The second WiHM interview for today is with the extremely talented S.P Miskowski. She’s a short story and novel author and has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award multiple times (It’s only a matter of time, I’m telling you!). Special thanks to her for stopping by my blog so we could get to know her a little better!
Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
SPM: I grew up in my hometown of Decatur, Georgia in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mine was the first integrated generation and so my experiences were quite different from those of my older sisters and my parents. At the time my classmates and I thought we represented a better future, one in which diversity was a given and a positive aspect of life. This was before massive white flight and further polarization encouraged by white political leaders, so we were naïve. But the experience made me question authority and the wisdom of my elders who resisted integration. This has stayed with me. I question authority automatically, question its basis and its integrity, and I’m extremely aware of hypocrisy. I note the difference between what we say and what we do, and maybe this is a good attitude for a writer. I don’t know.
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!”?
SPM: My first horror story didn’t have any eureka moment. At least I didn’t express it in those terms, maybe because I was eight years old. After binge-reading Edgar Allan Poe stories I wrote a small collection of gruesome tales, some of them about an eight year old who did horrible things to her family. My parents loved it. I illustrated the collection and gave it to my mother as a gift.
Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?
SPM: It’s difficult to narrow down to one, of course. In recent years “Peep” by Ramsey Campbell made a real impression. I’ve been a fan of Campbell’s short stories for years; that one in particular stayed with me, probably because it so perfectly ties together reality, empathy, psychology, and the possibility of something supernatural. A story not usually associated with horror, Paul Bowles’ “In the Red Room” also continues to haunt me.
Q. What is your favourite horror film?
SPM: Today? It Follows. But on any given day I might say A Tale of Two Sisters, Audition, The Babadook, or Rosemary’s Baby. Common element here, I guess, is a focus on female characters. Women are endlessly fascinating.
Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?
SPM: The Skillute Cycle is a one-novel, three-novella series published by Omnium Gatherum. The first two books in the series were finalists for Shirley Jackson Awards. “Stag in Flight” is a story to be published May 1st as a chapbook by Dim Shores, with illustrations by Nick Gucker. Muscadines is close to my heart; it was an idea I toyed with for years, tried in a couple of forms, and never quite made it work. There was always an element missing. Then Dunhams Manor Press gave me the chance to write a novelette for their 2016 hardcover series, illustrated by Dave Felton. I went back to the drawing board and this time the whole story—about the adult daughters of a violent woman—just came pouring out. This happens sometimes when I think I’ve stopped thinking about a story; my imagination is still playing with the material until something new occurs, the perfect point of view or a new setting or a literary device that changes everything.
I’ve had several short stories accepted for anthologies in the past year, among them: “Death and Disbursement” in October Dreams 2; “Strange is the Night” in Cassilda’s Song; “Lost and Found” in The Hyde Hotel; and “The Resurrected” in Sisterhood, an anthology of horror stories by female authors set in religious communities. In 2015 “The Second Floor” appeared in Black Static magazine. It’s hard to choose but I’m pleased with “Strange is the Night” because, again, this was something I returned to after a long break and I found it fit the King in Yellow theme very well. The imagery was there, waiting for me, and the conflict (between an elitist critic and a young, eager ingénue) made sense in a new way.
Q. Do you have a favourite form for story telling? (e.g Film, Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook)
SPM: The short story, definitely, is my first love and the best.
Q. What are you working on at the minute?
SPM: I’m researching two stories set in the Weimar Republic, while writing a novel set at a newspaper (back when people read newspapers).
Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?
SPM:Dead? Flannery O’Connor, tied with Shirley Jackson. Alive? Lynda E. Rucker in strange or weird fiction, and Donna Tartt in mainstream or non-genre fiction.
Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?
SPM: Two of the anthologies I mentioned—Cassilda’s Song and Sisterhood—include only female writers. Both are edited by men, the first by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. and the second by Nate Pedersen, and are published by Chaosium.
Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?
SPM: I’m reading a book on Weimar cinema and another on Weimar culture in general. My TBR stack is appalling. There is such a boom in good fiction from small presses these days, I’ll never catch up. Word Horde, Undertow Publications, ChiZine, Omnium Gatherum, Dunhams Manor Press, Dim Shores, Black Shuck Books are among the presses publishing astonishingly good new work. In particular I always look forward to the next book by Laird Barron, his most recent being X’s for Eyes.
Q. What films are you looking forward to?
SPM: The Witch.
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?
SPM: The men and women I’ve worked with have been wonderful to me. I’ve had few serious challenges in the genre and I think this is a sign of progress since I was writing more mainstream short stories as an undergraduate. One persistent, lingering habit we all have, male and female, is to accept the authority of a male voice more quickly. We all tend to credit men with writing the way they want, by choice and with knowledge of the available styles and conventions, while we tend ever so slightly to believe young women need more guidance in order to achieve their potential. This tendency continues to diminish but it also continues to shut out unusual female voices and those who present truly original or transgressive themes and ways of looking at life.
Q. Why is Women in Horror month important?
SPM: Visibility, a reminder of reality. Even today there are a few editors who, asked to name more than two women in the genre, could not. To each his own, of course, but if you don’t keep up with the changing world you may soon be very confused and lost. Keep up. Learn the names and get to know the work of talented writers of color and women who are doing amazing things. A diverse world is an interesting world, not a threatening one.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
SPM: Read widely and keep journals. Practice, and take encouragement where you can get it. If no one offers it, encourage yourself. Be bold and take risks, and write in your own voice. Your particular experiences and how you translate them into fiction will be your strength. Learn what you can from classic literature but don’t worship it. Create your own world.
S.P. Miskowski Links
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/S.P.-Miskowski/e/B002GG88ZA