Graveyard Smash: Round Table

 

 

V. Castro and I were super excited to both have stories in Kandisha Press's upcoming anthology, Women of Horror Vol. 2: Graveyard Smash! Check out our round table below with all of the other authors included in the anthology, and be sure to pick up a copy when it's released July 20.

 

Christy Aldridge – Don’t Scream (You’ll Wake The Dead)
Twitter: ChristyA_Horror

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

At the beginning of the year, I started a personal writing challenge that I’ve called #52in52. It’s based on the old Bradbury quote that you can’t possibly write 52 bad short stories in a row. 'Don't Scream (You’ll Wake the Dead) was the second story I wrote for this challenge, and was inspired by the idea of creating my own spin on the zombie trope. Zombies, like vampires and other creatures, have been used in so many different ways that they can sometimes come across as silly. I love combining silly and scary, so this story was definitely inspired for my love for that, as well as to give a nod to Bradbury himself.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

Not writing us off, for one. I think the industry could do better about intentionally being more inclusive, but I still think any creative outlet should be judged by the art itself. So not writing off every woman writer as being less scary is a major part that could be changed in general. All too often I see people assuming that because a woman wrote it, it’ll be more chill and laid-back in its style, or less scary and bloody. The amount of comments I’ve gotten after someone read a story of mine that went along the lines of, “I didn’t expect it to be as brutal,” is crazy. So, I honestly think not judging an author by their gender (or by any other factor) should be crucial.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

Inclusion. Period. I want more voices. Different races, different genders, different sexualities. No matter what you are, we all have our own voice. We all have our own experiences. I want them all. I don’t want to see people who say they’re afraid to publish a book because they don’t think anyone wants to hear what they have to say. Say it!

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

Donald Trump’s Twitter account.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

Besides my short stories, I’m currently working on a vampire novel with a twist. It’s a book I never would have assumed I’d write, but Twitter made me do it. Basically, if you live in the south, you know what the true southern vampire is. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Carmen Baca – The Child
Twitter: @carmen_author

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

“The Child” is a back story, like “The Aztec” from (Vol. One of the Kandisha Press Women of Horror Series) They were inspired by a character I featured in my fifth book. La Azteca, Atlacamani Ahuatzi, is a formidable, wealthy woman who is the unseen antagonist of that book. Her backstories came to me after I wrote her into the book.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

I’m a fairly new author of horror, so I honestly don’t know much about the industry’s treatment of women horror authors. I have a feeling that the treatment stems from the ridiculous idea that we are meant to be romance writers rather than authors of the macabre. Like any other industry, we are breaking into what was once male-dominated and making our mark as having the skills to write horror as well or better than men. The power to change stereotypes lies in our hands; we will succeed.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

Of course, I want to see women authors represented equally in the horror genre. But I also want the talents of the Hispanic community acknowledged for our contribution to literature. I’m doing my best to make my brown voice heard in the publishing industry. We are a unique culture, with deep, old roots in the southwest, specifically northern New Mexico; and we are underrepresented in literature, or we are categorized with Latino or LatinX writers. We are a distinct people who have little in common with the Latin community; I want our Hispanic voices to be recognized as distinct.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

“Somewhere To Belong” by Yolanda Sfetsos which is featured in has stayed with me like the strange aftertaste of a dish never tried before. The haunting acceptance by the antagonists of the protagonist takes my mind back to the dark place to which they retreated. The entire scene and the eerie atmosphere comes back into my mind. It’s hard to stop thinking about it; that’s the mark of a true horror story, in my view.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I’m working on my first YA, a kind of Alice in Wonderland meets Tales from the Crypt type of dark fairytale. Bella Tellez, age 11, finds herself in another world, filled with her own ancestors, paranormal characters from my culture’s folktales, and supernatural creatures from our legends. They want something from her...

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Demi-Louise Blackburn

Smash and Grab
Twitter: @demiLwrites

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

Is it embarrassing that I need to give my Dad some credit for my story?

 

We were driving back from visiting family and I was rattling on and on about desperately wanting to take a chance and submit something for the open call for volume two. My original idea, Church Grim, wasn’t agreeing with me, and I’d decided to stick it away in a folder and forget about it for a while. At that point I was genuinely considering forgetting all about submitting anything – nothing felt right.

 

Fortunately for me, my Dad has this great habit of firing off ridiculous story ideas at me to try and cheer me up. I was explaining the theme and he started mumbling away, trying to make dumb rhymes out of Graveyard Smash and not doing a great job with it. Then he just kind of laughed to himself and said: “Hey, so, what about a smash and grab, like someone ram-raids a cemetery?” I laughed it off and told him I’d think about it.

 

Low and behold, I end up sitting down with him a few days later and sheepishly admitting it had sparked a story. Not exactly what we’d discussed, but just the phrase ‘smash and grab’ set me off on this somber and bizarre journey. I didn’t think a joke would become a story about two blokes stumbling down a rabbit hole, all because of their desperation and disillusion with daily life.

 

I wish I could say I was motivated by something exciting or dramatic, or some interesting lore just sucked me in and demanded I write about it – but I can’t.

 

I was basically inspired by a Dad joke.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

Listen to women in the community and be consistent with your support.

