Monica J. O'Rourke is the author of the novels Suffer the Flesh and Poisoning Eros (with Wrath James White), the collection Experiments in Human Nature and was the editor of anthologies Decadence, Decadence 2, Dreaming of Angels (with Gord Rollo), Fear of the Unknown (with Kfir Luzzatto) and Royal Aspirations III.
What drew you to the horror genre?
My paternal grandmother was a big horror fan. I remember as a kid curling up beside her on the couch to watch b-movies. They scared the heck out of me. Then I moved on to the horror novels she read. Even though she probably would have given me permission, I would sneak them. I felt like I was doing something wrong. I was the rare ten-year-old reading The Exorcist, Amityville Horror, and Jaws. Flowers in the Attic has an incest scene that made me drop the book.
What scares you?
Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?
There aren’t. We just aren’t as aggressive about getting published. Besides, there are plenty of women who have written “horror”—Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Sebold, Alice Walker, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, et al.—but they are published mainly as “mainstream” writers.
Your books have a reputation for being extremely gruesome. Are people surprised that, as a woman, you would write something so gory? Is there a misconception that women aren’t comfortable with gore?
Absolutely! In fact, my co-author (Wrath James White) said he approached me to write Poisoning Eros with him after reading Suffer the Flesh because he was shocked a woman had written it. I get that a lot, how people are surprised a woman could write something so extreme. I’ve been told I “write like a guy.”
Some of my favorite “extreme” horror writers are women, such as Elizabeth Massie, Poppy Z. Brite and Charlee Jacob. P. D. Cacek wrote a story called “Metalica” that’ll make any woman keep her legs crossed for a week. There are some women (some people) who aren’t comfortable with gore, and I can appreciate that. I can’t stand reading stories where animals are hurt or killed (yet even I wrote a story, “Ginger,” involving the potential death of a dog). I’ll try to skim or skip those parts of the book. For example, in King’s It, a dog is locked in an abandoned fridge and doesn’t die for days. That scene has stayed with me for twenty-five years now. I’m pretty sure I regret not skipping those pages, lol.
Who are some women horror authors you admire?
See above. I also enjoy Teri Jacobs’s work. She’s a close friend, and it’s a shame she’s no longer writing. Sèphera Girón writes stuff that blows me away. Lisa Mannetti is an amazing writer, and I adore Charlaine Harris’s “Sookie” series.
What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?
The same as I would say to any person (myself included): keep writing. As Wrath told me recently (admonishing me for not writing often enough), “It’s just five hundred words a day. You can do that!”
What are your favourite horror novels?
The Exorcist (Blatty); Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ by Mendal Johnson (such a shame he died before anything else of his was published). It’s extreme extreme, this book. Just about anything by T. M. Wright (trust me—the man’s books will blow you away); Off Season (Ketchum); The Talisman; ’Salem’s Lot; Speed Queen (Stewart O'Nan); most Richard Laymon novels are fast, fun, nasty reads (read The Cellar). There are so many horror novels I’ve enjoyed, but the ones I’ve mentioned here are those I’ve read more than once and make me keep coming back for more. And more.
Who are your favourite authors? Who influenced you the most?
Well, going with the cliché, Stephen King made me want to be a horror writer. I was twelve when ’Salem’s Lot came out on TV, and it scared me so badly I read everything the man had written until then. And then I discovered Clive Barker because King had blurbed his Books of Blood. (My first really “extreme” story, “Experiments in Human Nature” was inspired by Barker’s “Dread.”) Jack Ketchum is a favorite writer (he has a lean, mean approach to writing, conserving his words, yet somehow his prose is often beautiful). Dennis Lehane should be required reading for anyone, especially aspiring writers.
I turn to Poppy Brite, T.C Boyle, Joe Lansdale, Carson McCullers, James M. Cain, Linda Addison, Cormac McCarthy, Peter Straub, T.M. Wright, Flannery O’Connor, and others for inspiration. Their writing is so beautiful and amazing, it makes me scream in jealousy.
Who is your favourite character you’ve created? Why?
It’s a new character I’ve been introducing to more and more of my short fiction, and he’s the focus of the novel I’m (still!) working on. He’s a Nephilim named Sheshai. Kind of a nasty bugger without a conscience, yet he seeks knowledge. Kind of a dangerous combination, considering his methods for obtaining that knowledge. I’m enjoying the no-holds-barred approach to writing whatever I (he) wants.
Can you tell us about your upcoming releases Poisoning Eros Part I and II?
Wrath (James White), my co-author, and I are very excited about this. Tom Moran is not only the publisher (Sideshow Press), he’s our illustrator. Some of his illos seem nastier than Wrath’s and my words! Tom’s an amazing artist and publisher, and we’re thrilled to be working with him.
Poisoning Eros Part II has never been published before. Poisoning Eros’s publisher shut down shortly after the first book was published, so very few people have had a chance to read it. This created quite a buzz about the book, and an underground following. One copy sold on eBay for $325. For a trade paperback.
Poisoning Eros Part I and II is about Gloria, an aging former porn star, and her rapid fall from the top. Of course this story is nasty as can be, and it’s supernatural (her journey includes Earth, heaven, and hell). It’s quite disgusting, actually. One “reader” told us she had to stop reading in the middle of the first page. This is exactly what Wrath and I were hoping for. Well, not for people to stop reading. But we did want them to be shocked and disgusted. I’m fairly sure they were.
Wrath and I have been writing “torture porn” (together and separately) long before “torture porn” was even a phrase. I think we were both inspired by writers like Edward Lee, John Skipp (“Mr. Splatterpunk” himself), Dick Laymon, and other extreme horror writers.
Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry?
The only e-reader I use is a free download (from either Amazon or BN; I forget which!). You can download a book or story for a buck or two and read them online. I never bought an e-reader like a Nook or Kindle because when I was still living in NYC I started working from home as an editor and no longer had to commute to work on the subway. I didn’t see the need to buy one, since I can (and do) read a regular old book at home. When I travel, I bring along paperbacks and notebooks (I tend to write when I travel). Again, no need for an e-reader.
But yeah, it’s not like I don’t recognize the technology. I’m sure I’ll get one eventually. And anything that gets people to read, no matter the format, is a good thing. Smart, ahead-of-the-curve writers like J.A. Konrath have been quite successful launching an e-reader platform approach to publishing.
What do you hope readers get out of your work?
The older you get, the more your ambitions change and hopefully grow (says the woman-of-all-clichés). So ten years ago, I just wanted to shock readers or gross them out. Now I want them to enjoy the story and hope they’ll come back for more. And, occasionally, I hope something I write makes people think. And still get grossed out. ;)
What are you currently working on?
I keep dusting off my post-apocalyptic vampire novel because I think it has merit. I refuse to give up on it and may one day finish the edit. I’m working on my Nephilim novel (still). I just wish I wrote more often, but it seems every chance I get I’m editing someone else’s book (for work).