There are so many different flavors of horror that I’m convinced that everyone could find something to love in this genre. My guest today is Stacey Graham, whose humorous and lighthearted approach to the darker side of life is as fun as it is infectious. If you like your horror with a side dish of humor – this is the gal for you.
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I’ve been branded as sort of a horror-lite kind of writer: no, not the branding that requires a stiff drink and a leather strap to bite onto, but one that doesn’t take the process of scaring the pants off of people too seriously. As such, the zombie love story, Eye of the Beholder in the anthology Hungry For Your Love (St. Martin’s Press) and my tarot deck, the Zombie Tarot (Quirk Books) have afforded me a unique niche as a way to break up an otherwise horrifically fabulous book of stories.
Case in point: last fall I attended a haunted mansion writers’ retreat in California. The location was super secret. Aside from knowing I’d be in the foothills outside of San Francisco, the rest of the details I just left to my west coast host and hoped my family would be able to identify my bits from the other hacked up writer parts if things went horribly wrong. The mansion was lovely, with a quiet and efficient staff so well trained that I wasn’t sure if a living person or if their resident ghost, nicknamed Gretchen, had changed the sheets each morning. As thirty or so of us gathered in the cavernous living area downstairs to swap ghost stories and get caught up from the last time they’d met, my ghost hunter-trained mind started to notice the quirks in the building and its surrounding property: echoes of footsteps in the staircases, cameras tucked into high corners, a pool that had been forgotten and allowed to succumb to algae. It was a perfect setting for a haunting, either real or imagined.
As a participant, I was asked to contribute to an anthology and I gladly took them up on the offer, though how was I going to be different? How could I compete with horror authors that dealt daily with zippers of flesh or woke up screaming at night from their own works in progress? I had to get funky. A girl who wrote the Zombie Dating Guide couldn’t go down a path littered with severed heads, I needed to be the comic relief in a sea of well-written misery. Using the inspiration of the house, I wrote Dance With the Devil for the Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two anthology that will come out later this year. The short story is a snappy 50s housewife-inspired séance that mixes murderesses with mistresses and a dollop of pimento dip.
“Get the lights, Betsy.” Marge needed her ambiance. She also needed a vodka martini, but the chance of getting that with these gals dwindled with each serious look and dewy bosom attributed to the excitement of raising the dead. Marge suspected it was due more to the heat and lack of oxygen in the room than nervousness, since Bernice hadn’t stopped smoking her Lucky Strikes after seeing that ad with Sophia Loren. Now the woman tramped around the room in low-cut gowns pretending to have an Italian accent.
“I weeell do eet.” Bernice purred. A long, tobacco-stained fingernail twirled the knob and the room faded into darkness as Betsy’s new dimmer switch activated. Feeling her way back to the Formica-topped kitchen table, she pretended to ignore the sounds of Betsy’s husband in the rumpus room listening to the game. “I am ready to meet the spirits of our dead ones.”
“Fabulous. Pass me a weenie before she gets wound up.” Eleanor had been to these séances before; she knew that when the medium got started, the hostess always forgot to pay attention to details – like grumbling stomachs. She’d better load up on the cream cheese-pimento dip while she was at it. Returning to the table with a plate loaded with snacks, she smoothed her orange and blue caftan over the metal arms of the chair. Averting her eyes from the dried apricot puree from the youngest boy’s supper on Betsy’s pink sweater set, she settled down to watch Marge go through the ritual of preparing the small kitchen for visitors from the netherworld.”
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I am currently writing Giving Up the Ghost: Spooky Tales of Haunted Objects for Llewellyn Publishing, to be released Spring 2014. You can be sure I’ll weave in a bit of sass with the screaming skulls. Have any haunted objects giving you the stinkeye from a dusty corner? I’d love to hear your story! Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the website at givinguptheghostbook.blogspot.com for more information.
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