Women in Horror: Interview with Bridget Nelson
Once an operating room registered nurse, Bridgett Nelson so enjoyed playing with human organs, she decided to turn her macabre interest into a horror writing career. She loves bubble baths (because nothing says spooooky writer like orange-scented bubbles), hates not knowing what’s swimming in the water with her, lives for Halloween season (but loathes chainsaw-wielding dudes in haunted houses), adores her West Virginia University Mountaineers, is very pro-Oxford comma, and thinks bananas are absolutely disgusting.
Bridgett has contributed to multiple anthologies and her debut collection, A BOUQUET OF VISCERA, is coming soon!
More tidbits! Bridgett is a(n)…
HWA: WV Chapter co-chair. Editor. Audiobook proofer. Bookworm. Dog lover. Tarantula whisperer. Bra avoider. ENJF. Amaretto Sour obsessor.
Check out her website for more info.
What inspired you to start writing?
I wrote all the time when I was younger: songs, poems, stories. And, boy, were they doozies. I’ll spare you good people and won’t include any song lyrics here. If I did, I’d never, ever be able to look you in the eye at StokerCon.
I was the feature editor of our high school newspaper and wrote a weekly column for our county Journal. Unfortunately, instead of following my heart, I chose a major that would guarantee me a paying job after college. And while I love nursing, writing fictional stories lights me up like nothing else.
When blogging became a thing, I found a happy little home for myself. I was a new mom, learning how to balance my nursing career with family life…so I wrote about that. And won awards. The first fictional story I tackled since my creative writing days in college, “Political Suicide,” felt like finding an old friend.
All this to say, I’m not sure anything inspired my writing. My love of the craft is innately Bridgett—as much a part of me as my (very weird) eye color.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
My obviously insane (but super cool) father let me watch horror movies with him all the time when I was growing up, including Re-Animator. I remember my mom questioning his judgment about this and my dad’s typical down-to-earth response, “She’s a smart girl, Jannie. She knows it isn’t real.” I would always nod my head vigorously in agreement while offering up my best ‘puppy dog’ eyes.
I read my first Stephen King book, PET SEMATARY, at age 8. By the time I was ten, the librarian in our small town library was letting me sign out as many books at a time as I could carry. I burned through the entire King library…and then moved on to Dean Koontz.
I love the tension, the imagery, the darkness, the empathy—there’s nothing like that anxiety-ridden dread swirling in my gut while reading a well-written horror novel. And if an author can surprise me with a well-placed twist, make me cry, or make me laugh out loud, bonus points are always given.
Do you make a conscious effort to include female characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
I wouldn’t say I make a conscious effort, but many of my stories include elements about women who aggressively take back their power by getting much-longed-for retribution. That’s incredibly satisfying to write.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
Sometimes the world is a dark place—a very dark place. And we don’t always get our happy endings. The beautiful thing about horror—whether books or film—it lets us face those things that scare us most, in a very real way, from the safety and security of our homes.
Writing in this genre gives us total control over our greatest fears. And that’s especially empowering because horror is so personal. What is scary for one reader may not be scary for another. Unfortunately, in the age of COVID, our sense of control has been yanked from beneath us, and it seems that has had a broad effect on horror authors as a whole—not only what they choose to write about, but also how they tell their stories.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
Like everything, horror trends tend to cycle. At this moment in time, I’ve noticed the more extreme horror and Splatterpunk sub-genres surging in popularity. Specialized groups on social media, like BOOKS OF HORROR, have been instrumental in bringing Indie horror authors to the attention of thousands upon thousands of readers.
Generationally, kids who grew up watching “Buffy” and reading R.L. Stine are much more inclined to pick up horror books as adults. Authors like Josh Malerman, Grady Hendrix, and Riley Sager are bringing new readers to the genre daily. Stephen King, who has been a key influencer on horror for five decades, continues to define “scary” with the huge theatrical releases of many of his most popular novels.
As the thriller and horror genres continue to overlap and intermingle, I foresee both reaching the pinnacle of popularity in upcoming years. Just look at YOU by Caroline Kepnes.
How do you feel women have been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
Historically, women are the helpless, virginal, scream-queen victims; they typically have ample cleavage on display and a penchant for running up the stairs instead of out the front door. It’s frustrating to read and watch.
Thankfully, with the influx of talented women in the horror-writing community and male writers who aren’t socially handicapped, that ridiculous trope is being turned upside down. I can think of so many books today that feature strong, fearless, capable, and independent female protagonists. It makes my heart happy.
Who are some of your favorite female characters in horror?
Off the top of my head, Annie Wilkes from MISERY, Clarice Starling from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and Allison from Jeff Strand’s novel, ALLISON, which, incidentally, has one of the best conclusions I’ve ever read.
Who are some women who write horror you recommend our audience check out?
I’d love to highlight the amazingly talented women in the West Virginia HWA chapter – L. Marie Wood, Linley Marcum, and London Blue. I’d also like to mention a few of the amazing ladies with whom I’ve shared pages in various anthologies – Natalie Sierra, Red Lagoe, Renee M.P.T. Kray, Sandra Stephens, Elana Gomel, Ruthann Jagge, and Rebecca Rowland. I’m a huge fan of Rena Mason, Lee Murray, Jennifer McMahan, Ania Ahlborn, Alma Katsu, Darcy Coates, Mira Grant, EV Knight, and Kenzie Jennings.
Finally, speaking not as an author, but a big-time bookworm, I’m incredibly excited to dive into the works of a few new-to-me authors: Samantha Kolesnik, Laurel Hightower, Christine Morgan, Kelli Owen, Chris Marrs, Jessica Ann York, and Sara Tantlinger.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Be yourself. First, because inauthenticity sucks, and, second, because this is the most welcoming, family-like community I’ve ever been a part of. We’ll love you even if you let your freak flag fly. In fact, we’ll love you more!
And to the women who write horror out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Take pride in your writing, push yourself outside your comfort zone, again and again, go to horror conventions, be authentic, join a local HWA chapter, find trusted beta readers who will help you make your stories the best they can be, try not to feel like an impostor (although you most certainly will), and most importantly, DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAILURE.