WIHM 2022: An Interview With Cassie Daley
The Horror Tree Presents: An Interview With Cassie Daley
- As a part of the horror community, what does the community mean to you?
Oh, what a loaded question to start with, haha! The horror community means a great deal to me, and over the last five years, has become a big part of my life. Although it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, overall I would say that my experience has been crucial to finding a lot of the inner strength I think I lacked before.
While I’ve been a part of a few different communities online over the years, I’ve found that horror spaces in general tend to be more welcoming and accepting of individual differences. As someone with quite a few of those differences, finding people who can understand, relate, and support me is a key factor in maintaining a good “creative headspace”.
- In what ways has the horror community been positive for you both personally and professionally?
The horror community online has been instrumental in helping me learn and grow as a person and artist – especially in regards to my writing and my art. I was deterred from writing when I was very young, mostly because the stories I was trying to tell seemed sort of concerning to the people reading them. I dealt with a lot of trauma growing up, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I’ve learned that dealing with our pain through spooky stories isn’t alarming or strange at all – it’s very common!
Another thing I’ve noticed about the horror community specifically is that, despite its reputation as being scary and filled with “sick, twisted people”, it’s actually quite the opposite. I’ve made incredible friendships with people who write the weirdest, most messed up stuff – and they’re truly some of the most kind, encouraging, and compassionate people I know. I’ve seen huge groups of people band together to help someone who was sick, or someone who had lost their home and everything they owned in a tragic fire. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met have been people I only know because of the horror genre.
Meeting these people and getting to know what’s “beneath the surface” of a community that can look so terrifying and dark from the outside has been an amazing experience, especially in the way of making connections that inspire me to continue growing.
Being aware of your own darkness is less horrifying when you can see kind, talented, functional people around you with a bit of darkness of their own, you know?
- In what ways do you think the horror community can improve?
I’m going to be honest here and go in a direction that a lot of people probably wouldn’t: being a part of this community has been a bit of a mixed back for me overall, personally. There has been a lot of good, but there’s also been a lot of bad; it’s difficult to sometimes call attention to the latter in an effort to impact change without being called out as negative or ungrateful.
A lot of people tend to wear blinders where certain areas are concerned because they don’t want to make waves or cost themselves an opportunity, and while I can understand that sort of self-preservation, it also makes the road of being as vocal as I am extremely lonely sometimes.
There’s probably a whole list of ways the community can improve, just like with every other community out there. But I think after my particular experience, the strongest bit of advice I can impart to the horror community is that we need to listen & support people – especially those that have been historically underrepresented & hurt, such as people of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ voices.
Sometimes the people we care about or respect do bad things, and when we silence the people they’ve hurt because it’s easier than holding our “friends” accountable, we’re contributing to the problem in a significant way.
- You’ve branded yourself through the use of a rainbow aesthetic and the name Let’s Get Galactic. Where do those elements come from?
Rainbows just make me happy to see! I get told that I’ve branded myself a lot, but it’s honestly just my actual life & interests. I am a chronic oversharer, and that isn’t limited to any one area in my life: I share everything, and because I do lean toward stuff I love (bright colors, cute / spookiness, etc), it ends up looking cohesive without me really needing to do much extra effort. I don’t really create anything or share anything because it might fit a brand; I surround myself with and share things I love.
When I make art, I have a pretty consistent palette that developed on its own – I remember uploading all of my art to an online portfolio for the first time and looking at it all like, “Wow! This actually all looks like it goes together! Cool!” Haha.
My blog is actually like a decade old, so the name isn’t something that I adopted after my time in the horror community and doesn’t really have anything to do with horror. My first genre love as a kid was sci-fi, and I was raised on a lot of old Star Trek episodes. I also like the name because I’ve always joked that I felt like an alien – which I’ve come to understand is a feeling a lot of Autistic people have!
- What does your creative process look like?
Pure chaos, honestly, haha. I have ADHD and constantly struggle with focusing my attention; unfortunately, I’ve found it to be the kind of thing where I might win a battle here or there, but the overall war is definitely not looking like it’s turning out in my favor, haha.
