WiHM 12: Six Quick Questions With Chantal Noordeloos
Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thank you for participating in Women In Horror Month. First, tell us a bit about yourself and your interest in horror.
Thanks so much for having me here. It’s an honor.
So, about me, huh? This is the part where I guess everyone expects me to talk about how brave I am and how horror has been my life since an early age… except I’m a big, fat coward, and my relationship with the horror genre might be a tad masochistic.
I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was fifteen, thanks to a very cool English teacher who gave us a lot of creative writing assignments, but I was CONVINCED I would be a children’s book author. The signs that I would end up being a horror writer were there, I just never made the connection until I started writing short stories for anthologies.
I remember in college getting criticized for writing childish works (remember, I was writing children’s stories, so that critique left me a little baffled) and to retaliate I wrote a short about necrophilia from a first person point of view. My intention was to shock my teacher and fellow students, as I sat there reading this rather explicit piece of fiction, but instead I had them enthralled. It wasn’t the first dark story I had written, but it was the first time I had dared to go that far.
As for my past with horror… I have always been deeply afraid of the dark. Even now that I am old, I still have to turn all the lights on when I go wandering around the house. We all like to get a bit spooked (that’s the point of horror, right) but I would definitely have to admit I get more spooked than some. I’m that annoying person who hides behind a cushion (or her hands if there is no cushion available) during horror movies and makes other people tell me what’s happening. When people ask me where I get my inspiration from, I tell them: “From my own fears.” It doesn’t take much for me to imagine something that scares me, because EVERYTHING scares me. It really helps to get the creative juices flowing.
Why is Women In Horror Month important, and what do you say to someone who says ‘Oh, I don’t care if it’s by a man, a woman, etc., as long as it’s a good story’?”
One day (hopefully) people really won’t care whether something is written by a man or a woman, but for now it just simply isn’t true. I’m not saying everyone cares, I’m sure some of those comments are genuine, but too many people still do.
As a female horror writer I have definitely hit some walls here and there. I have been told to my proverbial face (it was online) that people didn’t want to read my work because I was a woman. I wish I was overreacting, but I’m not. It happened more than once. I even wrote Angel Manor because some guy told me that women couldn’t write really scary things. His claim was that we held back too much. He tried to sound like a decent person about it by saying that women were just too nice, which really only made it more insulting. I decided to deal with his comment in a ‘mature’ way, better known as the “I’ll show you!!” response.
In the end I should thank him, because of all my novels Angel Manor is the one that has sold the most copies.
I did show him that women didn’t hold back. Some reviewers were even a bit shocked at how far I went. My favorite review (it was a positive one since it either got 4 or 5 stars) simply said “Ewwww”. I may have had a ‘HA! Take that!’ moment.
If gender didn’t matter, women wouldn’t still be writing under pennames to get sales in the genres other than the Romance genre. It’s funny how people assume that if you’re a horror writer, that you write paranormal romances. This is not a great stereotype for the deeply unromantic writers like myself, and it definitely doesn’t attract the readers that will enjoy my work. If you come to seek romance and I offer you naked nuns slaughtering children, I don’t think you’re going to like me very much.
As a woman you have to be a better writer than a man to get the same credit, and we are the subject of more scrutiny and critique, because we have to prove ourselves in ways men don’t have to.
I would love for people to not care if something is written by a man or a woman, but for now we women still have to work too hard to get recognition. If people downplay that effort, it demeans the struggle that we are facing. It delegitimizes the problems female horror writers are facing, and it doesn’t actually help. I realize they might think they’re complimenting us by saying our gender doesn’t matter, but (and I can’t emphasize this enough) that only works if everyone felt that way. As long as women are still not getting the same recognition as men, we unfortunately need the occasional spot light on us so that we can be seen.
Who are some Women In Horror (or other women) who have influenced your work, and why?
This is one of the questions I always dread most, and you would think by now I would have a better answer than the one I am about to give you. There are very few writers that actually ‘influence’ my work. I can count them on two fingers and unfortunately they’re both male. Not that I don’t find other people’s writing inspirational. I absolutely do, but it’s more the stories that inspire me than the writer themselves. I can be inspired by stories that are terrible, but they have a certain spark that works with my own creativity.
Of course there are female writers I would definitely seek out because I enjoy their work, such as Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson and dare I bring up JK Rowling. I would have mentioned Rowling as an inspiration, but the whole TERF thing really put a damper on my deep admiration for the woman. I still think she’s a great writer, but that’s all.
The women that have really influenced my work aren’t always writers, but women who have set examples. I once used Harriet Tubman in one of my Coyote novels, because I thought she was such a Rockstar. Stories of women fighting back, overcoming struggles, that has always been a real inspiration for me. Strong female characters are great for my imagination. I like the flawed ones; they make me want to write stories about them, or about women like them.
2020 will probably be remembered as a TERRIBLE year for many of us; tell me something GOOD that happened in the past 12 months.
My feelings are a bit mixed for 2020. It was rough, don’t get me wrong, but 2019 was actually a far worse year for me personally. 2020 was supposed to be the year where I would get back on my feet. It didn’t quite work out that way, because of all the chaos, but there were a lot of silver linings to the lockdowns (we had several)
For me 2020 was better than 2019.
Having everyone home all the time meant I got to spend a lot of time with my family, which was definitely the best thing about that year. When things get rough, we Noodles (that’s the nickname for my family because my last name is a nightmare for English speakers) tend to pull together and make the best out of it. We had a lot of time to play board games, hang out in the garden and have weird themed movie nights.
What have you got planned for Women in Horror Month, and the coming months of 2021?
I don’t have wild plans for the Women in Horror month. To be honest, right now I tend to stay away from it a little bit. Whatever the men who oppose it may think, this month doesn’t actually increase my sales, and though people will mention you in Facebook posts and tweets, most of the time you just spend defending yourself for being a woman writer in Women in Horror Month. So for the past few years I have stayed away completely for Women in Horror Month. This is the first time in several years I’m breaking that tradition.
At the moment I’m trying to finish a horror novel that I’m writing, which has a lot of female protagonists, and has a very strong ‘Maiden, Mother, and Crone’ theme. After I have finished it I’m going to write the last novel of the Lucifer Falls series. So pretty much like any other month, really.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers? Thanks for participating in Women in Horror Month!
Judge a book by its cover, but not a writer by their gender. The cover is a choice; it’s trying to make a statement about the book, the gender of the author isn’t. I get that a lot of horror gets mislabeled. Personally my mind still boggled that V.C. Andrews is in the horror section, since I see her work as ‘drama’ and definitely not ‘horror’. Perhaps it’s time for the subcategories to become more clear, so that people looking for a nice gory vampire story don’t end up reading Twilight. A lot of the issues that people have with gender stereotypes are actually because the books are sold in the wrong categories. There are different types of male authors with very different writing styles that you couldn’t compare to each other. You can’t compare Neil Gaiman’s style with that of Robert Ludlum. The same counts for women. Just because we tend to do better in the more ‘romantic’ genres, doesn’t mean that there aren’t women capable of writing drastically different pieces of fiction.
When she’s not raising her supervillain daughter, Chantal writes the stories that haunt her most. She’s a self-proclaimed genre floozie, who battles demons as easily as she travels through rips in space and time. If she had a warning label, it would read: “Warning, contains shenanigans.
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