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Women in Horror: Interview with Lisa Kroger


Lisa Kröger is the author of Monster, She Wrote and Toil and Trouble: A Women’s History of the Occult, as well as co-host of the Know Fear and Monster, She Wrote podcasts. She’s won the Bram Stoker and the Locus Award for nonfiction. She sometimes uses her Ph.D. in Gothic literature to teach, but mostly she uses it to write horror, science fiction, and thrillers. She’s contributed fiction and nonfiction to numerous anthologies and essay collections. 

Lisa is a core member of the NYX Horror Collective, a group focused on women-created genre content for film, television, and new media. With NYX, she produced 13 Minutes of Horror, two short anthology films that streamed on Shudder. For updates on her newest work, follow her on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter or visit www.lisakroger.com.

What inspired you to start writing?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing! I’ve always loved stories, and as a child, reading and writing were my main hobbies. In graduate school, I began to focus on academic writing. It wasn’t until I had my two boys that I started writing for myself though—I had a lot of long, lonely hours while watching babies and writing was perfect to fill that time. 

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Fear is such a primal emotion. We all experience it but it isn’t talked about as much as other emotions. Most of the popular songs are about love or heartbreak. We often share happiness and joy with friends and family. But fear—that’s not so often out in the open. I’m a naturally anxious person, so horror was almost cathartic for me. It’s a safe space to explore those very human fears. 

Do you make a conscious effort to include female characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Absolutely. My nonfiction and fiction have all been focused on the female experience. I want to celebrate that experience, but I also want to shine a light on the struggles that women and queer/nonbinary people experience in daily life in patriarchy. Part of that is seeing the world through something other than a cis white male lens. In my fiction, that means creating women who are strong but not “strong” in the sense of masculine strength. 

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

Horror is dependent on one thing: empathy. If we as creators want our readers to feel fear, then we must first make them feel a connection to our characters (fictional or not). The more time I spend creating horror, the more I feel that empathetic connection with my own world. The result has made me want to fight for the equal treatment of everyone, including women and the queer community. It may seem like horror has made me more political, but I think that horror has only made me more human. Horror is a community, and I want to protect that community. 

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

Horror has always been about exposing the fears of society. Look at the last hundred years, as an example. You can track the influence of bigger political events like the threat of communism or WW2 or the Vietnam War by reading what horror writers were writing about at the same time. That is still true today. One thing that I have seen change, though, is the people who are telling our stories. The overall readership is actively seeking work by women, by queer creators, and by writers of color more than ever before. Horror is evolving to be more inclusive—and that is a win for everyone. I think we continue to see more diverse stories (which, to be clear, is still desperately needed). We are making strides in that diversity of storytelling but we still have a long way to go. That battle is by no means over. 

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?

I think in the past we have allowed in a few women, but at times, it still feels like “token” representation. Often, I’ll see on a panel, for example, one woman and three or four men, and I’ll think, yep, they had the “token” woman for diversity’s sake. There are editors and publishers working against this. For instance, some anthologies are asking to read submissions blind, and those tables of contents always seem more diverse. I also think we need to be careful to not just include white cis women in the conversations. The female experience is not a monolith. We have lots of different stories to tell, so we need to be mindful of that. Finally, I think we need to be careful not to expect women writers to tell only “women in horror” stories. That’s a frustrating trend I’ve seen, too. We can tell all kinds of stories! 

Who are some of your favorite female characters in horror?

I have a lot, too many probably to name. Wednesday Addams will always be close to my heart—she’s my spirit animal (well, maybe if you mixed her with Elle from Legally Blonde). Brigitte and Ginger from Ginger Snaps are always at the top of that list too. It’s such a wonderful look at a female friendship. And I love their dark obsessions. Oh! I can’t leave out Merricat from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Shirley Jackson’s women are always such fun to read. Lastly, I’d probably say Angela Toussaint in The Good House by Tananarive Due. She’s maybe the best mother in horror I can think of. 

Who are some women who write horror you recommend our audience check out?

I’d probably first ask the audience to read my first book (Monster, She Wrote, which is a list of some of my favorite women who write horror,) but here’s a list of women writers I love: Tananarive Due, Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Octavia Butler, Caroline Kepnes, Rachel Harrison, Jewelle Gomez, Helen Oyeyemi, Carmen Maria Machado, Agustina Bazterrica, Gwendolyn Kiste, Oyinkan Braithwaite, and Lauren Beukes. For nonfiction, I’d suggest Mary Roach. 

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Write! It is never going to be perfect, but it won’t be anything unless you write it. I often find myself paralyzed by perfection, so maybe that advice is more for me than anyone else. Writing really does happen in the rewriting, so don’t be afraid to get that messy first draft finished. That and read widely (especially outside the horror genre). 


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