 

It’s very easy to witness and acknowledge treatment that is below par within a community, but real change will never come around unless everyone in that community strives to keep an open ear, an open mind, and continually challenge practices that otherwise lead to women being disadvantaged, or even come to harm in our sphere.

 

I’ve been lucky to have spent this year or two getting to know the horror community, and to not find myself part of any truly negative experiences so far, but I know that isn’t the case for everyone. Engage with women in our community, buy their work, support them, make them visible – and be consistent with it.

 

I’m a woman who writes horror who, up until these past two years, has had very few authors to look up to who were also women. Often I feel guilty because I don’t have a reading list behind me that includes people who share experiences close to my own. I’m trying to break into a genre where I still don’t see myself represented as much as others, and that opens a whole different can of worms when it comes to others looking for representation and success in a genre they love. It speaks volumes.

 

Don’t forget about us when we’re not being highlighted out of necessity.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

In the grand scheme of things, I’m decidedly fresh-faced regarding the horror community, and most definitely regarding publishing. I’ve been writing for years but I’ve only come out of the woodwork in the past two, so I feel like my views on this are going to be painfully simple. As I’ve mentioned before, and still vaguely on the spectrum of inclusion, try not to forget certain groups within the genre when the spotlight is taken off them for the month.

 

Put pressure on publishers to not only be inclusive, but to be fair with the people they choose to publish. I’ve seen way too many horror stories (pun not intended but you can have it for free) about people fighting tooth and nail to get paid altogether, never mind be paid fairly for the work they’ve produced. As someone inexperienced to putting my work out there, seeing that plastered over my social media accounts was a massive concern.

 

Having a love for writing and a love for horror can be thankless sometimes. It’s difficult, it’s underpaid, it can feel as though it’s undervalued compared to other genres  – but it’s irritatingly addictive, too. I’d hate to think that others breaking into horror, or trying to get a foothold in regards to work being published, become disheartened through experiences like that.

 

I would love to see more talk, clarity and transparency about the ins and outs of publishing within the horror genre, not just when something goes wrong.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

Probably everyone who writes horror says this and I’m sorry to be a boring old cliché – but I’m exceptionally hard to scare these days, unfortunately. Not that it’s taken anything away from the genre for me, though. The most I get is insanely grossed out from something body horror related, or something that haunts me because of the emotional undertones running through the story.

 

On that note, I’d like to give a little shout-out to Catherine McCarthy who I’ll have the pleasure of sharing space with in this coming anthology.

 

She has an excellent short story collection called Door and other twisted tales. There’s a good couple of pieces in there that freak me out, there’s an unnerving quality to her work that’s subtle but beautifully done. The first addition to the collection, Door, has such an unusual and frantic tone to the way language is used. It sets the entire book off to such a nervous start that it genuinely made me worried for what was coming. You feel, so acutely, the character’s struggle and spiral in a small amount of space.

 

It was horrible and wonderful to experience in both measures.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I’m currently really trying to pin my focus on a novella called Winner, Winner that I started ages back but never managed to finish up. I’ve been kicking myself for forgetting about it because now I’m working on it again, I can’t understand why I let it sit for so long.

 

The story is centered on a simple young man called Jack, living in a hectic council estate in the north of England, but unlike most of his peers he’s actually quite fond of his life. He’s got this fantastic obsession with game shows, and is more than happy to lose himself in that electronic world for the remainder of his days. Unfortunately for him, I’m not very nice, and he comes across a new show that doesn’t just unnerve him - but causes ripples in the reality of his life on the estate. There’s far more to win, and far more to lose, than Jack could ever know.

 

Admittedly, I always tend to bite off more than I can chew, even when I know I don’t get much free time, so I’ve got what feels like a thousand short stories I’m dipping in and out of, and I seem to always be digging up pieces of flash fiction on my breaks at work.

 

Then there’s my novel that I’ve tentatively titled The Hearse. It’s proving to be both a thorn in my side and a wonderful thing to work on. I’ve been battling for months to tone down the personal nature of it, while in the next breath wanting to imbue it with a lot of experiences from my late teens. I’ll probably have a melt down when it’s fully drafted.

 

I genuinely just need more hours in the day because the short answer is – I’m working on too much right now.

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R.A. Busby – Holes
Twitter: @RABusby1

 

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

Well, “Holes” started out as a story about, well, holes. Remember those horrible Photoshopped images that cropped up all over the Internet of a lotus pod superimposed on someone’s skin?  It was around then I found that yeah, I had some degree of tryptophobia (the morbid fear of holes), though not to the extent experienced by my main character.

 

The story languished for a little bit through January and February.  Then the plague happened.  All of a sudden, it was very easy to see what would happen to her and how she would react to the threat of the virus.  Several of those scenes, especially the one in the supermarket, happened almost exactly as described.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

Horror has been a genre notably dominated by women from its inception:  Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, the Brontes, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and so many more.  For many women--and I am certainly one--the tropes of horror allow us, in the words of Emily Dickinson, to “tell all the Truth, but tell it slant,” that is, indirectly and symbolically.   The tropes of horror often allow writers to tell a truer truth...and one that others will often be more apt to listen to.

