We are delighted to include this indie author into the Eerie River family. Her creepy stories never fail to hit home, recently winning our June monthly writing contest for her story "The Mirror That Tells Truths and Lies", available on our patreon account. Learn about her writing journey and get a sneak peek at her dark story "Survival in the Woods" below.
McKenzie Richardson lives in Milwaukee, WI. A lifelong explorer of imagined worlds on the written page, over the last few years she has been finding homes for her own creations. Most recently, her stories and poetry have been featured in anthologies through Iron Faerie Publishing, Black Hare Press, and Dragon Soul Press. In addition, she has published a poetry collaboration with Casey Renee Kiser, 433 Lighted Way, and her middle-grade fantasy novel, Heartstrings, is available on Amazon.
McKenzie loves all things books and is currently working towards a master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences. When not writing, she can usually be found in her book hoard, reading or just looking at her shelves longingly.
Have you always written, or was there a catalyst that prompted you to begin this journey?
I have always been writing in one form or another. My favorite school assignments were those that required us to make up our own stories. I remember taking them very seriously, even illustrating a few of them. My grandmother wrote for a local newspaper and was a fantastic artist. I loved crafting and writing with her and she definitely helped bring out my creativity. I was also an avid reader growing up. My mother used to tell me impromptu stories before I went to bed and I remember getting frustrated when she couldn’t remember a specific one that she’d told before. After that, I started writing down my stories, usually based on what my toys were up to. I still have tons of half-filled notebooks with stories and poems from my youth (my spelling was absolutely atrocious, it has only slightly improved).
What is your favourite genre to read?
I absolutely love fantasy, especially fractured fairy tales. There’s something about new twists on old tales that gets me every time. I love being swept up into a new fantastical world filled with magic and wonder. However, I do push myself to read a variety of genres because I find it really helps with writing.
Do you remember the first piece of writing shared publicly? What were people’s reactions, but more importantly how did you react getting it out there?
My first official publication as an adult was “The Perfect Neighbors” in Flash Fiction Magazine. It was a story inspired by my weird neighbor who I could hear, but never saw. It was a simple story, but it was an important first step for me getting my work out there. The response was good and people seemed to enjoy the suspense of it. I, of course, was freaking out, constantly checking the comments to see how people reacted. I’ve calmed down a bit now that I have a few publications under my belt, but do still have the habit of refreshing the page a few times.
What is your workspace like? What kind of atmosphere do you need to write?
Depending on my mood, I either write in my reading chair, in bed, or on the patio (but rarely at my actual writing desk). I generally like quiet when I write and have trouble concentrating if I have music playing. However, there is usually a noisy cat either trying to sit on my laptop or yelling at me to pet her, so I get frequent writing breaks whether I want them or not.
Horror occasionally veers into the paranormal or supernatural, that's what makes it fun in my opinion. Do you believe in the supernatural?
I definitely agree that those paranormal twists make horror really fun and I tend to prefer those to more reality-based horror. While my rational mind doesn’t necessarily believe in the supernatural, that doesn’t stop me from being terrified of it. I was a very anxious, fearful child, especially when it came to anything paranormal. Even now, I can watch movies about serial killers without batting an eye, but ghosts and vampires and the possibility of things grabbing my overhanging foot as I sleep still terrify me. I do think some of my best horror stories have stemmed from my own concerns and fears so it’s a blessing and a curse, I suppose.
Without giving too much away, tell us about the short story you have featured in “It calls to the Forest: Volume Two”. What inspired you?
The story was strangely inspired from a nature show I was watching while falling sleep. A certain fact I hadn’t known previously was mentioned and I found it really interesting. It stuck with me and I remember planning out a story as I feel asleep. I just knew I had to create something around that fact. It is so odd the ways in which inspiration can strike.
And now for your reading pleasure, a snippet from "Survival in the Woods" by McKenzie Richardson
He hadn’t wanted to go into the forest in the first place. It was an idiotic dare he never should have accepted, but when you’re young your pride is all that matters.
It had been three days since he’d first gone in. While he hated to admit it, even to himself, he was hopelessly lost. His ration of protein bars and water bottles had been depleted more quickly than he’d expected. Who would have thought he’d be in here this long?
The woods just off the paved road weren’t very big, and they were bordered on each side by fields of corn and sweet potatoes. It was just a patch of uncontrolled forest in the midst of precise lines of crops, and if you just walked in a straight line in any one direction you should find your way out eventually. Yet, somehow, he was always getting turned around.
Desperation was creeping in when, in the darkness, something caught his eye. He rubbed his face, trying to clear his blurry vision as he strained to make sure what he was seeing was real. When he opened his eyes the light still burned brightly through a break in the trees. It glowed like a beacon, calling him to safety.
Without hesitating a moment longer he pushed his way through the brush toward the luminosity.
As he approached he was able to take in the full power of the blue-tinged, circular glow. It blazed above him on some unseen structure, and as he extended his hand up toward the light he was surprised to find that the surface was slightly sticky.
When he pulled his hand back it felt damp with residue. Bringing it to his face he sniffed, noting that it smelled sugary. Perhaps some sort of juice or nectar? Tentatively he put a finger to his tongue, and he was relieved to taste sweetness. He licked the rest from his palm, then reached up for more; he was barely able to control himself.
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They warned us not to enter, but we didn't listen. The call too strong to ignore. And now there is no one left to save us.
Beware, these things within the forest will rip out your heart and devour your soul. You will tremble as they revel in your madness, taking everything from you and leaving you with nothing. Delve inside this anthology of what truly lurks within the shadows of the trees.
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