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NUTS & BOLTS: Interview With Ellen Datlow, Editor and Shaper of Multiple Genres

Over her long and influential career, editor and anthologist Ellen Datlow has played a major role in shaping not just the genre of horror, but fantasy and science fiction as well. During her pioneering stint as fiction editor at Omni magazine in the 1980s, she acquired and edited stories from writers including William Gibson, Octavia Butler, William Burroughs, and George R.R. Martin. Her Best Horror of the Year, on which she’s currently wrapping up the sixteenth volume, remains essential reading for anyone with a personal or professional interest in the genre. In this month’s edition of Nuts & Bolts, Ellen shares advice about the craft and business of short-story writing, geared especially toward beginning writers.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Columbus, OH – The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is pleased to announce the recipients of its Specialty Awards. These will be presented on June 1st, 2024, during the Bram Stoker Awards® Presentation at StokerCon®2024 in San Diego, CA.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Columbus, OH – The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is pleased to announce the recipients of its Lifetime Achievement Award. These will be presented on June 1st, 2024, during the Bram Stoker Awards® Presentation at StokerCon®2024 in San Diego, CA.

Lifetime Achievement Award The recipients of the HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2024 are:

The Seers’ Table April 2024

Claire Fitzpatrick is an award-winning editor and author of speculative fiction and nonfiction, specialising in body horror. She identifies as neurodiverse. Her self-published anthology, The Body Horror Book, which she compiled, co-wrote, and edited, won the 2017 Rocky Wood Award for Nonfiction and Criticism. Her debut collection, Metamorphosis, released by IFWG Publishing Australia in 2019, was hailed as “graphic and disturbing,” “engaging and darkly beautiful,” and “simply heroic.”

Women in Horror Month 2024: An Interview with L.S. Johnson

What inspired you to start writing? I started reading at a very early age, and like many other writers, I was voracious. I was also a very introverted and anxious only child. Thus my earliest writing projects were fanfiction: taking scenes from my favorite books and rewriting them to include one of my characters as part of the group, as the love interest, as the hero. Of course, this was all before the internet, so it was a solitary exercise, just me and my notebooks, or just writing in my head at night. After a while, it became one of the ways I could get myself to sleep: imagining the words of a particularly immersive scene.

Going from the privacy of my mind to putting those words out in the world, however, was a much more fraught journey, tangled with working-class expectations, a poorly-timed MFA program, and years working in book production. It was only when I finally crashed from the stress of my publishing job that I started writing again, and all the years of reading and thinking about words (and missing those childhood stories) finally coalesced into a voice.


Photo of author Lila Denning

What inspired you to start reading?  I started reading at a young age thanks to Sesame Street and wanted to work with books and reading. I became a librarian after first getting a master's degree in religious studies. After changing my mind about seeking a Ph.D., I got a library science master's and started working in a library branch. Before graduate school, I worked as a manager in a bookstore and managed a comic book store so I have worked with books for a while. Currently, selecting adult fiction is among my responsibilities for my library system.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? My mother was a huge fan of horror. The first adult horror novel I read was Cujo. I was in middle school and ran out of my own books to read on a family vacation so I borrowed one of my mother's books.

Women in Horror Month 2024: An Interview with Sarah Walker

What inspired you to start writing? Temporal lobe epilepsy inspired me to begin to write. I have temporal lobe epilepsy and the specific kind I have gives me constant anxiety. Things like heartbeat acceleration for no reason, shaking, memory disorders, and unwanted images in my head, (kind of like dreaming) and my favorite, not recognizing places or familiar faces that I should. It is not a pleasant feeling. It is distracting. It is also frightening. For a time, it ran me. I wasn’t able to do much other than get pummeled by my own bleeding brain. But then something magnificent happened. I learned early on that I could temper it if I did something creative. I discovered it was a ravenous electrical beast. It did not care what it did to me, it only wanted to be fed. It had no rhyme or reason. It was governed by things as hidden as the tide. When I accepted there was no cure, I started to understand that it would eat me unless I fed it. It needed to be occupied or it would turn on me. And writing or artwork seems to work best, plus it brings me joy like no other. I don’t understand it. But for some reason it all goes away as long as I do something creative, write, speak, paint. Things like that. As long as I feed it, I am let be.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? I have always been attracted to dark imagery. I never was a ‘normal’ girl. I rode motorcycles and hiked around mountains and explored mines, and I remember feeling the breath of those mines and how it terrified me, but I remember how this kind of fear felt good. It silenced that real-world losing-my-mind fear that the stupid seizures caused. Growing up away from civilization I think also taught me to love horror. Anyone who has been out in those woods alone will begin to sense there are presences out there.


