WIHM: Interview with Stephanie Evelyn
By Sonora Taylor
Our WIHM interview series concludes with Stephanie Evelyn, author of
"The Cult Called Freedom House."
Sonora: How long have you been writing?
Stephanie: Writing horror fiction was a late and recent endeavor but other forms of writing have been in my past. I wrote and released my first novel The Cult Called Freedom House at the end of 2019.
For many years I have been writing poetry, blogs on the craft of reading and writing, and I write during my day job as a marketing manager.
Sonora: You made a splash in 2020 with your debut, “The Cult Called Freedom House.” What was your experience like writing it? Releasing it?
Stephanie: I often work well when darkness looms over me. I notice when times are rough in my life, I go into a slight mania with my art. It’s not always like this. There are plenty of times when I create under a state of happiness but it’s also true to say that when things shake my world, I shake it back.
I just felt like writing a horror novel one day. So I started. There were some stressors in my life when I wrote The Cult Called Freedom House. I wrote and released every chapter as a blog post. About five friends, some were acquaintances, read each chapter immediately after I would post them. Those five continued to message me about my story. They wanted more and needed to know what happened next. The test of throwing it into the universe responded back. This is how I wrote The Cult Called Freedom House. It was a horrible first draft published as chapters to my blog. Once done, I took it down from my blog, edited and revised it. Then, lots of time and effort consumed me.
The experience of it all is grounded by one thing: readers, a community of readers. The online horror community has made writing less of a lonely place. It’s still a lonely art, but it only takes one reader to love your work and the writing has fulfilled a purpose that moves beyond the writer.
Sonora: Cult horror is a popular subgenre. What inspired you to explore cults in your work?
Stephanie: I have an obsessive personality in such a way that when I am passionate about learning a subject matter, I will immerse myself fully until satisfaction has been exhausted. Take this and a fascination with the macabre and I’m made of nightmares every time I fall asleep. I have nightmares at least four times a week (not enough to put my obsession to rest.)
The Manson Family and Jonestown are what started my fascination with cults. Many books and documentaries later, and still it never stops shocking me. It’s probably because out of all the horrors that could be imagined, human beings are the ultimate worse.
Sonora: You’re also hard at work on the sequel, “The Coven of Retribution.” Is there anything you’d like to share with us about the follow-up?
Stephanie: Writing the second book has been harder than writing the first.
The Sophia Rey series is made up of the following books:
Book 1: The Cult Called Freedom House, published 2019
Book 2: The Coven of Retribution, to be published April 2021
Book 3: Title to be released at a later date
Sonora: What have been your experiences as a Latina writing and publishing horror?
Stephanie: I have experienced nothing but support and love from the online horror community. I can’t say that about all communities I have tried to be part of, whether artist or professional.
It’s never easy for women of color and it’s cliche to say that but it runs in our blood. It’s how all women were made, to endure life at a different weight and speed.
It’s in the actions of women that show we are forces to be reckoned with. We can say it until we’re blue in the face but we’d rather show the world what we got by creating art that shouts from the rooftops.
Sonora: How can the horror community be better with its treatment of Latinx people? With its treatment of women?
Stephanie: Give us a chance. If you like it, tell the world. If you have a blog, write about it. If you have a podcast, talk about it.
The only ask though, is to give it a chance.
Sonora: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books?
Stephanie: I love reading. It’s one of the simplest forms of luxury. Easy access into someone’s mind, easy access to their experiences. I learn from all genres and by reading diverse writers.
The Classic Authors:
William S. Burroughs
Hunter S. Thompson
My favorite books of all time are Junky, The Bell Jar, Hell House, Great Expectations, They Have Always Lived in the Castle, and At the Mountains of Madness.
Sonora: What are you working on right now?
Stephanie: Self edits on the second book in the Sophia Rey series, The Coven of Retribution.
If I’m not careful, I procrastinate by moving on to other artforms. I think I will paint a portrait of Van Gogh.
Stephanie Evelyn is the author of The Cult Called Freedom House: Sophia Rey Book 1. Her short story The Lost Tea Cup is in Issue 26 of The Literary Hatchet. She is also a fine artist with expertise in acrylic, watercolor, and pastel. She graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in Film and Digital Media.