Posts Tagged 'horror'

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with VICTORIA BROWNWORTH

by Connie Ward

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Photo Credit: Maddy Gold

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I have always been a writer. It’s my profession. My first book, a collection of poetry, was published when I was seventeen and in college. At that time I expected to be a poet because a nationally renowned poet was grooming me for that role. But when I was a senior in college, I became the star witness in a major police-brutality case, and that galvanized me in a different direction as a writer and propelled me into investigative journalism. I continued to write and publish books of poetry and short stories, as well as literary criticism and creative nonfiction, but I was/am a journalist first and foremost. That said, the short story has always been a very important writing form to me—probably my favorite form. Ordinary Mayhem is actually an expansion of a short story I wrote a few years ago for a BSB collection by Greg Herren and Jean Redmann, Night Shadows. The story received a lot of acclaim and was awarded Honorable Mention in Best Horror 2012, where I was in the company of Stephen King as well as other horror writers of note. But I wasn’t done with that story. And I think that’s why I am driven to write fiction: I have stories in my head that I am not finished with, so I have to put them on paper.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I am, at heart, a writer of what some call “serious literary fiction.” But for me, one of the best ways to frame that is within genre fiction. My stories tend to be dark, so I lean toward mystery, noir, and horror. My work as a journalist has frequently put me in touch with a side of human nature that is not very human—certainly not humane. Those stories have to be told. My last collection of short stories, Day of the Dead, was a finalist for a number of awards, including a Goldie and a Lambda Award, and was an ALA pick for their Rainbow Book List. That collection of stories and a novella utilized mystery and horror to address a series of human-rights issues, from the trafficking of young women from the Eastern bloc to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the poor of New Orleans.

I also write young adult stories and novels. In writing for young girls, I am trying to give them the stories I didn’t have as a child—stories where the female protagonists are actors, not passive observers. As a child, I loved the Nancy Drew books because Nancy was an actor, not an observer—but those books were really the only ones where a girl had the starring role without ending up being saved by some guy at the end. I want to give girls role models of being agents of their own lives, not having others dictate their lives dictated to them.

Finally, I write erotica under a pseudonym, and as my editor said, “You even make erotica political.” Others have co-opted our lesbian and gay sexuality. This is especially true of lesbians whose sexuality has been appropriated by men for their titillation. There’s rarely any male-driven erotica that doesn’t have the quintessential lesbian scene embedded in it. But then the man comes in and creates the “real” sexuality. No. Just…no. I try to reclaim lesbian sexuality in the erotica I write. I write lesbian sex for lesbians—sex that is all about lesbian desire, the love of the lesbian body, and the tension of having such desire in a world where just being lesbian is increasingly risky. No men are involved in my erotic stories, and they won’t be peeking through the keyhole, either! 🙂

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My fiancée, who is a painter and professor at an art college, is a serious reader and, as part of an artistic community, very tuned in to literature. She’s very supportive of my writing. A number of my friends are themselves writers, so I am fortunate to have a coterie of people who read around me. That’s always a good support for a writer. And of course as a journalist, I get a lot of feedback from fans of my work, which is a huge support network and much appreciated.

Where do you get your ideas?

The world around me—both my own lesbian community and the larger society—

provides me with ideas. My fiction is very much driven by current events and the politics that impact lesbians and women, as well as other marginalized groups. I often will see a news story that piques my interest for a fictional interpretation. And of course I am also driven to write about women and women’s lives. So those subjects intersect in my writing. I’m currently writing about a famous lesbian murder that I thought needed to be a novel.

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I do both, but for the most part I just write. Sometimes I have an idea that I plot out relatively slowly and carefully. But the majority of the time the stories write themselves in the sense that I have a basic idea and start writing and the story propels itself forward. I contribute to a lot of anthologies, so much of the time I am guided by a theme set by the editor. But for me the best way to write is to just sit down and start. A story will always materialize because I always have an idea that needs to take shape.

What makes Ordinary Mayhem special to you?

