Posts Tagged ‘joyce carol oates’

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!

Erin AlMehairi

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.

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi Links:


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Hi folks. Welcome back! One of today’s interviews is with the lovely Vanessa Ionta Wright. She’s a screenwriter and executive producer of the upcoming short film, Rainy Season. This film is based on one of Stephen King’s stories and promises to be really good. There is an Indigogo link at the bottom of the interview, so I encourage all readers to enjoy meeting Vanessa, and if possible, support the production of this new horror film. Many thanks to Vanessa for stopping by my blog for a chat!
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Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
VIW: My name is Vanessa Ionta Wright and I am the Writer and Executive Producer of Rainy Season, based on the short story by Stephen King.  I started writing at a very young age, short stories and poems.  As I got older, the stories got longer and more detailed and I noticed myself writing them for the purpose of being filmed or performed in front of an audience.  When I was in high school, my parents bought a video camera and that sealed the deal for me.  Every possible project that I was assigned during those years in school was met with an immediate “Can I do this as a movie?”  The teachers never said no so I kept on making short films.  Once it was time to choose a college and career, I panicked.  I had never had any interest in any other subject and I had no idea you could study film for anything else other than a hobby.  I settled into Ohio University and pursued my education in Video Production and Film learning as much as could about all aspects of the industry so I could graduate with enough experience to land a career directing films.  That seemed reasonable, after all, I had been writing and directing since about the age of 7.  Apparently you needed an “in”.
Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you something mad you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?
VIW: I think the adrenaline rush of fear draws me to horror.  “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” – HP Lovecraft.  Fear is something everyone knows and can relate to. There is a huge difference between graphic violence that shocks you and makes your stomach turn and that moment when the hair stands up on the back of your neck.  That is what draws me to horror.  I’ve always been a huge fan of horror films, starting when I was 7 and snuck downstairs to spy on my parents watching The Amityville Horror.  I would constantly sneak around and try to watch something scary.  Cable television was relatively new so me, and my parents, were quite naive as to what you could watch during the day.  I would set up camp in front of the television on saturday afternoons and watch Commander USA’s Groovie Movies and scare myself silly watching movies like Friday the 13th III (I watched that whole series out of order), My Bloody Valentine, Cat People, An American Werewolf in London, just to name a few.  I suffered from terrible night terrors, and yet I still couldn’t stay away from watching these films.  I was hooked.
In some ways I’ve always written “horror” starting with my first book “The Witch’s Castle” when I was in the 2nd grade.  I won a halloween poem contest in the 6th grade and it all grew from there.  My first screenplay was a thriller, “Melting Point” that was written my sophomore year in college.  I write a lot of comedy too, mostly as a reprieve from all the terror 😉
Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?
VIW: One of my favorites is ‘The Bogeyman’ by Stephen King.  It rustled my jimmies (I am totally stealing that phrase 😉  That story freaks me out, even more so now, as a mother!  An entity and a terror that you can never escape from.  That was some creepy s#@!.
Q. What is your favourite horror film?
VIW: Oh god, this dreaded question…I had a friend ask me once and I couldn’t answer, so I went home and made a spread sheet of my top 10 favorite films across 21 different genres and categories…she got my 210 top films (that was some fast math!)  I seriously don’t know how to answer this.  I have favorite psychological horror films, favorite supernatural horror films…you’re torturing me on this one!!! I’m gonna name a couple.  I love the 1978 John Carpenter Halloween.  It was a very simple concept and executed so well.  It also had the moral message of “you sin, you die” which every great horror movie should have 😉  I think Hitchcock’s Psycho is phenomenal, it broke boundaries in film making.  They killed the main character a few beats in!  No one had done that before, go Alfred!  I adore 1973 The Exorcist.  I’m not a religious person, but that movie had me praying…rustled jimmies for sure.  Stephen King’s Misery blew me away, Kathy Bates owned that film.  “It” also really freaked me out.  Pennywise the clown, JIMMIES.  The concept of of this being, this entity that is everything you ever feared…so many jimmies.
Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?
