Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

April Hawks is a Woman in Horror who is a total inspiration for anyone who knows her. Aside from being a writer, she’s a mum and mum to one hell of a tough little thug who had cancer at age 3.  I’ve been Facebook “friends” with April for a fair while and though I don’t know her well I’ve been in absolute awe of her as a writer, woman and mum. When I decided to have Women in Horror Month interviews, I was thrilled when April said she’d love to take part.  Thanks for stopping by April!!
april hawks

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

I grew up about an hour northish of where I live now, and while there were the usual family issues any obnoxious teen thinks they have, my family is pretty cool. I actually live about ten minutes from three uncles, four aunts, a couple cousins and my grandparents and we are a tight knit clan. It is amazing to me how close my kids are to their great grandparents, and feel blessed that they have that as an experience. I am fortunate similarly, that I was able to get to know two of my great grandfathers and I still have letters from my Grampy White, who was an author as well. Though he passed in the early 2000s at 91 years old, I also have signed copies of each of his books that I treasure. I also gave my main character, from my novel The Birthday Slasher: An Arielle Charltray Novel, my grandmother’s maiden name. Unbeknownst to me, I gave my main character’s dad my great grandfather’s middle name as his first name. If that makes any sense. I had started the book a few years ago and I only found out last week that the J. in my great grandfather’s name stood for Joseph.

I have always loved to write and to read and when I started to buckle down and write and pursue publishing, it was an amazing feeling of coming home. I’ve been in and out of college since I graduated High School. Sixteen years working on my Associate’s degree, and counting. But I was going to school with a focus in English because I wanted to teach College level English classes. That has kind of fallen to the wayside, but not completely off the table.

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!”?  

I am laughing because I have changed so much in the last few years. I have known my friend and Mentor, Peter N. Dudar, for a few years, now. And when we met, I was a bit more shy, and intimidated as hell. Our kids went to the same pre-school program and though I had spoken to his wife regularly, I kind of freaked out when I found out he was an author. He had been published. Here I was, this mom with one marriage behind me, and a relationship that blessed me with two more kids. (Now, we have been married for seven years and added another kid.) Anyway, Peter told me that he wrote horror and I was thinking ‘I don’t even watch that shit, let alone write about it.’ And he told me he wrote short stories, and I was like ‘I want to write novels.’ But we continued to stay in touch, though my friendship stayed primarily with his wife. But Pete is a cool guy.

This kind of overlapped with an opportunity I was gifted with. The Wounded Warrior Project was introduced to me and they sent me to New York City to participate in a workshop with other caregivers of Wounded veterans. So, in June, 2012, I got to have this amazing two days of workshops with an amazing group of women, a small little group of six of us in addition to two mentors. I saw an off Broadway Play (or off, off Broadway, I forget) called Rapture Blister Burn, written by Gina Gionfrido who was another mentor. The play had an amazing cast including Amy Brenneman and Lee Turgison. It was AH MAY ZING. But I digress.

The workshop was in two parts. That was the first part. The second came in October, after the ground fell out from beneath my feet.

August 31, 2012

My son, who was three days shy of his third birthday, was diagnosed with Cancer. So September was insanity for me, and I really remember very little. But what I do remember is that I thought seriously about not going to the second portion. Friends and family persuaded me, reminding me that a recharge was a good idea after all we had been immersed in as a family. So I went. And I got an assignment from my mentors to write a personal essay. With the help of my mentors, I edited and re wrote and re wrote more. In the meantime, I buy copies of all the anthologies that Peter had been in and I read cover to cover and was intrigued, but not enough to try to write it myself.

So then, Peter comes back to me and tells me that he got an invite for an anthology that he thinks would be a great opportunity for me. When I read about it, I agree whole heartedly. I got in touch with the editor, Lori Michelle, and I made a friend and got my essay accepted for inclusion into the anthology benefitting the National Children’s Cancer Society.

On top of the essay, I literally thought “Fuck it. I’ll try a fiction piece, too.” And I did. And I poured so much into it that it soothed me and helped me process my son’s diagnosis and the symptoms that he was experiencing and…it just helped me sort my brain out. And it was total shit. But I had done it. And the process of writing that story, Dark Fever, was amazing. I had a complete piece. It may not have been great, but it was whole. And so I went from “I’ll never write Horror,” intending to leave both the genre and the format to Peter, to eventually taking on a challenge to write a story every week in 2014. And submitting work wasn’t intimidating anymore because after you hear the words “your son has cancer” it is difficult to be afraid of rejection for your writing.

Never say never.

Oh, I also want to say that my son is now six and a half and off treatment. And a nutjob.

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

I would have to say that The Stand is my favorite. It was my Stephen King Gateway. Lol. I saw the movie when it was on television and I fell in love. It was sad and funny and thought provoking. It was an epic journey, much like the fantasy books I adore. And My favorite Martian was in it, so you know, win! And I had to read the book. And the book was more amazing than the movie. So that is how I do movie/books, now. Watch the movie then read the book. And I have liked King, and devoured what I could find. Except for IT which freaked me the fuck out at age 8 (still not mad, Jen. It is a great story to tell)

But even at that point, in my early twenties, I never looked past King and when I had exhausted what was around me of his work, I went back to my epic fantasies.

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

I have written a novel, which is in vomit draft at the moment (first draft…get it all out and clean it up later. I can’t say Anne Lamotte’s phrase ‘Shitty First Drafts’ in front of my kids. Lol.) and I referenced it above. The Birthday Slasher: An Arielle Charltray Novel. Inspired by a date with my husband when we were first dating, actually. It is in the hands of beta readers at the moment and I am working on it while I wait for notes, too. I have also written well over 52 short stories (or pieces of 2500 words that could grow into more. That was my benchmark) from 2014. And I have an epic fantasy novel started and an Urban Fantasy novel as well. So I have a lot to work with and the desire to do much, much more. A few of my pieces have been accepted and some have been published and that is amazing to me. There is nothing quite like seeing my name in print with something I wrote. It never gets old.