I have a hard time not creating, so my brain is always working in the background, and then I’ll randomly get an idea that I absolutely HAVE to execute right at that moment “or else” – or else what? I don’t know, but my brain is very clear here: or else.
Typically, I’m in the middle of another thing I just had to stop & do, so when I stop that to start the new thing… Well, you see where the problems start coming up, right? I’m always submerged in a pool that’s 30 partially completely projects deep, and don’t really see a way to swim out. But that’s okay, because oh look, another shiny idea!
For writing, I tend to get ideas all at once for entire stories – short fiction, novellas, novels, all of it. For example, last night, I was working on a drawing involving mushrooms when I got the idea about a story of a young girl who ignores her beach town’s warnings only to meet a terrifying end at the hands of a mysterious young man from the ocean. I opened a blank document on my computer, and spent the next 45 minutes typing out everything that happens in the story, minus names or dialogue (those always come last for me). I had no concept of the story before the idea jumped into my head all at once, and then all that I have left to do is just sit down and write it out.
Ideas are the easiest part for me – it’s the follow through that I struggle with the most with every creative format, because my imposter syndrome has convinced me that I’m not as good at the execution as I am at the brainstorming. I’m working on that!
- In the ABOUT section of your site, you mention that creativity has helped relieve your anxiety. In what ways does this happen?
I, like many other people, often suffer from the “bad brain times”: these are times when my brain just doesn’t want to cooperate, I don’t have any new ideas, all my old ideas seem like trash. I’m convinced that I can’t do anything right, and that nothing I do is of value. These times come on like a wave, suddenly overtaking me completely and wiping out everything else around me so that I feel like I’m drowning all by myself – even when there are people in the same house, living alongside me.
Sometimes these times pass on their own – luckily! But other times they hang around, and eventually, I start to get angry at the feelings, at the wave, at myself. When this happens, I never really know what to do with it; having so many negative feelings inside me at once gets overwhelming.
In full disclosure, because I am an open book, I will admit that in the past, I’ve turned to many toxic ways of dealing with these feelings. My less healthy coping mechanisms have included drinking, hurting myself, making choices I knew were bad for me, etc – stuff I’m not proud of, but also not ashamed of.
Over time, I started channeling those feelings into less hurtful things – mostly, painting. About 6 years ago, during one of these very bad brain times, I went to Michaels and bought some cheap neon paints and canvases; I didn’t know what I planned to do, but I thought it might help somehow. I came home and started what I now refer to as “making a mess”. I scribbled and splatter and smeared and dotted the canvas with bright, pretty colors in ugly ways that felt reflective of both the bad things I felt, and the strong desire to feel something better.
Lately, I’ve also started getting back into sketching like I used to in high school, and I’ve found that it’s another great way to distract my brain when making a huge mess isn’t an option.
- What does being a woman in horror mean to you?
It means so much! As a kid, I was more likely to see women being used and abused on screen than I was to see them kicking ass. On the bookshelves at stores and in libraries, the men author’s names vastly outnumbered the women, and it was hard to find characters that I felt reflected me in the horror genre especially.
I also think it’s so important and do my best to support not just other women writing horror, but women reviewing it and reading it in general as well. Too often I see reviewers treated poorly or spoken to disrespectfully, and a lot of the time, there’s this fear that we’ll be seen as antagonistic or rude if we speak up for ourselves, which isn’t fair at all.
I think the genre is growing a lot in terms of inclusion, but there’s always more we can do & further ways to go. The gradual shift in seeing women’s voices lifted up – and being a part of it, both in contribution with things of my own and in my efforts alongside incredible organizations like Ladies of Horror Fiction – has been incredible to see, and I’m hoping that it just gets better from here.
- How has your perspective of the horror industry changed since becoming more involved in its community?
I’m honestly not sure what sort of perspective I had on the subject before becoming a part of the horror community; I definitely didn’t know the differences between things like traditional vs indie vs self-published, and I had been exposed to less independent work in general because my reading up until that point had been very limited in scope; I pretty much only knew about the books I happened upon while at stores or the library.
