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Advice and Horror: Part 3 of Fright Girl Summer Roundtable

Welcome back for part three in our Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! This week, we’re focusing on the advice that these seven fantastic authors would offer to new female horror writers as well as what different subgenres of horror they might like to explore in the future!

So let’s take it away!

What’s the most important advice you would offer to a female horror author who’s just starting out?

EDEN ROYCE: Stick with it. Find a deep reason within yourself to write. Cling to that reason with a sweat-slick grip when you have those low points or feel your love of writing beginning to wane.

GABY TRIANA: Just write what you write. Don’t worry about industry trends, don’t listen to your agent (ha!), just write what’s inside of your heart, and your passion will come through. When that happens, like-minded readers will find you. You will become the only person who can write your story exactly the way you can. Before you know it, you will carve out your own niche. Don’t second-guess yourself. You are amazing exactly the way you are. Just write your passion!

LINDA D. ADDISON: It’s very important to write what comes/appeals to you, without editing yourself, without judging whether you should be writing it. Write it as well as possible and submit to the top markets. Why not?

Read everything, not just what you like to write, other genres, forms. Try writing other things, to exercise your writing muscles. I’ve been journaling since high school; my journals are the source of most of the writing I’ve published. I write everything that crosses my mind: themes, characters, dialogue, anything that finds its way into my mind.

R.J. JOSEPH: I haven’t pulled out of my middle-aged cynicism far enough about this genre to really offer really positive advice. Sigh. However, I will borrow some that I repeat to myself often. I had the chance to sit in on a talk with Tananarive Due a couple of years ago. As I mentioned earlier, I love her work and have been frustrated that I don’t see people paying her to be all over the horror genre. I asked her if she was frustrated at having been at this for so long and watching folks act like Jordan Peele (who’s a genius, by the way) is the first black person they’ve ever seen do horror. She basically said she didn’t have the time to be frustrated because she stayed busy writing, writing, and writing. She said that by not dwelling on frustration, she had tons of work to pitch when the door opened in horror for Black people. I see that worked for her.

I would say to a new female horror writer: things aren’t as equitable as they should be for us just yet, but if you keep writing, writing, and writing, you’ll have a slew of work up for grabs when the door finally gets kicked down. Just don’t let the lack of opportunities get you to stop writing. If you can stop writing, you probably should.

V. CASTRO: Don’t compare. It is so hard to not to compare your journey to someone else’s journey. You can be happy for someone’s success and feel like a failure if you are not achieving the same.

Publishing is full of rejection and false starts. Keep going and put on blinders if you must. Write what feels right for you. No one else can tell your story.

G.G. SILVERMAN: First and foremost, embrace the darkness and write what you want to write. Ignore anyone who says that because you’re a woman, you can’t (or shouldn’t) write horror. Stick to your guns.

Also, horror, historically, has been treated as the lesser-loved stepchild of the literary world, but I think women are changing that viewpoint because of the nuances and expansion they’ve brought to the genre, and I think all writers benefit from having women in the genre.

So, ladies, if you’re writing something that feels bold and risky and you’re unsure of it and afraid to go forward, dig deep and keep going, because what you’re most afraid of is exactly the kind of work you should be doing, because it’s work that hasn’t been done yet, and the literary world needs it.

SONORA TAYLOR: Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, your books, and your accomplishments. Women are raised to be silent or, at best, humble about their accomplishments. Saying “I wrote a book and I’m proud” is not arrogant. Posting a link to your book and asking people to buy it is not being annoying. You need to market yourself! And, you need to market yourself with confidence. If you’re nervous about putting yourself out there, keep it simple. Something like, “My novel, X, is now available! Give it a read.” Easy, nothing asshole-y, and honestly, if someone thinks that’s annoying, that’s on them, not you.

Are there any subgenres of horror (e.g. body horror, sci-fi-horror, etc.) that you haven’t explored yet in your work but would like to? Likewise, are there any mediums (e.g. poetry, long fiction, nonfiction, novels) that you’re looking forward to writing one day or perhaps exploring more than you already have?

EDEN ROYCE: I’d love to tackle a horror romance and a horror crime noir. Possibly in the same book. My debut novel, Root Magic, is a first for me in many ways. Not only is it my first novel-length work, it’s my first work for a middle-grade age group (8-12). But I’ve found a lot of adults love reading middle-grade work, as well. Especially this kind of Southern Gothic with folklore, monsters, and magic.

GABY TRIANA: I’ve always wanted to write sci-fi horror. ALIEN is still one of my most favorite movies ever, and it’s always been in the back of my mind to write something set in space. Besides that, I think I’m perfectly happy writing witchy occult novels. It’s taken me a while to find my way home. Now that I’m here, I’m going to explore more. The only other format I’d be interested in writing, only because they say I write in a cinematic, scene-setting way as is, is screenplays. Otherwise, I’m perfectly happy with full-length novels!

LINDA D. ADDISON: Per subgenres, I write what comes to me without knowing what labels it would fit. I’m also inspired to try new things, so I can’t tell you what may come next, but I suspect something different.

I’ve avoided novels most of my career because I was afraid of starting one and getting lost in it, but I just finished my first novel! I have plans for several other novels. So we’ll see how that works out.

R.J. JOSEPH: I’m always dabbling in poetry because I just love how words feel and look and I like playing around with the space they take up. I’m not nearly as good at it as I’d like to be, so I’ll keep practicing. I haven’t written a novel length work since my grad school thesis (which was a romance novel, anyway), so at some point, I would like to write a horror novel. That goal is quite daunting, though, because my brain mostly works in short story or comic book form for horror. I’ve started but not finished a couple of horror novellas that I want to get back to at some point. My most recent forays in a slightly different direction has been towards screenplays. When I write poetry or short stories, I always see the stories in my head. A couple of short stories I wrote won’t stop haunting me until I finish their screenplays and give them some chance to be seen in film.

V. CASTRO: I just go for it. I explore all areas because I feel life generates experiences that can be expressed in all subgenres of horror. For me, the story dictates the length. You never know until you begin walking the path.

G.G. SILVERMAN: In truth, I feel as if I could stand to explore body horror a bit more, especially since my whole life as a woman, with experiences of disability, feels like body horror, haha.

As for future mediums, someday I will likely plunge into long fiction again, and I want to continue to get better at poetry.

SONORA TAYLOR: Hmm, that’s a good question! I actually love body horror but struggle with writing it. My short story, “Always in My Ear,” actually started as one that was more body horror-oriented, with the devices that people use to listen to podcasts 24/7 having dangerous effects. However, my story kept struggling until I shifted the focus to the two women and their violent personalities instead (though the devices still make an appearance). Maybe I’ll take another crack at body horror in the future, but a lot of what I write is centered on the mind.

I’d love to try writing a screenplay. I love writing dialogue and would find it interesting to write a story in my head truly cinematically. I’ve written short scripts and a treatment for a TV show once (it was a class assignment, nothing actually on TV), and would like to do it again.

And that concludes part three of our Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! Head on back here next week for the final installment in our series!

Happy reading, and happy Fright Girl Summer!

