WiHM: Interview with Horror Poet Stephanie M. Wytovich

by Stephanie Shamblin Gray

February is Women in Horror Month and part of the Horror News Network spotlight on women this month we caught up with horror poet, novelist, and essayist, Stephanie M. Wytovich. Stephanie is a Bram Stoker Award winner for her poetry collection, Brothel. Her work has been showcased in Weird Tales, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8  as well as her debut novel, The Eighth.” Her most recent work is The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Aside from writing, she is an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. Read on for some insight into what is driving this very busy lady.

Horror News Network: Have you always been a fan of horror?

Stephanie M. Wytovich: This is going to be an odd answer: yes and no. When I was little, I hated Halloween, mostly because it’s my family’s version of Christmas; we went all out and bled black and orange for months on end. The house was always fully decorated, and things and creatures and way-too-realistic tarantulas were always jumping out and scaring me no matter which way I turned.

I dreaded October.

Until at one point, I didn’t.

I started helping my parents decorate and became interested in picking out my own costumes. I even watched all the scary movies with my mom while she did laundry and ironed at night. This lead to me devouring tons of horror novels at a young age, and eventually, I became the Wednesday Addams of my social group and never looked back.

HNN: What inspired you to write horror poetry?

Wytovich: I’ve always written horror poetry, even though I didn’t always know that was what I was doing. My childhood therapist told me to start journaling and writing poetry because I was having a hard time talking about my trauma, and this eventually lead to me creating monsters as representations of my pain so that I could both slay them and learn survive them.

Poetry has always been wildly cathartic for me, and I’ve found more comfort and strength in the horror genre than I ever thought could be possible.

HNN: In a great example of “what is old is new again,” poetry is receiving renewed interest as a horror medium. Do you think the more contemporary establishment of the medium is affecting the opportunities for women? 

Wytovich: There’s definitely been a renewed interest in poetry, especially one that I’ve noticed over the past 10 + years that I’ve been working in the industry. I think that because it’s being accepted and read more, we’re seeing more and more voices come out to play and participate because they feel seen and heard now—and most importantly, taken seriously—so that’s been really wonderful to experience and be a part of, frankly because we all need more poetry in our lives.

HNN: Can you tell us about your work at The Horror Club at Point Park University and what you are doing for Women in Horror Month there?

Wytovich: Sure thing! I was asked by a group of students last semester to be the faculty advisor to TheHorror Club, to which I enthusiastically said yes, and this year for Women in Horror Month, we’ve been working with PAAR (Pittsburgh Action Against Rape) to collection donations to help homeless youth and victims of rape, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. [ed. Links for more information are below]

HNN: What do you feel is the best way to encourage, expand, and promote women in horror right now? 

Wytovich: I always think that the best way to promote art is to talk about it! If you liked a book: tell a friend about it, buy it as a present for someone, review it, share the love on social media, take a picture of it, tell your library to get in copies of it, etc.

I also think it’s important to push for diversity both inside and outside of the classroom to make sure that our reading lists are inclusive, multicultural, and a nice blend of classic and contemporary work. A good example of this might be comparing and contrasting Frankenstein by Mary Shelley to The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White, or We Have Always Lived in the Castle to My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

HNN: Are there any horror projects you are planning and/or working on currently?

Wytovich: Oh yes! I’m currently finishing up a bizarre horror novelette and working on a handful of nonfiction essays. I’m also always writing poetry and have been working on a creative interpretation of my Witch Lit class that I’ll hopefully have more information on to share soon!

HNN: Any advice you would like to give to women entering horror?

Don’t be afraid to show your scars, to scream your words, or leave bite marks on the page. Being a woman is akin to being a warrior, and the best person to tell the story that you want to tell…is you.

HNN: Thank you for your time, Stephanie!

For more information about Stephanie follow her blog at http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/ and on twitter @SWytovich .

For more information on the PAAR event and how to contribute, you can click hereFor more information on PAAR, you can click here.

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