Ordinary Mayhem 300 DPIThis is the most important piece of fiction I have written, I think. While it is framed as a horror novel, it’s very much a piece of serious literary and political fiction. Ordinary Mayhem builds on journalistic work I have been doing for the past decade or more. The novel gave me the opportunity to interpolate some of those stories—

ones I had actually covered as a reporter—into the novel and then expand on them in a much more personal way than was available to me as a reporter.

There is perhaps no more important issue to me than violence against women, and that is the subject at the core of this novel: How violence against women pervades society, all societies, as the novel takes place in several different countries. The impact of violence on individual women, as well as on us collectively as women, is the theme of the novel. So I wanted to show the array of women’s experiences. There are stories from the Congo where a half million women have been raped and 3 million killed, stories from Afghanistan, and stories from here in the U.S. I wanted to include the range of our experience as women and lesbians on the page. And while a lot of what transpires in Ordinary Mayhem is quite brutal and horrifying, this novel of horror has nothing supernatural about it. Everything is real, which is why it is indeed the most terrifying book you will read this year.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

Everything in Ordinary Mayhem is taken from real life. I don’t believe any fiction is not, to a greater or lesser degree, autobiographical. We write best when we write what we know. Faye Blakemore, my main character and the narrator of Ordinary Mayhem, is a photojournalist, and her grandfather is a photographer. My grandfather was a photographer and I am a journalist. The young Faye attends a Catholic school and is greatly influenced by the nuns who teach her and inform her love for other women. That was also my experience. And some of the stories Faye covers are stories I covered—several of which got me nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. That said, Faye is not me and all the characters in the book are fictional, even if their circumstances are drawn from real life. And unlike me—spoiler alert!—she is not nominated for a Pulitzer.

I also think places are characters in novels—or should be. The mise-en-scène has to ring true. I hate reading novels where it’s apparent the author has never been to where she/he is writing about. Treat your place like a character, make it believable and realistic for the reader. So yes, you’ll find a lot of myself and a lot of my experience with people and places in the novel. And I think that’s why it rings true to readers. They believe these women exist and they know these places well.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite
of this author(s)?

I don’t know that lesbian and gay writers inspire me per se, although I read a lot of lesbian and gay writing. Mostly I read books by women writers, though. Women write entirely differently from men, and so I see things in their writing that I do not see in the majority of writing by men. For example, I love the work of Sarah Waters, who is a Welsh lesbian writer who does mostly historical fiction. Her work is simply mesmerizing—smart, acute, readable, engaging. I would recommend her to anyone who wants to read about lesbians in times other than our own. I am also a fan of lesbian mystery writers and read everything Val McDermid, Ellen Hart, and Jean Redmann write.

Two writers who have definitely influenced me, though, are P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, two British mystery writers. James died recently, which was a loss as she was a great writer. What I love about the work of these two women is how they interpolate political issues, class structure, and the impact of misogyny into their stories. James is just a brilliant, brilliant writer. Her work contains layers that I don’t think exist in the work of any other mystery writer—except perhaps Dostoyevsky, whom most people don’t think of as a mystery writer, but Crime and Punishment is perhaps my favorite mystery ever. We sometimes forget that all the best and classic fiction is, at its core, “genre” fiction. And I learned a great deal from reading P.D. James.

I review a lot of books, so I read a wide array of fiction and nonfiction. In January I read and reviewed a fabulous first novel by Katie Gilmartin, Blackmail, My Love, which is set in San Francisco in 1951. It’s a camera obscura view of lesbian and gay life before Stonewall. I really loved it. I also loved African-American lesbian writer Jackie Woodson’s extraordinary memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, for which she won the National Book Award. I have been reading Jackie’s work forever, but this book was just breathtaking. I had written about the racist controversy involving the award but had not yet read the book. When I read it, it just blew me away. And two new books I think every woman should read, lesbian or straight, are Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit, because feminism is still the most important political force in the world today and the only radical political movement that doesn’t kill anyone.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Well, I teach writing at the college level and also have a mentoring program with writing for urban middle-school kids, so making suggestions to new writers is part of what I do on a weekly basis. The most important dictates—because suggestion isn’t a strong enough word—for new writers are: write every day, read your work aloud, write what you know, and don’t be lazy about writing..

