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Women In Horror Month 2024 : An Interview with Willow Dawn Becker

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What inspired you to start writing?

I learned to read really young when I was just 3 or 4, and I had this huge imagination. I just wanted to create. The very first book I ever wrote and published, I did when I was just 5 years old. It was a book of poetry, which is funny because I don’t think I had even read any poetry at that time. I just loved words and using them to make pretty things. I guess I still do.

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

When I was young, I remember that we lived in a crappy trailer. At night, the wind would howl against my window screen and make this terrible howling noise. I was sure that ghosts were in my room. I remember telling them, “Listen, don’t eat me. I’m one of you.” That was my bargain with the darkness. If I was one of them, they wouldn’t get me. I’m not sure if that followed me into adulthood, but the visceral feeling of finding friends in the dark was real. When other kids might have been hiding girly mags under their mattresses, I was hiding Pet Sematary. When other kids were playing on the playground at recess, I created a group of kids that just stood in the shadows and talked about Ouija boards and ghosts. I think horror was the only genre that really resonated with me because it didn’t shy away from the truth that we, as humans, don’t really know what’s out there in the universe. It relies on a faith in the unknown that’s a huge part of my personality.

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 don’t ascribe to the belief that you can only write what you’ve experienced. I feel like that would take the entire point out of writing, for me. So, I don’t purposefully use only female characters, although I feel more comfortable writing them. I think, with all of my characters, I’m trying to create a fully fleshed-out person. However, I do find that there’s a void of really complex female characters who do not rely on sexuality to engage with the world as a general rule. I try to portray women of all backgrounds, races, and personalities in ways that don’t feel clichéd or common.

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

The thing I’ve learned most about myself is that there is no such thing as good without evil. You can tell a story that makes everyone feel good because the characters have no real flaws and the villains are pure evil, but it won’t really be a satisfying story to the soul. We are here in this life to experience things that help us learn and grow. The tools, the catalysts, for that growth are each other. That means that you are both the villain and the hero in somebody’s story. And in most stories, you’re an extra or a bit player. Writing horror has taught me that everybody has a bad side and nobody is purely evil, at least not in their own mind. Great horror fiction recognizes that all people are doing the best they can to meet their needs, and it helps the reader to understand a little about why people choose “evil” actions in order to meet them.

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

I think, for me, that I’ve seen a trend towards extremism in horror. I also have seen new voices and new writers of all backgrounds. I think, in the future, there will be a group of the general population who don’t think of themselves as “horror fans” moving towards types of horror that evoke emotion but are not striving to push the boundaries into the transgressive, exploitative, or prurient. There are lots of people who like spooky, creepy stories. There are lots of people looking for spiritual fulfillment. It’s not politically owned by the Left or the Right. It’s not only for the hip or the aging. Horror is everywhere and every human has had a brush with it. Our genre has the unique opportunity to connect with the unseen and unknown, highlighting both the tragic and the inspiring. I hope to see more ideological diversity and true acceptance when it comes to the types of stories that are published in the future.

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?

The horror community has been focused for the last decade at least on making the genre more equal in terms of the promotion and publication of women. It’s awesome because it was so heavily weighted in terms of male authors dominating the genre for so long. However, I guess I’d like a future in which we focus less on the gender, race, or sexuality of our authors and focus instead on the content that they’re providing. I’m glad that so many women are finding voices in the horror community, but I hope that men still feel they can write their stories, as well. True equality is not achieved by stifling anyone’s voices, regardless if they have been overpowering in the past. We really need both—we really need all of the above—to create a genre that appeals universally and is truly inclusive.

Who are some of your favorite female characters in horror?

My favorite characters include Ripley from Alien. Carrie and her mother. All of the incredible women in The Descent. The main character of The Others starring Nicole Kidman. The main character of Suspiria, Patricia. All of the wonderful women of Summersisle in Wicker Man.

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

I am a short fiction person, so I can’t help much with novels. But I’m a huge Gemma Files fan; her voices are so compelling and she is just a fantastic storyteller. I would suggest Christi Nogle, one of the strongest upcoming female writers in the genre right now. I’ve also loved reading short fiction by Donyae Coles, Sofia Ajram, Premee Mohamed, L.B. Waltz, and Mercedes M. Yardley. There are really too many to name.

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

Remember, your voice is needed. Don’t think that your story shouldn’t be shared because you don’t fit into some kind of preconceived mold. I’m a Christian, and I was so nervous that my relationship with Jesus Christ made me that loser kid that no one would sit with on the playground. What I found, though, was that the horror community is one of the most loving in all of publishing. Your story is important. If you don’t feel like you can find a home for it, I promise you’re wrong. Horror is a family, and if you’re compelled to write it, someone is ready to read it.

And to the women who write horror out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

Stop being afraid. Fear is an illusion, and it can only hold you back. Take the next step, ask for the blurb, finish the draft, and make time for your art. You have a sisterhood in horror. We are not here to compete with you, we are here to invite you. There is infinite room at the table, and everyone is welcome.


Bio:

Willow Dawn Becker is an actress, writer, singer, teacher, and the CEO of Weird Little Worlds Press. She is one of the award-nominated editors of Mother: Tales of Love and Terror and has her own fiction featured in places like Black Fox Literary Magazine, Ireeantum, Space & Time Magazine, and others. She currently is a Marketing Associate at the Covey Center for the Arts and leverages her background in theater, education, and vocal performance to share the message of Jesus Christ with anyone who will give her a microphone. She lives in Cedar Hills, Utah with her dogs, daughters, and husband.

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