An accomplished writer and poet, Emma J. Gibbon has moved herself into one of the more accomplished names in the scene as she attaches herself to various anthologies as well as her collection Dark Blood Comes from the Feet. Now, in honor of Women in Horror Month, I talk with her about becoming an author, her writing style and the release of her collection.
Me: Hello and thank you for taking the time to do this. First off, when did you get into horror in general?
Emma J, Gibbon: It started really early. I was always interested in scary and spooky stuff. I remember as a tiny kid begging my mother to let me stay up late to watch Hammer Horror films and Tales of the Unexpected. The first book I ever bought at a book fair at school was a Penguin anthology of short stories called Ghosts, Spooks and Spectres. It had a creepy-looking girl on the front cover with a skeleton hand resting on her shoulder.
Me: Were you into genre films growing up? What films specifically got you into watching horror movies?
EJG: Absolutely! Aside from what I mentioned above, I was a kid in the 80s, pretty much a golden age of horror movies and video stores. My brother was/is a big horror fan, and we used to go to the video rental place to go and look at the horror covers, stuff like The Lost Boys and Fright Night. At the time, we were very young and couldn’t quite convince anyone to rent these movies for us. When we were a little older (not by much), we moved to a new house and our new local video store was a lot laxer regarding age restrictions, so we watched them all—Evil Dead, the Nightmare on Elm Street series, The Fog, Reanimator, Child’s Play, Cronenburg’s movies, all the zombie movies, you name it. The Lost Boys remained a firm favorite, and at one point we were watching Nightbreed every day. This was the era of “Video Nasties” in the U.K., so a lot of movies were officially unavailable, like The Exorcist or straight-up banned or heavily cut, like I Spit on Your Grave or Driller Killer. Of course, there’s nothing like banning something to make it immediately seem more appealing, so there were all kinds of contraband VHS tapes being passed around. I often wonder if we would have been so eager to watch them if they hadn’t been seen as so dangerous.
Me: Who were some of your favorite writers growing up? Do you try to take influences from their style with your own voice in your work?
EJG: I’ve always read a lot, and when I was younger, it was hard to get my hands on enough reading material as I would just breeze through it all. I got a lot of books from yard sales and flea markets, so as a result, my reading was kind of feral and eclectic. I also did a lot of rereading. Writers that I remember having a strong impression on me were Stephen King, of course, but also Alfred Hitchcock, Daphne du Maurier, Saki, V. C. Andrews, Roald Dahl, Bari Wood, Jeanette Winterson and Ken Kesey. As I got older, I encountered writers who would have just a strong an impression on me as the ones that I read when I was younger, writers like Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Angela Carter, Mervyn Peake and George Saunders. As far as them influencing my style, it’s not something I do consciously, but I’m sure it’s part of the DNA of my stories. I believe that the writers you read have a strong influence on making you who you are, so it’s inevitable that they will be woven into your work.
Me: What was the starting point to become a writer? Were you always into writing growing up?
EJG: I vaguely remember designing T.V. shows as a kid—drawing the characters and describing the setting, but I really started writing with angsty poetry as a teenager, then in my twenties onwards I started writing short stories and longer works. It took me a lot longer to get published, figuring out things outside of the writing such as how the industry works, where I fitted in and having the confidence to submit.
Me: What is your writing process? How do you stay focused on writing?
EJG: It’s kind of chaotic, to be honest. I’m not a person who tolerates a creative routine very well, and I have to change it up every once in a while to get the best results out of myself. I think it was Ray Bradbury who said writing is like making friends with cats. You have to pretend to not be too interested. I am perpetually trying to outrun my inner critic. I have to Jedi mind trick myself into believing that I’m not trying to create some “great work,” that I’m just noodling around. If I take it too seriously, I get a kind of page-fright and freeze. That said, when that flow happens, when I can feel my brain sparking and making connections, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
As for staying focused, I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out!
Me: Having contributed to various anthologies early in your career, what tools and skills do you acquire working on those that transferred to future projects?
EJG: I think it really helps with things like working through the submission process, working to a deadline, writing to a theme and working with editors.
Me: What is the general process for getting involved in these projects?
EJG: For most of the ones I’ve been in, I submitted to an open call for submissions and my story was picked from those. I did have one that I was asked by an editor to send. I was jokingly lamenting on social media that my story had been rejected because they had “too many cannibal stories” and she asked to take a look!
I know that at a certain point, writers get invited to take part in anthologies, but that hasn’t happened to me yet. So, to editors of paying markets—I am available!
Me: How did you settle on the idea for your new collection 'Dark Blood Comes from the Feet?'
EJG: There were a couple of publishers that I really liked that were having open calls for collections of stories. I basically realized that I had enough material to put together a collection that I felt showcased my range as a writer. The stories span about a ten-year period from first conception.
Me: Was there any part of your real sense injected into the characters in your stories?
EJG: The answer to that is not at all and yes, all of them! On the one hand, none of them are anything like me. I see them as themselves, separate from me. On the other hand, I do steal from my own life when I create them. Some of them have memories that are my memories, some of them have things happen to them that have happened to me, one of them even lives in my house!
Me: Once it was finally written, what was the process to having it published?
EJG: Trepidatio Publishing had an open call for short story collections and I had been really impressed by the stuff they had published, so I sent mine in. I was literally pulled from the slush pile. I didn’t have any previous connections or anything, so it really can happen!
Me: Did moving from short story collaborations to a solo full-length collection challenge your writing skills?
EJG: Definitely! When you’re putting together a collection, you have to think not just about the individual stories but how they work together. The order of the stories can really affect how the collection feels as a whole. There may be stories that are just not a good fit for the book.
Me: What other stories or works are you involved in you’d like to share with our readers?
EJG: Right now, I’m in the process of writing a novel, so I’ll be working on that for quite a while. I do have a short piece in the Horror Writers of Maine's new journal: Northern Frights II. It’s my homage to Stephen King. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Northern-Frights-Autumn-Midwinter-2020-ebook/dp/B08QMCHR3V/
Me: Lastly, being that this is Women in Horror Month, what special message do you have for any women out there looking to join in the industry in any capacity as you are one yourself? Thank you again for your time!
EJG: First of all, welcome, joinnnn ussssss. I’ve found the horror community to be an incredibly friendly and supportive place. Secondly, I think it’s important to be true to yourself creatively. Don’t hold back based on what people might think. You will find your readers/audience and it will surprise you. To paraphrase The Craft, we are all the weirdos, mister. Finally, I would implore you not to self-reject. You miss all the chances you don’t take.
Thank you for the interview! I hope that one day there won’t be any need for Women in Horror Month, but the fact is there are still people who think women can’t write horror. I mean, have they read any lately!?
To follow her work, check out her official site: