Conversations With Three Influential Women in Horror
While many in the horror community celebrate Women in Horror Month in February, the Grimoire of Horror is choosing to observe the celebration in conjunction with Women’s History Month in March. Beginning in February 2023, we will be honouring Black Horror Authors during Black History Month as a part of our new monthly series of celebrations.
Women have been killing it in the horror community since the 1700s (pun intended), and were once among the highest paid authors in publication. While we continue to produce bone-chilling books at the same pace as our male counterparts, major publishing houses still seem more likely to back the good old boys like King and Koontz than to take a chance on up and coming authors.
This is where the horror community shines. Authors of dark literature seem more likely than any other genre to understand that we can use our own platforms to champion newer authors and share the spotlight. Women in horror are the first to give a fellow writer a shout out, promoting other people’s work to their established audiences as much as they promote their own. It’s a sisterhood of macabre authors who believe that we are not in competition with one another; we are on the same team.
We were honoured to speak with three authors who are the embodiment of this sentiment. These ladies are not just fabulous writers, they are also advocates and mentors for newer Women in Horror, providing advice, resources, and platforms to help them develop their voices.
These are quick conversations, meant to introduce you to just a few of the Women in Horror who are out there every day supporting one another. We encourage you to take a look at their websites/social media to explore their work and learn more about the amazing efforts they are making to give voices to newer writers in the genre.
Interview with Lee Murray
Lee Murray is an established horror author from New Zealand with a list of awards longer than this article. She is also the co-founder of Young New Zealand Writers and a mentor/assessor for several organizations.
Kate: Welcome to the Grimoire, Lee, and thank you for chatting with us. Tell us something weird about you!
Lee: Despite loving to read, write, teach, and talk about horror, just the idea of watching horror movies sends me into a cold sweat. The first inkling of shadowy lighting, discordant angles, and suspenseful music gives me goosebumps and I’ll jump up and turn movie off. I still having night terrors about The Trilogy Terror films I watched as a teen. It’s not the same with reading. That isn’t because I believe the film is better than the book [team-book], but because, for some reason, I’m able to compartmentalise what I’m reading from real life, or I simply put the book down and come back to it later with a bit of physical and temporal distance. My horror researcher friend, Mathias Clasen, has written a fabulous book called A Very Nervous Person’s Guide to Horror Movies (Oxford University Press), and while nightmares are a common outcome (the result of protective adaptive memory and also physiological responses by the limbic system), he offers very clear evidence that horror movies won’t result in negative psychological harm. Quite the opposite: apart from being entertaining, watching horror movies can equip us with coping strategies, promote bonding among watchers, and can even elevate your mood.
Kate: Tell us about a struggle you’ve overcome in your writing journey and what that looked like, as inspiration for other creators to keep going.
Lee: It’s not a secret that I suffer from anxiety and depression. I have done all my life. In the six years since my diagnosis (I was 50!), I have tried to be as open as I can about my mental health. And just by being open about it, I’ve discovered a lot of other writers feel the same way. In fact, in a 1995 Scientific American article, Kay Redfield-Jamison reported that creatives are eight times more likely than the general population to suffer from a depressive illness. I can hear you asking, why then, don’t we choose to write something a little cheerier, like comedy, or even a cooking blog? Because, as it turns out, the act of writing can be cathartic, offering writers a distraction, a solution, and also feelings of euphoria when the story comes together. And the act of writing horror, pouring those demons on the page, can allow you to take control of your fear and even find real-world solutions. If you’d like to read more, check out my essay, “Writing from a Dark Place” in Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety (Victoria University Press).
Kate: What are you currently working on? Any exciting projects you’d like to tell us about?