 

With that in mind, the horror community can certainly continue to actively seek out women or women-identified folks as writers, directors, producers, agents, publishers, readers, cover art designers, editors, podcasters, and so on, and promoting them not just as a niche market, but just as talented individuals who have not just earned a place at the table but helped build the damn thing.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

I think the best voices to answer that are not mine, but let me point towards some which are. Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, author of the upcoming Mexican Gothic, has initiated a vigorous discussion on Twitter with regard to publishing advances and treatment of authors of color in the industry, as has David Bowles.  Courtney Milan has spoken out at length about the problematic issue of Asian representation in romance, one of publishing’s most lucrative markets. 

 

More urgently than anything else, we need to listen to voices from black and indigenous people of color, and that starts by representing them, publishing them, promoting them, and paying them--and not as a niche market. Need a place to start?  If you’re looking for films, Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us just rewrote the horror movie. In literature, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is the greatest ghost story ever written, and in my opinion, the greatest American novel, period.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

The news.

 

What are you working on right now?

I’m still tossing ideas around!  I’ll say one word: Babies.  Babies are scary as hell.

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Dawn DeBraal – Thirty Questions
Twitter: @dawndebraal

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

 The name Graveyard Smash, lent itself to the story. I wanted it be a story about a graveyard, and I wanted it to be about a ghost that comes back on the anniversary of her death to let her cousin ask Thirty Questions about her demise. Originally it was Fifty Questions, but that got too convoluted!

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

When Jill approached me about writing the original Women in Horror, I was flattered. There are just as many good stories out there written by women. I think recognizing this, talking about it and buying their books will go a long way to leveling the field!

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing? 

 

Yes, whether something is written by either gender is not of consequence, but how much the story is enjoyed by the reader. I was grateful that half the competition was eliminated by making this book a Women in Horror anthology. Thank you, Jill!

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 I love psychological horror as opposed to blood and guts. It’s all about the story. I think the scariest I’ve read is the Lincoln Tunnel scene from The Stand, by Stephen King. If the phone would have rung while reading it, I would have had a heart attack. Especially now it’s hitting so close to home. I’d like to read it again, but I think it might be too close to home.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

 I am working on a series I call the Lord’s Prayer Series. Short horror stories written to each line of the Lord’s Prayer. Two of them have been published, keeping my fingers crossed the third one will be accepted. I have just finished co-writing with Julie Eger/Copper Rose a short novelette, “What the Hell Happened to Joan?” I am excited to see where this story goes.

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Ellie Douglas – Rewake
Twitter: @AuthorEllie

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

The theme, Graveyard, was my inspiration :)

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

More acknowledgment would be great. Us women tend to get a gloss over, where as I’ve noticed that the men horror writers tend to get a much larger scale of acknowledgment for their work.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

I can’t think of any at the moment. Knowing my luck I will later when this is already gone to post lol

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

James Herbert’s book The Fog (it was a few years back, but it stuck with me)

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I’ve been working on a novel for a little while now, an apocalyptic-then post apocalyptic one, but I have so many ideas for new stories that, that one, keeps being put on the backburner.

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Tracy Fahey – Graveyard of the Lost
Twitter: @tracyfahey

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

My story, ‘Graveyard of the Lost,’ was inspired by a photography project that began in 2015, when I set myself the task of photographing sites in the south-west of Ireland with a strange or spectral history. One of these was Ballyheigue Castle in County Kerry, a wonderful edifice facing out to sea. According to local lore, the Cantillion family who owned the castle fell in love with the mermaid Durfulla, daughter of the sea king. He married her and they had children. When she died she was buried in the family graveyard on the strand below the castle. Enraged, her father rose from the depths of the sea and dragged the graveyard down with him.  This idea of the submerged graveyard played on my mind, and in this story it re-emerged on a grand, Lovecraftian scale…

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

It’s important for the horror community that in the depiction of women, the response to female writers, and the publishing industry we are aware, respectful, thoughtful and inclusive in our actions. It’s important to achieve parity in terms of representation. And it’s also a peak time for female horror—writers like Nadia Bulkin, Priya Sharma, Carmen Maria Muchado, Georgina Bruce, Marina Enriquez, Eden Royce are opening up the genre with their vivid and evocative take on horror, blending it with magical realism, near-future science fiction and a variety of cultural and folk contexts.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

It’s vitally important for the growth of the vibrant horror community, that we encourage and amplify representation of diverse voices and experiences in our genre. As a child growing up in rural Ireland, there was a dearth of writing I could identify with as most children’s books I could access were English or American, which led to a feeling of being somehow, indefinably ‘wrong.’ This is an exacerbated issue today with readers from minority groups. Modelling is important—it’s important for the future of the horror community that nascent writers are empowered and encouraged by seeing voices from their community represented.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

I’ll cheat and list a few --Carmen Maria Muchado’s ‘The Husband Stitch,’ Andrew Freudenberg’s ‘The Cardiac Ordeal,’ and ‘The Last, Clean, Bright Summer.’ All subvert notions of family and home—that’s exactly the type of uncanny horror that scares me rigid—when the familiar presents itself in an unfamiliar and horrific fashion.

 

What are you working on right now?

