.

LISA QUIGLEY: My debut novella Hell’s Bells will be published in May 2020 by Unnerving. I am also revising a novel, and have a few short stories at various stages of drafting. I’ve also got a new novel in the dreaming stages currently. I’ve always got something brewing!

MACKENZIE KIERA: Currently I’m working on flipping a possession trope for a call to an anthology, and my debut novella “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE AND A STRONG ELECTRIC CURRENT”  is coming out in August of this year with Unnerving Press.

LARISSA GLASSER: Here’s the thing, I’ve carried so many different book ideas and plots for years, it’s a matter of picking and choosing. I’ve been on a huge Arthur Machen/folk horror kick lately so The Brightening is going to be about trans celebrities and seances. I have another WIP Glue Man which is also about celebrity culture but also ethics in journalism and serial killer worship in the media. Some of these themes covered will be futuristic in nature, but I want to try to tap into the human and emotional viscera that only someone like Jack Ketchum could
capture. It’s up to the readers to gauge how successful I am in that endeavor. I just hope it reaches people.

Also, please raise your voice – Free Chelsea Manning.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: My goals for this year include writing and submitting more short fiction. I have a story coming out later this year, “African Twilight,” in The Dystopian States of America, which is a charity anthology that will raise money for the ACLU. And, I just finished a story for another anthology that focuses on female monsters that will be out later this year. I’m working on a series that features the work of speculative writers in which I showcase a fragment of their fiction and ask them questions about their writing on my blog, Girl Meets Monster. And, the next installment of my Speculative Chic blog series, “With This Right, You’ll Be Dead: Violence Against Female Protagonists in Romantic Vampire Fiction,” will be out later this month.

Beyond that, I hope to finish the first book in a series of novellas about a succubus in an arranged marriage with a demon, and I’m also hoping to complete the first draft of the follow up to Invisible Chains.

ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: I’m mostly spending a lot of time working in publishing whether for pay doing editing and publicity, some free editing and publicity to help (select few – not an invitation to do for everyone as unfortunately I can’t), and the reading and reviewing and interviewing. I am trying to fit in more down time this year, some of it filled with more reading and reviewing.

So that said, I wrote two poetry books in the last couple years – by hand on paper. I need to get them typed and edited. I will need to see who will publish or self-publish. But I lost some of my mojo for this, as I’m afraid at time for my own promotion. I also have several unfinished novels and short stories that need worked on. I am also disheartened. I started the year off losing my writing mojo. BUT I did go to Baltimore last weekend (Jan 11) and I visited Edgar Allan Poe’s home. It sparked a bit in me. Then my friend Duncan and I were chatting, and he jokingly said something referring to Russian nesting dolls that started my brain wheels spinning. So, time permitting, maybe my mojo has returned.

I’m still at discovering what 2020 means for me and it’s a work in progress. I hope to figure it out soon though. Until then, I’m going to wait for writing inspiration to strike me. I generally don’t often feel that til spring hits.

Thank you so much to the seven amazing women who were part of this year’s Women in Horror Roundtable. It was wonderful talking with them!

Happy reading, and once more, happy Women in Horror Month!

Raising Our Voices: Part Three in Our 2020 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back for part three in our Women in Horror Roundtable! The month is rapidly winding down, but that doesn’t mean we’re done here yet! Today I talk with these seven fabulous interviewees about the publications out there doing great work for diversity in horror as well as what everyone has planned for Women in Horror Month this year! So let’s go, shall we?

While there’s still such a struggle to be heard as a female author, there are fortunately those out there who are doing their part to help us get our voices heard. Who are some of the editors and publications that are doing great work for diversity in horror?

V. CASTRO: Unnerving did a submission call for only women before opening it to men. Love that. I’ve seen a lot come from Nightscape Press, Demain Publishing and Grindhouse Press. I also have to give credit to the big review sites for consistently promoting women. That is how we change publishing because publishing is a business. Demand and noise made for female authors will get the attention of publishers and editors. Same goes for authors of color.

LISA QUIGLEY: Eddie Generous at Unnerving Magazine/Publishing is definitely doing a lot to promote women in horror as a policy. I know for his last calls for novellas, he wanted a minimum of a certain percentage of women—so he opened the submission window up for pitches from women before opening up the call to everyone. Ellen Datlow is, of course, continuously creating top-quality horror from some of the best writers writing today—and a huge percentage of them are women.

Nightscape Press is also awesome and incredibly adamant about representing diverse voices.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but those stand out to me off the top of my head.