Writing has to become part of one’s daily routine, like eating and sleeping and brushing your teeth. It’s often a necessary chore, like the tooth brushing, and if you’re lucky, it will be as enjoyable as a good meal. But writing is, fundamentally, work. You have to treat it like a job or you won’t do it. And in my personal experience, the more you write, the better you get at it.

Learning self-editing is difficult, but a good first step is reading your work out loud. It’s much easier to hear clunky dialogue or awkward sentences when you do this.

And of course, write what you know. That’s probably the biggest truism of writing, but it’s one that will never steer you wrong. I am always deciding not to review books because I start to read and realize the writer has no clue about her subject matter. I recently declined to review a novel set in the farmland of Louisiana. I used to live where the book was set. It’s swampland. If you can’t even bother to check Wikipedia (not that this is the best source, but…) to be sure that your facts are correct, why should I read your book?

So, don’t be a lazy writer. Be dedicated to your craft. Even though it’s fiction, you have to respect your readers.

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

I have to laugh here, because I am known as a workaholic, and work is fun for me on many levels. But outside of writing, I really enjoy spending time with my partner and my close friends. We don’t do it frequently enough, but when we do we usually focus on a good meal and playing cards. (Yes, we are those lesbians.) I love going to films—films are one of my great loves—and I also really like watching TV, which writers are supposed to sneer at, but TV is better than it has ever been, and the level of storytelling in some series is extraordinary. I also write about TV and film for several major national publications, so while that is fun, it also keys into work.

I love reading—though I never seem to have enough time for that. And I also do handwork—crocheting, quilting, and embroidery, and I make jewelry, too. My guilty pleasure is cooking shows on TV, but I have yet to graduate to Michelin star-chef level in reality. But maybe one of these days. I’d love to do a cookbook for lesbians. Heavy on potluck, beer, and twenty-minute recipes, with a separate section for date nights!

Politics is a great passion of mine, so talking politics with friends is one of the most enjoyable things I can do on any given day. I am looking forward to the 2016 presidential campaign and our first female president. I will be working for that campaign—and it will be fun!

Trigger Warning

by Victoria A. Brownworth

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Photo Credit: Maddy Gold

As I write this, America’s most reclusive author is in the news. No, Harper Lee didn’t die, although she is 88. Rather, she found the novel she wrote prior to her iconic “To Kill a Mockingbird.” in a box. Titled “Go Set a Watchman,” the book will be published on July 14–Bastille Day. It is already #1 in books on Amazon, despite not even being published yet. She’s that legendary.

Every author hopes her book will be a best-seller. But not all authors want to be in the public eye. Lee has kept an almost secretive profile in the 55 years since the 1960 publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

I’ve been a journalist for 30 years. Journalists are notorious for not being known until something goes wrong–witness New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, The New Republic’s Stephen Glass or currently, Brian Williams, News Anchor and Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, all caught in lies about their reporting.

Pulitzer Prizes–the top journalism award for reporters–are awarded every April. I have been nominated for the award myself several times, for both reporting and commentary for my work at daily newspapers. It’s an honor–I have also won numerous other journalism awards–but I am very aware that there are few Americans who are not themselves in the newspaper business, who can name any reporter who has won a Pulitzer or one of the other top awards.

Reporters who are focused on doing their jobs like I have done all these years rarely make the news. Our lives are not written about unless we write about them ourselves. You are taught from day one by your editors to keep yourself out of the story, to be objective, to not insert opinions into what you write.

In my new novel, “Ordinary Mayhem,” I wanted to write about the complexity of being a journalist who has reasons–complicated reasons–for being reclusive. I also wanted to write about how stories get told and the impact those stories have on the reporter herself–in this case Faye Blakemore, my main character.

This novel began as a short story in “Night Shadows,” edited by Greg Herren and J.M.Redmann. Some stories take on a life of their own and this one did that for me. The story was a success–it won Honorable Mention in Best Horror 2012, where I was listed right after Stephen King. But I knew when I was writing it that the story wasn’t over. I needed to know more about these characters, especially my central character, Faye, and I needed to know how Faye got to be who she was. I also needed to hear her voice–in the short story she is somewhat distanced from both the reader and me, the writer. In the novel, I can hear her clearly, see her clearly. And I am terrified for her.