I’ve got a few things cooking away—I’m slightly stunned that I’ve just sold the movie option for one of my short stories, and the screenplay is currently being worked on by the production team. I’m also working on the final edits and line-up for my third collection, I Spit Myself Out; female-voiced stories that explore terrors of the body and mind.

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Dona Fox – Waiting at the Dance
Twitter: @_DonaFox

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

My story, “Waiting at the Dance,” was inspired by the idea of loneliness and loss. We all have multiple partners, so to speak, whether they are persons or a series of pets that pass through our lives. As we grow older and look back, it’s almost like our life has been a frenetic dance through a graveyard. Which partners have made the most profound marks on our memories, which were the special ones? Which tore out our hearts with their passing? Are they somewhere waiting, missing us as much as we’re aching for them?

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women? Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

I’m proud of the indie horror community for not only its treatment of women but all of its goals for inclusion and its constant desire to improve. I hope the community will continue to seek out and publish the most compelling stories, found by advertising open calls broadly in order to reach diverse voices and hope you will become a model for the rest of the industry.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

I found Sara Waters’ 2009, The Little Stranger, chilling. I have her 2015 The Paying Guests, and I'm eagerly waiting for a quiet space in my life to read it. I don’t download her books on Kindle, I have to have them in hand.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I’m actively working on one project right now, and I have another one I'm chomping at the bit to start. The one I’m working on presently is with Roma Gray’s Night Sky Book Services- it’s what’s called a wheel show – 4 authors, 4 novellas, one tale published each month for a year, starting in October with Essel Prat, Kevin Candella, and Roma Gray. My series is called The Silence in the Void and begins with the tale of two warring brothers who are trapeze artists, the first segment is called “Sometimes They Fall.”

 

My other project is a collaboration with Latashia Figueroa. Latashia writes psychological fiction. Her thriller Ivy’s Envy was voted Reader’s Favorite by Kirkus Reviews. You can understand why I’m excited to be working with her on this project. Find her on Instagram @frayedpages and Twitter @latashfigueroa

 

Thank you, Dona Fox

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Cassidy Frost - The Crumbling Grave
Twitter: @authorCassidyF

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

There’s a cemetery in Fredericton NB that everyone walks through to get to the bars downtown. Reflecting on my college years always brings me back to our walks through that graveyard.

 

Now that I’m out of school and working, I’ve gotten to know some of the people who hangout around the area, and who don’t seem to have a home. One man is my favorite, he’s so funny and kind, and we talk all the time. I found myself pondering over what got him into his current situation in life, and my brain went to some wacky places.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

Read our work, promote our work, follow us on social media, and give us the opportunity to show you what we can create. Anthologies like this one, centered around women, are an excellent way to showcase our talents in a space where stories are predominantly written by men.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

With Black Lives matter it has come to my attention that one small horror publishing press is run by a racist. They seem to have shut down pretty quickly after word circulated. There is no room for racism, homophobia, or hate of any kind in our community. If you hate a group of people, I don’t want my work to be associated with yours.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

Sarah Smiles - Christy Aldridge from Vol. 1 Under Her Black Wings

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I have a couple of projects on the go:

●         A 90’s Slasher novel with LGBT characters.

●         A horror screenplay about a man who finds a child in the woods while building his home.

●         A short story collection that takes place within an office space of horror called Frostbitten Base.

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Michelle Renee Lane – Cicada Song
Twitter: @michellerlane

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

My story, “Cicada Song,” is based on the dysfunctional relationship a friend of mine had with her sister. She used to vent to me over drinks. She never said that she wanted to kill her sister, but the sentiment was there under the surface of her words. And, after meeting her sister, I was willing to help her hide the body.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

I feel like I have had a uniquely positive experience working with publishers, editors, and other writers. I feel like I belong to a large extended community of horror writers that support the work of women and BIPOC. Is there more that can be done? Sure. And, I may have a different experience if I ever have the opportunity to branch out into more mainstream publishing. I’ve heard from some of my female horror writer friends that people have treated them badly or tried to take advantage of them, but so far, that hasn’t been my experience. That isn’t to say that I haven’t experienced some level of discrimination.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

For the longest time, I felt like I needed to prove or justify why my supernatural slave narrative, INVISIBLE CHAINS, was a horror novel. A lot of white writers/publishers weren’t “getting it.” As if the experience of slaves in America wasn’t horrifying. But then, while watching the documentary, Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, Tananarive Due said, “Black history is black horror,” and then I stopped wondering if my novel fit within the horror genre. And, it was also nominated for a Stoker, so…yeah, horror novel. Stories about the experiences of BIPOC told from their POV have a place in the genre whether white people understand those experiences or not.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

I recently read a collection of short stories by Emma J. Gibbon, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet. There are some really great stories in the collection, but one of them really creeped me out, which doesn’t happen often. “Cellar Door,” is about a lesbian couple who buy and old house that turns out to be haunted. It has a real “Hill House” feel to it, and there’s as much sadness as there is fear in the story, which is probably why it had such an impact on me. Grief and fear together is always a good combo for me in a story. I can’t recommend this collection enough.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I have a bunch of irons in the fire right now. I’m trying to write the sequel to INVISIBLE CHAINS, and I’m working on a series of novellas/novels that have been haunting me for years. But at the moment, I’m working on a short story set in an adult film studio. Two porn stars are meeting and working together for the first time. It's this strange love story in an unlikely setting, and the male porn star is a French vampire obsessed with Josephine Baker, who was a former lover of his. His co-star reminds him of Josephine and things get progressively weirder.

