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A Point of Pride 2024: An Interview with Rory Michaelson



What inspired you to start writing?

Writing came to me in my teens because none of the mainstream media I had access to included people like me, so I started making up my own stories. That makes it sound like an inspiring turn of events but really it was section 28 in the UK (prohibition of “promotion of homosexuality”) which was a horror story in itself that did significant harm to many people, and one we’re currently seeing repeated. Writing stories I could see myself in was a coping mechanism and lifeline to help me feel less alone. I stopped writing back then due to pressure to focus on school, which was very difficult for me, and it wasn’t until I started doing therapy and healing in my thirties that I rediscovered my love of writing and wrote the first Lesser Known Monsters book.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I find it very hard to write anything and not blend a bit of horror in. It’s just such a versatile genre that comes in so many flavors that can either steer themes and events or add a bit of memorable seasoning. I grew up on campy horror movies like Fright Night and Tales from the Crypt which really stuck with me in terms of tone, and I still find a lot of dark comedy and surreal gruesome scenarios coming out in my current work. I was a Goosebumps kid and remember reading the Point Horror books and loving the shock and stark difference of what horror was presenting compared to other genres. I guess to me, horror has always felt a bit like a loveable outcast that isn’t always taken as seriously as other genres but is a fantastic genre for storytelling that allows many surprises in different ways.

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 make a conscious effort, it comes naturally. Most of my characters are LGBTQIA+ because I write from that perspective myself and we tend to surround each other with people like us. Part of it probably also comes from the rebellion of having so much allo/cis/het-normative content pushed on me throughout my life and wanting to queer up my space as much as I can, too. I really strive to have characters with intersectional identities present in my stories because there’s a huge under-representation of this still, and as a queer, non-binary, and neurodivergent author, I want to help contribute to a greater presence of all voices. When I’m writing my characters, I tend to run quite a lot of deep emotional arcs that aren’t necessarily related to their identity, but their identity means they handle problems uniquely. I spend a lot of Lesser Known Monsters exploring how being surrounded by terrifying monsters can help give a shy and anxious character more agency and the ability to say what they want because of their fight for survival. I do touch on queer struggles like coming out and discrimination, but I usually center my LGBTQIA+ characters as full and complete humans who are complex and multi-faceted, and still changing and growing. Some people might fall into the trap of making a gay character’s only personality trait being gay, but queer people (especially those who try intersecting identities) are just people who’ve likely seen more adversity and had less acceptance, which provides a lot of opportunities for exploring things like strength, resilience, found family, and queer joy, as well as digging into fear and trauma.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

I think the best horror comes from authors exploring what scares them rather than trying to scare readers. Horror often presents things we’re probably unlikely to encounter in the “real world” which really allows free reign to dig into some strange things in original ways to not only have fun but learn and maybe even demystify them. It’s something with the capacity to be very disturbing but is usually much less traumatic than life itself, so can help us explore fear in ways that open it up to other avenues and branches of how fear can be funny, haunting, or even sexy.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

I’d be nervous to say horror has changed, but my perception of it has evolved and the lens I view it with personally and culturally has. To me, horror had many classics, but some people saw it as a cheap thrill. Genre blending in main-stream media and satire or sub-genres with things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which defanged some of the darker elements to make an action-adventure show with some elements of horror (readers will see how much I adore that in my own work), along with subversive things like Scream, revitalized visibility and played with tropes in a way that made the genre feel more open and accessible to many. I think horror is now approached in so many ways it’s become a new and fascinating beast and fertile ground for diverse artistry. Whether it’s horror that seeks to unnerve and discomfort, something that plays with the familiar and subverts it in exciting ways with societal messages, or just wants to have fun, there are so many valid spins on the genre beginning to thrive. I think that if publishing can continue to bring more diverse authors in, their unique perspectives will make horror a category that will continue to grow and ferment in a glorious way.

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?

It’s so strange because Horror has such a huge LGBTQIA+ fan base and I do think they’re still done a little dirty. There’s been a general lack of representation and a chance of the queer characters that are present to fall victim to the “bury your gays” trope rather than be a protagonist or final girl. I do think that’s changing. There are a lot of queer authors out there putting incredible work to claim space and bring new perspectives to the genre that already has a rainbow flag fan base ready and waiting. This is something I’m especially passionate about because I’m currently querying agents with my first YA book which actively seeks to rescue queer characters from classic horror story tropes and scenarios, battle their killers, and have them reclaim their narratives through the power of queer resilience and found family. I found writing a story where queer people who were effectively underdogs in these horror stories get to come back and be the heroes incredibly liberating, so let’s unbury those gays!

Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?

I think there’s a bit of a recipe for success in finding a human factor but also something that makes them a compelling set of eyes to experience the story through. Benji from Hell Followed with Us has a special place for me as he has this beautiful rage that’s super refreshing from a main character. Connor Major from Adam Sass’s Surrender Your Sons, a thriller/psychological horror about teens fighting back at a conversion camp is one of my favorites; he’s so vulnerable but at the same time earnest and determined, which I think is a beautiful combination for a protagonist facing awful circumstances. If we’re using horror as a broad term and include other media, Willow from Buffy was of course a formative experience for me, and not only the first time I’d seen a queer character in a super popular show, but a super popular show that I already loved. Special shoutouts to Gideon and Harrow (Gideon the Ninth) and Jennifer in Jennifer’s Body. And The Babadook obviously.

Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?

I’ll give you some YA heavy recs since that’s what I’ve been writing most recently. I love AJ White’s work, which includes a lot of body horror and trans and autistic characters. We also had the amazing Your Lonely Nights Are Over by Adam Sass last year, which is like Scream meets Clueless. Terry Benton Walker is an incredible storyteller and has a dark fantasy series called Blood Debts set in New Orleans and is the editor for The White Guy Dies First collection which is out soon. I also loved You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron. I still sometimes catch myself thinking about Wilder Girls by Rory Power though I read it a few years ago now.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

I like to think that we’re all constantly learning. Some of my own biggest lessons have included not being afraid to be weird and specific. Voice is what makes stories readable and enjoyable, especially horror, so I love when we can really get in a character’s head to see why they’re scared and what makes this whole experience unique. I also think getting a better understanding of where I want to land in terms of tone and style has been key to consistently achieving the desired effect in such a versatile and flexible genre.

And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

Have fun drafting! I’ve found I do my best writing when a bit wild and chaotic, and you can always edit and reshape things later if you don’t like how it initially turns out. Most importantly, though: look to your community and the people you involve in your writing process. Writing and publishing are beautiful and difficult experiences that will test your limits in many ways you might not have been pushed before, so having people around you who support you and cheer you on makes all the difference. Whether it’s your critique partners, sensitivity readers for marginalized identities you don’t share, alpha readers, editors, or general readers—your book as art is about how you see the world, and when others connect with your stories, that’s magic. So, engage, enjoy, and share the love—even if you’re being absolutely horrifying as you do.

Rory Michaelson (they/them) is queer, non-binary, and neurodivergent (autism and ADHD). They’re also the author of the Amazon best-selling Lesser Known Monsters series, which follows a less-than-average young man as he encounters the hidden world of monsters in London and does his best to not accidentally end the world. Rory is currently querying a YA horror story that seeks to rescue the dead queer teens killed off in classic horror scenarios and can usually be found not doing what they should actually be doing on various social media platforms @RoryMichaelson or @Rory_Michaelson_Author.

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