Women Editing Horror by: Margaret L. Colton
Editor: Paying the Ferryman, Carpe Noctem: Truly, Madly, Deeply
Author: State of Horror: New Jersey, State of Horror: North Carolina, State of Horror: Louisiana
Being a woman editor and writer of horror would seem like a special kind of challenge, but I don’t see it like that at all. The genre of horror has such a large spectrum that there is truly something for everyone. I believe women are just as capable as men in delivering that heart-pounding scare to readers. Being a talented writer is not limited by gender because the only limits are the imagination. I have heard the stereotypes though—women can’t write shocking horror with blood and guts, and unstoppable horrific monsters, women have too much romance and “softness” in their horror stories and it takes away from the story, and even women can’t write horror that would appeal to the male fan base. I am thankful that these stereotypes seem to be slipping away more and more all the time.
In my experience as an editor of horror, I have worked on some horror stories from women that were for lack of a better word—extreme. Women horror writers can kick ass when it comes to writing hard-core horror and do not pull any punches. I’ve read plenty of stories with blood and gore and terrifying monsters and there was still a good story plot. Women can write extreme horror. Not every vampire a woman writes about is going to brood and whine and pose, they are going to eat their victim’s face off. Women are able to hang with the best of the men and I have read/edited stories that made me a little squeamish. As an editor my job is to make sure the story is as strong as possible. What I have seen is in between the gore and action are very good, solid stories of horror. There is a market out there for extreme horror and women are able to deliver with the best of them—everything from psychopathic killers to the most fantastical monsters.
As far as “softness” goes, there is plenty of room on the horror spectrum for some of the romance or softer emotions. To me, multi-faceted characters of depth should experience an entire range of emotions in a story. Fear is a great emotion to show as is panic, but when despair and desperation are mixed in or even grief, suddenly there is another whole other dimension to the character and another layer in the story. I don’t think women are more “soft” than men when writing horror. A story will go where the story needs to go and a good author is able to incorporate the human experience into the story and draw on those emotions while connecting with the reader to create an impact. That kind of talent is not gender specific. Both men and women are able to draw on emotion to weave a great horror story. In one of my first stories I struggled to get that emotional draw right. I wanted the reader to descend into the mind of the character and feel the confusion, fear, wonderment, love, and doubt—to experience what the character experienced so that they would understand the absolute horror at the end. Maybe that story could be considered “soft” but it was a different kind of story and again a different place on the horror spectrum. I’ve read heart breaking horror stories from men which had me running for tissues. It is about well developed characters and stories and both genders are more than capable of eliciting emotions.
Women can’t appeal to a male horror fan base? Hmmm, well Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein comes to mind. In all seriousness, readers look for good stories. I think men are giving women writers a try and are happy with the result. Are books like Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight geared toward a male fan base? Of course not, those are geared toward teenage girls. I know plenty of men who have read and enjoyed Anne Rice’s vampires. There are scores of women who enjoy Stephen King. I think the appeal is the story not the gender of the writer. I see that aspect getting better all the time. Working with anthologies is wonderful. There are just as many women as men writing horror and submitting. Anthologies are a great way for readers to get exposed to many authors and give them a try. Men and women side-by-side, and I don’t see men passing over the “girl stories.” I think men deserve more credit than that. Readers know a good story when they read one regardless of the gender of the writer.
Horror, like every other genre out there, has to have a good story to appeal to readers. I get strange looks sometimes when I say I write and edit horror stories. That little nod and half smile, half horrified expression and usually the, “Wow, ok, um that’s neat. Do you write romance too, ever?”or something similar. I don’t mind the look or hesitation. I just smile and tell them to give it a try, or understand that horror is not their thing. For me horror is very freeing to write and just so much fun. There are no rules or limits other than the basic one every writer must have and that is to tell a good story. At the heart of horror, no matter where on the spectrum a story lands, the most important element is to have a solid story. Being able to edit in the horror genre gives me a great perspective on what is out there from both veteran writers and newbies, men and women. Women in Horror Month is a great idea to give us a little time in the sun, but really all horror writers deserve that spotlight for bringing the darker aspects out to entertain and chill the readers.
Margaret L. Colton
Margaret L. Colton is an avid history buff, especially in the areas of Medieval Europe, Ancient Greece and American History, she loves all things history. She has been imparting her historical knowledge on her students for the past 12 years, teaching not only historical subjects but psychology as well. She teaches in the same district she graduated from. Even though she has two Master’s degrees in education, the writing community called to her.
Before beginning to write again after many years, she began editing and recently started ML Colton Editorial Services. Currently, she has a short story in State of Horror: New Jersey, North Carolina, Louisiana and others set to be published early next year. Besides dabbling with some short stories, she is the Editor-in-Chief at Charon Coin Press and has anthologies coming out early year entitled Paying the Ferryman, and Carpe Noctem: Truly, Madly, Deeply.
She has two beautiful daughters and a granddaughter who share her love of books and fun and some amazing friends around her. Even though she lives in Missouri and is a rabid Cardinals fan, she loves to travel to some of her favorite places like New Orleans, Florida and Hawaii.
Margaret L Colton can be reached at:
Email: [email protected]