We talk a lot about trigger warnings these days–everything seems to come with one, as if we have somehow all become too fragile to live in the world without covering our eyes or ears. Faye’s all about triggering her audience. She wants them to know what she knows–that the world can be a terrible, grim place filled with mayhem. She wants them to know that daily life is often covering up “ordinary” mayhem, notably the violence against women that impacts one in three women worldwide. One in three who will be a victim at some point, of male violence. Wherever Faye goes, that violence is hovering nearby.

That reality is the real trigger warning and the one Faye lives with. It’s one I have lived with myself over my years as a reporter. When you cover stories that touch you deeply or that remind you of your own most terrible experiences, some acutely harrowing, that line of objectivity blurs badly. That’s what happens for Faye, it has at times happened for me.

When you cover stories that are just horrible, they impact you, hard. You can’t explain that to people who aren’t on the front lines–sometimes literally–because they haven’t experienced what you have experienced. And that’s what happens to Faye. She’s on the front lines all the time and there is no respite from the reel in her head. Not just the photographs she’s taken, but everything she’s seen. The pink mist that sprays over everything when a car bomb goes off, for example–that’s the liquifying of human bodies. That mist gets on Faye–literally and metaphorically–and she can’t wash it off.

Ordinary Mayhem 300 DPIThere are horrifying scenes in “Ordinary Mayhem,” but there are no supernatural creatures. Everyone is real–which makes the horror all the more intense. There is nothing in this novel that I didn’t cover myself as a reporter or that I didn’t write about in some way. Conversely, while I feel I know Faye and know her well, she is not me and I am not her.

Which is a good thing, because blur that line too much and, well, ask Brian Williams.

While I was writing this book I would read sections to my fiancée. I write at night. It’s quiet, it’s atmospheric. I love the night and stories come to me then with clarity I don’t get during the day when I am doing journalistic work on deadline. Writing fiction and writing fact are so very different.

My partner would be lying in bed, reading, ready for sleep and I would say, “Let me read you this.” Over the years we have been together I have often read her pieces that are difficult–I want to be sure everything works. But as I read her more and more of “Ordinary Mayhem,” she would say to me, “Should I be worried that you wrote these scenes? That you came up with these ideas?”

After a while, she didn’t want to listen. “I have nightmares about these things, the things you have written, “she told me. “I’ll read it when it’s finished. Maybe.”

It is easier to read about zombies or vampires or the paranormal than it is about what we are capable of doing to each other at any given time. We know those things–zombies, vampires– aren’t real. We know there aren’t revenants. We know we are safe from the undead.

But are we safe from the men who come in the night and break down the door and kill everyone they find, and kill them horribly by torture and inhuman acts? No, we are not. In fact, sometimes those people are members of our very own families.

That is the story I wanted to tell–the story of the trigger warning, the real one, the one our bodies evolved over millennia to include, the one where the hairs go up on our necks and our hearts start to race and our skin flushes and we feel a little sick. I wanted to tell the story of what makes that happen. And I wanted to tell the story of how and why it happened to Faye. I wanted to layer the mayhem she covers for her job with the mayhem that is happening in her personal life. I wanted to show how isolated she was, but also how she reaches out to other women for solace.

As a journalist, I wanted to invite you into the story and how it is told. As a reader, I wanted to know what came next. As a lesbian, I wanted to know how a woman like Faye found someone–anyone–to be close to. And as a novelist I wanted to put those things together and make a story that you could peel back, layer after layer, and still not be certain if what you were reading was true or the hallucinations of a mad woman.

That mad woman might be Faye or it might be me. You will have to read “Ordinary Mayhem” to find out..

