The Women of Horror Literature - Jennifer Williams - The Author's Own Words

Jennifer Williams. Looking for the creepy friend who will
help out when things get weird? She's your girl.
I met Jennifer through Circlet Press, a publisher that has produced erotica for us geeks since 1992. I really enjoy her writing because it creates rich characters and interesting situations. She has a vivid imagination in a variety of areas, and after reading her answers to these questions, I can see why!

Jennifer Williams is an author, editor, cat lady, and unrepentant fangirl. When not caring for her four-legged/feathered/reptilian children she spends her time flailing on Twitter about her favorite shows and movies. She has recently taken up martial arts despite her aging back's protests. Somewhere in all this she manages to write, usually in spurts and often on a deadline. She is easily appeased with coffee and chocolate. Check out her list of works on Amazon. She's also on Twitter and Goodreads: https://twitter.com/JenWilliams13 and https://www.goodreads.com/JenniferWilliams.

Q1. Where does your fascination, passion, and/or love for horror come from, and what sent you on the path to become an author in the horror genre?

It's definitely a familial trait. I grew up in a family that loved horror and they encouraged that love in me. My grandmother had shelves upon shelves of collections of ghost and crime stories. When I would sleep at her house we would stay up late and watch Night Gallery and The Twilight Zone. My parents were the same too. They let me watch horror films from an early age. They were very good about teaching me that it was just pretend like when my friends and I would play. I never once had any nightmares about any of the films I saw. Though I admit, thanks to Matango, I still won’t eat mushrooms!

As for writing, I've written for as long as I can remember. I always knew I wanted to be a writer. And writing horror was a natural extension of having grown up with that genre. Horror had thrilled me and terrified me. I wanted, in a sense, to pay that forward by creating my own stories to share with the world.

Q2. What type of horror is your favorite and why? Do you write a lot of it, or do you write in various subgenres, such as romantic horror, bizarro, splatterpunk, supernatural, science fiction, etc.?

I think my favorite horror is the type that makes you feel and/or think. Emotional horror. Films like The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense, or They Look Like People. A good book example would be Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. I wept for a good hour after finishing that novel and it still haunts me to this day. As a writer I try to incorporate those elements into my work. Whether I succeed or not is not for me to say. Only my readers can tell you that.

My second favorite thing to write is erotic horror. I love that marriage of desire and fear. Those two emotions live so close together. Why not entwine them purposefully? It can take you to some really dark places but it also teaches you about yourself too. I like that kind of personal challenge.

Q3. What is your opinion on women in the horror genre? Do you think WiHM is necessary and helpful, or can it create a rift by singling out one type of writer?

I think boosting the voices of marginalized people, whether it be women, trans people, people of color, disabled people, or queer people is ALWAYS a good thing. The rift is already there and has been for generations. So things like WiHM serve to try and correct this. I would like to see more themed months. Trans People in Horror Month. People of Color in Horror Month. So on and so forth. For so long these categories of people have been excluded, not just from horror spaces but from all manner of creative arts and genres, that we need to take some time to even that playing field out. And I want to be very clear here. It's not about women being better than men. Or people of color being better than white people. I see a lot of cisgendered straight white (mostly male) writers get their knickers in a twist when a call for submissions specifies it wants stories from a marginalized group. Usually the response is that it's reverse racism or sexism. Meanwhile, for every call that specifies these guidelines there's a hundred more that don't. What's that saying? When you're used to being privileged, equality can feel like oppression.

My advice to writers who feel threatened is to really and truly examine where these feelings are coming from within themselves. My guess is it often comes from a place of insecurity or maybe feeling like they haven’t had the success they think they should have. You know what? It's a tough game out there. Really tough. We all struggle. We all have self-doubt. We all fail. The key is to get back up and try again. Don’t focus on others. Focus on making your work the best possible work it can be. And be open to those marginalized voices. Read them. Listen to them. There's enough space for all of us.

Q4. What do you think the future will be within the horror genre, both in general and specific to women? Do you think WiHM will help with that future?

I can tell you what I hope will happen. I hope we see more horror films directed by women. And not just indie films. The big Hollywood productions too. And I hope we see more women authors nominated for awards and recognized for their contributions to horror. Preferably before they've died. I want to see a woman who is living and breathing become a household name the way that Stephen King is. Right now those honors are still firmly rooted in the land of men. If you ask a layperson to name a female horror author they might name Shirley Jackson or Mary Shelley. Both of those women absolutely deserve their accolades. Both of them are also dead.

Right now women are still mostly relegated to the Young Adult and romance genres. It's hard for a woman to be taken seriously as a writer of literary fiction, never mind literary horror fiction. They're out there. They just don’t get the same recognition. I want this to change. And I do think WiHM can help that. But the industry needs to change too. And consumers also need to make an effort. Watch more movies by women. Read more books by women. And support and boost those voices. Same goes for the other categories of marginalized people. Money talks. Buy their books. Leave reviews. See their movies. Talk about those movies. Change IS happening. Let's keep it going.

Q5. Are there any women in the horror entertainment area that you have looked to for guidance? Including authors, actresses, screenwriters, directors, wherever you find inspiration!

I don’t know if I specifically look to anyone for guidance but I would like to give a shout-out to Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West who host the Faculty of Horror podcast. They put such hard work into each episode and give such thoughtful insight into so many new and classic horror films. Listening to them makes me feel a little less alone in the horror world and I'm not sure I can properly thank them for that. If you aren't listening to their show I highly suggest you rectify that.

Q6. Do you have a favorite female character in the horror genre, and what about this character do you identify with?

I have a soft spot for Laurie Strode because she was the first horror heroine I ever saw on screen. She resonated with me. I was the goody two-shoes young girl who always had a pile of books and was too shy to date. So I felt for her. And seeing her win against The Shape felt really empowering. Ripley and Sidney Prescott are also much the same for me.

I was thinking about why I love the Final Girl trope so much. Everyone has their own reasons, I'm sure, but for me I came to a realization. The Final Girl represents a woman confronting her stalker/rapist/murderer and winning. Which, sadly, rarely happens in real life. In real life people either don’t believe us. Or they brush it under the carpet. Or we're told we're overreacting. In these movies the women win. They defeat the man/creature that is trying oppress them. That's a very powerful feeling and message. It's inspiring. So I think that's why I love it so much.

Q7. Just for fun: are you a token victim, the best friend who might die, or a final girl?

None of the above. I'm the creepy friend everyone turns to when shit gets weird. Think Evil Ed from Fright Night. And yeah, sure, he got turned into a monster. I am 100% okay with that. I want to be a monster too!

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