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Celebrating Our Elders: Interview with Kathe Koja



Photo credit: Rick Lieder

Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction and creates and produces live and virtual immersive stories. Her work has won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film.  DARK PARK is forthcoming in August 2023 and CATHERINE THE GHOST in Fall 2024. @kathekoja on IG and FB


Did you start out writing or working in the horror field, and if so why? If not, what were you writing initially and what compelled you to move into horror?

The first stories I sold were to SF magazines and anthologies. When I wrote The Cipher, which was actually an offshoot of an SF story, my agent placed it with Jeanne Cavelos and it became the inaugural Dell Abyss title. So my entry into the horror field was sideways.

Who were your influences as a writer when you started out and who, if anyone, continues to influence you?

My two greatest influences as a writer were Emily Bronte and Shirley Jackson, from whom I learned velocity, force, and economy. And as a kid, I read a lot of M.R. James, who will always scare me.  

How have the changes in horror publishing over the past decades affected you?

I’ve worked, and continue to work, in a variety of genres—horror, historical, YA, contemporary fiction—and it’s been interesting to see the way publishing enters seasons of expansion, all within a larger contraction: of houses, of resources. In some ways, what most surprises me is how little the publishing world changes.

Do you think you’ve encountered ageism? If so, how do you counteract or deal with it?

Sure—anyone who’s part of a group that appears to be easily definable will feel it. The most useful way I’ve found to react is to call it out wherever it appears, as the circumstances demand. Sometimes quietly, sometimes not. 

Do you think older characters are represented fairly and honestly in horror fiction? 

By good writers, most likely yes, because those writers will be creating humans, not stock characters who exist only to move the plot or provoke a reaction. By lazy writers, no.

What are some of your favorite portrayals of older characters?

The first who comes to mind is Abel Goodparley in Russel Hoban’s superb Riddley Walker: old in every way that fosters cunning, older than his years from the desperately hard way he lives, but innately curious as a bright-eyed, frightening little boy. Age should work for you, not against you!


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