Archive for the ‘Women in Horror’ Category

Monday’s Friend: Fiona Dodwell

Today I’m pleased to welcome another woman of horror to the blog – British horror writer Fiona Dodwell.

SJT: Some writers discover their calling at a very young age. Others arrive at it a bit later in life. How did it come to you?

Fiona DodwellFD: This is a tough one to answer, because in all honesty, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. I seem to have been born with a passion for writing, and there doesn’t seem to be a particular moment that sparked this, at least that I recall. It seems to be in my blood! One of my earliest memories is of writing short stories and poems, and of declaring to my teacher in primary school that “when I grow up, I want to write books.”

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

FD: Not to over-think things. I believe it’s far too easy to put up your own road-blocks, to keep thinking of the struggles, obstacles and difficulties in writing. The reasons can be many: I don’t have much time. I find this story hard to write. What if no one likes it? Am I good enough? You can carry these issues around and let it stop you, or you can ignore the doubts and simply try. Only two things can happen: 1) You complete a story you are happy with, which is an immense achievement or 2) You write something you feel unhappy with. Ultimately, neither of those two outcomes are a waste of time – all the while you are trying, working, writing and practising, you are becoming the best writer you can be. Don’t let doubts stop you, or you’ll never reach your full potential. You’ll never know what you could have done.

SJT: You seem to have been rather busy in the last six months, with several new releases. Want to tell us about them?

FD: Yes, I’ve had a really good time lately. Last year, I was offered representation with Media Bitch Literary Agency, and from the team there I’ve had a lot of support. The agents there are amazing – always helping, supporting, promoting and uplifting their authors. That’s a big part of why I’ve been able to get a lot done – they’ve been behind me all the way, helping me. In the last few months, I’ve released Nails, which is a paranormal novella, The Redwood Lodge Investigation and Juniper’s Shadow, which is the first segment of what will eventually be a trilogy. I also took part in The Dichotomy of Christmas, an anthology of horror stories alongside wonderful talents such as Graham Masterton, Michael Bray and M.R Sellars.

nails full wrap NO SPINE (2)SJT: Why is horror the genre for you? What’s the appeal, for you, about writing spooky stories?

FD: From the youngest age, I loved telling friends ghost stories at sleep-overs, and watching scary movies. I’ve always had a morbid fascination with anything dark or creepy. I used to go to the library and borrow books on hauntings, and obsess over the tales for days. I’m not so much into blood and gore, but I love a good creepy ghost story. I think it’s because I find reading something scary quite thrilling. I love the fear, the tension, the sense of darkness. I’m really not someone who loves comedies and romantic films!

SJT: February is Women In Horror month. Would you say that there is still a misconception out there that women don’t write horror? Have things improved? Discuss!

FD: I think horror is still very dominated by male presence – we have Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Adam Nevill, Jack Ketchum, Joe Hill etc who are all brilliant, and who I very much admire. But I think females can bring something different to the table, something that shouldn’t be ignored. There is a quiet and sinister element to certain female horror writers that really gets under my skin, in such a delicious way. One only has to read Susan Hill, Alison Littlewood, Sarah Pinborough or Shirley Jackson to know that a female writer can be very dark – in a very unnerving way. I love that more and more female horror writers are making a name for themselves. With the advent of ebook publishing, I think we will start to see more of us, and hopefully the playing field will be a little more level as time goes on.

SJT: What projects have you got on the go at the moment?

FD: I have some projects ahead of me in 2016 that I am very excited about. There are some that I can’t yet share, unfortunately, but I promise there is a lot going on.

Juniper FINAL (2)What I can tell you is that I am taking part in a horror anthology which will be released in March, called Beasts. I am really happy to be sharing pages alongside Jack Ketchum, Iain Rob Wright, Michael Bray and many, many more fantastic writers on that project. I will also be releasing a novella entitled The Faceless, which has been great fun to write.

Later in the year I will hopefully be releasing my fourth full-length novel, The Risen. That novel is in the hands of my agent as we speak, and being shopped around various publishers. So it’s full steam ahead, and I am really excited to see what the year brings. I’m enjoying being busy, and it’s keeping me out of trouble!

Many thanks to Fiona for being my guest today! You can find all of Fiona’s books at Amazon.

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Monday’s Friend: Diane Dooley

February is Women in Horror month, so I am featuring women horror writers for my Monday’s Friends feature all of this month. My first woman of horror is author Diane Dooley. Welcome, Diane!

