I’m crazy thrilled to have Bram Stoker Award Nominee Maria Alexander on my blog today. If you haven’t read Mr. Wicker yet, well, you’re missing out. Read on to find out what makes this author so amazeballs.
GGS: Hi Maria! It’s so great to have you on my blog today. I just finished reading Mr. Wicker and I really enjoyed it. I seriously gobbled it up like Halloween candy, finishing it in 24 hours. I’m so happy to hear it is on the Final Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award. Since it’s Women in Horror Month, this feels like a win for female horror authors everywhere.
I’d love for you start by telling my readers a little bit about your book, Mr. Wicker, and what inspired you to write it.
Maria: I’m delighted that you enjoyed it so much, G.G.! Mr. Wicker is about a woman missing a deadly childhood memory. She has to get it back before it destroys her life. The Library of Lost Childhood Memories holds the answer, but the Librarian is Mr. Wicker – a seductive, sinister creature with an agenda just as lethal.
The book was inspired by an extraordinary personal event. It was so special that I’ve chosen not to discuss it in interviews, but rather to treat it like buried treasure. If you solve the puzzle at the end of my book trailer, it will take you on a puzzle trail that reveals the amazing story-behind-the-story. You need only identify where you’ve seen a similar sequence of letters and numbers before. (Think about your most-visited websites and you’re halfway there.)
GGS: Awesome. I love a good puzzle!
Next question: How did you come to love the horror genre, and when did you first know you were going to become a horror writer?
Maria: I’ve loved horror since I was three years old. My much older half-brother came home one night while my folks were out partying and fired my babysitter. He then invited his friends over to watch TV. I sat on my future sister-in-law’s lap as they watched The Fly. I’ll never forget burying my face in her blouse as that little fly voice cried out, “Heeelp meeeeeeeee!” It scared the hell out of me, but I loved it! As a kid in Los Angeles, I would watch the Saturday afternoon Million Dollar Movie, which was always some kind of monster movie or vampire flick.
I started writing horror games in the late 80s, almost ten years before I ever wrote fiction. And in the mid 90s, I wrote a short horror script for a direct-to-video horror anthology starring Forry Ackerman that was produced but never released. By then, I knew what I wanted to do. I just wish I had started writing books when I started writing games. I’d be much further along in my career.
GGS: There are so many great quotes in Mr. Wicker. As a fellow female artist, one really struck me so much that I stared at it forever, letting it sink in:
“They say that men want to leave their mark on the world either through violence or art. Alicia wanted that as much as any man did, perhaps more so, and she had been robbed on both counts. No art. Impotent violence. What was left?”
Wow. That rang so true for me. I’d love to know what inspired that, if I may. Care to discuss?
Maria: I’m not sure which part of my life didn’t inspire that, honestly.
Look, American women weren’t allowed to fight in the military until 2013. We read a book about a female sociopath and lose our collective shit over the (ridiculously banal) reveal. Even the other day, I was watching the Super Bowl, wondering if there would ever be a female football coach in the NFL. Would a woman ever be put in charge of so much violence? We’ve made greater progress with art, but that, too, was denied to the majority of women for millennia.
Obviously these aren’t the only ways that human beings can leave a mark on the world, but it says something about the distribution of physical and intellectual power. In this passage, Alicia is making it clear that she wants very strongly what many women have been denied, that she isn’t different from men in this regard. She’s furious and frustrated. I think a lot of women can relate to that.
GGS: Do you feel that being female has given you a unique perspective as a horror author? If so, could you describe that perspective?
Maria: I’ve probably lived in more fear than most of my male counterparts, or at least with fears that many of them have never imagined. So, yes. And certainly I don’t see women as the victims that some menfolk make us in their stories. Pregnant women, little girls, blind women, sexually active teens, prostitutes, single mothers… It’s not that these aren’t real people, but I’ve seen these female characters in too many horror stories written by men, as well as women who buy into the stereotypes.
Horror has far too often relied on making women as vulnerable and victimized as possible rather than creating female protagonists who are educated, talented, intelligent, and resourceful. The female characters are incapacitated in ways that we rarely see in male protagonists. It’s not that male authors can’t do this. (Hello, George Martin!) It’s just that I see my characters as people first and gender second. It doesn’t mean they’re not flawed – Alicia begins Mr. Wicker as a damaged person – but it does mean that they have the resources and wherewithal to be intelligent actors on their own behalf, with their own goals.
GGS: Also, when you were first starting out, did you encounter any difficulty being heard or seen because you are female? If so, how?
Maria: I honestly don’t know how much of it was because I was female, but there was a certain panel at the World Horror Convention in 2008 where I confronted the editors of several magazines – one of them was Cemetery Dance – for never responding to my story submissions over the previous 10 years as I watched them publish inferior work by male authors. (Or if they did respond, it was years later.) In attendance was Scott Edelman, who was both impressed by my moxie and concerned about my situation. We spoke at length about it afterwards, and became friends. Despite the critical acclaim I’ve received, I’ve never got a firm response from magazines like Dark Regions, despite following up. Was it sexism? Were they deleting my stories unread based on my name alone? I considered using a pen name, but I rejected the idea because it made me too angry. Fortunately, Gothic.net and ChiZine were snatching up my stories, as well as some lovely anthologies.
GGS: Lastly, which female horror author (living or dead), do you most admire, and why?
Maria: That is such a hard question to answer. I admire so many women in this field. I will always idolize Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson. But it was Anne Rice who moved me to write. I saw a living, breathing woman reinventing the vampire genre, and that was deeply exciting to me. Of course, I totally want to be Nancy Holder when I grow up. I hold out hope that I’ll get to be some shade of her.
GGS: Maria, thanks so much for taking this interview. I hope all my readers get a copy of Mr. Wicker, and experience it for themselves.
Readers, please connect with Maria at the following links:
• Website/Blog: http://www.mariaalexander.net
• Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22545259-mr-wicker
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mariaealexander
• Twitter: @LaMaupin