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!