An accomplished author with her work appearing in numerous publications and anthologies, KC Grifant has leant her writing to numerous sources with her work in and out of the genre. Now, in honor of Women in Horror Month, I talk with her about her early interest in writing, her approach to new pieces, and her first novel Melina West: Monster Gunslinger.
Me: Hello and thank you for taking the time to do this. First off, when did you get into horror in general?
KC Grifant: As a kid, I loved adventure and fantasy stories, as well as science fiction and horror—pretty much anything that was out of the ordinary and an escape from everyday life. I enjoyed TV shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Tales from the Crypt, as well as books such as the Goosebump series and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Something about frightening tales with a twist—or with a hopeless ending—felt both exciting and cathartic.
Me: Were you into genre films growing up? What films specifically got you into watching horror movies?
KCG: I loved certain types of horror films growing up—movies with a sci-fi or cosmic bent, or horror films that focused on far-out ideas and creatures rather than slashers or graphic violence. I was obsessed with the Alien trilogy and disaster movies like Independence Day. I also reveled in old-school horror films featuring weird creatures (like The Blob or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes), as well as strange, dream-like movies that blend fantasy and horror (like Legend or Dark City). And of course, shows containing intrigue tinged with horror, such as X-Files and The Twilight Zone, were staples.
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?
KCG: As a teenager and young adult trying to find my writing voice, I gravitated to the works of Margaret Atwood, Anne Rice, William Gibson, Octavia Butler, L.J. Smith, and Philip K. Dick for their incredibly distinct styles. I’ve been inspired by those literary giants to likewise find ways to incorporate lyrical language, fantastical world-building, intriguing character development, and thought-provoking themes and plots into my stories.
Me: What was the starting point of becoming a writer? Were you always into writing growing up?
KCG: Pretty much as soon as I learned to write, I created stories. The earliest tale I can recall writing was about a girl who shrunk down in size to soar on a paper plane. This was the start of my first series written in the third or fourth grade—stories about fantastical happenings in the classroom that all ended with “it was all a dream.”
I continued to write sci-fi, horror, and fantasy stories in middle school and high school. I took a multi-year hiatus from serious writing in my 20s and got back into it once I settled down into my career and family life.
Me: What is your writing process? How do you stay focused on writing?
KCG: With a full-time job and two small kids, I can’t write consistently every day. I try to make sure I get at least some writing done by the end of the week. I take notes throughout the day during lunch or coffee breaks and escape into my fictional worlds in the evenings once everyone has gone to bed.
Me: Is there any specific type of genre you prefer writing? Is there any style or format you find easier to get into even without a preference?
KCG: I write fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and usually blend the genres. When I write, I’m not thinking of a particular label. All my stories fall under the umbrella of “speculative” fiction, where the story explores elements outside of reality (e.g., ghosts, monsters, etc.).
During the last few years, I’ve been diving into the Weird West genre. This is an amalgamation of the Old West aesthetic and setting mixed with other genres, such as horror, fantasy, or sci-fi (Cowboys vs. Aliens, Dark Tower, or The Wild Wild West).
This genre invites imagining the uncanny; tales of werewolves, demons, ghosts, aliens, and otherworldly elements that seem right at home in the often harsh and unforgiving epic landscapes of the Old West.
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?
KCG: Writing and publishing a multitude of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and weird western short stories during the last few years has been invaluable for future projects. For one, it allowed me to experiment with different styles and worlds and provided fodder for longer works. My debut supernatural novel MELINDA WEST: MONSTER GUNSLINGER was actually inspired by several short stories I wrote featuring the same characters.
Honing the short story art form improved my novel writing. I had written (unpublished) novels throughout my life, but often stalled in the beginning and got mired in the middle. Writing short stories helped me develop a habit of pushing through the sticky middle to get to the end, and finish what I complete.
Lastly, contributing to anthologies is also a great way to connect with fellow writers, editors, and publishers and discover new fiction.
Me: What is the general process for getting involved in these projects?
KCG: For fiction anthologies and magazines, staying mindful of open submission calls through websites and social media is essential. You have to have your stories ready and polished to submit in the time period and make sure to follow the specific publisher’s guidelines. I have a spreadsheet of my dozens of short stories color coded and tracked to make sure I’m maximizing submissions and not missing any opportunities.
Me: How did you settle on the plot for your new novel "Melina West: Monster Gunslinger?"
KCG: I wrote a number of short stories starring two characters who are creature exterminators in an alternate Old West overrun by monsters: Melinda, the stoic sharpshooter, and her easygoing partner, Lance. These weird west short stories have been published internationally in magazines and anthologies, so it was a natural next step to write a novel featuring them in an epic adventure.
My debut supernatural western MELINDA WEST: MONSTER GUNSLINGER (Brigids Gate Press) showcases the duo fighting everything from giant flying scorpions to psychic bugs. During one of their jobs, they accidentally release a demon that steals their friend’s soul. They must battle a menagerie of monsters and hunt a notorious outlaw to save their friend and stop a supernatural war.
Me: Was there any special significance to making the action take place in the Old West?
KCG: I used to competitively play a horror-western-themed card game called Doomtown: Reloaded. It featured a variety of fascinating characters ranging from gunslingers to lawmakers to evil clowns. This game enamored me to the weird west. I wrote official stories tied to the release of new Doomtown cards and, after that, I wanted to create my own weird west concept. This led to Melinda West’s world.
Me: Was there any part of your real self injected into the characters?
KCG: Not consciously – the main characters are more like the ideal friends I’d want to have my back if I was in a monster-ridden world. If there is a bit of myself in the story, it would probably be the occasional side character with arcane or esoteric knowledge that helps the duo solve their problems.
Me: Once it was finally written, what was the process for having it published?
KCG: For whatever reason, weird westerns (horror westerns and supernatural/dark-fantasy westerns) typically haven’t been featured prominently in traditional publishing, so it can be a challenge to get these types of books out there. Luckily there are an abundance of creative and passionate small and indie presses that love to promote horror and genre-blended fiction.
I was fortunate to connect with a wonderful small publisher, Brigids Gate Press, to bring MELINDA WEST: MONSTER GUNSLINGER into the world. We worked closely together on edits, and I was extremely grateful to be able to give input into the cover (which turned out better than I had hoped)! I know that’s not always the case with some publishing companies. The book came out in February 2023 and has been well-received.
Me: How did moving from short stories to full-length novels challenge your writing skills?
KCG: Writing (and finishing!) a novel requires way more patience than a short story, since you’re in it for the relatively long haul. The biggest challenge for me in novel-writing is to keep all of the elements in mind and not lose the threads of where I want the story to go. I try to be better about organizing notes and outlining, which is not as necessary for short stories.
Me: How do you do to keep your creative energy flowing?
KCG: I switch projects often. If I start to get stuck on one, I’ll take a break and do a short story or poem to keep things interesting. I figure as long as I’m writing/creating something, it’s productive procrastination!
Me: Lastly, what else are you working on that you’d like to share with our readers? Thank you again for your time!
KCG: I am currently in the middle of drafting the next book featuring Melinda West and this weird western world. It will have more urgent stakes, scarier monsters, and hopefully some twists and turns that will leave readers wanting more. Readers can stay updated at www.KCGrifant.com or by connecting with me on the major social media platforms @kcgrifant.
Thank you for the interview!