VIW: I have written a few features and a handful of shorts.  I always have unfinished works at various stages of completion.  I wrote a remake of the original Friday the 13th with a longtime friend and colleague, Kevin Peterson.  We added some backstory on Pamela Voorhees and combined the first two installments to give a more complete storyline of the question, ‘what if Jason lived’.  We actually got a meeting out of New Line Cinema at the time, but they passed on the project, wanting to see how the release of Jason Vs. Freddy was going to do at the box office.  I wrote a comedy, ‘Bayou Gold’ that was a semi-finalist in the 2003 American Zoetrope screenplay contest and an official selection at the 2015 Oaxaca Global Script Challenge.  I have an anthology series called ‘The Time Changer’ that is a sci-fi thriller.  The first installment, ‘Into the Past’ was a finalist at the 2014 Shreikfest Horror Film Festival and the 2015 Chicago Indie Horror Fest.  The second installment, ‘Close at Hand’ was a finalist at the 2015 Shreikfest Horror Film Festival.  This collection takes 4 separate tales and spins time on it’s side.  I would love to see this project produced with 4 different director’s on board.  The script for Rainy Season was an official selection at the 2015 Northeast Horror Fest Film Festival and the 2016 Milledgeville Film Festival.  I think to date, my favorite work has been the Time Changer, I have a frightening obsession with time.
Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling?  E.g Film, Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook
VIW: Film is my favorite form of story telling.  I’m a visual person and there are things that can be said without saying a word in film, I love that.
Q. What are you working on at the minute?
VIW: Literally, this interview 😉  I am in full pre-production for Rainy Season right now.  We are crowd funding through indiegogo to raise our budget of $30,000.  I am thrilled with the script (5 rewrites later) and I think Stephen King is really going to enjoy what we’ve done with his story.
Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?
VIW: Shockingly, not a horror writer.  My favorite female authors are Sheri Reynolds and Joyce Carol Oates, there are many more, but I think I’ve read most of what these two have written and have never been disappointed.
Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?
VIW: I am thrilled to be working on Rainy Season with producers Samantha Kolesnik and Stephanie Wyatt.  I am also looking forward to working with Samantha on her feature, ‘Turning the Girl’.  There is also some talk of possibly collaborating with Novelist and Huffington Post writer Pamela K. Glasner on one of her projects.  Exciting stuff coming up.  I would also like to work with Ellen DeGeneres and go through haunted houses with her producer Andy Lassner.
Q. Who are some of the other people involved with Rainy Season?
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Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?
VIW: I have three books going right now.  I am reading East Hollywood by Ted Dewberry, Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King and Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe.  In my TBR pile…The Murder House by James Patterson, Joyland by Stephen King, Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz, and Uganda be Kidding me by Chelsea Handler.
Q. What films are you looking forward to?
VIW: I am looking forward to The Witch, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Invitation.  I’d like to check out that Ghostbusters reboot with Melissa McCarthy.
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?
VIW: I think the biggest challenge is the feeling of having to prove yourself…that I am just as good, if not better and I deserve to be here writing these stories and making these films.  I attended one of my favorite festivals this past fall and there wasn’t a single female winner.  I don’t say that with a chip on my shoulder or that the winners were undeserved, I simply noted that every winner, in every category was a man.  I think we need to continue ruffling feathers (or jimmies) and making a splash in the horror genre and in film as a whole.
Q. Why is Women in Horror month important?
VIW: I think it’s a great way to celebrate the estrogen filled pool of talented writers, filmmakers & artists.  We are still the minority in film, especially in horror and it is a great way to bring awareness to some great works that have been created and produced by women.  I’ve noticed when I see a film, for example The Babadook, and I discuss with with my friends and peers and they go on and on about how great it is, I’ll chime in that it was written and directed by a woman, the reaction is always “really?”  YES!  Women can make great films and write great stories and scare the hell out of you, why is that so shocking?  Great film, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, please check it out.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers? And is there anything that you would recommend for people who’d like to write for film or are interested in getting into the film industry?
VIW: I don’t like to give advice, mostly because I don’t feel qualified to give advice, but if someone said to me, “Vanessa, I want to be a writer, what should I do?” I would simply say, “Then write.” Read as many books as you can and write whenever possible. The more you write, the easier it becomes to find your voice. If you have a story to tell, then tell it.  Your writing will get better the more you do it. And keep a thick skin about you, you have to be able to handle criticism and feedback, both good and bad. It’s easy to take it personally, don’t. Stephen King wrote a great book on the craft, ‘On Writing’. If you have a favorite author or filmmaker, chances are they wrote a book on the subject, check it out and go from there.
Vanessa Ionta Wright Links:


