Women in Horror Spotlight: Donna Lynch
Q: Tell us a story about one of your first experiences with the Horror genre.
I was seven and watched Friday the 13th at a friend’s house. I was so upset, my mom had to come get me in the middle of the night. She wasn’t very happy about it, and forbade me to watch anymore horror. So, of course, a short time later, on a Saturday afternoon, I watched Burnt Offerings. I was actually too terrified after that, for years, to watch or read anything scary. I had so many monsters from such a young age, I couldn’t handle it. But I slowly came around -the attraction was always there- learning that if I let it into my life in a creative, fictional way, I could get a better grasp on the real stuff.
Q: Are people ever surprised to find out that you’re involved with Horror? If so, how do you handle that?
Once in a while, but my aesthetic choices of hair, clothes, make-up, tattoos, etc tend to give people advanced warning. People are more surprised to find out that I write!
D: Hundreds of hours of driving. I love long-distance, cross-country driving. It’s very relaxing to me, and when everyone else falls asleep, I have all this time to just think. But it’s different than the “sitting at home, doing nothing, staring at the wall, waiting for an idea” kind of thinking. My brain is alert and engaged in our surroundings, triggering things that I never would’ve thought of, otherwise.
Q: Can you, as a woman, write horror that would entice more women to read it?
D: I think a lot of women already read it. But personally, I don’t enjoy something when it feels like pandering. This gets us into some sticky places with gender issues, but I don’t think most *people* want to be pandered to. I am a feminist and I am for gender equality to whatever degree is humanly possible. I think shining a light on a social minority in any given context (in this case, women in horror) and making people more aware of a group’s experiences, contributions, and struggles is vital and appropriate. That said, I don’t have a lot of interest or patience with things “for women, by women”. To me, equality would be never having to think of the horror genre as boy’s club. It would be not being written off as weaker-willed, weaker-stomached, too soft, or somehow watered down because I am a woman. I am rarely treated with blatant disrespect by my peers, but in both my writing and music career, I often have to “prove” myself harder than the guy next to me. That’s why I wouldn’t want to write anything with the intent of getting a female audience. Horror should be gender-neutral. Everyone feels fear.
I don’t believe in being chosen to do anything. You choose, based on what you know and experience. I have felt haunted by things since early childhood. Some of the monsters were real. Some live in my brain. Either way, I’m qualified for this job.
Unfortunately, I think people allowed horror to become a boys club. You can’t argue what certainly *looks* like so much misogyny and brutality towards women, but I can think of an awful lot of terrible things that have happened to male characters in horror, as well. The nature of the violence is very different, but if you want to talk about real fear, maybe you have to go there. Men get their throats cut, they get hunted, they get framed, they go crazy. Women get all of the above AND they get violated. This is a generalization, of course, but I think there is truth to it. As a woman, that’s what is most terrifying to me. And if the point is to terrify…
But I don’t think there was ever a reason it *needed* to become a boys club, nor does it need to stay one. Mary Shelley wrote one of the most nightmarish and profound statements about humanity and fear and responsibility at a time when women were permitted and expected to do nothing other than look pretty and use fainting couches. If she can impact horror, writing, and society in a way that holds up after almost 200 years, we can totally do this.
Um, the best one…which is cherry. Duh.
Q: Lately there has been a lot of talk about strong female characters. Do you feel female authors have an added responsibility to create them?
D: I think female authors have a responsibility to write the character that needs to be written for the story, same as men. And I think we could stand more female protagonists. But I’m flawed and so are my female characters. If I made all of them bad-ass all the time, I’d be lying. But as a woman in horror, regardless of the medium, if you don’t have at least one Ellen Ripley in you somewhere, or hell, even a Wendy Torrence, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Read more interviews in our Women in Horror Q&A series.