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Beverley Lee – The Roll of the Dice

Twitter: @constantvoice

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

I wanted to explore the concept of imaginary friends, that fantasy creation of many childhood minds. But what if they’re not imaginary? It’s a little tale of dark destiny and a game as old as death.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

By learning how to be more inclusive. There’s a wealth of female talent out there in all aspects of horror. We have fresh ideas and perspectives which all too often are ignored. We’re not asking for special treatment, we’re asking for the same opportunities as our male counterparts, to be seen as equals and be given the same spaces to raise our stories up.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

I’d love to see the horror film industry take more chances on new voices. There are *so* many excellent stories out there which would make phenomenal films. But they fly under the radar as most self-published/small press authors don’t have agents or the luxury of a huge budget to showcase their stories. Viewers absorb Hollywood blockbusters/traditional movies because that’s what they are fed. There’s a very real hunger out there for diversity and stories that are different. I know it’s all down to what makes the most money, but if nothing changes, nothing changes.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

I’d have to say The Ritual by Adam Nevill. There’s something about the thought of being hunted in the wild, of having everything stripped away and of your life being reduced to the simple concept of trying to stay alive that really got under my skin.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

Right now I’m working on a new novel which is in its very early days. Too early to actually give any semblance of a plot, apart from that it will involve folklore and vampires. But I’m very excited about a new character who is forming and what pathways he will lead me down.

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Catherine McCarthy
Twitter: @serialsemantic

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

My story is entitled Two’s Company, Three’s a Shroud, and was inspired by an actual news story I read in a local paper. The town it’s set in is a post-industrial town in my native country, Wales, U.K., where the local population has risen exponentially in recent years. As a result, there are insufficient burial plots in the graveyards and the local council are discussing the possibility of having to re-cycle old graves.

Such a daunting prospect! I mean, it invites the question, ‘Who might I end up being buried with?’ This started my mind whirring, and since Jill was asking for a dark comedy element, I decided it would make an ideal theme.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

To begin with, I’d like to point out the positive. I think the horror genre , historically, has been male dominated with regards to reading, writing and film-making. In the past, women were often depicted in overtly-sexual roles and seen as the weaker opponents who were either victims to males, or who relied on a man to rescue them. However, I think this is beginning to change, and women are beginning to be represented as stronger and sometimes more formidable characters.

I still think it can be difficult at times to entice men to read horror fiction written by women for a variety of reasons, including the preconceived ideas already mentioned. It’s simply comes down to breaking old habits and traditions and having the will to develop another mindset. I don’t think women writers should aim to write like men, but rather they need to write as well as men, in their own voice. I notice more and more lately that male horror bloggers seem to be willing to read, respect, and praise horror fiction written by women.

What I don’t see much of at all is women’s horror being optioned for film, e.g. Netflix, and I think this is definitely something that needs to change. The film industry has always been heavily male-dominated and I think the powers that be need to look closely at this and take action.

 

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

Yes – as in all genres, people with disabilities or learning difficulties are under-represented in fiction, especially in a positive way. It comes down to that good old, intrinsic, fear of difference mankind has. The whole world is aware that something needs to be done about it, and yet, unfortunately, there is still more talk than action. N.B., I comment further on this in the final question.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

I prefer my horror to be disturbing rather than scary. In fact, the last time I remember being scared by a horror story was when I read The Manitou by Graham Masterton at the age of fourteen. These days I enjoy atmospheric, gothic horror and weird tales that get inside your head. I recently read Velocities by Kathe Koja and was overwhelmed by her writing. It’s as if she is able to see inside your head, listen to your inner dialogue, and identify your darkest thoughts.

 

What are you working on right now?

Referring back to the question about inclusion, I have just finished writing a dark fantasy novel, The Wolf and the Favor, which is set right where I live in rural Wales. The MC is a ten-year-old girl who has Down syndrome, and, just like any other child, she also has big ambitions. It was a challenge to write since I wanted to show her in a heroic role, as a person who ends up being responsible for her own achievements, whilst at the same time I was aware of her language and other limitations. Having taught primary school children for many years, including those with learning disabilities,  I felt I was able to make her voice realistic and not patronize her in any way. The novel has had three beta readers, all of whom have fallen in love with her. I’m just about to query the novel – fingers crossed!

I’m also three quarters of the way through writing a collection of short stories which fall into the weird/cosmic/folk horror genres. I love writing shorts. Some of them are set here in Wales; others are set during the Victorian period in other parts of the U.K. They are a mix of old and modern, but all of them have an element of moral judgment to them – a hidden message about the way we treat others.