Something I’ve learned the value of a bit more since becoming more involved has been the power of a book review, even if it’s just a few lines long. Word of mouth sells, and the algorithms for a lot of retail websites focus their boosts on products with higher review counts, even if those reviews aren’t always favorable. Writing a review for a book you liked – or even didn’t like – might help get that book under the eyes of someone who may really love it; I think it’s really neat how even someone without a ton of followers or influence online can make such a big impact for an author or book.
- What does the future of women in horror look like for you?
I foresee the future of women in horror being unstoppable! I’ve been more intentional with my reading choices for the last two years and percentage wise, over 65% of the books I’ve read have been by women or non-binary femme authors – and I love it!
It seems like every single day there’s a new book by a friend being announced that I can’t wait to read, or a new anthology being announced with an all-woman TOC, and I’m just so happy to be here for it, to support these women living their dreams, and to maybe try living some of my own.
- Why have you gravitated to horror throughout your life?
I think a lot of people who have dealt with heavy, traumatic situations in their life can find other genres a bit unfulfilling or difficult to connect with. For me personally, there was a period in my life where I couldn’t read romance or contemporary fiction or anything really “light” at all, because I was dealing with some very difficult stuff (poorly) and reading about such normal, light scenarios made me feel angry. Happy families and relationships and friendships felt like things I wasn’t worthy of and would never have; I couldn’t relate at all, and this disconnect furthered the feelings of resentment and pain I was holding onto.
And then there was horror. I loved horror as a kid without understanding why, but I think it was similar to when I revisited my love as a troubled teen: I didn’t relate to a lot of the happier themes in the media, but monsters? I’d known my fair share of those for sure, and the thing about a lot of the horror I loved was that these monsters weren’t even as bad as the real life ones. Because of the trauma I experienced, I’ve always found safety in a genre that’s largely focused on being fundamentally unsafe – and I’m definitely not the only one.
Horror is scary, but it can also be healing.
- What is your favorite element of horror?
I love the versatility of the genre, and the way that there’s a little something for everyone here – even if you don’t think so at first! I’ve had so many people tell me that they “don’t like horror”, and then ask for a book recommendation for something that might change their minds. I usually ask for some examples of books they have loved, and from that, I’m able to come up with a little list of horror & horror-adjacent titles. Every single time I’ve done this, there has ALWAYS been at least 1-2 books that the reader ended up being swayed by, admitting to me later, “Alright, maybe I do like horror after all!”
While it can sometimes be the case, horror isn’t always loud screams, gore, and violence; sometimes it’s quiet loneliness and creeping dread. Sometimes the most horrifying thing for one person is comforting to the next, and it’s this wide range of available offerings that allows the horror genre to offer so much depth and solace to the people seeking it.
- Where do you see horror trending?
Horror has been getting very, very gay lately, and I am 100% here for it! I love the inclusivity we’ve been seeing in the genre, both in content and in the authors putting their work out there. I’m hopeful that eventually, there won’t be many situations where a troubled, horror-loving kid in a library trying to find a book written by or about someone like them won’t have to look too hard to find it.
- You seem to be an open book within the horror community with honoring your sister’s passing, your battles with harassment, and your mentioning of being Autistic. How has this approach impacted you personally and professionally?
Oh gosh, haha. Here’s where I might get a little too honest again! Being an open book is good in the sense that it allows me to be authentic and honest in everything I do, but it’s also sometimes tough to navigate, because not everyone likes that sort of openness. I’m not everyone’s “cup of tea”, which is completely okay, although it took a little bit for me to accept that.
I think we all genuinely want to be liked by other people, so when someone just isn’t vibing with us, it’s easy to internalize that as, “What’s wrong with me? What did I do to make them dislike me? How can I change this?” But it’s important to remember that even fantastic things like guacamole aren’t universally adored – in fact, there’s a whole bunch of people out there who can’t stand it! That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, it just means that it’s not for everyone. If I pretend I am the guacamole, it makes these moments a lot easier to handle.