Ordinary Mayhem 300 DPI

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with HEATHER STUYVESANT

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I don’t really remember a time when I did not want to be a writer. My parents were both avid readers, and I was brought up in a house with literally thousands of books. I really cannot imagine life without books, and my favorites have always been fiction, though I read lots of genres.  I have been through several careers, ranging from theater design to engineering, but I always come back to writing as my true love.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

My stories definitely fall into the dark speculative-fiction category. My fascination with the supernatural and the darker sides of the human psyche shaped what I write about. If I watch television, I almost always head straight for the shows about true crimes and psychos on the loose. It probably says something about me.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

My sister and some of my friends have been very supportive, even if they may think I am out of my mind, but many of my friends and family are either not aware that I write or have expressed limited interest.  The most common reaction to my news that Kryos had been picked up by BSB was “You write?” That was usually followed quickly by a look of terror when they realized I might want them to read it. That is the danger of associating with engineers, I suppose: say fiction novel and they turn off.  My online friends, on the other hand, have been great, very supportive and very helpful, even when I am being even more neurotic than usual. I am lucky to have friends all over that help me get a different perspective on things.

Where do you get your ideas?

 

My ideas come from everywhere. My mind wanders all the time. People think I am just flaky or scatterbrained, but really I am probably torturing some characters in my head instead of paying attention.  I always have a story or character floating around that I like to take out and see if I can break them.  Even if I am not actively working on a project with the characters, I still have a whole cast to play with when I’m supposed to be doing something else.  The upside of that is that I rarely get bored. Silly things, like the unusual way a person moves, or the combination of the song on the radio and the way the sun just came through the clouds might make my muse wake up and start digging around in the virtual trunk to see where it might fit.

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

 

Both. I start with a plan but let it go where it needs to.  This works really well when working with Idun; we try to plot out the major points and then adjust those as we go, though no matter how much planning and plotting we do, the characters sometimes refuse to behave and take things in a different direction. I feel that planning is good, but you have to be open to whatever happens or you’re going to end up with a finished product that doesn’t feel right.

What makes Kyros special to you?

 

KryosBSB-Kryos is very special to me because it is almost like a child.  It was very organic in its development, and the story we ended up with is not the story we originally plotted. We worked and reworked the plot, the main arcs, the characters, everything until they all decided to play nice with each other.  When I work with Idun, we each take a character (or two, or three) and focus on developing them so as we write we can play off each other so the novel can grow more naturally.  There is always an element of surprise when working with another author. You think a scene or story may be going one way, but because it is not just you playing in the sandbox, sometimes something so much better comes out.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

 

Surprisingly little, actually. I have a project now that is based on a dream a friend told me he had, so the main character does have a bit of him in it, but for the most part, no.  I try not to put too much of myself or the people I know into the characters; they are their own creatures. Also, I am very dull and would make a terrible character.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

 

My fascination with gay fiction started a long time ago, before I even knew it was something anyone was writing; it was pre-Internet in those days. Then I discovered slash fan-fiction, which led to Yaoi, which led to authors like Sarah Monette, Alyx J. Shaw, Storm Constantine, and Lynn Flewelling.

If I had to pick a favorite from these authors I would have a really hard time because they all fill a different spot in my life. Sarah Monette and her Doctrine of Labyrinths series is an all-time favorite of mine; Felix is delightfully deranged and twisted.  Alyx J. Shaw’s Strange Place in Time series is so fun that I could not put the books down.  Lynn Flewelling’s books are also some of those I go back to like comfort food if I find myself between books and not sure what to pick up next. However, for the author that inspired me the most I will have to go with Storm Constantine and the Wraeththu books. Reading those I realized that I wanted to write something others would want to read. The imperfect characters and their gritty, dark world appealed to me on a level that made it possible for me to quit being afraid that what was in my head was not good enough, or shiny enough, and actually sit down and put it on paper.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

I still consider myself a new/learning writer, especially going through the publishing process for the first time, so I’m not sure. This process has shown me how much I still have to learn, and it is humbling. I would think the best I could say is to remember to be flexible and patient. I guess I am lucky that my “day job” is in a field that brings a constant stream of criticism and comments on my work. I never thought I would say that, but it has taught me how to not get upset at comments and be able to look at them for what they are—an attempt to make my work better.

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

I read.  If I’m not reading or writing, I’m baking.  I can’t say no to a challenge, and my friends and family like to find the most bizarre and unusual desserts to see if I can make them. The pie baked inside a cake has become a hit that they request frequently now.

