Thank you, Mary Shelley.

How Mary Shelley Has Inspired Me, Yet Again!

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At the beginning of February, celebrated as Women in Horror Month, I wrote about Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, as one of my literary inspirations.

 

On this last day of the month, a friend shared with me a post from smithsonian.com titled ‘Frankenstein’ Manuscript Shows the Evolution of Mary Shelley’s Monster’ which speaks of a British publisher releasing 1500 facsimile copies of Mary Shelley’s original manuscript notebooks, complete with revisions and edits, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the book’s first publication.

 

Oh, my heart! I know I’ll never be able to own one of those 1500 copies, but how I would love to read that manuscript!

 

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Even just looking at the photograph of two pages, my author-heart swelled. Here is the work of a woman I have admired almost all of my life, showing that her work, too, needed editing and revising. She understood that no piece of writing is perfect the first time, even if the story itself is brilliant.

 

This is so incredibly encouraging in the moments when I doubt myself, or my story, or my ability to communicate my ideas the way I want to. It reassures me when the words don’t flow for a time. And it reminds me that I’m by no means the first, or last, to experience these things. The doubts and writers block don’t make me any less of a writer; instead, it’s working through them and in spite of them that makes me a better one.

 

Through these images, Mary Shelley inspires me all over again.

Women in Horror Month: Facing My Own Fears

An Author’s Perspective on Facing One’s Own Fears In Writing.

One of the principles of writing good horror is tapping into your readers’ fears and anxieties, albeit in a controlled manner – I don’t want to trigger a heart attack or a psychosis, but I do want their skin to crawl and their innards to lurch. After all, that’s why they pick up a horror book or film in the first place.

It’s interesting – at least to me, at any rate – that I haven’t got any better at confronting my own fears.

I have always been, and still am, terrified of spiders and snakes. Of course, I do live in Australia where just about everything that crawls or slithers is deadly, so that is quite sensible. We’ll call it a healthy sense of self-preservation. Butterflies and moths, though… not so much. And crickets: ugh! Not exactly the stuff of nightmares— until they touch me. That’s when I lose all sense of reality.

fear-of-heights-2040805_960_720When I was a child, I considered that I had a fear of heights. As I grew older, I realised that what I actually have is a fear of falling. I can look out of the window of a plane that is flying at altitude, and it doesn’t bother me a bit. Ask me to step onto the balcony of a lookout at the top of a mountain, or to walk on stairs or a surface where I can see through to underneath, and you will only ever be disappointed. It’s not going to happen. The times I have been in such places, I have frozen to the ground in fear.

Interestingly, these are not fears that I have explored in my own writing— not yet, anyway. I’m far more comfortable playing on someone else’s weaknesses. Death. Hell. Demons. Fire. Hair. Monsters. Ghosts. Superstition. Possession. Unexplained coincidences. Easy peasy!

Maybe I will try to address one of my own fears in my writing this month, given that it is Women in Horror Month, and I happen to be a woman who very much enjoys writing horror.

I’ll get back to you on that one.

Maybe.

Women in Horror Month 2018 : An Interview with Joanne Van Leerdam

Originally posted on Unusual Fiction :
I’m really excited to introduce our next author to Women in Horror Month 2018 at Unusual Fiction. Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet, writer in many genres and of course horror lover. ? In addition to writing poetry and short stories, Joanne is a teacher of English, History and Drama/Production.…

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This is my third author interview in fairly quick succession, but the questions have all been so different that I couldn’t even recycle any! This one focuses on my work as a writer of horror where the others were more general.

Many thanks to Fiona Hogan at Unusual Fiction for asking clever questions and publicising my answers in honour of Women in Horror Month 2018.

Unusual Fiction

I’m really excited to introduce our next author to Women in Horror Month 2018 at Unusual Fiction. Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet, writer in many genres and of course horror lover.

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In addition to writing poetry and short stories, Joanne is a teacher of English, History and Drama/Production. She is an active member and performer in her local theatre company.
Her hobbies include reading, music, travel and photography.

Joanne loves travelling, and has visited many places in Australia as well as holidaying in New Zealand, Fiji, the USA and Canada at different times.

Question 1. What drew you to horror as a genre?

I’ve always loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I also loved The Addams Family and The Munsters on TV as a kid – although they’re lighthearted, that macabre sense of humour of mine just adored them.

Question 2. What horror writers do you read?

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Women in Horror: 10 Authors You Should Read

I’m going to do you a favour and introduce you to ten women authors who write great horror.

Horror as a genre is as varied as any other. While everyone raves about Stephen King and Ann Rice – and there’s no doubt, they are what horror writers would aspire to become – it doesn’t mean that anyone who writes differently, or in a less mainstream sub-genre, isn’t worth reading.

