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Point of Pride 2024: An Interview With N. J. Gallegos



What inspired you to start writing?
Working in the ER during the COVID pandemic was difficult, seeing all the suffering and death. My spirit was broken. I was so burned out/anxious/depressed and needed something to work towards to put a spark back in me. While cleaning our basement, I came across a bucket list I wrote in college. On that list? Write a novel. I decided to go for it.
The creative outlet breathed new life into me and writing became therapy. Initially, I wanted to see if I could write something for my eyes only but then I thought: what if I could entertain others like great authors did for me?

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
My mother is a horror fiend and introduced me to the genre. Some of my first movies were Child’s Play (which explains my doll aversion), Poltergeist, and my personal favorite: Alien. Watching Ripley rescue Jonesy while kicking Xenomorph ass was awe inspiring! Especially as someone who was frightened of the monster in her closet. Horror empowered me to face fear and in a way, I think prepared me for a career in medicine. Becoming comfortable with chaos and gore is part of my job description. I also view horror as a blueprint of what to do in case certain scenarios pop up in real life … like the zombie apocalypse, an alien invasion, or a psychotic murderer. I’ve seen what goes down in those sewer grates and I’ll stay on this side of the street, thank you.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
Yes and no. I’ve included a trans character in a short story to honor a friend and to show more diversity instead of going with the default cis-gender. I’d like to write more LGBTQ+ and BIPOC characters and themes in the future because representation matters. In my upcoming novel, The Fatal Mind (debuting Oct 15th), one of the main characters Dr. Absinthe is a lesbian which happened organically however, I want to represent LGBTQ+ characters. The more people see LGBTQ+ characters and themes out in the world, the better in my opinion.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
That the world can be a place of impossible darkness but with that, comes light. Sometimes it can be easy to focus on the darkness since we’re bombarded by the news. When I reflect on recurrent themes in my writing; I naturally gravitate toward righteous vengeance. There is so much injustice in the world. Pain and suffering due to oppression, misogyny, racism, homophobia/transphobia, religious intolerance, the list goes on. One person tackling such things can be daunting. But when I put myself in a wronged anti-hero’s shoes fighting against such evils–it’s cathartic and makes me feel less helpless.
Writing has allowed me to connect more to myself, teaching me what I value and care about. When the words pour out and time soars by, I go into a flow state (similar to a runner’s high, another of my faves); and in that zone, writing is a subconscious form of therapy. Writing medical horror helps me work through PTSD from rough cases in the ER. If I’m honest with myself; writing has deeply contributed to my growth as a person and a physician. I help people on their worst days, work alongside my best friends and my wife, and use my nerdy love of medicine… to save lives, relieve suffering, and connect with people. But it’s stressful and sometimes soul-crushing. Typing furiously on my MacBook helps me work through my shit and entertain at the same time.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
Horror is experiencing a Renaissance. It used to feel like a dirty secret to read horror. People thought I was a little weird for reading Stephen King in the middle school library. But now? Horror is rad, it’s okay to admit you like true crime and have a favorite cryptid (Mothman duh). With more acceptance comes unique ideas that spawn like Eldritch horrors.

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?
Horror is inherently very queer as seen in the films and books consumed while I was growing up, as compared to other genres. And it’s getting queerer and more diverse by the day as we hear other voices and share ideas. Ideally, I’d like to share my stories and experiences with readers. When folks think of queer authors, I’d like to come to mind.

Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?
Jennifer and Needy from Jennifer’s Body. Theo from The Haunting of Hill House. Rae Knowles’ Ollie in The Stradivarius. The entire cast (except for Hannah) of Blumhouse’s Midnight Kiss.

Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
Two authors spring to mind since we recently hosted them on The Scream Kings Podcast. Elton Skelter and Brett Mitchell Kent! Rae Knowles, Paula D. Ashe, Judith Sonnet.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Just write. Even if you think it sucks; just write and don’t second guess yourself. First drafts are the sloppy copy and that’s okay! Editing comes later.

And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Don’t be shy about entering the horror or writing community. An overwhelming majority of people I’ve met through each are amazing humans who support each other and call out BS when they see it. They don’t view other people’s success as diminishing their own–they uplift and are happy to help when a newbie has questions.

N.J. Gallegos is an Emergency Medicine Physician by day, and a horror author by night. Her freshman novel, “The Broken Heart”, follows an abused housewife who receives a heart transplant from a serial killer (hide knives before reading). This fall on Oct. 15th, her medical horror thriller, “The Fatal Mind”, will be released. Other works include: “Just Desserts”, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”, “It’s Me, Hi, I’m the Zombie, It’s Me”, and more. Catch her on The Scream Kings Podcast talking all things horror. She lives in Illinois with her wife and two cats. In her spare time, she enjoys bingeing reality trash TV, brewing beer, and running while listening to EDM so she can drink said brewed beer.

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