BOLD STROKES BOOKS INTERVIEW with AUTHOR IDUN MARS

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I have been writing since forever. My grandmother actually has little notebooks I filled up with strange tales of killer ants and Vikings. Later I got into fan-fiction and sorta worked from there, got braver, better, and bolder until I felt I was able to write a story in, for me, a foreign language, that had substance and that I believed in.

 

What type of stories do you write? And why?

Originally I wrote mostly depressing stories and horror. I guess I still write depressing stories to some extent, and I also don’t think I will ever rid myself completely of the horror or suspense parts, nor would I really want to. But overall, I write gay romance and simply do not have an answer as to why. I wish I did. I guess the muse that whispers in my ear is gay? I might even start out with the character plotted as straight, but somewhere along the road it changes, and my muses always win in the end.

I vary in range. I have written anything from medieval romance, to sci-fi, to supernatural crime stories. So in that aspect I don’t think I am a one-track author, even if I might repeat myself from time to time.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

They support me, but they don’t really understand my writing. For starters I am not gay, or a man, so for me to write gay fiction seems strange to them. And then there is the part about me writing in English, so most of them can’t read it even if they wanted to, which probably alienates them quite a lot. My partner has been a trooper throughout me writing my first book, supporting me when I got frustrated and listening to me try to explain the plot. He helps out where he can, and so do my close friends, both in real life and on the Internet. All in all I think everyone has been super supportive, even if they think it’s a bit silly that I would even attempt to get something published.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Oh man, I get ideas everywhere. I have a scenario bank in my head, where I store stuff that might make sense in another context. It goes from the way the air smells, to how a jogger runs, or the pattern that rain makes on a window. Characters in movies could spark the muse because of a specific line, or maybe how they look, or maybe the theme of the movie. Also I watch a lot of documentaries, which I use for inspiration about things I’d never know any other way. Then when I go to bed I sort of draw all the pearls onto a string, and it creates a whole. I also find that something I can’t use and it goes back in for later use. The next morning I usually write my thoughts down in a simplified manner so I won’t forget.

In short I get inspired by everything and nothing. It’s like putting on a special tinted pair of glasses so I perceive everything in a specific way for a while. Once I start a story or a character I will not put it down completely until I finish.

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I usually make a plan, and usually Heather is the practical one who keeps track of the brainstorming. I think we are good at keeping to highlights and then making everything else up as we go along. Usually that works best and keeps the muses whispering.

 

 

What makes KryosBSB-Kryos special to you?

Apart from it being my first major accomplishment as an author? Then the fact that it originally took us so long to write it and that I grew quite fond of the characters. And I really hope we get around to revisiting them and write a sequel, because I miss the universe and the characters.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

In some, quite a lot, and then at the same time, nothing. I guess different characters have parts of different character traits of mine, both the good and the bad. Writing is great therapy, that’s for sure.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

I would say that Billy Martin (formerly known as Poppy Brite) has been a major inspiration from some of the early works.

I am not sure if Clive Barker counts, because he doesn’t exactly write gay-themed stories, but he remains one of my all-time inspirations both as an author and a person.

 

Of the authors mentioned, I would say that Exquisite Corpse is my favorite, and a major inspiration for me. It blends erotica and horror in equal measurement, just like I always wished someone would. Also it showed me that it can be done and gave me a whole new sandbox to play in.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Write what inspires you, write what your muse tells you to. It doesn’t matter if you think there might not be a market for it. Write it with intensity and care, because forcing your inspiration never leads to good things. Love what you write, for no other reason than you cannot resist telling the story.

You are never too silly, never too corny or too much. You should tell your story like the story wants to be told.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I play computer games, and lots of them. I rarely watch telly; usually I write, read, or play when I have time to myself.  Some might say that I have become a social recluse over the years, but once the partying dries up, you have to entertain yourself with something else.

Two great tastes…but do they go great together?

BY DANIEL W. KELLY

Hey! You got sex in my horror! No! You got horror in my sex!

What’s all the bickering about? Isn’t that a delicious combo? Does the inclusion of sex in horror fiction automatically make it “erotic” horror? It seems in the world of publishing, heavy sexual content scores you an “erotica” label, just like we expect a penis in a movie to get slapped…with an NC-17 rating. But isn’t there a distinct difference between sex and erotica depending on its purpose within the context of a story and its effect on the reader?

