Welcome to my Women Thought Leaders in Horror series where I bring you badass ladies who are transforming the genre of horror. Women worldwide continue to bring their explosive voices to horror in forms of writing, filmmaking, book and film reviews, fine art, and the list goes because we women see no bounds.
I am pleased to bring you the next woman thought leader of horror, Damien Angelica Walters. And yes, you'll need to buckle up.
1. Why horror? What fascinates you about horror and enticed you to write in the genre?
DAW: Good question. I’m honestly not really sure. I grew up watching the old Harryhausen movies on Sunday morning television and I always loved his creatures. The dinosaurs, the sword-wielding skeletons, Medusa, the cyclops, all of them filled me with fear and awe. Then I saw Alien when I was eleven and it scared me to pieces, to the point where I begged my dad to leave the theater halfway through. We did and a week and a half later, after more begging, we went back and saw it again and this time I sat through the whole thing. That same year, I read The Shining, which also terrified me. I’m not sure if I’m drawn to darkness and being scared because of those things or if it was my fascination with darkness and being scared that drew me to them and in the end, I don’t think it necessarily matters.
2. What is your favorite era of horror and why?
DAW: I enjoy what’s being written now. The genre is bigger and more inclusive and the stories are not the same things recycled over and over again. Women aren’t relegated to victims or love interests or long-suffering or nagging wives while the men get to be the heroes. We’re no longer there to give a man’s story more weight. People of color have starring roles instead of as sidekicks or background characters existing only to die first, although, unfortunately, that still happens far too frequently.
3. What are some of your guilty horror films?
DAW: I try never to feel guilty about movies I enjoy. Some of my favorites include The Witch, The Thing, The Descent, Get Out, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, Us, The Babadook, The Blair Witch Project, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and of course, Alien.
4. What do you think the genre of horror brings to the world in terms of values, beliefs, impact?
DAW: I think horror often shows the world as it really is. Look at the films Jordan Peele and Jennifer Kent are making. Look at the words written by Victor Lavalle or any of the women I’ve listed below. Doors are opening now, revealing things that have lived for so long in the shadow of the stories by and about straight white men. And I’m not saying that those stories aren’t good or important nor am I disparaging white men, but for a long time that’s all we’ve had and the world is bigger than that. Women, people of color, non-Americans, trans and nonbinary folks experience the world in vastly different ways than white men. It’s important and it helps us grow as people to hear their stories, to see the world as they do.
5. How do you think your writing of horror reflects you as a person or your life overall?
DAW: I have a plush facehugger in my office. Does that count? Honestly, though, that’s another hard question to answer because I’ve always written, whether stories or poetry or novels, with a more macabre bent, so I’m not sure I can separate myself from that.
But there’s a frequent stereotype that folks who write horror dress in black, listen to heavy metal, and surround themselves with horror memorabilia and such. I do wear black, but I’m not a fan of that genre of music and my house is filled with antique furniture I inherited from my grandparents and pictures of my family. However, I do have quite a few Alien figurines in my office along with two prop wine bottles from the set of the show Hannibal, bottles I won in an auction after the show ended.
6. What do you think lies ahead for the genre?
DAW: I think there will be more inclusiveness, more work by women, by black and brown writers, by non-Americans, by trans and nonbinary writers. The genre pool is growing larger and that’s wonderful for its health.
7. Like many things, women are underrepresented in the horror genre. Why do think this is and why is it critical to have women more represented in horror?
DAW: Because, as I mentioned above, for so long the dominant stories have been told by white men and their viewpoints of women come from the outside. When we get to tell our own stories, we show a truth that only we can reveal.
8. Any tips for new women writers in the horror genre?
DAW: Write your stories and keep writing them. Read the other women who are also working in the genre but also read work by people of color, by trans and nonbinary folks, by non-Americans. And if you’re on social media and encounter any creepy or manipulative writers, don’t be afraid to reach out to other women in the genre and ask. You do not have to put up with inappropriate behavior to be part of the genre.
9. Who are some of your favorite women horror authors to read?
DAW: Questions like this always make me nervous because I know I’ll forget so many but here goes nonetheless: Kristi DeMeester, Livia Llewellyn, Zoje Stage, Gemma Files, Alma Katsu, Nadia Bulkin, Chikodili Emelumadu, Gwendolyn Kiste, S.P. Miskowski, Zin E. Rocklyn, Mercedes Yardley, Oyinkan Braithwaite, and any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow.
10. For readers who have never read your work, what should they start with and where can they find more information about you?
DAW: On my website, I have links to many short stories that are available to read free in various online magazines. I also have two short fiction collections, Sing Me Your Scars and Cry Your Way Home, in addition to my novel, The Dead Girls Club, which is a horror/suspense/mystery hybrid. My previous novel, Paper Tigers, a Gothic horror story, is no longer in print, although I think copies can still be found online.
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