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Interview: Haunting and Horror Writer Pamela Morris Talks Books, Women in Horror, and Historical Locations #WIHM #womeninhorror #historicalhorror

Tomorrow is the last day of February and the closing of Women in Horror Month, but I know that I for one won’t stop celebrating women all year long. Stay tuned in March for a little announcement on how I will do that even more on schedule than I have before on this site, even though a majority of people featured here has always been predominately women.

Today, join me for a last segment in my mini women in horror month series. Pamela is a cool horror writer I met online years ago through our mutual friendship with horror author Hunter Shea. She likes her ghouls and haunts and history and so this will be a fun and interesting interview to read. Enjoy!

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Hi Pamela, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you could join us. I have strong coffee or tea, whichever you’d prefer, or stiff drink. Take your pick, and if the former, tell me how you take it.

Pamela: Hey, Erin. It’s nice to be here. *checks the time* Coffee sounds great, with a double shot of Jameson and some whipped cream sounds about right after that chilly walk over here.

Erin: That sounds incredibly wonderful! Let’s carry them into the dining room and begin our chat!

I’ve known you for quite a few years, meeting you online from Hunter Shea. I know you are a fan of the paranormal and write many books in that vein. Can you tell my readers a bit about that and what you write?

Pamela: I have always been interested in all things occult and paranormal. It was something I grew up being very curious about and was never discourage away from learning. I’ve also been an avid reader all my life, so I guess the two just went hand-in-hand. First you read it. Then, in my case, you start writing about it. My first paranormal story was a three-page tale titled “The Strange Well” that I wrote when I was ten.

As I grew older, the stories got longer until now, I focus mainly on novels. My first two supernatural novels also happened to be murder-mysteries and are set in Barnesville, the fictionalized version of the small town I grew up in. Barnesville is home to a secret coven of witches who keep an eye on things. Currently I have four books set in Barnesville and there will be more eventually. These books lean towards the YA crowd.

In addition to The Barnesville Chronicles, I have a psychological horror that is very dark and deals with some taboo subject matter: abuse, rape, incest, murder, etc. Not YA in the least. Lastly, I wrote ghost story where a lot of the story is told from the perspective of the three ghosts involved. You don’t just see or hear what they are doing, but you get to know them as they were in life and why they are doing what they are doing, not just to the living but to their fellow trapped spirits.

Erin: What is your newest book and what’s that about? What did you find the most fun about writing that one and why?

Pamela: Last year I released a novel and a short story. The novel was the second part and conclusion to “The Witch’s Backbone” one of my Barnesville books. It’s very much a coming-of-age type tale. Five kids living in a small town decide to find out the truth about their local urban legend. The legend involves a witch named Rebekkah Hodak who is rumored to haunt a narrow ravine just outside town. It’s said that if you go to where her body was found, see her, and meet her gaze, you’re cursed to die an early, and possibly gruesome, death. One of the kids, twelve-year-old Tara Fielding, accidently sees what she believes to be this witch. Her panic and belief in the legend are what spawns the organization of a camping trip into the nearby woods. Horror ensues.

The short story is all about my personal fear of spiders, “Because, Spiders.” It’s about a nine-year-old girl whose fear is even greater than my own. She’s convinced there’s a giant spider hiding in the shed behind her house and she’s pretty sure it caught and ate the neighbor’s dog, too.

Erin: Do you feature any strong female in starring or supporting roles in your novels and stories? Tell us about a few and what their traits are?

Pamela: Most of my lead characters are women. In The Barnesville Chronicles, that would be Nell Miller. She’s the local small town librarian, who also happens to be a member of the coven mentioned earlier. She’s very out about being Pagan and confident in her magic abilities. She’s a bit of an instigator, always wanting to know more, do more, take action. She’s no Nervous Nellie, that’s for sure. She’s not one to turn down a challenge and will often drag her reluctant friends into helping her out.

In “Dark Hollow Road”, the psychological horror, one of the lead female characters is Mary Alice Brown. She’s the eldest of four and after the death of their mother, she’s the one responsible for taking care of all the rest. She struggles a lot with all that entails, including dealing with their abusive, alcoholic father. She does her best to protect them from him, even if that means she gets hurt in the process. She’s very shy, not well educated, and the victim of a lot of bullying both at home and around town, but she retains her sense of what is right and wrong, she has her hopes and dreams. She’s a fighter.

Erin: I love mysteries and historical research as well. How do those two loves of yours factor into your work?

Pamela: Every year for many, many years I’d get at least four Nancy Drew books for Christmas. I’d have them read by the end of January and craving more. That’s where my love of mysteries started and what greatly influenced what I write. Later I’d graduate to Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins, but Nancy Drew was really the one that taught me that a mystery doesn’t always have to involve a murder.

My maternal grandmother was really interested in family genealogy so I think that may be where my love of history started. She liked antiques and all that. From 2004-2011, I was an American Civil War reenactor. That required a lot of research to know what the heck I was doing or talking to others about as my living history persona. The two main ghosts in “No Rest For The Wicked” are from that time period. I like to keep things as historically accurate as I can so all the research I did for my reenacting, was poured into them. The witches of Barnesville are descendants of the people accused of witchcraft in Connecticut from 1647 to 1663. No Salem witches for me – too typical. I wanted to be different, at last a little bit anyway. So, yeah, lots of real history worked in to everything I write – including that secret Barnesville coven that allegedly existed in my real hometown when I was a teenager!

Erin: What is one piece or location of history you’d like to explore of have explored for your writing or just for general interest? What interesting things have you found?

Pamela: Probably the Salem Witch Trials. I wrote my final high school English paper on the possible causes of the events that took place there. At the time, my mom was working at the main research library at Cornell University and that gave me magical access to the collection of documents housed there on the topic. I got to sit in a locked room with nothing but a pencil, paper, and some of the original document from which I took notes. With those and a few other books I owned at the time, I put together my paper. In 1989 my first husband and I went to New England for our honeymoon and decided we needed to spend the day in Salem. It was a rather whirlwind tour of the place, but still pretty neat. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I’d learn one of the women accused was a distant relative! It was also much later while doing some genealogy research for a friend that I learned about the Connecticut Witch Trials that preceded Salem by about thirty years. It was from this research that I drew the founders, and first coven members, of fictional Barnesville.

Erin: That’s so cool!! How hard do you feel it is to write mysteries and tie up all the points? How do you do so? Outline? What are the challenges and what are the rewards?

Pamela: Only my first two books were murder-mysteries and it was a lot more difficult than I’d initially thought. I’m normally a pantster (meaning I don’t outline … at all), I just write and kind of know where I’m headed or want to head. The mysteries wouldn’t allow that much freedom. Not only do you have to know who committed the murder, why, and how – but you have to come up with believable alibis for all the suspects, the reasons they might have committed the crime, and a secret they have that would cause them to lie about their whereabouts or motivations. Good grief! Plus, if you’re going to touch on police procedures that’s another layer of research to look into. All this is a bit more restricting than I like being, but … the reward of pulling it off, for misdirecting successfully, and it all still making sense in the end feels great.

Erin: You grew up watching horror, I believe. What are some of your great influences and what do you prefer to watch now? Same then with the reading, let us know reads you’ve loved and those who influence your work.

Pamela: Yes, I’ve been watching Horror since I was a wee thing. It started with the local Saturday afternoon horror show, “Monster Movie Matinee’. With the cartoons over, it was time to sit on the floor with a little tray of lunch and take in the creature feature. They showed mostly Universal movies – Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Abbot and Costello Meet The Wolfman, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – family friendly horror, I guess. I grew into the Friday and Saturday night programming after that, darker stuff that started after the 11 o’clock news. Hammer Pictures, a lot of Christopher Lee. I love me them vampires! “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “The Haunting of Hill House”, and “The Legend of Hell House”, “The Other” and “Dark Secret of Harvest Home” are the most memorable ones. Once in a while they’d have a great Made-For-TV movies on. “Night of the Scarecrow” was terrifying to me and my novel “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” was directly inspired by it. Elements of “The Other” also come into play in my book. Lastly, being from Rod Serling Country in Upstate New York, I adored both Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.

Oddly, I have a harder time coming up with books that influenced my writing. The style of certain authors inspired me, but maybe not so much the stories themselves. Tanith Lee, a British author, had a collection of kind of Horror\Sci-fi stuff that involved twisted fairy tales. Before her, I’d never heard of doing such a thing. I thought it was super cool and tried my hand at it with varied success. The fine art of short stories eludes me, though I keep trying. I liked Stephen Kings whole ‘small town – weird secret’ theme, too. That can be found in the Barnesville books. Of course, there’s good old Nancy Drew, again. I really enjoy books that make me think more about what’s going on, stories that misdirect the reader and have a lot of unexpected twists, endings that make me sit there and go, “Huh. I never saw that coming at all.” That’s what I try to do.