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

DD: I’ve always been a voracious reader, but for many years the idea as me as a writer never occurred to me. It wasn’t until I was on maternity leave with my second child that I decided to try my hand at it as an intellectual exercise. I wrote a novel in six weeks and it was terrible. But I’d been bitten by the writing bug and I’ve been unable to shake it off ever since.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

DD: Ah, too numerous to mention, but I’ll give it a try. I’m very influenced by music. Often, the first little throb of a story comes while I’m listening to music or reading poetry. And the real world is a big influence, things I’ve seen: a house scarred by lightning rods, an abandoned graveyard, a rusted wheelchair in a ditch. Art is another inspiration, as well as the field of psychology. A short story soon to be published by Liquid Imagination was inspired by this photograph of an infamous psychological experiment:

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Among the authors that have most influenced me are Octavia Butler, CJ Cherryh, Shirley Jackson, Philip K. Dick, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, and Vladimir Nabokov. Add to this list an untold number of poets and musicians.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

DD: Most likely you’re going to suck at first. Take the time to learn the craft of writing. Work hard, seek out critique, and don’t rush to publish.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

DD: DOWN BY THE DARK WATER​ is a Scottish Gothic, the first of three I have planned. It’s dark and twisted and is stuffed with characters nobody can like very much. I loved writing it.

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SJT: You describe yourself as writing ‘romance, science fiction and horror – sometimes all in the same story’. Do you purposefully set out to mash genres, or does the story usually just develop that way?

DD: I really can’t help mashing up genres. I’ve tried to write to the specific tropes of specific genres, but those projects usually end up getting abandoned due to my lack of passion for them. I use that particular tagline to let potential readers know that anything might happen and to expect the unexpected.

SJT: Plotter or pantser?

DD: Kind of a hybrid. I think a lot about a story before I even sit down to write it. Often, the story is mostly complete in my head, and I just need to type it into words. I keep a few notes on characters and settings, but I don’t do a written outline.

SJT: February is Women In Horror month. Would you say that there is still a misconception out there that women don’t write horror? Have things improved? Discuss!

DD: I think horror is still very much a male-­dominated genre. When I browse the book offerings it’s mostly male names on the books. One has to work a bit to find female horror authors, and I rely quite heavily on recommendations from others. I don’t know if I really fit well in the horror genre, to be honest. What I call my horror stories are very dark, very twisted, but rarely have any kind of supernatural aspect to them. My horror stories are usually about the most terrifying monster of all: humanity.

Have things improved for women writing horror? I’d say that self­-publishing has allowed female voices to be heard more frequently. On the other hand, the sheer glut of books being published makes them just as hard to discover.

SJT: What projects have you got on the go at the moment?

DD: My main project at the moment is a horror novel set in rural upstate New York, where I live. As usual, it’s got a couple of genres going on. It’s a historical and contemporary dual timeline American Gothic sort of thing with an awful lot of body fluids and rotting vegetation. Typical me, in other words. Side projects are a blue collar romance set in the seedy side of the country music business, and the other two Scottish Gothic novellas.

Thanks for having me, Sara!

***

Diane Dooley was born in the Channel Islands and grew up in Scotland. She finally settled down in Upstate New York where the summers are short and the winters just might kill you. She lives with her best friend/husband and two obstreperous boy children in a falling­down farmhouse in the sticks.

Diane writes ​short stories​ and ​novellas​ in several genres, and has been published in a variety of online and print publications, as well as by several digital­first publishing houses.

Facebook​ | ​Twitter​ ​| ​Blog

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Women in Horror #4: Sarah Connor

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

For my fourth and final post on Women in Horror, I’m looking at the heroine of the TERMINATOR films. OK, maybe this is more science fiction than horror, but it’s a series that deals with horror themes. Machines take sentience and try to destroy the human race. The second film opens with apocalyptic scenes of a nuclear blast, an empty playground, machines crushing piles of human skulls in their wake. And it’s the second film I want to focus on, the film in which Sarah Connor becomes a kick-ass heroine.

Sarah Connor
sarahconnor
When we meet Sarah in the first TERMINATOR film, she’s an ordinary American young woman. She works as a waitress, she goes to college, she laments with her flat mate about not being to find Mr Right. And then her life changes when she learns a cybernetic entity from the future is hunting her down, and will not stop until she’s dead. The reason she’s being hunted is not for something she’s done, but something that will happen in the future. When the machines rise up to destroy humanity they almost succeed, but one man leads a band of human survivors to victory. That man, John Connor, is Sarah’s son – the son she hasn’t conceived yet.