I love my blog, because I used it as a tool for updates through the cancer treatments we have gone through and through my shaving my head to support St. Baldricks national campaign to raise funding for Childhood Cancer research. There is so very much of me in my blog. And I write about things I am passionate about: Childhood Cancer, Veterans issues, Childhood Sexual Trauma and Domestic abuse are my primary advocacy targets on there.

I would say, though, that Slippery Love was the piece that I love the most because it was what got me started. It got me started writing again, it got published, and it wasn’t all about the horrible stuff, on the surface. I wrote about a little boy and his pets- composting worms. But there was a lot underneath. And it was cleansing and healing. It was something I needed badly and hadn’t even known.

But I will also say that my short story, Organically Grown was the first fiction piece someone ever paid me for publishing. That will always be amazing to me.

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

I like to listen to James Marsters read Jim Butcher books, but that is mostly because I would listen to him read the contents of dryer lint and be happy. I love Butcher, so I tend to read him in print more. I have a more recent adoration for short stories, and I love that I can make a complete package out of them in a shorter time span than my novels. But I love longer works and though I wouldn’t recommend writing a mystery as a first novel, due to the complexities of keeping track of characters and clues, that is more because of personal preference and my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (Diagnosed, even)

And I have digressed, but really, I think they all have a place. Some people will go see a play before they would read. Others are more into television and movies. Others like audio because it works with their commutes. I think anything that engages someone is important and not to be overlooked. So I don’t really have a favorite form.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

Other than this interview? Hahah. (It was funnier in my head) Edits and rewrites for The Birthday Slasher, and when the kids return to school after February break, I will haul out my box of short stories and will play with them and look at getting some ready for submitting.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

The Bronte sisters, Louisa May Alcott, and Mary Shelley and the other classic women that paved the way, first and foremost. Jean Auel, who wrote the Clan of the Cave Bear series and wrote a strong female character that I wanted to emulate and was going to name my daughter after (har har. Joke’s on me. I have all boys.) But I will feel terrible if I were to list current women authors that reside in my Facebook Friends list and forgot some. Plus, there are so very many that I couldn’t possibly remember them all. Honestly, I don’t always pay attention to whether the author is male or female when I read a book. I just read and if I enjoy it, great! Then I get more of their books. If not, I don’t.

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

Sadly, not at the moment. I am a solitary writer, other than my writer’s group, Tuesday Mayhem Society, with Peter Dudar and Morgan Sylvia. When we are able to get together we have an amazing and productive time.

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

I am totally digging post apocalypse stuff at the moment. My TBR pile is GINORMOUS and again, I am not even sure what is on it. I have bookshelves of books to read and a ton of books on my kindle that I read in the order I downloaded them. (OCD though art a brutal mistress)

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?

There have been a few assholes on Facebook that have said stupid shit, but overall, I have found the horror community to be warm and welcoming. And to be honest, if publishers have rejected me because I am a woman, they have been wise enough not to say that to me. I have gotten into debates with people during the last two women in Horror months. The first started with me trying to give a person an opportunity to clear up his stupidity. I was assuming, since he kept saying that he wasn’t a mysogenist, that the words he was using were the wrong ones. So, I tried to help him out of the clusterfuck in which he had entangled himself. His beginning statement was that the official picture of women in horror month was a pair of bright red lips and fangs. That was actually not correct. The official picture was hockey mask. But he began to talk about how it wasn’t classy to use bright red lips and fangs. And then the conversation turned to vagina dentata. And there was a terrible spiral downward from there. Though I had submitted some stuff to him, and his press, I ended the debacle by blocking him. I have no interest in being affiliated in any way with that whole mess, or a press represented by him. But I will say that it was glorious to see so many people put red lipstick on in solidarity of the inanity. Even my husband took a red lipsticked selfie. And so there was a tremendous backlash for him and a rally around the women.

Last year, again trying to be helpful, a man asked about any writers in Maine, in a private group. I told him about Tuesday Mayhem Society and a couple other writers.  and he went on a huge rant about how we were not actual writers and that all women in horror were hags. He was a real ass by the end of it. Again, I blocked. Both cases, however, I commented on in my blog. Once again, the backlash was not good to that man. And I think that is beautiful. In this case, we had profile pictures of “hags” and we were the Horror Hags! Men and women alike. And I was able to coin the phrase #restinghagface. Which I still use.

The most important thing that I walked away from both times was the support that we got. People all over Facebook rallied and took a stand that this was not acceptable. That is huge! I mean when I think of how many Facebook friends I have, to see that only two were douchetastic was very cool. And they aren’t my friends anymore, anyway. There is such a comradery in the writing community. And we handled it in a very tongue in cheek manner, which I think is great! There was an abundance of sarcasm and wink. Wink, nudge, nudgeing happening. So it was addressed, but in a funny way, I think.

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

Because women still have more success when taking a gender neutral or a male pen name. Because the perception is still there that women are too soft to write anything scary. And I know, because I know what my perception of a horror writer used to be. In an ideal world, (which we all know this is not) there is no preconceived notion of what a horror writer should be or is. If someone wants to dress up to sell their books (an issue brought up last year in the crazy speak) fuck it! My first thought was “let them” but it is no one else’s decision to ‘let people’ do things. If the person in the booth next to you at a writing convention, is dressed like a vampire, who the fuck cares? We are way too tied into the way things should or shouldn’t be. And so there is still a perception that women shouldn’t be writing gore or whatever. Until people stop deciding what the picture for Women in Horror Month should or shouldn’t be, until people no longer associate women that write horrific things with hags, we will continue to need WIHM. It is sad to me, though, that in the year 2016, we still underestimate people enough that we NEED _______ (fill in the blank) month for any group of people at all. But that is another rant. Take some time and check out some female horror writers and see that we can do it just as well, and in some cases better, than our male counterparts. And I only say the last part because in any genre there is a bunch of poorly written shit out there, from any gender.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write. If you write, you are a writer. Publication is secondary.