MACKENZIE KIERA: Eddie Generous over at Unnerving did a great thing this year. He opened submissions to his Rewind or Die series to women first, I think that’s really great, really wonderful. Saga Press I believe is making a push to be diverse as well. Really, I’m impressed by most editors and publishers. Everywhere I turn, it seems like places are actively trying to be inclusive. One of the first horror groups to reach out to Lisa and myself were Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella from This is Horror to offer their congratulations and support. They’ve been great friends to us.

TERI.ZIN: I owe so much to Dr. Kinitra Brooks. She had such a strong faith in my story that she let me shuffle my feet for months after sending the invite. That story (Summer Skin) went on to be long-listed for Ellen Datlow’s Best of Horror 2017. Chesya Burke for being such a grounding support at NecronomiCon and more. Farah Rose Smith for having me on local panels and readings. L.H. Moore, Monique Laban, Camilla Zhang, Jessica Guess, Tracey Baptiste, Mimi Mondal, Nisi Shawl, Laura J. Mixon, Anya Martin, Sioban Krzywicki, Hillary Monahan, Diana Pho of Tor, my agent Roseanne Wells, so many women who have encouraged, pushed, supported, held me so that I acould keep going, keep submitting. As for publications, I see Fiyah doing amazing work. Robert S. Wilson of Nightscape Press is fantastic. Alana Joli Foster and Melody Meadors of Outland Entertainment are phenomenal.

LARISSA GLASSER: Along with Lightspeed’s “Destroy” series of books that took off a few years ago, I really dig what Nightscape Press, Raw Dog Screaming Press, and Haverhill House Publishing are doing for diversity in publishing. Not only are they committed to opening up the field for diverse voices, they also have excellent taste in scares. I would also say this about Clash Books – for such a small press they really have their shit together and they’re building one hell of a brand. Look out.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: Maybe I’m a little biased, but I would say that Haverhill House Publishing is making a great effort to publish more horror fiction by female writers and women of color. And, Scary Dairy Press released an anthology of all female horror writers in October, The Monstrous Feminine.

Beyond that, I’m not really sure what to say. I think publishers in general are trying to be more inclusive and to publish books with a wider variety of voices, but we still have a long way to go. SciFi & Scary just released their list of 20 Diverse Authors to Read in 2020, and I am honored to have made the list with amazing writers like Tananarive Due, Linda Addison, Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, and Gabino Iglesias. If you read more books by women and people of color, you’ll find out who is publishing them and hopefully, if readers demand more books from these and other writers, they will continue to add diverse voices to the horror genre.

Breathe. Breathe.ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: Nightscape Press and the Wilsons for sure do almost the best job out of everyone with a lot less notice than they should have. Apex Publications – Jason and Leslie don’t get enough love either. They work hard, long hours and have families and so there isn’t a budget for print copies, so they sometimes get the shaft as far as promotion buzz. They do a great job bringing women and other diversity to the table though.

Also, I’m biased as I work for Raw Dog Screaming Press, but I wanted to work for them because they do this! John and Jennifer publish women and diverse authors from around the world and do such a wonderful job in supporting not only their books and authors but everyone out there with their time and expertise and voices.

What are your plans for this year’s Women in Horror Month? Are there any events, in person or online, that you plan on being involved with?

V. CASTRO: I am open to everything! As of now my plan is to shout out as many females as possible. If I see anything cropping up, I will do my best to highlight it.

TERI.ZIN: This WiHM, I hope to be on a local panel created by Farah Rose Smith. Other than that, just write and shout out my fellow marginalised writers.

LISA QUIGLEY: I don’t have any plans as of yet! Most likely we will just be interacting with the horror community on our podcast twitter platform, retweeting, sharing, and amplifying all the awesome content being shared.

MACKENZIE KIERA: Not at the moment, but my eyes and ears are open!

LARISSA GLASSER: On February 8, I’m reading at a free admission panel Dark Minds, Dark Hearts: A Valentine’s Fiction Affair in Millbury, Massachusetts (just outside Worcester) with Matthew M. Bartlett, Sonya Taaffe, Doungjai Gam, Fiona Maeve Geist, and Andrea Wolanin . Apart from that, I’m going to Boskone the next weekend of February 15, and hopefully also make it down to Providence Rhode Island to see The Color Out of Space with some friends.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: Aside from your blog, I’ll be writing a guest post for The Horror Tree‘s WiHM series. And, I’ll be continuing my blog series about the acceptance of violence against female protagonists in romantic vampire fiction over at Speculative Chic, with Part 3: Dating & Courtship.

ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: I usually do something on my site such as interview women horror authors, do features, or whatever I have time for. I’ve done it the last few and one year I did in conjunction with David from The Scary Reviews (we did 30 mini-interviews with women). I’d love to have time to do more. I haven’t heard much about events yet – it’s January and you know people wait till the last minute to announce or do things (I’m guilty of this too). I’d love to go to a women’s film fest or something if there was one within a three-hour drive? I’ll read more horror books by women than I already do, and I’ll watch films by women directors on purpose more than I already do – but I already do a lot so I’m not sure if that will be a big change. I’ll have to think on it some more.

That concludes Part Three in our Women in Horror Roundtable for 2020. Come back next week for our fourth and final post!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Fear and Favorites: Part Two in Our 2020 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back to Part Two of our Women in Horror Month Roundtable series! Last week, I talked with my amazing interviewees about their background in horror and what Women in Horror Month means to them. Today, we discuss favorite horror characters and the recent works by female creators that didn’t get as much attention as they deserved.

So let’s take it away!

Growing up, who were your favorite female characters in horror? How, if at all, did your early experiences with horror shape you as the storyteller you are today?

V. CASTRO: I am Mexican American so La Llorona was the first female in horror for me. From childhood you are told she will take you away if you misbehave.
My culture has a strong oral tradition with regards to folklore, music and the indigenous Mexican religion which is a very bloody one. We worshipped death and the sun. I like to incorporate both into my writing. I love stories within a story.

TERI.ZIN: Without a doubt, Angela Bassett’s character Mace in Strange Days is absolutely number one. Strong, vulnerable, whoops ass, asks for and deserves love and respect. Just an incredible character. Next would definitely be Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in the entire Alien franchise. Though these two examples fall into science fiction, there is a horror element to both that is sometimes ignored due to the caliber of the films. Horror never fully gets the love it deserves.

LISA QUIGLEY: I am not the typical horror fan/writer who grew up watching EVERY SINGLE HORROR MOVIE EVER or who even really KNEW I was a horror fan. I was a teen in the 90s, and so I did watch a lot of horror movies…in addition to lots of other movies. My taste was eclectic and I loved everything from comedies to rom-coms to action/adventure to chick flicks to horror to teenage films to sci-fi to….you get the idea. My best friend and I would browse the shelves of Blockbuster or Hollywood Video for hours before we finally made our random selections. So, while I watched a wide variety of different movies, there isn’t really a single female character in horror that I can pinpoint from any film that made an impression on me. And the one I can pinpoint is probably not one anyone would expect (or even remember.)

As a pre-teen/early teen, I watched this show on the Disney channel called So Weird. It wasn’t horror, per se. I guess if I had to describe it, it was sort of like X-Files for kids. The premise: a widowed mother is a touring musician (played by Mackenzie Phillips) and she has her two kids (plus some roadies and their kids) on tour with her. They live out of the tour bus and hotels, never in one place for long. The story is from the POV of Fiona (Fi) Phillips, who is extremely smart and nerdy, and has her own website (a novelty back then!) Fi is super into paranormal phenomena, not the least because her dad has died. In every single town they visit, Fi encounters something “weird”—ghosts, time travel, UFOs, and more. It was spooky and unsettling and I loved it. But more than that, I loved Fi. She was determined, intelligent, and focused, keyed in the way many around her were not. Her family often didn’t believe her, but many times she saved their lives without them even realizing it. She was fierce and fearless and I absolutely adored her.

Even today, my horror interests veer toward the weird and unusual, rather than overt horror. I am interested in the edges of things, the slightly off-kilter, the unnerving. Like Fi, the women and girls in my stories are their own heroes. They don’t need boys to save them.

MACKENZIE KIERA: When I was younger, I was allowed to watch some very light, maybe not even true horror. I think Tremors was my first monster movie? My parents figured all they were shielding me from was some rough language and a giant worm, so that one I maybe saw at 9 or 10? Tremors taught me that women could be the smart scientists, and that a lot of horror was made to be laughed at and enjoyed. Think the next one was maybe Alien? Ripley is a solid hero. Tough, smart, ballsy women were encouraged in my house, so I really don’t accept anything less from my female characters today. My favorite one currently is Nancy from the first Nightmare on Elm Street. She’s fantastic.