On the heavier end of things, some of it isn’t always just a case of a general dislike. I’ve gotten rude messages, there are people who make mock accounts with photoshopped pictures to insult me, I’ve had acquaintances accuse me of lying about everything from what I do for my job to how many pets I have to the number of books I’ve read. I spent over a year guest hosting on a podcast with a guy who, I found out later, repeatedly defended the man who sexually harassed me privately to other people behind my back, while supporting me privately to my “face”. A man I once considered a friend messaged me to tell me that he didn’t think what I’d dealt with was “that bad” because someone he knew had “been through worse”, completely unaware of the trauma I experienced as a child or teenager – not that there should ever even be a scale of worse/worst when it comes to these things, because we shouldn’t have to be dealing with them at all.
It’s been… A lot, honestly. It’s sometimes tough to deal with, and I understand that I’ve invited public opinion into my life and online space when I’ve chosen to be as open as I am, but it doesn’t make it any easier to have mean things said to or about me, or to have people I trust take advantage of me.
Sometimes being as open as I am on the internet leads to getting hurt, but I also don’t think I’d be able to live my life any differently. For every one person out there who has done something to upset me, there are a handful of other people telling me that something I posted gave them hope, or strength, or inspiration. It’s hard sometimes, but the reward of being myself and having other people truly appreciate and love that is enough to make up for it.
- What professional goals do you have?
I have this weird idea that I want “one of everything” under my name, and I’m not sure why or where it came from. I already have a children’s book published, and I’ve had my nonfiction and fiction both published professionally in a magazine and various anthologies – some really incredible achievements that up until a couple of years ago, I never thought I’d ever have! I’m so, so grateful to everyone who has supported me & given me chances in these areas so far.
Because of that silly goal, I’d like to publish a novella within the next year (I have one written and am going to be looking for an editor soon!), and also a short story collection, which I’m working on bulking out right now.
With my art, I’d love to do more stuff especially in the bookish industry – I’ve completed 3 book covers so far and I have so, so much fun creating a visual interpretation of each story & each author or publisher’s vision. I know that my art style is a little more colorful than usual, so I’d really love to find more clients to work with that embrace that brightness!
- What’s next for Cassie Daley?
I’m extremely lucky as a new writer in the way that, because of my art and the people I’ve met through my shop and my blog, I already have a sort of established community of people who are very kind & support me and my work, so I’m trying to lean more into being myself, and creating things that are true to who I am & what I want to put out into the world. A few of my last stories I sold were written for the specific prompts themselves; it’s been awhile since I’ve written something that I just wanted to write because I wanted to tell the story. I’m hoping to change that soon.
Writing-wise, I’m currently working on publishing my 90s horror novella, which I’m hoping to have out by this summer. I’m also working on a very dark & very gay collection of epistolary short fiction, poems, and illustrations that tell a love story between two monstrous women – I don’t have an ETA for that, but most of the art is already finished!
Aside from that, the second book in my series of spooky books for kids will be out this fall – it’s called ROSIE COOKS WITH WITCHES, and I’m both very excited & very nervous to see how Rosie’s kid fans like the continuation of her story.
And as for my art, it’s a surprise – to you and me both! Like I mentioned, I’ve got a whole bunch of works in progress, and a billion project plans that I’d love to either start or complete. I know that I will be releasing a new coloring & activity book in my shop later this year for sure, and I’m also doing some secret work on my first fully designed tarot card set – but that’s going to be in progress awhile, so stay tuned!
- About the Author
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Franklin Charles Murdock is a fiction writer from the Midwestern United States. Though most of his work is harvested from the vast landscapes of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Franklin strives to spin tales outside the conventions of these genres.
His work has appeared in DarkFuse, Under the Bed Magazine, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, MicroHorror, Liquid Imagination, Yellow Mama, Heavy Hands Ink, WEIRDYEAR, Phantom Kangaroo, PrimalZine, and various other publications. Most recently, he’s been coauthoring the serial epic BEARD THE IMMORTAL on swordandportent.com.