 

April Hawks Links:

Blog: Working on Creative Chaos 

Facebook: Author page https://www.facebook.com/AprilDawnHawks

Twitter: @aprilhawks

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/flockofhawks/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/April-Hawks/e/B00FRLSH9I/

 

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Deborah Sheldon is a … I don’t even know where to begin.. if it can be written, she’s probably written it! In recent times however, Deborah has published crime novels, a short story collection called Mayhem, and has a bio horror novel forthcoming form the very cool Cohesion Press.

Deborah Sheldon (1)

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

I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and have about 30 years of professional writing credits across a range of media. I got my Bachelor of Arts (Multidisciplinary) way back when the Toorak campus of Deakin University was still Victoria College. I’m married to a wonderful man, Allen, who supports my writing both emotionally and financially, and we have a teenage son, Harry. Atlas, our pampered and bossy little budgie, keeps all of us in line.

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!”?

After many years of focusing on medical writing, journalism, and TV scriptwriting, I started writing fiction in late 2007. At first, I wrote literary fiction; specifically, short stories with a sad or melancholic aspect. Then I moved into crime writing. My crime noir, in particular, tended to include scenes of horror. In mid-2014, after signing contracts for two crime novels, I found myself at a loose end. Where to now? I felt uneasy, restless; itchy to try something new. I decided to write a horror story, and loved the experience.

What draws me to horror is the same thing that draws me to crime noir: life is a grisly exercise. There’s something cathartic about putting anxieties down on paper.

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

It’s a cliche to say it, since so many others have said it before me, but Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ scared the absolute bejesus out of me when I was a kid. I make a point of re-reading it every five or so years, just to remind myself how it’s possible to transform the most ordinary things – a fire hose, a locked door, a row of hedge animals – into objects of terror, given the right words and attention to detail.

Q. What is your favourite horror film?

Oh, too many to name just one! ‘Psycho’ still gives me the creeps, particularly the look on Anthony Perkins’s face in the last scene. John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ is a glorious and gory take on paranoia that just gets better every time I watch it. ‘Aliens’, a perfect balance of suspense and shocks, will always be in my Top Five. While ‘Cape Fear’ (1962) isn’t a horror film by strict definition, the escalating sense of helpless dread always leaves me in tears. Then there are particular scenes in horror films that stay with me even when the rest of the film fades from memory… the eerie journey through the cane fields in ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ (1943), and the first time the monster appears in the original ‘The Thing From Another World’ (1951).

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

In 30 years, I’ve written a lot, too much to list here. More recently, I’ve had horror stories published in Midnight Echo, Pulp Modern, Lighthouses: an anthology of dark tales, and Aurealis, and upcoming in Tincture Journal, SQ Mag, and Allegory. One of my stories got an Honourable Mention in the AHWA 2015 Flash Fiction Awards, which was great. My most recent projects are the crime noir novella, ‘Dark Waters’ (Cohesion Press 2014), and the collection, ‘Mayhem: selected stories’ (Satalyte Publishing 2015). There is a full list of credits on my website.

I don’t have a favourite work overall. I tend to fall in love with each project asI’m writing it. Therefore, I’m constantly in love.

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

DS: I love writing in all its forms. I’ve sold drabbles, flash, short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels, as well as stage plays, radio plays, TV scripts, and a telemovie shortlisted for production by Australia’s Channel 10. As a reader, I devour all types of storytelling media, including film – I’m a sucker for mid-20th century Hollywood. In both reading and writing, I crave variety.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

DS: My bio-horror novel, ‘Devil Dragon’.

It’s about a scientist, Dr Erin Harris, who is obsessed with finding a living Varanus priscus, a giant Australian lizard that apparently went extinct some 12,000 years ago. There are occasional sightings, like Big Foot or Nessie. Erin cobbles together an expedition party and travels into the unexplored heart of a national park. A nerdy scientist, an elderly farmer and two gun-toting deer hunters stranded in the bush versus an apex predator the size of a campervan – what could go wrong? I intensively researched herpetology, firearms, and hunting. What a steep learning curve! I’m very grateful to the professionals who helped vet an earlier draft for technical accuracy. ‘Devil Dragon’ is due for release in October 2016 through Cohesion Press. It is to be the first in a new series, called ‘Natural Selection’, of stand-alone bio-horror novels.

In between rewrites of ‘Devil Dragon’, I’m currently working on a horror short story that involves spiders… a few billion of them. And soon, I’ll be working on the final edits of my contemporary crime novel, ‘Garland Cove Heist’, due for release in November 2016 by Satalyte Publishing.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

Ds: Don’t make me choose! Top three, in no particular order: Annie Proulx, Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson.

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

I would love to collaborate on a project, maybe a short story anthology.

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

DS: I always have a stack of books on my bedside table. At the moment, I’m reading Aurealis #87 (which has my short story, ‘Across the white desert’, beautifully illustrated by Andrew Saltmarsh by the way); ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood; and ‘Killing Pablo’ by Mark Bowden.

My TBR pile includes ‘A Hell of a Woman’ by Jim Thompson, ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ by Daphne du Maurier, ‘Doctor Sleep’ by Stephen King, ‘The Quiet American’ by Graham Greene, ‘The Scapegoat’ by Daphne du Maurier, ‘Mockingbird’ by Walter Tevis, ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent, ‘One Count to Cadence’ by James Crumley, and oh God please help me I can’t stop buying books…

Q. What films are you looking forward to?

DS: Zoolander 2! I loved the first film and can’t wait for more silliness.

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 have faced that are complicated by your gender?

DS: It’s a presumption that men write action/crime/horror, and women write romance/chick lit/erotica. The members of one of my writing groups – all women – are convinced that female writers are considered substandard by the industry.

Grudgingly, I agree. Why else would we need our separate spotlights, such as the Stella Awards and the Women in Horror Month, unless we are marginalised?

Q. Why is ‘Women in Horror’ Month important?

DS: The reading public needs to know that plenty of women are writing some seriously kick-arse horror fiction. Readers will catch on fast. In a few years, a ‘Women in Horror’ month will no longer be necessary, I hope.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

• Read a lot, across a range of genres.

• Write a lot. Ignore the marketplace, and write what stirs you.

• Join a writers’ group, preferably with people who are around the same level of experience. Feedback and constructive criticism are invaluable.

• Revise and edit, over and over, until your piece is the best you can make it.

• Don’t worry too much about rejection. When you’re a writer, rejection comes with the job. Have a glass of wine, steel yourself, and submit to a new market.

Deborah Sheldon links:

Website: http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3312459.Deborah_Sheldon

Facebook page (run by Cohesion Press): https://www.facebook.com/Deborah-Sheldon-936388749723500/

Latest Individual Works

  • Dark Waters (paperback)

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Waters-Deborah-Sheldon/dp/0992558158

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Dark-Waters-Deborah-Sheldon/9780992558154

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-waters-deborah- sheldon/1120936372?ean=9780992558154

Fishpond: http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/Dark-Waters-Deborah-Sheldon/9780992558154

  • Dark Waters (ebook)

http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00QZ6UKD0

  • Mayhem: selected stories (paperback)

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mayhem-Selected-Stories-Deborah- Sheldon/dp/0992558077

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mayhem-deborah-sheldon/1121223029?ean=9780992558079

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Mayhem-Selected-Stories-Deborah-Sheldon/9780992558079

Satalyte Publishing: http://satalyte.com.au/product/mayhem-selected-stories-deborah-sheldon/

Fishpond: http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/Mayhem-Selected-Stories-Deborah-Sheldon/9780992558079

Mayhem: selected stories (ebook)

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com.au/Mayhem-selected-stories-Deborah-Sheldon-ebook/dp/B00TP1FCZI

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mayhem-deborah-sheldon/1121223029?ean=2940046583090

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/520178

ITunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/mayhem-selected-stories/id968888076?mt=11

Satalyte Publishing: http://satalyte.com.au/product/mayhem-selected-stories-deborah-sheldon/

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Samantha Kolesnik is a writer, editor and film producer living near Philadelphia. She’s a screenwriter and is one of the producers of the forthcoming Rainy Season short film.  Beyond that she’s a fiction writer and also Editor-in-Chief of Five on the Fifth literary magazine.  She’s one busy lady, all right! Special thanks to Samantha for taking some time out of her hectic schedule to stop by my blog for a chat!
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Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
I am an American writer and film producer specializing in horror, dark fiction, and roles of substance for women in film.

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!”?
Well, I’m terrified of everything and I worry more than anyone I know. The world is often a very scary place, and I have a lot of fears. When you have a lot of fear, horror is part of that. I don’t think I had a defining moment to write. I always did it, and always will.
Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies? 
I have to go with a classic. “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe has to be one of my favorite horror stories of all time. I read it on my own when I was in middle school. I remember having to look up a lot of the words, but once it all clicked, I think I read it a few times in a row that night. I liked it because it demonstrates how wrong human perception can be, and there’s kind of a strange karma that unfolds in the tale. It’s so dark and so creepy, but there’s something more to it. I mean, Fortunato – does any reader really want him to live? At the same time, does any reader not feel great empathy when the chains can be heard from the shadows after he’s realized his fate? I feel my stomach drop just thinking about it. I want to save him, but I don’t even like the guy! Edgar Allan Poe is masterful.
 
Q. What is your favourite horror film?
My favorite movie is the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My parents were very liberal in what they allowed me to watch as a child, but there were two films, in particular, that my mother said I couldn’t watch: the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Craven’s original Last House on the Left. I begged and pleaded to be able to watch the original TCM on my thirteenth birthday. All I wanted was some pasta and to be able to watch that movie. I only had maybe one friend at that age, so it was just my mom, my brother, and myself. She caved in and let me watch it. I’m pretty sure we rented it from Blockbuster. I loved it, but I puked up the pasta later that evening.
I love how gritty it is. I love the character Franklin. My mom always goes, “How can you like Franklin? He’s so annoying!” And maybe he is a little. But he’s unique in horror, and the challenge he presents to his sister is unique and heart-wrenching as she tries to wheel him to safety through the woods at night. I love the lighting limitations in the night scenes. I love the grainy picture. Leatherface is iconic, terrifying, and mysterious. Most of all, I love that Sally gets away. I was rooting for her. I still root for her. When she simultaneously laughs and screams in the back of that pick-up truck as it rails off down the country road, it’s a triumph. That movie is a pure shot of adrenaline, but it doesn’t lose a sense of human struggle. There is just so much that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre did and does for horror.
Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?
I write screenplays and prose. I’ll highlight a few pieces. I recently wrote a short screenplay, “Scratching the Surface”, which might be a personal favorite right now. It’s unsettling. Two women, Fay and Nancy, meet in an excoriation disorder support group and things go down a windy, twisted path from there. I like it because Fay is a predator, in her own right, but she judges Nancy how everyone judges Nancy, and well, everyone’s wrong. Way wrong.
I also recently wrote a short screenplay, “The Retreat”, which was a top 10 Finalist in the International Horror and Sci Fi Short Screenplay Competition. And another short screenplay of mine, “Pets”, is an official selection of Milledgeville Film Festival.
My short screenplay, “The Price of Bones”, was a Finalist at the 15th Annual Shriekfest Horror and Sci Fi Film Festival in Los Angeles, which is a really fun event. Shortly after, I produced the film with Hollow Tree Films, LLC and it is currently in post production.
Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling?  E.g Film, Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook
No.
Q. What are you working on at the minute?
I’m helping to produce a short horror film, Rainy Season, which is adapted from the Stephen King short story of the same name. The writer and executive producer, Vanessa Ionta Wright, is an amazing talent and fortunately, someone with whom I really “click” professionally (and otherwise).
I’m also developing a feature film project from a screenplay I wrote, Turning the Girl. It’s a psychological thriller with an all female cast.
In prose world, I’m writing a short story about a woman who’s lost a tooth too many, and now the walls are starting to whisper. Take that for what you will.
Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?
Right now, I have two. Mahdis Marzooghian and Mary-Anne Nelligan. When they send me a short story they’ve written, or a novel they’re working on, my heart jumps a little. I think it comes from the connection we have, as well as the common goals we share. When you dream with someone, you share a universe, and to be a struggling writer can be a very lonely universe if you’re doing it alone. It’s invaluable to have friends who write.
 
Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with? 
I currently manage a literary magazine, Five on the Fifth, with two other women – Mahdis Marzooghian and Mary-Anne Nelligan. We publish five short stories on the fifth of every month. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow the magazine with them. They are amazing writers, friends, and editors.
I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I am also really enjoying working on Rainy Season with Vanessa Ionta Wright.
Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?
Oh wow. I’m reading way too many books, and at the same time, not nearly enough. I just started reading “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” by Jill Leovy. My TBR list is huge, but I definitely want to soon read “East Hollywood” by Ted Dewberry. He’s a writer I met maybe 6 months ago (ish) and he’s recently published a novel. I love it when people put their heart into writing and get to share that with the world. I want to be a part of that, so I plan on buying a copy soon and digging in.
Q. What films are you looking forward to?  (Simon: Did you know there is a short film coming out this year, directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, based on Jack Ketchum’s Bram Stoker Award winning story, The Box? I’m excited about that!)
You know, I am pretty excited to see The Witch this weekend. And no, I didn’t know about that film, but that sounds awesome and now I am looking forward to that, as well.

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?
People may underestimate you and mistreat you. It can start at gender, but it can be based on more than that – usually shallow perceptions – first glances and other trivialities. But it all just fuels the fire. And who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
 
Q. Why is Women in Horror month important? 
Heheh. Well, first let me say, I wouldn’t change any horror films out there. I’m a die hard fan – I love it all, even the “bad” stuff. There’s nothing I want to “rectify” or “fix” in the existing horror canon.
As for me, though, and what I create, and what I put out into the universe — that’s where I bring women characters to life who have depth.
Women in Horror Month brings attention to the genre and it gives women filmmakers, writers, and artists a chance to get recognition and support. It’s great. But any event, movement, celebration, group, or month, can only be as good and useful as the people who support it. As creators of all kinds, we need to be respectful and supportive of each other.
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?
Aspire,  but be sure to also ‘do’. I recommend dreaming and working a lot, but don’t do either one more than the other. There’s a balance to desire and sweat.
Samantha Kolesnik Links:
Five on the Fifth website: www.fiveonthefifth.com
Five on the Fifth FB: www.facebook.com/fiveonthefifth
Turning the Girl: www.turningthegirl.com

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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:

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

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The second Woman in Horror that will grace(storm?) my blog today is Lisa L. Hannett.  Lisa is a Dr. of Old Norse Literature—that’s right, another ma’fkn Dr up in my blog—and a super talented and highly awarded author. I’m delighted to have her stop by and answer a few questions. Thanks Lisa.

Ladies and germs, meet Lisa L. Hannett.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background

LH: Born and raised in Canada, I now live in Adelaide, South Australia — city of churches, bizarre murders and pie floaters. I’ve got a PhD in Old Norse literature, an Honours degree in medieval lit and fantasy fiction, and a Fine Arts degree in painting and photography — all of which mashes together in my mind and spills out into some pretty weird stories. I spend half my time lecturing in English and Creative Writing, the other half writing strange (and often dark) tales, another half researching and writing about Viking Age Iceland and Norway, and another half indulging my addiction to the gym. The rest of the time, I’m thinking about or taking pictures of food. And when it comes to calculating time I am clearly a word person, not a mathematician.

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!”?

LH: I stumbled into writing horror, not really knowing that’s what I was doing until it was done — mostly because I initially had a pretty narrow concept of what “horror” was or could be. So if the definition of horror includes direct references to Stephen King or Clive Barker, for instance, then I suppose I’m not much of a horror writer. But if it is broad enough to encompass weird, unsettling, uncomfortable stories that put characters into bleak or horrific situations without promising to get them back out again (which, of course, it does) then I’m your gal. I have always appreciated stories that swerve away from what’s expected, that explore the hideous side of humanity, that don’t promise to leave readers feeling happy or hopeful at the end — so I keep coming back to this genre. More than scary or gory horror, though, I love reading and writing stories that punch you right in the gut.

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

LH: In terms of classics, I can’t go past ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson because I read it when I was about twelve, and it completely rewired my brain. (That is if we’re talking short fiction — if we’re talking longer works, I’ll still stick with Jackson: both We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House are incredible). In terms of newer short stories, ‘Ponies’ by Kij Johnson and ‘Apotropaics’ by Norman Partridge are two I return to repeatedly because they are just so brilliant and chilling.

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

 

LH: I’ve had over 60 short stories published, and one novel. My first book, Bluegrass Symphony, won the 2011 Aurealis Award for ‘Best Collection’ and it was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award, so it continues to hold a pretty special place in my heart. Angela Slatter and I collaborated on two collections together: Midnight and Moonshine (2012) and The Female Factory (2014), the second of which also got a gong for ‘Best Collection’ at last year’s Aurealis Awards. Lament for the Afterlife is my first novel, which CZP published toward the end of 2015. Lament is a dark fantasy / horror / lit war story that follows the life and decline of one battle-scarred soldier as he tries to escape his past — while avoiding the omnipresent and unbeatable enemy. Think Pan’s Labyrinth meets Platoon, make those films even darker, and that’s where Lament is situated.

