Women in Horror Spotlight: Stephanie Wytovich
Q: What scares you?
I’ve spent the past few years reading about the psychology of fear and listening to countless legends about ghosts and the supernatural. I’ve locked myself in asylums, visited abandoned hospitals, and called out demons in prisons, and what I’ve learned for the most part is that all monsters and fiends have rules, rules that they abide by and rules about how they can be destroyed. Humanity, however, is unpredictable, dangerous.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m not worried about stumbling upon the Jersey Devil. I’m worried about being too close to someone when they snap and therefore ending up with an axe in my head.
Case in point: I didn’t find true fear until I locked myself in a psychiatric ward in a prison two years ago. Seeing what people did to other people was what scared me. It’s that lack of empathy, the ability to see nothing when you look in someone else’s eyes that defines evil. that showcases fear.
Q: Tell us a story about one of your first experiences with the Horror genre.
One of my first experiences working in the horror genre was when I started doing public readings of my poetry. Up until college, my work was always something that I did just for me and I was surprisingly private about my work in horror. During my sophomore year, I started reading during open mic nights on campus, at coffee shops, during Halloween events, and everyone had a very similar response to my work: “I’d be afraid to piss you off, Wytovich.”
And it’s funny because I attend a reading series once a month in Carnegie now, and the piano player at the bar said the exact same thing to me, not even a week ago. I guess some things never change and for that, I’m grateful.
Q: What is it about Horror that attracts you to it?
The beautiful grotesque.
I love being able to find the gorgeous in the blackness, the lovely in the dark. Whether I’m writing dark fantasy, gothic prose, or splatterpunk gore, I think there’s something valuable in monstrosity, and sometimes I think it takes the graphic and stark realism of tragedy for us to learn from our past and present in order to have a better future.
Q: Talk about a woman in horror who has influenced your work.
Wait, she doesn’t write horror!
Plath has always been my greatest influence. I read her religiously and her words are some of the darkest, most beautiful examples of real-life horror that I have ever heard. She taught me how to be a poet, how to find and harness the darkness within myself, and most importantly, how to be honest and true to my work and to my message.
Sure, she’s not classified under horror, but she’s the one who taught it to me, and she’s the one I continue to study and learn from.
Q: What do you think about the concept of Women in Horror Month? Is it necessary to showcase women in the genre?
I agree full-heartedly with the concept of Women in Horror Month and as such, I’ve been doing a portrait/blog series in favor of it this year. You can find it here: http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/2015/02/this-is-not-female-horror-writer.html
The hard truth is that most male readers still only read male authors, and that’s seriously unfortunate, not to mention frustrating. Good literature is good literature and it shouldn’t be showcased or bought based on what genitalia the author has.
Q: Are people ever surprised to find out that you’re involved with Horror? If so, how do you handle that?
People are always surprised to find out that I’m involved in horror, and frankly I find that insulting because it therefore implies the stigma that something must be wrong with me. I handle it with pride because I’m not ashamed of what I do, and I’m more comfortable in my skin/voice as a writer now than I have ever been before.
If you don’t like that I write about horror and sex, don’t read me.
I’m proud of what I write, and I’m proud to be a female writing it.
Q: Where do your best ideas come from?
When I’m driving.
I take a lot of road trips and I revel in the idea of being lost. There’s something about an open road that inspires me because the opportunities for what waits ahead are countless. Oftentimes, I’ll pull off to the side of the road, sprawl out on the roof of my car and write, write to nothing but the sound of night and to the draft of back roads.
It’s freeing and it puts my mind at peace.
Q: What’s one thing you would like people to take away from you writing?
Survival is a choice.
Bad things happen to good people. It’s a way of life. The key to getting around that is to find your inner strength, give yourself permission to grieve and then fight off or fight for whatever is standing in your way.
Read more interviews in our Women in Horror Q&A series.