One of my goals with Bloody Bookish is to not only celebrate horror, speculative and dark fiction, but to spotlight indie authors, as well as female and Canadian dark fiction authors.
Bloody Bookish has already included numerous features on females who are carving out their own place in the darkness, and to kick off our celebration of Women in Horror Month, we will be revisiting the one and only Red Tash, who shares her career path and what she thinks of women horror authors!
Can you start off by telling everyone about your background – when you first started writing and what you write.
Well, I started off writing as a kid. Pretty much as soon as I figured out how to spell and draw pictures, I was illustrating my own stories. I was one of those lonely latchkey kids who was sometimes left outdoors for hours and hours at a time, so my imagination was a very special place. I didn’t think of it as fiction writing at the time, but from a very early age, I finished my own sentences mentally with the dialogue tags “she said,” and of course, those of my friends with “he said, while climbing the monkey bars.” The Narrator was always with me, observing.
As an adult, I tried to smash my personality down into what I was told would be more profitable forms of employment, but I ended up writing for a living, anyway. I became a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, and I had all manner of blogs, podcasts, videos, and other personal projects going on while I freelanced for newspapers and magazines. I really only dabbled in fiction and poetry, publishing a little of each over the years. I was more comfortable editing for others while I worked on my own book. That book became the story This Brilliant Darkness, which has been a best-selling, top-rated Dark Fantasy on the Amazon charts for the past few months.
Dark Fantasy can be a mixed bag, ranging from swords & dragons to Sookie Stackhouse, to horror bloodbaths. This Brilliant Darkness is a more of a contemporary, philosophical monster story. A recent reviewer was searching for a genre to put it in, and he called it “a thinking man’s (or woman’s) paranormal urban dark fiction.” If that doesn’t scare you off, there’s a whole scientific piece to it that was heavily researched. I decided during editing that the story really did lean more toward horror than science fiction, so I cut the extraneous info on time travel and wormholes and the like, and focused more on the characterization, as it moves the story forward. It’s still there, though, and other reviewers have praised the plausibility of this sort of thing actually happening. That was something I definitely did not expect!
Speculative fiction – including Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (and all their sub-genres) – are often seen as male-dominated genres. Do you think that stigma still exists?
That is a fabulous question. I really have not encountered any blowback based on my gender, in regard to having authored this book. While I haven’t gone through and counted, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that men have tended to be the loudest, most enthusiastic fans of my work. Maybe because men make up the majority of the cast of characters, I don’t know! I was always one of the guys growing up–the token female on the high school wrestling team, stuff like that–so it would not surprise me if that carried over to my fiction writing career.
I will tell you this, as a second-generation business woman: men tend to have fewer emotional obstacles to overcome on their way to success in whatever field they choose. Even if they do feel “emo” about their writing, men are not encouraged to wallow, to go “Ack!” like Cathy and drown their angst in chocolate. It’s not manly to drown your sorrows all that often, is it? I mean, a shot of whiskey once in awhile, but not a full week of every month. I think women are almost expected to have a week of bad days every month, write it off as PMS, and just live with it. Guess what? Men have the same emotional ups and downs that women do, but the expectation that they compete for their shot in the spotlight, their turn at being the star–that gets a lot of mileage culturally and professionally.
Women may not historically have been publicly encouraged to go for it as seriously as their brothers, fathers, husbands, and sons have been, but I do think that is changing. It’s not spec fic, but there was a big stink raised when Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Weiner complained via twitter that the NYT wasn’t reviewing their books (or the books of women at all), even though the two of them were always on the best-seller list. Is that indicative of a bias toward men? I think the world is biased professionally toward men across most career venues, because our culture expects men to pride themselves on being providers. Women aren’t held to that same cultural expectation, despite the very real necessity of women to achieve career success to earn an income.
If there’s a stigma about women writing speculative fiction, it exists in the mind of individual readers. I personally have a stigma against romance novels. Does that mean all romance novels are awful? No. But it would take the glowing review of a friend, with very specific reasons about why I would like a particular book, to convince me to read a romance. That is the only way you’ll change a reader’s mind. One book recommendation at a time.
Do you think publishers or readers still act as though women writing these genres are a novelty?
