Horror Writers Association

Women in Horror Month – Interview with Kathe Koja


Photo credit: Rick Lieder

February is Women in Horror Month! The HWA is celebrating by posting interviews with award-winning authors. Following is an interview with Kathe Koja, who won the Bram Stoker award in 1991 for her novel The Cipher.


Tell us a little about your Bram Stoker Award-winning work(s). Inspirations? Influences? Anecdotes about the writing or critical reaction?

KK: THE CIPHER was my first novel, and its genesis is as inscrutable as all fiction, as the Funhole it presents as a fact—who knows where the stories come from? I don’t think in terms of genre when I write, so I discovered that THE CIPHER was a horror novel when Jeanne Cavelos acquired it to lead off the Dell Abyss line (although Dell did reject my original title, THE FUNHOLE, as a bit too visceral, so that proves it was horror all along).

The critical reaction to this story of two people who don’t belong together investigating what should not exist—a reverse black hole in a cruddy storage room—was and continues to be strong: Publisher’s Weekly said THE CIPHER is “as thought-provoking as it is horrifying.” Readers seem to love it or hate it, which I think is the best compliment of all.

Talk about winning the award – how surprised were you? Did winning pay off in any interesting ways?

KK: Mr. Stoker has many friends in many places, so it’s always an honor to be able to say I won a Stoker Award: Dracula is an enduring symbol of the shocks and pleasures of darkness. And of course winning was a lot of fun, and the Dell Abyss list was a marvelous, groundbreaking group of writers.

Do you think women in horror face more difficulties than their male peers?

KK: I don’t know. We can hope that’s not the case, but women in general face more difficulties than men do, so if hurdles exist in the field, we should work to dismantle them. At the end of the day, at the end of the page, a writer is a writer.

What advice would you give to new female authors looking to break into horror?

KK: Write what you want to write. Write well. Repeat forever. (I’ve never followed marketing advice, so I never give any.)

What new works from you can we look forward to in the future?

KK: CHRISTOPHER WILD, my novel about immortal badass playwright Christopher Marlowe, is forthcoming in 2017: http://www.roadswell.com/kathe-koja.html

And nerve, my performance ensemble, just presented NIGHT SCHOOL, a retelling of Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus,” with music, dance, overhead projections, stale treats, a large dildo, and all the deadly sins.

Kathe Koja’s 17 novels include THE CIPHER, SKIN, BUDDHA BOY, HEADLONG, the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy, and CHRISTOPHER WILD. Her work has been multiply translated and optioned for film and performance. With her ensemble, nerve, she creates live immersive events. She lives in the Detroit area.


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