Category Archives: Interviews

Les Petites Morts: Interview with Hailey Piper

Welcome back! Today, I’m happy to be helping out with the promotion of Les Petites Morts: An Anthology of Erotic Horror Fairy Tales from Ghost Orchid Press. The project is currently up on Kickstarter and is over a quarter of the way funded already!

As part of this promotion, I recently interviewed contributor Hailey Piper about her story in the anthology!

What can you tell us about your new story in Les Petites Morts?

It’s a sapphic twist on the Greek myth of the sphinx, in which she’s sometimes offered sacrifices in lieu of riddle answers, and our heroine has become one such offering after getting on a king’s bad side for taking his queen’s attention.

Horror and eroticism have a long history of intertwining. What do you think is the draw of this particular subgenre? What are some of your favorite erotic horror stories and films?

I think horror and eroticism both indulge in visceral elements, and they make an easy couple. There’s both a seductive “wrongness” that draws some, wanting to see something they might consider repulsive, while for others there’s a freedom to indulge in the fiction’s fantasy, and that same thing seen as a repulsive element can instead be beautiful and alluring, which was how I approached scenes in this story, my novel Queen of Teeth, and other work.

As for favorites, Clive Barker really hits a sweet spot with some Books of Blood stories and the movie Hellraiser. I also love Go Down Hard by Ali Seay.

What in particular do you feel makes Les Petites Morts a unique anthology?

Focusing on fairy tales, folklore, and mythology for erotic horror both forces the erotic horror to dance with speculative elements of magic and monsters and sex within, but also invites the stories to play with foundational elements of our cultures, get into the tactile sensations of them, be that blood or other things. Plus I have so much faith in editors Evelyn Freeling and Antonia Rachel Ward, and a book of erotic horror is going to be a wonderful time. I can’t wait to read the other stories.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m finishing up one of my queer horror/weird crime chapbooks for Death’s Head Press, and I’m getting started on a new cosmic horror novella, plus some short stories sprinkled around.

Big thanks to Ghost Orchid Press and Hailey Piper! Please consider backing this fabulous new anthology over at Kickstarter today!

Happy reading!

The Future Is Fierce: Part Four of Our 2022 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

We’ve nearly reached the end of March, which means Women in Horror Month is sadly almost over. But before this awesome annual celebration is done, let’s check in once more with our fabulous roundtable about their hopes for the future of women in horror as well as their own writing plans!

What’s your hope for the future of women in horror?

GABY TRIANA: That we will continue to kick ass. Stories by women show another side of humanity. It’s not just about having different body parts. It’s a whole alternative worldview that’s just as important as the mainstream white, male POV, and we are not all the same. My hope is also that women don’t have to fake writing in the style of men anymore to be taken seriously. They can be whoever they are—feminine, masculine, in-your-face, subtle, romantic, jarring, suggestive, intellectual, weird… whoever they happen to be—and still command the literary stage.

MELANIE R. ANDERSON: That books and stories and poems and scripts with new ideas and angles keep coming for us to enjoy (and analyze)! As an educator, I also hope we can keep sharing the stories of women in the past who got the ball rolling, so to speak, and whose names may have been forgotten.

LISA KRÖGER: I hope that women in horror find so much success that we don’t need a special month to highlight our work.

HYSOP MULERO: I kind of hope that women in the genre do some sort of crazy takeover, even if just for a season or week or a day. It would be amazing to see us collectively or even singularly transcend or kind of push horror into our overall literary landscape. In short, I want to see us create magnificent storms story by story and book by book.

EVE HARMS: I hope to see more BIPOC women in horror read and celebrated.

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ: My hope for the future of women in horror is the inclusion of women from all demographics, especially Black and Hispanic women. I mean a full embrace and lifting up of those stories. I loved how Black Cranes won the Stoker last year. I would love to see works by Black women and trans women also find that level of recognition.

KATHRYN E. MCGEE: My hope is that women continue to do what they’re doing by creating great work in the genre. There really is an incredible wealth of brilliant art to be read and watched. I’d love to see horror by women become increasingly recognized. I’d love to see as many women in positions of leadership as possible, publishing horror books and producing, writing, and directing horror film and TV. Some of the most supportive, fascinating, and thoughtful people in my life are other women horror writers and I hope we’re all able to keep writing and achieve a broad audience. The future of women in horror feels very bright, indeed.

LEE MURRAY: What I hope, Gwendolyn, is that one day we shouldn’t need a Women in Horror month, that we won’t need to band together and scream, “Hey, we’re over here and we’re writing lovely horror” because we’ll already be visible. Because there will be a healthy coven of undead women writers who come to mind whenever the word ‘horror’ is whispered. A host of articulate women writers who are making a living writing horror and talking about horror. When, instead of being a subversive act, women writing horror becomes the norm and we are a welcome part of the horror landscape. I can’t wait for the moment when I’ll scroll to one of a myriad of horror sites on social media where the question “Who is your favourite horror writer?” is posted on a near-daily basis, and see women writers listed in the top ten comments, and not simply as an afterthought. In October 2019, Jeff VanderMeer (author of Annihilation and former co-editor of Weird Tales) wrote [this] post on social media.

Hear, hear, Jeff. I agree. Let’s have future top tens loaded with fabulous women writers of horror. How about Alma Katsu, Kaaron Warren, Gwendolyn Kiste, EV Knight, Kate Jonez, Thersa Matsura, Lee Franklin, or Kate Maruyama, for example? I could go on and on…

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

GABY TRIANA: The first part of 2022, I’ll be finishing my 5-book paranormal women’s fiction series, which I write under the name Gabrielle Keyes. After that, I have a new horror novel in the works. 1950s Havana, Cuba, haunted house on a hill, palm trees, family secrets, ghosts, a woman fighting societal expectations, a family of mobsters and sugar kings fighting for control, the Catholic church, witchcraft, those who dabble in both, history, psychological horror, and a monster or two terrorizing the island. Can’t wait to get started.

HYSOP MULERO: I’m currently going through another round of edits for a dark/horror middle grade manuscript that I’ve completed. I’m also in the process of finishing my second short story collection that will include the “This Is You” series and a few other pieces that I’m really excited about! Not to mention my thrill for “This is You on Lust” to be included in Pluto In Furs Volume 2 from Plutonian Press. I have a few other TBAs, and WIP’s for 2022! I plan on attending Necronomicon in Rhode Island this year, along with a few other cons and events. I’m active on both Instagram as, and my website should you want to check out my events and daily musings.

EVE HARMS: A lot of projects are in the works, but I’m trying to avoid talking about them in order to bottle up the excitement to propel me forward. I did recently have a short story published in the Monstroddities anthology by Sliced Up Press that is available on all of the major bookstores.

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ: I’m writing the next Kingdom of Aves story. Mocha Memoirs Press is releasing two new novellas for Women in Horror Month. Sumiko Saulson’s Happiness and Other Diseases and L. Marie Wood’s The Black Hole.

MELANIE R. ANDERSON: I’m working on another project with my co-author and podcast co-host Lisa Kröger. And on the academic side, I recently finished up an essay for a forthcoming collection on Edgar Allan Poe. It’s about how contemporary women writing horror are revising Poe’s nineteenth-century take on the haunted house.

LISA KRÖGER: I’ve got another nonfiction book, called Toil and Trouble, coming out with Quirk Books in late 2022. Like Monster, She Wrote, this book is co-written with Dr. Melanie R. Anderson, who may be the best co-author around. I’m working with NYX this year to get out our second film festival, and we recently announced a partnership with Stowe Story Labs for a fellowship for women screenwriters who are writing horror and who are age 40 or over. I’m hoping to get a few other personal projects out into the world too. I’d love to do more fiction, or even write for a different audience, like Middle Grade or Young Adult.

KATHRYN E. MCGEE: I recently had a story, “Golden Hour,” accepted for publication in the forthcoming Chromophobia anthology, edited by Sara Tantlinger, which will be coming out later this year. The stories in the anthology all deal with the horror of color in different ways and are authored by women. I’m beyond thrilled to be part of this excellent group of writers. I also recently finished a draft of a haunted house novel I’ve been working on for several years that I’m hoping to publish soon. Otherwise, I’m writing a collection of horror short stories as well as a middle-grade horror-comedy novel.