Aided by the man that her son sent back in time to help save her – a man who turns out to be the father of her son, conceived the one and only time she sleeps with him (yes, let’s not dwell on that paradox too much lest our brains explode), Sarah manages to escape from the Arnold Schwarzenegger-shaped cyborg, though her rescuer is killed in the process. The end of the film shows her alone and pregnant, driving through Mexico, knowing the Hell of the future that is to come and burdened with the knowledge that the unborn child she carries is the last hope for humanity. That’s got to change a person.

It’s the second film in which Sarah becomes a lean mean fighting machine. Eleven years have passed. Her son John is a hellion, placed in foster care because Sarah has been sectioned. Caught trying to blow up an electronics factory and ranting about the machines that were going to destroy humanity, she was deemed to be mad and locked up in an institution. In her first scene in T2, she is doing arm lifts on bars in her cell room, bulging biceps clearly on show and wearing the expression of a woman who is completely sane and in control of her faculties. Linda Hamilton took her role as Sarah Connor seriously, engaging in a gruelling workout routine before the second film, to demonstrate the hardcore survivor that Sarah had become in the years since the first film. Eventually breaking out of the mental institution with the help of her son and the Arnold Schwarzenegger cyborg who’s now a Good Guy – the cybernetic assassin from the future who’s been sent back to kill John Connor as a child is even more devastating and unstoppable than the first one was – Sarah goes after the electronics engineer who will develop the computer chip that will directly lead to computers gaining sentience – the cataclysm that marks the beginning of the end for humanity. On the way we learn just how tough this woman has become. She has all manner of contacts around the country, stashing weapons and supplies with all of them. And her only motive is to do what it takes to survive – long enough to raise her son to adulthood and ensure he grows into the man who will save humanity. Sarah Connor is a self-taught bad ass. Once she came to terms with her fate (can’t be easy finding out just when and how the world will end, and that you’re going to survive to suffer the aftermath), she set out to learn the skills she would need to survive.

John Connor is presented as the most important human ever to live, because he’s the leader of the human survivors and he takes them into victory. But John would not have become the man he does without Sarah – so in one sense, she’s the most important human in the world. She’s the one that saves humanity, because she turns John into the leader he needs to be.

As far as female role models go, you don’t get much better than that.

Women in Horror #3: Ripley

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It might have been over 30 years ago, but few films measure up to ALIEN.  A masterful blend of suspense, science fiction and horror, this film about a group of space explorers who encounter a terrifying alien predator still measures up to the test of time and has audiences on the edge of their seat. And its main character is another inspiring  female role model.

Ripley

ripleyRumour has it that Ripley was written as a male character. In 1979, when this film came out, no one really took seriously the idea that a woman could be part of a space crew – even in science fiction. Let alone one as resourceful and enterprising as Ellen Ripley. But someone decided, early on in production, that a man would not go back to rescue the ship’s cat, when all the rest of the crew were dead and Ripley, as sole survivor, is trying to get to the escape pod. This was an integral plot point, as the alien gets into the escape pod whilst Ripley is in the ship getting the cat.

Another story goes that all of the characters in ALIEN were deliberately written to be genderless, so that any of them could be equally played by a man or a woman.

Whether or not either of these stories are true, I don’t know, but the fact remains that Ripley is a leading lady who does not shag anyone, doesn’t cook and doesn’t actually do anything different from the men. Except she keeps her head and therefore survives when the rest panic and get killed. In the decidedly misogynist world of Hollywood this is a rarity, even in the 21st century, and at the end of the 1970s it was pretty much unprecedented.

The second film ALIENS goes a step further and explores the concept of Ripley as a woman. Having been in suspended animation following the events of the first film, she awakens to discover that she has been lost in space for decades and that her daughter, left behind on Earth, has grown old and died in her absence. Thus she becomes particularly protective of the young orphan girl, Newt, the only survivor of a colony that has been attacked by the alien. Feeling guilty about not being there to protect her own daughter, Ripley takes on the responsibility of getting Newt out alive. The image attached to this post is one of the best portrayals of Ripley in this context – carrying the girl in one arm, whilst wielding a bad-ass gun in the other. And she has a cracking aim with that gun, even one-handed.

Ripley remains one of the best heroines of both horror and science fiction of all time. It’s rare that actresses are offered such a wonderful role, and it is testament to Sigourney Weaver’s talent that she was able to bring Ripley to life in such a human way.

Women in Horror #2: Alice

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

My second post in my series about kick-ass horror heroines features a marvellous character from a series of films inspired by a computer game.

