Welcome back to Women In Horror month(s) at my blog. One of this evening’s interviews is with publicist, editor and writer, Erin Al Mehairi. I bumped into Erin via facebook around the time around the time I started thinking about doing this interview series. She’s fast become one of my fav online peeps. She does publicity and editing for some of the great horror authors you all know and love and I expect you’ll be seeing some of her own fiction in print soon enough! Thanks for stopping by, Erin!
Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Erin: I’m a reader, a writer, an editor, and an author of past published poetry and many articles, a journalist, an aspiring novelist, a publicist, a PR/Marketing professional, a photographer, a mom, a baker, and a candlestick maker. Well, not the last one….but I like the smell of them, especially coffee ones.
This will be my longest answer of the interview…here goes…
I was born in England, but I’ve lived most of my life in the United States on the East Coast. I carried dual citizenship until I was 18. I’m as proud to be British as I am being an American.
I’ve been writing my whole life, my young scribbles culminating in winning my local newspaper’s essay contest when I was in middle or high school, and I’ve had the bug ever since. I’ve been pretty much writing full-time in some way since I started at university back in 1992. It wasn’t long after I began my college career that I knew I’d never do anything else again that didn’t include writing. I came out with bachelor of art degrees in English, Journalism, and History.
Due to circumstances in my life, besides a year or so of working as a reference librarian, I went into public relations, marketing, and media relations as my career, while attempting freelance journalism on the side. There’s a lot of in- between years in which I mostly wrote articles and/or edited for the multiple magazine tabloids and newsletters, press releases, magazine articles, ad copy, and non-fiction work. After hours, when I couldn’t sleep, I wrote poetry when the mood struck me. I was also a workaholic then too and volunteered in my community, so besides the fact that I wrote thousands of words a day at work and in the community, I also began raising children, off and on as a single mom of a baby and a toddler, and was much too tired to have any energy to give to myself for creative writing.
When I DID write poetry in the midst of all that, I wrote of nature, love, and grief and fantasy or magical themes. My essays were usually of people or places or feelings or inspirational words for others.
About seven years ago, I decided to leave my full-time public relations and marketing job and branch out on my own full-time by opening my own business, Addison’s Compass Public Relations. That way, I could seek out my own work in the field, as well as be there more for my three small children. I’ve been doing it ever since, and now, the kids are a bit older so it’s easier. I started my business right after representing Ohio as Young Careerist of the Year at the Business and Professional Women national convention and receiving a Woman of Achievement Award from the county I live in. At the time I decided to do this, the economy in America was tanking, but I knew it was right for me to take the risk for my kids and I had a lot going for me. I included them in my work. I was pleased to even talk about this in the highly-regarded entrepreneur and business magazine “SUCCESS.” However, selfishly I felt, I also wanted to make time for writing my own books.
Since I had a bit more time for reading and writing of my own in the evenings as I struggled with insomnia, I also started a site soon after (Oh, for the Hook of a Book!). It allowed me to write about something fun I enjoyed (books!!) and my own creative writing processes. The book site grew exponentially and this month it celebrates its five-year anniversary! I still feature various genres, but you’re likely to find mostly historical or gothic, peppered with horror and mystery, and the occasional children’s book post.
This led to my business in books, which is called Hook of a Book Media and Publicity, and I do editing and publicity for authors and publishers. I’ve been loving assisting horror authors lately with marketing consulting, tying together contacts, securing media contacts and spots, publicity tours, and more. It’s very busy, but it’s fun.
As for the editing side, I’ve been editing since I was in high school, being an editor of our high school paper and then in college, taking classes in editing for both majors in Journalism (AP style) and English (Chicago Manual of Style), and serving as Senior News Editor of our university newspaper and as an editor for the university’s Poetry Press. I’ve edited almost everything over the years: articles, marketing pieces, magazine type tabloids and newsletters, resumes, ad copy, and books and poetry collections.