Not at all. I think JK Rowling’s success writing Harry, Ron, Dumbledore, Snape, & Voldemort knocked the last brick from that wall. I recall when Connie Willis won the Grand Master award last year. It was just kind of like “Here’s the winner,” not “OMG, the winner’s a lady-writer!”
At least, that’s my perspective. I can’t honestly begin to guess what publishers think, in general, but I think readers are most definitely over that.
Have you ever felt any resistance from others stemming from the fact that you are a woman writing in a darker genre?
I’ve been welcomed with open arms, best I can tell!
Name some of the female spec-fic writers that you like.
JK Rowling, Holly Black, Melissa Marr, Suzanne Collins, Madeline L’Engle (huge influence). It’s funny–I guess I don’t think much about gender when it comes to writers, because I keep wanting to name men, too. I just think of the books I like, & the authors who write them. I think if a writer focuses on the story, the story is genderless. It certainly feels that way when I’m writing–like you’re just telling the facts, as you recall them. I honestly don’t think there’s a noticeable difference in regard to gender in this genre between men and women. Outside speculative fiction, there probably is. I’m sure romance vs. men’s action stories is a great extreme example of that kind of thing. But not in spec fic–at least not in my end of the neighborhood.
What would you say to other female writers out there looking to explore the darker side of fiction?
Go for it, ladies! In roller derby, we used to say “Skirt up!” instead of “Man up!” Instead of saying “It takes balls,” we would say something else, too. Use your imagination! 😉
You have every right to pursue your dreams, and if your dreams are dark and scary, then pretend every day is Halloween and get your freak on! You will always look back with regret at the chances you didn’t take–but if you try and fail, you can always move on to the next thing. There’s no shame in that, and we all know scars make for great stories!
Do you have any parting words for the readers of Bloody Bookish? What are you working on now?
Right now I’m doing a re-read of my latest book, Troll Or Derby, before I send it off for editing. A few beta-readers have bits and pieces of it, as well. That’s pretty exciting. It’s a YA fantasy along the lines of Holly Black’s Tithe, but it’s set in rural Indiana, and it’s got fairies and trolls and roller derby. I started writing it in 2008, so it’s a long time coming. I’d like to find a publisher for it, because I think it’s going to have a much broader appeal than my first book did, and I would love to release my version of rural fairy insanity onto the world in one fell swoop!
As soon as I can put that to bed for beta-readers and editors and formatters to handle, I get to start writing the sequel to This Brilliant Darkness. It’s going to be called That Crackling Silence, and it is going to tie up the unanswered questions at the end of This Brilliant Darkness. I’ve had a reader or two threaten me bodily harm because of what happens to Christine at the end of TBD, but I have huge plans for Christine in TCS, and I’m anxious to finish the draft and get that ready for a 2012 release. I started writing this story in 2005, so that has been a very long time coming, as well, and I am chomping at the bit to go.
If I get those two projects completed in 2012, that’ll be a big year! But of course I’ve got a list of other fiction projects, as well, including another free short about The Wizard. Last time, The Wizard took a holiday. This time, he’ll be taking a fitness class. I have no idea when that’ll be done. Hopefully soon! I’ve also got a deadline for an anthology, where I’ll be including a short story set at The Corner Cafe, from This Brilliant Darkness. Lots of fun stuff coming up!
I do encourage readers to look me up. I tweet, I’m on FB (Profile & Fan Page), I blog daily, all that stuff. Not only am I on these sites, but I unless you are a creep, I will actually acknowledge your existence and carry on a conversation with you. LOL. I can’t always answer right away, because my life is pretty hectic, but the beauty of these sites is that I don’t need to–we can take our time and get to know each other, talk about books, whatever you’d like.
If you want to read more of our interviews with female horror authors, check out this list of some of the most bad-assed authors on the block!:
- Cate Gardner (our January Bloodlight featured author)
- Joanna Parypinski
- Thea Isis Gregory
- Lydia Peever
- Jessica McHugh
- Penelope Crowe
- Melissa Smith
- Kristy Carey
- C.W. Lasart
- Rebecca Treadway
- Lorelei Bell
- J.H. Sked
- Patti Larsen