“What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?”
As a child, I had very definite ideas about what girls were supposed to be like and what boys were supposed to be like. I wasn’t very fond of boys – they were loud and noisy and rough. I was a girly girl, into dresses and dolls and I didn’t like getting dirty.
Everything changed around puberty, and it wasn’t just because boys suddenly got more interesting. In grade eight, we were given an assignment in English class to write a horror story. And in the school library, I picked up a book called DIFFERENT SEASONS that featured four novellas by a chap called Stephen King. I liked the book so much, I went hunting for other things by the same writer. That led me to CARRIE. The rest is history. From then on, I was hooked on horror. I devoured it throughout high school – the gorier the better. And suddenly, the girl who as a child couldn’t even watch a creepy TV show without having nightmares for weeks was writing some very nasty horror stories.
By this time, we were in the middle of the 1980s. My generation of women were growing up with the likes of Joan Collins as role models – women with big hair and big shoulder pads and six-inch stilettos, who knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to go out and get it. The boundaries of gender were becoming blurred. My junior high school (mixed) obliged all students to take both Industrial Arts (wood and metal working) and Family Studies (cooking and sewing). I was actually hopeless at all of it. Writing horror stories, though – that I seemed to be good at.
In high school, where I was able to drop both Industrial Arts and Family Studies (and Physical Education, which I was also hopeless at), I started to get interested in the clubs and societies the school had to offer. I joined the Dungeons and Dragons Club. I found I really enjoyed playing.
It was after I left school, though, than I began to run into gender barriers more and more often. Girls don’t play D&D. Girls don’t play video games. Girls don’t write horror stories, apparently. Anyone who says that is clearly too ignorant to realise that FRANKENSTEIN, arguably the first modern horror novel, was written by a teenage girl.
There are plenty of women horror writers out there, but too often ‘best of’ lists of horror writers are populated exclusively by men. And I still meet people who are surprised when I tell them I’m a horror writer. “But you seem so nice,” they say.
Maybe being nice is not the way to go. Since women horror writers don’t get their voice heard often enough I think we have to learn to shout a lot louder. Maybe then more people will notice we’re out there.
SUFFER THE CHILDREN
Orphaned at eighteen, Leanne’s life is adrift in a sea of grief and drug use. She washes up on the shore of estranged relatives, the Carver family, struggling with loss of their own. The transition from her South London council estate to her new home in the Surrey middle-class suburbs is difficult for Leanne.
But beneath the respectable veneer of the quiet neighborhood, something terrifying lurks. Displaced and troubled teenagers are disappearing. Leanne recruits her cousin Simon and his girlfriend Carrie to help get to the bottom of the sinister mystery. Can the three of them stop a creature of unimaginable evil before Leanne becomes a target?
Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror, and someone tends to die a horrible death in all of her stories. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.
She decided she was going to be a published novelist when she was 10 years old and finished her first novel a year later. It took 30 years of submitting, however, to fulfill that dream.
Her latest release is SUFFER THE CHILDREN, a supernatural horror novel that is available now from MuseItUp Publishing