Either way, you would think that in the world of LGBTQ fiction, expressing our sexuality openly in our stories would be embraced. Hell. It should be encouraged! Instead, we need the prudish “erotic” warning label to protect our virgin minds from unsavory adult content!

It often seems that the inclusion of sex in a book has readers holding crossed fingers up to it as if they’re warding off a vampire with a crucifix or stamping an X rating on the book. And so, any books that feature sexual situations get the old “erotic” subgenre attached to the true genre: erotic horror; erotic romance; erotic mystery; erotic fantasy (that last one sounds the dirtiest of all!).

I don’t know how it works with the other genres, but I personally cringe every time I see the word “erotic” attached to the “horror” classification on my books—which is basically all the time. Just the fact that “erotic” leads the classification creates an assumption about a book; before even getting to the “horror” part, the mind has already sent the wrong signal of terror loud and clear. “EEK! This is a sex book!”

I would prefer to call my fiction grindhouse horror or exploitation horror. As in those types of movies, the sex in my books is most often presented as over-the-top, absurd, and funny. Come on. A guy pleasures a big red bear with a dildo using only his mind in my new book No Place for Little Ones,No Place for Little Ones 300 DPI and a man’s expulsions taste just like dairy when he’s “milked” in my novel Combustion.Combustion 300 DPI

Occasionally, there’s a “romantic” sex scene (because my characters do have hearts!), but generally, the sex is there as a prelude to the horror, to place characters at their most vulnerable when the horror shows itself, or even to just go for the good old gross out.

These are all purposes that go hand-in-hand with horror. Sex isn’t meant to arouse; it is intended as foreplay to awaken the senses and emotions and to enhance the intensity of the climactic moment of fear.

And hey. If sex in horror does turn some readers on, that’s a result of their warped ids. Some people are that sick and twisted. I’m fine with them calling my stuff erotic horror. For the rest of you, it’s simply horror. Just have an adult cover your eyes during the dirty parts.

Calling all gay horror whores!

BY DANIEL W. KELLY

As a gay guy who has been obsessed with horror since I was a little kid, I never searched for any correlation between the genre and the orientation. I just thought horror fans were horror fans. But because horror over the decades has been so heterosexual male-oriented, when I began writing my own horror fiction, I decided it made sense to do it from the all-male perspective while modeling it after the tried and true traits of the genre: scares and sex.

My first erotic horror collection Closet Monsters included five erotic horror stories and the novella Zombied Out, which had some sexual situations but was not erotica. I used the same formula with my second book, Horny Devils. This time, the novella, entitled Scream, Queen, was a gay slasher. It was easy to sex it up because the slasher genre lends itself to “gratuitous” sex. That was when I realized I would never write a sex-less horror novel. For me, just like humor, injections of sex into horror help to awaken the senses and totally screw with your mental state. It’s part of the ride: I’m scared. Now I’m horny. I just peed a little from laughing. I almost shit my pants from fear.

Sex in my writing is not necessarily always an “integral part of the plot.” Just like in real life (and straight horror), when the opportunity seems right, in it goes. If a given moment guarantees the characters would be having sex, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to show it. But I don’t consider my writing erotica. It’s not written solely to get readers off, so it’s not like you’re reading a sex story labeled “erotic horror” simply because the guys are having sex on Halloween night. These are actual horror stories, albeit loaded with explicit sex.

I just assumed that it was a logical fusion for gay horror fans. Imagine my surprise when some reviews expressed appreciation for the…um…meat of my stories but then made comments about the sex being a distraction. As someone who grew up at a time when sex was mandatory in horror, I’m going to guess these readers weren’t properly raised on sex and violence.

I’ve even seen the equating of the sex in my horror stories to “sexual assault.” That’s far from the same thing as doing something sexual with a man because you want to be forced into doing it with him, as is usually the case in my stories. Sexual situations involving an unwilling participant are a complete turn off for me—I’ve read that kind of erotic fiction with no enjoyment and watched it go on to win literary awards. Which means I won’t be winning any awards any time soon, because you won’t often find a Deliverance moment in my writing. And when you do, the point is absolutely not to arouse; it is to horrify. I can’t be responsible for where the mind wants to go. But isn’t it possible that what might be making readers uncomfortable is that they are left questioning whether or not a scene is supposed to be turning them on?