Challenges and Triumphs: Part 2 of Fright Girl Summer Roundtable

Welcome back for part two of this month’s Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! Last week, we met our seven featured authors and learned about what inspired them to become horror writers. Today, they share some of their challenges as well as the female horror authors they love and recommend.

So let’s take it away!

What are the biggest obstacles for you as a writer? Conversely, who are some of the publications, editors, or other writers who have made your journey through publishing a more positive one?

EDEN ROYCE: Self-doubt can be an enormous burden. As writers, many of us live in our own heads and negative self-talk can keep even the best creatives from producing work.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some wonderful people in publishing, though. Everyone at Fiyah Lit Mag (past and present) is fantastically supportive and encouraging – they deserve all the kudos for the stunning work they do. Sandra O’Dell at the Drabblecast is a phenomenal editor as are Vajra Chandrasekera at Strange Horizons and Kerrie C. Byrne at Augur Mag. Last but not least, my editor Jordan Brown at HarperCollins loved my novel Root Magic from the start and his input helped make it shine.

GABY TRIANA: My biggest obstacle has always been branding. Because I cover a lot of ground, I can’t for sure say I’m a “horror writer” or a “YA writer.” I write stories about people. The one theme all my stories have is self-discovery, learning about the powers buried deep inside oneself, because this is how I’ve felt all my life, like I’ve slowly been uncovering supersecret hidden powers. But there’s no “Supersecret Hidden Powers” shelf in the bookstores, so I end up all over the place.

My journey through kid lit was difficult, though it started out easy. I got my agent as soon as I finished my first novel, and he sold my manuscripts to HarperCollins in two 2-book deals right out of the gate. Everyone thought I had it made. But then, the industry changed, I was asked to write more Latina heroine books, which I did, but they didn’t sell, so I tried going back to paranormal horror, but I was advised against it, because the “trend was dying.” I got lost. Really lost. But I finally decided I’m going to write whatever the hell I want. I’ve slowly been making my way back to my heart, mostly on my own, but I can definitely thank a few people. My agent, Deborah Warren, who’s been “new” for about 8 years now, Jonathan Maberry, who couldn’t understand why my books weren’t more widely read and has been instrumental in lifting my voice higher, Michelle Zink, who went indie and guided me through the process with such a generous heart. Too many people to name, but they’ve all been such an inspiration to me.

LINDA D. ADDISON: The obstacles now are very different from the beginning of my writing career. Now that I’m retired from day job you would think I have nothing but time to write, however, I’m also involved in projects with other creative folks, so it’s a constant learning process to balance my time.

I could fill pages with publications, editors, or other writers who have been invaluable in my career (including family and friends), a few highlights are: There are many small press magazines (Pirate Writings, Epitaph, Lore, etc.) and anthologies (Dark Voices, Rough Beasts, GSHW In A Fearful Way, Dead Cats Bouncing, etc) that published me early on. Asimov’s SF Magazine (after getting published in 1997 after years of rejections); Space & Time Books editor Gordon Linzner (whose editing/advice/friendship has meant everything to me & published my first three books, two received HWA Bram Stoker awards), CITH (Circles in the Hair) workshop from NYC, which came together in 1990 and have had so much to do with the evolution of my writing. Meeting Tananarive Due in 1997 at a World Horror in NYC when she was on the final ballot for a Stoker in Novels was completely inspiring.

Game changers like having a story published in Sheree Renée Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology; workshops with Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress and others, who became supporters and friends. There are so many I met at conferences like NECON, WHC, and groups like HWA who became my mentors/friends.

There are people who are no longer with us, who believed in me before anyone else knew of my work: Tom Piccirilli, Jack Ketchum, Charlee Jacob, Stephen M. Wilson, Rick Hautala.

V. CASTRO: The biggest obstacles are time management with home life and protecting my mental health with the chaos in the world.

Unnerving headed by Eddie Generous has always been great with publishing women. Flame Tree Press has bought two of my books that are very much inspired by my culture.

All the women in horror have made this journey truly special and amazing. I love how we support each other through the good and the bad. By us continuing to do this, I truly believe we can all achieve what we want on our individual writing journeys. We are stronger together.

G.G. SILVERMAN: My biggest obstacles, currently, are the unfolding horrors of the political landscape. I do believe that writing is an act of resistance and reclaiming one’s voice is ever more important as the days progress, but I sometimes wonder if I should be doing something else—as in, are the lives of Americans in clear and present danger? I’m constantly evaluating our emergency supplies, making sure we have enough food, medicine, for the humans and the dog. And though I’m checking on the mental health and wellbeing of friends and family when I can, I’m always wondering if it’s enough, if there’s someone I’ve missed.

As for those in the writing field who’ve made my publishing journey a positive one—there are so, so, so many people. I think the ones who’ve impacted me the most are the teachers—they’ve given me a huge gift by teaching me what they know. Most of them write in genres outside of horror, but I feel that’s what makes my work richer. Some of those teachers are Alexander Weinstein, Amelia Martens, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Matthew Gavin Frank, Christopher Citro, and Francine J. Harris. Without them, I don’t think I’d have as many tools as I do to write, and I’d probably be floundering a lot more.

R.J. JOSEPH: Being a Black, female horror writer is the biggest obstacle for me, by far. I’ve been writing in this genre for years, albeit, doing so undercover for much of that time. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, so my first readings in horror were by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul. I didn’t see work being published by other Black women in the genre. Even the inimitable Toni Morrison’s Beloved wasn’t immediately embraced as horror when it was first published. When I finally found Tananarive Due and Octavia Butler in the 90s, they never got the fanfare I felt they deserved. Even now, I ask myself, “If those queens with their masterful and passionate wordplay couldn’t get a huge break, who are you to think you can do this?” I’ve seen how long Due has been at this. She’s incredible and humble. My all time favorite writer. But I haven’t seen her works in movies, as they all should be. Granted, things are moving for her now, but she should be held up as a standard in horror.

I have to give a lot of credit to the faculty, mentors, and fellow students in the Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. They were the first people, besides my mother, who made me believe I could write horror. They accepted me as I was and the horror writing pod embraced me as one of theirs. Elsa Carruthers and Stephanie Wytovich are a part of this awesome family. I walked in a duality there, writing a romance thesis but workshopping horror short stories. The faculty and mentors gently prodded me along towards the things they knew I could do that I didn’t think were possible, especially in academia. I also have to give a lot of kudos to so many newer horror family members I’ve met more recently, like Linda Addison who is simply exquisite. She’s not only a brilliant writer, but she always makes opportunities to bring the rest of us along with her. Cina Pelayo, John Edward Lawson, V. Castro, Gabino Iglesias, Nicholas Diak, the Ladies of Horror Fiction…just about all the horror peeps I engage with regularly on Twitter are people I look up to and folks who’re fighting the good fight. They all make this thing worthwhile.

SONORA TAYLOR: I have a hard time writing down a bad first draft. I want each sentence well-written and each plot point fleshed out as soon as I write it. As such, I don’t write when I feel like I can’t do that, and I have to force myself to open the document and just start writing. It can be especially hard when I’m stressed. But, I always feel better having written, even when I know I need to revise.

I’ve been lucky to work with really good editors and publishers. Evelyn Duffy, who edits my novels and short story collections, has been a blessing. She’s given me so much helpful advice as well as encouragement. She’s also a hell of an editor: all of my work has improved with her edits.

Sirens Call Publications has an amazing team behind them. I frequently submit stories to The Sirens Call, a free online eZine; and they always take good care of my work. They were even kind enough to feature me last summer! I also had an amazing experience with Camden Park Press, which published Quoth the Raven. It was my first time being published by a third party, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

What books from female horror authors are you most excited to read this year? Which female horror authors do you feel more people should be reading?

EDEN ROYCE: I’m so behind on my reading. This year has been … interesting. I’m looking forward to reading The Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Out of Water by Sarah Read as well in indulging in rereads of Fledgling by Octavia Butler, White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma, and New Music for Old Rituals by Tracy Fahey.

GABY TRIANA: BONESET & FEATHERS, baby! Anything by you, Christa Carmen, Ania Ahlborn, Sonora Taylor, Catherine Cavendish’s THE MALEN WITCH, Sara Tantlinger, Briana Morgan, Stephanie Wytovich, Alethea Kontis, Sarah Read, Kiersten White…there’s so many!

LINDA D. ADDISON: Female horror authors with work out or coming out I follow: Sheree Renée Thomas, Kaaron Warren, Christina Sng, L. Marie Wood, Cindy O’Quinn, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Sara Tantlinger, Tananarive Due, Gwendolyn Kiste, V. Castro, Silvia Moreno Garcia, Cynthia Pelayo, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Sonora Taylor, B. Shares Moore, Claire C. Holland, Valjeanne Jeffers, Mercedes M. Yardley, EV Knight, Lisa Morton, Lee Murray, Tonya Liburd, Marge Simon, Sarah Read…

V. CASTRO: I have such a back log of books I don’t even know where to begin! Between editing and writing new stuff with my family life, it has been a challenge. I’m excited for Laurel Hightower’s new book, Crossroads.

I will always say read more women of color. Read more Black women in genre fiction. Black Lives Matter is not a fad or trend, it is a call for fundamental change. That begins with what we consume and purchasing power.

Women of color are still sorely underrepresented.

R.J. JOSEPH: I have SO MANY unread books in my Kindle app right now! I’m happy to have reached a point where I can set a book buying budget and just buy books. I can hardly wait to dig into Cirque Berserk, by Jessica Guess, Hairspray and Switchblades, by V. Castro, the first two Graveyard Smash Women of Horror anthologies, Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror, and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. And I know there will be many, many others to come when I’m done with these.

Everybody should be reading everything Stephanie Wytovich and Cina Pelayo touch in any way. They should devour V. Castro’s work. I really feel like everyone who writes should read or re-examine all of Toni Morrison’s works. Chesya Burke is a phenomenal writer who I don’t hear enough people talk about. And Kinitra Brooks writes extensively about Black women in horror, so she’s a must read writer.

G.G. SILVERMAN: I’m excited to read Wonderland by Zoje Stage, and waiting with bated breath for Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation, her first horror novel, I believe! I’ve also heard Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is exquisite. I also need to delve into Alma Katsu’s work, which I’ve heard is gorgeous.

It’s hard for me to single out one female horror author (read them ALL!), though if anyone hasn’t read Mona Awad’s Bunny, I recommend you drop everything and do it now. It’s the ONE horror novel that so deftly weaves so many pop culture and literary influences, and is therefore mind-bogglingly fun. Comedic horror doesn’t get as much attention in the literary world as it does in the film industry, and, as an author who has also written comedic horror, Mona Awad’s Bunny was so “me.”

SONORA TAYLOR: I’m so excited for the upcoming releases in Unnerving’s Rewind or Die series. I just heard about All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current by Mackenzie Kiera, and I’m stoked. I loved Hairspray and Switchblades by V. Castro and Cirque Berserk by Jessica Guess; and I’m currently reading Food Fright by Nico Bell. The whole series deserves some kind of special award.

I’m also looking forward to Crossroads by Laurel Hightower. I see everyone talking about it and I’m so jealous because I preordered and have to wait!

I think more people should be reading horror by women of color. Women are making a name for themselves in the horror genre, but I still see a lot of conversations, promoted books, and talked-about horror reads dominated by white women. Extending horror readership and publication to women doesn’t end with white women. Read Black women. Read Latina women. Read Asian women. There’s a wide world of stories to be told, and the most exciting voices are the ones as far away from your own as possible.

And that’s all for Part Two! Join us next week as our Fright Girl Summer roundtable continues!

Happy reading!

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!

My Upcoming Readings in the Pittsburgh Area

Happy October! This month has already been flying by, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of spooky fun left before Halloween! And if you’re looking for thrills and chills of the literary variety, I’m super thrilled to be doing two creepy horror events in the Pittsburgh region this month!

First up, I’ll be part of the Horror/Sci-Fi Panel this Saturday, October 19th at the Barnes and Noble in Monroeville. The panel starts at 7pm, and features authors Rick Claypool, Brandon Getz, C.M. Chakrabarti, and Jamie Lackey, along with yours truly. All the details are available on the Facebook event page here.

Then on Tuesday, October 29th, I’ll be joining Ronald J. Murray and Nelson W. Pyles at the Monongahela Area Library for Haunted Books, Wicked Words. I’ve never done a reading at a library before, and honestly, you can’t get a better literary setting than that, so I’m very excited to be heading out for this one. The event starts at 5:30pm, and you can find those full details right here!

I’m so ecstatic and honored to be part of both of these events. It will be a lot of fun seeing everyone there, so if you’re around the Pittsburgh area, head on out and hang out with us horror writers. I promise we’re not as scary as we look!

Happy reading!

Table of Contents Reveal for NOX PAREIDOLIA from Nightscape Press!

So this week ushered in the big table of contents reveal for NOX PAREIDOLIA, the highly anticipated anthology from Nightscape Press, and to say that I’m thrilled about it is a massive understatement!

*cue banners and streamers and screams of joy*

Slated for an October 31st release, this is sure to be one of the very coolest anthologies of the year, and I’m completely elated that I get to be part of it! My story, “When the Nightingale Devours the Stars,” is all about birds, small towns, death cults, and outsiders fighting for their place in the world. It’s a story I’m so proud of, and I am positively overjoyed that it found such a wonderful home.

So without further adieu, let’s see that gorgeous TOC, shall we?

“Watch Me Burn With the Light of Ghosts” by Paul Jessup
“Immolation” by Kristi DeMeester
“Her Eyes Are Winter” by Christopher Ropes
“8X10” by Duane Pesice and Don Webb
“Bag and Baggage” by Greg Sisco
“The Dredger” by Matt Thompson
“Hello” by Michael Wehunt
“Gardening Activities for Couples” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
“Lies I Told Myself” by Lynne Jamneck
“The Unkindness” by Dino Parenti
“Merge Now” by Kurt Fawver
“when we were trespassers” by doungjai gam
“Rum Punch is Going Down” by Daniel Braum
“Unmoored” by Sean M. Thompson
“Just Beyond the Shore” by Elizabeth Beechwood
“The Schoolmaster” by David Peak
“The Past You Have, The Future You Deserve” by K.H. Vaughan
“Herr Sheintod” by LC von Hessen
“The Room Above” by Brian Evenson
“Sincerely Eden” by Amelia Gorman
“Wild Dogs” by Carrie Laben
“The Moody Rooms of Agatha Tate” by Wendy Nikel
“Salmon Run” by Andrew Kozma
“The Little Drawer of Chaos” by Annie Neugebauer
“When the Nightingale Devours the Stars” by Gwendolyn Kiste
“Far From Home” by Dan Coxon
“Birds” by Zin E. Rocklyn
“Strident Caller” by Laird Barron
“The Taste of Rot” by Steve Toase
“Venom” by S.P. Miskowski
“In the Vastness of the Sovereign Sky” by S.L. Edwards

As you can see from that list, this is a massive horror anthology, clocking in at over 300 pages. And look at all those names! From major award winners to fantastic up-and-comers, these are truly some of the very best short fiction authors of horror and the weird today, and I’m so very happy to be included among them.

As if these wonderfully weird words weren’t enough, every story in the book has an illustration to accompany it, and as always, the artwork from Luke Spooner is out-of-this-world beautiful. My lovely, creepy birds are featured above, but you can see all the art for NOX on social media by heading over here or here. And, you know, you could also go ahead and buy this supremely cool anthology and enjoy the art and the words for many weird years to come! It’s already available for pre-order on the Nightscape Press site as well as on Amazon.

As per the usual, you can expect lots more celebration of this anthology from my social media and blog in the weeks to come. Because really, what’s better than a horror anthology making its fearsome debut in the world on Samhain?

Happy reading, and happy spooky Halloween season!

My Schedule for NecronomiCon Providence

NecronomiCon Providence is only a few days away, so it’s about time I post my schedule for the event! Now originally, I didn’t think that I would be on any panels, since I waited until the last minute to decide to attend. But thanks to those involved in programming, the stars have aligned in my favor, and I get to be an official part of programming throughout the weekend.

So without further horror adieu, here’s my schedule for NecronomiCon!

The Weird on a Black and White Screen: Classic Weird Television on Friday, August 23rd at 6pm
My very first panel of the weekend will be moderated by the awesome Nicholas Kaufmann, and I will be joining panelists Pete Rawlik, Alan Tromp, and Joe Zannella as we discuss classic weird television shows. As an incredibly huge fan of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Kolchak the Night Stalker, I could seriously not be more stoked for this. It’s not nearly often enough that I get a chance to talk about how much I love horror television, so it will be so much fun to be part of this panel! This one takes place on the third floor of the Omni in the Washington-Newport Room.

Through a Forest, Darkly: Sylvan Dread on Saturday, August 24th at 9am
This panel is all about the weird and creepy aspects of forests, and as someone who lives surrounded by gorgeously haunted woods, this topic is quite near and dear to my strange little heart. Moderated by Bracken MacLeod, I get to join panelists Larissa Glasser, Richard Gavin, Paul Tremblay, and Jordan Smith in the Capital Ballroom on the 2nd floor of the Graduate (the hotel formerly known as the Biltmore, for those keeping track at home).

State of the Weird: The Outer Dark Podcast Live! on Saturday, August 24th at 12pm
The always fabulous Anya Martin and Scott Nicolay do such truly wonderful work with The Outer Dark and for the weird fiction community overall, and I’m so pleased and honored to join Victoria Dalpe, teri.zin, and John Langan as we discuss weird fiction with Scott for this live Outer Dark event. Come and hang out with us during the lunch hour on the 17th floor in L’Apogee at the Graduate!

Beyond panels, some other incredibly wonderful news: Behold the Undead of Dracula, the new anthology from Muzzleland Press, is making its debut at the convention. You can check out that book in the dealers room where the first 100 people who purchase the anthology will also get a free copy of the book’s soundtrack! That’s right: it has its own soundtrack! *swoons*

On Saturday evening, I’ll be attending the Nightfire Release Party for the forthcoming audio anthology from Tor’s new horror imprint. The anthology’s official details are still under wraps at the moment, but let’s just say that I’m very, very excited for it. That event starts at 6pm on the 3rd floor Terrace at the Graduate, and there will be s’mores and an open bar and readings from Molly Tanzer and Paul Tremblay, so it’s sure to be a great time!

So that’s my schedule for this week. You can find the full programming list for the entire event here. As always, if you spot me around the convention, definitely say hello! It will be great to see everyone from the social media universe in person! We have corporeal forms! Hooray!

Happy reading, and happy NecronomiCon!

Spring 2019 Updates: Appearances, New Releases, & Maidens Who Rust!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any blog updates about my goings-on, so I figured I should probably use this site for that very task. 2019 has already ushered in many new and exciting developments, so let’s dive right in, shall we?


The Rust MaidensEveryone who follows my social media already knows this, but since I haven’t announced it yet on the blog, here goes: The Rust Maidens is an award nominee! And twice over too!

First, back in February, the Bram Stoker Award nominations were announced, and The Rust Maidens made the cut for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Then just last week, the book was nominated for a This Is Horror Award in the category of Novel of the Year. Seriously. These are real things that happened! The Stokers will be announced on May 1th in Grand Rapids, and you can still vote for the This Is Horror Awards over here!

It’s all cliche and whatnot to talk about how much this means to me, but let me say it again anyhow: it absolutely means the world to me that this book has found an audience. So thank you to everyone who’s read, reviewed, and supported The Rust Maidens. I can’t fully express my deep gratitude to all of you. Having a first novel has been a wild and humbling ride, without a doubt.


Now for another first! My very first novelette will be coming out later this year! The Invention of Ghosts is a surreal exploration of friendship, the occult, and what it means to be haunted. As part of Nightscape Press’s Charitable Chapbook series, the paperback version will feature original illustrations and will have a highly limited run, with one-third of all sales going to the National Aviary, which is among my favorite places on Earth. The release for The Invention of Ghosts is slated for November 26th, and a pre-order page should be up shortly. For the Charitable Chapbook series, each paperback copy goes for $30 while ebooks are $5.

The Yellow Wallpaper Classic Chapbook(Also, there had been some online discussion recently about the breakdown of the chapbook pricing, so feel free to check that out over here if you’ve got any questions at all. This is a truly wonderful project from Nightscape editors Robert and Jennifer Wilson, and it’s an honor to be involved.)

But that’s not the only thing I’m doing with Nightscape Press this year. I’m beyond thrilled to have written the introduction for The Yellow Wallpaper, which is being released through their Classic Chapbook series. And check out that glorious cover by the talented Luke Spooner! It’s almost too beautiful to believe. *swoons* That pre-order page is up now, so please support the incredible work that Nightscape is doing, and consider picking up a copy!


Now onward to places where you can see me hanging out in the shadows! From May 9th to May 11th, I’ll be in Grand Rapids for my second StokerCon! As always, I’m really looking forward to this event. I’ll be posting my full schedule here at the blog in the next week or two, so check back to find out where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. It’s sure to be a fabulous time!

