I’m back with another look into what it means to be a female writer in the horror genre. Joining me today is Chantal Boudreau!
SJ: Why horror? Out of all the things to write, why does this genre appeal to you?
CB: I was originally a fan of fantasy, a natural evolution from fairy tales and mythology, but the darker side of mythology appealed to me more. I find it cathartic. Then my older sister started reading horror and I took to reading her books when she was done with them. I followed a similar path with my writing. I actually started with writing fantasy as well but I had trouble getting published so I took a stab at horror. I had positive results immediately, so I kept with it.
SJ: Who or what were your horror genre inspirations growing up? What made you realize that you wanted to explore and participate in the genre?
CB: Stephen King and Tanith Lee were my two biggest influences, but I also enjoyed Frederic Brown’s stories and I have several giant horror anthologies sitting on my book shelves that have been read cover to cover. I think the recent popularity of zombie fiction lured me in. I started with zombie stories – I find them interesting and amusing.
What are women’s roles as horror characters? Are we doomed to be portrayed as victims or numbers on the sexual richter scale? Is it possible for male readers to find female horror characters that resonate with them?
CB: I make a point of having strong women in my stories, but horror stories often end with no survivors, so like it or not, the female characters in those tales will be victims. This isn’t always the case, though. One of my first published horror stories “Just Another Day” features a female protagonist who is neither victim nor sexual object. In fact, she shows great strength of character in the face of a zombie apocalypse. I’d like to think that all of my characters, male and female, have a chance of resonating with men and women alike. I try to avoid gender stereotypes and I’d like to believe that gives my characters a broader appeal.
SJ: Why do people need to know about women horror writers, film makers, etc. What makes us equal or special in this already-saturated genre?
CB: I think that horror writing appeals to a type of woman who marches to a different drummer, so their stories will be very creative and original. Since horror is not considered a feminine genre, we are already working to overcome norms and expectations. In a way, I think that gives us more freedom.
SJ: Who are some women horror writers/film makers/etc that people definitely should know about?
CB: As I mentioned, Tanith Lee was (and still is) a huge influence for me, but I have many small press favourites out there, like Rebecca Snow, Tonia Brown, D A Chaney and Suzanne Robb. Unfortunately, some of these ladies don’t have much in the way of full-length novels out there, so you have to enjoy their work in anthologies. There are some great “women writers only” horror anthologies out there, if you dig a little. I’ve participated in three so far myself.
SJ: Where do we go from here? Is it a matter of authors reaching out to local stores and libraries during February to encourage displays or readings by women horror writers? Is this an issue that should be taken to publishers to make sure there is equal representation of female-written horror in their catalogues? Is it a marketing issue, something that just gets lost in a jam-packed market? Is it a matter of readers just not knowing or caring, of sticking with what they know?
CB: It would be great if stores or libraries would actively participate in Women in Horror month, but you don’t see any of that where I live. Horror writers are sparse here, and I’m not aware of any other local female writers who write horror, although I do have a few local male cohorts in the genre. I don’t think you’ll get equal representation through the publishers because there simply aren’t as many female horror writers and if you look at publisher stats, they don’t get as many horror submissions from female writers. I believe if there’s a push to encourage more women to write horror, or if the genre is seen as more receptive to female writers, that could help. At times I felt I had to prove myself when I was first starting out. Some male readers I encountered seemed surprised I could write “proper horror”, and not just “scary paranormal romance”.
Thanks very much to Chantal! You can find her story, Cat Birds, in the Grotesquerie! You can also find out more about Chatal here.
Twenty-two short horror stories written by women are here on display for your enjoyment or your perverse fascination. Within these pages, beauty becomes deadly, innocence kills, and karma is a harsh mistress.
The Grotesquerie is now open…