Some people may read for enjoyment, others for a fright. Lucky for the latter group, we have gifted writers like Kristi DeMeester writing horror in both short form and novels. With both her debut novel and a short story collection out now, we wanted to ask Kristi about writing for different lengths and what she loves about the horror genre. If you’re looking for your next dark and disturbing read, look no further than Kristi DeMeester…
You are a prolific short story writer as well as a novelist – what are the biggest differences you find in writing for different prose lengths?
In all honesty, I prefer the immediacy of writing short stories. Since I don’t outline or plot or plan at all, it can be difficult to sustain the tension of those short snaps of unsettling events throughout the course of a novel. This is the biggest difference I’ve noticed between the two. Short stories will often hinge on one or two strange moments while a novel must have several strung together that do not feel forced. The horror must be organic, and this can be much harder to develop over 90,000 words. I think this is especially difficult for writers of quiet horror. So many readers are looking for the equivalent of a jump scare in prose, and sometimes letting it develop in a novel can be deemed “boring” because the reader may be less willing to follow along with a slow burn over the span of a novel. Since this is the kind of fiction I prefer to write, it’s a huge worry of mine that developing things slowly for a novel length work will inadvertently turn off the typical horror reader.
What are some of the most important considerations in building a short story collection?
That the stories are true representations of your absolute best work at that point in time and not simply a hodge podge of everything you’ve had published. I think every writer can acknowledge that there is a progression in how effective or good stories are. Stories I published at the start of my career (or rather attempted to have published) were not the ones I wanted as representations of my short fiction. Wait until you have a body of work you are really proud of. Also, take note of what stories have a kind of cohesiveness to them. When putting a collection together, there’s a strange organizational art that happens. You start to see common motifs and themes emerge. Once that happens, you know you are ready to piece them together into a collection that will hopefully see the light of day.
What is it about horror fiction that you love the most? What are some of your favourite horror stories?
I enjoy the feeling of disquiet that settles over me when I’m reading a story where things are off by just enough to make you uncomfortable. I’ve never been a fan of blood and guts, but I love a story filled with the kind of atmosphere that leaves me with goosebumps or staring a bit too long out my windows to be certain that shadow in the corner of the yard didn’t actually move. Much of the horror I enjoy falls in the realm of what many people would call “literary.” I want the prose beautiful and in stark contrast with the strangeness unfolding on the page. And I am so terrible with titles, so I’ll list some writers I feel write the kind of stories that fit perfectly with the kind of horror fiction I love: Livia Lewellyn, Helen Marshall, Kelly Link, Michael Wehunt, Richard Gavin, Robert Sherman, Brian Evenson, Damien Angelica Walters. These are just a few of a much, much longer list.
Many of horror’s traditional genre tropes involve problematic gender stereotypes – for instance, where the woman is perceived as paranoid. With a growing number of women writing horror, we are beginning to see this change. How do you hope to give women a stronger place within the horror genre?
By offering a more rounded view on the female role not just in horror but in life. I’d love to see a sex worker in a horror story portrayed as strong and in possession of her faculties rather than as a broken murder victim with daddy issues. This isn’t always the case. I’d love to see fewer stories where the proverbial “nice guy” is the hero and despite the equally strong heroine saying she won’t fall for him, she does. I hope that by writing more stories and novels and promoting other women who are writing work I love, that we are roaring a bit louder every year. I want to de-stigmatize the genre by letting young writers know that it’s not all zombies and tits and spilled blood.
Why should we be reading your books?
I hope to offer something different. Something with an emotional resonance. And because I like to eat. 🙂
Kristi DeMeester is the author of Beneath, a novel published by Word Horde, and Everything That’s Underneath, a short fiction collection forthcoming this year from Apex Publications. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellen Datlow’s The Year’s Best Horror Volume 9, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1 and 3, in addition to publications such as Pseudopod, The Dark, Black Static, and several others. In her spare time, she alternates between telling people how to pronounce her last name and how to spell her first. Find her online at www.kristidemeester.com.