Perhaps it’s easier for a gay reader to assume such scenes in my books are intended to be sexual because, unlike a heterosexual male, who is most likely repulsed by the idea of butt fucking (as depicted in Deliverance), gay men generally expect it to be a positive experience. Look at it from the reverse perspective. A gay man watching I Spit on Your Grave is not likely to see the rape scene as sexual at all, but the protective anonymity of internet message boards shows time and again that there are heterosexual men who do find it stimulating. Does that mean they are sick individuals, or does it mean that horror is succeeding in making them uncomfortable about the darkness within themselves? Maybe that’s why the sex in my books unnerves gay readers; it makes them contemplate what they never had to when female T&A was being splashed needlessly across the screen through twelve Jason movies.

Either way, whether sex is in place to arouse or to disturb, of all people to express distaste in its presence, I never imagined it would be gay men. Could it be true? Straight male horror fans are more in touch with their sexual selves than gay horror fans? Was I going about writing gay horror all wrong?

Thankfully, for every comment about the supposed unnecessary sex, there is appreciation of it. It was nice to have someone tell me that my story “Woof!” proved to be the first time werewolves made him hot. I often get nods for writing horror stories that feature piggish, hairy, burly bears instead of vanilla, smooth, pretty boys. Not all gay men want sex in their horror, but there are definitely those who aren’t complaining. Still, it’s hard to find the community of gay sex and horror lovers. General horror message boards aren’t bringing them out of the closet. I began to wonder just how niche the market was.

Then a friend turned me on to a Greenwich Village bear bar called Rockbar NYC, where a couple of horror-loving gay guys hold a horror trivia night every month. Before I know it, I’m co-hosting the trivia night and doing a reading/signing of my books. I had a blast. Here was a bar full of gay men who could answer the question: How many people did Cujo kill? That night, my books were bought and given away as prizes. But did that mean gay horror lovers would actually like them? I didn’t know.

With the release of CombustionCombustion 300 DPI, I returned to Rockbar NYC and something wonderful happened. What was clearly a regular crowd at horror trivia night remembered me as much as I remembered them. And they had actually delved into my books. I witnessed one friend tell a couple that when he read my novella Zombied Out, he pictured them as the bear couple in the book. Another reader told me that whenever anyone peruses his bookshelves, their eyes are drawn immediately to my books.

Yet another horror fan told me that he won my book in the trivia contest the first time I was there, loved it, and read it out loud to his adora-bear hubby. He specifically referenced my story “Monstrosity” about a man suffering from a case of “gargantuanism.” He said the ending was horrific—but readily admitted that he also thought it was so hot he took care of business to it more than once. Good news for him. That huge man will be making a comeback in the novels yet to come in the series that begins with Combustion and now continues with my new book, No Place for Little OnesNo Place for Little Ones 300 DPI.

And there it was. Evidence that my kind of gay erotic horror fan is out there. I’d been in contact with one occasionally over the Internet. But to be in a bar full of them was not only an honor…it was hot as hell.

And things have just gotten better since then. I was inspired to create the Facebook page Boys, Bears & Scares, dedicated to horror from a gay male POV: movies, books, art, graphic novels, gay ghouls, horror hunks, and more. Doing so has connected me to gay horror lovers, from men who create it to fans who devour it. It’s an exhaustive and ever-growing list of what’s out there in both gay and mainstream horror.

Gay horror is hard to find. It is often targeted at the “erotica” market rather than the horror market, which does it a great disservice. There’s a good chance when an erotica reader sees a hot guy on the cover of a gay horror book, he’s in for something he didn’t bargain for: gratuitous horror along with the sex. When the cover also successfully captures the horror elements, the erotica reader may be repelled by the horror, but the horror fan—the true market for the genre—will be intrigued. And unless he’s one of those horror readers who find that sex gets in the way of the story and wasn’t tipped off about its inclusion in the book by the half-naked guy on the cover, he’ll be right at home with every gory gay, horny homo detail.

 


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