Women in Horror Month – Interview with Kathryn Ptacek
February is Women in Horror Month! The HWA is celebrating by posting interviews with award-winning authors. Following is an interview with Kathryn Ptacek, who won the Silver Hammer Award in 2009 for her volunteer work.
Tell us a little about your experience with the Horror Writers Association and how it has influenced your own writing.
KP: I’ve been in the organization since the start when it was H.O.W.L., and almost from the beginning I was preparing market reports for the newsletter. Somewhere along the line I became the newsletter editor, and I still do the market reports. (By the way, the March edition is my 200th issue of the HWA Newsletter!) I had already sold novels and stories by the time I joined the organization, and FINALLY I was in a group of folks who “got it” …. they understood horror. Going to the Stoker weekends (just a simple event in the beginning) and getting to know so many other like-minded writers and editors really helped me expand my own work and my contacts. This was in the days long before social media, so it was encouraging to network with people interested in the same things.
Talk about winning the Silver Hammer Award – how surprised were you? Did winning pay off in any interesting ways?
KP: I was absolutely stunned. I had no idea that I would receive that award, and I was also thrilled beyond words! It’s admirable that the organization acknowledges folks who labor behind the scenes…
Do you think women in horror face more difficulties than their male peers?
KP: Yes, and that is something I’ve heard asked for decades … since I first edited Women of Darkness I and II, in fact. I don’t think the lack of women writers is as severe as it used to be, though; there are many more women horror novelists and poets and short story writers now than there were back in the ’80s. Too often, however, people have a perception that horror is violent and gory and that women cannot write that way. As we well know, horror is many things, in many genres, and women can produce stuff just as violent and gory as the guys … or they can be proponents of quiet horror—just like the guys. There’s room for all sorts of horror shades. I have noticed more women writers in anthologies and magazines in recent years, and that’s encouraging!
What advice would you give to new female authors looking to break into horror?
KP: Read everything, not just horror; read the old writers as well as the new ones. Then write, write, write! I cannot emphasize that enough. Don’t write in just one genre, either; try to write everything, and try new things regularly. Don’t ever be afraid to tackle a new project. Most importantly, you have to submit and keep submitting. If a story is rejected, shrug it off … and send it out the same day or the next day, but no later than that. Unsubmitted stories don’t sell. There is no sense in wallowing in rejection–EVERYONE gets rejected, and it’s just a fact of life in the writing business (and this is a business). You cannot let that discourage you. Also, when you want to submit to an anthology, ask the editor what she hasn’t seen yet in submissions, what she’d really like to receive …. I’ve done that before, and it actually helped me focus my story.
What new works from you can we look forward to in the future?
KP: I’m working on more short stories, with one coming out in a British anthology shortly. I’ll make the announcement on my Facebook page when I’m given the go-ahead. I’d also like to write more poetry; I’ve been exploring that form recently and have really enjoyed it. I have a few ideas for articles that I’d like to pursue, too. As for a novel, there’s this one idea that seems to be floating around in my head … I think maybe it’s time to start checking it out.