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 the fantastic writer, editor, and PR Professional Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. Lets see what she said about being a “Woman in Horror”…
-PH: When did you first become a horror fan?
-Erin: I was only a subtle horror fan in the beginning of my life. I wasn’t allowed to read or watch horror as a kid, and beyond being forbidden, it instilled in me a real fear of things too like the dark, vampires, Satanists, etc. I was introduced to Edgar Allan Poe and Shirley Jackson in school and they became inspirations for my writing. Through my first real boyfriend at seventeen, I was introduced to Stephen King, and became a fan. In college, studying English, I had the opportunity to read more Joyce Carol Oates and stemmed off into her horror short stories which I love still to this day, as well as works by others that feature gothic elements, which I really enjoyed and still enjoy. In my twenties, I eventually started branching out on my own and reading what I wanted. In my forties now, my parents still chastise me for my reading and writing choices even though I read a large variety of genres. I have enjoyed overcoming my fears, which happened the more I’ve read and wrote and watched horror. I’m not a fan of gore for sake of gore, but I do think horror makes me feel the deep emotional bonding I need to feel with a book better than any other genre, so it’s just always called to me. Horror writers are great at character development.
-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?
-Erin: I think it happened naturally. I had quit my full-time job in healthcare PR/marketing/editing and set-up my own PR business. I was writing more fiction on the side while caring for my three young children. This was about eleven years ago. I started up a blog to talk about my writing journey and review books I was reading during bouts of insomnia. I had a few indie horror authors contact me, the first being Brian Moreland, who is still a great friend today and one of my favorite authors. I did a review and interview with him. I have a degree in journalism, English, and history, so his work, Dead of Winter, having a historical element to it mixed with a legend of wendigo, made me decide to try reading it. I told him I’d only read it during the day, and I did, during the hour wait I had each day picking up my two oldest from school. I was hooked.
A few other authors in the newly created horror line at Samhain Publishing (new then, now defunct unfortunately) who were just starting out contacted me shortly after that – Hunter Shea and Jonathan Janz. And I met Ronald Malfi. Those three had me hooked on the possibility of modern, indie horror. I read everything I could get my hands on new and old after that. And at night. Haha! When their careers took off and they needed marketing support, and since that was already my career path, I started helping them on the side because I had the experience. I quickly became a publicist and editor in the field and have worked in most aspects of publishing now with and for presses to with standalone authors.
Two years ago, I published my first collection of dark poetry and horror short stories and I’ve had numerous poems and short stories published since. I never would have thought that would happen initially. And I’m still writing around my editing and PR work in horror (and work in other genres too).
-PH: Since you’ve become a horror fan and woman in horror, have you always had the support of friends and family or did you have some explaining to do?
-Erin: My family as in my partner Tim and my three kiddos (20, 16, 12) support me being a woman in horror, even if my kids aren’t huge fans themselves. They understand and always beta read my stories. They support me in my work in the genre. My parents as I said look down on me for it and often chastise me. I don’t know about extended family. They know I work in it and some have bought my collection, but no one ever told me what they thought! And yes, I wonder. Same goes for most of my friends. I live in a very religious community and I often am left wondering if I, or my kids, are judged for my work. But I have no idea.
-PH: What does having a “Women in Horror” month mean to you?
-Erin: I think it’s important to have it. I get excited for it. For me, it’s more of a celebration. Guys have always put themselves and their work forward to me. Women don’t. I’ve met most of the women in horror I know through the promotions of women in horror month, especially up until this last year or so. Now I find more online too, but I think it’s important we have this time to shine. I don’t look at it negatively as some but embrace it. Should everyone be equal already? Sure, but I mean, we aren’t and it’s not getting fully better. So why not just be glad for the time to shine?
-PH: Is there a woman in horror who you consider a role model? How have they effected your life in and outside of horror?
-Erin: I always choose Heather Graham (the author, not the actress) for this because not only is she a successful and prolific author, but she is a woman who truly loves her family and does all she can for them day after day. She also is very kind, no matter how successful she is, to all of us whether fellow writers who aren’t as successful yet or to her fans. She reminds me outside of horror what’s important and that’s family.
-PH: How do you think the role of women in horror has changed since you got involved in horror? Have you personally noticed a change from when you started?
