Women In Horror Month – Interview with Kristi DeMeester

Posted: February 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

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This interview almost slipped through the cracks in my Facebook inbox and into the unknown eldritch fathoms that exist between what we we should be doing and what we fail to achieve.   Good thing it didn’t, because I loved this interview and I’m really glad Kristi gave us this opportunity to get to know her a little better.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

KDM: My roots are thick, thick, thick with Georgia clay. I was born and raised here, and try as I might, I can’t prune the Southern out of my dark little heart.

I grew up in a very strict, fundamentalist religion. A religion where women were submissive to their husbands. We could not cut our hair or wear make up or jewelry or clothing that showed our bodies in a sexual way. That meant lots of long denim skirts and Peter Pan collared blouses and embroidered jumpers. There was no television. No movies. There were no unapproved books or music. There was no access to computers. All of these were gateways to “the world” which was synonymous with sin and evil and wickedness.

We spoke in tongues, and the children were frequently encouraged to testify or to interpret the tongues in front of the congregation. We were young and closer to God. After I interpreted during a service, my pastor said I was chosen by God. I’d made everything up. Because the silence was so loud, and I wanted everyone to listen to me when I raised my voice, and I thought that if I just opened my mouth, God would speak through me. He didn’t. So I spoke instead.

The devil was a very real thing for me, and every summer during tent revival, I’d sit in a metal folding chair with sweat dribbling around my thighs and watch the preacher throw demons out of at least two or three poor, blighted souls. The first time I saw a horror movie that depicted demons I remember being shocked. That wasn’t what demons looked like. Demons looked like people.

When my mother divorced my biological father and the church performed their version of excommunication, I spent some time dealing with the break down of how everything I’d ever known in life was insubstantial and wrong and corrupt and filled with hypocrisy. It took a long time to recover. I think this is why religion often features so heavily in my fiction.

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?  

KDM: I fell in love with horror when I was twelve. Before that, I’d loved fantasy and mystery stories. Narnia featured heavily in my childhood, as did Nancy Drew. But then my mom stopped approving the books I checked out of the library, and I started reading the Goosebumps series. And then Fear Street. And then everything by Christopher Pike. And then the entire Vampire Diaries series. When I wandered into the adult horror section, I already had a pretty healthy obsession with vampires, and the first book I landed on was Interview With The Vampire. I devoured it and then read every Anne Rice book the library had. I also got into quite a bit of trouble at school for reading aloud the more salacious bits. I kept reading and watching horror, but I never attempted it in my own writing. I wrote bad poems filled with teen angst, and then I didn’t write at all during my undergraduate years.

When I went back for my MFA, I pretended to be literary, but everything that came out of me was stilted and unnatural and awful. When I graduated, I tried my hand at a few literary stories, but they too were terrible, and so I hid them away in shame, but the itch to write wouldn’t leave, and so I started a new story with the intent of just letting it do what it wanted to do. It was a horror story. And it sold. After that, I was like “Fuck it. This is what I love. I’m a horror writer.” My Writing Fiction professor is probably still shaking his head.

Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies? 

KDM: Oh, I can’t pick a favorite, but I can tell you one of my most impactful moments in reading a “horror” story that most people wouldn’t call horror.

I was a sophomore in college and was taking a class on Southern Literature, and it was the best damn class I’ve ever taken. We were assigned Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” I read that story sitting in broad daylight in the center of our campus with people all around me talking loudly and laughing, and I was absolutely terrified. Like fucking out of my mind terrified. Because for the first time, I was reading something that tied together my own feelings of salvation and sin and how those punishments and redemptions are parceled out. I sat there for a good hour just shivering and re-reading the last page.

Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?

KDM: I’ve written mostly short stories, and I’ve been lucky enough to have them published in some wonderful places and then reprinted in a few year’s best of anthologies. I’ve written one novel and am working on my second. I have a chapbook out with Dim Shores Press that I’m pretty proud of and people seem to like. My first short fiction collection is forthcoming.

My favorite short story I’ve ever written is something I wrote for an anthology invite that I’m still waiting to hear the fate of. I hope it sees the light of day soon.

Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling?  E.g Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook

KDM: As a reader, I prefer a really great novel that I can lose myself in for days and days. As a writer, I prefer the punch of a short story.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

KDM: Right now, I’m about 34,000 words into my second novel.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

KDM: If I have to pick only one, it’s Joyce Carol Oates.

Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with? 

KDM: I am very much looking forward to Damien Angelica Walters novel Paper Tigers, Livia Llewellyn’s forthcoming collection Furnace, and SP Miskowski’s forthcoming collection. I do so wish someone would put together a Joyce Carol Oates’ tribute anthology. Ahem…

Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?

KDM: Currently reading Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. TBR pile includes A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer, Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall, Revenants by Daniel Mills, Not Dark Yet by Berit Ellingsen, Leena Krohn Collected Fiction, Anna Tambour’s Crandolin, The Bestiary edited by Ann VanderMeer, and there are lots more, but these are the ones next up.

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the  challenges have you faced that are complicated by your gender?

KDM: I’ve talked about this on social media before, but I’m frequently frightened. In its mildest form, a man will send me a friend request and immediately like every photo I’ve ever posted. Or comment and tell me I’m pretty or cute or beautiful or lovely, and he’s never met me. And that creepiness sinks deep in my skin. Because I live in extremes, and I think what if someone wanted to find me? It wouldn’t be hard? And I fear not for myself but for my family. On the extreme end a man will send me a message and tell me I’m too pretty to write “all that scary stuff” or that he wants to know what I’d look like on my knees. I recognize the need to put myself out there as a writer, but every time I accept a friend request, I’m afraid.

I’ve been told to shut up because all male anthologies were chosen strictly on the merit of the work and that if I think anything otherwise I’m some dumb bunny who needs to fuck off and mind her own business. I’ve sat on the sidelines and watched those identical conversations happen with other women and other editors/readers.

I’ve watched literary agents reach out on social media to nothing but men.

I’ve watched other women openly criticize their fellow female writers because we need to “toughen up.”

It’s a brutal place to be sometimes.

Q. Why is Women in Horror month important/important to you? 

KDM: Because there are too many bad ass women writers who deserve more attention and acclaim than they currently receive.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write. Read. Seek feedback. Take that feedback and use it to make yourself harder. Better. Find a network of people who will support you. Write. Read.

Kristi DeMeester Links

Website: www.kristidemeester.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kristi.demeester.1

Twitter: KMDemeester

 

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Comments
  1. Wow. It’s always amazing and sad to read about the shit women have to put up with online.

    I’d just like to say that our TBR piles are eerily similar, and that I’m now going to read Like Feather, Like Bone in Best Weird Fiction Volume 1.

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