HWA Celebrates Women in Horror Month

In February the Horror Writers Association blog is posting interviews with award-winning women authors. Here are the highlights of the first week.

Elizabeth Massie – February 7

Elizabeth Massie

What advice would you give to new female authors looking to break into horror?

Read extensively across the genre. AND read extensively outside the genre. Write what you want to write how you want to write it. Don’t write as if your mother is looking over your shoulder; let the stories flow freely. If you need a story to be graphic, go there. And if you want a story to be more subtle and quiet, go there. Don’t feel that you have to write splatter/gore to prove yourself. And don’t feel you can’t write splatter/gore if the story demands it. Meet other writers – both female and male. Attend conventions or conferences if you can. Don’t be arrogant but be bold.

Ellen Datlow – February 6

Ellen Datlow

Tell us a little about your Bram Stoker Award-winning work(s). Inspirations? Influences? Anecdotes about the writing or critical reaction?

ED: I’ve won twice for original anthologies: Haunted Legends (with Nick Mamatas) and Fearful Symmetries and twice for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (one of those with Terri Windling and one with Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link).

As an editor I’ve been inspired by three people:

Maxwell Perkins, the mainstream editor of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and other American greats. He inspired me by his relationships with his authors-his nurturing and pushing them to create their best work.

Judith Merril, the great sf/f editor (and writer) inspired me by being generous in her definition of science fiction and her perspicacity in embracing mainstream writers works of the fantastic in her Year’s Best Science Fiction reprint series.

Harlan Ellison (also, a brilliant writer) for his two seminal anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions. They broke boundaries, they smashed taboos and many of the stories in those books have become classics.

Paula Guran – February 5

Paula Guran

Do you think women in horror face more difficulties than their male peers?

PG: If you are talking about a woman who writes or edits, I think the challenges are about the same now in publishing as they are for a man. There are areas probably easier for a woman to break into; areas men will have an easier time. For women who write for the screen or direct, I think it is still hard to get a foot in the door.

I feel any woman creative who considers herself only “in horror,” though, may have a lot of difficulties of many kinds. I suppose it depends on what you want, but don’t confuse a very small, insular community for the world. If you want only to write for a limited audience and enjoy feeling you are part of a group of like-minded individuals—if that makes you happy, then that is great. But if you want to become a professional writer, then you need to avoid isolating yourself.

Kathe Koja – February 4

Kathe Koja

Talk about winning the award – how surprised were you? Did winning pay off in any interesting ways?

KK: Mr. Stoker has many friends in many places, so it’s always an honor to be able to say I won a Stoker Award: Dracula is an enduring symbol of the shocks and pleasures of darkness. And of course winning was a lot of fun, and the Dell Abyss list was a marvelous, groundbreaking group of writers.

Linda Addison – February 3

Linda Addison

Do you think women in horror face more difficulties than their male peers?

LA: It’s pretty clear in the wider world that women face more problems in fields where men dominate. I don’t have any personal experiences to point to because no one has treated me badly, but I have heard other women authors tell of having issues as horror writers. I’m glad there is an increase in conversation and attention about the need for inclusiveness on many levels of our field. Part of the challenge is convincing people to read/publish outside the names they are familiar with; this is happening slowly.

The gatekeepers (editors, publishers, agents, etc.) have a lot to do with evolving the horror landscape. Not only is there a need to be more aware of the need for diversity, but they also need to become more diverse.

I’m part of the HWA Diverse Works Inclusion Committee and we’re tasked with introducing the membership to creators in The Seers Table column of the monthly newsletter that they may not know about. It’s a way to put names and work out to members that they wouldn’t necessarily choose. I hope it’s making some impact.

Another project I’m involved in that I hope will introduce interesting new voices to the field is Sycorax’s Daughters, an anthology of 28 horror stories and 14 poems written by African American women writers, and edited by myself, Kinitra Brooks and Susan Morris from Cedar Grove Publishing. It is currently available for pre-order.

Nancy Etchemendy – February 2

Nancy Etchemendy

Tell us a little about your Bram Stoker Award-winning work(s). Inspirations? Influences? Anecdotes about the writing or critical reaction?

NE: Two of my Stoker-award-winning works, “Bigger than Death” (1998) and “The Power of Un” (2000), won in the “Work for Young Readers” category, which was very broadly defined. “Bigger than Death” is a short story, and “The Power of Un” is a novel. The rules surrounding works for young readers have changed since then. The category no longer exists. I also won the award in the short fiction category in 2004 for “Nimitseahpah.”

People seem particularly curious about where horror writers get their ideas. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked about my sources of inspiration. I do have nightmares, and have had them all my life. They are certainly one source. But my stories more often revolve around the mysterious or inexplicable in everyday life. In “Bigger than Death,” a ghostly mother dog leads two children to her nest of puppies, still very much alive. “The Power of Un” examines questions about how a boy would change his past if he had that power. I wrote “Nimitseahpah” for an anthology about gargoyles. It didn’t make the cut, I think because I strayed pretty far from the usual definition of gargoyle. On the surface, it’s about a supernatural stone figure who guards an abandoned mine where a large number of miners lost their lives. Deeper down, it’s about a human boy who has an uncanny connection with the four traditional elements — air, earth, fire, and water. That story and several others which share the same setting were inspired by the weird desert landscape of Nevada, where I grew up….

Mercedes M. Yardley – February 1

Mercedes M. Yardley

Talk about winning the award – how surprised were you? Did winning pay off in any interesting ways?

MMY: Oh my goodness! I was the dorkiest award winner ever! I was so certain I wasn’t going to win that I wasn’t even paying attention and missed my name being called. I was wearing six inch heels and nearly tripped on my way to the pulpit. I didn’t have a speech prepared. I just grinned like a fool and garbled out a very sincere, heartfelt thank you before staggering back to my seat.

Winning put me on the map in a way that hadn’t happened before. People were interested in doing interviews and that was enjoyable. I had a few agents approach me instead of it happening the other way around. But what was most profound is that the award validated me in a very meaningful way. I had a friend say to me, “You’re a Bram Stoker award winner now. Your time is worthwhile. Work on what is important to you.” They were wise words. It’s almost as if that award gave weight to what I wanted to say. It was a nearly magical totem that gave me the power and courage to say no to some projects and stop stretching myself so thin.

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