Photo Credit: Norah Burrows
To start, is there a theme to You Fed Us To The Roses?
So, I didn’t set out with a theme, exactly, but as I began lining up all my short stories, trying to decide which would go into the collection, it became quickly and rather painfully obvious that I revisit certain subjects a lot in my work: families of choice, escaping abusive relationships, characters coping (often poorly) with past trauma. More than anything, I realized I was writing about survivors, so I decided that would be the focus of this collection. The characters in You Fed Us To The Roses have all survived different things — witches, serial killers, their parents, their husbands, their grief — but they’ve all kept going, they’ve all persisted, even the dead girls. Maybe especially the dead girls.
Aside from having to fit that theme, what other parameters did the stories in You Fed Us To The Roses have to adhere to? Like, did they have to fit a certain length, did you only include ones that were relatively new…what?
The stories needed to check three boxes: theme, genre, and length. In terms of length, I ended up excluding any flash fic because I only had one story that would work for this collection, and that just seemed off balance. Meanwhile, roughly 90% of what I write is contemporary dark fantasy and horror, so I didn’t include, say, my sci-fi story about alien poetry and linguistics, or my “Diamonds And Toads” retelling, which — despite being deeply on brand — would’ve been the only non-contemporary fantasy in the bunch.
So, are there any writers who you see as having a big influence on specific stories in Roses but not on your style as a whole?
Well, the most obvious literary influences are the fairy tales: “Such Lovely Teeth, Such Big Teeth” is a modern take on “Little Red Riding Hood,” while “Monsters Never Leave You” is the unholy mashup between “Hansel And Gretel” and “The Juniper Tree.” But my overall style has definitely been influenced by fairy tales, so that doesn’t quite work.
Madeleine L’Engle, though. Her work definitely played a part in “Every Day Is The Full Moon.” In fact, I directly referenced A Wrinkle In Time in that story. It’s a possession story, see, and one of the central themes is exploring what love can and cannot realistically accomplish. In A Wrinkle In Time, love alone is strong enough to defeat mind control; in my story…less so. Love can’t stop an abuser from abusing, and it’s not holy water, either; it’s not a tool of exorcism. That doesn’t make love worthless; it’s just not magic. Which is actually an idea that’s always stuck with me after reading a different L’Engle novel, A Ring Of Endless Light. (They’re specifically discussing the function of prayer in that scene, but I feel like it applies.)
How about non-literary influences; are any of the stories in You Fed Us To The Roses influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Boy, are there. “You Were Once Wild Here” was definitely influenced by Brick (Rian Johnson’s high school neo-noir), not to mention Twin Peaks. “15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside A Hello Kitty Notebook” absolutely does not exist without Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Teen Wolf. And “Some Kind Of Blood-Soaked Future,” “If We Survive The Night,” and “Forward, Victoria” are all stories that examine and play with horror movie tropes. Scream and Friday The 13th are probably the most direct influences, but there are direct and indirect nods to Carrie, The Ring, Halloween, Black Christmas, The Cabin In The Woods, Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon, etc.
What about Radiohead? Because on your website you mention which songs of theirs pair well with your stories.
The Radiohead thing started out as a Twitter meme. Something like “Congrats! Hollywood is adapting everything you’ve ever written, but you can only choose one artist / band to score all your work. Who do you choose?” Obviously, I picked Radiohead, but then I decided to try and actually find a specific song for each of my stories. And it was fun, so I just kept doing it.
Most of the stories in You Fed Us To The Roses previously appeared in such journals as Nightmare Magazine and Strange Horizons, as well as in such anthologies as The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: Volume One. Are the versions in Roses the same, or did you change anything about them for this collection?
They’re pretty much the same, actually. There are a few minor changes: some updated references, some newer terminology. I originally wrote one character using a slur that, on reread, just didn’t feel necessary at all, and I was more than happy to replace that with, frankly, a better insult. But otherwise, not much.
Hollywood loves turning short stories into films. Do you think any of the stories in You Fed Us To The Roses could work as a movie?
I actually think most of them could work. Some would be more challenging than others, and a few would probably make better TV shows. But I think most of the stories here are pretty adaptable, maybe because so many of them are influenced by film and television.
And if some producer wanted to make that happen, do you have any casting suggestions?
Oh, man, I’m gonna be thinking about this question all day now. “15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside A Hello Kitty Notebook” is about the psychological toll of fighting monsters every week with your friends, and I could absolutely see Maya Hawke [Stranger Things] playing Sparrow, the protagonist and self-appointed comic relief. “Forward, Victoria” is about a murdered high schooler who keeps coming back to kill, well, lots of people, but especially abusive or neglectful adults, and I’m kinda obsessed with the idea of Erin Kellyman [The Falcon And The Winter Soldier] playing her. And if anyone ever decides they want to make a movie / show about Slasher Purgatory and the girls who don’t survive horror movies, I would give someone’s whole left arm to see [Star Trek: Discovery‘s] Doug Jones play the angel in “If We Survive The Night.”
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about You Fed Us To The Roses?
Some of the subject matter can be pretty heavy. There are content warnings included for each story to help navigate that. And if you absolutely despise 2nd person POV, well. This might not be the collection for you.
On the other hand, if you’re into humor, violence, Feels, werewolves, witchery, platonic relationships, queer characters, movie references, complicated families, ghosts, or weird evil stone angels, you might enjoy checking this out.
Finally, if someone enjoys You Fed Us To The Roses, what collection of horror and dark fantasy short stories of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
So, truthfully, I’m not as well-read in collections as I’d like to be. There are several I’m interested in picking up — The Ghost Sequences by A.C. Wise and Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap come to mind — but as a reader, I sometimes struggle with collections in a way that I just don’t with novels, for reasons I have difficulty articulating. The vast majority of short fiction I read actually comes from online magazines like Nightmare, Uncanny, and The Dark. Both Nightmare and The Dark, in particular, consistently publish fantastic work and are excellent places to seek out really exciting dark fantasy and horror.