Erin: I’m a history buff too, and I know you were a Civil War re-enactor for a decade. What role(s) did you play? What was exciting about it? What type of horror or haunts did you learn? Have you used any of your time doing this in your writing?

Pamela: I played the wife of a field embalmer – aka an undertaker. It was very uncommon at the time, but not unheard of. It was also a very lucrative business. A lot like selling life insurance. My job was to gather the personal items of the deceased, write the letter home to his family, and mourn the poor soul appropriately. That involved sitting next to the coffin while dressed in black, wearing a black veil, and weeping (or pretending to weep). Those Victorians viewed death a lot differently than we do, mourning and a proper Christian burial was paramount. Embalming was a new science – formaldehyde hadn’t been invented yet so there was a variety of embalming fluid recipes. All very morbid to a lot of people. A lot of visitors wouldn’t even stop at our display. As I mentioned earlier, the two main ghosts in “No Rest For The Wicked” are from this time period and the man, Beauregard Addams, was the owner of a funeral parlor as well as having been a field embalmer and surgeon during the war.

Erin: That’s so interesting! Also, a mutual fan of road trips, do you take any to historical or haunted locations?

Pamela: No, we have not intentionally sought out haunted or historical locations. My husband isn’t into the whole paranormal or horror thing as much as I am, though I did manage to drag him to Granger, Texas to see the house used in the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not far from where his mom lives. So, that was cool. I also dragged him out to Terligua in West Texas for the Day of the Dead in the cemetery there. He humors me in all my ghostly, cemetery, haunted weirdness ways.

This summer we are hoping to make a delayed trip out to Boston Harbor to see the USS Constitution, might swing by Salem, but I want to go to Danvers, Massachusetts to see the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse who was one of the woman accused and hung for witchcraft back in 1692. She was also my 7x great aunt so I’m kinda curious about all that. We also plan on swinging over to Plimoth Plantation followed by Fall River to see Lizzie Borden’s old stomping grounds then west to wander through Sleepy Hollow for a bit before heading home.

Other road trips are much shorter, day trips or a weekend long adventure on the motorcycle. Anything beyond a four hour ride gets a bit sore on the old bottom!

Erin: Oh nice! That came in once near where son is in DC (the USS Constitution and other tall ships) and he loved it. He’s huge on that stuff (me too). That sounds like some amazing road trip stuff! I want to do all of that too. haha!

What are you working on now and what are your plans for the near future in terms of your writing?

Pamela: I am just finishing up the 4th draft of what I’m calling a Texas Gothic Horror titled “The Inheritance”. It should be ready this summer. I’m a big fan of the classic Gothic genre, old stuff, like Bram Stoker, Poe, and Wilkie Collins and really wanted to write something along those lines. But, I also wanted it to be contemporary, so I set it in the West Texas desert, added some bad ass bikers, and a band of really pissed off Apache spirits. Good times! This was great fun to write! And using the traditional plotting schemes of a Gothic novel really made things zip along. The most fun maybe was doing the research for this – ya know, actually being in the West Texas desert and taking notes, soaking it all in. Creating the biker gang was a blast, too.

Erin: What tips do you have for other women in horror in support of each other or sharing work?

Pamela: I’m really happy that I’m seeing more and more female writers in the Horror genre. There were so few that I knew of as a kids and for as much as I loved King, it would have been every nicer to have had more women to look up to.

I’ve always written what I loved to read and that’s the first thing you need to do, male or female. If you love monsters and freaky creatures, write about them. If you love vampires, write about them. If you love ghosts facing off against bad ass biker chicks, write about them! Your personal passion will come through in your writing. Start there and run with it. Read other female Horror authors. I’ve found their work so much more relatable. Where the men tend to go for the more violent, blood-slinging slasher, women, at least in my readings, tend to be more subtle and devious. But, hey – if you’re a lady and enjoy wielding that machete or ax, swing away!

Enjoy yourself and with any luck at all, those who read your work will enjoy reading it as much as you did writing it. It’s all about having fun after all, right?

Erin: Thanks so much for joining us today, Pamela! You’re welcome anytime, especially if you’ve got a good haunting story. Haha! Let us know where readers can find you, please.

Pamela: It was great chatting with you, Erin. All my titles can be found on Amazon and everything is available in both paperback and Kindle formats. I also have a website, pamelamorrisbooks.com. There are a few free short stories there and a blog where I babble about crows and other random weirdness, sometimes Horror-related, sometimes not. On Facebook, I can be found at Facebook. Folks are welcome to Like an Follow me there, of course. I’m pretty active on Twitter if folks want to follow me there, @pamelamorris65.

Thank you for having me over and letting me babble on about my work. I must say, you make a mean Irish coffee. And with that, in the words of Morticia Addams, “Have a delightfully dreary day!”

Erin: HAHA!! Anytime. It’s rather snowy here so I shall have a freezing night for sure. 😀

Pamela Morris Biography –

PamelaMorris_2019_2Raised in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, but forever longing for the white sands of her birthplace in New Mexico, Pamela has always loved mysteries and the macabre. In high school she quickly found herself labeled ‘That Witchy Chic.’ And school dances? Forget about it! You’d be far more likely to find her at the local small town library on a Friday night or listening to a Horror movie soundtrack in her darkened bedroom.

When her nose wasn’t buried in a vampire novel or any number of books penned by her favorite authors such as Poe, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, Tanith Lee, Shirley Jackson, and Wilkie Collins, Pamela was probably watching ‘Monster Movie Matinee,’ ‘Twilight Zone,’ ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” and a myriad of Hammer Films that further fed her growing obsession with Horror.

All grown up now, Pamela has raised two children and enjoys drawing and painting, watching bad B-Movies, remaining ever vigilant to the possibility of encountering a UFO or Bigfoot, an taking road trips with her husband on the Harley. She feeds the local murder of crows in her back yard and still hasn’t quite figured out how she became the Cvlt Leader for The Final Guys Podcast.

TWB1_Curse_CoverFrontThe Witch’s Backbone – Part 1: The Curse

It’s 1980 and the dog days of summer have settled over the small farming community of Meyer’s Knob. Five friends have spent their time at the local creek swimming and gathering crayfish, riding bikes, and mostly just trying to avoid boredom.

When tomboy Tara Fielding reports she’s spotted what she believes to be the witch of their local urban legend, and is now subject to that legend’s deadly curse, her friends rally ‘round and decide they’re going to prove there’s no such thing. After lying to their parents about where they’ll be, the friends head out to The Witch’s Backbone where, the legend claims, the witch waits for foolish travelers who dare pass that way at night.

What the group witnesses during this late summer field trip and what they find out after they return to civilization, does little to put anyone’s mind at ease, least of all Tara’s. Not only do they now believe this long-dead 19th century witch is real, but that she has friends who are still practicing the Black Arts, friends that will see to it that the legend’s curse is carried out.

Are there evil witches stalking the woods and sun-starved ravines between Meyer’s Knob and the neighboring town of Barnesville? Or have the kids just let boredom, the oppressive summer heat, and their own imaginations get the better of them?

Link to Amazon

NRFTWfront_coverNo Rest For The Wicked

 Theirs was a hatred that lived beyond the grave.

A powerless domestic who searches for escape. Naked and screaming, the ghost of Sadie Price wants nothing more than to strike terror into all who dare enter Greenbrier Plantation.

A murderous wife who seeks justice. Lucy thought shooting her philandering husband and his mistress would bring her peace, but her subsequent suicide only creates a more hellish existence for her in the afterlife.

A sadistic doctor who refuses to relinquish control. Dr. Addams stalks the house and grounds of Greenbrier Plantation using his dark powers to control his Earth-bound spirits and anyone living who dares get in his way.

Can peace ever come to these tortured souls or are they eternally damned to walk the earth as proof that there really is no rest for the wicked?

Link to Amazon

DarkHollowRoad-FrontOnlyDark Hollow Road

 A past filled with terror.

On Dark Hollow Road, Mary Alice Brown and her siblings know little more than poverty and abuse at the hands of their father. Getting rid of their tormentor seemed the answer to bringing joy back into their lives. But when that doesn’t work, Mary takes it upon herself to see that justice is served.

A present full of dread.

After an unusual visit from an elderly woman looking to borrow sugar, the theft of his coloring book, and complaints about other kids bothering him in the middle of the night, six-year-old Brandon Evenson, who lives within sight of the house on Dark Hollow Road, goes missing.

A future obsessed with revenge.

Desperate, Brandon’s parents seek answers from Lee Yagar, a local who’s warned people time and again of the dangers lurking at the old Brown place. But, Lee’s suggestion that Mary is involved in Brandon’s abduction makes little sense.

Mary is presumed dead, as she’s not been seen in decades, but is she? And is the house truly as empty and abandoned as it appears to be?

