WOMEN IN HORROR
AUTHOR: PAMELA K. KINNEY
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I am a published author of fiction of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, along with nonfiction ghost books. I also write under the pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan, for paranormal romance, erotic urban fantasy and horror. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, at the age of four, my parents moved to California, where I grew up in both the northern and southern parts of the state until 1985, then my husband and I transplanted ourselves to Virginia and we’ve been there ever since.
Q: Tell everyone a little about you, who you are, where you’re from, and what you write.
A: I am a published author of fiction of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, along with nonfiction ghost books. I also write under the pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan, for paranormal romance, erotic urban fantasy and horror. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, at the age of four, my parents moved to California, where I grew up in both the northern and southern parts of the state until 1985, then my husband and I transplanted ourselves to Virginia and we’ve been there ever since.
Q: Tell us a little about the projects you have going right now.
A: I am working on a short story for the Virginia chapter of Horror Writers Association for their anthology, plus I am writing on two wips—one that is straight supernatural horror about a piece of cursed land (Pamela K. Kinney) and the other that is fantasy romance with dragons (Sapphire Phelan).
Q: Is your writing based on people you know, or events in your own life?
A: Most of the time, ideas just pop inside my head from my overactive imagination. Though I have two grownup half-sisters, I grew up an only child, and my imagination assisted me during play time and from age 8 on, writing stories. Not to say, that the people I met, the places I visited, and events I experienced did not inspire pieces of the things I write about.
Though I do admit to one vampire horror story of mine, “Donating,” published in Inhuman Magazine, Issue 5, was based off an actual business I used to give plasma at and its workers. I just changed names of the workers.
Q: What inspired you to get into the horror genre?
A: I have read scary stories and books and watched the Universal classic monster and the Hammer films since I was a kid. Plus I enjoyed Twilight Zone, the original Outer Limits, Night Gallery, and the soap, Dark Shadows (had a big crush on Barnabas Collins). On the ghost side of writing, I read Hans Holzer, first ghost hunter who wrote books of haunted places he’d been to. I enjoy horror, fantasy, and science fiction, so it was easy to write in those genres.
Q: Have you always been interested in horror?
A: Yes. Loved feeling the thrill of a shiver up the spine and making up stories to scare my friends. It’s not I grew up to be a serial killer, gore makes me ill (and does not scare me), and people are shocked I write about monsters when they meet me, it is just there is something about the unknown.
Q: What do you love most about writing horror?
A: To be able to dig deep within my imagination to scare the bejesus out of readers. I like to see how my characters might battle their fear and overcome it. Then again, maybe the fear overcomes them. Sometimes, the monster wins. And that is the best reason for writing horror. There are no absolutes in a good scary tale.
Q: Is there anything you find particularly challenging when writing for horror fans?
A: Giving the reader that emotionally charged, fear inducing story, and not resulting to the same tired tricks for each storyline. Even sequels shouldn’t use the same things used in the last novel or novella. Something I noticed in a lot of Hollywood produced films. Nice to feel comfort with the familiar, but horror should be all about the unfamiliar. Take the reader out of the comfort zone and give them hopefully the ride of their life.
Q: Where do you stand on the gore factor?
A: It may be fine for some writers and it has its place, as long as it is well written. As for me, I guess I am more about the dark and unsettling. To me gore does not frighten me in anyway, it just makes me sick.
Q: What books and movies have influenced your life most?
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and We’ve Always Lived in a Castle, any dark fantasy by Ray Bradbury (and any of his science fiction too), A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, stories and novels by H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, Richard Matheson, and later, when I was in college, the Dragons of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.
As for movies: The Haunting (1963), The Uninvited (1944), Dog Soldiers, The Wolfman (1941), Dracula (Bela Lugosi version), The Creature of the Black Lagoon, American Werewolf in London, The Howling, The Legend of Hell House, Poltergeist, Cat People (1942 and 1982), and Fright Night (1985).
