Women in Horror Interviews Part V

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.

Christabel Simpson author of “The Kiss in the Outhouse”

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

The Kiss in the Outhouse was inspired by a Stephen King short story called Weeds, which I decided to read after seeing an adaptation in the movie Creepshow. King’s story was first published way back in 1976 in a magazine called Cavalier, and is a tongue in cheek horror about a farmer who starts to change into a plant when he touches a meteorite that has landed in one of his fields. My own plot is totally different, but as with Weeds, it involves a man who is part plant, as I found this idea intriguing. Like King’s character, my plant person is marginalized by his condition, but rather than being driven to kill himself as happens in Weeds, he has learnt to live with what he is. Other ideas I borrowed from King were the use of a close-knit community and characters with secretive layers. The story Weeds is thought to be a homage to H.P.Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space, so in a way, writing a Weeds homage felt like the passing of a baton.

Who’s your favorite modern female author?

There some truly excellent female writers out there right now, but for me, the one who really stands out is Tamsyn Muir. I read the first two books in her Locked Tomb trilogy a couple of years ago and they blew me away. There’s just so much to like about them – they’re a mix of science fiction and horror, which are two of my favorite genres, the queer representation is great and they’re full of laugh out loud moments. It’s more than that, though. Muir has a writing style which is totally unique. It can be disorientating at times, but you can’t stop reading. Her world-building is excellent and she offers an intriguing perspective on things. I’ve been putting off reading the last book in the trilogy, because I don’t want the saga to end, but I’m sure I’m going to love it. Other writers I’m really into are Arkady Martine (I’m reading one of her books at the moment and enjoying it immensely), Nicky Drayden and Natalie Zina Walschots.

Which song would be the soundtrack to your story?

I have three contenders for this and haven’t been able to choose between them, so I’ll mention them all. The first is Birds of Paradise by Chromatics. I got into Chromatics when I heard their song Whispers in the Hall in the movie Birds of Paradise (a fave of mine) and think their music really fits the tone of my story. I focused on Birds of Paradise (which isn’t used in the aforementioned movie, by the way, despite having the same name) because it seems to share some of the same themes and has a fragile feeling to it which foreshadows what happens between the lovers in my story. Also, I think the haunting, repetitive melody would complement my words rather than overpowering them. Song number two is IloMilo by Billie Eilish. If stories had end credits, then I could definitely imagine this song playing over mine, as the theme of being separated from a lover ties in well with my ending. It has a super catchy melody, which is obviously important for a soundtrack song, but there’s something ominous about the bass line which fits the mood of my story perfectly. The final song is White Noise by PVRIS. This one’s louder and more intense than my other choices, but still feels like a good fit. My lead character ends up like a ghost of her former self, which ties in very well with the theme of the song, and the shifts in tempo kind of mirror her emotional journey. It’s a great song, full of raw emotion and sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. I also considered Kate Bush, Joan Jett, Florence and the Machine, In This Moment, Bjork and a bunch of others for this question, but as I’m supposed to be picking one song, not planning an entire album, I’ll leave it at that.

What are some of your current writing projects?

Right now, I’m working on a horror story about a woman who has a ghostly encounter when she and her girlfriend go to view an apartment in a building that used to be an asylum. I think I’ve got some nice moments in it and I’m hoping it will resonate with people as I’ve incorporated some experiences from my own life. I’m aiming for short and punchy, so should be done with it pretty soon. After that, I’m thinking of writing a story to submit to the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast about two Vestal Virgins who have an illicit relationship in ancient Rome. I’ve tried to get my work into the podcast before without success, but it’s something I’d really like to do, so I’m not giving up. I have quite a few ideas for poems as well, so I’ll definitely be getting to those.

Who’s your favorite final girl and why?

After giving it some thought, I’m going to go with Ripley from the Alien movies, who you wouldn’t necessarily think of as a final girl, but who totally meets to criteria. I think it’s great that she’s surrounded by the toughest of the tough soldier types and she’s the one who survives. What makes it even better is it’s totally believable. A lot of modern writers seem to go over the top with their strong females, like they’re overcompensating for the millions of times we’ve been cast in the shitty role of damsel in distress, but you never feel like that with Ripley. She doesn’t beat her enemies because she has superhuman strength or agility; she’s just clever, resourceful and absolutely won’t give up, which is way more inspiring. If you believe in a character, then you can believe that if you’d had the same training and life experiences and you were in the same position, maybe you could come out on top as well.

Kay Hanifen author of “The Hunting Lodge”

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

The strongest influence on the short story was my favorite of King’s: The Shining. I loved the mood he created with the isolation and the feeling of a never-ending snowstorm. To a lesser extent, I also took some inspiration from Dolores Claiborne because I have a fondness for stories about women murdering their abusive husbands.

Who’s your favorite modern female author?

That’s a tough one because there are so many great female authors out there! I really enjoy the work of Hailey Piper and Kiersten White. If you want to stretch the definition of modern a bit, then Shirley Jackson is one of my all-time favorites. The Haunting of Hill House is absolutely brilliant and a huge inspiration for my writing.

Which song would be the soundtrack to your story?

I didn’t listen to this song when writing my story, but “I Walk Alone” by Tarja Turunen fits the mood pretty well.

What are some of your current writing projects?

I’ve been working on sending out a lot of short stories and have a novel or two in the very early stages, so I don’t want to jinx it. I hope to publish a novel sometime in the next five years.

Who’s your favorite final girl and why?

That’s like making me choose my favorite child. It’s so difficult. But if you put a machete to my throat, I have to go with Deena from the Fear Street Trilogy. She’s smart, tough, funny, and will stop at nothing to protect her brother and save the girl she loves. The trilogy is full of fun characters and clever plot twists, and it was directed by a woman, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it!

Read Christabel Simpson & Kay Hanifen’s stories in Hush, Don’t Wake the Monster along with other amazing authors!

Purchase book here!


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