Nancy and Poppy and All the Horror That Ever Was: James R. Tuck

Because I consider myself subversive and equal-opportunity, today James R. Tuck is talking women authors in the horror genre! That’s right, we’re going there. I first really hung out with James on a panel on a similar subject: who’s better at writing horror, men or women? We pretty much bitched at each other and I may have thrown things at him the entire time after he tongue-in-cheek asked “What, you mean women can write?” (He was definitely kidding, don’t send either of us hate mail) I will always make him suffer for that commentary. We soon found out, though, that we both have a hardcore love of Nancy A. Collins. Speaking of that, guess what James is talking about today…



 James R. Tuck


My career has been shaped by women, some specifically women who write horror.  Two were specific influences on me as a reader and I can see their mark made on my own writing.

The first was definitely Nancy A. Collins.

Back in the day (2001ish) I lived in Gainesville, Ga which was a nice, but unremarkable, smallish burb outside Atlanta. It wasn’t a bad town and I enjoyed my time there but the most important thing to happen in Gainesville that directly influenced my career as a writer was the opening of the Coffeeshop Of Horrors. This was a horror themed coffeeshop in the town square. It was nice and open and cool and they sold books. Horror books. Hard to find horror books. This was where I first discovered many of my current favorite authors. This was the place I found Brian Keene. The place I was given THE BIG HEAD by Edward Lee and was almost pushed to the point of putting down a book for being “too much”. This was also where I discovered Nancy A. Collins and the Sonja Blue series.

Sonja Blue was a quasi-vampire vampire huntress written by Nancy in a cool, snarky, proto-punk style. She prowled the night killing vamps and looking for the one who turned her. She was absolutely vicious and troubled and conflicted and heroic and fucked up. She had a demon id that rode in her head and sometimes took her over. She carried a big ass silver-coated switchblade and duct-taped over the bulletholes in her ratty leather jacket.

Nancy wrote Sonja without a care to how things were supposed to be done and she twisted the vampire mythos completely to her whim. Sonja Blue was everything Blade ever wanted to be and more.  I moved into reading her other work as I could find it (this was a totally different day from the Amazon Instabuy lovapalooza we have today. Back then you had to dig through weird shops and back rooms and hope to run across these treasures). She kept blowing my mind, over and over again.

The Sonja Blue series was so influential that in my first book (BLOOD AND BULLETS) I gave a nod to the character. Just a subtle little shout out because I loved it so much.

The second woman horror writer that directly influenced me was Poppy Z. Brite. *

Poppy and Nancy were, for some reason in my world at the time, inextricably linked. They went hand in hand. I found Poppy within days of finishing the first Nancy book. I read LOST SOULS and liked it but it was EXQUISITE CORPSE that really knocked the hell out of me. This book really just slammed me against the wall and it is still one of my favorite serial killer books.  The way description was used in this book floored me. The gruesome beauty of describing human dissection and putrefaction as flora and fauna really stayed with me. I can see the influence of this writing in my own descriptions.


Oh. Damn.

It gutpunched me. Reading it was like the first time you get to read Clive Barker. It’s nearly a religious experience. Horror as transcendent poetry, something that uses the experience of dread to touch your humanity, transformative concepts laid upon your soul to sink into the membrane of your philosophy. It was heady stuff. I still strive to reach this level of writing craftsmanship. Unfortunately, I fail over and over again.

But because of these two wonderful people, I will keep striving.

*( Poppy Z. Brite has now transitioned to Billy Martin and does prefer male pronouns be used in reference to him.  This is written in all due respect and love for Billy and the use of any female pronoun, including being listed as a woman in horror, is in no way meant to indicate anything less than the utmost support.)

Want to support two awesome folks?

Go buy Billy’s (Poppy) books directly from him at:

and Nancy is at:


And you can check out James’ work at

Thanks again for being a brave, brave soul and coming on here this month, James!

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