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J.A.W. McCarthy

(“Until There’s Nothing Left”)
Twitter: @JAWMcCarthy

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

For years I’ve had the idea for a novel about a young female necromancer. I know how it will begin and how it will end, but I’ve never been able to figure out that huge, important middle. Finally, I decided to just start writing and see what happens. “Until There’s Nothing Left” came from that exercise, and was one of my first published stories. It’s nothing like the novel I envisioned, but it’s definitely one of those stories where my characters led and I followed.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

Two things come to mind: inclusion, and violence against women in fiction. I feel lucky to be part of a horror community that has been both welcoming and encouraging to diverse voices. Perhaps it’s the writers and editors I follow on social media, but I’m seeing space being made for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ people. There is nowhere near enough representation yet, but at least many of the indie horror publishers I see are committing to diversity and producing publications that showcase that. Something everyone in horror and all areas of publishing needs to remember, though, is that inclusivity is not reserved for one week or month; don’t put out one anthology that showcases marginalized writers, then proceed to forget about us until the next holiday rolls around.

 

As for violence against women in fiction… I’m really tired of seeing sexual assault used to flesh out a female character’s backstory/motives. I’m tired of female characters existing only to be assaulted and murdered as a catalyst for the male protagonist’s actions. And I’m really tired of endless lines about women’s beauty, breasts, etc, as if these are personality traits. Yes, fiction is a mirror of our society, and violence is inherent in horror fiction, but female characters should be more than just victims.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

I’d encourage reviewers who are not already doing so—especially those with sizable platforms—to give equal consideration to works by authors who are not cis hetero white men. Many of the books I’ve read lately have been championed by reviewers I follow online, and their reviews are often the only way I would know about some of these books from indie horror presses.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

“Resilience” by Christi Nogle (free to listen/read at PseudoPod). It’s not full of jump-scares, but it was definitely chilling. It manages to be subtle without being slow, and it’s gracefully written—the unease gradually creeps in. I was still disturbed long after it was finished.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I’m about three-quarters of the way through with my first novella. It’s about a married couple feeling stuck and longing for their youth. Also there’s a lot of black mold, body horror, and an infinity of doppelgängers/not-doppelgängers. 

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Susan McCauley – The Snow Woman
Twitter: @susanbmccauley

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

For me, it’s usually never one thing that inspires a story or a novel. For this particular story, I remember seeing a Twilight Zone episode as a kid that had a woman turn out to be someone other than she’d appeared. That always stuck with me and I used a certain aspect of that in this story, but I can’t tell you exactly what it was without giving away a surprise in “The Snow Woman”! I also used elements from the shrunken heads of the Kayapo people that had scared me as a kid at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, as well as research I did on Buddhist monks who practiced self-mummification.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

I simply hope that writing and writers can be appreciated and treated equally for the quality of their work regardless of sex.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

I haven’t read a story in a while that’s really scared me; so, I’ll go to the first one that really scared me as an adult: “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson. I didn’t sleep without the lights on for a week after reading that one!

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I’m preparing for the release of my horror novella, The Demon Tailor. The Demon Tailor is based on a real-life serial killer from late 16th century France and a young woman, Marie, who survives his torment. It’s scheduled to be released on October 6, 2020. I’m also working on the first draft of Book 2 of my Ghost Hunters series. 

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Ksenia Murray – Night of the Djinn
Twitter: @kseniamurray

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

Besides the graveyard theme, I thought of this story because I haven't read too many Djinn based horror stories.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

I feel as though they could improve by actually giving us a chance and not judging us based off of our sex. I've seen tweets and posts about how women don't know/understand horror so our stories aren't nearly as good as our male counterparts. If they gave our stories a chance, I know they'd feel otherwise.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

I'm hoping in the future that more women and POC have a place in horror.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

I would say that the last horror novel that scared me was Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix. A horror-comedy about a haunted knock-off Ikea store.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I finished a novel a few months back so write now I am just working on writing more horror short stories for possible publication. 

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Ally Peirse – Atmosphere
Instagram: @alisonpeirse

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

I grew up in Leeds, Yorkshire in the 1980s and 1990s and watched it change from an industrial, manufacturing city to a center for tourism, geared around food and drink and retail. Most of my family – my grandparents, parents, aunties, uncles - worked in manufacturing, in hands-on jobs in tailoring and brewing. Now, these jobs no longer exist for their children – for me and my brother, for my cousins. I always wanted to go back and explore what working class life was like in that period of the city life, a life that has now disappeared. My dad worked twelve-hour night shifts as a cleaner at Tetley’s Brewery in Leeds for over twenty years, and I wanted to explore the potential horrors of this kind of work, which now seems so alien to me as a writer who works from home and makes her own hours.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

There are systemic issues of inequality within all the major creative industries, whether that is publishing, or film, as another example. The kind of structural marginalization of women, of people of color, of low-income writers, of LGBQT voices.  It isn’t our job as writers to fix an entire system or culture of inequality, it needs to come top down (however unlikely that may be). However, what we can do as writers is to write, and to do it well, and then to make sure we do our best to get our work out there and get out voices heard. As fans, we can be thoughtful about our own inbuilt prejudices that we might have absorbed growing up in the time and place and community that we grew up in – for example, my experience of growing up as a horror fiction fan was that horror novelists were white and male, the Stephen King’s and James Herbert’s of this world. So, even if that is unconscious, I make sure I am buying and championing the work of not just contemporary horror writers that move outside this model, such as Helen Oyeyemi and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, but that I am also seeking out and highlighting  the work of forgotten writers in our horror fiction history, like Witch House by Evangeline Walton, He Arrived at Dusk by R.C. Ashby, and the Women’s Weird collection edited by Melissa Edmundson.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

I recommend reading my forthcoming book, Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre for a big exploration of how we can rethink our horror histories in the film industry!