I’ve edited and content read all types of books such as new adult, sci-fi, thrillers, historical, and horror. I do a lot of horror, thrillers, and sci-fi currently. I really like working with new writers and helping them grow. If I love an author’s work, and feel good about our work together, I’ll totally be their champion.
Besides writing my own interviews and reviews for my site, I am also a journalist at the horror entertainment site, Beneath the Underground. I interview celebrities in horror and sci-fi indie films, as well as directors and authors.
I have 3 children, a boy and two girls, all under the age of 16. I own my two businesses and I write on the side. I like chocolate and coffee a lot, as well as cooking. I love nature and the outdoors, especially the lake, but also the ocean, rivers, creeks, etc. I have A LOT of interests, but I love going to treasure hunt for used books and paperbacks, hanging out in bookstores, and going to museums when not hiking or doing something outdoors.
Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?
Erin: I grew up not being able to watch horror or scary sci-fi, though my Dad watched it, and when he did, I wasn’t allowed in the living room. So I missed out on the old episodes of the sci-fi show “V” in what, the 80s?, which led to why, as an adult, I was so mad when they canceled the new episodes a few years back (way too early). I loved it! Ha! I did however get to watch lots of Scooby-Doo, which I still do, and read children’s books featuring witches. I learned to be curious about all sorts of monsters on Scooby-Doo, but even more, that evil human nature could be overcome by a group of meddling kids. Today, I still watch it with my girls. It’s one of our favorite things to do on Saturday mornings together.
In high school I started loving to study writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Charles Dickens, and in getting my university English degree, studied many of these classic authors for class and on my own. In addition, I love Oscar Wilde, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Shelley, and Washinton Irving. Later, I really liked Shirley Jackson, V.C. Andrews, and Daphne du Maurier. I was writing poetry then and I mirrored them, and Poe, in my writing (still do). They have all been a huge influence on me. As I said, I’ve written for years, but my horror and dark writing and poetry was more a secret. I only shared some of my poems that honored people I lost, were about love, or many, about nature.
Once I met many more people in the writing, and especially in horror writing genres, on social media, I came to be open more and more about my writing about five years ago. I realized that most of the people writing horror also are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I write dark fiction and poetry for myself to dissuade my fears, deal with emotions, as a funnel for pain, and to survive. It’s like breathing when you’re locked in a room filling with water and the only way out is to put pencil to paper.
The last few years, and especially in 2015 and as goals for 2016, I said I’m just going to write more dark poetry and put it out there and see what happens. The response was good. I decided it was alright for me to write horror stories, so I’m just doing it and putting those out there too. Anyone who doesn’t like me anymore for it…well, they aren’t taking the time to understand. I have to write from my heart and the best way for me to stay in the light is write about the darkness. Get it out onto the page and get over it.
It’s been a long journey for many reasons, with mostly a lot of toxic people in my life, but now my muse is finding her footing again. So yes, I’m good with writing it now and plan to do it much, much more.
Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?
Erin: One of my favorite horror books is “Dead of Winter” by Brian Moreland. The isolated area he wrote the novel in, set in the late 1800s in the middle of winter, with his amazing pacing and creation of a foreboding atmosphere, all worked to scare me to pieces. I told him it exhausted, but I mean that as a compliment.
The “Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe….Ahhhhhhh! Scarred me for life, but I love his work. My childhood scare was “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. The headless horseman frequented my nightmares. However, now I love it and I love the television show too!
Q. What is your favourite horror film?
Erin: I really don’t know. I really liked “Sinister” and I like movies like Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Really like “The Silence of the Lambs” and anything Hannibal. If “Phantom of the Opera” counts, I love that too. Sorry, I can’t ever pick one of anything.
Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?
Erin: I haven’t written any books or stories in horror that have been published. *Pulls out her hair* I consider myself an author as I’ve had published poetry, essays, and thousands of articles published, yet not in the horror genre, and because I’ve worked on such large chucks of my own things and completed some stories I need to publish…soon. I can’t wait to do so.