Over the past year or so, I’ve read some fabulous horror books and stories by women who were new to me at the time, but they have quickly become some of my favourites.

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them before – I’m going to do you a favour and introduce them here. All you need to do to find their books is click on the author’s name.


Jane Jago is a multi-genre author whose novel ‘Who Put Her In?’ has a delicious, slow build and some finely crafted moments of horror. If you’re new to reading horror and unsure of how intense you want it to be, this book would be a great starting point.

D.J. Doyle writes horror stories that are often based in Celtic legend and religion.
Where to start: The Celtic Curse: Banshee



A. Drew
is the author of The Dowling House, a story of haunting and possession.

Nikki Landis writes both paranormal romance and horror. There’s even a little horror in her paranormal romance books, so it’s a win-win if you like both genres.
Where to start: Reaper’s Folly


Fiona Hogan writes  beautifully crafted contemporary Gothic stories.
An additional advantage to her story collections is that they’re great for busy people who don’t always have time to delve into a whole novel.
Where to start: The Nightmare
Lucretia Stanhope writes both paranormal romance and horror.  Another win-win for people who enjoy both genres!

Where to start: Beating Hearts



A.M. Rycroft
is the author of dark fantasy novels and some excellent horror short stories.  Again, these are great for someone with limited time available for reading.
Where to start: The Clearing

 

Lily Luchesi writes paranormal novels as well as some horror.
Where to start: Never Again

Logan Keys writes both dystopian and horror books.
Where to start: Unhinged.

 

Joanne Van Leerdam writes both poetry and horror, although only occasionally does she write both at the same time.
Where to start: The Silver Feather
Okay. This is my book. But there are no rules against self-promotion!

There are also some great horror anthologies available, in which you’ll find a great range of stories and styles, with something to please everyone.

 

Beautiful Nightmares        Ghostly Writes         Damsels Of Distress

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Women in Horror Month: My Kind of Horror

I want to give my readers a reading experience that is original, well-written and provocative enough to give them the chills and shudders that they seek when they pick up a horror story.

One of the most powerful features of excellent Gothic, horror or macabre writing is the ability of an author to affect the reader on an intellectual and emotional level, even more than they do physically.

This is something that I aspire to in my own writing. I always try to engage the mind and the emotions, not just the reflexes that make one gag or feel their skin crawling, although those are certainly effects that I enjoy stimulating in a reader. I don’t write splatter for splatter’s sake – there has to be a deeper meaning and a greater purpose to it than that if I really want to connect with and move my reader on a psychological level. There needs to be a story, not just a scene, and the reader needs to be able to connect with that story in order for it to have full effect on them.

I sought to do this in ‘The Silver Feather’ by developing strong emotions in my main character’s responses to things that happened around him and to him – grief, shock, dread, surprise, horror, and fear. Phil is an ordinary guy with talents, strengths and flaws that make his situation one in which any of us could find ourselves. Not everything is explained in full, because as an author, you want the reader to be wondering what’s going on, and holding their breath as they anticipate what’s coming next. Things become clearer as the story progresses, but sufficient questions remain at the end because you want the reader to remain interested enough to read the sequel.

‘Curious Things’ is a little different in that it consists of thirteen stories, all featuring a black cat named Friday and his interaction with people who are all doing the wrong thing in one way or another. It’s not enough to blow them up or have them arrested – I want to make them face consequences, to be confronted by their conscience, and to pay the price for their less-than-savoury ways. Each story develops from some kind of superstition – do black cats bring bad luck? What would happen if the ground really did open up and swallow someone? Again, some questions about Friday remain unanswered, although it is evident that he’s not exactly your ordinary house cat. The reader doesn’t need to know everything to understand that Friday is actively involved in the strange events that occur, one way or another.

I do have plans for more horror stories this year. Friday will emerge from time to time, as he did on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when new stories were published on WordyNerdBird Writes. There may, or may not, be a sequel to The Silver Feather – the truth is that I haven’t decided on this just yet. There will be another collection of horror stories, two of which have already been written and edited, and another is well under way. I’m not setting myself a due date for any of these projects – they will happen when they happen, and I will work steadily toward them.

My goal in all of this is to give my readers a reading experience that is original, well-written and provocative enough to give them the chills and shudders that they seek when they pick up a horror story. I want them to hold their breath, and gasp, and recoil when they read my work. And I want them to come back for more, because that is the greatest compliment and honour that an author can receive from a reader.

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So here’s to all the women writing horror, and to all the readers who love what they write. Here’s to all the authors whose horror works I love reading, and to celebrating them and their books during a delightfully creepy Women in Horror Month.

I’m dead keen. Are you?