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I just finished Burned by Karen Marie Moning. And on my Kindle: some good werewolf horror, Outage by T. W. Piperbrook.
Q: What books do you recommend aspiring writers read?
A: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Her other horror works, too. But The Haunting of Hill House is one of the best scary haunted house stories around. It was the only book I read in the daylight while in 8th grade in a room full of people that scared me with one of its scenes. The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber became a cryptozoological rationale for werewolf myths (I loved how he turned the werewolf into another species living with mankind on the earth, one that is rare, intelligent, furtive and hence unknown to orthodox taxonomy. It became the scary alien story, but set here on earth.). Anything by Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft.
Q: You’re a ghost hunter as well as a writer. What is the scariest real life moment you’ve had while ghost hunting?
A: There are two incidents, actually. The first one happened after I joined some investigators at Stories Comics in Richmond, Virginia for my second investigation at the comics shop and used bookstore.— it was to go into the book I was working on at the time, Haunted Richmond II. I was driving home along Chippenham Parkway when I heard a sound from the back seat of my car. I glanced in my rear view mirror, but saw nothing. More noise erupted, like someone was in the back seat. I remembered the one ghost that had spoken on a ghost box an investigator has brought—he had been belligerent, didn’t want the female spirit to speak, and even told me he wanted all of us gone. My hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I heard more noise. I worried that I had a hitchhiker going home with me—something I did not want. (We do tell the spirits not to go home with us, but they have their own minds, and this spirit acted abusive. Finally as I hit the off-ramp for the road in Chesterfield County that began my drive home, the sounds quit and I felt whatever had been with me, had left.
The second story happened July 12, 2014, between 9-10 p.m. Three other investigators met me at a parking lot across from The Bistro at Market and Grove, a haunted restaurant we were going to investigate for the current nonfiction ghost book I was working on, Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area. We decided to check out the ruins of the Peter Jones Trading Post since our investigation couldn’t begin until the restaurant close for business. Now my ghost box had gotten some spirits, particularly one Civil War soldier’s ghost with a deep voice. After answering another investigator that both Confederates and Union were together in the place (both were jailed in the place during the Siege of Petersburg, and I knew that was the truth as I had researched history.). The ghost told me he wanted us to leave. I had taken my camera out of my ghost bag and I told him to let me grab my camera from my car to take one photo, before we left. Well, unlocking the door and reaching inside my vehicle, I found the camera gone. I searched the car. Nothing. I searched outside, even went back down to where we had been, then back to look underneath my car and other vehicles in the parking lot. Still nothing. One of the investigators, Leonard, began to search inside my car (He found nothing, by the way.). Meanwhile, I called my husband to have him check the places in the house where it might be. He did not find it.
Upset, as I needed it for the investigation at the restaurant, besides the fact I couldn’t afford another good digital camera like it, I begged the ghosts to return it, that I promised we would not return to the ruins and would leave them alone that night. Suddenly, I walked over to the back of the passenger side of my car, stood between it and the third investigator’s vehicle, glanced down to the cement of the parking lot but saw nothing. When Leonard stood, locked and shut my car, took a step back. He frowned and looked down at his one foot. I focused my gaze at where he looked and I saw my camera in its bag, lying on the cement. It was all right and worked well for the investigation. It still works well months later. It had been gone for ten minutes—none of us knew where, but was returned when I asked nicely and promised the ghosts we would leave them alone. It gave Leonard the creeps, as he said, “We haven’t been in the restaurant yet, and already we had a paranormal incident!”
Q: Do you find your ghost hunting experiences bleed into your writing?
A: Right now the cursed land novel has characters that are paranormal investigators so knowing how a real investigation is conducted, does help bring realism to the story.
Q: You also act, direct, and you’re a Master Costumer. Do you find these experiences help you in your writing?
A: I believe the acting and directing has always helped with my writing. I can get into my characters’ heads, understand where they come from and what motivates them to do what they do in their actions.
As for the costuming, it helps me see how a character should be dressed and thanks to research for historical costumes I had made, enables me to know how a character from another era should be dressed appropriately, how they would maneuver in those outfits, and so forth.
Q: Can you share your experience as a female writer in a male dominated genre?
A: I feel anyone can write in any genre they want. Who’s to say a woman cannot write horror or science fiction, or a man, fantasy or romance? So I never felt I couldn’t. No one has told me no. Not yet anyway.
Q: Can you share a little of your current work in progress (WIP) with us, give the readers a taste for blood?
A: This is an excerpt taken from the first chapter. What happens in the first chapter is what will bring the mains characters into play.
John watched Tom ascend the ladder. It wiggled but didn’t break. The creaks broke the unnatural silence. John never put claim to any psychic abilities, not when he didn’t believe in it. But the unnaturalness of the land had grown on him. As always, he told himself in his head that it couldn’t have anything to do with the paranormal. The sweat under his armpits began to smell rank. Agitated, he waved his light up at the loft.
“Hey, Tom, did you find Carla?”
Tom didn’t reply.
Something flew out of the darkness at them and the three men dispersed. It hit the floor. Light from their flashlights revealed George, his eyes and mouth open, and blood leaking from the mouth.
Bubba yelled, “Oh God, oh God! What happened? He didn’t even scream as he fell. Did the fall kill him?”
Pete dropped to his knees and checked, his fingers on the pulse. He was a paramedic in a fire department. “He feels as cold as ice, like he’d been dead for hours. I don’t have any equipment with me, but I bet an autopsy will back me up.”
Bubba screeched like a girl. “Dead for hours? He was alive and talking and climbing up that ladder a minute ago. Are you trying to screw with us?”
Pete stood. “You know me better than that.”
John said, “I’ll bet you’re mistaken, Pete. Both of you grab George’s body and let’s get out of here. We’ll call the owner and the police. Let them find Carla. Somebody is playing nasty tricks on us.” But when Bubba and Pete leaned over to pick up their fellow investigator they were flung to opposite sides of the room. John heard the simultaneous thuds of their bodies as they smacked the walls. Neither of them moved nor called out.
Somebody or maybe more than one person had to be messing with him. Ghosts don’t do harm to the living. That’s what the experts always said. Experts he thought were idiots before, because they believed in phantoms. John’s heart pounded as he looked all around him. Forget the freaking paranormal. He wanted to grab Lily and get out of here. Get drunk. Get out of the ghost hunting business. Leave the mystical to the unknown. That made perfect sense, now.
He turned to leave. The fading light from his flashlight exposed the white features of Carla wearing a psychotic grin as she stood in front of the opened doorway. Her eyes no longer green, they gleamed red as blood. “Going somewhere?” she asked. Her voice had dropped several octaves, more mannish than feminine. “I don’t think so.”
The door slammed shut behind her. John’s flashlight died. The darkness suffocated whatever bravery he still had.
John Peters had never believed in the paranormal all of his life. A horrible smell brushed against the hairs inside his nose and freezing cold seeped into his bones, as Carla ripped the heart out of his chest. At the last moment of his life, he believed.
Q: Do you have any advice for other horror writers?
A: Write, write, write—everyday, even if for a few words, or not even your wip for that day. Join a good critique group or get a critique partner you can trust. It is always hard to judge your own “baby” as well as others can. And I am not talking about family, but those who will be honest on all the bad as well as the good. Most of all, read in your genre to see what is currently being published. Read outside of your genre, as this will enrich you for your own writing. Most of all, when you feel your work is ready to submit, submit. Worrying whether they will like your story can hold you back—let’s be honest, you will never know if you hide your work in that drawer. But when you do, follow the submission guidelines to a T. Every guideline will not be the dame, so do as that editor ask. Fastest way to get rejected is to ignore what the guidelines tell you.
Q: Where can fans reach you and buy your books?
My website for my pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan
And for my pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan
You can find many of my books at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Books A Million, and many other places, especially the publishers’ websites. If you click on my covers of the books on either of my websites, they will take you to where you can purchase them.
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