A psychological horror driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare.

Link to Amazon

WiHM11-GrrrlBlack

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Filed under HookonWiHM, Q and A with Authors, women in history, women in horror

Interview: Michelle Renee Lane about Diversity, Race, New Orleans, and Her Book Invisible Chains #WIHM #WIHM11 #diversityandinclusion

As promised, I finally have some content coming for women in horror month! I have several interviews, which will start today with Michelle Lane, a couple guest articles, and some reviews. Women writing horror is not new, but it’s a phenomenon that’s hitting like a wave. There is so much to share and learn. I know each year I’ve met someone I hadn’t heard of before. The reviews that don’t get snuck in will appear during the roll over to March. I have no problem featuring women all year.

Without further commentary from me, let’s begin. I wanted to invite Michelle here today so I could learn more about her myself, and hopefully, let you learn along with me. I’ve been interested in her work since the release of her book last year, Invisible Chains from Haverhill, and I’m always about supporting other women and diversity. I really would love to talk to more women of color about their experiences and how it influences their writing. I hope you enjoy learning more about her with me because she gave some wicked interesting answers. Invisible Chains just today became a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and with its historical horror elements (and New Orleans vibe and vampires and strong female protagonist…I could go on), I’m anxious to read it.

Hi Michelle, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you could join me for Women in Horror Month. I’ve really been looking forward to talking to you. I have some coffee or tea? Let me know your pleasure and how you take it, please. Or a cocktail if you prefer!

Michelle: Hello Erin, thanks for having me. I drink a lot of coffee and I enjoy tea, but it’s been a rough couple of weeks. So if you’re making cocktails, I’d love a Bourbon and ginger. And, you should probably make it a double.

bourbon

Erin: Excellent – a lady after my own heart with the Bourbon! We’ll just bring this in and sit down so we can chat. Let’s get started.

I first was introduced to you via my friend and client Stephanie Wytovich when she interviewed you a year or two ago. I was excited to hear of your book Invisible Chains at the time it came out and now that it’s been listed on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards. For those readers that don’t know of the book, would you mind telling us about it?

Michelle: Sure. Invisible Chains is a supernatural slave narrative. When I say that, a lot of people ask what that means. So, like a traditional slave narrative, it’s told in first person POV in the voice of a young female slave, Jacqueline. What makes it supernatural are the elements of magic, monsters, and travel between worlds, or at the very least dimensions. However, the true horror found in the novel comes from the historical violence experienced by slaves under institutionalized slavery in America. I tried to place this institution under a microscope and focus in how the system of slavery negatively affected men and women, both Black and White. Jacqueline lives in a world where violence is always on the table – sexual violence, physical torture, psychologically damaging and dehumanizing verbal abuse, and the ever-present threat of death.

Erin: Where did your inspiration for your book come from?

Michelle: I thought I wanted to write a book about vampires. I have been obsessed with vampires since I was very young and my gateway drug to vampire fiction was a copy of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire I received as a Christmas gift when I was eleven. I read everything Anne Rice wrote after that, including the books she wrote under her nom de plumes, Belinda and the first three books in The Sleeping Beauty Quartet. I fell in love with her vampires and wanted to write books like hers. That is until I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, and Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Vampires are great, but I wasn’t seeing myself in vampire fiction, and for the most part, I didn’t like the depictions of people of color in horror novels and films. When I read Morrison, Gomez and Butler, among other women of color writers like Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde and Tananarive Due, I saw myself and connected with their words and their characters who were women of color. I still wanted to write about vampires, but from a different perspective. I wanted to tell the story of a young woman who survives what seem to be insurmountable challenges while dealing with grief, abuse, and extreme poverty as she creates a place for herself in the world on her own terms using her intellect and power.

Erin: How did you choose the setting of New Orleans and how much research into it and the time period did you do, and how?

Michelle: When I was nineteen, I met a girl at a party, and we started talking about what we were currently reading and our favorite books. At some point in the conversation we both realized that most of the books we were talking about were set in New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been there and she suggested a road trip. Like most conversations I had while partying, I assumed that while her enthusiasm for the trip was real, I didn’t think she meant that we would really go. But, the following week, she contacted me about getting youth hostel passes and picking dates. During Winter break that year, she drove us from Pennsylvania to Louisiana. It was my first trip to the city, and it was amazing. I’ve visited the city several times since and made a point of getting to know as much as I can about the food, cultures, history, and my favorite part, the ghost stories and haunted history. I haven’t been to New Orleans in several years, but it is one of my favorite places on Earth and one day, I hope to make it my home.

A lot of research went into this book, including reading about slavery in general, slavery in New Orleans specifically, what people ate, what they wore, what things cost, etc. The house that Jacqueline works and lives in is a house I’ve toured twice, the Gallier House, located at 1132 Royal Street. I read actual slave narratives to get a sense of how they were told/written. I read as much as I possibly could about Voudon, Hoodoo, and the West African pantheon of gods. I tried to incorporate the Creole French spoken by slaves. I studied maps of plantations from the 1850s. I re-watched a lot of vampire movies and TV shows to capture the appearance, demeanor, and personality of my antagonist. While his name comes from a person I knew in real life, he’s a compilation of characteristics from Aidan Turner’s John Mitchell on Being Human (UK), Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’ Dracula on NBC’s adaptation of Dracula.

1200px-GallierHouseBelowA

Gallier House New Orleans / Wiki Commons

Erin: That’s ALL amazing, from wanting to live in New Orleans, to the research, to creating your characters.

Let’s talk now about the formulation of your characters. Which one was your favorite to write? Which one was most challenging? How did you decide to form them and did that also include research into history, culture, dialogue, etc.?

Michelle: My favorite character to develop and write was my antagonist, Carlos Velazquez, a Spanish vampire whose backstory I’ve only begun to tap into. I have a lot more to say about him and hope to start working on either a short story or novella told from his POV, and then I’d like to work on the sequel to Invisible Chains. He uses Spanish words occasionally in his dialog, and while he appears to be White and wealthy, he is quite aware of the injustices suffered by people of color under slavery.

Jacqueline was the most difficult, because I wanted to get her voice just right. I wanted her to sound intelligent and authentic to her time period and station in life. Some reviewers have pointed out anachronisms in her use of language, but I made every effort to avoid that. What made that especially difficult is the fact that while this story is set in Antebellum New Orleans, there are a lot of parallels between Jacqueline’s time and this time. Racism, sexism, poverty, sexual abuse, violence, controlling women’s bodies, policing brown bodies – these are all things that are still very much current events. My voice and emotions would sometimes get tangled up with hers.

She lives a dual life and must wear masks to keep herself safe. She can’t appear to be too intelligent around Whites, because if they find out she can read and write, she will be punished severely. Incorporating Creole French into her dialog was necessary in my opinion to give her voice authenticity. She must balance her speech between self confidence and being subservient, which is a tightrope walk many people of color have had to navigate.

Erin: Your plot also includes a mystery. How difficult was it to write that type of plot and tie up all the points in a debut novel? Did you outline?

Michelle: You know, I didn’t realize I was writing a mystery until I was more than halfway through the book. So, when that finally occurred to me, I went back through the book to make sure that things made sense and that there weren’t any missing pieces. Honestly, I’m still not 100% sure I accomplished that. I rarely use outlines while I’m writing, but because there are so many plot points, themes, and characters, I would sometimes outline what should happen next in the story. Scenes or snippets of dialog usually come to me first, so I had to figure out how to connect all those pieces. I began to think of the book as a quilt that I needed to stitch together. Scenes and dialog have started to present themselves for the second book, but I think outlining will be a must to maintain continuity with the first book and keep things on track for where I believe the story is headed.

Erin: I’m a pantser too so I totally get it! But I can see why with a mystery or a series an outline would be advantageous.

Your lead is a creole slave, and primarily, I believe, readers are following her journey. You’re a strong woman yourself who’s been through a lot and is a single mom. How much of yourself or other strong women did you write into Jacqueline? What kind of traits are you proud of giving her?

Michelle: That is an excellent question, Erin. I really appreciate you asking it. I think for a lot of women, being strong isn’t optional. Depending on who you are and your economic status, women deal with sexism, racism and classism on a daily basis. Microaggressions pile up faster than you might think and add an extra dimension to the stresses associated with work and parenting. Throw sexual relationships into the mix and that’s another level of stress even if you’re enjoying yourself.

There is a lot of me in Jacqueline, and while I was writing Invisible Chains, there were times I needed her to be stronger than me to face the challenges I created for her. Writing this novel was an extremely cathartic process for me and I cried during and after writing certain scenes. The extremely dysfunctional relationships Jacqueline has with certain characters are reflections of relationships I have had and needed to find the strength to avoid in the future. I’m proud of her because she doesn’t give up no matter how bad things get, she faces and slays her demons, and learns to believe in her own strength and power. And, slowly, she allows herself to trust others, which is no small task when you have been abused your entire life.

