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A Point of Pride 2024: An Interview With Ria Hill


What inspired you to start writing?
I wish I could remember! It seems like I’ve always been doing it. My mom has a framed scrap of paper with scribbles all over it that I did when I was a toddler that she claims is going to be worth bank someday when I’m the next Stephen King. (Don’t worry, Mr. King, I would rather be the first Ria Hill.) As far as what prompted me to start sending my work out, I think that came when I started to understand a bit more about how that could be done. I learned about the world of traditional publishing, failed there a bit, and then started to get some traction in the indie
world. I am very glad I did because indie horror people are some of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
When I was a kid I saw my first Goosebumps book and immediately put it back on the shelf. Nope, no way. Too scary. Some years later (still a kid, but a little bit older) I actually read one. Thrilling! I later had the chance to meet R. L. Stine and tell him he was part of why I write horror,
which he apologized for (because he’s hilarious). As I got older, what I loved most about horror was the freedom it gives us to explore deeper fears in a safer way. Horror trends frequently reflect what the world is afraid of when they’re occurring, and I think that’s great. For me, it’s a
healthy way to take control of my anxieties. Plus, I love scaring people. It feeds me.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
I don’t know if I’d call it a conscious effort at inclusion, more that after a while I stopped making a conscious effort not to. As representation gets better (not just for queer characters, but for every sort of character) it gets clearer and clearer what some of the presumed defaults are that we carry. Our assumption is that the average, the “everyman” is this white, cishet, Christian guy. He’s usually American, but could also be British. We’re taught that if we don’t write this guy, no one will be able to understand or relate to our work. I think what I started to realize (and I think a lot of other people are too) is that this guy isn’t representative of every reader, and the sooner we stop pretending he is, the sooner we can start reaching readers he isn’t. I didn’t start making an effort to include queer content, I started allowing myself to include characters like me and like my friends. And unlike us. It’s a wide world.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
Writing horror and reading it has taught me that there is a far broader breadth of fears than a lot of us think there are. What’s scary to some people could be an average Tuesday to others. The more I explore what’s out there, the more magnificent difference I find. Sometimes I’ll pick
up something everyone was raving about that kept them up nights and I will be left thinking “That’s it?” Other times, I’ll think too hard about when I read Michael Crichton’s Sphere when I was 12 and have trouble falling asleep. There’s so much room to explore, and no two people are writing it the same way. I love it here.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I haven’t had my finger on the pulse of the horror world for that long, but in my time so far I’ve noticed a big push for diversifying the voices we’re hearing from. I’m not just talking about what we usually think of when we say “diversity” (which is also happening and is awesome!) but also the variety of individuals we hear from, and even the number of small and independent presses that are putting out remarkable work by authors who haven’t ever appeared on any bestseller lists. If I have one hope, it’s that that will only continue. I see a lot of people saying things like “Why isn’t there a book about…” followed by any topic you can think of, or any kind of character, and these days, there often is if you look hard enough! If there isn’t, then please write it. There’s almost definitely more of an audience for it than you think. As far as shorter fiction though (which has thus far been my bread and butter) I’ve been seeing a lot of the pro markets shuttering, and this has been really troubling. Hopefully, it’s a downshift that’ll open doors for up-and-coming editors to start their own stuff. I hope people take it that way. I know short stories have been declared dead more times than I can count and lived, so they can survive this too, but it’s been a bummer to see some of the places shut down that have.

How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
So in a lot of ways, there have been massive improvements in the last couple of decades. Where before we had Buffalo Bill and other such characters whose queerness is portrayed as a sort of villainy, now we’re getting a wild array of queer characters (often created by queer authors!) and this is wonderful news. Even queer villains are important because they’re not villainous because they are queer, they’re villainous and queer, and I think that’s just swell.

Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?
There are so many different ways for queerness to be presented in horror and I am loving the variety we’re getting. Rose, the protagonist of Chuck Tingle’s marvelous book Camp Damascus is queer, and she wouldn’t be in her current situation if she wasn’t, but it’s not because she’s
queer that she’s suffering, it’s because of the way people around her perceive it that she’s in trouble. (Too real, if you ask me.) In The Honeys by Ryan La Sala, Mars would never have managed to survive their situation without the ways in which their gender is too wild to be
binarily contained. I also need to mention Emerald in Nope (the Jordan Peele film, which I adored) who is unambiguously and unashamedly queer, but that’s just part of who she is and doesn’t particularly impact the plot at all. Queer is a state of existence and is so much more than
just who we sleep with. To that point, I also love that in fandom spaces lately, it’s becoming more and more common to eschew the typical heuristic of “if no information is given, assume the character is cishet.” There are so many marvelous queer headcanons born every day, and the world is richer for them.

Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
I’d strongly recommend picking up something by Joe Koch, whose work feels like it couldn’t possibly have been written and must simply have grown somehow. I would read anything he writes, really. I have also been lucky enough to be on the same TOC as Avra Margariti and LC
von Hessen in the past, both of whom are spectacular. Rae Wilde is doing great work as well (so many angry, queer women!), Alison Rumfitt, and many, many others. Unfortunately, my inability to recall names when asked is stumping me here. I’m sure I’ll sit up at 3 am with seven
or eight more.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Read as widely as you can. Not just old favorites and bestsellers. There are people in the world who look, think, and act differently from you. There are so many different voices and experiences to take in, and some of them might be uncomfortable! If I’m reading a book and can’t relate, I try my best to stop and think about why that might be. Sometimes, I can learn about others and myself at the same time, and that can do a lot to make stories richer. Challenging biases is so, so hard – I mess up all the time. But there’s so much more out there than just ourselves!

And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Please keep it up! And never self-reject. Rejections from editors cannot actually kill you, believe it or not. They’re mostly just proof you tried something. Tell the stories you want to tell or the ones you wish you’d been able to read. You can scare the crap out of all of us in ways some
people can’t even imagine, and the more queer voices there are the harder it will be for people to ignore them. I cannot wait to read what comes next.

Ria Hill is a writer, librarian, and nonbinary horror who lives in Toronto. They spend their non-work hours maintaining their recreational spreadsheet collection and interrupting their spouse’s train of thought with deeply worrying story pitches. Their work has appeared in The Book of Queer Saints Volume II, Escalators to Hell: Shopping Mall Horrors, A Coup of Owls, and others. Chances of them devouring you on sight are always low, but never zero. They can be found online at riahill.weebly.com and on Bluesky and Instagram @riawritten.

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