Posts Tagged ‘The Witch’

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Welcome back to Women In Horror month(s) at my blog. One of this evening’s interviews is with publicist, editor and writer, Erin Al Mehairi.  I bumped into Erin via facebook around the time around the time I started thinking about doing this interview series. She’s fast become one of my fav online peeps. She does publicity and editing for some of the great horror authors you all know and love and I expect you’ll be seeing some of her own fiction in print soon enough! Thanks for stopping by, Erin!

Erin AlMehairi

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

Erin: I’m a reader, a writer, an editor, and an author of past published poetry and many articles, a journalist, an aspiring novelist, a publicist, a PR/Marketing professional, a photographer, a mom, a baker, and a candlestick maker. Well, not the last one….but I like the smell of them, especially coffee ones.

This will be my longest answer of the interview…here goes…

I was born in England, but I’ve lived most of my life in the United States on the East Coast. I carried dual citizenship until I was 18. I’m as proud to be British as I am being an American.

I’ve been writing my whole life, my young scribbles culminating in winning my local newspaper’s essay contest when I was in middle or high school, and I’ve had the bug ever since. I’ve been pretty much writing full-time in some way since I started at university back in 1992. It wasn’t long after I began my college career that I knew I’d never do anything else again that didn’t include writing. I came out with bachelor of art degrees in English, Journalism, and History.

Due to circumstances in my life, besides a year or so of working as a reference librarian, I went into public relations, marketing, and media relations as my career, while attempting freelance journalism on the side. There’s a lot of in- between years in which I mostly wrote articles and/or edited for the multiple magazine tabloids and newsletters, press releases, magazine articles, ad copy, and non-fiction work. After hours, when I couldn’t sleep, I wrote poetry when the mood struck me. I was also a workaholic then too and volunteered in my community, so besides the fact that I wrote thousands of words a day at work and in the community, I also began raising children, off and on as a single mom of a baby and a toddler, and was much too tired to have any energy to give to myself for creative writing.

When I DID write poetry in the midst of all that, I wrote of nature, love, and grief and fantasy or magical themes. My essays were usually of people or places or feelings or inspirational words for others.

About seven years ago, I decided to leave my full-time public relations and marketing job and branch out on my own full-time by opening my own business, Addison’s Compass Public Relations. That way, I could seek out my own work in the field, as well as be there more for my three small children. I’ve been doing it ever since, and now, the kids are a bit older so it’s easier. I started my business right after representing Ohio as Young Careerist of the Year at the Business and Professional Women national convention and receiving a Woman of Achievement Award from the county I live in. At the time I decided to do this, the economy in America was tanking, but I knew it was right for me to take the risk for my kids and I had a lot going for me. I included them in my work. I was pleased to even talk about this in the highly-regarded entrepreneur and business magazine “SUCCESS.” However, selfishly I felt, I also wanted to make time for writing my own books.

Since I had a bit more time for reading and writing of my own in the evenings as I struggled with insomnia, I also started a site soon after (Oh, for the Hook of a Book!). It allowed me to write about something fun I enjoyed (books!!) and my own creative writing processes. The book site grew exponentially and this month it celebrates its five-year anniversary! I still feature various genres, but you’re likely to find mostly historical or gothic, peppered with horror and mystery, and the occasional children’s book post.

This led to my business in books, which is called Hook of a Book Media and Publicity, and I do editing and publicity for authors and publishers. I’ve been loving assisting horror authors lately with marketing consulting, tying together contacts, securing media contacts and spots, publicity tours, and more. It’s very busy, but it’s fun.

As for the editing side, I’ve been editing since I was in high school, being an editor of our high school paper and then in college, taking classes in editing for both majors in Journalism (AP style) and English (Chicago Manual of Style), and serving as Senior News Editor of our university newspaper and as an editor for the university’s Poetry Press. I’ve edited almost everything over the years: articles, marketing pieces, magazine type tabloids and newsletters, resumes, ad copy, and books and poetry collections.