Erin: I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I want to address these points so that people can grasp diversity a bit better. As it’s Black History Month as well as Women in Horror month, your book ties in perfectly to those awareness campaigns. How important is it that voices not only for women in horror but for women of color in horror are heard? Why do you feel your protagonist as a person of color is important to the genre?

Michelle: I recently wrote a Women in Horror Month guest post for The Horror Tree that was featured on their website February 17, titled “Redefining the Horror Genre.” In the article, I began by examining the famous Lovecraft quote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” I argue that for people of color, women, and anyone who lives on the margins of society, there are plenty of things to fear in the real world. Fearing the unknown seems like something reserved for people privileged enough to not have to feel like they’re in danger every day. There are plenty of things to fear, past and present—racism, sexism, slavery, the Holocaust, the systematic rape of women in extremist cultures, child abuse, gay bashing, the murder of transgendered people, or the genocide of native cultures world-wide—that make fearing the Elder Gods seem a bit ridiculous.

By including more diverse writers and characters in the horror genre, fear becomes more personal, more tangible, and in the words of second-wave feminist Carol Hanish, “The personal is the political.” Gender and race politics are important aspects of daily life for many of us, so for horror to be relevant and horrific, I think it needs to meet people where they live.

Our ever-changing sociopolitical climate is having, in my opinion, a positive effect on horror fiction. As more diverse voices emerge within the genre, I think that we will have more stories that redefine horror on a very personal level. Stories that look at identity politics as well as horrific experiences that can only be told from the POV of people who have experienced them.

Erin: Speaking of all of that: How about the inclusion of slavery into your work? How important do you feel that it is in history and culture today to include these events not only in the historical genre but in other genres, reaching other readers?

Michelle: Slavery happened. It is part of our history. It was terrifying and violent. A lot of people would like to believe that slavery wasn’t so bad for the people who suffered under it. Bullshit. People were tortured and killed. There’s nothing idyllic or romantic about this gruesome chapter in human history.

Here’s an idea for a story: The ghosts of slaves haunt a plantation house that has been renovated and rebranded as a place for destination weddings and terrorize the bridal parties. Honestly, I don’t care how many coats of paint you use or how many rose garlands you hang, there is something very dark about using a place where human beings were sold and treated like animals as the spot to celebrate what is meant to be one of the happiest days of your life.

So, yes, I think it’s still important to talk about slavery in its historical context as well as how it has shaped our current economy, political system, and social interactions in the United States.

Erin: In your bio and on your site, you talk about writing about women of color who battle their inner demons while falling in love with monsters. What do you mean by that and how do you feel you do that in your writing?

Michelle: You know, I’ve been thinking about my bio a lot lately. I do write stories about women of color who are dealing with issues of identity, past trauma, and often the reality of every day, plain old racism that is just part of living while Black and female in America. We all have our demons — trauma, addictions, obsessions, failed relationships, greed, lust, and any of the other five deadly sins. Confronting our demons is never easy, but when we take the time and make space for that process, healing can begin. I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to heal the wound that slavery and racism have carved into the American consciousness, but talking about it and reading stories written by diverse writers can help open new doors to understanding and allow for people to build community around healing from these issues.

That bit about falling in love with monsters relates to the fact that I enjoy love stories, but if you write horror and dark fantasy, those romances don’t always have happy endings. Vampires, werewolves, and demons can be quite attractive in their own ways and they make more interesting sexual partners than the nice guy who bags groceries at Trader Joe’s, at least in fiction.

I read a lot of paranormal romance and there are common themes in that fiction, especially vampire romance, in which vampires are depicted as being ideal mates. But when you examine these relationships more closely, vampires are really narcissistic, controlling and often abusive partners. I’ve been writing a blog series about that very subject over at Speculative Chic, “With This Ring, You’ll Be Dead: Violence Against Female Protagonists in Romantic Vampire Fiction.” And still, I find monsters very attractive and write about some of my favorite monsters on my own blog, Girl Meets Monster. And, they will continue to show up in my fiction, because I love writing about monsters. Because they often occupy the role of outsider, I believe they make good companions for my female characters who are often just as damaged.

Erin: I read your recent article on Medium “I was a Teenage Tragic Mulatto.” It was a brave piece, and as a fellow woman, and woman of abuse, I’m really proud of your strength in sharing your story. How do you feel more of these stories could be heard and understood better? How do you feel you fit as a woman of horror AND as woman of color in the horror genre?

Michelle: Again, I think that having a more inclusive genre that allows space for diverse voices with new perspectives on what horror means, will enable people to tell their stories. Not everyone is comfortable sharing the details of their own traumatic experiences. Thank you for referring to that piece as being brave. I struggled with whether or not to share it. It was a piece I had been thinking about writing for months and I finally sat down and wrote it. I shared it with two of my friends who I trust to be honest with me, and they both thought it was good and gave some feedback that made the piece stronger. That story could have easily been a piece of fiction, but honestly, that story makes its way into my fiction one way or another, because it is part of me and my female characters are a reflection of me.

For a long time I struggled, like most creatives, with the idea of imposter syndrome. I questioned whether or not I was really a horror writer, because people kept telling me that my story wasn’t a horror story. They wanted it to be historical fiction, which it is. They wanted it to be dark fantasy, which it is. They wanted it to be women’s fiction, whatever the hell that is. But now that other people have read it, reviewed it, and expressed how uncomfortable and emotional and terrifying the story was for them, I have no doubt that I wrote a horror novel. I am a horror writer.

Erin: Yes!!! I’m tired of people trying to define horror for others!

What can other women of horror do to support women of color in the horror genre (or in general)?

Michelle: Read and review our books. Invite us to participate in opportunities like this that showcase our work. Befriend them at conferences and have real conversations over cocktails. Invite them to submit to your next anthology, even if it isn’t strictly about race or gender identity. Ask questions and share your stories.

Erin: I love your blog.

Michelle: Thank you. I love writing for it and giving other writers the opportunity to talk about their work and what their writing process looks like. It’s fun and I get to learn new things and meet new writers.

Erin: What other writing have you done, or do you plan to do? What’s next for you?

Michelle: What’s next? Well, I have a short story in the charity anthology, The Dystopian States of America that will be released on March 3, 2020. There are two more parts to the series I’ve been writing for Speculative Chic, and I expect to be writing other things for them, including a review of Grady Hendrix’s soon to be released novel, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, which I’ve been dying to talk about for months. I’m hoping to write more articles for Medium, and I’ll be submitting more short stories over the next few months.

People keep asking me if I’m working on the sequel to Invisible Chains. Technically, I am. I even have a working title, Blood Work. I’ve started doing research, I’ve drafted a few chapters, and I’ve introduced some new characters, but I haven’t set aside dedicated time to work on the manuscript. Not yet, at least. But I’m hoping to start working on the book in April, if not sooner.

Erin: Thank you for joining me here on my site and know you’re welcome anytime! Best of luck both to you and to Invisible Chains. And thank you for supporting other women and writers on Girl Meets Monster. Can you let people know where they can find you there and elsewhere?

Michelle: Thank you for having me, Erin. You asked a lot of thought-provoking questions and I really appreciate your interest in supporting other women writers. Yeah, so people can find my blog, Girl Meets Monster here: https://michellerlane.com/. You can check out my author archive at Speculative Chic here: https://speculativechic.com/author/chellane72/. And, you can always drop by and say hello to me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Michelle Renee Lane, Biography –

Michelle_Lane_PhotoMichelle Renee Lane writes dark speculative fiction about women of color battling their inner demons while falling in love with monsters. Her work includes elements of fantasy, horror, romance, and occasionally erotica.

Her short fiction appears in the anthologies Dark Holidays, Terror Politico: A Screaming World in Chaos, and The Monstrous Feminine: Dark Tales of Dangerous Women. Her debut novel, Invisible Chains (2019), is available from Haverhill House Publishing.

Invisible Chains, Synopsis –

invisiblechains_v2c-cover-2 (1)Jacqueline is a young Creole slave in antebellum New Orleans. An unusual stranger who has haunted her dreams since childhood comes to stay as a guest in her master’s house. Soon after his arrival, members of the household die mysteriously, and Jacqueline is suspected of murder.

Despite her fear of the stranger, Jacqueline befriends him and he helps her escape. While running from the slave catchers, they meet conjurers, a loup-garou, and a traveling circus of supernatural freaks. She relies on ancestral magic to guide her and finds strength to conquer her fears on her journey.Women in Horror

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“This assured first novel delivers emotional and visceral beats to delight and disturb in equal measure.” – Frazer Lee, Bram Stoker Award finalist

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Watch for more upcoming Women in Horror pieces and/or go to view schedule of pieces from previous years HERE. If you would like to feature a woman in horror ANYTIME of the year on my site by doing an interview with them or an article, please contact me.

