Interview: Nanci Kalanta

It came to my attention a month or so ago that February was officially “Women in Horror Recognition Month.” I thought that was a great idea, as horror has always, to me at least, given the impression of being a completely male-dominated genre despite the invaluable contributions of ladies such as Shirley Jackson, Mary Shelley, Daphne du Maurier and, more recently, Sarah Pinborough, Gemma Files, and many, many others.

Then I took a quick spin through the archives here at October Country. Oops. Looks like I’ve been doing my part in perpetuating that whole “horror-is-a-guy-thing” idea. In just over a year I’d conducted 10 exclusive interviews for this site, and not one of them was with a woman. I’ve reviewed two books here written by women, and only one of them was horror. So, yeah – time to quit with the “oh, isn’t that nice” line of thinking and do my part.

So this month I’ve got some interviews lined up to help equalize the representation here, and I’ll strive to do better in the years and interviews and reviews to come. Part of my mission with October Country is to broaden my own horizons as well as the horizons of those who take the time to read what I offer here. I’ve been reading the women of horror for years – now it’s my pleasure to introduce a few of them to you.

First up is Nanci Kalanta, owner/operator of the Horror World website.  Horror World offers up genre reviews, original fiction, and interviews (conducted, I’m proud to say, by yours truly), not to mention one of the most active message boards in horror today. Nanci regularly uses her website as a platform to promote new and up-and-coming talent, and occasionally publishes said talent herself. I thought her perspective on the horror genre as it continues to mutate would be a unique and valuable one to begin these interviews with, and she graciously accepted my invitation.

So, without further adieu, here’s Nanci!

OC: You’ve been in charge of Horror World for about eight years now. From that unique perspective, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the genre?

NK: There have been a lot of changes.  Many specialty publishers have gone out of business and the avenues for releasing new work from new authors has narrowed significantly since the boom of the mid 2000’s.  The larger publishing companies are facing challenges from ebook readers and are cutting back significantly on signing on new authors, especially horror authors.

While the ebook revolution has opened more doors for authors, it has also opened the floodgates to bad works as well.   As with any new technology, there will always be a “boom and bust” cycle and right now we’re looking at the “boom.”  I fully believe the “bust” is going to happen soon and then the industry will settle into an uneasy alliance between electronic and physical books.

In terms of websites devoted exclusively to horror literature, when I took over Horror World in 2003, there were a lot of sites out there offering content.  Now, it’s dwindled down to just a few.

Coming from that same perspective, have things changed significantly for women working in the genre? If so, why do you think that is?

I really can’t speak for anyone else.  For me, there haven’t been any significant changes.  In the beginning, I’m sure there were plenty of people out there who thought that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.  Going from ‘fan’ to taking over a well-respected website, I’m sure, raised a few eyebrows.  However, once I established myself and proved I could do the work, there were no issues.

 Who are some of the female authors that are doing – or are destined to do – big things in the genre?

The ones that immediately come to mind are Lucy Snyder, Elizabeth Massie, Lisa Morton, Chesya Burke, Sarah Pinborough, Rhodi Hawk and Sarah Langan. I’ve seen some great work from these authors and expect that we’ll see more in the future.

I hate actually hate to name folks because I invariably leave someone out.

Have we reached a proper level of gender equality in horror, or could things be better?

In my mind things can always be better.  In my humble opinion, I think an author should be judged on the quality of their work, not on their gender.   I met a female author at Thrillerfest a few years back and when she started writing, she had to do so using her initials so as not to give away her gender.  Publishers turned her away because “how can a woman write a thriller.”  Her  novel which went on to be a best seller!  These are the stereotypes that need to be put away forever.

What is it about horror that attracts you personally to the genre’s books and films?

I can’t really say what draws me to horror.  I’ve always loved to read and started gravitating towards the darker works after reading Bradbury.  I think Ghost Story by Peter Straub was the first “official” horror novel I read. Carrie by Stephen King solidified it for me – I was hooked and sought out more.

With movies, I like quiet horror.  I don’t like the in-your-face gorefest or torture porn that seems so prevalent today.  Give me a movie that when I walk away, I’m totally creeped out, not grossed out.  Frailty is probably a great example of quiet horror.  Damn, that movie messed me up the first time I saw it and there is virtually no on-screen violence.

What are some of your proudest achievements with Horror World?

Wow, there are a lot.  Being a Stoker finalist our first year and winning a Shocklines Shocker Award.  I’m proud of the trust some authors have in me to help market their books by running contests and getting the word out.   Publishing Eulogies:  A Horror World Yearbook, Laughing Boy’s Shadow by Steven Savile and Sparks and Shadows by Lucy Snyder.  More recently, Blood Born by Matthew Warner which is on the preliminary Stoker ballot.

We were also approached to work with Cemetery Dance and FEARNet to provide book reviews and a few years back I was given the opportunity to save Pod of Horror when Horror Reader decided to close shop.  It’s gone on to be one of the more popular horror podcasts out there; Mark Justice does an amazing job (just don’t tell him I said that – it will go right to his head) and I’m thrilled that he’s remained in the fold.

I think the fact that my message boards are still active and having fresh content on the site while others are shutting down says a lot.  My contributors are some of the best in the business and it is really their hard work that helps keep the site running.  There is no way I could do this on my own.

What are some things Horror World’s visitors can look forward to in the future?

More of the same, I hope <grin>.


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