Women in Horror Interviews Part III

For the month of March, in order to celebrate Women in Horror, I’ll be highlighting interviews with some of the authors that appear in Hush, Don’t Wake the Monster – Stories Inspired by Stephen King Women in Horror Anthology.

Cheryl Zaidan author of “The Girl with the Peculiar Smile”

Which Stephen King novel/short story inspired your short story?

My story wasn’t based on a specific work by Stephen King but rather I played with some of the concepts he uses – including supernatural elements and traumatic family dynamics. King also writes great child protagonists, so I wanted to make my main character a smart, wise-beyond-her-years girl who is also still very much a child – much like Trisha McFarland in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Who’s your favorite modern female author?

Gwendolyn Kiste has been a favorite for a while now. And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is an amazing collection of her short stories. Beautifully written and quite creepy.

Which song would be the soundtrack to your story?

I was thinking I didn’t have one and oddly enough Strange Little Girl by The Stranglers popped up on my shuffle. It fits (and it’s also a great song.)

Who’s your favorite final girl and why?

It sounds like a cliché but I adore Nancy from the original Nightmare on Elm Street. She comes across as a nice, sweet girl but when things get tough, she’s ready to fight. When Nancy says, “I’m into survival”, you know she means it.

Sealey Andrews author of “Emily Mine”

Which Stephen King novel/short story inspired your short story?

My story was inspired by Stephen King’sCujo.The influencing elements were a slow-burning domestic tension and an exploration of the dichotomy between feelings of resentment toward motherhood versus the inherent need to protect one’s child from danger. And, of course, there is a crazed animal with an agenda of his own.

Who’s your favorite modern female author?

One of my favorite modern female authors is Louise Erdrich. Her novel Future Home of the Living Godis particularly outstanding.

Kristi Petersen Schoonover author of “Let The Rain Settle It”

Which Stephen King novel/short story inspired your short story?

My favorite short story of King’s is “Rainy Season,” which has always been an unpopular choice—it’s been accused of being too similar to Jackson’s “The Lottery” and in general, its reviews aren’t positive. But it’s been said the experience of a story is different for each reader, because it depends on what that person brings to the table. I didn’t read it until it was reprinted in his 1993 Nightmares & Dreamscapes collection. As a starry-eyed twenty-two year old who was, at the time, blissfully unaware she was engaged in a toxic relationship, I connected most with the subtle clues King presents about the broken young couple heading toward not just physical demise, but an eventual emotional disaster if they did survive. While John and Elise aren’t the focus of King’s narrative—the spotlight, as always, shines on unsettling Mainers—they’re clearly in a place where the ordinary drudge of life and its reactionary transgressions have squelched the blush of love and romance. The blinders are off, they see each other for who they really are, and it’s not pretty. This is something we face in our every day lives, and so, if we look deeper, it’s an important commentary on the real world. “Rainy Season” isn’t just another folk horror tale or creature feature. It’s a warning that the killer toads of life are always at your romantic door, and sometimes, it’s just better to let them in.

Who’s your favorite modern female author?

The contemporary female writer I love the most as far as the short form goes is Gina Ochsner. Her collections The People I Wanted to Be and The Necessary Grace to Fall are fantastic in both emotional timbre and light infusion of the supernatural, and I read them over and over. Her work is definitely worth examining.

Which song would be the soundtrack to your story?

“Barren Ground” by Bruce Hornsby & the Range.

What are some of your current writing projects?

I have a LOT of irons in the fire. My new collection, Songs for a Dying World, is slated for 2024, and a new novel, Tidings—provided I get it finished—is slated for 2025. But I write a lot of stuff in between for specific calls, or stories that just show up. My non-writing time is all spent on 34 Orchard. I’m also currently editing Wicked Sick for the New England Horror Writers.

Who’s your favorite final girl and why?

I’m not exactly sure that she’d be considered a “final girl,” but my favorite female in a horror film has always been Rachel Keller from The Ring. She’s got pluck, confidence, drive and ambition; she’s passionate and crackerjack in her career; she’s a single mom to a precocious child. But she’s also vulnerable in many ways: she’s an emotionally damaged person, although we don’t know quite why; her life is disorganized and chaotic—probably fallout from trauma; she has all the hallmarks of a trauma survivor—and she does her best even though she often fails. She’s also, clearly, still hurt by and in love with her son’s father—who has moved on—but is headstrong enough to go to him for help. It’s her vulnerability that makes her stronger—because she knows how to put that vulnerability aside and do what she has to do when it matters. It fuels her ultimate success, and that’s the true definition of a strong female heroine.

Read Cheryl Zaidan, Sealey Andrews & Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s stories in Hush, Don’t Wake the Monster along with other amazing authors!

Purchase book here!


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