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News Hooked: Rosson’s Cover Reveal, New Way to Link to Books, HWA Summer Scares, Women in Horror Month #booknews #hookofabook

New News Reeled In!

I have a variety of book news to share with you all, so I thought that instead of spreading it out over the week, I’d do an all-in-one news post because I have some other exciting things coming up later in the week. I think I might start to do these – as a mini-news newsletter (News Hooked? Should I call it that?). This one seems to be mostly horror news related, besides the third notice, but it will be in the future for news in any genre or in the book publishing field. Let me know if it’s something  you like or you have anything to contribute.

In this edition:

  •  Keith Rosson Cover Reveal and Info from Meerkat Press
  •  Horror Writer’s Association Summer Scares Library Program
  •  New Way to Buy Books and Support Libraries
  •  Women in Horror Month Underway

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Author Keith Rosson Cover Reveal –

Meerkat is revealing this beautiful cover for Keith Rosson’s next book, coming out next year. It’s so amazing. He’s a brilliant artist! I can’t wait to sink into his work. Meerkat keeps repeatedly impressing me.

Title: Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons: Stories

Author: Keith Rosson, author of The Mercy of the Tide and Smoke City

Pub Date: February 2021

More Info:  Meerkat Press

Twitter: @meerkatpress and @Keith_Rosson

From Meerkat Press –

“We are excited to reveal the cover for Keith Rosson’s new collection: FOLK SONGS FOR TRAUMA SURGEONS. The cover design was done by Keith and we think it fits the collection perfectly! The book will be published in February 2021.”

Description

With the Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons, award-winning author Keith Rosson delves into notions of family, grief, identity, indebtedness, loss, and hope, with the surefooted merging of literary fiction and magical realism he’s explored in previous novels.

In “Dunsmuir,” a newly sober husband buys a hearse to help his wife spread her sister’s ashes, while “The Lesser Horsemen” illustrates what happens when God instructs the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to go on a team-building cruise as a way of boosting their frayed morale. In “Brad Benske and the Hand of Light,” an estranged husband seeks his wife’s whereabouts through a fortuneteller after she absconds with a cult, and in “High Tide,” a grieving man ruminates on his brother’s life as a monster terrorizes their coastal town.

With grace, imagination, and a brazen gallows humor, Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons merges the fantastic and the everyday, and includes a number of Rosson’s unpublished stories, as well as award-winning favorites.

Now, readers, isn’t this one of the most beautiful covers you’ve seen!!?

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HWA Summer Scares Library Announcement – 

In celebration of National Library Lover’s Day, the Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal, is delighted to announce the second annual Summer Scares Reading List, which includes titles selected by a panel of authors and librarians and is designed to promote horror as a great reading option for all ages, during any time of the year.

Each year, three titles will be chosen in the Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade categories, and for 2020 they are:

ADULT

In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson (Skyhorse, 2017)

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (Tor.Com, 2016)

She Said Destroy: Stories by Nadia Bulkin (Word Horde, 2017)

YOUNG ADULT

The Agony House by Cherie Priest, Illustrated by Tara O’Connor (Scholastic 2018)

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks Fire, 2017)

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics (Harlequin Teen, 2015)

MIDDLE GRADE

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (HaperCollins, 2017)

Case Files 13: Zombie Kid by J. Scott Savage (HarperCollins, 2012)

Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith (Clarion Books, 2015)

The goal of the Summer Scares program is to introduce horror titles to school and public library workers in order to help them start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come. Along with the annual list of recommended titles for readers of all ages, the Summer Scares committee will also release themed lists of even more “read-alike” titles for libraries to use when suggesting books to readers this summer and all year long.

And, in order to help libraries forge stronger connections between books and readers, the Summer Scares committee will be working with both the recommended list authors and horror authors from all over the country, to provide free programming to libraries. From author visits (both in person and virtual) to book discussions to horror themed events, Summer Scares is focused on connecting horror creators with libraries and readers all year long.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) will also be hosting a Library Day special stand alone program May 7, 2020 at the Naperville, IL Public Library. Authors from the Summer Scares reading list, as well as the committee members, will be in attendance. Authors and committee members will also be available throughout the year for on-site and/or remote appearances to libraries and schools to promote the Summer Scares program and discuss the use of horror fiction as a tool to increase readership and nurture a love of reading.

The Summer Scares program committee consists of award-winning author Stephen Graham Jones (Mongrels, The Only Good Indians, Night of the Mannequins), Becky Spratford (library consultant, author of The Readers Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd Ed.), Carolyn Ciesla (library director, academic dean, book reviewer), Kiera Parrott (reviews director for Library Journal and School Library Journal), Kelly Jensen (editor, Book Riot, author of [Don’t] Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health), and JG Faherty (HWA Library Program director, author of Sins of the Father, The Cure, and Ghosts of Coronado Bay).

The HWA is a non-profit organization of writers and publishing professionals, and the oldest organization dedicated to the horror/dark fiction genre. One of the HWA’s missions is to foster an appreciation of reading through extensive programming and partnerships with libraries, schools, and literacy-based organizations.

For more information about the Summer Scares reading program, including how to obtain promotional materials and schedule events with the authors/committee members, visit the HWA’s Libraries web page (www.horror.org/libraries), Becky Spratford’s Reader’s Advisory Horror Blog RA for All: Horror (http://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/p/summer-scares.html), or the Book Riot, School Library Journal, Library Journal, or United for Libraries websites and social media sites.

You can also contact JG Faherty, HWA Library Program Director (libraries [at] horror [dot] org) or Becky Spratford, HWA Secretary (bspratford [at] hotmail [dot] com).HWA-Summer-Scares-1-large(1)

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New Alternative to Amazon Buy Links to Help Indie Bookstores –

On Friday I posted a list of ten books of obsession just in time for Valentine’s Day. One of the books is published by Poisoned Pen Press and the Poisoned Pen bookstore pointed out to me that I can use a certain website to help support indie bookstores like theirs. I had never heard of it but meant to look it up. Yesterday, I saw a Forbes.com article go by that had to do with it so I read it. Wow! What a great idea. I think authors and anyone else out there, especially book reviewers and supporters, need to try to use this link for books. Not all indie bookstores carry indie books, but any indie book supported on Ingram can be found on this website and local stores still profit from that! It’s a win-win.

The article states, in short:

Bookshop.org, a website that went live at the end of January and is still in beta mode, is designed to be an alternative to Amazon, and to generate income for independent bookstores. And, perhaps more importantly, it seeks to give book reviewers, bloggers and publications who rely on affiliate income from “Buy now” links to Amazon a different option.

Profit from books sold through Bookshop will be split three ways, with 10% of the sale price going into a pool that will be divided among participating bookstores, 10% going to the publication that triggered the sale by linking to Bookshop.org, and 10% going to Bookshop.org to support its operations.”

Will you join me in this movement to support bricks and mortar stores?

Here is the full article that was on Forbes.com.

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February is Women in Horror Month – 

One of my favorite months of the year being a woman in horror is celebrating February as Women in Horror Month. It’s a grassroots initiative to celebrate and inform about women working in the genre whether writing books, filmmaking, to many of the other roles. I really enjoy not only writing horror, but being an editor, publicist, and so much more in the genre. And I love supporting others, especially my fellow horror sisters. Horror is so many different things from quiet, psychological horror to escapism gore, and the ladies can bring it all.

I’ve been making my rounds online this month with a couple interviews and articles, and I’ll wrap those up for you at the end of the month, but coming up here on my own site I’ll be featuring three or four interviews and a guest article with some exciting women in horror, I’ll offer some reviews of women’s horror books I’ve read, and possibly something else interesting. All within the last couple weeks left so stay tuned.

Don’t forget ladies, free month of SHUDDER with code WIHM2020.

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It’s #HookonWiHM: What I’ll Be Doing for Women in Horror Month and Four Options for YOU to be Involved Too! #WiHMx

Today starts Women in Horror Month! I know that not everyone who follows my blog likes horror, speculative, or dark fiction, but stick around, you might be surprised by who you meet (and next month is Women in History Month, so it will be your turn).

It’s time to celebrate what women in the horror genre have to offer!! I’ll be conducting full interviews with some fabulous ladies myself – up to 10 – such as Sara Tantlinger, Sarah Read, Catherine Cavendish, Sonora Taylor, Karen Runge, Comika Hartford, and a few more that I need to confirm, here on my site as well as The Horror Tree! They are authors, artists, filmmakers – so many women work in various avenues in horror! I’ll be using #HookonWiHM hashtag as well as #WiHMx, since Women in Horror Month organization is celebrating 10 years in 2019 and that’s their official hashtag.