LEE MURRAY: Thank you so much for asking, Gwendolyn. 2022 is looking set to be a busy year! I have a small (and hopefully helpful) workbook on Literary Goal Setting coming from Brain Jar Press, and Asian Ghost Stories (Flame Tree Press) for which I was Associate Editor will be published in February 2022; this comprehensive volume of ghost tales includes many of my favourite horror writers of Asian descent. I have stories coming in numerous anthologies, including “Thrall” a seafaring tale of supernatural and superstition in Grimdark’s The King Must Fall (edited by Adrian Collins), “Mooncake” a generational tale of cultural tension in Bad Hand Books’ The Hideous Book of Hidden Horrors, Hothouse Crush, a re-envisioning of Dracula as a demon fae in 1980’s girls’ boarding school for IFWG’s Dracula Unfanged (edited by Christopher Sequiera), and “Kupara and Tekoteko” a Kiwi retelling of Wilde’s The Happy Prince in Clan Destine Press’s Clamour and Mischief (edited by Narelle Harris). My novella “Despatches” will appear with novellas by Angela Yuriko Smith and Maxwell Ian Gold, in Someday, a volume in Crystal Lake Publishing’s Dark Tide series. The themes of Someday are war and mystery, and “Despatches” follows the observations of a war correspondent sent to Gallipoli in the Great War in a supernatural epistolatory tale. Also with Angela Yuriko Smith, I’ll be editing a collection of poetry and flash fiction by HWA members mental health and trauma for the upcoming HWA Wellness page—a rare honour which I’m looking forward to immensely. Angela and I are also excited to be editing Unquiet Spirits, a collection of essays by horror writers of Southeast Asian descent, with a focus on the influence monsters and spirits on perspectives of cultural identity. A follow up to both Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (co-edited with Geneve Flynn) and poetry collection Tortured Willows: Bent, Bowed, Unbroken (Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray & Geneve Flynn), the line-up for Unquiet Spirits looks equally stupendous and includes a foreword by Monster She Wrote co-author Lisa Kröger. The book will be published by Black Spot Books in 2023. And I’ll also be delivering the first of three fiction collections for Silver Shamrock publishing towards the end of 2022. I’m expecting the German language translation of my supernatural military horror Into the Sounds will be released in 2022, as will the Spanish version of my middle grade adventure Dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse. I also have a handful of exciting film projects on the go, which sadly I am unable to talk about yet. Aargh! In any case, it looks set to be a busy year…

Huge thanks to our eight fantastic authors for this year’s roundtable! It was so amazing talking with all of them!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Terrifying Advice: Part Three of Our 2022 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

March is nearly over, which means once again, Women in Horror Month is getting ready to wind to a close. As I always say, it’s over way too quick!

But before the month slips away completely, let’s return for part three in our Women in Horror roundtable!

The last few years in the world have been challenging to say the least. How do you motivate yourself to keep writing despite the terrors and challenges of everyday life?

GABY TRIANA: Writing is actually how I think, so if I want to sort out thoughts or feelings, I write. This happens every day, whether it’s writing fiction or journaling or making lists that help me organize my brain. Either way, I write daily.

HYSOP MULERO: Overcoming the mental chatter between my ears combined with daily errands and responsibilities can make writing challenging on the best of days. I am a personal, albeit reluctant consumer of procrastination, and with that type of maladaptive behavior I utilize the “least is better than none” method. Sure, I have great writing days where the sun shines enthusiastically through my window and my coffee is prepared just right, and words are pulsating through my fingers, but more days than not I have to treat writing as yet another errand or task that must be done. So, I put away my grand notions of how this process should look or feel or how hot my coffee has to be and make myself put words on the page. Many many words. And the days that I do get to have the sun grace me with its light, and everything in the universe aligns for me to have a perfect writing day, well, those are the beautiful bonuses.

EVE HARMS: My priority is to keep writing enjoyable. I actually love every part of the process—researching, drafting, and editing—so if I’m not feeling motivated to write, I don’t. I’ve found if I let myself feel guilt around not writing, I rob myself of the joy of remembering how good it feels to write. This does mean that there will be months where I don’t put any words on the page, but that’s okay. And besides, the creative process requires rest to operate at its fullest. Even if I’m not writing, I’m usually still spending time in the worlds I’m creating and occasionally taking down notes about ideas I have for various projects.

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ: I haven’t been as successful at this as I would like. I struggle every. single. day. One of the things I have found is listening to BTS and Tomorrow by Together (K-pop bands). Both groups offer songs of loving myself and how to handle the pandemic and its effects. They’re encouraging and uplifting, which helps repeal some of the darkness enough for me to find enough light to work.

MELANIE R. ANDERSON: When the pandemic started, my job became unpredictable, as happened for everyone. I had previous experience teaching a couple online courses, but shifting formats for all my classes midsemester was chaotic. Keeping a routine has remained difficult. And I had to limit my news consumption. I needed deadline extensions on a couple of academic projects. But, I think one thing that helped keep me researching and writing was that it was something I could keep doing, barring pandemic-related issues with getting resources. Another was that I had some control over that work, as opposed to everything else.

LISA KRÖGER: I’m not going to lie: it’s been hard. Writing is cathartic to me, so even when I don’t feel motivated, I often find that the act of writing helped me to manage my stress and anxiety. Plus, writing is a practice; it’s a muscle to exercise. I try to keep doing it, every day, even if I don’t feel particularly excited about it or inspired. I don’t try to hit certain word counts or write for any specific length of time, though. There’s too much stress in that, and we don’t need more stress on our lives right now. Sometimes, the act of rest can be the best remedy to writer’s block, so I’ve learned that at times, it’s okay to give ourselves some time and space to breathe and let our imaginations run wild. In times of high stress, one of the best things to do for your writing is not to set unrealistic goals. Take small steps towards your goals—those add up over time.

KATHRYN E. MCGEE: Writing has always been a way I deal with difficult emotions. Examining why I’m anxious, angry, or scared by putting a character in a fictional situation dealing with the same feelings helps me cope. When I’m caught up in crafting the plot, character, and technical aspects of storytelling, my worries become something else entirely and are not so overwhelming to me anymore. The pandemic has been a challenge, though. In some ways, I’ve used the daily horrors to fuel writing. I did publish one story, “Mondays Are for Meat,” that deals directly with the anxieties of the pandemic. However, now two years into this, the weight of it all is heavy. There have been periods of time when creating has felt impossible. Recently more than ever. While I usually write intensely, I’ve had to give myself permission to not write and just watch movies or go for walks. Some balance between a butt-in-chair mentality and being kind to myself and resting seems essential, right now, for creativity.

LEE MURRAY: See question 1.

For the past six months, I’ve spent a lot of time online in a zoom chat with my New Zealand colleague Grace Bridges, author of the Earthcore series. As well as being invalided to her room since June, Grace lives in Auckland, a city which has spent more than 121 days in lockdown in 2021 and most of that time from August. To help cope with the isolation, Grace and I have been working online together most working days. There really is something in that adage misery loves company. It’s like having a virtual office mate, although her afternoon teas, carried upstairs by her mum and her flatmate, look a lot yummier than mine! I also like to take walks with my darling, soak in our spa pool, read, cuddle my happy-zoomy dog, and watch movies with my grown-up kids (currently at home). Plus, I’m a baby painter of watercolours and, more recently, of acrylics. With the painting, unlike my writing, I try not to put too much pressure on myself to produce something; it’s more about the process than the product. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for the arts, and creativity in general, and horror especially, in providing solace in these stressful times.

What advice do you have for female horror writers who are just starting out in the industry?

GABY TRIANA: Make a name for yourself. Fight to be seen. The horror industry is very kind and inclusive, but it still takes a while for readers to get to know you and your work. Submit to anthologies; it’s a good way of introducing yourself in small bites to the community. Don’t be afraid of advocating for yourself if nobody else will. If people ask “what’s a good horror book by a woman author you’ve read lately,” and nobody mentions you, make suggestions but also mention yourself. At the same time, show a love and respect for the other women in horror, because they’re in the same boat as you.

HYSOP MULERO: Two things: Write about that monster that lives in your core. Whatever it is, regardless of the changes it may go through on the page, nothing will serve you better as a writer than to write about that ‘thing’ that has been placed inside of your belly. No one else has the ability to birth it. Further, keep submitting and falling and failing and reaching and grasping. The universe, the industry, and life are going to look at you and say: “Dammit, we have no choice but to help her now.”

EVE HARMS: Don’t listen to anyone’s advice. If someone says something that resonates with you, try it out and see how it feels. All of the rules about the writing process and industry simple don’t apply to every writer and piece. Engage with the community authentically and only work on projects that you are excited about.

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ: Write what you want! Persevere. Publishing is difficult and challenging regardless of the genre.

MELANIE R. ANDERSON: I’m coming at this from an academic/nonfiction writing perspective–and I’m not a veteran in this space–but I’ll take a stab at it. I’m a big believer in how much reading all sorts of stuff can help with writing. And I think working on projects you want to work on is important. It’s really difficult to write about something you’re not curious about and invested in, especially if it’s a long project that you’ll be with for a while. I’m also grateful that I’ve found a few people who are willing to read and comment on drafts for me. Academics sometimes shy away from collaboration, but I’ve enjoyed co-editing and co-authoring. I think having that conversation going opens up creative possibilities.