I’ve edited and content read all types of books such as new adult, sci-fi, thrillers, historical, and horror. I do a lot of horror, thrillers, and sci-fi currently. I really like working with new writers and helping them grow. If I love an author’s work, and feel good about our work together, I’ll totally be their champion.

Besides writing my own interviews and reviews for my site, I am also a journalist at the horror entertainment site, Beneath the Underground. I interview celebrities in horror and sci-fi indie films, as well as directors and authors.

I have 3 children, a boy and two girls, all under the age of 16. I own my two businesses and I write on the side. I like chocolate and coffee a lot, as well as cooking. I love nature and the outdoors, especially the lake, but also the ocean, rivers, creeks, etc. I have A LOT of interests, but I love going to treasure hunt for used books and paperbacks, hanging out in bookstores, and going to museums when not hiking or doing something outdoors.

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?  

Erin: I grew up not being able to watch horror or scary sci-fi, though my Dad watched it, and when he did, I wasn’t allowed in the living room. So I missed out on the old episodes of the sci-fi show “V” in what, the 80s?, which led to why, as an adult, I was so mad when they canceled the new episodes a few years back (way too early). I loved it! Ha! I did however get to watch lots of Scooby-Doo, which I still do, and read children’s books featuring witches. I learned to be curious about all sorts of monsters on Scooby-Doo, but even more, that evil human nature could be overcome by a group of meddling kids. Today, I still watch it with my girls. It’s one of our favorite things to do on Saturday mornings together.

In high school I started loving to study writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Charles Dickens, and in getting my university English degree, studied many of these classic authors for class and on my own. In addition, I love Oscar Wilde, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Shelley, and Washinton Irving. Later, I really liked Shirley Jackson, V.C. Andrews, and Daphne du Maurier. I was writing poetry then and I mirrored them, and Poe, in my writing (still do). They have all been a huge influence on me. As I said, I’ve written for years, but my horror and dark writing and poetry was more a secret. I only shared some of my poems that honored people I lost, were about love, or many, about nature.

Once I met many more people in the writing, and especially in horror writing genres, on social media, I came to be open more and more about my writing about five years ago. I realized that most of the people writing horror also are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I write dark fiction and poetry for myself to dissuade my fears, deal with emotions, as a funnel for pain, and to survive. It’s like breathing when you’re locked in a room filling with water and the only way out is to put pencil to paper.

The last few years, and especially in 2015 and as goals for 2016, I said I’m just going to write more dark poetry and put it out there and see what happens. The response was good. I decided it was alright for me to write horror stories, so I’m just doing it and putting those out there too. Anyone who doesn’t like me anymore for it…well, they aren’t taking the time to understand. I have to write from my heart and the best way for me to stay in the light is write about the darkness. Get it out onto the page and get over it.

It’s been a long journey for many reasons, with mostly a lot of toxic people in my life, but now my muse is finding her footing again. So yes, I’m good with writing it now and plan to do it much, much more.

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

Erin: One of my favorite horror books is “Dead of Winter” by Brian Moreland. The isolated area he wrote the novel in, set in the late 1800s in the middle of winter, with his amazing pacing and creation of a foreboding atmosphere, all worked to scare me to pieces. I told him it exhausted, but I mean that as a compliment.

The “Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe….Ahhhhhhh! Scarred me for life, but I love his work. My childhood scare was “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. The headless horseman frequented my nightmares. However, now I love it and I love the television show too!

Q. What is your favourite horror film?

Erin: I really don’t know. I really liked “Sinister” and I like movies like Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Really like “The Silence of the Lambs” and anything Hannibal. If “Phantom of the Opera” counts, I love that too. Sorry, I can’t ever pick one of anything.

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

Erin: I haven’t written any books or stories in horror that have been published. *Pulls out her hair* I consider myself an author as I’ve had published poetry, essays, and thousands of articles published, yet not in the horror genre, and because I’ve worked on such large chucks of my own things and completed some stories I need to publish…soon. I can’t wait to do so.