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BUT you can do something too, just like last year! Read on….

#HookonWiHM Information

As February is Women in Horror Month, besides doing interviews myself, I’m hosting interviews done by others of women in horror and I’m taking articles. You can see who I hosted last year by clicking on the link above or going to the tab at the top of the home page anytime.

How you can participate:

Option 1: Everyone, male and female: choose a date in February as your deadline, interview a lady in horror by asking at least three questions, then send in her bio, photo, and info on her work, as well as all that for yourself, then e-mail it all to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Option 2: If that doesn’t strike your fancy, you (male or female) can also turn in a guest article about a lady in horror, either working today or a classic author long taken from us. Just e-mail it to me with your own bio and headshot too.

Option 3: If you’re a woman in horror, you can run a guest article of your choosing on my site or ask for a mini-interview (I’m filled on full interviews. These are just about 5 questions, same to all, might be posted together with others).

Option 4 (NEW): You can write me a drabble or flash fiction piece to post. 100 for drabble or up to 300-500 for a small flash. Send it in with your bio and photo.

Remember, women in horror not only includes authors, but those working in film, art, blogging, podcasting, promoting, editing, and more.

Please be sure to sign up and suggest dates for me. One, for you to keep yourself on deadline, and two, so I can stay better organized. Again, e-mail hookofabook@hotmail.com.

I’ve much on my to-do list, so I won’t hold your hand or send out reminders, but I do want to make this showcase shine!

I’ll also be doing some review catch up, recommended women in horror reading lists, and some activities to support women – but that won’t be abnormal for me, because it’s what I am always doing anyway.

Let’s do this!

Don’t forget to go to the Women in Horror Month main site for all the news, deals, and events near you or online! There is always so much happening there. Then watch social media too for others celebrating and join in with all the other amazing people who are spreading the love!

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#HookonWiHM: Author David Duggins Interviews Horror and Fantasy Author Angeline Hawkes

Today in the #HookonWiHM series, author David Duggins has interviewed author Angeline Hawkes! I adore Dave, but had never heard of Angeline, so very glad he’s introduced another new woman in horror to me. And not only does she write horror, but she’s a fantasy gal too, which is another genre I love. I feel sad I didn’t know her, she’s been writing a long time and has worked with some excellent presses and has garnered high praise. 

I’m taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February, but will schedule throughout the year too in order feature women in horror all year long. You can find information on this at the bottom of the post.

Let’s introduce you to Angeline and then we’ll let Dave take the white page with his interview..

Angeline Hawkes is from Texas, which means she ain’t got no quit in her.  She’s been busy not quitting since 1981.  She works mostly in fantasy and horror, where her publishing credits include stories in Stoker and Origins Award-nominated anthologies, and enough novels featuring monsters and kick-ass warriors to fill a very large transport trailer. 

Sometimes, she writes with her husband, Christopher Fulbright.  Sometimes she writes by herself.  She always writes hard, bright and true, and her characters live in your head for a long time after you’ve read her work.

Her current short fiction collection, Inferno, is available from Elder Signs Press, on Amazon.  Upcoming works include a new horror novel, Cold Is the Mountain, out later this year through Elder Signs, and a short story, “Strange Gods,” in the anthology C.H.U.D. Lives from Crystal Lake Press.

Angeline’s website is http://angelinehawkes.com/

angie_aboutphotoTFW

Interview with Angeline Hawkes

What are you working on now?

Three barbarian/heroic fiction novels all set in my Kabar of El Hazzar world. The novels are in various stages of completion. Every couple months, Christopher Fulbright and I write a new short story or novella for this project or that. We tend to take those opportunities as they come up and write longer works in the meantime. I also have a few non-fiction articles in the works as well.

Has your writing process changed significantly over the years?

Yes. It’s funny because when my four kids were all babies, I wrote my tail off. For some reason I always thought I’d have more time when they were older. I look back at my writing schedule in those days in awe. I don’t know how I did it all! Now that they are older (my youngest is almost 10 years old), I find I don’t have as much time as I did when they were little.

I don’t despair though. As Stevie Nicks says, time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I’m getting older too.  I know some day I’ll look back at this time in my life and remember it fondly even if I’m not cranking out the fiction at break-neck speed like I was ten years ago. I think I’ve moved into the quality over sheer quantity stage of my career. Not that I wasn’t concerned with quality before, but now, I don’t feel the need to place four stories a week. I do what I can. I write when I can, and I let the chips fall.

What advice would you give new writers?

Practice. Write often. Study grammar and sentence structure. Read outside your genre. I think there is a lot to be learned from the old masters: Hawthorne, Dickens, Shakespeare, Hardy, Stevenson, Conrad, O’Henry, Bradbury, etc. Study history. Study PEOPLE. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? People? Every person has a story. Listen to as many of them as you can. Those tales tucked away in your head are the root of character development. Go hang out in a nursing home and spend some time with some of our forgotten elderly. What tales they have to tell!

Stay away from the haters. Storytelling is a gift. Hone it. Don’t be afraid to try a different approach. If something isn’t working, just put it away. You’ll return to it. If you don’t, it probably wasn’t worth the development and time.

Above all, believe in yourself. This is a harsh industry full of constant rejection. YOU have to believe in your talent, believe in your gift. You don’t choose writing. Writing chooses you.

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Amazon Link

Thanks to Dave for providing a wonderful interview!

David Duggins, Biography –

Dave GuitarDavid Duggins is a writer and CG artist who’s been thrashing around in the genre fiction pool for almost thirty years. While he has published short fiction professionally in magazines like Cemetery Dance and Fear, David prefers the DIY approach, and now publishes under his own Silvern Press Imprint.

You can follow or find information on Dave on his websiteHis new novel, Watershed, is available in the Kindle store. You can follow him on Twitter: @dave_duggins

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiHM series….

February is Women in Horror Month! Though I agree women should be celebrated on the same level as men every day of the year, I like to partake in Women in Horror projects as a catalyst for spreading the good news and works of women in the genre in hopes that it will carry on throughout the year. It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, try to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiHM, or Women in Horror Month at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the month, and if you want in, contact me.

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#HookonWiHM: Female Horror Reviewer Charlene is Interviewed by Curtis Freeman About Her Blog, What Scares Her, and What Makes a Good Horror Book

Today in the #HookonWiHM series, the honcho at Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews, Curtis Freeman, interviews horror reader, blogger, and Goodreads Horror Aficionado’s Senior Moderator, Charlene Cocrane. This is the first in his three-part series on women blogging in the horror genre. I’m glad we are getting the word out about other women in horror in addition to all the amazing authors. It takes a community to make the genre shine! Char is one of the nicest ladies working and supporting the genre.

I’m taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February. You can information on this at the bottom of the post. Take it away Curtis – thanks for a great interview with Char!

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Q: What was the first horror book you ever read?

A: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat or The Tell Tale Heart.

Q: What is the scariest book you ever read?

A: Salem’s Lot or The House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski.

Q: When did you become a blogger? What made you want to blog about books?

A: I’ve been blogging for about 3 years now because I wanted to help out independent authors and I like talking about books that I love.

Q: What annoys you the most with your blog?

A: It is easy for me to get bogged down with promised reviews and ARCS. If I’m not careful it turns something I love into work. When that happens I lose the joy that blogging brings.

Q: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror fiction? Explain.

A: There are certainly less women writing horror than men; Why that is, I’m not sure. As one of the moderators of Horror Aficionados, (the largest group on Goodreads dedicated to horror books, with over 13,000 members), I know there are a LOT of female horror fans. Most of my favorite horror reviewers are women also.

Q: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror book blogging? Explain.

A: I really don’t believe there is a concentrated effort to prevent women from blogging about horror, I just think that horror is not as popular among women as are other genres. Let’s face it-horror is not for everyone.

Q: How can we fix the bias?

A: See above. That said, I think that more women writing, reviewing and/or blogging about horror may bring more women into the horror fold, so to speak. All we can do is continue writing and reviewing about the genre that we love, and hope that our enthusiasm infects others.

Q: I find it sad that we still live in a world where women authors have to use initials to seem less female. What are your thoughts?

A: I think women have come a long way and using just their initials to get published is probably not as popular a practice as it used to be, especially with the advent of self-publishing.  I have seen so many women build a name for themselves in the past few years, it’s amazing, and that’s both with self-publishing and with traditional. I hope that more women will be drawn to the genre by reading the work of women and becoming inspired by them.

Q: What pushes your buttons with your blog?

A: If you’re asking if there’s something that makes me angry-there are only a few things. Authors being pushy about reviews and authors commenting on negative reviews. I think authors should never make derogatory comments about a reviewer or a review, even if they are right. A reviewer spends their precious time reviewing a book and as such, I believe, they are entitled to their opinions. If I see an author engaging a reviewer or even making fun of a reviewer publicly, I will make it a point not to buy or review any of their books, lest I end up in the same position.

