Hello Horror Feminists!
Today in the MADHOUSE, I have the pleasure of interviewing Billie Sue Mosiman about her Bram Stoker Award-nominated anthology, Fright Mare-Women Write Horror. As we close out yet another wonderful year of #WomeninHorrorMonth, I invite you to check out these wonderful female writers, learn more about gender equality in the arts, and take a look at your reading list and see how you can diversify it.
For now though, grab another cup of coffee, take a seat, and revel with me in the madness.
With screams for equality,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
WYTOVICH: Tell us about the anthology. What inspired you to take on a project that was focused on women writing horror? And how did you go about doing so, i.e. what was your thought process like to make this project a reality?
MOSIMAN: FRIGHTMARE-WOMEN WRITE HORROR was born when one day I was reading some tables of content of various anthologies that had just been completed or published. I read the names of the contributors involved and noted how many were written by men, how many by women. Often there were no women. If there were women, it would be one name or two published with ten or twelve men. I sat wondering why it was always this way. Now I knew the men writers and they were fine writers so I wasn’t surprised they were included, but I also knew there were more fine women writers, too, who didn’t show up in the contents table. Did women not submit? I didn’t believe that for a moment and since have discovered yes, submissions flowed from women. They just weren’t picked.
This made me feel sad. I’ve been writing short fiction for over thirty years and had a lot of stories published, and in the 80s and 90s a lot of women were publishing in anthologies. These days not so much.
Now I knew women wrote every bit as well as men. We know, rationally, gender has nothing to do with fiction quality. Was there discrimination going on? Whether there was or not, I decided to do something about it and put out a call for women horror writers to send me stories. I knew it would cost me and I’d probably never earn back my investment, but I’d pay the writers and send them digital and print copies. I was on a mission.
Hundreds of stories poured in and the majority of them were damn good stories. I could only publish twenty so it was difficult choosing.
I decided I would not include my own story. This wasn’t about me. This was about women writers who had little voice and footprint in the anthology world. They’d now have an entire book! Oft published or never published, a new writer or old, it didn’t matter to me. The story and how it balanced the anthology mattered. I got a great cover from JK Graphics, wrote a foreword, and there we were finally, an anthology devoted to women.
Let me state here this was no campaign to denigrate male writers. Come on, I’ve been reading fiction by men forever. I have favorite male writers. I recognize some of those books could have just as well been written by women, too. This is the point. This gender bias needs to stop and stop now. I will not believe women aren’t writing and submitting. If I received hundreds of stories, do you think I’m going to buy the excuse the other anthologies aren’t getting submissions from women comparative to the male submissions? Many times I’m sure they are.
WYTOVICH Fright Mare-Women Write Horror has recently been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. What was the response like from your readers, and from the writers of this anthology?
MOSIMAN: They, like me, were thrilled. It was an indication we’d made a stand and were recognized for it. Not just because they were women, but because they wrote great stories. I think readers appreciate that and so do the contributors to FRIGHT MARE.
WYTOVICH: How did you come up with the name for the anthology?
MOSIMAN: I can’t remember, but I knew it had to contain WOMEN WRITE HORROR to let readers know what was in the volume.
WYTOVICH: As an editor, what do you look for in a story? What’s the wow! factor for you?
MOSIMAN: A good or great opening paragraph. A story that hangs together tightly without extraneous puffy prose. Character you can see and understand even though you are constrained by length of story. A believable plot and a satisfying ending.
WYTOVICH: I know as an editor, you’re not allowed to have favorites, but is there a particular piece that you keep coming back to in the book? Is there one that really left a mark on you?
MOSIMAN: There is more than one, but I don’t think it would be fair for me to choose that way. I want to know the readers’ favorites.
WYTOVICH: What are your thoughts about #WomeninHorrorMonth? And do you think that it’s something we still need? Why or why not?
MOSIMAN: We still need it. But it’s changing and anthology editors are now more sensitive about the pattern they’d fallen into. It will get better with time.
WYTOVICH: As a writer, what is your preferred form to tell a story? Why?
MOSIMAN: I write both novels and short stories and love both, but stories allow me to go down rabbit holes you simply cannot explore in a novel. They are short, fast, and have impact when they’re good.
WYTOVICH: What is your origin story? What drew you to horror in the first place?
MOSIMAN: As they say, horror chose me. My first novel, WIREMAN, was a serial killer thriller (when this was a brand new type of novel) but I wrote graphically. It was gruesome and bloody while being psychological and a study of the psychology of a murderer. In my mind, I had written suspense. Publishing labeled it horror and gave it a scary cover. So be it. Stephen King wrote horror, how bad could it be my novel was thus labeled? My first story, to “The Horror Show,” was horror. My work was always dark and that was what I wanted to explore as a writer.
WYTOVICH: Where do you think the horror genre is presently sitting at in the market? What do you think the next big trend is going to be?
MOSIMAN: Well, in movies it seems to be hot. In books maybe not as much, but except for King, it never has been a top leading genre. I hope there is no next trend. It was zombies for a while and I despaired. When will this end, I wondered? Surely there are other scary topics writers could tackle. I don’t like trends, really.
WYTOVICH: If you could give one piece of advice to writers, what would it be and why?
MOSIMAN: Believe in yourself and practice, practice, practice. Some today are publishing the first thing they’ve ever written. Not a good plan. Write and SUBMIT and see if you can sell fiction. Take your lumps. Practice and improve. Don’t believe you’re top notch until you have some writing experience and someone paid you money for it. THEN, baby, write like hell is coming and the hot wind is at your back because you only have one life. You think it’s long and you have time, but you don’t, you don’t have any time at all, you must write all the important things that mean something to you, you must explore all the things you need to know and the writing will teach you. You dedicate your life to this and you stay serious about it. You don’t do this for a hobby or to make money or to get fame. You do this as if your life depended on it.
Billie Sue Mosiman is the author of seventeen novels and hundreds of published short stories. She’s been writing since 1983 and the sale of her first novel. She’s edited anthologies and taught writing. Her latest work are the novels THE GREY MATTER and LOSTNESS. Her latest story collection is THE SORROWS. Her anthology is FRIGHT MARE-WOMEN WRITE HORROR.