If you’ve been following my blog a while you’ll know I have a fondness for ‘Resident Evil 4’ (and Leon). The video game franchise became a series of films. These have been met with mixed reviews. Those that don’t like them say they are lacking plot, lacking character development, lacking logic. I’m not quite sure what people expect from a series based on a game, but I always enjoyed them. OK, so they are not exactly intellectually stimulating, but there are days when a girl wants to switch off her brain and just sit on the sofa with wine and chocolate and enjoy some mindless zombie dismemberment.

Alice

aliceFor the live action series of films (there are some CGI animated ones as well), a new character was created who apppears in all the films. Her name is Alice, and on screen she’s played by Milla Jovovich.

Rumour has it that the character was created to be a kind of reverse version of Alice in Wonderland – an Alice in Dystopia. But she is by far the best thing about the Resident Evil films, and she’s a wonderfully kick-ass character. This lady is no damsel in distress. Her weapon of choice is a gun in either hand, fired at the same time. She has incredible aim, she is fast, smart, agile and resourceful. And she pretty much leaves all the men behind.

My favourite scene with Alice comes from “Resident Evil: Afterlife”, and also features Claire Redfield, who is a character from the games series. With the world being over-run by mutating zombies, a small band of survivors (led by Claire – in herself a strong character) encounter Alice, and they are trying to get out of an abandoned building over-run by zombies. They escape through the sewers. The boys have all run away, leaving Claire and Alice to it when the big guy with the giant meat tenderiser (a monster from Resident Evil 5) comes after them. But these two ladies can take care of themselves, as you can see from the attached video. If you’re wondering what’s with all the slow-motion, the films are mimicking the style of the games, because all the cut scenes feature slow-motion action.

Alice is a fabulous action heroine, and a prime example of a female horror icon who gives back as good as she gets. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I definitely want her on my team.

Women in Horror #1: Buffy

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

February is Women in Horror month, where we officially pay homage to the importance that women play in the horror genre.

This year I am going to be doing a series of posts acknowledging those kick-ass heroines who redefine the role of women in horror.

Buffy

buffyOK, so let’s start at the top. I am a HUGE Buffy fan.There are so many reasons why she is such a great role model. Joss Whedon said that the inspiration for Buffy came from the fact that in the horror films he grew up with, the blonde girl was always the one to creep alone down the corridor and get eaten by the monster. He decided the blonde girl should fight back. So he created his teenage California girl who had superpowers. Who was chosen to kick vampire butt.

There are a thousand reasons why I love Buffy. It’s the only show I will make a point of watching reruns of when they are on. The only show where I can start watching a random episode and know within five minutes not only which series it is, but which episode it it. It has irony. It has real, flawed characters who are affected by the world around them and change from series to series. One of the great things I loved from the beginning was the way it handled adolescence with sensitivity and wry humour. Anyone who’s been a teenager knows the hell that is High School. Every kid has to fight demons in high school. For most of us, those demons are metaphorical. Buffy’s demons just happen to be literal. As well as having to deal with the usual adolescent angst of not being popular, whether she’ll have a date for the dance, getting into trouble with her folks for staying out late, bullies, jocks vs geeks and so on, she also has to save the world from demons, vampires and the occasional apocalypse. And she still manages to graduate from high school (well, after she saves everyone from the ancient snake demon posing as the Mayor).

People who don’t understand my obsession with Buffy have said: “if you like Buffy, you must like Twilight. They’re both about girls in love with a vampire”. If you can’t get the difference, I can’t begin to explain it to you. Just watch this terrific video. Yes, I know I’ve posted it before, but it so proves a point.

Yes, Buffy loves Angel. But at the end of season 2, when she has to kill Angel to save the world, she does it. Even though she loves him. Because a true heroine has that kind of strength of character. And that’s another reason I love Buffy.

Homage to Women in Horror – Part 3

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

And so we come to the final post in my three-part tribute to women horror writers.

Several of my fellow horror hounds over on the AbsoluteWrite forum have also been honouring Women in Horror Month, so this week I’d like to give them a shout-out. Go check out their blogs, because they are all worth a read.

Rhoda Nightingale: Rhoda’s ‘Glitter and Gore’ blog does what it says on the tin, and she has several posts paying tribute to Women in Horror.

Damien Walters Grintalis: Damien has a lot of guest posts for Women in Horror month on her blog, including one from me. Do read the post about Ripley from the ‘Alien’ movies, by Molly Tanzer.  She makes some jolly good points.

Brittany Maresh: On her blog, Brittany has listed the female horror writers who have inspired her at different stages of her life.