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

Erin: Oh, for my own writing? Poetry and short story. For reading? Poetry, short stories or anthologies, novellas, and novels.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

Erin: I finished up writing with pencil and paper (I know!) a story a week or so ago which is 6,000 words. It needs typed and edited. I suppose could most be described as a modern Twilight Zone-type story with some Hitchcock droplets. I just started another short story because I want to make a submission deadline. It features a lake theme which resembles another several stories I’m writing which are best described as gothic and take place near the water. I’m writing dark poetry for a collection I want to put together this year of my poems. My novels are sitting on the back a bit, but the main one is my novel of revenge featuring Emily Dickinson. The reason I’m not getting as much writing done is because I edit other authors so I’m busy reading their work, beta reading others, reviewing others, interviewing others, and as well running my busy publicity book business as well as my other marketing business. Oh, and my three kids. Probably something else I’m forgetting about, like taking time to sleep or eat….no I eat…who am I kidding? Eating candy for dinner counts, right?

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

Erin: I can only pick one? I can never pick ONE anything. I’d have to narrow it down and say my favorite classic female writer is Daphne du Maurier. She wrote so many amazing short stories, such as “The Birds,” which was of course, turned into a film by Hitchcock (he also did a few of her others), as well as gothic novels that have stood the test of time like “Rebecca.” If you don’t think she is horror, try to find her story “The Apple Tree” or even “The Doll,’ which showed her ahead of her time. She’s a great inspiration to me in terms of creating atmosphere and psychological thrills. But I’ll cheat and say I like Shirley Jackson too. In fact, I’ll cheat further and say that there are many modern women horror writers I need to read as well, but definitely Damien Angelica Walters comes to mind as well as Jennifer McMahon and Catherine Cavendish.

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

Erin: Right now, I’m running my own Women in Horror project of almost 30 women with my co-host David at The Scary Reviews. We have them all featured in mini-interviews. I have enjoyed getting to meet so many new female writers I hadn’t even heard of before. I would love to do some sort of anthology with women that takes the works of some of the classic female horror writers, and using them for inspiration, create an anthology as an ode to them. I think it would be wonderful to do a collection of poetry featuring women who have been in pain over something in their life: abuse, loss of a child or baby, loss of innocence, rape, mental illness. As for anything other than my own ideas, I’ve not heard of anything. People are trying to say equality means showing no difference in men and women. However, to me, it’s about doing these things (special women things) to embrace our uniqueness. If someone doesn’t want to buy it, they don’t have to, if they don’t want to be in it, they don’t have to, but for some female readers, it could be a huge connective piece for them.

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

Erin: Currently, I’m editing a short story collection for a horror author so that takes up some reading time. I just finished up a historical fiction novel (a genre I often review and love and am also writing a book in) about the Borgias, called “The Vatican Princess.” I recently read David Bernstein’s “A Mixed Bag of Blood,” which comes out March 1 from Sinister Grin Press and I loved it. Before that, I read Jennifer McMahon’s “The Night Sister” and really liked it as well (some Hitchcock references!), “Slade House,” by David Mitchell, and “The Poison Artist,” by Jonathan Moore. I’m probably forgetting some.

My TBR pile across the genres I read is HUGE. However, I am looking forward to reading “Mister White” by John C. Foster, which is going to be out from Grey Matter Press in April. I have an advanced review copy I’m highly anticipating sinking into.

Q. What films are you looking forward to?  

Erin: I was looking forward to “The Witch” and I just saw that this weekend. I know many people didn’t like it or get it. I admit during the movie sometimes I was like “what?” and at the end I was also like “woah.” However, after I let some time sink in with it, I actually felt it was well done. The acting was very good. The effects were rich. They kept the scenes so tight that you almost felt as if you were in the movie itself without knowing it. I love going to plays set on intimate stages so it really felt a lot like that to me, which was stellar. I didn’t realize I left feeling an ominous, foreboding feeling, but I later realized it had attached to me. In fact when I turned off the light to go to bed that night, and my mind wandered to it, I actually felt a few chills. Maybe I didn’t have the initial scare I wanted, or as was advertised, but really it had a residual effect. Which I suppose was the point of the whole film, evil creeps in and takes you when you least expect it or when you feel you are fighting hard against it. The isolation, the paranoia, and what that does to human nature enough to let evil in, really has stayed with me.

