Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Interview with a Mistress of the Macabre - Kelli Wilkins talks horror!

Hi everyone!

This week I’m sharing an excerpt from my interview with Dark Moon Books. My horror short, “Sometimes Monsters are Real” appears in their new horror anthology, Mistresses of the Macabre.

More than 500 people submitted horror stories - but only 18 were chosen - and I am thrilled to be part of this collection of great stories written by women. To quote the editor of the anthology,
Kelli A. Wilkins is the author of “Sometimes Monsters are Real,” a story about a deal with the devil that didn’t turn out as expected. Not to mention, it is the only story to make the editor cry.”

I’m usually asked about my romances, so it was a nice change of pace to share my thoughts about writing horror. Enjoy! I’ll post part 2 of the interview next week.

Dark Moon: What was the very first thing you ever wrote and how old were you?

Kelli A. Wilkins: I was probably 5 or 6 years old when I started writing (and poorly illustrating) the stories in my head. One of the first things I remember writing was a story about aliens in a UFO hovering over a house and abducting people. (I’m not quite sure what my parents thought of that!)

DM: What got you into writing? Who influences you?

KW: I’ve always loved horror and I’ve always had an active imagination. Anything horror/speculative/creepy on TV had my attention from a very young age. I watched Dark Shadows, The Addams Family, The Munsters and Bewitched (well, Sam was a witch!), along with The Twilight Zone. I saw Rosemary’s Baby when I was 6 years old and wasn’t scared—I was annoyed that they didn’t show the baby! I probably sat through at least 500 horror movies by the time I was in college. (Some good, some bad, and some somewhere in between.) They were a good way to learn how to build suspense, and how to scare people.

My imagination combined with my love of horror inspired me to write my own stories. I credit Stephen King and Rod Serling as my two biggest influences—they know how to tell a good story. Whether it was an episode of The Twilight Zone or a short story in Night Shift (which I read when I was 8), the story/plot was the thing that drew you in. Once you were hooked, the monster/creepy thing in the closet was there to get you. After being exposed to these types of stories I was motivated to write my own.

I didn’t actively pursue writing for publication until after college. Up until that point I was writing stories and taking writing classes for myself. I read a lot of horror anthologies and it was always my goal to have my short stories published for everyone to read.

DM: In the past, female writers, such as SE Hinton of The Outsiders, wrote under and ambiguous pseudonym so that guys would view the work objectively. Have you ever thought about going under an ambiguous pseudonym?

KW: I have thought about it a few times—but not because I want to be ambiguous or hide who I am. What most readers probably don’t know is that in addition to my horror stories, I’ve also written 15 romances that vary from mildly sensual to sizzling super-hot. Most people think writing horror and romance is an odd combination—but I like to say that one half of my brain writes the horror and the other half writes the romance. Sometimes I combine them into paranormal romances. (I also wrote science fiction stories for The Sun and had a great time with them.)

Writing in different genres lets me explore different plots, settings, and characters. After I finish writing a romance or two, I like to go back to horror for a while and write something dark and/or creepy. (My horror stories are usually more psychological/scary than gory.)

People have asked me why I don’t use my initials or a male name for the horror stories and use my real name for romance. I tell them that I’m proud of everything I’ve written and I want my name on all of it. It also makes it easier for readers who may want to switch over from horror to romance—or vice versa—to find all my writings.

DM: Women have traditionally been shunned in the horror industry. What made you decide to write horror and how do you see the genre evolving for women?

KW: I never “decided” to write horror—it just seemed natural to me. (In a way, I couldn’t not write horror.) I had lots of ideas for creepy stories in my head and the best way to get them out is to put them on paper and hope that someone will want to read them. The same goes for romance—I never set out to be a romance author, but the stories and characters came to me, so I wrote them down. Although romance is traditionally a female market and horror “belongs” to the men, I never let it stop me. I write the story that comes to me.

I’m hoping that readers of horror won’t skip over a story just because it is written by a woman. (We’ll surprise you!) The story’s the thing—and as long as it’s a good, engaging story, the gender of the person who wrote it shouldn’t matter. (If the story is boring or doesn’t make sense the reader will be turned off no matter who wrote it.) I think some readers would be surprised at how “dark” female writers can be when it comes to horror. Maybe some women are turned off or unwilling to let themselves go to those dark places to write horror, but for some of us, it comes natural.

I never gave my gender a thought when I started writing horror. I wrote my story, sent it out, and it got published—or didn’t. It never occurred to me that someone would look at a horror story written by a woman any differently than one written by a man. But I guess some people do.

Back when I was taking writing classes I had to read a story aloud in front of the group. The first scene of my horror story was about a peeping tom masturbating in the bushes. (Great way to break the ice in class, huh?) Everyone was shocked by that and then they were creeped out by the story. After I finished the reading, a football player-type guy turned to me and said, “You scare me. I don’t even want to walk out to the parking lot with you.” I took it as a compliment! He couldn’t wrap his brain around how someone who looked “nice” could write dark/horrific things.

Publishing has changed tremendously in the last few years and there are many opportunities for authors through e-pubs and e-magazines. I hope editors are publishing stories based on their merits instead of the author’s gender. I tell all aspiring writers the same thing—write the story you have in your head (no matter what genre) and send it out. You never know when you’ll get published!

DM: What was your inspiration for this tale?

KW: One night I was lying in bed thinking about nothing and the words “Knock, knock, knock . . . ” popped into my head. I thought: what would I do if I was home alone and something started knocking on the ceiling?” I get a lot of ideas before I fall asleep and many of them start with “What if . . . ”

Once I knew something was knocking, I let my imagination wander. I thought about what the woman home alone would do and think in a situation like this. (Naturally you have to investigate the knocking . . . but you really don’t want to.) And why is she alone? What’s in the attic? Why is it knocking? (When I sent a draft of this story to a writing friend, he told me he has the same type of attic crawlspace in his bedroom, and now he’s afraid of going up there.)

The story kept building on itself from there and I ran with it. I liked making my main character just a little bit off. She’s barely holding herself together and dealing with her past, and then this happens in the middle of the night.

Want to read more? Read the full interview online at:

Look for part 2 of the interview next week!
Happy Reading!

Visit Kelli's new site to catch up on all her writings:

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