LISA KRÖGER: Hone your skills. Don’t worry about publishing right away. Just write and write more. Have trusted people read what you write and get feedback. I recommend practicing with short stories (even micro shorts, under 1000 words) to sharpen your skills. Get comfortable with failure, and use each one as a moment to learn. Then, start trying to publish those better stories in the paying markets. It’s competitive, but I always find it helpful to keep me motivated to write more. If I get a rejection, I just try to write a better story the next time. It took me ten years to get a book contract, and it never gets easier…but I can’t imagine doing anything else. Don’t stop, keep going, and don’t give up before success comes.

KATHRYN E. MCGEE: I think it’s the same advice I’d give anyone starting out. Finish what you’re working on. Share it with people you trust. Get feedback. Take classes if you can. Read books on craft. Be open to learning and growing. Be open to changing your work to make it better. Read horror books all the time. Watch horror movies and TV shows. Immerse yourself in the genre so you know what it’s capable of. Perhaps most importantly, get involved in the writing community and support other authors as much as you can!

LEE MURRAY: Here’s the advice I gave in Tim Waggoner’s Bram Stoker Award®-winning book, Writing in the Dark (RDSP):

“Think of it like a Mad Hatter’s tea party. No room at the literature table? Sit down anyway. Take the rabbit hole to the underworld. Conjure shrink-grow monsters, evil queens, the perfidy of time, and lonely, spiralling madness. Choose chaos as a ruling principle. Ask the hard questions. Say what you mean. Talk when you want to. Debate the intricacies of language. Hide the bodies of your friends in teapots. Cut off their heads. Reference Poe. And drink more of the beverage of your choice.”

And that’s part three in our Women in Horror Roundtable! Join us again next week for the final installment of this year’s celebration of Women in Horror Month!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Favorite Frights: Part Two of Our 2022 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back for part two in our Women in Horror Month roundtable! I’m once again talking with these eight amazing female horror authors about their love of the genre.

So let’s hand the proverbial microphone over to them!

What does Women in Horror Month mean to you personally?

GABY TRIANA: I have a love-hate relationship with month-long celebrations. On one hand, it’s a fantastic way to highlight and introduce people to marginalized groups and authors that need more limelight, but on the other, we shouldn’t ever have to do it. Women are people just like anyone else—authors, artists, actors, directors, creatives who should be seen, read, examined, and celebrated at any time of year, just like our non-women counterparts. Same with Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month and Women in History Month. It’s a step in the right direction, but for me, the goal is to always be included. THAT SAID, I’m honored to be included and recognized alongside my talented peers.

HYSOP MULERO: Women continuously feed horror in ways unimaginable. It’s great to have a month that not only showcases and celebrates that accomplishment, but reminds us of both how far we’ve come and the road ahead. Personally, this is so necessary as I have a tendency to consume books and anthologies (I can’t get enough of those bite size stories!) whilst unintentionally being oblivious to the authors who, what, when and otherwise. Which is fine, right? I’ll answer that. It’s okay to fall in love with a story, but it would be unwise for me to simply enjoy and buy and read without acknowledging at the very least the responsibility I have as an author, writer, and woman. To be conscious of the space I inhabit and share; To notice the beautiful progressions and the very real deficits in the horror culture and community.

EVE HARMS: There are so many badass women in horror, and it’s a lot of fun to celebrate them and be reminded of their contributions. I’m proud to be among all of these incredible ladies.

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ: Women in Horror Month fits in perfectly with my on-going mission to amplify marginalized voices in speculative fiction, particularly horror! From Mary Shelley to Tananarive Due, women have been writing terrific horror and we continue to do so. This month puts the spotlight on us, and I love it.

MELANIE R. ANDERSON: I think it’s great to have a month to amplify the work of all of the women creating in the horror genre now and to look at the history of women’s work in the genre, because they’ve always been there. Having a fixed time for readings and events brings awareness and can help diversify readers’ to-be-read piles. I always hope that the emphasis on women’s work during that month doesn’t go away as the next month begins. It continues for me, since much of my academic writing is on fiction by women, and I’m constantly reading for The Monster, She Wrote Podcast.

LISA KRÖGER: Women in Horror Month is a wonderful time to shine a light on women who are writing horror, but it also highlights the disparity in the genre space. Events and interviews, like this one, help readers to find their new favorite (female) writer. Unfortunately, I think the horror genre is still dominated by male creators. It’s not that the women aren’t out there—we are. It’s just that we don’t always get the attention in the public sphere. This month is a time when most horror websites and social media accounts are actively looking for and highlighting women writers—it’s wonderful.

KATHRYN E. MCGEE: Women in Horror Month is a great opportunity to acknowledge the awesome work by women horror writers. I think this month matters to me personally because I’m aware it hasn’t always been accessible for women to publish in the category of horror fiction. Even now, horror fiction by women may be called something else, relegated to other genres like dark fantasy or women’s fiction. Bringing the work of women horror writers to the forefront for a month helps raise awareness of all the fabulous creators and gives us more opportunities to grow individually and as a community. I find it inspiring every year to be able to celebrate the critical role women play in defining the genre.

LEE MURRAY: Let me start by quoting from my foreword in Daughters of Darkness, a collection of horror fiction by Aly Faye, Stephanie Ellis, Ruschelle Dillon and Theresa Derwin, which was released for Women in Horror Month 2021, and was the first ever title from Dark Angel Press, a small house dedicated solely to publishing horror women writers…

“Each February, when the horror community’s Women in Horror month rolls around, my social media feed erupts with a smorgasbord of excellent dark fiction from women authors writing gripping, suspenseful, entertaining, ground-breaking horror fiction—works like Daughters of Darkness. Yet, every year, those same posts are populated with the inevitable laments from readers who don’t see the relevance, the what-about-men folks, the why do we even need to celebrate women-in-horror people. The reason is quite simple: despite its quality, fiction written by women receives only a fraction of the attention of our male colleagues.

Danuta Kean, author of British study The Emilia Report (2019), found that women “aren’t provided with an equal platform to men upon which their work can be judged,” claiming that this is because social structures are “created in a way that militates against women being able to be recognised for their creativity.” From its very outset, the horror genre is no exception to this phenomenon, with Mary Shelley’s seminal work, Frankenstein, arguably the novel which spawned the modern horror genre, first published anonymously, albeit with a foreword by her more-famous poet husband.

This side-lining of women’s horror fiction is a trend that continues. For example, googling a ranker site for their latest results, I discovered that of the top 100 horror writers listed, only ten are women, and of those, only four are living writers [*checked again and nothing has changed]. If women horror writers aren’t rated, if they aren’t discoverable in the ‘noise’ of creative work clamouring for attention, then how are readers expected to find and enjoy their work? By extension, it seems clear that Terrence Rafferty’s observation holds true: “What can be said with certainty, though, is that women writers, even the best of them, have rarely made a career of horror, as the male luminaries of the genre mostly have.” (New York Times, 2008).

Nevertheless, women horror writers have persisted because horror writing is, in and of itself, an act of subversion. In the introduction to their Bram Stoker Award®-winning title Monster, She Wrote: The Women who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction, Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson make the claim: “Women are accustomed to entering unfamiliar spaces, including territory they have been told not to enter. When writing is an off-limits act, writing one’s story becomes a form of rebellion and taking back power.” Hayleigh Donaldson highlights the barriers in her 2019 SyFy Wire article, Women Love Horror: Why Does This Surprise So Many Dudes? She writes: “So many things in life that [women] deal with daily are pretty horrifying when you think about it: the perpetual struggle against misogyny, the gaslighting by the patriarchy, menstruation and fights over reproductive control, questions over relationships, sex and marriage, the fears of child-rearing, and the smothering trappings of society-mandated femininity. Talking about any of these issues in public can be near impossible as the judgement and scorn can shut down the discourse before it’s even started. Which brings us back to Women and Horror Month…”

… a chance for me to blow kisses to all the fabulous horror sisters whose work I admire and adore, the subversive women who roll up their sleeves and create wonderful horror despite the odds being against them from the get-go. And to those wonderful souls who have kindly signal-boosted and supported my own small contribution to the genre. Women in Horror Month is a chance to applaud a dedicated sisterhood of talented creatives that has too long languished in the shadows.

What are some of your favorite horror books from the past year or two that were written by women?

GABY TRIANA: To be honest, I’ve had difficulty reading over the last year. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, the fact that we’ve lost a few people we love, or that I don’t want to read anymore lately after a long day of writing, but my books-read count went way down in 2021. I did, however, love Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro, Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo, and In Darkness, Shadows Breathe, by Catherine Cavendish. When a book can make my imposter syndrome flare up and make me question my own stylistic choices as an author, that’s a well-written book. 🙂

HYSOP MULERO: I’ve read so much this past year, to include a few favorites such as It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan, Revelation by J.W. Munro and K.P. Kulski’s Fairest Flesh. I was first introduced to Kaplan by way of her short story “Wick’s End” published in the Haunted Nights anthology, and similarly J.W. Munro’s work, “I Speak For The Trees” published in It Calls From The Forest Volume 2. The beautiful audacity of Fairest Flesh blew me away, and as a result K.P. Kulski now resides on my “favorites” bookshelf.

EVE HARMS: Cirque Berserk by Jessica Guess, Lakewood by Megan Giddings, Earthlings by Sayaka Murata, The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper, to name a few.

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ: Some of my favorites from the last two years have been, Lakewood by Megan Giddings, Telecommuting by L. Marie Wood, Reenn-You by Michele Tracy Berger, Root Magic by Eden Royce.

MELANIE R. ANDERSON: A few of my favorites by women that I’ve read in the past year or two are Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, Darcie Little Badger’s Elatsoe, Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks, T. Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones, and Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence, which is about a haunted bookstore and so much more.

LISA KRÖGER: I have become an absolute fan of Rachel Harrison and Julia Fine. Harrison’s book The Return is so much fun, and Fine’s The Upstairs House is a weird, terrifying look at the first months of motherhood. I also enjoyed Mona Awad’s Bunny, which is a creepy dark academia novel.

KATHRYN E. MCGEE: There are so many! I loved Lisa Quigley’s novel, The Forest, which deals with the challenges of motherhood in a folk horror context. Hailey Piper’s cosmic horror novella, The Worm and His Kings, is fascinating and mind-bending. Mackenzie Kiera’s novella, All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current, is an incredibly funny (and sexy) Frankenstein retelling. Tananarive Due’s, The Good House, which isn’t new in the last couple of years, but I read only recently, is an incredibly engrossing haunted house story with a perfect ending. Jessica Leonard’s novel, Antioch, is so deliciously weird and clever and exciting. Jennifer McMahon’s novel, The Drowning Kind, is immensely satisfying. Last but definitely not least, Sarah Langan’s novel, Good Neighbors, is an enthralling read about the horrors of suburbia.

LEE MURRAY: Despite recent global calamities, our sister horror writers have been highly prolific over the past year —a testament to the power of horror to offer solace. In fact, it has been difficult to keep up with all the gorgeous writing on offer. In 2021, I published Tortured Willows, my debut horror poetry collection with Christina Sng, Geneve Flynn and Angela Yuriko Smith, while also working on my poetry collection Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud, the subject of my Grimshaw Sargeson residency, so poetry has been a key focus of 2021 for me, and that focus has kindled an even greater interest in horror poetry than other years. Our horror sisters did not disappoint. Consider these exquisite 2021 poetry collections, for example: Monstrum Poetica by Jezzy Wolfe, Strange Nests by Jessica McHugh, Victims by Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo, Kraken Fever by Angela Yuriko Smith and Kyra Starr, and Stark Naked by Silvia Cantón Rondoni. I’ve been lucky enough to have been offered some sneak peeks at collections coming in 2022, so look out for Stephanie Ellis and Cindy O’Quinn’s fabulous Foundlings, a tribute to master poets Linda D. Addison and Alessandro Manzetti, and EF Schraeder’s gorgeously sordid Judy Garland is Not a Sunrise, also a tribute, this time to songstress Amy Winehouse. I’m delighted to appear in Black Spot Book’s upcoming Under Her Skin (edited by Lindy Ryan and Toni Miller), a stunning collection of body horror poetry by some of the world’s most acclaimed women horror poets. It’s a work which has been gaining fabulous reviews. Under Her Skin includes my poem “Shameful” which is reproduced here by kind permission of the publisher. Cover art by visual storyteller, Lynne Hansen.

By Lee Murray

he comes at me, my husband, her father
and I let him, too shackled by centuries
of quiet servitude. I am complicit in my demise
such is the resolve of dutiful daughters
my own leaking shameful down my legs
in a yellow sac of aborted hope and histrionics

bloodied organs on concrete leave a stain

I grasp at air for someone. Anyone. Spool
silent supplications into the darkness
with him hissing—you be quiet, woman!
I don’t know how I conjure her, the tree-dwelling ghost-girl
with her whip-dark hair and razored nails
and the tell-tale spike suppurating at her throat
when she steals gruesome from the shadows. I know her
from the waft of sweetly cloying frangipani

bloodied organs on concrete leave a stain

she slits him like a grapefruit with a finger
scoops still seething between her bloodied lips
stomach and spleen seasoned in their salty sauce, she shreds
his tendons. Wreaks vengeance on the pale afterbirth
she comes at me, my sister, my mother
feckless, she devours me, too.

bloodied organs on concrete leave a stain

More picks for must-read titles for 2022 include Joanne Anderton’s fiction collection, The Art of Broken Things (absolutely breath-taking prose), Tori Eldridge’s sweeping dark magic tale Dance Among the Flames, and Dana Fredsti’s fabulous cinematic supernatural romp, Hollywood Monsters. I cannot wait to see these feminist horror works fly off the shelves.

And that’s part two of our Women in Horror Month Roundtable! Join us next week for part three as we discuss these writers’ advice for new authors.

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Genre Geniuses: Part One of Our 2022 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Happy Women in Horror Month! I’m thrilled to once again be spotlighting my Women in Horror Month roundtable. Every week for the rest of March, I’ll be featuring eight amazing female writers who are creating some of the creepiest and coolest horror in the genre today.

So without further adieu, let’s have them take it away, shall we?

Welcome to our 2022 Women in Horror Roundtable! It’s so wonderful to be talking with all of you! Please tell us about yourself and your work in the horror genre.

GABY TRIANA: Great to be here! My name is Gaby Triana. I write across the young adult, paranormal women’s fiction, and horror genres. I’ve written 22 books, published 19 under different pen names, and I’m also a ghostwriter of more than 50+ books for bestselling authors. In the horror genre, I gravitate towards a gothic, witchy vibe, setting my stories mostly in the less glamorous parts of Florida, exploring themes of religion, witchcraft, old world vs. new world, and haunting family histories.

HYSOP MULERO: I’m thrilled to be taking part in your Women in Horror Month roundtable! My name is Hysop Mulero, and I am a horror fiction author that writes primarily in the subgenre of the Weird. My work has a fancy for subverting normalized perspectives of emotions and moralities, as well as delve more often than not in those liminal spaces also known as the in- between. I’m originally from Manhattan, NYC but love calling Georgia home where I’m free to roam the woods at my leisure. I’ve been writing since I was about 9 or 10 years old. My mother had a tendency to keep me indoors and read me book after book along with copious amounts of fairy tales. I eventually left the house, but I brought the fairy tales with me. I run a modest blog on my website

EVE HARMS: Thank you for having me! I’m Eve Harms, I write horror fiction, of course, and I also make zines. I have a fascination with the occult, esoteric knowledge, folklore and religion that I bring into my work. I also spent a lot of time in online archives researching these subjects and am a big supporter of the public domain.

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ: I am an author, editor, and publisher. My most recent work, SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire is an anthology of vampire and slayer stories told from the perspective of those of the African diaspora. As an author, I write weird western and typically thriller, mystery speculative fiction. As a publisher, I publish horror works from marginalized voices as Mocha Memoirs Press.

MELANIE R. ANDERSON: Thank you for including me! I was born and raised in Kentucky, but I live in Mississippi now, where I’m an assistant professor of English at Delta State University. My research interests are in American Gothic and supernatural fiction. I’m the author of Spectrality in the Novels of Toni Morrison (2013). I have co-edited three collections of academic essays, one on the many ways ghosts can be used in fiction and film and two on the work of Shirley Jackson. I co-authored with Lisa Kröger Monster, She Wrote: The Women who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction (2019). And I also co-host with Lisa two podcasts related to horror: The Know Fear Cast and The Monster, She Wrote Podcast.

LISA KRÖGER: I’m Lisa Kröger, a writer and producer. I work with the NYX horror collective, which works to promote women in the horror genre space. Our 13 Minutes of Horror film festival is for women writing and directing short horror films; it streamed on Shudder. I’ve always had an interest in horror, but my career began when I got my PhD in English, with a focus in Gothic novels. I was very fortunate to be able to write about horror, first in the academic realm and then in fiction and nonfiction. My book Monster, She Wrote, which won a Locus and a Bram Stoker, is a bit of a love letter to the genre.

KATHRYN E. MCGEE: Thanks so much for having me! It’s a pleasure to be able to participate. I’ve published horror short stories and am working on a novel. My fiction usually centers on female characters and has a strong psychological element. I’m interested in how the way we think plays into our decision-making and particularly how our sense of logic can become warped by societal norms—especially those regarding the expectations of women. In my day job, I work as an architectural historian, which involves researching and writing building histories. This often bleeds into my fiction, as I enjoy exploring how the history of a place can impact people years or generations later. I’m currently working on a novel that deals with intergenerational trauma manifesting in a creepy ancestral home.

What draws you to the horror genre? Have you been a fan since childhood, or did you find your love for the genre later on?

GABY TRIANA: I’ve always been a fan of horror, ever since I was four when I read Dr. Seuss’s What Was I Afraid Of. In it, the main character encounters an empty pair of pants hovering in the air in the dark woods, and I loved feeling terrified every time I opened it. From there, I fell into Poe and Stephen King pretty early, explored vampire lore in 3rd grade, and became a fan of Anne Rice in the early 90s. What draws me to horror is how darkness, mysteries of death and the afterlife, sexuality, secrets, love, and fear can all exist in the same plane as part of the same symbiotic relationship.

HYSOP MULERO: I can’t recall a time in which I didn’t love horror. Aside from my initial exposure to the lovely 80’s horror, and my personal favorite Wes Craven’s Freddy Krueger, (who still has the ability to disturb my sleep) the author John Saul was my initiator into the genre. The dread and depth and darkness that his work exposed clutched my heart and stomach since youth and has maintained its grip ever since. There’s something very ethereal about horror in all of its facets that is almost too ingrained into the fabric of life that makes it both easy and permissible, better yet obligatory, for exploration and art.

EVE HARMS: My older brother used to work in a video store, and he introduced me to horror through movies like Evil Dead, Dead Alive, and Troma Films at a young age. I was always a reader but my interest in horror fiction specifically didn’t begin until I stumbled upon The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett. I read this shortly after a very traumatic event in my life and I found the sense of dread that the book gave me comforting. It was the only thing that was able to truly change my consciousness at that time, and though the state it put me in was “unpleasant” it was a safe space for me to go through emotions similar to what I was experiencing at the time.

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ: Oh, I’ve been a fan of horror since I read, “Where the Wild Things Are” when I was kid. Max fascinated me, and as an only child at the time, running away to be “king of the wild things” appealed to me at times. My love for the genre grew as I did, being an 80s kid, slasher horror movies were huge as was Stephen King. It is a love that continues to bloom as I do.

MELANIE R. ANDERSON: I realized I was a fan of horror when I was in my 20s in graduate school at the University of Mississippi, but there was a history behind that epiphany. I had an interest in the supernatural and creepy stories since childhood. I read the Bunnicula series and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark when I was young. I loved reading stories by writers like Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe in school. Reading “The Lottery” in middle school and then The Haunting of Hill House in college made me a Shirley Jackson fan, and I’ve since become a scholar of her work. And although my mom was, and still is, a fan of classic creature features, and we would watch them together, I wasn’t a fan of watching most contemporary horror movies. As a result, I didn’t think of myself as a fan of horror until I met friends in grad school who were, and I realized there are sub-categories of the genre that I enjoy. I’m still more into reading horror than watching it.

LISA KRÖGER: I’ve always been a fan of horror. When I was a child, my grandmother would let me stay up and watch old Vincent Price movies. My favorite was House of Wax. Growing up, I mainly read horror (rather than watching it), especially Christopher Pike and Edgar Allan Poe. I can’t tell you how many times I read The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright when I was a kid. For me, horror has always been an escape—I still find it fun to be scared. Even now, it reminds me of being young and telling ghost stories with friends at a sleepover. More than that, though, horror is also cathartic. The world is a terrifying place, and horror allows for a safe space to explore the things that scare us.

KATHRYN E. MCGEE: My dad had an Edgar Allan Poe book on the shelf at home, and I read and loved all of Poe’s stories and poems as a kid and teenager. Otherwise, I mostly read fantasy, science fiction, and dark thrillers into young adulthood. It wasn’t until I was about 25 and going through a particularly hard time that I picked up Stephen King’s novel, It, and everything changed for me. I hadn’t felt so caught up in a story, not in that way, in years. Reading that book made the world around me disappear entirely and things really clicked into place. I’ve been reading horror and watching horror movies and TV shows intensely since then. Finding the genre has been a gift—more transportive for me than anything else.

LEE MURRAY: A child born in the 60s, I was raised on Pinocchio, Grimm’s Tales, and libraries of other allegoric tales meant to keep children on the straight and narrow, so perhaps there was an inevitability about my recent progression down the rutted road to horror, since I have never been the quiet sort, despite all the conditioning.

What draws me to horror is that the genre provides the perfect vehicle for capturing our basest fears and making them manageable. I don’t just mean our universal instinct to avoid disembowelling by rampaging prehistoric mutant monsters, but also those everyday anxieties, the little things that make us uncomfortable, the things that leave us with a “lingering disquiet”, to borrow Ramsey Campbell’s words. As YA writer Alexander Gordon Smith says, “Something weird happens when you write about your worst fears, even if you’re writing fiction. They stop being these unfathomably, impossibly huge things that hide in the shadowy corners of your mind. They become words, they become concrete—or, at least, paper. They lose some of their power, because when they’re laid down like that then you have the control.” As a nervous piglet sort who shoulders lots of anxieties, horror is the perfect foil to help me curb those fears.

And that’s part one of our Women in Horror Month Roundtable! Join us again next week as we discuss favorite book recommendations and what Women in Horror Month means to us!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Cruel Summer: Interview with J.A.W. McCarthy

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author J.A.W. McCarthy. J.A.W has written numerous short stories which have been featured in publications including Vastarien, Apparition Lit, and LampLight among others. Her debut collection, Sometimes We’re Cruel, was released this week from Cemetery Gates.

Recently, J.A.W. and I discussed her inspiration as a writer and why she loves the horror genre so much.

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

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I started writing novels as a kid, always something dark involving ghosts and angsty teens. My mom would read to me and illustrate the stories with her own drawings, so she instilled those interests in me from the start.

I love Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter, of course. Jackson’s Merricat Blackwood in particular has been a big influence on my characters. As for contemporary dark fiction authors, I’ve found inspiration in works by Paul Tremblay, Hailey Piper, Michael Wehunt, Nadia Bulkin, Damien Angelica Walters, Mona Awad, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, to name a few. We’re living in a truly rich time for dark fiction with so many excellent authors working right now. Yourself included! And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is one of the best collections I’ve ever read.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your collection, Sometimes We’re Cruel! What can you share about the book? How did you select the stories, and is there a particular theme that connects them?

Thank you! Sometimes We’re Cruel is my debut collection, out August 17th from Cemetery Gates Media. It’s 6 reprints and 6 new stories that focus on obsession and body horror. The collection covers work from the last three years, each connected by the theme of human cruelty. I didn’t set out with this theme in mind; I realized later, as I was selecting stories, that almost all of my work deals with the terrors humans (and the not-quite-human) inflict on each other, intentionally or not.

Why horror? What in particular makes you love the genre? What are your hopes for the future of horror?

I’ve always loved horror and I can’t even pinpoint how that started. I was a voracious reader as a child and my parents didn’t limit my reading, so eventually I found my way to the darkness. Even when I was trying my hand at writing more traditional lit fic, dark speculative elements crept in. Maybe it’s a way to explore and understand why this world can be so awful. When I’m creating the horror, it’s the only way I have control.

I hope to see more women and BIPOC get recognition. We’re getting there, and I think our progress is best reflected in the indie horror scene.

What draws you to writing short fiction? Did you grow up reading short stories, or did you develop an appreciation for them as an adult? Also, what are a few of your favorite short stories?

Aside from fairytales, I grew up reading mostly long fiction. My first serious writing projects as a kid were novels. In fact, I struggled with short fiction as an adult. I’m long-winded, with a passion for elaborate descriptions. When I started writing again, I didn’t expect that I’d be able to write an effective short story. One day I got an idea I had to run with, not expecting it to be successful… but then it was. Before I knew it, short fiction was all I was writing. My critique partners have really helped me sharpen my prose so that I can not only stay within word count but also write with purpose.

One of my favorite short stories is Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”. It’s a masterclass in using pacing and small details to build tension.

Recent short stories that lit a fire and inspired me:

“A Heart Arrhythmia Creeping Into a Dark Room” by Michael Wehunt
“Resilience” by Christi Nogle
“The Smell of Night in the Basement” by Wendy N. Wagner
“Though Your Heart is Breaking” by Laurel Hightower
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a writer?

I have two: Aim High and This Is Not A Competition. When I first started writing short fiction, I didn’t do my research. I just wanted to see my work in print, even if no one else was likely to read it. Self-doubt told me I wasn’t good enough to get into any major publications, that my work wasn’t worth much money. While my early work was not there yet—I think most of us have to sharpen our skills and work our way up—I sold myself short in the beginning. There are so many indie publishers who are passionate, support their authors, and are doing amazing work on a shoestring budget. There is room for all of us.