Tracy Pittman: Tracey’s ‘Flying With Broken Wings’ blog pays tribute to more female horror writers, and she also explains why she writes horror.

As we come to the end of Women in Horror month, I’m aware that I’ve barely scratched the surface in naming women horror writers, even counting all the links that my fellow Horror Hounds have posted.  We are to be found everywhere, we women in horror, and we are a much larger force than people might think.

Ladies of horror, remember to say it loud:  “I am a woman.  I write horror.  I am proud.”

Homage to Women in Horror – Part 2

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Continuing my tribute to Women in Horror Month, today I am following on by mentioning some of the women of horror I have met, and who have inspired me, over the years:

Sally Spedding: I first met Sally at the Winchester Writers’ Conference a few years ago. Part of your delegate ticket when you register is the opportunity for three one-to-ones, two of which can be with agents or editors. I picked Sally for my third non-agent/editor one-to-one because she was another writer who crossed the genres of crime and horror. I sent her the first chapter of DEATH SCENE. When I sat down for my fifteen minutes with her, she told me it was the best thing she’d read all weekend and I’d really made her day by sending it to her. Well, she made my week – nay, my year – by telling me so, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

Sarah Pinborough: Sarah is a versatile writer who writes in many genres, including YA, sf, horror and crime – or combining all of the above. I can particularly recommend her “Dog-Faced Gods” trilogy. Set in a near-future dystopian London, the main character is a paranormal investigator looking into a series of crimes. It becomes clear that there is something supernatural involved. I feel like I’ve known Sarah for ages, because I run into her at every convention I go to.  But I think we first met at the World Horror Con in Brighton, less than two years ago.

Lisa Tuttle: Many years ago, in my first job as book shop assistant, an anthology of horror stories written by women came into the shop. Published by Women’s Press, it was called THE SKIN OF THE SOUL and Lisa Tuttle gave the introduction, making the argument that horror had been erroneously considered a man’s domain for far too long and it was high time to acknowledge all the fine women horror writers out there. I’ve been a fan of Lisa’s ever since.  I got to tell her how inspiring I found that anthology at World Horror Con in Brighton – and it seems I wasn’t the only woman to do so, as she makes reference to it in a blog post on her livejournal blog.

Next, a shout-out to some Women of Horror I’ve connected with online, but haven’t met in person:

Rita Vetere:  Rita’s WHISPERING BONES is a thrillingly scary horror tale.

Diane Dooley: Diane is also honouring Women of Horror on her blog this month, so go check it out.

Fiona Dodwell: Fiona is another Writer of Damn Scary Books.

Sealey Andrews: Sealey is also honouring Women in Horror Month on her ‘Girl in the Soapdish’ blog.

Jenna M Pitman: Jenna’s horror fiction can be found everywhere, it seems, going by her list of publishing credits.

Last but by no means least, I want to give a shout-out to the lovely ladies who are my co-bloggers on the WriteClub blog. They are all fabulous writers, and you should go read their books:

Sonya Clark
Nerine Dorman
Pamela Turner

Seeing as how February has an extra day this year, next Wednesday will be the third and final part of my homage to women of horror, so be sure to come back next week.

Homage to Women in Horror – Part 1

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This month is Women In Horror month. As a woman of horror I want to support this worthy cause. I’m going to start by pointing you towards this website, dedicated to Women In Horror Month.

“Women don’t write horror”. This is a battle I feel I’ve been fighting my whole life. It’s as frustrating and erroneous an assumption as the notion that all SF fans are 16-year-old boys who like pictures of women in chain mail bikinis, with unfeasibly large breasts, because they can’t get anywhere near a real-life woman.

The media does nothing to disabuse the general public of this notion. Cult SF and horror magazines sport covers featuring pictures of mostly-naked women with the aforementioned unfeasibly large breasts. Books aimed at women sport pink covers with curly lettering and pictures of lipstick, shoes and shopping bags. Gifts aimed at women (and we are bombarded by such ads at Christmas) suggest that your mum or aunty or sister or girlfriend wants a make-up kit or bottle of perfume. Never have I seen an advert that says she wants the new Resident Evil game on the PS3 (which is what I want next birthday).

I would like to point out that women horror writers are hardly a modern phenomenon. One of the first horror novels to be published was not only written by a woman, it was written by a teenager. Mary Shelley was 17 when she penned FRANKENSTEIN.

In support of Women In Horror month, next week I will be paying homage to some contemporary women of horror. If you are one such woman and you want a mention and a link to your blog this month, please let me know.

Let’s hear it for Horror Women!