Q. Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling? E.g Film, Short story, Novel, Audio drama or Podcast, Audiobook
Erin: Oh, for my own writing? Poetry and short story. For reading? Poetry, short stories or anthologies, novellas, and novels.
Q. What are you working on at the minute?
Erin: I finished up writing with pencil and paper (I know!) a story a week or so ago which is 6,000 words. It needs typed and edited. I suppose could most be described as a modern Twilight Zone-type story with some Hitchcock droplets. I just started another short story because I want to make a submission deadline. It features a lake theme which resembles another several stories I’m writing which are best described as gothic and take place near the water. I’m writing dark poetry for a collection I want to put together this year of my poems. My novels are sitting on the back a bit, but the main one is my novel of revenge featuring Emily Dickinson. The reason I’m not getting as much writing done is because I edit other authors so I’m busy reading their work, beta reading others, reviewing others, interviewing others, and as well running my busy publicity book business as well as my other marketing business. Oh, and my three kids. Probably something else I’m forgetting about, like taking time to sleep or eat….no I eat…who am I kidding? Eating candy for dinner counts, right?
Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?
Erin: I can only pick one? I can never pick ONE anything. I’d have to narrow it down and say my favorite classic female writer is Daphne du Maurier. She wrote so many amazing short stories, such as “The Birds,” which was of course, turned into a film by Hitchcock (he also did a few of her others), as well as gothic novels that have stood the test of time like “Rebecca.” If you don’t think she is horror, try to find her story “The Apple Tree” or even “The Doll,’ which showed her ahead of her time. She’s a great inspiration to me in terms of creating atmosphere and psychological thrills. But I’ll cheat and say I like Shirley Jackson too. In fact, I’ll cheat further and say that there are many modern women horror writers I need to read as well, but definitely Damien Angelica Walters comes to mind as well as Jennifer McMahon and Catherine Cavendish.
Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?
Erin: Right now, I’m running my own Women in Horror project of almost 30 women with my co-host David at The Scary Reviews. We have them all featured in mini-interviews. I have enjoyed getting to meet so many new female writers I hadn’t even heard of before. I would love to do some sort of anthology with women that takes the works of some of the classic female horror writers, and using them for inspiration, create an anthology as an ode to them. I think it would be wonderful to do a collection of poetry featuring women who have been in pain over something in their life: abuse, loss of a child or baby, loss of innocence, rape, mental illness. As for anything other than my own ideas, I’ve not heard of anything. People are trying to say equality means showing no difference in men and women. However, to me, it’s about doing these things (special women things) to embrace our uniqueness. If someone doesn’t want to buy it, they don’t have to, if they don’t want to be in it, they don’t have to, but for some female readers, it could be a huge connective piece for them.
Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?
Erin: Currently, I’m editing a short story collection for a horror author so that takes up some reading time. I just finished up a historical fiction novel (a genre I often review and love and am also writing a book in) about the Borgias, called “The Vatican Princess.” I recently read David Bernstein’s “A Mixed Bag of Blood,” which comes out March 1 from Sinister Grin Press and I loved it. Before that, I read Jennifer McMahon’s “The Night Sister” and really liked it as well (some Hitchcock references!), “Slade House,” by David Mitchell, and “The Poison Artist,” by Jonathan Moore. I’m probably forgetting some.
My TBR pile across the genres I read is HUGE. However, I am looking forward to reading “Mister White” by John C. Foster, which is going to be out from Grey Matter Press in April. I have an advanced review copy I’m highly anticipating sinking into.
Q. What films are you looking forward to?
Erin: I was looking forward to “The Witch” and I just saw that this weekend. I know many people didn’t like it or get it. I admit during the movie sometimes I was like “what?” and at the end I was also like “woah.” However, after I let some time sink in with it, I actually felt it was well done. The acting was very good. The effects were rich. They kept the scenes so tight that you almost felt as if you were in the movie itself without knowing it. I love going to plays set on intimate stages so it really felt a lot like that to me, which was stellar. I didn’t realize I left feeling an ominous, foreboding feeling, but I later realized it had attached to me. In fact when I turned off the light to go to bed that night, and my mind wandered to it, I actually felt a few chills. Maybe I didn’t have the initial scare I wanted, or as was advertised, but really it had a residual effect. Which I suppose was the point of the whole film, evil creeps in and takes you when you least expect it or when you feel you are fighting hard against it. The isolation, the paranoia, and what that does to human nature enough to let evil in, really has stayed with me.