LARISSA GLASSER: My first idols were mostly in Science Fiction and fantasy, actually: Barbarella, Taarna from Heavy Metal, and of course Linda Carter as Wonder Woman. Mostly because they were powerful and had independent strengths that they made seem effortless. I got into Horror after that, the first thing I remember watching was “Terror in the Aisles,” a kind of documentary overview about horror films. From there I discovered Laurie Strode (Halloween), Ellen Ripley (Alien), and Sarah Roberts (The Hunger). They resonated with me even more. But where were the trans women? Oh, there ended up being plenty– as maniacs, victims, or punchlines. That scared me most of all when I was a kid, because I loved my family and didn’t want to be seen as a monster. But when I grew older and more independent, finished school, I proved to myself and needed to be independent like those characters who shaped me. It took me a long time, and I’m still processing a lot of that conflict. I think what I want to accomplish now in my work is to focus on trans women as having agency. I wrote the protagonist in F4 as someone who saves lives against an inter-dimensional terror. Although I don’t plan on recycling that character or story, I want to continue building stronger female characters I’d have liked to have seen when I was a kid.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: Those are excellent questions, and not as easy to answer as they might seem. Because I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, there weren’t a lot of strong female characters in horror fiction and films to admire. Looking back at most of the films I watched as a kid, the depictions of women were extremely sexist and violence against women was a popular form of entertainment in most genres, including romantic comedies. So these questions are really making me think, which is good.

I watched a lot of slasher movies as a kid, Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Terror Train (1980), Happy Birthday to Me (1981), Motel Hell (1980), Black Christmas (1974), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), just to name a few. Cable TV and neighborhood video stores enabled an entire generation to immerse itself in horror films like no other generation before it. At first glance, these films seem to be telling different stories, but there are some genre-specific plot and character tropes that are hard to ignore, especially in the #metoo era. While these films are extremely sexist in their depictions of women, they also gave us final girls, which I believe inadvertently created a sense of empowerment for female horror fans. I mean running through the woods while scantily clad and tripping over your high heels isn’t very empowering, but if you’re the lone survivor of a machete-wielding psycho’s killing spree, then maybe you aren’t as weak and dumb as the filmmaker tried to portray you.

Aside from final girls, like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween and Terror Train, I will always have a special place in my heart for Carrie White. The original 1976 film is my favorite adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. If you haven’t read Carrie, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook read by Sissy Spacek.

To answer the second part of your question, these films inspired me to write strong female characters. Unless I’m writing erotica, none of my female characters run around scantily clad, and they have more control over what happens to them in the narrative even if they are at the mercy of evil forces. Watching slasher films made me conscious of how women are depicted in film, but reading novels written by women of color like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, and Jewelle Gomez gave me the confidence to write horror fiction in my own voice about women who look like me.

ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: I can’t answer this question well as I was not allowed to experience much, if any, horror growing up unless it was in school. My mom and dad don’t believe in anything horror and I wasn’t allowed to read or watch. My parents still don’t support my dark fiction writing and they make fun of me or are scared for me if I have something with a raven on it or a skeleton/skull or the word Stephen King comes up. It’s sad really. Horror has helped me so much to heal from so many traumas.

I was able to experience in school Edgar Allan Poe and fell in love with his stories, as well as Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” which is one of my favorite stories of all time. It changed my life. It allowed me to know who I am in terms of humanity. It made me love literature and want to write. Poe, too, became an early influence. To this day, I feel they have shaped my stories as I write with humanity and a female depth as Shirley Jackson and I channel Poe techniques. I wrote my woodpecker story in Breathe. Breathe. in the vein of “The Tell Tale Heart.”

However, I’m mostly shaped by the literature I was allowed, for instance fantasy. Because I wasn’t allowed to read scary Stephen King, I was allowed to read Eye of the Dragon, which was my first by him because it’s fantasy. I fell in love. I devoured The Dark Tower then too. I read Mother Earth Father Sky by Sue Harrison, which in a way, had its own horror inflicted on women within its pages. My parents didn’t think of this as horror – but the atrocities to Native American women certainly were (to any women are). Her book and characters were major influences on me.

One thing my mom did let me have when I was young was things about witches. I’m still pondering this today (realizing for years now some nature/water witch prowess in myself) and why. But I had Tilly the Witch. I still love that children’s book. I will read anything about witches for sure and they, as well as nature, influence my writing a lot whether spoken or unspoken. I’ve written a few short stories. I enjoy reading non-fiction and fiction about witches. We are mothers of the earth, we are mothers of the sky, we are mothers of horror. Aren’t we?