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

I’m a complete newbie to short form fiction – ‘Atmosphere’ is my first attempt at writing a short story – so to prepare for writing it I have started to immerse myself in great short horror fiction. I have discovered that I absolutely love Ramsey Campbell’s work, an obvious choice but great. He’s really taught me about structure and shape, and I thought ‘Down There’ was absolutely brilliant. I’ve also just ordered Mariana Enriquez’s Things We Lost in the Fire and Kelly Link’s Get In Trouble. Outside the genre, Flannery O’Connor’s ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ is the most distressing story I have ever read! And Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays is completely traumatizing to read; it is not horror at all but it so nails the interior of a disturbed mental life that I had to keep putting it down as it was making me so anxious.

 

What are you working on right now?

I absolutely loved working on my first short story and I am starting to think about my next one – inspired by my grandma, and her stories of sleeping inside the London Underground during the Blitz. I’m just starting to feel my way around what this story might be, very early days, but I definitely want to work on my discipline and bring this in shorter, around 3000 words. I got rather carried away with the ambition of ‘Atmosphere’… It’s a definite learning process, working in this form.

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Janine Pipe – The Invitation
Twitter: @disneynine

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

First up, I took the theme quite literally and knew I wanted to set at least part of it in an actual graveyard. I tend to write more what I refer to as ‘classic horror’ with all the infamous lore and tropes attached and the idea just came to me. It likely had something to do with the amount of Supernatural I watch too ...

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

One of the first things I noticed when I started to seriously pursue my horror writing, was the immense lack of female writers. I DO think that times are evolving and there are more women coming to the forefront of the genre. The likes of C J Tudor, Alma Katsu and Laura Purcell don my shelves along with the Old Boy’s Club. I now have 2 anthologies under my belt - this fabulous woman only one and a British charity collection which specifically wanted an equal male to female ratio of contributors. I think the horror community as a whole just needs to recognise there are a tonne of amazing female authors out there, and we don’t all write gothic or ghost stories as is also often linked to ‘lady writers’. I personally swear, include a lot of violence, gore and sexual references that are not at all romantic lol.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

There are still a lot of communities under-represented in all walks of life, but I think I’d like to see more people, and specifically male characters, with MH issues that don’t have them thinking they’re crazy. Like just living with bi-polar or OCD or something and it being totally ok. They accept it, talk about it, decrease the stigma and help readers realise so many people live with MH issues and it is not something to be ashamed of. 

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

There are 3 things which frighten me in books (and life) - clowns, spiders (yes, I have read It and yes, it scared and scarred me for life) and ghosts. I bought The Haunting of Hill House a while ago but I haven’t been brave enough to read it yet haha. 2 books have frightened me recently - there is a spider scene in Brian Moreland’s Tomb of Gods I had to skip through and the titular story in Tananarive Due’s Ghost Summer Stories also gave me the heebie jeebies because the ghosts were so real and just *shudders*. So yeah, I have just admitted to everyone I am the only horror writer ever to be frightened of horror stuff lol!

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I have just written a story for Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror of Nightworms) which she has popped on her Patreon. That was described as Adrian Mole meets American Werewolf as my MC was a teenage boy in the 90’s.

Right now I am editing a ghost story (see, I can write them, I don’t scare myself … always) and I have tweaked a werewolf story I am particularly proud of that has had some awesome feedback even from my own favourite writer. I am looking for a home for that, ideally in an actual werewolf antho. So someone needs to commission that for me pronto! I also have the Diabolica Britannica antho out soon alongside some of the awesome women from Kandisha. I can not wait for that to be unleashed to the world.

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Lydia Prime – South Dakota
Twitter: @lydiaprime

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

My story, South Dakota, was inspired from a prompt I worked on a while back. I wanted to play with the intense loneliness that I've personally felt several times throughout the years. A loneliness so deep, that when you do find someone who shows even the slightest bit of attention to you, you can’t help but gravitate towards it. You just blissfully ignore any alarm bells or red flags they throw up along the way. I liked toying with the idea that there might be another place, with another version of ourselves - and if there was, would you trust it? Would you trust yourself? What would you do to stop feeling isolated?

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

In my opinion, the horror community is an extremely interesting community. Constantly, I see authors building networks and lifting each other up. All the familial bonds I’ve made since joining in, are some that I'd never want to lose.

When it comes to the women of the genre, it seems there’s still a glass ceiling to break. I think if the horror community (industry or fans) stuck to looking at the content rather than the person writing—a lot more work would get spread around. It’d be a somewhat more diverse place than it already is; a place that doesn’t overlook a story because the author’s name appears more feminine. Our community is full of women who write gritty, creepy, emotive, terrifying tales, and those who enjoy reading them. For better treatment of the women authors, I think it just comes down to genuinely looking at what’s between the pages.