Lee: I’m pleased to announce that I have a novella, Despatches, releasing from Crystal Lake Publishing later this year. An epistolatory tale based on the horrors of Gallipoli, the novella will appear in CLP’s Dark Tides novella series, in a book called Someday, alongside stories by my colleagues Angela Yuriko Smith and Maxwell Ian Gold. We’re just finishing up edits now, so I’m excited to see what the series will look like. As far as WIPs go, I’m currently working on some short fiction for a personal collection coming out from Silver Shamrock Publishing in 2023, and I’m also currently curating an essay collection called Unquiet Spirits: Essays from Asian Women in Horror (with Angela Yuriko Smith). We invited 20 of our favourite writers to consider how spirits and monsters, especially Asian spirits have impacted their lives. The book will be available from Black Spot Books this time next year. I also have a collaborative novel in the works, as well as some other exciting projects. So, for the next year at least, when it comes to not getting any sleep, horror movies will the last of my problems.
Kate: Who would you like our readers to find while they are exploring Women in Horror?
Lee: Christine Morgan is one of the kindest, most supportive writers of horror fiction out there; she’s been reviewing, mentoring, and promoting horror for decades. And she’s a kick-ass writer of chompy sci-fi monster horror thrillers, herself. If you like your horror action-packed and as fast as all hell, then check out her novel, Trenchmouth. The only thing that she doesn’t hit you over the head with are her important underlying themes. Here’s what I had to say about Trenchmouth:
“This is exactly the kind of book I love. Supersonic pacing. Blood spilled on every page. A grisly weird-science techno-thriller set in the crushing stygian darkness, Morgan’s Trenchmouth lures you in and leaves you gasping.” —Lee Murray, Bram Stoker Award®-winner, and author of Into the Mist
Christine Morgan also writes spatter westerns, weird fiction, and has published a heap of short stories. In fact, she has a collection of chilling bizarro short fiction coming in 2022, for which I wrote the foreword, so definitely look out for that.
About Into the Mist, by Lee Murray
Into the Mist is the first book in [Lee Murray’s] New Zealand horror-thriller monster series, the Taine McKenna Adventures. It is possibly [her] most successful book, winning New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, and being shortlisted in the Australian Shadow Awards in the year following its release. Into the Mist was published in German in 2020, the translation going on to reach the finals of the Skoutz Awards for Horror.
“Cinematic and evocative, Into the Mist is a tension-packed expedition into primordial terror. Murray’s writing had me feeling the damp of the forest, seeing the mist curling through the fern fronds, and sensing the danger lurking there. Ancient myths, military men and scientists placed in remote, primordial locations – it had all the right ingredients for me, and it didn’t disappoint for a moment. Lee Murray is an author to watch.” — Greig Beck, best-selling author of the Arcadian series.
“For those familiar with the movie Predator, this book turns the concept up by 50 levels, and you honestly can’t go wrong with that.” — Tor.com
Interview with Candace Nola
Candace Nola is an award winning author and an advocate for fellow horror authors. Her website Uncomfortably Dark is a wonderful place to discover new writers, all of whom receive their book reviews and promotions for free! Candace is also a well known mentor for newer authors, providing guidance through her Buy Me a Coffee program.
Kate: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Candace! What weird things about yourself would you like to share with us?
Candace: My current hobbies are acrylic pour painting, which I started doing earlier this year with my son. We have a lot of fun doing it and have made some really nice artwork. I am a certified aromatherapist, meaning I am trained in using pure essential oils for healing purposes. I make a variety of custom lotions, oils, and roll-ons to treat things like muscle aches, headaches, flu, stress, depression and more. Edgar Allen Poe is my main obsession, and my biggest influence. I collect books, pictures, mugs, shirts, etc. I love anything related to Poe and his works.
Kate: When did you know you were a horror writer? What was the first piece of work you shared with the world? What would you like us to know about it?
Candace: I think I have always known that I was meant to be a horror writer. I have always been fascinated with horror and the dark side of life. My parents were paranormal investigators, and they had a team for several years. My oldest daughter and I were both a part of it. I didn’t begin writing for publication purposes until January of 2019, which is when I began writing my debut novel, Breach, which was first published in Nov. 2019. It is a nice blend of horror and dark fantasy in which a young woman becomes lost in a world made of her own nightmares. She is hunted by creatures of all kinds as she tries to navigate her way home. Beyond the Breach is the sequel to it and was released in 2021.
