Local women break through in fantasy and horror

Queens of the Damned organizer Madeline Iva penned the romance fantasy Wicked Apprentice and contributes to the blog Lady Smut. Courtesy of subject Queens of the Damned organizer Madeline Iva penned the romance fantasy Wicked Apprentice and contributes to the blog Lady Smut. Courtesy of subject

‘‘My book came out last year a week before the presidential elections,” says Madeline Iva, author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice. “What I came away with, standing in the blasted devastation of our liberal democratic psyche, was that I’d just written a book about a woman who ends up holding all the power—and people are very nervous about it.”

The experience inspired Iva’s upcoming panel, Queens of the Damned: Women Who Write Horror, Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction, and she will lead a discussion October 28 at Barnes & Noble on how women are challenging and changing genre fiction.

“The title of this panel references that post-election moment,” Iva says. “I have to keep writing that kind of book. Young women need to see and hear about women having power, being comfortable with it, and everyone else not freaking out.”

Whether carving a path in a male-dominated industry or beating the odds to actually publish and attract readers, these women prove the power of positive action in publishing.

Elizabeth Massie, Desper Hollow

“Horror is often thought of as a ‘guy’s genre.’ It’s edgy, gritty, scary and sometimes no-holds-barred graphic,” says the two-time Bram Stoker Award winner. “I don’t begrudge my male horror writer counterparts any recognition they have rightly earned—that would be sexist. But I do know woman horror writers have a ways to go.”

Shawnee Small, The Night Kind series

“I was a goth for over 20 years, both here in Charlottesville when I did my English literature degree at UVA in the early ’90s, and also later, when I lived abroad in the U.K. during my 20s and 30s. As a fantasy author, I decided from the onset that I wasn’t going to hide my gender behind a pen name, for better or worse. …Women are still told that we’re being silly, and that our feelings are over-exaggerated, or just plain wrong. I say don’t listen. Stand by your convictions and don’t be afraid to go against what everyone else says. That’s how revolutions are started.”

Mary Behre, Tidewater series

“I had 42 agents turn down the first book in my award-winning series,” Behre says. They feared they wouldn’t be able to sell the book, which she’d written because “I’d always wanted to read books about ghosts that did more than creak the floorboards or move a lamp.” She went on to sell a two-book deal and sign contracts for more.

S.A. Hunter, Scary Mary series 

Hunter writes about a high school girl who hears ghosts and wishes they’d shut up. Welcomed into the community by local romance writers, the Charlottesville-based, self-published author says that “being paid and praised for my writing is still amazing to me.”

Jodi Meadows, Before She Ignites

“I think fondly of the authors whose books I read as a teen, whose books showed me that fantastic adventures weren’t just for boys, and I want to carry on that tradition.” Meadows’ latest includes dragons, politics and a girl who did the right thing and was punished for it. “Now, as someone whose books are getting bigger, it’s my job to make sure that path includes space for marginalized authors, whose voices have been silenced throughout history.”

Tina Glasneck, Dragon’s Awakening, part of the Through the Never anthology

“Representation of different colors, beliefs and backgrounds [as a few examples] matter in fiction,” Glasneck says. “I truly believe that books help people grow. Minds are changed through great storytelling. …To me, when we stop reading, we also, as a culture, stop thinking and growing.”

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