A Point of Pride: Interview with Mae Murray
Mae Murray is a writer and editor hailing from Arkansas, now living in eerie New England. She contributes essays and criticism to horror-centric websites, including Fangoria and Dread Central. She is the recipient of a 2022 Brave New Weird award for the Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for her story “The Imperfection” (Shortwave Magazine) and has been published in horror fiction anthologies and nonfiction collections. The Book of Queer Saints Volume I was her editing debut. Volume II is set to be released Halloween 2023. Her debut novel I’m Sorry If I Scared You is due Spring 2024. She owns and operates Medusa Publishing Haus. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @maeisafraid
What inspired you to start writing?
I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was 9 years old. I had a love of reading and writing from an early age. I even remember that the first word I ever wrote that wasn’t my name was “moon”. I remember writing down different combinations of letters and asking my dad, “Is this a word? Is this a word?” until I made my first word. I remember my father, who was a working-class man who worked in factories all his life, laying beside my little brother and I in a bed we all shared in a dilapidated trailer, making up stories for us on weekend mornings before he made us breakfast. He really fostered a love of oral storytelling in me, even though he himself wasn’t a big reader. He admired readers greatly, and he wanted me to be one. I began reading Dr. Seuss, then the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, then Harry Potter (long before we knew what we know now), then Anne Rice, then Stephen King, on and on. And now, I suppose, I’m here!
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I didn’t have an idyllic childhood. I was exposed to a lot of pain, loss, and trauma from an early age, which made me feel alienated from my peers. I enjoyed the horror genre because it allowed me to deal with those themes in an imaginative, transformative way. It was safe to talk about certain traumas in the context of a horror story, because for a child/teen/young adult, the truths were almost too brutal to articulate any other way. But it’s more than just that… I found horror sexy, exciting. I hated being afraid, and I loved being afraid. It was the push and pull of daring yourself to be brave. It’s a challenging genre that begs to break formulae time and again. It can be romantic, erotic, terrifying, cathartic, disgusting, beautiful. It truly is a genre that has it all and can do it all.
Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing, and if so, what do you
want to portray?
Honestly, I’m not sure I make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in my own work. It just comes naturally to write those characters, because they are a reflection of my world, how I view the world. They are my friends, family (found and otherwise), the people I’m drawn to. I do tend to make efforts to publish LGBTQ works by others, especially new writers (like The Book of Queer Saints anthologies and Exquisite Hunger, the upcoming chapbook by Emma E. Murray, both published through my press Medusa Publishing Haus).
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
That it’s okay to be weird. That you can use the thing that alienated you from others to connect with people like you. That other people think weird shit is sexy, or think it’s fun to try to write something disgusting in a beautiful way. That other people understand the challenge of that and will cheer you on for the very things you were ridiculed for or ashamed of in the past.
It also challenged me to be a better person, to hone those skills in maintaining empathy with folks as we navigate writing in a niche genre with limited fans and limited resources. We can’t all hope to blow up like some writers and publishers do, so it’s important to have a community and more important to have a few people you’re especially close with to weather the storm of writing life.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will
continue to evolve?
I have noticed there is more of an effort to include marginalized voices, though I think that who is included is still a highly selective and often biased thing. I don’t know how it will evolve, but I can tell you that I hope it becomes more inclusive, more affordable, less hostile to new writers trying to enter the fold, and that we develop more of an ability to have nuanced, empathetic, and honest conversations. And I do think we’re making great strides toward that in the indie space.
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?
There’s no doubt you’ll find the best LGBTQ writers in the indie horror space, being published by small presses that make little to no profit, by writers who should be selling way more books than they do. My hope is that the space opens up to more LGBTQ folks who do not present as gay white men, and that we give women, trans, and non-binary folks, especially in working-class communities and communities of color, their time to shine. I also hope that the HWA in particular considers some of the incredible LGBTQ anthologies from indie presses being released this year and in the years to come (and I’m not talking about my own—there are genuinely so many incredible anthologies out there that deserve the little chocolate castle statue).
Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?
Right now it’s Irina from Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts, which I’m currently reading. Her voice is just so sharp and nihilistic. I also love Sam Reid’s version of Lestat in the latest Interview With the Vampire TV series. I’ve read that he was a huge fan of the books growing up and even wore vampire fangs to school. We stan a weirdo kid who grows up to play their favorite character onscreen!
Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
So many! Sam Richard, whose recently released collection Grief Rituals is a must-read for any horror fan who has experienced loss. Lor Gislason, affectionately called the Goop Maestro because they are the purveyor of all things goopy, sticky, blobby, and fleshy in horror. Rae Knowles, who just released her first novella The Stradivarius. Emme E. Murray, whose debut chapbook is being released by my press in July. Alison Rumfitt, Paula D. Ashe, Eric Raglin, Hailey Piper, M. Lopes da Silva, Joe Koch. All names you should know, and many you probably don’t. Great writing, but more importantly, good people.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Don’t get a big head. Don’t be a jerk.
And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give
Create a solid support network of people you really connect with, who really care about you and understand your work. Regular writing groups are important; I have a weekly one on Zoom. Even if we don’t critique, we talk about writing, and the talk inspires us, and we write more, and we write better. Don’t exist in a vacuum.
Don’t think you can do it on your own. Open your heart and mind, but protect it also. Set boundaries and respect boundaries. If you love someone’s work, tell them. Don’t make it weird.
Don’t only talk about how much you wish to be seen or how left behind or invisible you feel (though it’s okay to talk about it sometimes, because we all feel it).
Start chatting with people. Start putting out the work. Don’t not write and then wonder why you’re not getting published. Don’t think one thing will skyrocket you to fame. It rarely happens, and it usually only happens to very specific people, and it probably won’t be you (but I hope it is).
Return always to the love of writing for writing’s sake. You can’t do it if you don’t have that.