Indiegogo:  CLICK HERE to support Rainy Season based on the story by Stephen King


She writes awesome short stories. She writes badass novels. She kills giant scorpions without even blinking. She basically just kicks ass. Everybody – meet Miss Murder herself: Mercedes Murdock Yardley.


Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

MMY: I grew up in a small town out in the middle of the desert. I write whimsical horror, nonfiction, novels, short stories, and poetry. I always wrote as a child, and knew I wanted to be an author by the time I was in third grade. It only took me about 20 more years to finally do that.

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!”?

MMY: I’ve always written scary stories. The first story I remember reading to my classroom was one about a sea serpent attacking a submarine, with an ear-piercing shriek at the end. Horror has always made my blood run. It’s exciting! I love that feeling of being scared. It’s the feeling of being alive.

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

MMY: There are several that come to mind. Of course I’m a big Poe fan. I was probably the only kid in elementary school who had the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. Loved Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” That horrified me to the core. But I think my favorites were the ones we’d tell each other at sleepovers and we’re out camping. Like, this one. There was a girl home alone while her parents were out of town. She heard on the news that a murderer had escaped from an asylum. She was afraid all night, but was comforted by reaching down from her bed and feeling her dog lick her hand. In the morning she walked into the bathroom to find her dog dead and words scrawled on the mirror. “People can lick hands, too.”  That story gave me fits as a child!

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

MMY: My first book was a short story collection called Beautiful Sorrows. I wrote an urban fantasy novel called Nameless: The Darkness Comes. It’s the first book in THE BONE ANGEL trilogy. I also wrote a novella titled Little Dead Red that I’m proud of. This month is the re-release of my two favorite books, Pretty Little Dead Girls and Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love. I can’t wait for them to come back out! They’re my babies.

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

MMY: I love all of the forms. I love novels, I love short stories. I love nonfiction articles and I love hearing them read by the author or acted out by a narrator. But I think my favorite form is flash fiction, which are stories under a thousand words. It’s such a disciplined and, at the same time, ethereal form.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

MMY: I’m working on a few different things! One is a short story for a very cool anthology. I’m also hard at work writing the sequels to Nameless. It’s a busy year.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

MMY: I’d have to say Aimee Bender. She writes creative, surreal stories with gorgeous prose. I had the chance to meet he in person and she’s everything I hoped she would be. It was such a pleasure!

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

MMY: Joe Pulver just put out a women’s only anthology titled Cassilda’s Song that I’m involved in, and it’s really something special. It’s a pleasure to be part of it. I’ve heard rumblings of a tribute to Joyce Carol Oates perhaps being put together. If that was the case, I’d be all over that.

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

MMY: Right now I’m catching up on reading so I can vote for the Bram Stoker Awards. I’m pretty much reading everything of the ballot. There’s some great stuff on there, I can tell you.

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?

MMY: There are a few challenges. Some people truly do believe that women aren’t capable of writing horror, or that it’s somehow unseemly. I find that I have difficulty networking because I’m home taking care of the kiddos and can’t attend as many conferences. I also feel women are looked at differently than men. If a man takes charge of his career, he’s a leader. If a woman does the same thing, she’s difficult to work with.