-Erin: I absolutely believe that in the last two years more women have taken over the internet to remind people they write horror too and more and more names are known and read. More women aren’t afraid to self-publish books as well. Now, we see women more equal to men out there and more male readers supporting books by women. When I first started, I felt I was swimming in a sea of men. Now I feel that both men and women have a place to shine. This was due to women and a few men shouting repeatedly names of women and their awesome books and stories, more publishers publishing women, and more women coming out of the woodwork on social media and not being afraid to use their voices. Women reviewers in horror started speaking up and more of them started reviewing horror. Things such as Ladies of Horror Fiction was started up to support women in the genre and they do a fabulous job of getting the word out all year long.
-PH: What do you think the future holds for women in horror?
-Erin: I think the future looks very bright! Women really know the emotional depth it takes to write horror and have a great many stories to tell whether on the page or the screen.
-PH: This is Women in Horror Month 11…how long do you think we will continue to celebrate this month before women get the recognition they deserve?
-Erin: I hope we always celebrate this month as women are unique creatures of which so much can continue to be highlighted. I think we are getting the recognition already, but I think that any type of awareness is always good. There are still men out there who have a gripe. As long as any man doesn’t see our merit or thinks they are made less because we are awesome… we will need women’s voices to keep being heard. And not just in the horror genre, but in all things.
-PH: If you could serve a role in horror that you’ve never done, what would it be?
-Erin: A filmmaker or director maybe!
-PH: Who is your favorite final girl, and favorite female villain?
-Erin: Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in Scream franchise is my favorite final girl. Firstly, I love Neve as an actress. And I loved the progression of Sidney’s character into a fighter through each of the movies.
I think Maleficent is pretty cool as a villain!
-PH: Being that this is PromoteHorror.com, please feel free to plug your current/next horror project.
-Erin: I’m working on the editing stages of two new dark poetry collections and a horror short story collection as well as editing some fine books in horror and fantasy genres for other authors and publicity work on select titles. I’m also the editor for an upcoming charity anthology called Survive With Me, which I’m working on with author Glenn Rolfe for his Alien Agenda Publishing line.
If anyone is interested in my dark poetry and short story collection, Breathe. Breathe., I’ll leave that info here as well.
About BREATHE. BREATHE.
Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.
In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.
In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.
In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.
Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.
With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.
Amazon Link –
Available in e-book and print and Kindle Unlimited
Also available via Barnes and Noble in print and at other fine online retailers.
PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.
“Al-Mehairi creates engaging characters and often has twists to her plots that make for a unique reading experience. The highlight of this section would be the story “Dandelion Yellow,” a magical realist tale about a young girl and her box of crayons. It’s a rich, colorful tale with a suspenseful build up and haunting ending. Overall, the fiction section of the book is very well done.” – Cemetery Dance Online
“Precise writing, compelling plots…my favorite was The Madness of the Woodpecker. It’s a great example of perhaps a strong characteristic in both poetry and prose: unexpected endings.” – Gene O’Neill, Bram Stoker Award Winner
“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews
More About Erin Al-Mehairi in her Biography:
Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is a writer, editor, and PR Professional with degrees in English, Journalism, and History. Though she’s been writing for decades, Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving, was her debut collection of dark poetry and short stories and was an Amazon #2 best-selling paid title in women’s poetry, behind NYT best-seller Rupi Kaur, and has hovered in top five in horror short stories several times since its publication. Her work has been called raw, honest, evocative, and beautiful.
She has poems and stories featured in several anthologies and magazines, including the recent 7 Deadly Sins of the Apocalypse which was an Amazon #1 paid best-seller in horror anthologies upon release, was the co-curating editor in 2018 for the gothic anthology Haunted are these Houses, and is the editor of the 2020 anthology Survive with Me. As an editor and publicist, she manages Hook of a Book and assists publishers and authors in the horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and historical genres and has worked on and with many award-winning and nominated titles for the Bram Stoker Award, Shirley Jackson Award, and more.
Besides working in her field in different areas for 27 years doing editing, marketing, public relations, and more, she has also worked as a reference librarian, a bookseller for a successful children’s and YA publisher, and ran her own program in which she raised money for books for children in need.
She is currently completing two poetry collections and a short fiction collection with more in the works. Find more about Erin at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter (@erinalmehairi).
We would like to thank Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi for taking the time to answer our questions, but more importantly for her contribution to horror!