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

LH: As a writer, I prefer short stories to other forms because they are beautiful, concise, sharp little gems of fiction that don’t waste words. I get a buzz out of writing novel-length works for different reasons (having the space to expand on world-building, for example, and for including more elaborate details, more complicated plots, more characters, etc) but the precision of short fiction is something I’ll always favour. As a reader, I am a glutton for everything: sweeping multi-volume sagas, mosaic novels, long or tiny novels, short stories, poems, plays. Every genre, every style — I’ll gobble it all.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

LH: I’ve got two big projects on the go at the moment. I’m about halfway into my next collection of weird short stories, The Homesteaders, and aim to have that finished soon. I’m also revising my next novel — it’s the first in a two book series, called The Invisible Woman. Set in Viking Age Norway, this book tells the early story of Unn the Deep-Minded — wife of one king, mother to a second, and in time a famous Viking herself — as she struggles to find her own fame and fate in this warrior world, all while her shape-shifting time-travelling fylgja (a kind of spirit guide) keeps butting in to mess things up for her… The second book in the series will follow Unn out of Norway into medieval Ireland, Scotland, and finally Iceland. She was quite the world-traveller! But before I can get to that book, I’ve got a couple of short story commissions to finish up.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

LH: If I have to narrow it down to only one (so mean!) then it’s Margaret Atwood. Her novels, her short stories, her poems, her essays and reviews — I won’t say I love them all equally or blindly, but the ones I love (most of them, really) I LOVE.

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

LH: I loved the ‘Women Destroy’ series of anthologies / special issues and if there were reprises of any of them (SF, Fantasy, Horror) I’d be keen to get on board. I was delighted to have a piece in FableCroft’s Cranky Ladies of History anthology — helping to write books about women are as interesting to me as being on ToCs with other women, so it would be great to be involved in more of those, too.

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

LH: I’m a polygamist when it comes to reading: I can never commit to just one. So I’ve got several on the go at the moment: I’m about a third of the way through Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt; halfway through One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey; I’ve just started The Last English King by Julian Rathbone; just finished A Daughter of No Nation by A.M. Dellamonica; dipping in and out of Helen Marshall’s Gifts for the One Who Comes After; and I’m re-reading Sabriel by Garth Nix for the first time in years.

Next up on the TBR list: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders; Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville; The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood; H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or why is Women in Horror month important/important to you? 

LH: Visibilty — or lack thereof — is a persistent problem. It’s so disappointing seeing list after list of “best” or “notable” or “up and coming” horror writers being published with so few women included on them. I realise this complaint is like pointing to a tall flower and saying the petals are wilting; the problem isn’t in the lists themselves — which are the ends of long-stemmed productions — but instead the issue originates down at ground level. If fewer women’s stories are being published, fewer are being reviewed, then of course fewer will appear on lists like these. But my gut feeling is that, in recent years, more and more women are having stories published in horror anthologies and magazines — and yet the go-to names when referring to or thinking of ‘horror writer’ lists are predominantly men. (Hell, I’ve even demonstrated this here, by rattling off Stephen King and Clive Barker’s names as examples of “H”orror.) So in terms of shining light on accomplished and emerging female writers, Women in Horror month is one great step in the right direction.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

LH: Read. A lot. Read for fun and read critically. Then read more.

Lisa L  Hannett Links: 

Website: lisahannett.com

Facebook: Lisa L. Hannett

Twitter: @lisalhannett

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/lisalhannett

Goodreads: Lisa L. Hannett

 

 

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My second interview today is with author, Sephera Giron.  Thanks Sephera for graciously agreeing to a chat!

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

SG: I was born in New Orleans, my brother was born in Topaeka, Kansas and we grew up in London, Ontario. My father is a renowned classical composer and is a retired professor from University of Western Ontario and my mother is a pianist. They are an inspiration in many ways, from their long-standing love for each other to their immense musical talents. Mom set the bar for being a person, more than “a woman”, in a time when women were usually expected to function within a specific slot. My parents equally shared housework and child-rearing and this is likely why their marriage works to this day.

This foundation nurtured my own career drive although my own love life hasn’t been so magnificent.

However, I was always encouraged to explore my artistic side whether it was playing violin, writing, singing, dancing, and theatre or just sitting and reading for hours on end. They were big readers as well, the house always full of books, including the latest best sellers where I read the Exorcist, Clockwork Orange and more. I also lived at the library and had gone through the entire children’s section by an early age and was let into the adult library on my own to read for hours.

I liked weird spooky tales. They were sometimes hard to find and I plowed through a lot of gothic romance hoping for a real horror story.

I attended York University where I focused on writing horror which didn’t earn me any friends back in those times.

After school, I did the marriage and kids thing in the burbs while writing and selling many books and stories. Now I’m single and living in Toronto, still freelance editing and writing for a living.
I really enjoy my life right now. The kids are grown and I feel like a teenager starting a fresh new life, but a hell of a lot more wiser!

 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!”? 

SG: I don’t know why I like creepy things, I just do. I’ve always been drawn to the dark side of things and often enjoy villains more than heroes which is likely why most of my characters are never really good or evil or are just plain evil or desperately tempted by evil. I’m also a tarot reader and like to go ghost hunting.

My clear defining moment was when I closed the book after reading The Shining. My bedroom was in the basement. It was wood paneled and had no windows. When I was reading The Shining, I wouldn’t leave my room. I was too scared. My mom came in now and again trying to get me to go outside or come for dinner and all that and I’d say, “No, I have to finish reading this.” It took about two days of reading and I was about fifteen and in looking at the publication date just now, it was likely right around this time of year. I was terrified and spellbound. I had read Carrie and Salem’s Lot, of course, but they didn’t grip me the way that book gripped me. When I closed the book I said, “I’m going to be a horror writer when I grow up so I can scare people as badly as I was just scared.”

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

SG:  The Shining. The hedge animals freaked me out. I was disappointed the Kubrick movie didn’t have them. To this day, hedges freak me out.

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

SG: I wrote four books for Leisure which have now been republished by Necon eBooks: House of Pain, Mistress of the Dark, Borrowed Flesh, The Birds and the Bees
I have a new series coming out from Riverdale Avenue Books called Witch Upon a Star. The first book is called Capricorn: Cursed and is about a witch who has met a mysterious man on New Year’s Eve and hopes to see him again.
I have several horror novellas and a book at Samhain Horror Publishing.