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

MMY: It’s important that women be recognized for our contributions. By shining a spotlight on female creatives, we’re making it easier for us to be more fully accepted. That’s the ultimate goal.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

MMY: Don’t waste your time talking about your story. Write it. Finish it up, get it done. The best way to become a great writer is by writing.  It’s worth the effort.

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Welcome back to another WIHM Interview!  Today we have Karen Runge visiting my blog.  Karen Runge is one my favourite authors. We first crossed paths in Jack Ketchum’s horror class at The work she presented in class was so good that I invited her to put a story in my debut anthology Suspended my Dusk. Karen has since gone on to sell to Shock Totem and we even co-wrote a story together, High Art, that was collected the Death’s Realm anthology from Grey Matter Press.

Probably one of the more twisted women in horror, I give you: Karen Runge.


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

KR: I’m a horror writer, dark literature writer, wannabe poet and artist… well, a lover of all things creative. I’m native to South Africa but was born in France, and have been past resident of several other countries too over the years. Okay, this is already too complicated! I don’t have a straight-lane background. But since we’re both in the lit world, I’ll try to keep it there. I’m primarily a short story writer, but have a novel coming out this year as well as my own short story collection. Maybe I write because I’m trying to make sense of such a muddled history and background? I wouldn’t be the first!

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!”?  

KR: Essentially what draws me to this marvelous, diverse genre is its depth. People who aren’t into horror tend to think that its fans and creators are lunatics, sickos or psychos, or just generally very shady people. Not at all. Horror, first and foremost, is an exercise in empathy. From schlock to high-end dark literature. What they all have in common is that if it doesn’t make you feel, it’s not working. Horror tells hard truths from all angles, and from what I’ve seen it’s the only genre that does so without flinching. Sincerity can be brutal. But it’s also honest. I admire that. No, I adore that.

My “Fuck it!” moment probably happened when I was very, very young—too young maybe to even know that word! My older brother, in true bully-little-sister style typical to that age, used to take horror story collections out of the library, read them, and then retell them to me (with heavy embellishments)—hoping to make me cry, give me nightmares, I don’t know. It kind of backfired because I loved it! My first ‘horror stories’ were drawings I did of werewolves and beasties based on the stories he’d told me. I can’t have been more than six or seven years old, but already I was obsessed. Down the years my English teachers quickly came to know that any creative writing assignments I handed in would be more than a little… well, let’s say quirky. Thankfully they encouraged me, and there weren’t too many awkward teacher-parent conferences!

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

KR: That’s tricky. I read horror from all edges, and when I’m impressed I get so drawn in I forget the others for a while. I guess there may be a few, from different stages of my life. I read Stephen King’s IT when I was about thirteen, and I was so struck by it that to this day I still have dreams with a distinct Derry-town feel. I know, it’s so common to list Mr King as the jimmy-rustler. But hey, it’s true. That one hit me hard because the horror I’d read up until then (and loved) had been very pulpy. That book was the first to show me how very serious and adult horror can be, even when talking about a psycho alien ‘clown’. It completely shifted my perspective on the true nature of horror as a creative medium. Joyce Carol Oates’ MAN CRAZY took it even further–into abuse cycles, physical and psychological trauma… the first time I recognised what I’d argue is a horror story without the supernatural bend. Latest on my knee-jerk list was Stona Fitch’s SENSELESS. It’s what some would describe as Torture Porn, but there’s a storm of very intent, focused intellect driving it. Again, one to show that what you assume a genre or sub-genre is can be very different when done right, by the right hands. Which I think is sheer magic.


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

I’ve had a bunch of short stories published—first appearing in South Africa’s Something Wicked, on to a few little ezines, on to Pseudopod, Shock Totem… and from there the very excellent Grey Matter Press. My favourite short would probably have to be GOOD HELP, the story I wrote in the workshop we took together, dear Simon. Not because it’s the best writing I’ve done, but because as a story it was probably the most concise. That one came out in Shock Totem #9 – my first 100% pro-published story. So it has a special place in my heart.