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

Characters. I don’t outline and I usually don’t have more than a loose plan when I start a story, so I love developing my characters as I go and seeing where they take me. If I can develop interesting and strong enough characters, they will show me their story.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’ve got two novellas that are both two-thirds of the way finished. Both were shelved for the past seven months while I concentrated on my collection. Now that I’ve got time again, I’m eager to get back to them, particularly the one I’m currently calling “Merch Girl”, which is about a woman who sells merch for a nomadic band and her experiences on the road. She’s a monster, a mother, a caretaker resigned to her role, but then she comes to a crossroads when she finally meets someone like her, a woman who reminds her who she really is.

Where can we find you online?

I’m on Twitter and Instagram @JAWMcCarthy, and at I’m most active on Twitter, if anyone wants to say hi!

Big thanks to J.A.W. McCarthy for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

A Bloody Good Time: Part One of the Violent Vixens Roundtable

Welcome back! This week marks the official release of Dark Peninsula’s Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror. I’m super excited that my tale, “Sister Glitter Blood,” appears as part of the anthology. Told in the form of a board game instruction manual, the story follows two sisters who stumble upon an unusual game and find themselves drawn into its thrall. As a huge fan of board games–in particular during our quarantine times–this one was a lot of fun to write, and I’m so glad it found such an excellent home in Violent Vixens.

Recently, I talked with the other authors in the book about the inspiration behind their stories! So let’s have them take it away, shall we?

SARAH READ: When I was 16, I stayed in Tuam, Ireland for a week. I fell in love with the west coast of Ireland, so I keep up with it often. The recent news out of Tuam isn’t good. The local Catholic-run mother and children’s home, where unwed mothers were sent to have their babies, before being sent to workhouses or otherwise discarded by society, turns out to have been (shocker) not a nice place. Like so many Catholic institutions billed as harbors for marginalized children, the Bon Secours Mother and Children’s home has been revealed as the site of a mass grave of those same children. Their obsession with female purity birthed a legacy of illness and death, and this small, idyllic town guarded its secret for decades. I wanted to write a revenge story, and write a different ending for at least some of those mothers and children. And a different ending for the people responsible.

PAUL MAGNAN: “The Course of One’s Life On Fire”, to me, is a woman’s struggle with coping with a world that is indifferent at best and openly hostile at worst. Her anger and desperation, even at her own family, who, she feels, continually lets her down, soon pushes her psyche into sheets of angry, blinding red that reaches a critical mass. Once this happens, it is assured she is no longer taken for granted.

MARK WHEATON: KILLER OF HOGS is a bloody revenge story about a rural livestock veterinarian from Central Arkansas, Annie Saunders, who learns through a quirk of genetic testing that the killers of her mother and sister are likely members of an old, tight-knit, Brooklyn crime family. Journeying to New York to slaughter all of them to be certain she gets the culprits, Annie must employ all sorts of unorthodox culling methods common to her profession to get the job done against a veritable army of seasoned, gun-toting killers.

S.K. CAMPBELL: My story, “City Monitors,” takes place in a gritty, neon-striped city, where the streets molt in the heat and the biosynthetic residents slither around like reptiles with schemes. Denver, a jaded and handicapped mechanic, discovers her girlfriend, Minta, has gone missing. She suspects Minta got embroiled in something decidedly infernal. But her investigation may lead Denver to confront her malevolent foster mother, and face the dark truth behind her handicap.

When I saw the prompt for Violent Vixens, I got this image in my head from the movie Planet Terror of a bad-ass woman who had a gun for a leg. I thought it was a good opportunity to write a character with a disability, but have the disability be a component of the genre, as advantageous and gnarly as a gun-leg. It’s a twist on body horror that was entertaining to write, and I hope is entertaining to read.

NIK PATRICK: I wrote “Finger-Lickin’ Bad” under the premise, “what is the most absurd B movie monster concept I can get away with?” The answer of course was chickens. I am the owner of pet hens so you can say they were the inspiration. Especially the way they stand outside the backdoor waiting to be fed just…staring.

I owe the title to the way Bill Paxton delivered the line “finger-lickin’ good” in the vampire flick Near Dark.

ROB E. BOLEY: My story is called “What the Bone Says.” My wife and daughter and I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts. It’s disturbing how many of the cases start with someone finding a body tossed in a ditch, wrapped in plastic. In my tale, the discarded victim hasn’t perished. She finds a way not only to survive but to get her revenge on her attacker, though she perhaps loses her humanity in the process.

SOPHIE LEAH: Sure! “Collette” is a Natural Born Killers-inspired story about two girls (your estranged uncle would call them ‘roommates’) out on the lam – and I guess its underlying theme focuses on how much we will go along with when swept up in love. It’s probably not the most original thing I’ve ever written but it was great fun to write and hopefully it’ll be fun for others to read too.

I actually wrote it a long time ago in a much shorter, much messier, form – then saw Aric’s call for submissions and the whole ‘Violent Vixens‘ // homage to grindhouse thing was so relevant to my interests that I had to submit! My friend and editor (the wonderful Laura Major) helped me push it to a level that was more publishable before I showed it to Aric and it honestly means the world to have made it into the collection. It’s my first ‘proper’ published piece so I’m really nervous but excited about it all.

The real Collette in my life was a girl I knew from uni – an old friend who was a bit wild in her own way, though far less blood-thirsty and troubled than my protagonist. Haven’t spoken to her in some time, sadly, due to my own stuff but one day I’ll get back in touch like: “Hey, how have you been? By the way, I made you into a murderer. Hope that’s cool!”

SCOTTY MILDER: “The Whole Price of Blood” is an offshoot of an idea that I’ve had for about fifteen years. The concept initially came to me when a friend was volunteering in Albuquerque as a trauma crisis advocate. It was one of those ideas that just fell into my head almost fully formed. I tried to write it as a screenplay but—for whatever reason—it never quite gelled; in particular, I just couldn’t get Abigail to come alive (so to speak). I filed it in my mental “maybe later” file, and there it sat for well over a decade until early last year, when I decided to reapproach it as a novel. That did the trick. I’m currently about three-quarters of my way into the novel, for which “The Whole Price of Blood” serves as a prequel.

BUCK WEISS: “The Dressmaker” is about a down-trodden woman fighting back against the men who plan to harm her and her daughter. The type of men who have only ever seen her as an object that they can control. I looked at grindhouse films like Mrs. 45 and I Spit on Your Grave when I was writing it. It is a revenge story where the heroine reacts to take control and stop the violence before it can happen.

SHANNON BRADY: “The Saw House” is an action-horror piece set in post-apocalyptic Texas, where society has collapsed under a plague of demonically Possessed people, and uninfected humans must band together to survive. Daley O’Donovan is a former lone wolf who concedes that it’s time she found a group to belong to. In order to prove her worth to the Golden Eagles and their charismatic leader, she agrees to undergo a grueling initiation trial: just her and her trusty chainsaw versus a pack of Possessed.

Normally, I’m a very slow writer, and it takes me a long time to figure out how to fit everything together perfectly, sometimes well after a deadline for submissions has passed. This story, however, was a happy exception. On hearing the topic of the anthology, the image of a scrappy girl, covered in blood and dirt, wielding a chainsaw, and sprinting through a slaughterhouse came to me after only a moment of thought. (The image of Reina, beautiful and unruffled, watching from above came not long after.) Who these women were and what they were after clicked into place easily, and it all came pouring out in less than a month. It was incredibly fun to write, and I’d be happy to return to their world in future stories.

MATT NEIL HILL: “The Parts that Hurt Me the Most” started off as a very different (and quickly abandoned) straightforward crime tale about someone on the run from the other members of a heist team, although the opening image in the bus station was much the same. I think it was one of those situations where the circumstances of rewriting it changed everything about the story. It took an intense two days to complete from the opening sentence to final revisions, way quicker than anything I’ve written of that length before. The split time frames were a pacing necessity, not just narratively but so that I could take a breather every time things got worse. Because I needed hurt and rage to drive the story, I listened to nothing but Black Dresses’ albums for the memories, with Radiohead’s Videotape on a loop for the road trip sections when the brutality and betrayal had bled out into quiet acceptance. Soundtracking in that obsessive way is its own kind of altered state and I turned off my inner censor and let May do what she needed to do, figuring I could tone it down later if things got out of hand… they did, but I didn’t. After all she’d been through, she’d earned the absence of further cuts.

I think “The Parts that Hurt Me the Most” is my favourite thing I’ve written to date. It doesn’t make any excuses for what it is. From the second I finished it I had no idea if anyone would ever want it, and although that realisation wasn’t great there wasn’t a single thing I wanted to change about May’s journey. I couldn’t be happier with where the story’s ended up and I hope people like it, because I think I need to write this way again…

And that’s all for Part One! Head on back next week for Part Two of our Violent Vixens roundtable!

Happy reading!

Terror and Tidepools: Interview with Nicole Willson

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature Nicole Willson. Nicole is the author of the forthcoming debut novel, Tidepool.

