WiHM Spotlight with Holley Cornetto
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a Woman In Horror writer.
“Forest Man” and “Raven O’Clock” were the first two stories I wrote that I considered horror. I submitted both stories to small press anthologies, and both were accepted. For “Raven O’Clock,” I was actually at a Panera Bread restaurant, and I started freaking out (and may have squeed a bit). It was the first story I’d ever had accepted that I was paid for.
Someone wanted to give me money for words. I couldn’t fathom it. I still can’t.
A couple of months later “Forest Man” was accepted for inclusion in It Calls From the Forest. At this point, I realized that horror was what I should be writing. It had always been one of my favorite genres to read, I think I just had to prove to myself that I could actually write horror that people would want to read.
Now, horror is my go-to genre. I still write other things occasionally, but horror has wrapped its slimly tentacles around my cold, black heart, and I’m here to stay.
What piece of writing are you most proud of and why?
To date, I think I’m most proud of my short story, “Forest Man.” This story appears in Eerie River Publishing’s It Calls From the Forest Vol. 1.
There are a few reasons why I’m proud of this story, but one of the biggest ones, I suppose, is that, I combined things I love, like urban legends and coming of age stories, and decided to see where it would take me. I wrote this story for me, with no idea at the time I wrote it whether or not people would actually like it. I just wrote what I wanted to read.
When the anthology was released into the world and reviews started mentioning my story by name, I could not believe it. I remember bursting into tears (more than once) after reading positive reviews for the story. That reception gave me the confidence to continue writing horror.
Did you know you wanted to write other genres as well as horror? Were you always interested in writing horror specifically?
I’ve always read horror. My Mom read horror, and she and I would read paperbacks and then trade them. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are of raiding the shelves of thrift stores and used bookstores together. When I started writing, I tended more toward fantasy. At that time, I was reading fantasy and I really didn’t know much about submitting stories and markets and indie presses. I just wanted to give this writing thing a try.
Eventually, when thinking about the next story I wanted to write, I kept coming back to horror. Horror can be so many things, and I wanted to try and write something that I’d like to read. While I enjoy fantasy (and still write it from time to time), horror is where I am comfortable. I like creeping unease and shadows that move. I enjoy graveyards and crumbling castles and superstitions. Ghost stories and urban legends? Yes, please!
I think that deep down, there are so many things that you can do with horror. It can be realistic or speculative. It can be set in the past or present. It can be on earth or another dimension. And horror blends well. You can create horror/scifi or dark fantasy. The possibilities really are endless.
What is one underappreciated female author we should all check out?
Only one? Grrrr.
Tracey Fahey. Her two short story collections The Unheimlich Manoeuvre and New Music for Old Rituals were fantastic. I just love her writing.
What’s your favourite trope in the horror genre? To read? To Write?
I like run-down and dilapidated structures. It could be a cemetery, house, church, or castle. It doesn’t need to be a building. It could be an old road sign or a rusted-out car. There is just something about things that are forgotten or left behind. Things that fall to ruin. Things that are reclaimed, in some sense, by nature. For me, these places get me in the mood to read horror. They create atmosphere, and help me to feel transported by the story.
Do you feel an obligation to speak for or represent women through your writing?
Trigger Warning: My answer discusses brutalization of women and sexual assault/rape.
I don’t try to use my writing to speak for anyone or anything. I mostly just tell stories, and I don’t always think much deeper about it than that, but I do try to write real women (and/or girls). I find that the best way to represent women in fiction is to give them agency and personality. In horror, writers do horrible things to their characters, and sometimes these characters are women. It is important that if and when we do those things to female characters, that we do not only allow them the role of victim.
While I understand the draw to this sort of brutality as an impetus for action (because, after all, it is horrific, and what is horror if not horrific?), I also think that the brutalization of women (sexual or otherwise) is far too common in our forms of entertainment. Having it so prevalent may make some women feel uncomfortable in the genre. There are so many other things that can drive a female character’s plot that have nothing to do with her being brutalized.
Besides horror, what is your favourite genre to read?
What should we expect from you in 2021: I have several stories coming out in anthologies. In March, AM Ink’s The Half That You See: Nightmares, Deliriums, and Illusions will be released, which contains my story “Raven O’Clock.” Also out in March is 13 Victims, which was a special invite only anthology that is a mash-up of the Lovecraft Mythos and Jack the Ripper. I will also have a story in Eerie River’s upcoming It Calls From the Sea, titled “Heaven’s Lake.” In addition to these collections, I’m a part of a few other projects that I can’t talk about yet. It is going to be a very busy year for me!
Holley Cornetto writes dark fantasy, horror, and weird fiction. To date, her writing appears in over a dozen magazines and anthologies. To indulge her love of books and stories, she became a librarian. She is also a writer, because the only thing better than being surrounded by stories is to create them herself. She can be found online at https://hcornetto.wixsite.com/mysite or lurking on Twitter @HLCornetto.