Kate: What are you currently working on? Any WIP’s you’re excited about?
Candace: My current work is titled Bishop, which is slated for release on March 31. I’m very excited about this novel and hope that it is well-received. It is a creature feature that includes a werebear. I have a full schedule for this year, including a new Hank Flynn novel, and a dark poetry collection. There are several others that are planned but have not been announced yet, so I’ll hold off on those.
Kate: Who would you like our readers to find while they are exploring Women in Horror?
Candace: Janine Pipe is quickly becoming an author to watch in the horror industry. Her writing is sharp, clear, and impactful. She can quickly create tension and fear in her stories, write engaging characters that you can relate to and her storylines are always well-developed and great to read. I have read some of her other short stories and I look forward to more by her.
Here is Candace’s review of Janine Pipe’s Twisted Tainted Tales:
“Years ago, I began subscribing to horror magazines such as Nightmare Magazine, and The Dark. I remember being so pleased by the wide variety of stories available in these magazines, the incredible offering of author voices all on display, for me to read, to devour late at night when the house is quiet.
Twisted Tainted Tales can be one of those magazines, all by itself. Janine Pipe used a brilliant idea in laying out her collection like an 80’s mix tape. Being a child from the 80’s and 90’s, I greatly appreciated this concept. It was different and unexpected much like the stories in her collection. Not only that, she used the layout to tell a story in itself, that gathered the various tales into one cohesive storyline. Again, brilliant.
The chosen time frame for her mixtape was excellent, taking me back to my beloved classic horror movies, and pulp fictions. The stories were fantastic, each one a miniature masterpiece within the few pages allotted to it and the horror ramped up to max. The settings, the topics, the fear, and tropes within, all fully showcase the range that Janine has at her disposal.
This is a triple-feature at the drive-in, a rare summer occurrence; a music festival for only the most hard-core metal heads with opening acts that will melt your face off, let alone the headliner. Janine Pipe is the opening act, the headliner, the closer and that triple-feature. She is an 80’s classic summer horror festival, all you need is the popcorn.
I am not going to lay out the tracks contained on this mixtape for you. This is something you will need to experience for yourself because it is an experience. Put the kids to bed, pop some popcorn, turn those lights off and settle in. It’s going to be an epic night. 5 stars for a horror festival told in 17 tracks of gore and solid gold.”
About Hank Flynn, by Candace Nola
Hank Flynn is a tormented man.
He’s an outcast among humans, and condemned to confront evil, for as long as he lives. Serving a higher power, Hank wanders the earth alone, until he stumbles into Protection, Kansas. Mortally wounded and delirious after a demonic encounter, Hank Flynn is desperate for help.
Wallace Bixby, a local merchant and man of faith, graciously opens his home to the broken stranger. Hank Flynn discovers the meaning of family and community, and the avenging drifter finds peace with Josie Bixby, the young woman who heals his body and his heart.
The town of Protection is exactly what Hank needs, and the town needs the man with special talents, who slays demons. He deals out a unique brand of punishment to anything breaking the law, or threatening the people he loves.
But when the Devil himself comes calling, Hank Flynn must risk everything for the town he now calls home.
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Interview with Linda Bloodworth
Linda Bloodworth is a Canadian author specializing in the niche genre Christian Horror. What drew our attention to her (aside from her brilliant books!) is the fact that she works tirelessly to promote fellow Women in Horror across several social media platforms including the Ladies of Horror Facebook group. Linda gives equal voice to both women established in the horror community and up and comers around the world.
Kate: Linda, it’s so nice to have this opportunity to get to know you better! I’ll ask my favourite question first: tell us something weird about yourself?