Recently, Nicole and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as why she loves the horror genre.

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

I truly cannot remember a time when I wasn’t writing. If it wasn’t a comic strip about cave girls and dinosaurs for my grade school magazine, it was Star Wars fanfic, which I didn’t even know was called fanfic back then. I decided to start pursuing publication in high school, when I typed up some of my best stories and sent them off to places like Twilight Zone Magazine. (They didn’t get accepted.) Although I gave up on that dream for a while in my 20s when the rejections got to be too much for me to handle, I never completely lost the drive.

My favorite authors include but are by no means limited to Cherie M. Priest, Erin Morgenstern, Adam Nevill, Neil Gaiman, Alma Katsu, and Gwendolyn Kiste.

Congratulations on your new book, Tidepool! What can you share with us about the inspiration behind the book?

Thank you! I like to say the book is Lovecraftian cosmic horror with a heavy dollop of American Horror Story in the mix. Someone who read it said it reminded them of Hammer horror films, which made me happy all day.

I started thinking about the story while I was walking along the beach in 2015. What if the ocean was full of terrifying creatures and one woman was the only thing standing between these beings and the town they were threatening? Who was she? Why was she the only one who could protect everyone? What if she commanded an extremely high price for her services and the townspeople were getting tired of paying it—what then? That central image evolved quite a bit as my initial idea became Tidepool.

What attracts you to writing dark fantasy and horror? Do you remember the first horror movie you saw or horror story you read?

I’m a fairly anxious person, and writing horror feels like I’m forcing my various demons into a form that I can control and (sometimes) conquer. Given that life feels more and more unpredictable by the day, turning the things that are bothering me into actual monsters is great therapy when I’m feeling especially helpless. Win or lose, at least I’m completely in charge of the outcome.

The first horror movie I have a clear memory of is the 1932 version of The Mummy from Universal Pictures; a local TV station showed weekend creature features, and I think The Mummy might have been the first one I was allowed to watch. Even though I could have outrun that creature easily, it still scared me.

The first horror story I remember reading was “The Cask of Amontillado.” It was so unlike all the other dry, deadly dull stories in my school reader, and the characterization, the growing sense of dread, and the story’s stunning ending made me aware for the first time of the true power of the horror genre.

You’ve also written a number of short stories. Do you find your approach to fiction varies depending on the length of the project, or do you have an established pattern for writing regardless of length?

My processes for both are similar in that I generally start with an idea and then imagine the characters who might be in this particular situation. However, I tend to be a lot more freewheeling when I’m writing short fiction. I might start with the ending and work my way backwards, something I don’t think I’d ever be able to pull off with a novel. Or I might write different fragments of the short story and link them together, whereas I try to work straight through from beginning to end with a novel draft—I’ve found that if I write fragments of the novel, I may or may not do the work involved in connecting them and filling out the entire story.

Do you have any particular writing routines (e.g. writing at a certain time each day, playing music, etc.)?

I tend to keep vampire hours when I’m writing; for whatever reason, I prefer working at night. I don’t generally play music unless I’m feeling particularly inspired by a certain song or if I’m looking for the music to set a certain mood in the story, but I’ll light some candles and incense before I start.

If forced to choose, what’s your favorite part of the writing process: drafting dialogue, creating characters, or establishing setting?

For me, a novel will stand or fall based on how strongly I feel about its characters. Give me good, memorable, vivid, complicated protagonists and antagonists and I’ll follow them just about anywhere. I love developing worksheets and backstories for all my main characters, even if most of what I come up with for them never makes it into the books.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working through a round of edits for a YA horror novel that I consider a modern-day cross between The Haunting of Hill House and the Bluebeard tale. I also have an adult horror novel about a survival challenge and a vampire soap opera in the works.

Where can we find you online?

My website is and you can also find me on Twitter as @insomnicole and nicolewreads on Instagram.

Huge thanks to Nicole Willson for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

For the Love of Horror: Interview with Amanda Desiree

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Amanda Desiree. Her debut novel, Smithy, is earning rave reviews and rightfully so. I was fortunate enough to meet Amanda at StokerCon in 2018 when we were on a classic horror panel together. It was such a joy to hear her unique insight into the genre then, and so I figured it was long past time to feature her here on my blog.

Recently, she and I discussed the inspiration for her new novel as well as why she loves the horror genre.

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

From a young age, I enjoyed telling stories. In elementary school, I would make up stories and pretend that I was reading them aloud to a classroom of students the way our teachers read to us from picture books. By the time I was in middle school, I was motivated to actually write my own book instead of imagining that I had written a book. I read a number of young adult and middle grade horror series like R.L. Stine’s “Fear Street” and Engle and Barnes’ “Strange Matter,” and I had ideas about how those books could be improved. I started outlining my own horror series for young readers when I was in the sixth grade, but I didn’t work up the nerve to actually try writing a book until I was in the eighth grade. My first attempt was handwritten in a spiral bound notebook, but my hand cramped too much so I switched to dictating my books on tape instead. Even then, my real ambition was to become a parapsychologist. Writing was going to be a side gig, a secret life. I planned to release my books under a pseudonym. Eventually I had to compromise some of my dreams. I never did become a parapsychologist, although I did major in psychology in college. The dream of writing never faded though. Over time, I became more focused on bringing a book into the world. I’m so glad to finally have achieved that goal.

R.L. Stine remains a sentimental favorite. He definitely had a formative influence on my early writing. Richard Matheson was a magnificent and versatile writer in different genres and different formats. I love his formula of taking a realistic situation and inserting a drop of the mysterious. Books like “Stir of Echoes” and “I am Legend” feel psychologically real, no matter how fantastic the situation becomes. I adore Robert McCammon’s works. Most of my favorite writers have written at least one stinker, but nothing I’ve read from him yet has disappointed me. McCammon’s prose is gorgeous, his characters are well-rounded and sympathetic, and his stories are compelling no matter what the genre. Josephine Tey is another author who straddles different genres. Although she’s primarily known as a mystery writer, her books aren’t standard whodunits. They’re character studies wrapped in a problem to be solved. She only wrote eight books In her lifetime; but most of them are amazing. Though I’m not keen on short stories, I read a collection by E. Nesbit some years ago and fell in love with it. She has a gift for succinct descriptions that capture the essence of a character or scenario.

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Smithy! What can you share about the inspiration behind the book?

“Smithy” developed through a lucky coincidence. I’ve always been interested in real ghost stories. About six years ago I was reading a book by Roger Clarke called “A Natural History of Ghosts” that retold a number of the stories I had read about as a child but with more detail. For instance, I learned that when ghost hunter Harry Price decided to investigate reputedly haunted Borley Rectory, he recruited assistants who were independently wealthy because he expected them to pay their own room and board at the house. At the same time I was reading Clarke’s book, I happened to watch “Project Nim,” a documentary about a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky. Nim was the subject of a Columbia University primate language study that partially took place in a mansion off-campus. The research assistants lived in the house with Nim, taught him sign language, and raised him as if he were a human child. Unlike Price’s assistants, these researchers had access to the Delafield house courtesy of the university. In comparing these two studies, I started to consider what might have happened if Project Nim had taken place in a house like Borley Rectory with a reputation for being haunted. Animals are supposed to be able to see ghosts. What if an animal could also communicate with the ghost or communicate to other people about the ghost?  The more I played out that imaginary scenario, the more motivated I became to write the story that eventually became “Smithy.”

In addition to your fiction, you also write a lot of nonfiction work on horror films. What draws you to nonfiction writing and reviewing? How is your approach to writing nonfiction different from (or similar to) writing fiction?

I’m an opinionated person and I also like to share what I know; writing reviews or informational pieces gives me the chance to do that. The biggest difference between writing non-fiction and fiction pieces is that I know off the bat how the non-fiction pieces are going to end. I’m a planner, so I use outlines both in my fiction and non-fiction writing. I won’t necessarily scribble out notes for a movie or book review, but I’ll generally follow a structure: start with a plot description, discuss my likes and dislikes, and introduce related information of interest. For instance, I might compare a remake of a film to the original, or discuss how an author’s personal life influenced their writing. When reporting about an event, I’ll write in chronological order. However, when writing fiction, I’ll often write scenes out of order, starting with what inspires most or what feels least intimidating. To the extent my fiction writing is based in reality, I’ll try my best to check my facts, and I’ll frequently double-check dates or other details for my reviews and articles.

What is it that draws you to horror? Do you remember the first horror film you saw or horror book you read?