Christi Nogle in a cozy Reading Room

What inspired you to start writing? I started writing twice, once in college and then again almost ten years ago. When I started writing in college, I remember wanting to learn to express aspects of my life that I had never been able to talk about. I'd had a strange childhood and wanted to write about it because whenever I'd tried to speak about it, things had never come through properly. When I started writing again later, it was because I felt a strong need to concentrate on some kind of creative work.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? The wonderful variety of stories being told. I remember feeling very inspired to write again reading Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney as well as the anthology set American Fantastic Tales edited by Peter Straub...


What inspired you to start writing? The magic of getting lost in a story. For a moment in time, whether two hours in a movie or days in a book, you are immersed in another life, experiencing their triumphs and losses, joy and sadness, courage and fear. As a kid, I wanted to live in stories forever, but I didn’t want them to end so I began to create stories of my own.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? Fun fact about me, horror wasn’t my first chosen genre, it was escapist fantasy...


What inspired you to start writing? Once I started tabletop gaming, I started writing character stories. Then I started writing plotlines for games. Then I discovered I had other stories I wanted to tell. I’m not one of those people who “always” wanted to be a writer. I was more of a reader. It was a good way to decompress from my tech job. However, once I got the writing bug, I didn’t stop. I started being professionally published when I turned 31. 

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? I vastly prefer supernatural horror over realistic horror.

Women in Horror Month 2024: An Interview with Melissa Pleckham

What inspired you to start writing?Ever since I learned to read, writing has been a part of my life. As an only child, I often needed solitary ways to entertain and amuse myself, and I think writing gave me an outlet for my imagination that was easy to indulge in while alone in my bedroom. Instead of acting out scenarios with other kids via toys or games, I would write them down on paper. All of this is far less sad than it sounds, by the way — I still cherish my alone time!

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? I’ve always gravitated toward dark subject matter, even when I was very young. Part of this is because my parents would watch horror movies with me and tell me (allegedly…?) true ghost stories from their own childhoods, but I also think I have an innate inclination toward the macabre. I was officially hooked once I got my hands on all of the “gateway horror” titles a nascent ghoul could find at the typical Scholastic book fair in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s: Christopher Pike, RL Stine, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and the (incredibly underrated) Tales for the Midnight Hour series.

Women in Horror Month 2024: An Interview with Jennifer Brody

Jennifer Brody Picture

What inspired you to start writing? Believe it or not—I didn’t know I was going to become a writer! I planned to be a film director, and that’s what I studied in college at Harvard. Growing up in a small town in Virginia in the 90s, we didn’t have access to the internet or information like we do now. Also, the “YA” explosion hadn’t hit yet. The books we read in school (largely by “white” men) didn’t resonate with me. I couldn’t see myself in them, or how I would write them. But I gravitated heavily to Anne Rice and Stephen King, who are massive influences.

Nuts & Bolts: Career Planning for Writers – Interview with Author and Editor Jennifer Brozek

Congratulations, you’ve achieved your dream of becoming a professional writer. Now what? According to author and editor Jennifer Brozek, that’s a question many beginning writers neglect to ask, let alone formulate an answer to. In this month’s edition of Nuts & Bolts, Jennifer talks about how proper career planning can go a long way toward ensuring your long-term success as a publishing professional.

Q: What factors should you consider when you're thinking of writing as a career? A: Most writers don’t start off thinking about a career in writing. If they do, they think of it in academic terms — as in that is what they have gone to school for. Once a writer has been writing and submitting their work for a while, they should have an honest conversation with themselves on what they want out of their career. What is their mountain? What are they striving for?

Women in Horror Month 2024: An Interview with L.C. Son

What inspired you to start writing? Well, I kept “borrowing” my brother’s comic books so much, I decided to start writing my own. I wasn’t too good at the comic style, but I adored fantasy, monsters, big battle scenes, and sharp teeth. I wanted to fuse Cinderella stories with Vampire Charmings and Lycan Lords. Still, it started as a hobby, until one day it wasn’t.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? Michael Jackson’s Thriller started everything. I went from a young girl who wanted to watch Thriller because she loved to dance, to watch the extended, behind-the-scenes transformations of zombies and the wolfman, (including the An American Werewolf in London reference) to falling in love with the dark, sinister chortle of the late great Vincent Price. Plus, there was something criminally smooth (yes, pun intended) about watching Michael willfully lure his date out of the theater knowing full well it was a full moon. It was all so hypnotic that my five-year-old self knew that day I’d walk anywhere with the wolfman.

Women in Horror Month 2024: An Interview with Kaaron Warren

What inspired you to start writing? I loved words from the moment I could read them. Any group of words formed stories in my head and on paper. A set of spelling words turned into a crime story or a ghost story. Reading the dictionary had me scribbling notes of ideas, some of which I still have. So I write because stories present themselves to me, and I’m ever grateful. This is the case to this day: My latest novel, The Underhistory was inspired by a box of old postcards!

