Meet Violet Castro and Sonora Taylor, two writers who are spotlighting fellow women in horror fiction via a new portal – www.frightgirlsummer.com! Get to know them, their site and all of the amazing creators they feature (now ready for Autumn).
Kevin Winslow: Please introduce yourselves.
V: I am Violet, a Mexican American writer originally from Texas. I write horror, erotic
horror and sci-fi.
S: I’m Sonora. I live in Arlington, Virginia. I write horror and dark fiction, usually character-driven.
What motivated you to start the site?
V: As a woman of color, I feel there are not enough places celebrating women and women from marginalized communities. We would be waiting forever if we sat around waiting for opportunities and doors to open. We have to make them happen and be vocal
S: V tweeted about how she’d like to create a space for marginalized authors, “something like Hot Girl Summer but for women in horror.” I suggested “Fright Girl Summer,” and then I messaged her and said I’d be willing to help put it together. I loved the idea and I want to do my part to lift up marginalized voices in the community
What about the horror genre appeals to you?
V: Horror allows me to explore the dark side of my personality. I think horror can express emotions and thoughts that are difficult to process.
S: I like using horror as a way to turn the mundane on its head. A lot of my stories take
something normal, like stick figure family bumper stickers or a parent’s wall displaying their children’s accomplishments, and make it something sinister. I like horror as a means to think about how some of what we take for granted as normal and safe can be quite absurd or dangerous.
What was the first moment horror really spoke to you?
V: The stories of La Llorona and La Lechuza. Both are Mexican folk tales aimed at making children behave. Scared the crap out of me but I was intrigued.
S: I saw part of Pet Semetary on TV, and the part where Grady comes into the kitchen and says, “I’ve got something for you, Mommy,” scared the absolute shit out of me. I think I was eight.
What female creators (inside or outside the genre) inspire you?
V: Every woman who stands up and puts her work out there. Its not always the easiest for women so I think we are all worthy of praise for taking those bold steps.
S: I agree with V. As women, we’re often taught to keep to ourselves and be silent or humble. Promoting yourself is not arrogance, but women are often made to feel that way (and women of color doubly so). I love it when women not only promote themselves, but do it without apology. And, I love it when they promote and support each other!
What do you feel are the biggest barriers facing women in horror?
V: Being a woman! Gate keepers don’t like change, they benefit from maintaining the status quo. You still have people saying that women can’t write horror.
S: Yes! Also, there’s this idea that what women write isn’t really horror, or that it can only rank with “the big boys” if it’s extreme, super gross, or has no romance or feelings (never mind that many men write romance and feelings into their horror). Women also have to prove themselves over and over, while men are often seen as a safe bet to try blind. Again, doubly so if you’re a woman of color.
Not only are many women excluded from horror, but so many of horror’s female heroines must appeal to the male gaze. How do we rework sexist tropes moving forward?
V: By letting women write these. Men need to step aside and let us do it. The more
opportunities we are given and the more widely our books are read, the more things can change on a larger scale.
S: Yes, agreed on that front! And if men are writing the story, ask women for their input. I think some men are afraid to ask women to read their work because they worry about being critiqued or offloaded upon. Look, worst case, if the woman you ask doesn’t like it, you have one woman telling you that instead of hundreds or thousands of strangers! But in all seriousness, women aren’t these mysterious beings who only respond to men as shrews or as sycophants. We’ll talk to you like a person if you do the same to us.
V, how has being a woman of color compounded your difficulties? What have you heard from BIPOC you are spotlighting?
V: I think we all kind of receive the same type of feedback from editors or agents regarding voice or connection especially if you are writing something within your culture. You mentioned male gaze, there is also white gaze. BIPOC writers need just as many opportunities as other authors to write and promote their books. Getting past the gatekeepers who want to maintain the status quo is the biggest problem.
Besides your site, what are some signs of a brighter future for women and women of color in horror community?
V: We support each other in the horror community. When someone reaches out there is
always a swift response.
S: Agreed. We have each other’s backs, and we’re vocal and public in that support. Strength in numbers! And we cheer each other on when we’re published, reviewed, and rewarded.
Beyond buying / promoting / amplifying women authors, what can men do to make the horror community a less hostile place?
V: All of the above and men need to recognize the privilege or power they have within the community.
S: Agreed. Also, men need to be as vocal as women, both in support of women authors and especially against harassment, sexism, and/or racism when they see it. Yelling “I support women!” is great. Sharing our work is better! But it’s negated when men stay silent while other men treat women badly. We have to stop relying on the people abused, mistreated, or discriminated against to do all the work. We have to remove our own bad apples from our individual bunches.
How has horror enriched your life or changed the way you look at the world?
V: I have met life long friends. Before writing seriously I had a huge void in my life. Even
though writing is not easy, it’s very fulfilling. Hasn’t changed my view on the world because I think we are pretty much all fucked.
S: I agree with V, it’s been very enriching with how many new people I’ve met and how
many new friends I’ve made in the horror community. Horror fans are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You have some jerks, but you also have some really kind and wonderful people.
Beyond the site, what else is on the horizon for you?
V: I have stories in Women of Horror Vol. 2: Graveyard Smash from Kandisha Press
(Templo Mayor) and a story in Worst Laid Plans from Grindhouse Press (Cucuy from
Cancun). Next year, The Queen of the Cicadas will be published by Flame Tree Press. Also more I cant talk about just yet!
S: My third novel, Seeing Things, is now available on Amazon and Bookshop.org. I also
have a story in Graveyard Smash, called The Clockmaker. Graveyard Smash came out on July 20.
You slyly reference “hot girl summer”. Will the site live on beyond the summer?
V: YES! I love Megan Thee Stallion…obsessed. And we have decided to go beyond. There is a definite need.
S: Yes, stay tuned! No way can we sit out the Halloween season (which starts August 1, in my opinion, ha ha).
Where do you see your careers in the future?
V: I have no clue. Only the universe knows. But I absolutely want to write an Alien V
S: I’ll be writing well into the future, so long as people want to read my work. In terms of
dreaming big, I hope one of my stories gets adapted for film or television.
How do you see this site evolving in the coming years?
V: Again, I leave it to the universe. I mostly want to help others who are starting out or feel there is no space for them. I have been there.
S: Same. I also want to use it to promote and support others on a larger scale than just me singing praises on Twitter. I love that people are buying books from the reading list and sharing their thoughts.
Sonora Taylor is the author of Little Paranoias: Stories, Without Condition, The Crow’
Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was published in Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Taylor’s short stories frequently appear in The Sirens Call. Her work has also appeared in Frozen Wavelets, Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and The Ladies of Horror Fiction podcast. Her latest book, Seeing Things, is now available on Amazon. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband. Visit Sonora online at sonorawrites.com on Twitter, and Instagram.
Violet Castro is a Mexican American writer originally from Texas now residing in the UK with her family. When not caring for her three children, she dedicates her time to writing.
For More information about her books and other publications, please visit www.vvcastro.com