As you may know, February is “Women in Horror” month. To celebrate, PromoteHorror.com asked women from different professions if they would like to answer some questions about being a “Woman in Horror.” One of the women, who was kind enough to answer our questions, was journalist/broadcaster/author Rose Zolock. Lets see what she said about being a “Woman in Horror”…
-PH: When did you first become a horror fan?
-Rose: Fear attracted me.
It began with a Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. The scene where she melts into the floor gave me nightmares as a child. It was gloriously frightening. Then, a friend, when we were both about four years old, she picked up a large, wriggling earth worm. I screamed. She then dropped it in the font pocket of my pinafore dress. That creature – I can still feel the slimy warmth and frantic twisting – it paralyzed me. I was helpless, unbelieving and terrified. There was no point running – this thing was invading my pocket and me. It stained my soul with horror. I can still feel that total panic. Later, I discovered the Hammer Horror films, now gloriously vintage, with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing battling good versus evil and the safety of horror – that distancing but total immersion in your suspension of belief only the masters of horror can create. Stephen King then took me by the hand and I also discovered the great gothic novels of supernatural literature.
I was home.
-PH: Was there a specific moment when you realized that you wanted to go from being a fan of horror to a woman who contributes to the genre, or did it just kind of happen naturally?
-Rose: Journalistically, I have been fascinated by what people believe and why. I have interviewed many who claim to have seen inexplicable events. Whilst fascinated by their stories, I have also been interested in WHY they believe. I have an open mind – but no direct experience of the paranormal. I had been on a journey of listening and observing. Then, I had an idea for a novel which used that perspective and I knew would make a great story. So I wrote it. Now, I am filtering that attraction to fear through the creative process. I like dark places. I created the darkest place in our contemporary world, using the media as a backdrop, so we can all explore that fear.
-PH: What does having a “Women in Horror” month mean to you?
-Rose: A great deal. Women have always been successful writers of horror. The days when a woman had to publish as a man to even get her work taken seriously are over. Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel. She was published as Ellis Bell in 1847. Even JK Rowling chose a masculinised version of her name to chime with JRR Tolkien. Interestingly, she also writes as Robert Gilbraith. This isn’t a criticism – but it is an interesting observation.
Now, in writing, more and more women are free to explore horror. This is not about feminising the genre, allowing female stereotypes push the narrative along. Our perspective is as rigorous and frightening as established male writers. We need more room, more promotion and we need to support each other. I wish our gender was not still an issue. We do not write in in a room scented with lavender, writing with a fluffy quill on soft parchment feeling somehow apologetic for daring to create stories. We stand as equals.
-PH: Is there a woman in horror who you consider a role model?
-Rose: There are several. Mary Shelley, who was unconventional, created The Modern Prometheus – Frankenstein after a massive thunderstorm and a bad dream. She wrote “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves’. Amen sister, back in the 19th Century.
Daphne Du Maurier– for her ability to take the horror genre into a place where great stories and fear combine. No sugar for her. In Rebecca, she created the original first wife from hell, in the original Mrs De Winter – physically dead but very much in control. Du Maurier didn’t even give wife number two a name. And Don’t Look Now was an exploration of the horror of loss, set in the winter walkways of a sinister Venice with sludge coloured canals, the red hooded horror and that atmosphere of déjà vu.
Susan Hill, CBE – for Her Woman in Black – but her award winning ability to build a story wrapped in history, atmosphere and understated horror. She once told me one of her own favourite novels was ‘The Man in the Picture’, about an oil painting of masked revellers in Venice and the power that held to entrap and destroy those who were drawn to it. She said it drew her in, even though she created it. I have never forgotten that.
-PH: How do you think the role of women in horror has changed over the years?
-Rose: Women in the modern horror film genre are often seen as the victims. The fabulous scream queens – Jamie Lee Curtis. The deranged: Deborah Kerr in The Innocents, Nicole Kidman in The Others. The downright vindictive – Carrie White played by Sissy Spacek – let’s not even start on her mother played by Piper Laurie. Sadly, I think that element of stereotyping in Horror still runs through Hollywood and TV.
Anne Rice created modern horror that was attractive, gothic and had us hankering after vampires. They were humanised and suffering in their immortality – perhaps making us yearn for the chance, for the bite, for the coffin to sleep in at night whilst the rest of the world grew old. Her female perspective led to horror which represented the alienated amongst us.
The fictional horror genre was changed by Stephanie Meyer with the Twilight series. That has launched YA horror and paranormal romance. I love walking into a major bookstore and seeing the success of female writers with their best sellers, lurid covers of vampires and humans, spectral romance, thrills and spills in the Twilight Zone. I think these authors – Nora Roberts, Cassandra Clare, Kierston White – have been inspirational for storytellers and supply a demand from mainly female readers and show commercial success can be achieved by women.
Scully did a lot in the X Files to show a modern woman, with brains, debunking the stereotype. More please. Besides, I loved her suits.
-PH: What do you think the future holds for women in horror?
-Rose: I hope we can be recognised across the genre. Women writing, producing, editing, starring in and directing horror.
Some of the best literary agents worldwide are women. Many who specialise in the horror genre are men.
My own publisher, Darren E Laws at Caffeine Nights – they specialise in Horror and Crime – handles some of the big names in Horror Fiction, such as Shaun Hutson whose latest novel is Chase. Darren wanted a woman to write paranormal and horror. I am glad we found each other.
Our gender does not mean we cannot explore horror in all elements. To end this, a return to and a quote from Anne Rice from The Queen of the Damned, the Vampire Chronicles:
‘I don’t know whether I’m the hero or the victim of this tale. But either way, shouldn’t I dominate it? I’m the one really telling it, after all.’
-PH: Being that this is PromoteHorror.com, please feel free to plug your current/next horror project.
-Rose: ‘Medium Wave’ by Rose Zolock, is out in April, published by Caffeine Nights. Available on Amazon.
‘This thing has no defined shape. Whatever energy exists within it, it cannot settle on a shape. The strands of darkness curl out and then wrap back inwards. The bulk of the shadow becomes concave, then bulbous, the height building in on itself but lacking any skeletal structure to wrap itself around. There are no eyes, no clearly defined head shape. It is creating itself from darkness, like a swirl of ebony ink dropped into a vat of putrid water, spreading silently….’
Becky Moran has built a career claiming to talk to the dead. A successful clairvoyant medium, a Cambridge graduate with her own radio show ‘Medium Wave’ and a team dedicated to crafting the celebrity myth – because Becky Moran is a fake.
Until, one night, something supernatural, inexplicable, breaks through live in air as she is broadcasting. Becky Moran discovers the paranormal is real, the dead can indeed speak and she is being pursued relentlessly towards a battle for her very survival.
Subscribe to the free Podcast ‘The Guttering Candle’ as Rose Zolock hears the stories of the Paranormal. Are you ready? Are you sure?
Available on ITunes and your favourite podcast app.
Visit Rose on her website: rosezolock.com
Follow on Twitter: @rosezolock
Join her on FB facebook.com/rosezolock
We would like to thank Rose Zolock for taking the time to answer our questions, but more importantly for her contribution to horror!