Speaking of which, some pages house heavy tropes. Tropes and cliches exist for a reason, however, there comes a time to change them. The whole women in peril and men swooping in to save the day thing, or the crying-running-tripping-every-single-time-because-of-wearing-heels-in-the-forest chick with torn up clothes and clown makeup running down her face as she fails to escape the rapey madman with an ax, thing. I think the 80’s can keep their procedural slasher stories.

Meh, alright, they can stay - but let's change things up a bit, shall we? The thing is, vulnerability isn’t specific to any one gender. A lot of stories appear to be determined to break down their main female character with some horrific trauma if she’s going to eventually become the protagonist, but maybe there could be some different motives/reasons/backstories to try.  That’s not to say that the traumas are completely unnecessary; they happen more frequently than people care to admit, and that itself is pretty horrific if you ask me. 

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

I’m not sure I know what or who is being excluded from horror or even publishing for that matter. Almost daily I see open calls that specify that they’re for this group, or that group. If anything, I suppose there can sometimes be kind of clique-type scenarios. People being excluded from projects for some middle school reason. I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of that myself sometimes, but maybe if we’re more aware of it we can work on curtailing it.

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

Honestly, this might sound silly, but I was reading a book called, The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher, and I was legitimately creeped out by the deer effigy that would wander around and bang on the doors or even chase after the characters. The sound I imagine the hanging hag stones in its exposed ribcage made, and the upside down deer skull staring without eyes, still give me the chills. I actually have a long standing deep-seeded irrational fear of waking up in the middle of the night and being greeted by some horrifying inhuman creature. (Although, I suppose, I have been a few times - but that’s a story for another day.)

 

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I’m happily posting pieces on Pen of the Damned (penofthedamned.com) along with all the amazing authors who put out awesome flash fiction there. I also work on the Ladies of Horror Picture Prompt Challenge, created by Nina D’Arcangela, over on her blog, spreadingthewritersword.com. Every female author who signs up gets one of four images to write a piece about. Once they send ‘em over, we get to make the magic happen. 

I've also been known to work on this book I’ve had hanging out here, there, and everywhere for probably six or seven years now. I don’t actually think it’ll ever make it to the public domain - but it is kind of cathartic to get my addiction stories out of my head and onto paper.

Besides that, I’ve been gathering some of my short stories to compile into a collection that should be showing up somewhere soon. It’s not something I have all the details worked out on just yet, but patience is a virtue right?

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Paula R.C. Readman – The Chimes at Midnight
Twitter: @DarkFantasy13

 

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

Chimes at Midnight was inspired by the opening line popping into my head from wherever ideas come from. It is true when writers say the story wrote itself. I had this image of someone returning home, but she wasn’t welcome. My gothic tales tend to be very Victorian in style. I write for the imagination rather than spell it out.

 

How can the horror community etc - be better about its treatment of women?

One level playing field for all. People should be judge by their writing and not by the colour of their skin or sex.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

Maybe thinking more carefully how different races, disabled and transgender people are portrayed on the covers and in art works

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

I’m not sure whether you would class it as horror, by Margaret Atwood the Handmaid’s Tale still scares me.

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I’m editing  on dark crime novel ‘Stone Angels’ which is being published by Darkstroke  on 11th August.

Is fame the perfect cover for murder. Artist, James Ravencroft, thinks so. As his reputation grows so does his need to find the next perfect model. They don’t just pose for him they become his still life- his Stone Angels. ell.

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Yolanda Sfetsos – Love You To Death
Twitter: @yolandasfetsos

What inspired your story in Graveyard Smash?

 

Love You to Death was inspired by the many personifications of Death I've researched for other stories. After I saw a picture online featuring a skeleton drinking at a bar, all I could think about was: what if Death is waiting for Santa Muerte in the underworld? And that's when the story started taking shape.

 

How can the horror community—including texts, fans, and the industry—be better about its treatment of women?

 

The best way to improve the treatment of women in horror is to be inclusive. To stop assuming white men are the only ones who enjoy watching, reading and writing this awesome genre. While having a Women of Horror month is cool, it would be even better if it wasn't just a one-month celebration and becomes an everyday thing.

 

This wonderful genre belongs to everyone who loves and understands it.

 

Since we are having overdue open conversations about inclusion, are there other issues you feel need to be addressed in horror and publishing?

 

The horror industry is evolving, but it has to keep expanding to become fully inclusive of ALL writers and the many varied stories they have to tell about their own life experiences. Every one deserves a shot and new voices need to be given the chance to be heard as well as the well-known seasoned authors we’re all so familiar with.  

 

What’s the last horror story you read that really scared you?

 

When it comes to horror, I'm a hard person to scare because scary and creepy tales excite me. So, while I find a lot of the stories I read to be deliciously spooky, none has managed to scare the hell out of me. Yet. Not even The Exorcist, which I read last year.

 

I’m still waiting for that special story to get under my skin…

 

What are you working on right now?

 

Right now, I'm working on a horror story about a dark and destructive sibling rivalry. These two sisters are as much alike as they are different, and I'm having a blast delving into how badly their lives are affected and essentially ruined. By each other and the choices they’re forced to make.

 

I’m having a lot of fun with it! 😊

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