Well, anyway… so yes fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, mysteries like Agatha Christie (somehow murders were ok haha) it all comforted me while awaiting the day I could read horror, but eventually they had me so scared of it, I was too afraid to read more than Stephen King unless it was a classic work. I laugh at this now. So yes, when I started my own business 11 years ago, and made time for more reading and writing and started the blog, I thought I’d write a children’s book and an historical novel. I’d always written poetry and wanted to write it more. I started writing about my trauma from abusive marriage, rape, illness, death and it all started meshing with my love of mystery, fantasy, monsters and spending a childhood alone in the woods with books, and it became horror writing.

Let’s take a moment to shine a light on a few great works that perhaps didn’t get the praise that they deserved. What are your favorite horror stories or books by female authors that were released over the past few years but that you wish would have gotten more attention?

V. CASTRO: I loved The Hunger by Alma Katsu. ANYTHING by Tananarive Due. Linda Addison is also an incredible talent. In general, I think all women in horror do not get their due. I grew up with Stephen King (read most of his books) and love his writing, but I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing anthologies with mostly men or not a single woman of color. Women of color are still very underrepresented across the board. I am curating a book bundle and it has been a struggle to find Latinas with novel length works of horror.

TERI.ZIN: Jessica Guess (Mama TulaMommy; upcoming: Cirque Berserk) is a brand new writer with whom I attended VONA in 2017. Incredibly talented. Vandana Singh’s Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories; just about everything that comes out of Fiyah Magazine is, well, Fiyah, lol. Danny Lore is a fantastic talent. I attended Viable Paradise (22) with them and they are just amazing. L. H. Moore. Chesya Burke. Matter of fact, pick up the anthology Sycorax’s Daughters. It features 28 Black women writing horror. (I’m in it, too!)

LISA QUIGLEY: I’m just going to list some of my favorites. They may have gotten more attention than I’ve realized, but I still think they’re all worth mentioning and reading.

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter
To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger
Little Dead Red by Mercedes M. Yardley
Husk by Rachel Autumn Deering
I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland
The Writhing Skies by Betty Rocksteady
The Possession of Natalie Glassgow by Hailey Piper
Dear Laura by Gemma Amour

MACKENZIE KIERA: ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME by Julie Berry is the hill I will die on. While it’s not straight horror, it has horror elements mixed around with a strong feminist bend. I don’t know why we all weren’t talking about how amazing, how perfect that book was (is).

F4LARISSA GLASSER: I need to say right out of the gate that although I don’t consider her
a genre writer at all, I’ll sing praises for Torrey Peters at every opportunity. Reading her work convinced me to put trans narratives front and center in my own life, because I also have a lot of unresolved shit and the only way for me to deal with it, other than therapy, is to channel
these issues through story. Torrey’s writing is unrelenting. This lady actually made me want to take writing more seriously. She confronts the darkness and our own contradictions with a perfect balance of vulnerability and assertiveness that I haven’t yet found in another trans writer. I’ll find tons more voices, I’m sure. To me it’s worth it. Trans women’s experiences are denigrated so needlessly. But Torrey went the DIY route and became really successful and dare I say canonical. She’s got a new novel called Detransition, Baby coming out from Random House in August 2020.

For horror women authors who have also helped me along, I’d go with The Sisters of Slaughter (Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason)–their book Mayan Blue totally fucked me up emotionally and I keep re-reading it. Gory and grindy, full of sorrow. Also from the moment I first read Damien Angelica Walters, I was immediately hooked. She really stabs you in just the right places. I love Farah Rose Smith for her evocation of the 19th century decadent tradition, and definitely Victoria Dalpe for her versatility and for the cinematic nature of her work. These are just a few. My list would be super-long.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: I recently read The Deep (2019) by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes after stumbling across it in the Goodreads Awards nominations page. It has a slow start, but it is an interesting fantasy novel that tells the story of “the water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society-and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future.” In a word, it’s brilliant. I’ve wanted to read a story about Black mermaids my whole life so I couldn’t wait to read this book. And, bonus, it addresses slavery and how our ancestors’ traumas are passed down generation to generation through genetics and memories. I’m hoping it gets more attention in 2020, and it would make a beautiful film.

ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: Anything by Kristin Dearborn. She’s a great writer. Woman in White is wonderful. Sacrifice Island. I believe both re-released now from Crossroads Press. Crossroads is great and publishes a lot of good stuff, but we don’t hear enough about the books, this being one. Also, Stolen Away by her from Raw Dog Screaming Press is so good. I wish Kristin’s name was known more and appreciated by readers – she is well-loved among the writing circuit of course. She’s a great person.

And that’s it for Part Two in our Women in Horror Roundtable! Head on back here next for part three, as I talk more with these awesome women!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!