Friday, 27 February 2015

Women in Horror: ALLISON M. DICKSON

Allison M. Dickson is the author of two published novels: horror-thriller STRINGS, and the dystopian epic, THE LAST SUPPER, which received a starred review in Publishers weekly. She also has published nearly two dozen short stories covering both speculative and realistic realms, both independently and in various anthologies and magazines like Apex. Her independently-produced Colt Coltrane series, featuring a detective and his robot sidekick in 1940s Los Angeles, has become a regular fixture at local comic conventions. She is represented by Stephanie Rostan of LGR Literary.

When she isn't writing, she's usually gaming, catching up on her shows, or wandering the urban sprawl of Dayton, OH, in search of great coffee and microbrew. Allison keeps a semi-regular blog full of ramblings at

When did you start writing horror?

I’ve been writing horror since the beginning of my career. It’s my “home” genre. Even if I’m playing in suspense or science fiction realms, I’m always incorporating elements of horror.

Have you written in any other genre? 

All the time. My two novels THE LAST SUPPER and STRINGS are dystopian sci-fi and      horror/suspense, respectively. I have a dark suspense novel currently with my agent, and I independently produce a pulpy 1940s sci-fi/noir series (COLT COLTRANE). In between that are a couple dozen short stories that span across several different genres.

What makes you uncomfortable?

A lot of things. Being lost. Losing my memories or sense of self. Confrontations of any kind. I try to explore a lot of what makes me uncomfortable in my books. It makes for better stories.

Does your family read your work?

Some of them do. My husband is my chief proofreader. I know my parents read a good bit of it, as do lots of distant relatives, cousins, and such. Kids and grandparents, on the other and, not so much. While I don’t exactly censor my work from my kids, they haven’t expressed much interest yet in seeing what exactly their mother churns out. Probably because they know it’s scary, and they’re not quite into that stuff yet.

Does your writing make you uneasy?

Sometimes. With STRINGS, I worried a lot that I had overstepped bounds in terms of decency and violence, but largely the book has been well received in spite of those things. My short story “Daddy’s Glasses,” which is currently in the WRAPPED IN WHITE anthology, made me uneasy because a lot of it was based on events from my mother’s childhood. I didn’t want to make her upset by bringing up a lot of old ghosts, but she was hugely supportive, as she has always been of my work. As far as it making me uneasy in the sense that I scare myself with it, no, not really. Though if I spend a lot of time in the dark places, I tend to emerge feeling a little dark. It’s nice to work on lighter material for awhile.

Who would you say you write like?

I’ve never been very comfortable making those kinds of comparisons about myself, but I tend to feel that fans of writers like Stephen King will probably enjoy my stuff, because we both play in the same dark contemporary playground. Style-wise, I just try to write like me.

Who are your favourite authors?

Stephen King, Joe Hill, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Gillian Flynn, Neil Gaiman. I had the chance to read BIRD BOX recently by Josh Malerman, and he’s become one to watch. I also have the pleasure of being friends with some wonderful authors, like Ian Thomas Healy, Gae Polisner, and Patrick Greene.

Who influences you as a writer?

Influence comes from everywhere for me. A show like BLACK MIRROR, for instance, left me reeling with all sorts of new ideas. If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically a British Twilight Zone for the modern age. Highly recommended if you’re into any speculative kind of storytelling. Life influences me. Conversations with interesting people influence me. My husband and kids keep me grounded and secure, which helps a lot of my ideas sprout. 

Do you remember what your first horror book was that you read?

Oh I think my mom got me some kiddie thrillers when I was younger, but my first true horror book was MISERY. I had grown up watching commercials for the Stephen King Library when I was a kid—you know back when you could actually subscribe to King’s books, and you would get a new one every month? Who even does that anymore? Anyway, I knew one day at the bookstore I had to try out a Stephen King book. MISERY had been in theaters not long before, so it was freshest in my head. I was hooked straight away and gobbled up every book of his I could get my hands on.

How old were you?

I was eleven. And pretty much the only seventh grader I knew carrying around a copy of the unabridged version of THE STAND. The kids already thought I was weird, but the teachers were impressed.

Is there any subject you will not touch as an author?

I doubt you will find me writing anything involving the military or erotica. That doesn’t mean I won’t write about sex or war, but there are certain wheelhouses and genres my mind doesn’t seem interested in exploring. Then again, never say never. There was once a time I never thought I would write steampunk or dieselpunk. I’ve since done both. 

What was the best advice you were given as a writer?

It isn’t enough to aspire to write, or to want the rewards that come with being successful. Just like anything else, you have to want it bad enough to work through all the pain and disappointment and other difficulties associated the field. We all want to be happy, but we don’t all really sit down and think about what we’re willing to suffer for. When I realized I was getting rejected left and right and encountering one difficult manuscript after another and not making much money, and I STILL wanted to keep at it, I realized I was doing the right thing.

If you had to start all over again, what would you do different?

Honestly, probably not all that much. Maybe I would put some different promotional strategies to use sooner, but overall I am extremely lucky with how things have unfolded for me thus far. My current publisher discovered me via a free promotion of one of my shorts, which led to them publishing two of my books, and after working my butt off for several years, I managed to get a great agent. If there was a magic pill that could have made it all happen faster, I may consider it, but then again, over the years I’ve matured into a better writer. Things happen in their time.

How many books do you read a year?

Not as many as I would like. I’m a slow reader and I don’t make much time for reading except before bed. I try to finish one book per month, though.

Do you write every day?

I do take some days off, but they are few and far between. If I’m not writing, I’m doing something related to writing, like editing, promotion, blogging, or thinking about the next project. The best thing about the job is you can take it anywhere. 

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