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? I didn’t know it was a genre for a long time! I just knew I loved the stories that scared me and surprised me, the ones full of ghosts and monsters, and evil acts punished and unpunished. I loved stories that didn’t end happily, and some of my early fiction re-imagined endings to make them less predictable...

Call for submissions for Poetry Showcase Volume XI: Poems Now $35!

The HWA is proud to announce that it will call for submissions from its members for the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume XI beginning April 1st, 2024. Maxwell I. Gold will be the editor for the volume. This year’s judges, along with Maxwell, will include L.E. Daniels, Sumiko Saulson, Pedro Iniguez, and Ngô Bình Anh Khoa. Maxwell I. Gold has agreed to take over as the editor for the next two volumes to follow, HWA Poetry Showcase volumes XI and XII. Only HWA members (of any status) may submit. Non-members may also submit, but if their poem is accepted, they must become members of the HWA (of any status) prior to publication.

Women in Horror Month 2024: An Interview with Chloe Spencer

What inspired you to start writing? When I was a kid, I was a big reader. I used to check out 20-plus books from the library at a time. I read anything I could get my hands on across all kinds of genres, but the series that resonated with me the most were Erin Hunter’s Warriors, and Michelle Paver’s The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. At a time when a lot of books revolved around familial conflicts or were otherwise dominated by popular titles, these stories stuck out to me for the dark themes they explored, the brutal violence, and the dynamic character relationships. I’d read Wolf Brother and wished I could write something like it, and try, try, try, I did. My parents weren’t a big fan of me wasting paper, so they didn’t give me notebooks for that sort of thing; instead, they let me use the family computer and I taught myself how to type. And I just never stopped.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?There are so many things that I love about the horror genre. I love how it tries to terrify, disturb, and thrill readers. I love its versatility, and how it can so effortlessly blend together with other genres. But I also think I love horror because oftentimes, at the core of these stories, there’s some level of tenderness to it. Like yes, a slasher can be about a guy slinging around a machete and chasing kids through the woods, but it can also be a story about how love and friendship triumph in the face of violence—I think Kalynn Bayron’s You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight is a fabulous example of this. Horror is a genre that welcomes the uncomfortable, and as someone with PTSD, I enjoy having the freedom to explore my feelings, thoughts, and experiences in a “safe” environment.

Women In Horror Month 2024 : An Interview with Lori R. Lopez

What inspired you to start writing? I suspect it had something to do with following Alice down the rabbit hole. And through the Looking-Glass. Maybe all of the times I checked out Where The Wild Things Are from the Public Library (starting before I could read). Maybe listening to the grimmest Fairytales, The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, “The Raven” and “The Highwayman”. Maybe learning to read and finding my life transformed by books — each cover I opened, a doorway to someplace new and thrilling! Possibly my Frankenstein Book Report, which I read aloud in class, and the Principal led me down the hall so I could watch him post the paper in a glass case outside the School Office. Maybe winning Third Place in a scholastic competition with a Werewolf Play in Seventh Grade. But I was already writing stories, poems, and plays at home — all illustrated. You see, it was not any one thing, nor any single defining moment. Writing has long consumed me. I started a Horror Novel in High School and never finished. The pages are lost, yet I still remember the first line: “It was the total dark of the universe.” Teachers, Librarians too, told me since I was small that I should be an artist or a writer. And I believed them. So here I am. 

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? Childhood being a rather dark and murky place, a black-and-white world of intense shadows and the blinding glare of people who could not be trusted . . . the Horror Genre nonetheless appealed and consoled, whispered to me at night and told me that this was where I belonged....

Women in Horror Month 2024: An Interview with Kathleen McFall

What inspired you to start writing? First off, thanks so much for having me! I’m excited and honored to participate. Now, on to the question. I have written, in one form or another since I was a child. Early on, reactions from my parents, brothers, friends, and others to my little stories, poems, and (often non-sensical) snippets emerging from that long-ago child’s mind meant the world to me. I think those young experiences set a foundation for a creative life. Decades on, I’m still inspired by reader reactions, driven by imagining someone somewhere anywhere in the world reading what I’ve written and being moved by my words, shaping their world if even just for a few short minutes. It is such a high.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? Horror allows for the exploration of thorny human issues within defined genre boundaries. Readers know, to varying degrees, what to expect. This means they can relax into the proxy paradigm knowing on a primal level that none of this is real—the monsters, vampires, zombies, the creepy humans are just enough removed from reality that scary (or controversial) topics can be addressed in thoughtful, memorable ways./p>

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