Beyond that, I’m looking forward to watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for a second time! The new “X-Men” is something I’ve been anticipating since the last one ended. I haven’t seen “The Revenant” yet, but I am a huge Leo fan.
It’s not really a film, but I’m enjoying the television adaptation of Stephen King’s book called “11.22.63” and I was super excited for “The Vikings” to return to TV here in America last week.
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?
Erin: I’ve always felt that it was harder for women to prove themselves in the workplace, and really, in all areas of life. I’ve seen a lot in my 20-year career. Sometimes men also feel that they do treat women equal, in appreciation maybe, or sometimes not, but honestly, we still aren’t often allowed in the “good ole boy” groups. Some, even in horror, don’t see they do it. Even on social networking, however, guys will more likely comment on other guys stuff or talk horror books with other guys. I suppose also other women play into this because they don’t like their husbands/boyfriends being friends with women, but really, that’s just nonsense. So yes, I feel there are subconscious things that happen that even if they don’t know it happens, it does. I suppose this then tapers offer into things like who they read or support without even knowing it. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good or appreciative to women, but….there is still a divide.
As for more specific with horror, I think more women need to be nominated and awarded (some are but the percentage is one-sided for things like the Stoker). However, some of the women nominated are so so good.
Personally, I am friends with many men. I work with a lot of them, I have mostly men clients because that is who approaches me, and feel they appreciate and trust my experience and respect me.
Q. Why is Women in Horror month important?
Erin: I used to think it was important for men to appreciate and see what women in horror bring to the table. Maybe the genre is 80% men, but it might be trending less. However, I see many men supporting women with promotion, which is good. I hope many male authors also take the time to READ women authors as well. Where I see the most breakdown lately, and I’m sorry to say, is that I don’t think WOMEN in horror KNOW other WOMEN in horror or promote them. Now, I think the month is important to serve as a ‘meet and greet’ for everyone to know what amazing women are up to, for both men and women to realize! I know I feel less alone! Hopefully, getting to know women writers, or more writers as a whole, will lead to more promotion and conversation throughout the year.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Erin: Just because you wrote a book, or even 15 books, (and if you don’t have a degree or background in career writing) does not make you a writer if you’ve never vetted them with an editor, beta readers outside of family, or general readers. Start with one and go through the process with an editor who is experienced and a professional. Their changes will help you LEARN and SHOW you where your writing break downs are, and trust me, you won’t see them for yourself. Everyone has patterns they can’t see.
Read segments of your work out loud. Often. Do you write like you talk? Does every character sound like you? Then stop that immediately and evaluate your dialogue and the voice of your novel. Are you showing us through descriptive work or just telling us like you are giving a book report?
Don’t give up, but understand that writing first of all takes some talent. Unfortunately, it’s true. Anyone can write something, but only a select few of them are talented writers. Some people will have a quick success and there won’t be any formula that made it happen. Some will get it through hard work. Whatever you do, remember that whining gets you nowhere.
Be willing to take criticism. Understand that it’s a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and that you must not do it alone. Also, realize that it is a long, hard road sometimes and you’ll never get the answer to most of your “why” questions! Let it go. Do your best. Hire a team to support you. Find writer friends to support you. TAKE YOUR EGO OUT OF IT.
Start making fans before you even release your book. Don’t play catch up. Create anticipation. Again, if you don’t know how to do so, ask an author you see do it well or hire someone with the know how to consult with you or promote you.
Be inspired and find a way to stay inspired.
Look me up. I love to make new friends.
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