Linda: I’m a new Catholic and I feel it permeates my writing. I write about angels vs demons, so it’s hard to not let my faith come through. I’m never sure if my writing is blasphemous by some and a turn-off to others, but it’s in my heart and that’s how the stories have come out. I find I cannot stop writing about strong female protagonists. Even in new story ideas that come to mind, it’s always a female and she’s ready to step into the ring with her fists up.
I’m [also] a huge Sailor Moon fan. If you look closely at my writing you can see where I was inspired. There’s something so inspiring about a group of girls banding together to fight till they die to protect what they think is right. I’ve been a fan for 25 years now, so it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. I absolutely love the message of teamwork and love.
Kate: Where do your ideas come from? I know, it’s cliche, but the answers are always fascinating to me!
Linda: To be honest, my ideas come from such random places. My first book came to me in a dream. Most often, I find that walking down the street I’ll get struck by the first line and I’ll be fumbling for my phone to narrate it or type it quick into a note. For example. I was walking my
dog, and we were in a field when I noticed the full moon in the sky and an airplane flying by leaving a trail. Something about the way the plane was flying and the colour of the sky struck me. As I stood admiring the sky the sun set quickly and suddenly, the field I was standing in felt menacing and I had the urge to get the heck home. When I stepped through my front door I began to write out a short story where that scene played out but of course, I had to add a monster of sorts.
Sometimes, people will say a word or I’ll see a picture and inspiration will strike me such a hard blow I can barely get the words out fast enough. Ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. I hate when they hit me and I’m in the shower. That happens a lot. Thank goodness for voice dictation. That sucked a lot in the 90s.
Kate: What’s coming next from the mind of Linda Bloodworth? Any works in progress you’d like to tell us about?
Linda: I’m working on the final book in my Raven Wing series, A Raven’s Resurrection. It’s going to be an epic battle of Heaven vs Hell. All the angels from Heaven come out in full force to battle the demons of Hell. Have you ever read the description of what a biblically correct angel looks like? It’s no wonder they say, “be not afraid”, it’s terrifying. Eyes upon eyes and wings galore.
Kate: Who would you like our readers to find while they are exploring Women in Horror?
Linda: Lately, I’ve been totally devouring Kate DeJonge’s work. I’ve read a few of her short stories and Helen’s Story really struck me. Even days after it’s been on my mind. Such great work.
Here is Linda’s review of Helen’s Story, a novella by the author of this article:
“Helen’s Story struck me as such a painful story, with a woman barely holding it together, as her world falls apart. Immediately I was invested as this character went from bad, to worse, to pushing the boundaries of what I could even imagine. It was like The Twilight Zone danced with the Crypt Keeper (Tales From the Crypt). Totally engrossing and haunting. I’ve read more of her work, but this story has stayed with me.”
About the A Raven Wing series, by Linda Bloodworth
From A Raven’s Touch: Bullied through high school, seventeen-year-old Justice St. Michaels is grateful for the help of her best friend Moira O’Fhey. Their only wish is to graduate high school, leave the sleepy town of Fallingbrook and all that happened behind them. The Heavens have other plans. Between late night sleepwalking and being involved in explosive school fights, nothing seems to make sense. When an unexpected encounter with Darien Raventhorn causes worlds to collide it exposes the truth about Justice’s real identity. To avenge a family death, Justice must embrace her birthright, and slay a demon before all Hell breaks loose.
From the sequel A Raven’s Revenge: Hell hath no fury like an angel scorned. Justice St. Michaels is on a mission from God to avenge her parents’ death, even if it means hunting Seliki to the depths of Hell. Justice and her powerful friends won’t back down until His will is done. Can an angel, witch, vampire and elf take on Hell and come out alive?
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Kate’s love of all things dark began as a child and deepened when she realized what being an adult meant. She was born with a pencil in her hand and loves nothing more than writing horrific stories to tantalize her inner demons. Kate lives in Hamilton, Ontario Canada with her husband and her boys, stirring up trouble wherever she can.