And in case you didn’t catch my many Facebook and Twitter posts about it last month, I also appeared in Atlanta on March 22nd and 23rd at The Outer Dark Symposium. By far, this was one of the best times I’ve ever had at a convention. Anya Martin and Scott Nicolay are doing an awesome job of fostering an inclusive and welcoming community in weird fiction and horror, and it was so cool to be a guest at the event. Over the coming months, they’re compiling all the programming from the symposium on The Outer Dark podcast, and you can check out the first episode now, which features a panel I moderated on weird fiction and nature.

If you didn’t make it to The Outer Dark—and can’t make it to StokerCon either—and you still want to hang out with me, I’m planning one or two additional appearances this year, so stay tuned for more details on those in the coming months!


Okay, one last section, and then I’ll be done with updates! So far this year, I’ve had a couple new short stories and two nonfiction articles released!

Gorgon: Stories of EmergenceIn the fiction department, my dark fantasy tale, “Tips for How to Deal With Your Daughter When She’s Become a Monster,” made its debut in the phenomenal anthology, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, edited by the amazing Sarah Read at Pantheon. Then last month, my Gothic trope-twisting story, “The Woman Out of the Attic,” appeared in the beautiful Haunted House Short Stories anthology from Flame Tree Press. I’m very proud of both these stories, and I look forward to hearing from readers as copies make their way into the world!

Finally, in nonfiction, my article, “Magic, Madness, and Women Who Creep: The Power of Individuality in the Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman,” appears in the new issue of Vastarien. This article was such a joy to write. I got to discuss one of the coolest classic female horror authors, and I even managed to work in a reference to Literary Witches, a beautiful book that I highly recommend.

And if you’re still in the mood for a little more nonfiction, then please do check out my article, “Violence and Violins: 60 Years of Psycho,” in the recent issue of Unnerving Magazine. It was also a lot of fun to write, so hopefully, it will be a fun one to read as well. After all, it’s about time I make use of all that Hitchcock knowledge I amassed as a kid.

So those are all my latest updates for the moment. Busy days over here, and as always, expect more interviews and Submission Roundups in the weeks to come. Never a dull moment in the life of a writer, that’s for sure!

Happy reading!

Recommended Reading: Part Two in Our Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back for part two of our Women in Horror Month roundtable series! Last week, we checked in with our authors about what they’ve been working on and what Women in Horror Month means to them.

This week, we’re discussing all about recommended female horror authors along with the publishers that support them! So let’s take it away!

Let’s focus on the positive for a moment: who are some editors and publishers that have shown their dedication to supporting female horror authors?

Christina SngCHRISTINA SNG: All of the editors and publishers I’ve worked with have been supportive, as well as many who haven’t yet accepted my work but have taken the time to advise me on improving my writing, of which I am deeply grateful for, Linda Addison, Dawn Albright, Mike Allen, F.J. Bergmann, Charles Christian, CC Finlay, Vince Gotera, David C Kopaska-Merkel, Terrie Leigh Relf, Teri Santitoro, David Lee Summers, Susan Shell Winston, to name a few. Our community has been kind and supportive to both old faces and new during the early days of the Internet (showing my age here) and now, although as with every community, there will be exceptions.

STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH: Personally, I have to give a massive shout out to Christopher Golden, Gabino Iglesias, and Shane Douglas Keene, all three of who are feminist warriors for the women in our field. There’s often not a day/week that goes by where they aren’t supporting, marketing, or promoting female writers on their social media feeds, and it’s really refreshing to see this.

S.P. MISKOWSKI: In my experience: Joe Pulver, Ellen Datlow, Ross E. Lockhart, Kate Jonez, Jess Landry, Justin Steele… I’ve met some wonderful people in horror and weird fiction.

JULIA BENALLY: I will say The Horror Zine, The Wicked Library Podcast, I’ve enjoyed stories from Black Static Magazine, Liquid Imagination, and Another Realm Magazine has good ones.

SABA SYED RAZVI: I feel like this is a challenging question for me because it can be so variable. I hope to learn more about this from the other panelists, but here is what comes to mind: I’ve seen a lot of positive attention in the HWA Newsletter, recently. Many of these are not strictly horror, but friendly to/welcoming of the genre. Hyacinth Girl Press. Sundress Publications. Coffee House Press. Menacing Hedge. Raw Dog Screaming Press. Fairytale Review. Finishing Line Press. Agape Editions. Ugly Duckling Presse. Chax Press. Fiction Collective 2. University of Hell Press. Rose Metal Press. Future poem Books. VIDA. I feel like my awareness of those who are supportive is often colored by my enthusiasm or awareness at any time. I’m often surprised when I see the catalogues of presses or the tables of contents of magazines, only to find that the male voices outnumber the female. I think this is a really great question, and that maybe it would be a great topic to explore during Women in Horror Month. I think I’m going to make it my mission to find a more thorough answer, this month…

Sarah ReadSARAH READ: Ellen Datlow, Andy Cox, Sean Wallace, Jess Landry, Dan Coxon, and Richard Thomas have been phenomenal. If you’re looking for women in horror, their publications should be first on the list. And many others are making great efforts toward being more diverse and inclusive in their work. I see more effort and accountability. There’s still a long way to go, but things are happening. Awareness is definitely happening, and I think any editor today who puts together an all-white-cis-male horror anthology knows that they’re going to be alienating a lot of their potential audience. And if they don’t care, well, that tells us everything we need to know about what not to read.

EMILY B. CATANEO: Michael Bailey, of the aforementioned Chiral Mad 2 anthology, has elevated quite a few female voices lately; Jess Landry, of Journalstone/Trepidatio Publishing, has edited a variety of female-written novels and short story collections in the past few years; and Sean Wallace and Silvia Moreno-Garcia over at The Dark have shown a dedication to diversity in their magazine, especially working to elevate the voices of women of color.

Who are a few female horror authors you wish more people were reading? Likewise, what are some recent horror books or stories by women that should have gotten more attention?

CHRISTINA SNG: I think your fiction is mesmerizing. I love Caroline Yoachim’s flash fiction. The poetry of Linda Addison, Marge Simon, Jennifer Crow, Christa Carmen, Sara Tantlinger, Erin Sweet-Al Mehairi, and Stephanie Wytovich.


STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH: Oh! I love making author/book recommendations, so some absolute must-reads are:

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked by Christa Carmen
• “Slipping Petals from Their Skin” by Kristi DeMeester
Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall
And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste
I Am Not Your Final Girl: Poems by Claire C. Holland
• “The Changeling” by Sarah Langan
• “Horror Story” by Carmen Maria Machado
• “Death’s Door Café” by Karron Warren
• “Necksnapper” by Emma Alice Johnson

S.P. MISKOWSKI: Anyone who likes subtle psychological and supernatural horror, especially ghost stories or strange stories, ought to read Lynda E. Rucker. She has two superb collections in print—The Moon Will Look Strange and You’ll Know When You Get There—and her stories are frequently published in annual ‘best of’ anthologies. One of her stories won a Shirley Jackson Award.

