This week, I’m sharing an excerpt from my interview with Dark Moon Books. My horror short, “Sometimes Monsters are Real” appears in the 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!
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, 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 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.
DM: In the past, female writers 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—not to be ambiguous or hide who I am—but because I write in two very different genres. In addition to my horror stories, I’ve also written 19 romances that vary from mildly sensual to sizzling super-hot. Sometimes I combine them into paranormal romances. (I also write science fiction stories and have a great time with them.)
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.
Back when I was taking writing classes, I had to read my horror story aloud in front of the group. Everyone was 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.
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.
If readers are looking to be scared before Halloween, they can check out my three horror ebooks: Dead ‘Til Dawn, Kropsy’s Curse, and Nightmare in the North. I also released a sci-fi anthology titled Extraterrestrial Encounters.
I invite readers to Like & Follow my Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins
Check out my website: http://www.KelliWilkins.com
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(or, as Elvira says, “Unpleasant Dreams!”)