Author Interview with Nosetouch Press

I had a blast talking church grims, Southern Gothic, religious cultural memory, and pumpkin spice with the editorial team at Nosetouch Press. Full interview below!

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What is your favorite season and why?
Autumn, no contest. The spicy scent of decaying leaves, the spooky stories over spiced cider, the cold-fingered winds, the paper-thin veil between this world and the next…What’s not to love? Then again, my birthday falls on All Saints Day, so I’m partial.

What drew you to Folk Horror?
Historically folk horror has been very concerned with the muddied lines between older religions and newer ones, and the ways cultural memory gets buried only to resurge up in new, unexpected, even horrifying ways later. I love exploring the tangled emotions religious sentiment dregs up in people, and the way our distinctions between “magic” and “faith”, and “paganism” and “civilized religion” are largely matters of perspective. Folk horror has done a great job of teasing out these themes in the context of Western European rural life, and I wanted to bring those questions to the American South, where I was raised.

What does Folk Horror mean to you? How would you describe it to someone?
Folk horror is one of those wonderful genres that situates itself squarely in the natural landscape of its setting, whether that’s an English moor or a Puritan settlement in the New World. Besides this fixation on the (usually cursed and hungry) land, folk horror brings to mind stories about the ways sins of the past haunt communities in the present, the resilience of folk belief against modernism, the power religion has to corrupt, liberate, or annihilate, creeping mass hysteria, and inglorious characters with filthy secrets.

What is the most Folk Horror thing you’ve seen/encountered in your community?
I was once napping on a stone monument in a little graveyard behind a church that had been burned to the ground thrice, and I’m pretty sure a church grim padded up to snuffle at my hand. When I opened my eyes it was gone, but I know I heard it trotting across the dry leaves moments before.

What writing projects do you have next?
I just published a paranormal novella about a marriage between magicians, and now I’m back at work on a fantasy adventure novel about a gang of con goblins, arms dealers, diplomats, and pirates out to bring down the criminal queenpin who screwed them all over. However, I’m also hoping to find time to work on some short queered folklore stories, and the collection of Biblical poetry I’ve been chipping away at for years.

If you haven’t already grabbed your copy of THE FIENDS AND THE FURROWS FOLK HORROR ANTHOLOGY, you can still get your six stories full of malevolent forests, snake handling, and devilish harvests by Halloween! Look for my Southern Gothic story “Revival” at the book’s finale.

FIENDS has arrived!

THE FIENDS IN THE FURROWS anthology, featuring my Southern Gothic story “Revival”, is available now in ebook and paperback!

Growing up as a girl in a conservative religious community is challenging, especially when you’re the bastard child of a snake-handling Pentecostal preacher and a Catholic waitress. Considered unclean by the congregation and her grandfather, the fearsome Reverend, because of her affinity for the church’s’ venomous snakes, eight-year-old Callie Ann spends most of her time feeding crickets and mice to her only friends.

 But as the Reverend’s sinister hold on his rapt flock grows, so does Callie’s connection to her dead mother, and a dark prophecy begins to take shape. 

What People Are Saying

“Revival finds that old time religion venomously snaking its way back, to the peril of those who would dare to dance with vipers and tempt Fate itself.”

“Gibson’s Revival was like THE BAD SEED set to a religious hymn (that’s a good thing)”

If you’re craving some grimy gothic goodness with your brave little girls toppling abusive religious hierarchies, add FIENDS to your Goodreads TBR! Also be sure to subscribe to my intermittent author newsletter to stay in the loop about new publications, giveaways, and flash sales!  🕸🐍🌾💀

On Writing Southern Gothic

Today over on tumblr, someone asked me for “tips for writing about those foggy marsh drenched southern gothics”, and I decided to share what I had to say with ya’ll as well.

Gothic genres are squarely situated in their geographic locations, so the best way to get a feel for a Gothic genre is to get a feel for the land. If taking a trip to the bayou or Piedmont is prohibitive, read the greats. I recommend Flannery O’Connor’s entire body of work, the Anne Rice novels set in New Orleans, and Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”.  You can also check out  My Blood on the Scrarecrow Southen Gothic inspo tag.

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Photo courtesy of Rodney Harvey

As far as craft advice goes, avoid dialect. Dialect is phonetically rendering words the way they may sound in an accent (nuthin’, wassat, sho’nuf) and it tends to be distracting to the reader and insulting to the speakers of the accent you are invoking. You can invoke an accent through word choice and placement instead (see my use of vernacular terms like “best believe” in the prompts below) and the best way to learn these turns-of-phrase is to listen to native speakers

Similarly, steer clear of tropes that have now crossed the threshold into hurtful stereotype such as the ignorant redneck, “magical negro”, Jezebel, mammy, or in-bred mountain family, unless you have a very good reason. Odds are, unless its intelligent subversion, your reason is not good enough.

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Still from AMC’s Preacher.

I still feel like my Southern Gothic writing is bit of a caricature in many ways, because the first breath I took wasn’t muggy and magnolia-sweet, but after a decade of my formative years spent in the mountains of western North Carolina, I’ve got an inkling. Here are some jumping off points for you:

  • If you don’t leave this town by nineteen years old, you won’t leave at all. If you try, you’ll find all roads lead back to your now-abandoned high school.
  • You can do all the brutalizing, cheating, and bloodletting you want inside this house, but God help you if the neighbors hear about it.
  • The forest takes a couple of human sacrifices a year, lost hikers or fresh graduates who had a little bit too much to drink at the homecoming party. It’s simply the way of things.
  • The cicadas do the screaming for every neglected child, battered wife, and dispossessed son who can’t shout for themselves.
  • Everyone sees the sinful things their neighbors drag across their backyards in the middle of the night. They just have the good sense not to go around letting on that they know about it.
  • Heredity is horrifying. You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things you can inherit.
  • You’d better not break the heart of the wrong local girl, because there’s a good chance she’s got a granny witch living up in one of the hollers who’ll stick your name in a mason jar with some piss and pins and make your life a living hell.
  • If you cut the magnolia trees, they’ll bleed red as you or me.
  • It’s not a matter of if the preacher man has seen the devil, it’s a question of whether or not he greeted him as an old friend.
  • When you finally meet Jesus, you best believe he’s going to be carrying a list of crimes for you to answer for.

If you’d like to hear more of my  overgrown,God-haunted thoughts on the subject, check out my Southern Gothic story REVIVAL in the Fiends in the Furrows anthology! This story is my homage to the South, and it’s got snake handling, brave little girls, and fiendish prophecies in it.

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