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

KR: I’m a hardcore book junkie. I love the feel, the smell, the story that builds within the story each time you turn a page. I’m all for coffee stains and dog-eared pages. They show that a book has been read, really read—which means loved. I listen to podcasts at least three times a week when I’m mucking around, doing housework or whatever. But without actual books… my life would not be complete. And so of course I love seeing my own name, my own stories on paper. It’s a thrill that never loses its potency.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

KR: Edits! Oh joy. I started what might maybe be a new novel a few weeks back but, as I mentioned, I’ve got two books coming out this year that are demanding my attention. I’ll get back to the real work soon, very soon, because this one keeps on nagging me and I think that means she’s serious about being written. But for the moment, it’s all about the red pens.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

KR: I’m a huge fan of Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates. I simply cannot choose between the two. I loved Lionel Shriver’s WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, but that’s the only book of hers I’ve read. I’ve been obsessed with Sylvia Plath since I was about twelve. What do these women have in common? They talk real, they talk deep, they talk disturbing. They’re not afraid of their own intelligence, and their works are super powerful. Any artist—never mind woman—who can create like that has my full attention. Not to mention my admiration.


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

KR: I’m currently reading Sidney Sheldon’s THE NAKED FACE. I’ve never read any of Sheldon’s work before, so I’m taking my time with it to see what all the fuss is about. I’m also due to reread LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN by Hubert Selby, Jr. The one that sparked a court case over its obscenity, and almost got itself banned. Or did? I think it actually did, somewhere. Yes, that one. I first read it when I was about eighteen and its unflinching rawness beyond impressed me. I’ve thought about it often over the years. So, it’s time for a revisit I think. I also have a pile of dark lit books on their way to me from the States… South African bookstores don’t understand that the Horror section should not necessarily be the exclusive domain of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. So I’m really, really looking forward to getting my hands on them. When they finally do arrive, I’ll probably give up sleeping altogether just to make time for them!

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 you faced that are complicated by your gender?

KR: There’s a reaction I sometimes get from men. A kind of You?? No way! reflexive double-take when I mention I write horror, collect disturbing films, or even just say anything that doesn’t fit the corset confines of what they assume I must be into / like / do as a woman—or as I appear to them, as a woman. You have to work harder to get people to accept that, yes, you really do like this. Yes, you really do do this. That you’re not just posing to get in with the boys or look cute or what have you. The irony is that women have created this problem themselves, by posing/feigning their interests to get attention. It’s created something of a vicious circle I think. When I was younger I’d get a bit worked up about that—being talked down to, being misunderstood (or even disbelieved) on the basis of my gender. Now I just shake it off and get on with it. Over the years I’ve developed something of a I’ll show ’em attitude, as opposed to tears or helpless outrage. Never a bad thing, right?

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

KR” Because of the above-mentioned—guys just don’t expect to see women in the darker edges. We’re supposed to be planning weddings, mooning about having babies, scrapbooking… something. We’re not supposed to cheer when someone gets taken out in brutal fashion in a Slasher film. We’re not supposed to be first in line at horror conventions. WiHM is in place to shift that over a little, wake people up to the fact that maybe the girl in the flowery dress has a shelf full of Stephen King novels at home. Maybe the babe with the big blue eyes has a penchant for cannibal films. But I do also have to say here that the men I’ve come to know in horror lit circles have been incredibly open and supportive. No, that’s not right. They’ve been normal. Totally normal. Not a blink at the fact that I’m a female with a desperate fascination for the hardcore macabre. Thanks, guys! So the tide is already shifting, which is more than encouraging. Let’s keep at it though, because we do still have a ways to go.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write it, don’t be afraid of it, just do it. Do not stress about what other people will think of it. Write to express yourself. Do it for you.