Let’s talk about what got you started in horror to begin with. What was your first taste of horror as a young girl?
Watching Doctor Who with my mom in the afternoons after I came home from kindergarten. It wasn't out-and-out horror, but it was my first taste of monsters and genre storytelling and I was hooked.
So I have heard you say that vampires are your favourite horror monster. Why is that? What makes vamps your main bad?
Because they are so endlessly malleable and versatile – a vampire can be anything from an animalistic, barely sentient bloodsucker to a thousands-of-years-old creature who was turned unwillingly and still desperately clings to his or her humanity. They can be wholly supernatural or have their roots in folklore or even in science and biology. They can be scary or sexy or some combination thereof. There are just so many iterations of them available to creators that as long as people continue to take chances on revising and messing with the core mythology, there will always be the promise of fresh vampire stories on the horizon.
Bleeder, which is now becoming a series called Blood Magic, wasn't the first thing you've written. Care to share some of your other writing accomplishments?
I've been a professional journalist for ten years now and before that I spent about ten years writing poetry and performing it around Canada and the US. I had a poetry/spoken word collection called Some Words Spoken, which I co-wrote with painter/writer/musician Cynthia Gould, come out back in 2002.
What would you say inspired your vampire creations in Bleeder?
The vampires were largely inspired by my desire to make bloodsuckers scary again (but not one-dimensional killing machines either). I also was interested in removing the “undead” attribute and the idea that vampires can make other vampires by draining a person and then feeding them their blood (or any of the various variations thereof). Essentially, I wanted to posit them as creatures that, at some point during history, diverged from humanity’s own evolution. I find that intersection where science and the supernatural could possibly meet endlessly fascinating.
Tell us more about what Bleeder is about, and what inspired making it into a series.
At its heart, Bleeder is a duo of intertwined coming-of-age stories. It’s also a tale of friendship, monsters, inner fortitude, first love, and responsibility - to one’s people, to one’s family and to one’s station in life. It concerns a fifteen-year-old girl who is kidnapped by the Nosferatu - here a largely nocturnal, subterranean species that receives its sustenance through blood. The Nosferatu king abducts Mills (our heroine) because he not only believes that her father broke his contract with him, but that by drinking her blood, he’ll be able to leach mystical powers from her. Things take an unexpected turn when the king’s son, Keel, a vampire who has not yet reached full maturity and thus is still half-human, develops a (rightly) forbidden fascination with her. The tentative and complicated camaraderie that forms between Mills and Keel - two teenagers from vastly different worlds and societies - ultimately takes them on a peril-fraught journey that neither of them could have predicted.
Bleeder originally began as an origin story for Mills, a secondary character in the final novel of the other young adult horror/urban fantasy series I’m currently working on, but midway through writing it, I realized that it was a much bigger narrative than could be told in one book. While Bleeder is very much a stand-alone story and can be enjoyed as such, at some point I started to think of it as “The Becoming” part of the tale, whereas Letters from New York (the novella that takes place between the first and second book in the Blood Magic saga) and the proper sequel Ruler are more concerned with the lasting ramifications of all the things that Mills and Keel did in that first book, and how those decisions continue to influence and affect them and all those around them.
You released Bleeder online a chapter at a time, which was a very bold move. Do you think it helped get a reader base? Or did you think your work in the genre already gave you enough street-cred to be respected as a horror writer?
This question comes at an interesting time. I’m currently doing my first editorial pass on the novel since originally writing and posting it. While I worked with an editor throughout the serialization process, I’m admittedly a little embarrassed going back over those early chapters now. Not only did I find some very green mistakes in there, but when you are rolling out a 150,000-word novel week to week, it’s almost necessary to add in extra stuff just in case you need it later. Now, after the fact, I’m realizing that I don’t need as much of that preliminary set-up as I first thought and, as a result, I've been able to cut nearly 2000 words out of the first two chapters alone.
All that said, serializing online has proven exceptionally valuable in that I get real-time feedback about what’s working and what’s not for my target audience. And I’m taking those comments into consideration as I do what I hope will be my final or, at the very least, my second-to-final pass on the manuscript.