Beyond that, I’m looking forward to watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for a second time! The new “X-Men” is something I’ve been anticipating since the last one ended. I haven’t seen “The Revenant” yet, but I am a huge Leo fan.

It’s not really a film, but I’m enjoying the television adaptation of Stephen King’s book called “11.22.63” and I was super excited for “The Vikings” to return to TV here in America last week.

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the challenges have you faced that are complicated by your gender?

Erin: I’ve always felt that it was harder for women to prove themselves in the workplace, and really, in all areas of life. I’ve seen a lot in my 20-year career. Sometimes men also feel that they do treat women equal, in appreciation maybe, or sometimes not, but honestly, we still aren’t often allowed in the “good ole boy” groups. Some, even in horror, don’t see they do it. Even on social networking, however, guys will more likely comment on other guys stuff or talk horror books with other guys. I suppose also other women play into this because they don’t like their husbands/boyfriends being friends with women, but really, that’s just nonsense. So yes, I feel there are subconscious things that happen that even if they don’t know it happens, it does. I suppose this then tapers offer into things like who they read or support without even knowing it. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good or appreciative to women, but….there is still a divide.

As for more specific with horror, I think more women need to be nominated and awarded (some are but the percentage is one-sided for things like the Stoker). However, some of the women nominated are so so good.

Personally, I am friends with many men. I work with a lot of them, I have mostly men clients because that is who approaches me, and feel they appreciate and trust my experience and respect me.

Q. Why is Women in Horror month important? 

Erin: I used to think it was important for men to appreciate and see what women in horror bring to the table. Maybe the genre is 80% men, but it might be trending less. However, I see many men supporting women with promotion, which is good. I hope many male authors also take the time to READ women authors as well. Where I see the most breakdown lately, and I’m sorry to say, is that I don’t think WOMEN in horror KNOW other WOMEN in horror or promote them. Now, I think the month is important to serve as a ‘meet and greet’ for everyone to know what amazing women are up to, for both men and women to realize! I know I feel less alone! Hopefully, getting to know women writers, or more writers as a whole, will lead to more promotion and conversation throughout the year.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Erin: Just because you wrote a book, or even 15 books, (and if you don’t have a degree or background in career writing) does not make you a writer if you’ve never vetted them with an editor, beta readers outside of family, or general readers. Start with one and go through the process with an editor who is experienced and a professional. Their changes will help you LEARN and SHOW you where your writing break downs are, and trust me, you won’t see them for yourself. Everyone has patterns they can’t see.

Read segments of your work out loud. Often. Do you write like you talk? Does every character sound like you? Then stop that immediately and evaluate your dialogue and the voice of your novel. Are you showing us through descriptive work or just telling us like you are giving a book report?

Don’t give up, but understand that writing first of all takes some talent. Unfortunately, it’s true. Anyone can write something, but only a select few of them are talented writers. Some people will have a quick success and there won’t be any formula that made it happen. Some will get it through hard work. Whatever you do, remember that whining gets you nowhere.

Be willing to take criticism. Understand that it’s a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and that you must not do it alone. Also, realize that it is a long, hard road sometimes and you’ll never get the answer to most of your “why” questions! Let it go. Do your best. Hire a team to support you. Find writer friends to support you. TAKE YOUR EGO OUT OF IT.

Start making fans before you even release your book. Don’t play catch up. Create anticipation. Again, if you don’t know how to do so, ask an author you see do it well or hire someone with the know how to consult with you or promote you.

Be inspired and find a way to stay inspired.

Look me up. I love to make new friends.

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi Links:

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Facebook (Hook of a Book)

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Look me up on Instagram too!

 

 

 

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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 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!
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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