WIHM: The Twist

If M. Night Shyamalan were to make a movie of my life, the twist would be that seeing dead people is pretty ding dang boring (ghosts are not great conversationalists) and that being a published author, even when you dreamt of being one in the womb, is horrifying.

I realize that the pressures, anxieties and fears that authors face are not linked to biological sex.  In a world of social media, writers are expected to take on a large share of publicity and marketing and sales.  This is daunting for both men and women, especially for those of us old enough to remember a publishing world pre Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  Back in the good old days, marketing took place inside of bookstores, not on Amazon.  “Cons” were something that appeared in list form when you were contemplating a major decision, not places you went to hawk books.  It was a different world, and this new world is perplexing–compelling most writers to make a beeline for business courses, while regretting all of the time spent studying literature and other unhelpful liberal arts subjects.

Since it is WIHM, I am going to focus on the uncomfortable aspects of being a published writer that seem specific to women.  This is how it goes: you have your book, all of the blood sweat and tears have been poured into it.  In my case, some lovely publishing house has handled the edits and cover and actual publishing; for other writers, they handle some of this themselves.  You now have to make people aware of your book; you have to make them want to read it.

The other writers in your genre-circle are a great source of assistance.  They go onto their Facebook pages, they tweet, they post on Instagram, they let you kidnap their blogs, and they remind the world that you have a book.  WIHM is another place of immeasurable support.  There are events and blogs (such as this one) where you can promote and self-indulge.

It’s dealing with the general public where things get a little…funny…a little M. Night-ish.

This is how it goes: you have an article in the local paper, or on the local book blog, or an event in the local library.  The next time you are on the soccer field, or in the grocery store, or waiting for your bus for your horrible commute (Mr. Shyamalan, I do recommend scouring tales of commuting for a future film–like maybe about some Rip Van Winkle person who wakes only to find out that they have been riding a bus or train for decades.  I am happy to provide real-life details).  That is when the well-meaning, but basically odd questions begin:

“Why horror? Do you write anything else?”

“I have read some of your writing. You’re good, you could do some other type of writing…”

“Oh, you must be an Anne Rice fan…” (this is a unique requisite for women horror writers).

“Have you tried children’s books?  That is a great market for mothers.”

“You don’t write romance?”

These are all verbatim quotes.  My favorite: “Do you need mental help?” This actually came from a relative, so perhaps she was referring to something other than my writing.  She was waving my book in my face when she asked, though.

I remember 100 years ago when I was in college and in a writing/performance class.  The set up: the writers in the class would submit stories anonymously and the actors would perform the stories.  At the end of the semester, we were allowed to “come clean” and claim our stories.  There was an audible gasp when I named my titles.  The Marilyn Manson doppelgangers had already been identified as the authors, and someone said aloud, “You don’t look like a horror writer.”

I am fortunate enough to know many horror writers. It is safe to say that there is no “horror writer look.”  I find most of them to be real cuties, but in a variety of ways.  My point is: my male counterparts (most likely) do not hear these same questions.  They are not recommended to the Romance or Children’s Lit genre—despite many men having success in both markets.

In my M. Night twist, I go back in time to tell the me that was a college student about WIHM.  I would tell “her” that there are other women out there, fielding the same questions, and because of those questions, questioning themselves.  I have never questioned my genre because there is no choice involved:  when I sit down to write, horror comes out.  But I do question why, with WIHM in its 8th year, the existence of women horror writers and directors and screenplay writers remains baffling.

Elaine Pascale

Elaine Pascale


Elaine Pascale had been writing her entire life. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband, son, and daughter. Her writing has been published in magazines and anthologies. She is the author of the soon to be released Blood Lights, and If Nothing Else, Eve, We’ve Enjoyed the Fruit. Elaine enjoys a robust full moon, chocolate, and collecting cats. Find out more at elainepascale.com, https://www.amazon.com/Elaine-Pascale/e/B003MRXUCS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0.

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