It’s also definitely helped build a following and a fan base for the series, which was one of my goals in doing this. I don’t think my years spent as a horror journalist really give me much cred at all as a horror author, but that’s okay because I never expected to come out of the gate and immediately be a respected fiction writer. I wholly expect to work for it just like everyone else. Respect is something that should be earned, not simply tossed around. Besides, putting out a magazine for mostly adult readers is worlds away from writing monster stories for teens.
Has being an Editor with Rue Morgue and Burning Effigy helped your writing style or made it harder to find your voice in some ways?
I think it’s helped. What’s that thing they always say? In order to be a good writer, you need to read lots, so I think being submerged in words each and every day of my life has helped me hone my craft some. That said, I still catch myself making newbie mistakes, because fiction writing like journalism is a craft and not all the rules and best practices carry from one to the other. Juggling both of them, one has to get used to frequently changing hats and styles of writing.
Rue Morgue is still my favorite horror magazine going. Wish I could get it easier here in Oregon. Can you tell us some of the most fun moments you’ve had working for the magazine?
While getting to do what I love for a living means that I’m having fun more often than I’m not, the highlights for me have definitely been getting to travel (sometimes halfway around world!) for set visits and conventions, and getting to meet my idols and so many of the writers and filmmakers who I worshipped and who inspired me as a teenager. I feel more blessed in this than I can convey.
What is a day at Rue Morgue like?
Well, I come in, wrestle with the werewolves and then help change the bandages on the mummy in the basement... No, seriously, it’s a lot like any other job, but the end result is a really cool magazine. I attend meetings (to determine the content of future issues), answer email, update the website and social networks, assign features and reviews to freelancers, edit incoming copy, conduct interviews, and write.
So, you are a big geek like myself, and have a book collection that makes me salivate. If you had to choose 5 books you cannot live without, which would they be?
Confession: I’m absolutely hopeless when it comes to questions that demand lists of favourites. I’m not kidding. This is single hardest thing you can ask a person like me. It’s not that I don’t have favourites, more that I have too many, and they change from day to day (and even hour to hour at times, depending on my mood, the weather outside my window, you name it), and are spread across multiple genres and subgenres. Also, I’m a sucker for multiple-novel, epic series, which makes this kind of picking and choosing even more impossible. I may be able to give you an answer I’m wholly satisfied with by NEXT Women in Horror Month.
You’ve done so much to contribute to the horror genre, which makes you a Monster Maven in my eyes Monica. How hard has it been for you as a woman working within the genre? Do people take you seriously?
I’ve honestly never felt that my gender was an issue, but then again, I don’t make it one. I think people take me seriously because I approach my work and my craft and my dealings with others in what I hope is a professional manner. Some sexism probably does exist in the genre, but I seem to have been spared it entirely. Then again, I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy and am much more comfortable around people of the opposite sex, so perhaps that figures in somehow.
If you could give advice to someone reading this right now, who’s thinking, “I wish I could do that.” What would you say? How would you inspire them to fight for their dreams?
I’d tell them: Don’t give up. Don’t ever stop learning and evolving. Work hard. Always do your utmost to be professional and respectful. And be prepared to make some sacrifices in order to live your dreams, especially at the beginning. If you are hung up on material comforts or the amount of digits in your paycheque, the artist/writer’s life may not be for you. There’s a lot of struggle, and often a lot of uncertainty, not to mention the time and energy investment needed before the payoff comes, if it ever does. But if you’re doing what you love, hopefully it won’t feel like work and that will make things easier.
And that’s a wrap! Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me Monica! Feel free to Pimp your stuff here, so interested readers and stalk you and your work.
Bleeder and Letters from New York, which officially kicks off on March 1st, can be read for free at http://www.blood-magic.net. They are also serialized on Wattpad.com, Goodreads.com, Figment.com and almost everywhere else fiction is shared online (just search for “Bleeder”). For updates on Burning Effigy Press happenings visit, http://www.burningeffigy.com and for more on Rue Morgue, drop by http://www.rue-morgue.com. My official website, from which everything (and then some) is linked, is at http://www.deathofcool.org.
And that will conclude my contributions to WiHM! Thank you for all your support readers! It's been a great honor to be an Ambassador for this. Let's see what I can bring for next years celebration!