Q: Do you think the Horror Writers Association (HWA) should start recognizing horror book bloggers?

A: No, I don’t. I think it’s an organization created to support writers. Much as I enjoy blogging and reviewing, I don’t believe that I’m a professional writer, nor do I want to be.

Q: How has the horror community treated you since starting your blog?

A: The horror community is AWESOME. On Goodreads, on Twitter, on Facebook and in person-I have met and chatted with some people that are just beautiful human beings. I have made so many friends, on line and in person and they are supportive, intelligent and creative. Every day I feel lucky to have them in my life.

Q: What makes a good horror book?

A: Scares! When you’re all alone in a quiet house reading and you jump at every noise you hear? I love that feeling!  I also have a special place in my heart for the beautiful and creative prose of writers like Shirley Jackson. Their use of words can elevate something boring and commonplace into something to be feared. For instance, from The Haunting of Hill House a perfectly chilling paragraph:

“Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Q: What scares you?

A: Not too much. To be honest, the thing that scares me the most is dementia. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have the faculties to read and understand a book. As far as horror goes, though, I do love me a well-done haunted house story.

Q: Who’s your favorite horror author? You have to pick one or three authors, but it can’t be two.

A: Today it’s: Robert McCammon, Michael McDowell, and Stephen King.

Q: What books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

The Listener by Robert McCammon (I’ve already read it and it’s amazing!), Providence by Caroline Kepnes, and the latest John Connolly book.

About Char –

I am a happily married mother of one, (a fantastic young man), and I am a warranty claim administrator for 2 automobile dealerships which helps to pay for my book addiction.

I am one of the moderators of the Goodreads Group “Horror Aficionados” which now boasts over 13,500 horror-loving members! I am a member of the reviewing team at  Horror After Dark.

When I was young my parents used to take me to the drive in movies all the time, mostly for horror flicks. That was where my love of horror was born. These days I focus on books instead of films.

Char’s Horror Corner

GoodReads

Twitter

And thank you to Curtis from Cedar Hollow Reviews for his wonderfully insightful interview with Char! What a great addition to the women in horror series.

About Curtis Freeman-

Curtis

Curtis is a lover of horror books and films and a passionate addition to the horror genre. He reviews at his site Cedar Hollow Reviews and has just begun to interview authors via his YouTube Channel. Curtis even grilled me for over 3 hours one evening. His heartfelt excitement for the genre shows. This is the first in a series of three women horror bloggers Curtis is interviewing for my #HookonWiHM project. You can also find Curtis on Twitter.

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiHM series….

February is Women in Horror Month! Though I agree women should be celebrated on the same level as men every day of the year, I like to partake in Women in Horror projects as a catalyst for spreading the good news and works of women in the genre in hopes that it will carry on throughout the year. It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiHM, or Women in Horror Month at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the month, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

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#HookonWiHM: Theresa Braun interviews J.H. Moncrieff about Atwood, a Haunted Island, and Gender Roles

Today, for the #HookonWiHM project, author Theresa Braun has interviewed the Canadian author J.H. Moncrieff! I’m super excited to have both of these women on the site today in promotion of Women in Horror Month. J.H. Moncrieff writes paranormal suspense, thrillers, and horror. I enjoy following her travels especially to all the haunted places. Happily, I’ve recently met Theresa this year as we shared the TOC in the anthology Hardened Hearts together, which published by Unnerving in December 2017.

I’m taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February. You can see information on this at the bottom of the post. For now, take it away Theresa. Thanks for a great interview with J.H. Moncrieff!

Cropped coat

Do you feel the feminist conversation surrounding Margaret Atwood is relevant to the issues relating to female writers and female characters? Does Atwood carry any weight for you personally, since you both happen to be Canadian? 

I have read Atwood’s defence of her stance on the firing of the UBC professor, which fanned the flames and turned even more women against her (which, as a publicist, I could have told her it would. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing), and she raises some valid points. Movements like #MeToo do have the potential to become public witch hunts. And they are the result of a legal system failure: if women’s reports of sexual assault and harassment had been taken seriously, there would be no need for scores of women to go public about the issue on social media (or, at least, less need). However, as women, we need to be extremely careful not to re-victimize the survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

Almost every woman on the planet has experienced one or the other or both, but most of us don’t report it because we still fear the repercussions or assume we won’t be believed or taken seriously. We’re still living in an age where a man who was seen raping a woman spent only three months in jail. Where a police officer said to me that one of the strongest indications a woman was lying about sexual assault was she’d reported it, as most “true victims” don’t. And this was coming from a man most would consider sensitive and enlightened. Where people still get frustrated about the women pointing fingers at their favorite celebrities, but never once get angry at the men for the sexual misconduct and abuse of power.

Atwood argues the pendulum is at risk of swinging too far in the other direction. But perhaps it needs to. Just as many find the “zero tolerance” policy of dealing with domestic violence unfair, and it’s certainly flawed, it’s like that for a reason. Only when we’ve seen genuine progress on these issues, when women are no longer viewed as either sexual objects or prey, can people like Atwood safely call for balance. The problem is that our society has been far too unbalanced for far too long. Publicly critiquing a movement that amplifies survivor’s voices and raises awareness of just how prevalent sexual abuse and harassment are, is certainly going to be seen as anti-feminist, to put it lightly. To respond with guns blazing and a “Screw you, I’ve been called worse!” editorial hasn’t helped matters. The fact we’re both Canadian doesn’t bond us or give her opinion more weight to me, but I am more likely to see her editorials, as Canadian media have always given her a platform and will continue to do so.

Do you consciously include gender issues in your fiction? If so, what are some that you have explored? And are there any that you plan to explore in future storylines?

Monsters in Our Wake features a character who is the only female working on a drillship, and it explores some of the sexism and ostracism she suffered as a result, but on the flip side, the sea creatures in that novel live in a matriarchal society where the females are larger, more powerful, and make the majority of the decisions. Some readers have had a huge problem with this. A man accused me of being “anti-male” because of this novel, and some female readers hated Flora because she came across as weak or timid, while they’d always thrived in male-dominated environments. In City of Ghosts, I explored how women can be their own harshest critics and what can happen when they turn against each other. Again, some women really didn’t like that, and they disparaged how “girl-on-girl crime” has been overdone in fiction.

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But the truth is, I don’t set out to write with a feminist agenda, or any agenda. I write people (and creatures), and people are flawed. Sometimes they’re misunderstood or obnoxious or misguided, and sometimes they’re just plain ugly. While I’ve never been ostracized like Flora was, I have been one of the only women in extremely male-dominated professions and sports, so it was easy for me to feel for the struggles someone less assertive might have. And I’ve experienced a ton of “girl-on-girl crime” in my lifetime–in elementary school, in high school, and in the workplace, both from colleagues and from supervisors. Women are capable of being awful to other women, and refusing to be honest about that would do everyone a disservice.

You have written a lot about characters facing supernatural situations. And you have based several of these novels on real places that you have visited. Which of these has scared you the most? Why?

The scariest place I’ve ever visited was Poveglia, an island off the coast of Venice that is considered to be the world’s most haunted. I don’t spook easily, but I was terrified the entire time I was there. Not only was I completely alone on the island, I was there during a violent thunderstorm. Poveglia has a truly chilling history, which I explored in The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts. Although nothing overt happened to me–I didn’t see a ghost–there were definitely a lot of strange, unexplained sounds and a very strong sensation that something was wrong in that place. It’s very creepy.

Isola di Poveglia

From enca.com / Photo: Flickr.com / tedlum

What future project are you most excited about? Tell us about that.

While I have a lot to be excited about this year–the release of the first book in my new Egyptian series, which was previewed in Temple of Ghosts; the fourth book in my GhostWriters series; a Christmas GhostWriters novella; and a few other projects–I’m probably most anticipating the release of Dead of Winter, which Severed Press will publish this spring. It’s about a famous podcaster who ventures into Russia’s Ural Mountains to investigate what happened on the Dyatlov Pass back in the ’50s. Since The Dyatlov Pass Incident is one of the scariest unsolved mysteries of all time, it was a fun topic to explore and I was really happy with how the book turned out. Best-selling author Hunter Shea gave it a great blurb: “Dead of Winter will freeze your blood! A mystery dripping with terror, the sense of isolation and impending doom kept my heart racing right until the very last line. An instant classic.”

Has there been something that a reader has surprised you with? Something that a reader has come away with that has left you inspired? 

