WIHM 2022: An Interview With Lisa Kröger
Horror Tree Presents: An Interview With Lisa Kröger
- What does it mean to be a woman in horror?
First, being a woman in horror means being part of a community. I have found a supportive and encouraging group of women who have helped me so much in my career. But women in horror need a community. We have a unique perspective and can help each other navigate the gatekeeping that is unfortunately sometimes part of working in the genre. It’s part of why I’ve worked hard with NYX Horror Collective to create opportunities for women, like our Stowe Story Labs fellowship for women over 40. It’s not just the gender gap that we are working against, but ageism too. We have come a long way, mostly because of the supportive community, but we still have a long way to go. Often, I feel as if I have to work twice as hard to get the same amount of recognition. I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling.
- Who are some women who’ve influenced your career and how have they done so?
There are truly too many to name. First, of course, is Melanie Anderson, my co-writer, who has made each crazy dream goal I have seem like a reality. And the women in NYX Horror Collective, especially Melody Cooper, Mo Moshaty, Kelly Krause, have opened so many doors that I thought were closed to me. My writing has been influenced by my favorite writers: Shirley Jackson, Helen Oyeyemi, Gwendolyn Kiste, Tananarive Due, and Rachel Harrison, just to name a few. But it’s not just writers who have influenced my writing. So many women have helped me along the way. There have been fantastic editors like mine at Quirk who have helped shape my craft. And then there’s been the online and library communities, like Becky Spratford, who have helped spread the word about my books.
- From your perspective, what does the future look like for women in horror?
The future looks bright! It was only a few years ago that people were honestly asking where the women were. (We’ve always been here, of course, but that was the perception.) But now, I am hearing people rave about books and stories and movies by women all the time. I look forward to the time when we speak about horror—and women are discussed naturally and equally—without a specific month.
- How has the horror community impacted you personally and professionally?
I’ve always had a dream of writing and publishing—since I knew how to read and write, it’s all I wanted to do. I went to my first StokerCon a few years ago, and immediately I felt a sense of community. In fact, it’s what led to my first book-length publishing contract. People in the horror community—women and men—have been so willing to talk to me and answer my questions. Their guidance has been wonderful and much appreciated. I’ve also made friends in the community—and I can’t ask for more than that.
- In your opinion, what are some strengths of the horror community?
The horror community is really built of the most helpful people around. Seriously, I’ve never met nicer people than the horror writers I know. Perhaps it’s because we get our demons out on the page? And, while social media certainly has its downsides, I’ve found that it is easy to connect with people in the horror community online, using social media. Writers are friendly people—and I have found that a new writer can really find a community easily.
- What would you like to see more of from the horror community?
I’d like to see more of the community work towards inclusivity. We all have our favorite writers—I do too! But I notice that when we have something like a “Women in Horror Month,” people tend to celebrate the women they know. The same few names appear on all the lists. I’d like to see the horror community do more research—read more widely. Read more women, yes, but please also read more women of color. Read outside of your comfort zones. Read more LGBTQ+ authors. Read more indigenous writers. Read more. They are all out there. But you won’t know until you look.
- What draws you to writing within the genre of horror?
Horror is truly about empathy. More than any other, it is a genre that is dependent on empathy. We cannot feel the horror or the terror if we cannot put ourselves in the character’s world. That is certainly one thing that I love about the genre. I also like how, as a writer, it allows me play with boundaries. Readers of some other genres have certain expectations that they need to see met (like the idea of a “happily ever after” in romance). I like that in some things I read, but I love how horror allows a sense of playfulness and a subversion of expectations. Horror readers almost expect the unexpected, so it becomes a wonderful playground for writers. We can really let our imaginations run wild.
- As an editor, what is a direction of the genre you dislike?
I don’t know if this is specific to editorial skills, but I wish we would do away with the idea of “elevated” horror. It just smacks of snobbery. Yes, some horror is more serious. But elevated horror somehow implies that the rest of the genre is somehow beneath us, which is just patently wrong. I mean, if we only had serious horror all the time, then we couldn’t have fun with murderous puppets and the like. Sometimes, I want my horror to be the equivalent of a funhouse. And that’s okay.
- What is an underrated element of the horror genre?
I think a lot of people underestimate the power of emotion in the horror genre. A lot of people (usually outside of the horror community) think that horror is comprised of jump scares or gross-out gore. That’s a part of it (especially if it is well-timed), but it isn’t the whole genre. Horror can horrify or terrify (two different emotions), but it can also break your heart or make you laugh. It’s thought-provoking, and it can be escapist. It can be catharsis. It’s not just one thing.
- What are the most interesting facts you learned while researching for Monster, She Wrote and Toil and Trouble: a Women’s History of the Occult?
I learned that women have been a part of horror really since the beginning. Mary Shelley is often considered the first sci-fi horror writer, with Frankenstein in 1818. But two centuries before her, Margaret Cavendish was writing one of the first speculative fiction works with The Blazing World (1666). The Gothic horror novel got its start with Horace Walpole in 1764, but it was a genre popularized by women in the 1790s. We’ve always been an integral part to the genre.
- What is an aspect of women in horror that is often overlooked?
We aren’t a trend. We aren’t a genre or a subgenre. And we certainly don’t write “horror for women.” I think there’s a false narrative that we write “softer” horror, maybe verging on psychological thrillers or maybe more folklore horror. Or—even worse—that we only write female main characters. We may write those things, but we also write it all. If you have a favorite trope or subgenre, chances are that there is a woman writing that—and writing it well. It’s your job to go out and find her work.
- What does the research you’ve conducted tell us about the future of the genre?
That it is only growing more popular. More and more bookstores are leaving room for entire horror sections. More streaming services are producing and showing horror television and films. It is a great time to work in horror right now. It’s becoming more and more mainstream, which is exciting for any horror creator, regardless of gender.
- What do you tap into while writing?
My fears. Definitely.
People ask me all the time if I still find horror scary since I’m immersed in it. The answer is, of course! I’m scared a lot. I’m an anxious person. The world is a terrifying place, and I have two children that I’m trying to keep safe in it. So, I’m scared of a lot. Horror is a place for me to explore that fear. It is cathartic, I think. Plus, if I’m scared of something, then I’m sure other people are too.
That’s primarily for my fiction writing. For my nonfiction writing, I tap into what interests me. I follow what I find fascinating in the research, and that is what guides me.
- What advice would you have for young women looking into starting a career in the horror industry?
Write a lot. And read a lot, especially outside of horror. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is to not self-reject. Send your work out there. You will get rejected, but it only takes one yes. So hold out for that yes.
Third, don’t be afraid to be a part of the community. Get to know people in the horror industry. Ask for their help and advice. Most people are willing to give it.
- What is next for Lisa Kröger?
In 2021, I produced my first horror short film festival with NYX Horror Collective. It streamed on Shudder in August and September. We are going for round two this August. In October, my next nonfiction book will be out with Quirk, called Toil and Trouble. I’m getting some new proposals and pitches together as we speak, so I’m not sure exactly what will be coming first. I’d love to do some more fiction, maybe even a novel. I’d also love to try out the Middle Grade market.
- 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.