Like most authors, the book I’m working on is my favourite.

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

SG: I prefer writing novels.

Q. What are you working on at the minute? 

SG: I’m writing one book a month for my Witch Upon a Star series. Right now, I’m working on Taurus. Her name is Dorothy and she’s a crystal ball reader. A TV series much like American Horror Story has come to town to shoot for the season and the witches are all excited about the idea of all the new blood in town. Dorothy had a crush on an actor who played a serial killer in the previous season and is hoping to catch a glimpse of him while he’s shooting. As luck, or perhaps, the love spell, would have it, she actually gets to meet him. Meanwhile, there are deaths on set and crimes to solve. What will Dorothy see in her crystal ball?

Who is your favourite woman writer?

SG: I have so many amazing women writer friends that I can’t begin to single out any of them. I will say I could name about sixty excellent lady horror writers from the top of my head. Any one who is being published right now is well worth reading.

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

SG: I don’t think so? I’m involved in tons of projects and they all include women. I’ve not seen the diversity first hand as many others seem to experience.
Here in Toronto, a group of us have started the Great Lakes Horror Podcast and it’s about fifty-fifty women. We just finished taping our first four episodes and interviews with Nancy Kilpatrick, Monica O’Rourke, Lisa Mannetti, and Sandra Kasturi. http://lovehorror.biz/hwa/?page_id=1616

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

SG: I’m trying so hard to read three different Kings on my nightstand. And I have a huge TBR of friends’ books that I promised to blurb and am years behind. I edit books for a living so I’m always reading just not always horror.

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?

SG: My challenges have never come from within the genre. I don’t think I had any issues getting published because I was a woman. It took a few years to hone my craft and once I did, I was published. I have over twenty-five published books and there are many that I wanted to write for various editors but still haven’t, but only because I’m only one person not because I don’t want to do them. The opportunities are there for anyone. I don’t think I’m special in that regard. At the beginning of my post, I mentioned how my parents shared duties. I think it was growing up with that, and loving Stephen King so much, that it never occurred to me I couldn’t publish because I was a girl. Maybe that attitude is what got me published? I don’t know.

However, outside of the genre, I suspect that there’s a prejudice. My name might be weird for people. And when I used to do signings at book stores with my Leisure books, I’ve actually had people come up to me and say that my work can’t be scary because I’m a girl. They also assumed I was selling romance even though I don’t think I look the part. But there’s still a wall for some reason even though it really don’t make much sense.

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

SG: It’s nice to have a spotlight to show that women are here and scary. People familiar with the genre know that. People outside of the genre may not have realized that there are tons of writers just in general. These days, anyone can be a published author, so it’s nice to showcase what various women are doing and how. Showcasing women in the film business is even more important. If we think horror is a Boy’s Club than the film folk have it worse.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

SG:  Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Grow a thick skin.
Join organizations like the Horror Writers Association and attend conventions.

Sephera Giron Links:
Website:

http://tarotpaths.blogspot.ca
http://scarlettediting.blogspot.ca/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/sepheragiron

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/S%C3%A8phera-Gir%C3%B3n/e/B001K88XNM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_22?qid=1454427055&sr=8-22

Book Links:

Check out my new erotic horror series Witch Upon A Star! https://riverdaleavebooks.com/books/5244/capricorn-cursed-book-one-of-the-witch-upon-a-star-series
Check out my latest horror work at Samhain Horror: https://www.samhainpublishing.com/author/1786/sphera-girn
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/SpheraGirn

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Hi everyone! One of today’s WiHM interviews will be with the super talented and super nice editor, Sharon Lawson.  Sharon is one half of the powerhouse Bram Stoker-Award-Nominated editing duo at Grey Matter Press, alongside Anthony Rivera. Grey Matter Press are quickly impressing writers and readers alike with their fantastic horror anthologies and fine quality books.

Everyone, meet Sharon Lawson!

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

SL: Before I became an acquisitions editor for Grey Matter Press, I was first an accountant and then a stay-at-home mom. I have lived in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois most of my life, and I recently had to deal with the terrors of my only child going off to college.

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!”?

SL: I have been drawn to dark literature from a very young age. Maybe it’s that I have always been a glass-half-empty kind of person. I will always be grateful to my friend Anthony Rivera, who asked me to join him in starting a publishing company. After having a career in accounting, I jumped at the chance to be able to express my creative side. It has been a fantastic experience.

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

SL: My favorite story is “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Aside from the superb prose, the reader is pulled into this seemingly innocuous plot and then the true nature of the story hits you like a smack to the forehead. It is completely shocking.

Q. What is your personal favourite of your own work? Answering as an editor.

SL: As an editor for Grey Matter Press, I have co-edited seven anthologies with Anthony Rivera. It is hard to pick just one book, but I think our first, Dark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror – Volume 1, will always be a sentimental favorite, and it received a Bram Stoker Award nomination for Superior Achievement in an Anthology.

Q. Would you ever write something? You’ve obviously got editing chops. You look at great fiction everyday and get to read fiction by the very best of the best. Ever wonder whether you’ve got a story of your own in there? 

I would love to have some writing talent, and I have had friends and family tell me I should write, but I honestly don’t think I have it in me. I can’t conceive of being able to fill pages and pages with something entertaining. I am much more comfortable with helping authors polish their work, although I do battle an affection for the comma. I hope to end that co-dependent relationship very soon.

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

SL: I like novels and short stories a lot, but I have become a big fan of the novella. It often feels like the ideal length for horror.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

SL: This will be a rather busy year for Grey Matter Press. We are excited to be releasing our first full-length novel this spring, Mister White by John C. Foster, and an all-new anthology coming out this summer. We have a lot more in store for later this year.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

SL: Shirley Jackson, of course, has been a favorite forever. Of more current female authors, I really like the work of Sarah Pinborough. I have enjoyed quite a few of her novels.

