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Women In Horror Month 2024 : An Interview with Pamela K. Kinney


What inspired you to start writing?
I wanted to be a writer and began writing stories as early as age eight. Mainly for myself since there were no options for getting published as a child. Years later, when I took a writing class for science fiction, fantasy, and horror in my junior year at El Cajon Valley High School, the teacher encouraged me to submit a story of mine for a writing contest he knew of. I began checking the writers’ guide in the local library to find places to submit some of my poetry. Three poems of mine, “The Horse”, “Sands of Time”, and “The Leopard” were accepted, and after signing a contract to publish them in the poetry magazine Hyacinths and Biscuits, I received my first check. I was only 17 and a couple of months from graduating high school. I began writing more poetry and short stories, publishing more poetry, and even an article that ended up in True Story Magazine in the 70s. But I did not publish my first story, which happened to be a horror story, until 2000. 

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I read horror stories; how can one not when Edgar Allan Poe and other writers of his era, Bram Stoker, Sir Author Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley, Washinton Irving, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and J. Sheridan Le Fanu who wrote dark stories, were taught in the English classes I took from junior high to college. The first actual horror novel outside of English classes, I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which I checked out from the junior high school library. I loved the lead female character, Meg Murry, who struck out through time and space to find and save her father imprisoned in an alien world. I read various urban legends and folklore in multiple books (Alvin Schwartz later compiled many in Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.) and classic Victorian ghost stories. But it wasn’t until I was given two novels by Shirley Jackson by my parents’ landlady that I truly fell in love with horror. First, Shirley Jackson was a modern woman writer, and to this day, her The Haunting of Hill House is the only book I read in a full eighth-grade classroom during the daytime that scared me. Since I’d finished my test early, my science teacher allowed me to read the book I had brought to school with me. It was early afternoon, sunshine shining through the windows and in a room full of kids, yet the pounding on the door of the bedroom of the two women cowering together freaked me out. I decided then and there that I wanted to write like Shirley Jackson and be able to scare readers as she’d done to me.

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 try to, after all I know, being female myself, how fear affects me. I also believe women are stronger than men; we learned to handle pain, sadness, and fear, being able to carry life within our bodies and go through the birth pangs. Besides, darker female characters and monsters are a lot more interesting.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
Horror is in everything. That darkness is in all of us, but humans can still be heroes. Nothing is black or white; there are shades of gray, too. This has given me many ideas for my great fiction stories. Writing horror is my way to fight the dark in me, making it a form of therapy.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
Yes. Horror is more than gore, frightened women running in fear, ghosts, and monsters; it is battling prejudice, abusive people, horrors of war, and what that does to us, politics, and even our day-to-day lives contain it. People who usually might not read horror are picking up horror fiction, reading it, and seeing horror films. No longer are women running away from the monster or killer, but they are surviving as the ‘final girl’ and defeating the villain. Books today no longer have white heroes but black, indigenous, Asian, and LBGTQ. 

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 feel hopeful, as many horror books and short stories I’ve been reading have female protagonists. I am happy to have a short story and a poem included in what looks to be the first all-women military veteran horror anthology, The Haunted Zone, published by Tundra Swan Press. Before, anthologies like this were mixed or all men. I like to see more regular women as the lead protagonists in novels, not just scientists, doctors, and soldiers, but from all walks of life. Also, I have been noticing the rise of women writers for horror, and I hope this continues. As much as men and everybody else, women have much to contribute.

Who are some of your favorite female characters in horror?
I just read the arc for Ghost Station for the review blog I reviewed, and I ended up loving the lead female character, Ophelia Bray. I am still partial to Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood of We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Eleanor Vance (Nell) of The Haunting of Hill House, both by Shirley Jackson. Other favorite female characters are Meg Murry and her mother, Dr. Kate Murry of A Wrinkle in Time (Hey, Kate’s a female scientist in a book published in 1962.).

Who are some women who write horror you recommend our audience check out?
Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley (Frankenstein). Plus, for modern authors, I recommend S. A., Barnes, Elizabeth Massie, Tananarive Due, Debra Castaneda, T. Kingfisher, Kelly Armstrong, Darcy Coates, Mallery Pearson, Rachel Harrison, Querus Abuttu, Sirrah Medeiros, Mercedes M. Yardley.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
If horror is what you want to write, write it, and don’t let the naysayers tell you any different.

And to the women who write horror out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Learn more about the craft of writing because I am sure you will discover something new every time to help you in your writing journey. Read horror, not just those in your comfort zone, but all kinds, especially those you wouldn’t read usually. And never let anyone tell you that women don’t write horror because, yes, we do. And we can.

Pamela K. Kinney gave up long ago trying not to ignore the voices in her head and has written horror, and fantasy. science fiction, poetry, nonfiction ghost books, a nonfiction cryptid/indigenous mythology book, Werewolves, Dogmen, and Other Shapeshifters Stalking North America, plus a fantasy children’s picture book, Christmas Magic, ever since. Her horror short story, “Bottled Spirits,” was runner-up for the 2013 WSFA Small Press Award and is considered one of the seven best genre short fiction for that year. Her poem, “Dementia,” which was in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol VII got her a mention in Best Horror of the Years. Vol 13. This poem retuned to the eldritch anthology it was accepted originally back in 2012, Terror at Miskatonic Falls, released in February 2024 from Cemetery Dance Publications. She has a story and a poem in The Haunted Zone, a charity horror anthology with stories and poetry written by and published by women military veterans, along with illustration and cover art by female military veterans April 4, 2024, from Tundra Swan Press. Plus, her story, “Gotta Get Out of This Place,” was published in the horror anthology, Vinyl Cuts, from Scary Dairy Press in January 2024. A YA dark fantasy novel, Demon Memories will be released later in 2024 from Dreampunk Press, the first book of the Moon Ridge trilogy. Pamela and her husband live with one crazy black cat (who thinks she should take precedence over her mistress’s writing most days). Along with writing, Pamela has acted on stage and film and investigates the paranormal for episodes of Paranormal World Seekers for AVA Productions. She is a member of Horror Writers Association, Virginia Writers Club, and James River Writers. You can learn more about her at http://PamelaKKinney.com.



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