Women in Horror Spotlight: Maria Alexander
Q: Horror seems to be the writing playground of ‘the boys’. What made you chose to write horror or do you feel that you were chosen to write horror?
Since I was a wee thing, I have always done “boy” things, it seems. I was attracted to so-called boys’ toys, like racecar sets and CB radios, and read just about all of The Hardy Boys books. Later, I played Dungeons & Dragons with my male teenage friends. I loved ghost stories, monster movies, WWII, vampires and Lovecraft. So when I started writing, I just started writing what I liked to read.
But why horror? Well, one of my first stories was “The King of Shadows,” and I think it says something about where are my kinship with darkness, as it were, comes from. By the time The King of Shadows died, I felt like I’d come into my own, inheriting the Kingdom to rule in my own way.
And now I sit on the throne, but I rule with a different heart and hand.
My throne is not twisted and ugly. It glimmers with starlight, ensconced in gnarled tree roots, canopied in jasmine flowers, draped in azure silks. I invite the unholy, the bruised, the bankrupt of spirit, the heartbroken and monstrous to rest at court until I find stories for them so they can sweep into the night skies and commit terrors. Those creatures of pitch and craft are mine now. They are all he left me.
Not everyone who writes horror, of course, hails from the same sort of family background, but it certainly influenced my creativity.
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?
It’s not just our responsibility to create them. It’s our responsibility to define them. It bothers me deeply that we still use the adjective “strong” before the words “female character” just so we can talk about someone with integrity, courage, agency and intelligence—someone with a character arc that doesn’t leave them dead on the sidelines or merely rescued. She’s a whole person, someone with concerns that don’t involve “getting a man.” She’s not there merely to help a man be the hero, either, and then be his romantic reward. She might have teammates, but her life is in her hands.
And for heaven’s sake, it doesn’t mean that a woman has a battle-ax in her hand or that she can bench press a mule. I wrote an article for Nightmare Magazine last year about this topic called, “Baby Got Backbone: What Makes Strong Women Kick in Horror Films and TV Shows.” Just as with male characters, physical strength does not equal moral strength, and it’s the latter that makes a character heroic. If you can’t make a woman a hero without putting a gun in her hand, there is something seriously wrong with your definition of courage.
Q: If you could become any aquatic mammal, which would you be?
I would be a Bowhead whale! Migrating through the Arctic waters, these gigantic creatures can live for up to 200 years. They’re sort of the Tom Bombadils of the North Pole as they gracefully swish along, singing boisterous songs that echo through the ocean, but more mysterious and intimidating. Most impressively, a Bowhead can smash through two feet of ice with its head to make a place to breathe. (I’m a bit hardheaded myself, so I can relate.) I love the Arctic. It’s home to many fascinating creatures, including the Narwhal whale, but the Bowhead is the most magnificent. It’s endangered, but most countries have banned hunting, allowing only subsistence hunting by Native Alaskan tribes. Considering all the senseless ways a human being can die, giving up one’s life to sustain a tribe seems rather beautiful.
Bio: Maria Alexander writes pretty much every damned thing and gets paid to do it. She’s a produced screenwriter and playwright, published games writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer, prolific fiction writer, snarkiologist and poet. Her stories have appeared in publications such as Chiaroscuro Magazine, Gothic.net and Paradox, as well as numerous acclaimed anthologies alongside living legends such as David Morrell and Heather Graham.
Her second poetry collection—At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned and the Absinthe-Minded—was nominated for the 2011 Bram Stoker Award. And she was a winner of the 2004 AOL Time-Warner “Time to Rhyme” poetry contest.
When not wielding a katana at her local shinkendo dojo, she’s being outrageously spooky and writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats and a purse called Trog.
Explore her website: www.mariaalexander.net. You won’t regret it.