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

SL: In our upcoming anthology, Peel Back the Skin, we are thrilled to be featuring stories by esteemed authors Nancy A. Collins, Yvonne Navarro and Lucy Taylor. And we will soon be making an announcement of a solo project with an up-and-coming female author.

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

SL: My TBR pile is way too big to detail for you, but I am most looking forward to Stephen King’s short-fiction collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant.

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?

SL:I haven’t faced any challenges as a woman in this industry. I had a lot more problems back when I was an accountant. I don’t feel that anyone, least of all anyone I work with, has treated me differently because I am a woman. And I can honestly say that we at Grey Matter Press are blind to gender. We want stories that entertain, and we don’t care if the author is a man or a woman, young or old, American or from a foreign land. We are in the business of selling books, and I don’t understand why any publisher would turn down a great story based on any sort of physical criteria.

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

SL: I think it works best if it inspires female authors to write the kind of horror they want to write, whether it be gothic horror or splatterpunk.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

SL: To all authors, I would say be bold. Don’t hold back. Make sure your manuscripts are edited and/or proofread by someone other than yourself before submitting to an agent or publisher. But most of all, do a lot more showing and a lot less telling.

Sharon Lawson Links:

Website:  www.GreyMatterPress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sharon.lawson.9

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawsonsk

 

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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 Litreactor.com. 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.

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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.

Oh god, I’ve been dying to let this out… and now I finally can!

Living legend of horror and suspense writing, Dallas Mayr (AKA Jack Ketchum) has written a *fantatsic* introduction for my Suspended in Dusk anthology.

Who’s the scariest guy in America? Probably Jack Ketchum — Stephen King.

I can’t tell you how excited and honoured I am. Dallas Mayr is a true professional, an awesome guy, and one hell of a scary writer.

Dallas (writing as Jack Ketchum) burst onto the horror scene in 1981 with his novel Off Season, that caused such an uproar that his own publisher actually removed it from print. In 1999, an unexpurgated version was released by Cemetery Dance. In his career, Dallas has won four Bram Stoker Awards, and has earned the title of World Horror Convention Grand Master, placing him in the august company of the likes of Stephen King, Tanith Lee, Clive Barker, Robert Bloch, Joe R. Lansdale and many others.

I think my favourite Ketchum story is one called Hide and Seek because it takes three things we all know… the child’s game hide and seek, self-destructive teens, and the classic haunted house tale …and does something new and terrifying with them. There is a particularly good audio-book version of this read by a narrator called Wayne June, whose deep bassy voice and fantastic vocal skills really bring this one to life. Check it out, along with the rest of Jack’s bibliography.

Jack also periodically teaches a four week horror writing course via Litreactor.com which is fantastic and I recommend those horror writers out there who want to take their writing down avenues they hadnt even imagined: If it comes up again, take this course. You won’t regret it.

This (along with the fantastic endorsements from Kaaron Warren and Jonathan Maberry and the fantastic line-up of authors) is just one more reason why you should pick up the Suspended in Dusk anthology upon release.

Hope to have a release date for you in coming days.

S.

Icy Sedgwick is a PhD student, a fantastic author and an all round arty person.  She wrote the super cool pulp western novel The Guns of  Retribution that I thoroughly enjoyed and the newly released Necromancer’s Apprentice from Dark Continents Publishing (That I have yet to read, but look forward to!). She’s also written some great short stories and featured in several great anthologies.  Enjoy my little chat with Icy!

 

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Tell me a bit about yourself, where are you from and what brought you into writing? What drives you to continue writing? 
I’m from the north east of England, and I’ve always written for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t say I’m driven to keep writing – I do it because I enjoy it, and I like entertaining people. My prime goal has always been to provide escapism in some form, and if I can do that, then it’s worth writing.
What genres interest you most and which do you write in? 
I love Gothic fiction, I think that’s my first love. I mostly write my own version of it, particularly in the horror vein, or fantasy in the JK Rowling sense of the word. That said, I’ve written historical fiction, steampunk and a pulp Western so I don’t like to be constrained by labels too much. I think the only genres I never write involve romance or erotica.
What are your thoughts about short stories and the short form? Do you have a particular favourite short story? 
I love short stories! Anthologies are particularly good because you’re always bound to find something you enjoy. I love Oscar Wilde’s short stories, although Wilkie Collins and MR James wrote some real zingers. I think the beauty of a short story is its compact nature – there’s no room for diversions, or irrelevant flights of fancy. You have to ditch what’s unnecessary and focus solely on the story. I think that’s why I enjoy Stephen King’s short stories more than his novels – I sometimes feel his books lag a bit in the middle, but his stories don’t have the same problem.
For those who submitted new stories: (without giving your story away!) What did you find interesting about writing a story for an anthology with the suspended in dusk title/theme? Was there anything in particular that you wanted to write about or explore?
I’d already written the story but given its setting in the twilight streets of Victorian London I thought it fitted in well with the concept of dusk, and a suspension of time, particularly given the timeless nature of my particular ‘monster’.
What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
Getting published for the first time was naturally a high but I’d say getting a review which favourably compared me to JK Rowling is probably at the top of the list!
Do you have any outstanding writing goals you’re working to achieve? (sale to a particular market or publication/book deal/award/NaNoWriMo/etc) 
I’d really love to finish editing my YA novel and place it with an agent with a view to trying the traditional publishing route. I love working with independent presses and I like the ‘family feel’ you have with the editors and other authors, but for that particular novel, I’d love to see it on shelves in bookshops or available in train stations and airports.
Do you have any interesting projects on the horizon that you’d like to share some info with us about? 
I’m currently working on the sequel to my most recent novella, The Necromancer’s Apprentice. This one will be wider in scope and further explore the world that I built, as well as delving into the background of Necromancer‘s villain, Eufame.
What advice do you have for new or aspiring writers? 
Some writers think they can learn by doing, and while you do learn a lot from the actual process of writing, it’ll drastically cut your learning curve if you read blogs and books about writing, study novels that work, and treat writing like a craft as much as an art form.