The Worst Is Yet to ComeIf you write horror or aspire to, I also recommend the fiction of Lucy Taylor, Lisa Morton, Lisa Tuttle, and Gwendolyn Kiste. I’m not including you to be nice because you invited me to your blog. I think what you’re doing, formally, stylistically, is unusual. When the right structure meets the right theme in a Kiste story, the effects are stunning, amazing.

JULIA BENALLY: I have a small list of who I’m a fan of: Scarlett R. Algee, you, Miracle Austin, and Jamie R. Wargo. But as for the new, I’ve found only one. Her name is Barbara Avon. She usually writes romance, but she also hops into horror. She had a book called “Speed Bump” that came out last year. It’s about this guy trying to get home for Christmas and he has several freaky adventures along the road. Her stuff reads like watching a movie. You can just see everything play out so well. Another book I really enjoyed was by Jamie R. Wargo, called Coyote Ridge. That one was really fun to read. These two people run over a coyote puppy and unleash these monsters from legend on themselves. I am a monster fan, so I was all about this. Both of these books are on Amazon.

SABA SYED RAZVI: So, writers whose works (which I consider horror, but which may also be categorized differently by the author) I’ve been reading recently include Elizabeth Hand, Quintan Ana Wikswo, Joyelle McSweeney, Caitlin R Kiernan, Lucie Brock-Broido, Stephanie Wytovich, YOU (Gwendolyn Kiste!), Nikki Ducornet, Shelly Jackson, Kit Whitfield, Elizabeth Kostova, Damien Angelica Walters, Marge Simon, Christina Sng, Marjorie Liu, Lee Murray. I find women’s voices are finding expression in poetry and short fiction often, lately. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve read in the past few years. As always, I think the Stoker ballot is a great source for good new works, but so is the Elgin Award nomination list (it isn’t always horror, but there’s some good overlap).

SARAH READ: I want to see more people reading more horror in general–especially from women and genderqueer authors, but a few of my recent favorites are: Letitia Trent, Eden Royce, Caitlin R Kiernan, Jordan Kurella, Rena Mason, Lisa Morton, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Nnedi Speaking to Skull KingsOkorafor, Premee Mohamed, Gwendolyn Kiste, Maria Haskins, Helen Oyeyemi, Karen Runge, Emma Johnson, Nicole Givins Kurtz, Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Tananarive Due, Jessica McHugh, Helen Marshall, Gemma Files, Angela Slatter, Anya Martin, Julie C. Day, Carina Bissett, E. Catherine Tobler, JS Breukelaar, Kaaron Warren, Maria Dahvana Headley, Megan Arkenberg, Rhonda Eikamp, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and a few dozen others, but I should stop or we’ll be here all day. There are hundreds. Anyone who says it’s hard to find is reading with blinders.

EMILY B. CATANEO: These days, I’ve actually been reading more fiction that’s classified as literary, because of the aforementioned MFA program, so I feel out of the loop in regards to women who are writing fiction that’s classified as horror. However, I do want to draw horror fans’ attention to the fact that plenty of literary-classified fiction is actually tinged with the horrific. Clare Beams’ We Show What We Have Learned and Other Stories, for example, is crawling with gothic creepiness. And Otessa Moshfegh’s Eileen is a thriller for the ages.

Thanks again to our amazing featured authors, and head on back here next week for the final part of this year’s Women in Horror Month interview series!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

RELEASE DAY: The Rust Maidens is now available!

So. It’s here. My debut novel, The Rust Maidens, has officially made its way into the world!

*twirls and twirls and twirls in endless circles*

First off, I want to share the gorgeous Daniele Serra cover art again. Because it is seriously just so beautiful, and I’m still in awe of it. Behold…

The Rust Maidens

*twirls again in circles*

It goes without saying, but tremendous thanks to Trepidatio Publishing for bringing this book to life. As often happens with novels, The Rust Maidens went through a couple iterations before at last arriving in its final stage of metamorphosis, and I’m so grateful to have been able to learn so much about the process of writing and editing a novel with Trepidatio. It’s been a wild ride for sure, and one I’m so thrilled to have taken.

So I guess I should probably put up links to where you can find this alleged book, right? Okay, here goes…

The Rust Maidens at Amazon

The Rust Maidens at JournalStone

In case you haven’t gotten enough of The Rust Maidens yet (and I hope you haven’t because I won’t be keeping very quiet about it), I’ve got a number of interviews coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned. Obviously, I’ll be my usual loquacious self and be yelling from every mountaintop about the novel.

In the meantime, happy reading, and thank you for the support!

New Titles and Persistent Themes: Part One of Our October Author Interview Series

Welcome back, and welcome to part one of my October author roundtable series! I’m thrilled to be featuring eight fabulous authors, all of whom have brand-new books out this year that you should be reading!

So without any further delay, onward with this roundtable discussion!

Let’s start with the basics. Tell me about your latest release. What was the process like putting this book together, and what, if any, challenges did you run into along the way?

CALVIN DEMMER: My latest release is a flash fiction collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master, which contains twenty-three dark tales, ranging from science fiction, horror, fantasy, crime, to the weird. The process was pretty smooth. I’d say the hardest part for me was deciding on the order of the stories once I had picked which to collect. I wanted a certain flow to the book, and that took a little time to get right.

DOUNGJAI GAM: glass slipper dreams, shattered is my first collection of flash fiction and poetry. it was released by Apokrupha this past August. it took me about three years to put this collection together from when Jacob Haddon first approached me about it at AnthoCon 2015. there’s been plenty of challenges along the way, but thankfully none of those issues were in a professional sense…I just had a lot of personal things going on in that period and sometimes it got too tough to balance. Jacob is absolutely amazing to work with, and the key statement he made to me more than once was that he didn’t want my first book to be something I look back on in ten years and regret ever doing, and I have no regrets about it.

Christa CarmenCHRISTA CARMEN: The stories in Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked were published in places like Fireside Fiction, DarkFuse Magazine (which unfortunately exists no more), Third Flatiron’s Strange Beasties anthology, Unnerving Magazine, Tales to Terrify, and Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2, to name a few. My publisher asked upfront that a certain percentage of the stories in collection submissions be reprints, so once I’d filled that quota, I added two stories that had been published by markets no longer in circulation, changed one story that had appeared on a podcast to the novella version I’d been hoping for a chance to unveil, and chose three brand new stories to tie everything together. I think readers can appreciate a collection that includes reprints, especially from magazines and anthologies they may have read previously, and hopefully enjoyed, as well as a handful of new tales that allows them to experience an author’s latest work.

If there were any challenges I ran into along the way, it was what order to place the stories in. The stories in Something Borrowed contain ghosts, apocalypse-inciting rains, witches, depraved serial killers, more ghosts, evil shadow creatures, zombies, haunted houses, long-preserved corpses, newly-opened mausoleums, sinister trains, and out-of-place staircases. My publisher felt that “Thirsty Creatures” had the best first line to open the book with (“The trees were fire and the sky was panicked birds and the horse was made of bone.”), but aside from that, ordering the collection was a study in balancing the types of horror stories (a ghost story on the heels of another ghost story, or my take on the babysitter urban legend sandwiched between two ghost stories?) with the themes represented within.

