Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m a freelance writer and editor. I used to edit for a large publisher, but I left that last year when my youngest son was born and needed a little extra care. Before that I worked in libraries, and before that I worked in bookstores. Always with books and words! I’m really enjoying the freelance work, though. I also knit, crochet, weave, spin, and collect fountain pens.
I edit the fiction bit of Pantheon Magazine. I love doing that so much! I get to read so many amazing stories. And I get to work with some of my favorite authors.
Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where yousomething mad you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t into spooky stories. Even my childhood picture books reflect it. One of my favorites that I still have is “The Glow-in-the-Dark Haunted House”. When you’re reading, you can turn off the lights and ghosts appear in the windows. And the illustrated kids’ bible my grandmother gave me always fell open to the massacre of the innocents. It had a really horrific illustration where a soldier is holding a naked baby up by the foot, with a dagger in his other hand. The religion didn’t take, but that image has stuck with me. I used to stare at it till I cried. So I guess I’ve always had a (questionably healthy) need to stare into the abyss.
I wrote my first horror story in 6th grade, and I remember my teacher, Mr. Evans, correcting me when I used the phrase “ravenous beauty” instead of “ravishing”. The beautiful ghost was the protagonist. I think Mr. Evans was the one who set me on the writing path–he would let me stay in at recess and help me write cover letters and submit my stories and poems to kids’ magazines. I never got accepted, but he always encouraged me to keep trying.
Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?
“Father, Son, Holy Rabbit” by Stephen Graham Jones is my favorite horror story of all time. It builds anxiety perfectly. And you can see what’s coming, eventually, but it still completely knocks you over in the end. It so perfectly articulates a parent’s love for their child. It always leaves me a bit shaken. All the horror of it happens in your heart, rather than on the page.
Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?
I’ve written short stories, mostly. You can find them in Black Static, Exigencies, Suspended in Dusk, and other places. I do have a novel-length manuscript that I’m currently shopping to agents. I’m working on a revise and resubmit for one of those agents. My favorite thing I’ve written is always the thing I haven’t written yet. The one I’m writing next, the shiny fresh idea.
Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling? E.g Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook
Well, my favorite to write is a short story. But I love reading novels, too, and I listen to a LOT of podcasts. I’d like to get more into audiobooks. I used to listen to them when I had a commute. But right now I’m mostly sitting in the dark with an omg-please-go-to-sleep-now baby, reading a novel or short story collection on my kindle.
Q. What are you working on at the minute?
I’m working on a short story for you, Simon! It’s almost done, I swear. You just said “February” and it’s still February.
I’m also outlining a new novel or novella–I haven’t decided how broad to go with the concept, yet. I don’t tend to work on more than one thing at a time, with my own fiction anyway. The freelance writing is forcing me out of that habit, though.
Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?
Shirley Jackson. Though from contemporary writers, I’m falling head-over-heels for Helen Marshall right now. And Caitlin Kiernan has always been a huge influence for me, especially when she writes about bugs and other crawly things.
Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?
Everything? I mean, nothing specific to women–there are just awesome women everywhere and we’re all very busy doing awesome things. I’m very excited about the launch of Gamut magazine. A lot of my favorite women writers will be published there (if it funds–go give them money), and Richard Thomas, the editor, has asked for a few pieces from me as well. And I’m super excited for Suspended in Dusk 2. I think it’s going to be even better than the first one–and obviously that’s saying something.
As for things I’d like to get on board with, I really want to get a piece in Shimmer. I’ve been shortlisted there the last few times I’ve subbed, and I’ve gotten really kind, helpful personal rejections from the team there. I feel like my face is pressed up against the glass, all smeary-like, but I just haven’t broken through yet.
Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?
My TBR pile has always been ridiculous, but having an infant in the house has made it even more so. I’m very, very behind. But up next, I think, are the Nightmares Unhinged anthology, Zeroes by Chuck Wendig, and Damien Angelica Walter’s Paper Tigers (which I already read, for blurb reasons, but that was an earlier draft, so I get to read it again). I also feel an Erik Larson nonfiction bender coming on.
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?
I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. I haven’t been the target of any outright hostility. I get the occasional “who would have thought a sweet girl like you would write something so dark” (well GEE WILLIKERS, MISTER), and I did once have trouble with a male writer that I was beta reading for who didn’t like my suggestion that maybe not EVERY woman in his book should be a rape victim tearfully confessing their victimhood to his male protagonist that they had never even met before. But mostly I’ve had awesome interactions and felt very welcome in the horror community. I do get a little steel in my heart every time I see an anthology or magazine issue come out with only one or two women in it. I make a note of who those editor are. And I make plans to send them lots of stuff. I don’t want them to have any excuses.
Q. Why is Women in Horror month important/important to you?
I know it’s controversial. And I totally understand why many don’t want it. But I try not to look at it as a condescending token, and think of it more as a way of finding out about more women writers that I may not have yet come across. Every year I find a new author to read, thanks to the WiH blog lists and interview series like this one (thanks, Simon!). There are still people who haven’t realized what amazing work is out there. And I don’t think it’s a conscious bias in many cases. Volume and visibility are the fastest ways to get through to those who don’t know what they’re missing. So let’s shine some lights, make some noise.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write first thing in the morning, if you can. It makes the whole day better, knowing you got the important thing done already. And read read read.
Sarah Read Links:
Website: I don’t have one because they’re expensive and I’m terrible with computers. I know. I know. It’s one of my main goals for 2016.
Blog: Same as above. (Simon’s interjection: WordPress is free. I badgered Karen Runge till she made a site, your turn now. DO IT!)
Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)