My readers are amazing. I’m still so grateful I get to do this that every positive review makes me teary. One reader emailed me to say Temple of Ghosts helped her get through a difficult time after her daughter’s house caught fire. Another left a review for City of Ghosts that ended with, “City of Ghosts stirs the reader’s childhood fears and mixes them with compassion for all of China’s unwanted little girls.” That really got to me, because I wrote that book for those little girls, but I didn’t think anyone had understood that. When a reader gets you, it’s the best feeling in the world. I bawled. During a recent visit to a book club, the members surprised me with a gigantic gift basket full of goodies like gourmet tea, bubble bath, candles, a hardcover book, a bookmark, pens, etc. It went on and on. It was almost bottomless. I was extremely touched. Book clubs are the best, with or without the gifts.

Check out books from Moncrieff such as:

The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts and Temple of Ghosts 

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Find Moncrieff online:

Website

Books

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Thanks again to Theresa Braun for conducing the interview!

Theresa Braun, Bio –

braun pic

Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides. Traveling, ghost hunting, and all things dark are her passions. Her work appears in The Horror Zine, Sirens Call, Schlock! Webzine, Hardened Hearts, and Strange Behaviors, among others.

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiHM series….

February is Women in Horror Month! Though I agree women should be celebrated on the same level as men every day of the year, I like to partake in Women in Horror projects as a catalyst for spreading the good news and works of women in the genre in hopes that it will carry on throughout the year. It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiHM, or Women in Horror Month at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the month, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

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#HookonWiHM: Focus on Author Gwendolyn Kiste Via Calvin Demmer

February is Women in Horror Month! Though I agree women should be celebrated on the same level as men every day of the year, I like to partake in Women in Horror projects as a catalyst for spreading the good news and works of women in the genre in hopes that it will carry on throughout the year. It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiHM, or Women in Horror Month at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the month, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

Now, without further wait, I’d like to introduce Calvin Demmer who has enthusiastically interviewed the amazing author Gwendolyn Kiste! I am more than pleased to say that I share a TOC with them in the Unnerving anthology Hardened Hearts and very much enjoyed both their stories. Further, I was excited to recently find out that Gwendolyn is originally from Ohio, where I currently live!

Take it away, Calvin – enjoy!

INTERVIEW WITH HORROR AUTHOR GWENDOLYN KISTE –

Gwendolyn Kiste_Black and White Headshot

Was it difficult to select which stories to include in your debut collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe (Published by Journalstone)?

Overall, it wasn’t too terribly difficult, though it was so important to me not only to select the right stories but also to curate them in the absolute best order. This definitely took some time, and I was lucky to have my editor Jess Landry there to help me. All fourteen of the stories that I submitted to her for the collection made the cut for the book, but she helped with the order, opening with the avian horror story, “Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” and closing with the darkly romantic body horror tale, “The Lazarus Bride.” She felt both of those pieces focused similarly on themes of death and rebirth, and worked well in conversation with each other, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

As for other considerations in putting together the collection, several of the previously published stories are available for free online, so I felt it was important to offer readers something completely new. That’s what led me to including five stories original to the collection. Now that’s it been almost a year since publication, it’s interesting to take stock of the table of contents again and realize that I can’t imagine a different order or different stories.

These fourteen tales definitely cover all of my favorite themes: body horror, fairy tales, sisterhood, twisted romantic relationships, and of course, otherness and the role of the outsider in pushing back against the confines of society. I’m so grateful every day to Jess and JournalStone for releasing this book. It’s completely changed my career and brought me to so many more readers, which is the only thing that a writer can ever truly want for their career.

And-Her-Smile-Will-Untether-the-Universe

How did you find the process from writing short stories to writing your novella Pretty Marys All in a Row (Broken Eye Books)?

It was a really wonderful—as well as daunting—experience to make the leap from short fiction to a longer form. In some ways, my approach to short fiction is a bit more free-flow: because the projects are shorter by design, I let them evolve much more naturally and then go back and edit the stories if I find that I ultimately didn’t need certain details or subplots. However, with a novella or any longer fiction, that free-flow approach can become more problematic. What’s easy to edit when it’s only 5,000 words can quickly become a nightmare for a 30,000-word story.

So I would say the main difference for me is how much more planning goes into my longer works. For example, prior to even starting the first draft of my novel, The Rust Maidens, I wrote out an 11,000-word outline. Almost none of those words ended up directly in the novel, but I knew every single direction the book was going to take. Every character, every setting, every scene. There were no surprises at all, which made drafting the book much smoother.

I took a similar approach with Pretty Marys All in a Row, though the outline was a little more informal with a page or two of notes for each chapter that included locations, character goals, and specific starting and ending points for all the scenes. Part of me really loves the spontaneity of letting a story evolve like I do with my short fiction, but when the moment comes midway through a longer project that it starts to become a bit of a struggle, I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve planned ahead. It’s definitely what’s helped to keep me going so far with my longer works.

Pretty-Marys-All-in-a-Row

You collaborated with Emily Cataneo for the novella In Her Flightless Wings, a Fire (which will appear in Chiral Mad 4). How was the experience working with another writer?

I’d never collaborated with another writer before, especially on such a big project, so I had no idea what to expect when we started. Fortunately, Emily and I quickly worked out a good system for how to make the collaboration dovetail with both our visions. Once we had the basic elements for the story—ballet, sisters, witchcraft, turn-of-the-century Europe—we each crafted a point-of-view character, and wrote our alternating sections from our character’s perspective. Then we came together and worked to smooth out any inconsistencies and create a cohesive whole. Ultimately, In Her Flightless Wings, a Fire ended up in novella-length territory, and we were both very excited with how it turned out. When editors Michael Bailey and Lucy A. Snyder accepted it for Chiral Mad 4, I imagine you could hear Emily and I both squealing for joy for a several-mile radius.

Your debut novel, The Rust Maidens, will be published this year. Can you tell us a little about it?

Well, first off, I’m insanely excited and a little nervous about it! Obviously, it’s a big moment for every author to have a novel, but it’s so wonderfully terrifying too. And of course, you want to be sure that it’s the right book for your debut. Fortunately, I think I found a good balance with The Rust Maidens, since it at once includes elements from my short fiction while expanding upon my work in a number of ways that I hope readers will enjoy.

Based primarily in 1980, the book follows one Cleveland, Ohio neighborhood as the economy starts to unravel at the same time that the local girls begin transforming into something otherworldly. I’ve been describing it as David Cronenberg’s The Fly meets The Virgin Suicides. Lots of body horror, gruesome transformations, and coming-of-age themes in the Midwest, which is where I grew up. I never thought I’d “go back home,” so to speak, in my fiction, but once I came up with the concept for this book, I knew it was definitely a direction I was always meant to take. I wanted to write something about the economic losses so many people in the region have dealt with over the years, as well as the ecological disasters that have plagued Lake Erie for decades. To be honest, once I started writing about the Rust Belt, I realized just how much horror haunts the everyday recesses of the area, so it seems very naturally situated for a darkly supernatural novel.

We don’t have an official release scheduled yet for The Rust Maidens, but that date should be coming very soon, so definitely watch my website and the Trepidatio Publishing social media pages for those details!

Who are some of the female horror authors you believe people should be reading?

Honestly, there are way too many to list here, but I will do my best. I’m a huge fan of Farah Rose Smith, Brooke Warra, and Eden Royce in particular. We already mentioned Emily B. Cataneo, but her name certainly deserves to be repeated as well. My editor at JournalStone/Trepidatio, Jess Landry, is also a writer and a fantastic one at that.

Of course, I could go on and on: Lori Titus, Anya Martin, Nadia Bulkin, S.P. Miskowski, Denise Tapscott, Sumiko Saulson, Catherine Grant, Scarlett R. Algee, Rebecca Allred, Carrie Laben, Kenya Moss-Dyme. I usually focus on fiction, but in terms of horror poets, Christina Sng and Saba Razvi are two names everyone should definitely seek out. Truly, there are so many wonderful female horror authors working today, and it’s such an honor to be among their contemporaries

Gwendolyn Kiste_Black and White Headshot

Gwendolyn Kiste, Biography –

Gwendolyn Kiste is the author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, her debut fiction collection from JournalStone, as well as the dark fantasy novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, from Broken Eye Books. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare MagazineShimmerBlack StaticDaily Science FictionInterzoneLampLight, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye as well as Flame Tree Publishing’s Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology, among others. A native of Ohio, she spends her days hanging out on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh where she lives with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. You can find her online at gwendolynkiste.com.

Book Purchase Links –

And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe

Pretty Marys All in a Row

Thanks so much to Calvin Demmer for highlighting Gwendolyn!

CalvinDemmer

Calvin Demmer, Biography –

Calvin Demmer is a dark fiction author. His work has appeared in Broadswords and Blasters, Empyreome Magazine, Mad Scientist Journal, Ravenwood Quarterly, Switchblade, and others. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe. You can find him online at www.calvindemmer.com.

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Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre.

 

 

 

 

 

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