What first piqued your interest in horror, and why do you enjoy writing in the genre?
I have always loved horror stories. There is nothing more thrilling than to open a door to the darker side. It wasn’t until last year that my stories took a turn into horror, surreal and weird themes so at the moment I am following the path to see where it takes me.
So far I had a couple of my flash stories featured online and on print. ‘Train to nowhere’ was featured online for National Fiction Day and ‘A Christmas Retribution’ was selected for the anthology ‘Stories of Festive Fear’ edited by the Australian Horror Writers Association.
Who are a few of your favourite horror writers, books, or stories?
One of my favourite horror stories is the film ‘Trick R Treat’ (2007). As a flash fiction writer, I enjoy interwoven stories following well-known conventions in the horror genre.
I learn to read at a very early age and I have always been attracted to darker themes. I spent a summer spell-bound with ‘The Vampire Chronicles’ by Anne Rice and couldn’t stop reading.
That said, I do read a whole lot of other genres besides horror, so it’s no surprise that I haven’t had a chance to read as much of it as other speculative fiction, for instance. Luckily for me, I have been spoiled for choice as an Australian Shadow Awards jury and I am waiting for some horror anthologies to arrive so I can get more acquainted with the genre, especially in Australia.
At the end of the day though, I find that the true horror stories are the ones that happen in real life and in my nightmares. I get my best ideas observing people in the public transport.
The Speculative Fiction genre is known for being a bit of a boy’s club. What’s your experience of it been, from the point of a female writer who spends most of her time with the darker genre side?
I recently attended a women writer’s meeting and it seemed like I was the only one writing horror. I am a bit of an outcast so, for me, it is an honour to be part of such a selected group. Joining the Australian Horror Writers Association has also made a huge difference to me as I can now discuss horror with like-minded people.
What advice do you have for women just starting out on the writing road (or who have been writing a while and are getting frustrated)?
I am not sure whether I am the best person to give advice considering that I am just an emerging writer with a couple of flash stories out there. But I will tell you what works for me.
You have to own it. Whatever it is that you do. Find what are you good at and own it.
How do you feel about how women are portrayed in horror films?
Women shouldn’t be victimised in horror films. Sure, but I believe that there would always be films that do that regardless of the century we live in because (sadly) there is an audience for it.
A few years ago, before I started writing horror, I read ‘Recreational terror: women and the pleasures of horror film viewing’ by Isabel Cristina Pinedo.
She challenges the conventional wisdom that violent horror narratives can only degrade women and incite violence. I do believe, as she does, that contemporary horror narratives speak to the cultural need to express rage and terror in the world we live in.
Do you have any thoughts on female eroticism used as a horror device in books and film? Do you like or dislike female erotica?
I think there must be a reason or a purpose to it. I don’t look for it but I don’t dislike it either, as long as it makes sense in the narrative. Gratuitous female erotica in horror is just not for me.
What were the challenges breaking into the industry? If you haven’t experienced challenges, share your thoughts on your success!
Well, I have only been lucky enough to get a couple of flash stories featured. So let’s not call it success. I suppose rejection is always a challenge, to name one, but to me it comes with the territory and I am so fussed about it.
I don’t believe I have been able to break into the industry just yet. Most challenges are things you can or cannot control and so you can act accordingly. But I believe that our biggest challenge, as writers, is to learn to deal with ourselves. We are our worst enemy.
What would you say is the most difficult aspect of being a female horror writer?
Probably the most difficult and the best part of being a female horror writer is people’s reaction to what you do, that look of disbelief on their faces. Which becomes the best part when they read your stories because that look of disbelief turns into one of utter terror. They underestimate you and never look at you the same way. And there is a twisted part of me that loves that.
Are there any tropes you tend to avoid in your writing because you are a woman?
Not really. There are matters that I haven’t explored yet, such as rape, which may not be everybody’s cup of tea. I am quite experimental when it comes to my writing and I believe I must try everything at least once. It is all part of the learning process.
Do you think female authors are taken less seriously than male authors? Do you think it’s difficult for female writers to gain attention (for the right reasons!)?
I don’t think I am that familiar with the publishing industry to answer that question. When an author is popular, you see them everywhere no matter their gender. Do we need more female authors to gain attention? Definitely!
Why do you think it’s important to honour women in contemporary horror fiction?
Because it’s important to allow women to take on new roles in contemporary horror fiction.
Do you think anything needs to change to celebrate and promote female horror writers for them to gain more recognition?
Probably but at the same time, it seems to me that the narratives keep changing and stories that were relegated to a small fandom scene a while ago are now out into the world for everybody to enjoy. Who knows what’s going to happen next? We could be about to witness just that.
Do you ever feel the need to censure yourself or fear your opinions may not be well received because you are a woman?
I actually have the opposite problem, I don’t feel the need to censure myself and I am not one to fear whether my opinions may not be well received because of my gender or anything else.
It that would be the case, it would be a reflection on the other person. I believe we all choose our life narrative based on our experience. And I have no power over that. Conflict and discussion will come my way regardless of how hard I try to censure myself. So I may as well let it all out and enjoy the ride.
Have you ever used or considered using a male pseudonym because you thought your writing would be misconstrued or not taken seriously because it came from a female perspective?
Not in a million years. I only use my married because is shorter than my maiden name.
Who are your inspirations (male or female), and why?
At the moment, I am exploring the themes that resonate most with me, and so far there is only one author that is able to tackle them all within his narrative. And that is Stephen King. But if you ask me next week after I read some different authors, I may give you a different answer.
What are you working on at the moment?
I recently started my Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT so I am preparing one of my flash stories for a class workshop.
Besides that, I have my eye on the Flash Fiction competition by AHWA that closes at the end of May and I have been asked to contribute to a Women Writers flash anthology. I am just not sure whether I am going to be able to do it all.
What direction do you see the genre taking in the future?
If I knew the answer to that question, I would be writing the next best seller. I am discovering that horror is a strong genre already in Australia and I can only hope that it gets stronger in the future.
Finally, what advice would you give other women in the horror industry? (Including writers, artists, filmmakers, etc.)
You are not alone. Keep writing, own it and see what happens.