My first “horror” movie had to be either “Mr. Boogedy” or its sequel, “The Bride of Boogedy,” Disney television films about a zany family of practical jokers who move to a weird New England town and into the local haunted house, which once belonged to a pilgrim sorcerer nicknamed Mr. Boogedy. It’s mild to look at now, though the Boogedy make-up in the original film is rather intense for a child, almost like Freddy Krueger’s. I may have peeked through my fingers during the close-up of “Mr. Hamburgerface” or when his shadow suddenly rose up to menace the kids, but I watched those movies over and over when I was four and five. I’m not sure what about them attracted me. Maybe on some level it was fun to be scared. I read my first “horror” book at a young age, too. It was “Bumps in the Night” by Harry Allard, an illustrated chapter book about anthropomorphic animals holding a séance. My mother got it for me through my school’s monthly book order catalog; I hadn’t even noticed it when I was reviewing the catalog, but she must have had some reason for thinking her first grader would enjoy a ghost story.

I actually find horror to be more alluring than scary. Supernatural elements introduce the possibility of grander and more mysterious things than we typically encounter in the real world. Horror stories that unfold in realistic modern settings especially appeal to me because they feel as if they could happen. And if they happen to normal, everyday people, maybe they could happen to me. More than any other effect it has, horror stimulates my imagination.

What’s your hope for the future of horror?

I hope to see the horror genre become more mainstream and respected. I see more bookstores featuring a separate horror section these days, and that’s a step in the right direction. However, these sections usually devote most of their space to the works of two or three high-profile authors. Imagine going to Barnes and Noble’s Mystery section and finding it consisted solely of Agatha Christie, Michael Connelly, and a handful of anthologies. Horror is just as diverse with just as many subgenres as mystery, fantasy, romance, or science fiction. I’d like for the general public to recognize that and also recognize that many different people write horror. Perhaps in the not too distant future, horror sections won’t consist of two shelves of books by authors from Maine but will reflect the full range of the genre.

If forced to choose, what’s your favorite part of the writing process: planning/researching a project, writing a first draft, or polishing an almost finished piece?

Writing a fresh story is definitely my favorite part of the writing process. When I’m able to translate my thoughts onto the page and actualize them into a scene, when I see the pieces come together in a complete story, it’s exhilarating. Being able to create something is the most energizing feeling in the world–when the writing is going well and the words are flowing smoothly. I’ve learned, through revising “Smithy” especially, how grueling and pitiless the editing process can be. That’s a skill I’m still working to develop. Research can sometimes be grueling too, even when the subject is engaging. I think primate language is interesting, but there came a point when I did want to read about something else. The research process also makes me anxious. I know there’s no way I can become an expert on a subject and I worry that I’ll miss something important and a reader will come to me one day and say, “You got this part wrong.” As a reader, I feel irritated when I come across incorrect information or find that an author has overlooked something. It breaks my suspension of disbelief. I hope that my work carries a satisfying balance of realism and speculation.

What projects are you currently working on?

Both of my current projects have been inspired by classic horror works. I’m polishing up an old manuscript that’s a prequel/retelling of “King Kong” from the point of view of the native islanders. I’m also finishing up the first draft of a sequel to “The Turn of the Screw” in which Flora, now a troubled adult, seeks the truth behind her brother’s death.

Where can we find you online?

My website is where you can read more about the books I write and topics of interest related to my writing. I also contribute reviews to the Facebook groups “Sci-Fi and Horror Movie Playground,” “Sci-Fi and Horror Book Playground,” and “Sci-Fi/Horror TV Show and Old-Time Radio Playground.”

Big thanks to Amanda Desiree for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Lessons and Future Plans: Part 4 of Our June 2021 Author Roundtable

Welcome back for the final part of our June roundtable! Today, I talk with these nine featured authors about the lessons they’ve learned over the years as well as what they’ve got planned next!

So without further adieu, let’s get started, shall we?

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a writer?

GABY TRIANA: Write for yourself. If you set out with a person in mind you want to impress, be that an editor or a family member or that girl who made fun of you in 11th grade, you won’t get satisfaction. Write the story that you want to read, and others will join you on your journey.

ZIN E. ROCKLYN: The first draft always sucks.

EV KNIGHT: Just keep going. Keep writing even when the rejections come, because they will and they do, you have to believe in yourself and keep going.

REGINA GARZA MITCHELL: Never give up. Most people are not going to be successful right away. A lot of rejection is involved, and you have to take the valuable lessons from that and ignore what doesn’t fit. Not everyone is going to like your work, and your job is to do the best you can with it until you find the right fit. It might look different than you expect, but that can be a beautiful thing. Along with that lesson is another one: define your own success. It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and feeling “lesser” because of it. The only goals you need to worry about are your own.

STEVE TOASE: Be inspired outside writing. It’s very easy to get focused on reading books in your genre, which of course is important but the fresh ideas to make your work distinctive come from other places such as art, place-names or even old postcards.

It might just be a fragment of a sculpture or a song that sums up a particular mood, but these other influences make ideas sing.

One of the stories in To Drown in Dark Water was inspired by part of a painting, and another by a post from Messy Nessy Chic collecting together photos of abandoned greenhouses. At university I studied archaeology and we covered dendrochronology. That information about the fluctuations in tree rings due to growing seasons was the inspiration for DENDROCHROMATIC DATA RECOVERY REPORT 45-274, my story in Analog about trees used as computer servers where the growth rings are data sectors.

EDEN ROYCE: Be patient. That has never really been my strong suit, but I’m realizing more and more that having patience in this industry is crucial and it rarely goes amiss.

V. CASTRO: To be yourself and don’t compare your journey to anyone else. Social media can make this difficult because there are always announcements coming through the feed. Don’t be discouraged because you never know their journey or what they have gone through to get there.

As a woman this can be especially frustrating, but I think publishers are becoming more inclusive.

MARIA HASKINS: That writing for me is a bit like when a cartoon character runs off a cliff and is still able to stay in the air as long as they believe they’re on solid ground. When doubt, and self-doubt crawls in, it’s easy to feel like you’ll plummet into the abyss. I have to just sort of ignore it when it gets bad and that’s not always easy. I think for me, the lesson I’ve learned is if I keep doing the work, writing the words, thinking about the words, even when it’s hard to find the time for it, even if I take only small steps forward, I can still get somewhere. Doubt is part of the process, and I just have to work through it.

S.L. EDWARDS: Don’t be hard on yourself. It is very, very easy to do so. I sold no new stories in 2020. And it just…really cut into my ego to the point that I very publicly flirted with just giving up. Better writers than me have quit, after all.

But maybe tell yourself that the voices in your head may just be damn liars.

So what’s next for you?

GABY TRIANA: I’m working on a weird occult detective horror series featuring an older woman protagonist, and I have a short story coming out in Weird Tales #365. Life is good!

ZIN E. ROCKLYN: More writing! I hope to have my next novella (a weird western) done soon!

STEVE TOASE: I’m currently preparing for a commission with Les Ensembles 2.2 for Esch2022 European Capital of Culture in Luxembourg. For that project I’m paired with a composer and we’ll be collaborating to produce some site specific work.

I have a couple of novels and a novella I’m currently trying to find homes for.

I have a new novel in the planning stages set in the same world as my short story Flick of the Wyvern’s Tale. I’m also still regularly writing short stories with work coming out in Nightmare and Nightscript in the near future. As long as I’m busy, I’m happy!

REGINA GARZA MITCHELL: I am shopping around a nonfiction book about the author Ruby Jean Jensen. I’m finishing up a story for an anthology that is due in July, and I have a story appearing in Nightscript 7 this fall.

EDEN ROYCE: I’ve already turned in my second middle-grade book and am waiting for edits. I have a fun horror project upcoming that I’m super excited about and I’m currently writing a YA Southern Gothic horror novel.

V. CASTRO: I have an agent now so I will be shopping around another novel. The rest is up to the universe.

EV KNIGHT: I’m quite excited about my next two novels. The first of the two is about halfway completed and is a twist/retelling of Dracula with a focus on the female heroes by way of “newly discovered journals and letters”.

The second is a fictionalized take on a true story from my hometown that occurred when I was seventeen. I was inspired by Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door mixed with a little of King’s Gerald’s Game and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. This one is in the research/outlining stages but it is starting to look like a terrifying “this could actually happen to someone” story.

MARIA HASKINS: More writing! I’m working on a novella, and I might have a collection of flash fiction in the works as well. I also have a story in an anthology coming from Laksa Media this year. The story is called “When Resin Burns to Tar” and it’s in the anthology Seasons Between Us.

S.L. EDWARDS: Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts 2.0! Scarlett, Yves and I are working again on a rerelease of the book for 2022. All of Yves’ original art will be included, and I’ll be writing some new stories to make it worth the time of collectors. But if you collect my stories…please don’t ever tell me that. You’ll make me blush.

Beyond that, there is another project due for a tentative 2022 release. At the time of writing, I can’t talk about it, but it is a dream and I am working with a dream publisher on it.

After that? Who knows? I’m in no rush and I’m not going anywhere either.

Huge thanks to these fabulous featured authors! Be sure to check out their new books, and keep your eye out for what they’ll be releasing in the future!

Happy reading!