An Interview with Jennifer Place [Women in Horror Month 2018]

Jennifer is a fantastic writer who released her first horror novel recently and has been a longtime fan of the horror genre.

The horror genre is new to you as a writer (at least in what you have had published), please let us know how that came to be?
While Building 51 is the first horror story I’ve published, it’s not the first I’ve written. I have an unfinished vampire novel that’s been pushed to the back burner for a number of years, both due to the oversaturation of vampires as well as other projects just taking higher priority. I’ve found entering the genre daunting because the space has so much talent and my own insecurities made me question whether my stories were good enough to be included.

As a horror fan and now a horror writer, what attracts you to the genre?
I’ve always had an affinity for creepy or spooky tales. I remember reading The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright when I was young. I was afraid to turn the pages but I couldn’t help myself. I was hooked. Not long after, my father introduced me to Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Peter Straub and that was it for me.

I like being scared – I like that moment of not wanting to turn the page to see what happens next but having to turn the page to see what happens next. I like movies that make me watch from between my fingertips.

Who are you a fan of? Who or what inspires you?
Stephen King, first and foremost, I’d say. Also early Dean Koontz, Joe Hill, early Anne Rice. I went through a Barbara Michaels phase – while I wouldn’t consider her horror, she wrote a LOT of ghost stories, which are really my favorite. If you want me to read something, throw a ghost (or a vampire) in there and you’ve got my attention.

Inspiration is a weird thing. Twice I’ve been inspired by buildings that I’ve seen my entire life – the first being the Vanderbilt mansion in Hyde Park, NY, which inspired my book Journey’s End, and the second being the Hudson River State Hospital, which inspired Building 51. Apart from those, I’ve been inspired by song lyrics and just life experiences for different projects.

Did you see roadblocks or challenges going into the horror genre (as a woman or otherwise)?
Entering the horror space was more intimidating, as I mentioned earlier, but in my experience that’s been my own insecurity. Because I’m so new to it and since I’m with a small publishing house, the hurdles thus far have been fewer. The wider the exposure, the more roadblocks or pushback, in my opinion.

How would you say the process of writing horror differs from other genres, if at all?
I think what makes horror different is that the same things don’t always frighten everyone. It’s so subjective. Trying to craft a story to elicit that fright response isn’t easy. I’ve written in the past about friendship and loss and love – and those things all people feel and experience. Not everyone has the same fears so I think it’s difficult to put something together that would be appealing to more than just ghost story enthusiasts.

What would you say to young Jennifer about being a writer?
I’d probably say a lot of the same things I tell myself now – for example, to stop being afraid of writing in general and that constructive criticism is not a personal attack. There will be those who enjoy your work – and those who don’t. You can’t please everyone but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep writing.

What would you tell a young woman wanting to get into the horror genre as a writer?
I’d say do it – grab your story idea with both hands and don’t let go. I know so many women who love horror in general and the space can definitely benefit from more women’s voices and perspectives.

What do you think of the Women in Horror Month movement?
I think it’s important to recognize that it’s more than just a boys’ club. Women have and continue to contribute to the space and I think we need to recognize that.

Which other ladies of horror do you think our readers should get to know?
I’ve become a bad reader over the years, which I’m just starting to get back to now. You can never go wrong with the classics like Mary Shelley or Susan Hill or Shirley Jackson. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (the first three, at least) and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series (the first five or six).

Lastly, what projects do you have coming up that you can tell us about?
I’m in between projects at the moment and mulling over some ideas. I like to keep my stories local and am looking to stay in the horror space for my next project so as of now, there’s nothing yet in the works.

Thank you Jennifer for you time and for being another talented woman grabbing the horror genre and not letting go.

If you would like to read some of Jennifer’s work, you can order it here and here.