ANYA MARTIN: Sleeping with the Monster is my debut collection, and I’m grateful to Steve Berman of Lethe Press for his longstanding interest in and belief in my fiction. I was hesitant to put out a collection until I had a solid slate of stories with a certain degree of thematic unity. And conventional wisdom seems to be not to rush. These aren’t all my published stories but I feel like they represent a “generation” of my work.

I knew which stories I wanted to include from the start, so my biggest challenge was writing “Jehessimin,” the original novella that is also included. I developed carpal tunnel syndrome in the past year and that and other health issues and responsibilities contributed to it taking months longer than I expected. Fortunately Steve was a patient and understanding publisher. On the other hand, the additional time allowed the story to gel more organically and take some unexpected twists which I think/hope strengthened it. Also recently on the final stretch before the book’s release, my mother had a medical emergency so I haven’t been able to promote it as extensively as I meant to and had to cancel my con appearance at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival. I did get to do Daniel Braum’s Night Time Logic Reading Series with the fantastic Robert Levy at KGB Bar in Manhattan on Tuesday Sept. 25 and hope to attend World Fantasy Con 2018 Nov. 1-4 in Baltimore.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: Assembling a second collection is very different. Putting together your first collection, you have to choose from everything you’ve ever written, and for most writers that means a lot more stories to select from, and most of the earliest ones will be left out. It’s a matter of figuring out where to start, and which of the less-mature work actually does fit with the more recent stories.

For the second book, it’s more about picking up where you left off with the first. Presumably by that time, your work has become more coherent and consistent, so while you have a smaller number of stories to choose from, there are probably not as many that aren’t up to the quality standard of the rest, or which should be excluded for not fitting with the feel of the others.

One thing that made the assembly of The Human Alchemy more complicated was the connection between several stories, with characters and settings and organizations cross-threaded between them, which meant I had to consider how those might work together to best advantage.

Another consideration is that readers (and consequently, publishers) want to see at least one unpublished “exclusive” story in a collection. While when assembling my first, I had quite a few unpublished stories available to choose from, but because for the past several years I’ve been publishing stories as fast as I could write them, this time I had to create something new. I reached a stage where the collection was ready to go, except first I had to write something new and hold it aside for the book. I could’ve done more than one new, exclusive story, but the book was already pretty long, so one was enough.

Lee FormanLEE FORMAN: My novella, Zero Perspective, published recently. Putting this book together was actually a surprise. My original intention for the story was just that—a short story. I didn’t set out to make it a book at first, but the story kept growing and ideas continued worming their way onto the page. As I grew an affinity for the characters I started experimenting with them to see what they would do. I didn’t know where the story would go or how it would end, but once it reached a certain length the idea of making it a book came to me. I’d been working on another project intended to be a novel, but wasn’t happy with how it came out and decided to re-write the entire thing. Since Zero Perspective was going so smoothly, I decided to focus my efforts on that and publish it first. One of the biggest challenges was trying to meet a set deadline. There was an opportunity to promote the book at a local event and I didn’t want to miss it. I dealt with lost packages three times while proofing the book and creating promotional materials. I met the deadline within only a few days.

LORI TITUS: This is a book that I’ve been waiting to write for a long time. Back when I first started writing The Marradith Ryder Series, I had an idea for another set of characters, existing in the same world. I wanted the characters to be older, harder, and a lot messier than the teenage heroine and her crew in Hunting in Closed Spaces.

In Soul Bonded, the main character is Natasha Taylor. She owns a small business, cares for an ailing mother, and between the two doesn’t have much time for a life of her own. She’s in a financial bind. There’s only two choices; take out a loan on her family home to save her business and possibly risk losing both, or close the store. Worse than that, her mother’s early onset Alzheimer’s has gotten to the point she may soon need to be put into a nursing home.

Natasha is a witch, and her family has had dealings with the supernatural. Particularly her deceased father, Ezekiel. He was a former priest who left the church but never stopped performing exorcisms.

Enter Henry Pollard, an enigmatic businessman with a proposition: give up part of her soul for a number of years, and work for a firm that deals in demon contracts. In return, her mother will be returned to health and her financial problems solved.

This novel is the beginning of a possible series. It’s really about the line between what we say we’ll do and how far we can bend the rules of our personal ethics. Natasha has to tread and sometimes cross the line of right and wrong to get what she needs and wants.

The biggest challenge to writing this book was scheduling. I had several other projects that were slated for completion first and a few other projects in progress when I started it. I’m happy that I was able to pull it off!

Gemma FilesGEMMA FILES: Well. I’m supposed to be writing a new novel—Nightcrawling, for ChiZine Publications—and I am, though it’s taking longer than I expected. Like Experimental Film, it draws on aspects of my own history, probably plumbing a much more traumatic time period, yet I’d somehow managed to convince myself it would be easier this time around! Anyhow, it’s not, so I’m taking a slight hiatus from banging my head against it to write a book of essays about horror culture instead, for CZP’s new nonfiction line (Dark Comforts, which starts by taking the usual non-horror fan question—ie, “Isn’t real life horrible enough for you?”—and answering it: “Yes, which is why I decompress by enjoying horror I can actually control.”)

That said, my “new book” right now would probably be Drawn Up From Deep Places, from Trepidatio, which is really a collection of older short fiction (much like the collection I have coming out at some point later on from Cemetery Dance, called Dark Is Better). It’s a sort of companion to my first Trepidatio collection, Spectral Evidence, which was published earlier this year. In both cases, the most challenging thing about putting the books together was going through all the stuff I’ve written since my first two collections (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, released almost twenty years ago) and seeing how it might go together. Luckily, there are stories in both books which share the same characters and make a sort of story cycle of their own if read in order.

In Spectral Evidence, those stories involve the Cornish Sisters and A-Cat Chatwin, two monster-killers (one half-monster) and a demon-descended holler witch who meet in jail, help each other escape then keep running into each other, but there’s only three of them and the rest of the stories—though equally chick-heavy—are about very different sets of oddballs operating within a dark urban paranormal contemporary universe like the one from my book We Will All Go Down Together. In Drawn Up From Deep Places, meanwhile, things are A) a bit more historical and B) a bit more dude-centric. The two story-cycles threaded throughout it either play around in the same Weird Western world from my Hexslinger series or involve two magician-pirates and a witch directly related to WWAGDT‘s Five-Family Coven. And…that’s the pitch, basically.

There’s a new collection of my poetry coming out soon too (Invocabulary, from Aqueduct Press), full of witchcraft, gods and monsters and monster-gods, because that is how I roll. So in other words, I’m reaping the rewards of my success, and it frankly rocks. My main challenge is thus the extremely first world problem of trying to meet too many deadlines because “too many” people I respect and want to work with want stuff from me. That and the eternal struggle against my own body (insomnia, peri-menopause, anxiety), my son’s recent transfer to high school, plus the general current flaming trash fire of global reality. Etc.

Most authors have certain ideas or concepts they return to over and over. What themes interest you most as a writer, and how do those themes play into your current book?

Soul BondedLORI TITUS: Family and loyalty are big themes in my writing and I return to both of those here. The way we act in the closest of our relationships really informs how we live our lives. I love playing with the consequences involved when love or familial ties are at stake.

LEE FORMAN: I tend to write a lot of creature stories and dark, emotive fiction. I find them thoroughly enjoyable to create. I grew up loving horror films with monsters and all things inhuman. They’ve been my favorite aspect of horror film and literature as long as I can remember. These themes worked great for Zero Perspective, as they allowed me to incorporate both concepts into the horror / sci-fi combination.

GEMMA FILES: “Monster pride” is a concept I come back to a lot: the idea that maybe the ways in which we’re broken and odd and freakish—the qualities that make us pariahs or monsters according to “normal” standards—are the very things which prepare us to not break when true monstrosity comes on the scene. I’m a big fan of characters like Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, for example, who knows he’s supposed to be the Great Beast of the Apocalypse but nevertheless says “screw THAT shit” and fights the same cosmic horrors he’s kin to instead, partially out of sheer perversity. My favourite gods have always been Loki and all the other tricksters, shape-shifters and thieves who can straddle several liminal spaces at once, powered as much by black humour as by any sort of thirst for revenge or victory. And while I’m capable of appreciating how difficult choosing to be good really is, it’s the scoundrels, villains and antiheroes who remain my very favourites. I’m interested in people who pay prices, who go through hell and come out changed (maybe for the better, maybe not), who make their own wounds into weapons.

Part of this probably comes out of having spent a good portion of my life thinking I was just inherently “bad” somehow, unfixable, weird, unable to bring myself up to code; giving birth to a boy with special needs sort of helped in that regard, especially once I realized that if people had been looking for autism in girls at all when I was the age he is now, I might have gotten an Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis. But then again, part of this probably also just comes from being female, geeky, angry and neuroatypical. Of feeling like everything I encountered socially was a joke or an attack, a total chore, and just not realizing the reason it did was because I was probably channeling my social intelligence through a part of my brain usually meant for doing math problems.

So yeah, I have a lot of investment in the idea that people who think they aren’t good for much may eventually discover they’re meant for something special, or at least for something particular. Does it mean that everything bad or wrong they ever did is forgiven? Not necessarily. Does it mean they’re good and perfect now they’ve discovered their purpose in life? Depends on the purpose, I guess. But I do like finding ways for my characters to love at least other people, even if they can never entirely love themselves. And become proud of whatever monster they happen to be, too, if only because that IS what they are, after all. No other way around it.

DOUNGJAI GAM: for me, the themes I keep coming back to are fear, love, sorrow, revenge, being haunted, and their motivating factors. as I alluded to in the previous question, in the time period I was writing the pieces for my collection, there was a lot going on: in a fourteen month span, there were at least seven deaths that hit me hard (the worst one being my brother’s sudden death); I went through a separation and eventual divorce and then unexpectedly fell in love; there were a few hard lessons learned. I joked with my editor about having the book subtitled, “stories of love and death,” because that’s like 90% of the collection.

The Human AlchemyMICHAEL GRIFFIN: For me the themes I’ve returned to repeatedly have come about without my having intentionally tried to make them a particular focus. I’ve just kept circling around and around certain elements due to my own obsession or compulsion. People have pointed out that most of my stories have a major focus on relationships, often in a state of breakdown or disconnection, as well as feelings like frustrated desire. Many of my characters are creative people. Also certain geographic places have recurred in my work, especially the Portland area, the Oregon coast and Mt. Hood.

One aspect of place that really interests me is following a character who departs from their usual, comfortable place, their home, and goes to some new, different place, which shifts their equilibrium and makes every moment a new discovery, sometimes full of wonder, and other times bringing uncertainty or fear.

I only recently came to understand that I often follow this pattern where a main character leaves a place they’re familiar with and goes to a new, special place. In some cases, as in “The Smoke Lodge,” the place isn’t unfamiliar to the main character but it’s unfamiliar to the reader, and there’s one or more other characters who make the journey of discovery at the same time.

ANYA MARTIN: Definitely, yes, though those themes have evolved over my writing life. For this first collection, all the stories deal with relationships to some extent or another. Not all the stories have explicit “monsters,” vis-à-vis “Grass,” but I do find that “monstrous” behavior by humans and its impact on others can sometimes be explored more effectively through a lens other than realism. Otherwise, I can’t say I did this on purpose but almost all my protagonists are women, except a male dog and a gargoyle, and even in those two stories, there’s a central female character. I am sure I will write a male protagonist when that makes sense for a story, but there has been so much male point-of-view fiction that I don’t see any rush just to prove anything. Finally if the collection has a “theme song,” it would be “Illusions” by Frederick Hollander, sung by Marlene Dietrich in the film A Foreign Affair (1948). I wanted to quote its lyrics at the front of the book but it’s always complicated and can be expensive to get permissions. It’s easy to find on YouTube if you want to give it a listen.

CALVIN DEMMER: There are definitely certain themes I return to, but I also try and push myself to explore new things. At the moment, I do seem to focus on the evil humanity can do. Even when my stories have monsters or other dark cosmic happenings, I do tend to have characters that walk a fine line between good and evil. I’ve often explored how love can create some extreme scenarios, the loss of innocence, or how continuous struggling can lead people to do things that don’t seem to fit their character. The sea also played quite a role in my latest book, mainly because I think it has a certain mystique that is interesting to play with.

CHRISTA CARMEN: The themes that interest me to the point where I return to them over and over are society’s treatment of those suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, the way individuals themselves react to struggling with these issues, persistent misogyny in the world today, the concept of redemption, or at least, of second chances, how humans deal with death and grief, and why men just don’t seem capable of trusting their girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers, and mistresses, etcetera, when these women say that something is not right, or when they beg not to go into that isolated cabin in the woods. These themes play into my collection in that I try to approach them from disparate angles. The characters suffering from addiction in Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked are numerous and varied. They are regretful ghosts, broken mothers, desperate young women, and reanimated Deadites.

It is important for me to tell the stories of characters who are struggling with or have struggled with addiction because I have been privy to so many of these stories in the real world. The people who want to vilify those suffering from addiction project the same story onto everyone: they are bad, lazy, selfish people who knew the risks when they first used drugs, did so anyway, and so deserve their lot in life. Sadly, many individuals tasked with helping those struggling with substance abuse also assign the same stories to the sufferers. But everyone’s path into addiction is different, as is their path out. What that means is that their stories are profoundly unique, and I’ve yet to hear a story that wasn’t worth sharing. This insight has led me to want to explore themes of addiction and recovery within my fiction, believing as I do, that those characters will have rich, interesting, albeit sometimes tragic lives to lead.

I’ve also found the idea of second chances worth exploring in my fiction because the concept of second chances in the real world is such a tricky one. Our society is based on a very unjust, nonsensical system of who is deserving of a second chance versus who is not. Ultimately, the reward of pursuing any theme that really speaks to you as a writer is in the journey itself, the exploration that takes place over the course of writing a story. I’m certain I will tackle the themes I’ve discussed here in other stories in the future, and who’s to say if that path will look anything like the one that led me to the pieces in Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked?

So that’s part one in our interview series! Join us again next week as we discuss book covers and the future of horror and weird fiction!

Happy reading!