Interview: April Genevieve Tucholke on Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, Women in Horror

"I love that the focus is shifting from the idea of these women as scream queens running away from men."
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That spooky season is upon us, ghouls and boys, and with it comes the urge to treat yo’ self to whatever new horror movie, book, or TV show you can find. That’s where the horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is going to come in handy this year.

Featuring contributions from a number of YA authors, including editor April Genevieve Tucholke (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), Slasher Girls & Monster Boys ought to be an extension of the scary story collections you loved as kids (think Goosebumps, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark), delivering assorted all-too-real tales of terror to keep you up at night (hey, early morning is the perfect time to sneak candy, right?). But what’s even cooler about this book is that it has an extra special focus on stories of young women (i.e. the “Slasher Girls” of the title)!

I got a chance to chat with April Genevieve Tucholke about Slasher Girls & Monster Boys on behalf of TMS recently. Read on—if you dare! (Sorry, I had to.)—for her thoughts on the importance of keeping women in horror and genre fiction, and revisit some of the best “Slasher Girls” in history.

Emily Gagne (TMS): What was the first YA horror story you read, who was it by and what did you identify with?

April Genevieve Tucholke: Well, as I hint in the dedication to Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, I started reading Stephen King when I was way too young. But the first horror story I read that was actually written for a YA audience was probably The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick. The cover is great—it has this tan, beefy lifeguard dude wearing these ominous sunglasses while he gazes out to sea looking for a life to save … or is it a life to take away? And the tagline is “Don’t call for help. He may just kill you.” That rules.

TMS: Why did you decide to bring these particular authors together for this anthology?

April Genevieve Tucholke: I knew a handful of authors I wanted to include right off the bat. After I reached out to them, they suggested some other names and it sort of snowballed from there.

TMS: Although there are several men contributing, the majority of the authors of Slasher Girls & Monster Boys are women. Was that intentional, or did it just sort of happen that way?

April Genevieve Tucholke: We particularly wanted to highlight the contributions of women to YA horror—women are often underrepresented in this genre. This was a great excuse to showcase some exceptional female writing.

TMS: Why do you think it’s important to tell horror stories about young women?

April Genevieve Tucholke: Just being a teenage girl is a horror story of sorts. There are heroes, and villains. There’s dread, terror, ruthlessness, self-preservation, fear of the unknown. Survival often seems uncertain. Reading horror stories about resilient young women who go through a terrible experience, but come out triumphant in the end—this is inspiring. Or at least it was to me when I was a teenager.

TMS: Who is your quintessential “Slasher Girl” of fiction?

April Genevieve Tucholke: Great question. Carrie would be high on my list (King’s novel inspired my short story in the collection). She doesn’t slash, but she does burn.

I’d also vote for Ayra and her little sword named Needle, in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

TMS: This fall seems to be a big time for the Slasher Girl with films like Final Girl and Final Girls coming out, and the series Scream Queens airing. Why do you think we’re suddenly focusing on “Final” or “Survivor” girls, as opposed to the (typically) male villains chasing them? What’s changed?

April Genevieve Tucholke: “Final girls” have been around for a while—Laurie Strode in Halloween, Lila Crane in Psycho, Ellen Riply in Alien, Sidney Prescott in Scream—and I love that the focus is shifting from the idea of these women as scream queens running away from men, and more to girls-who-survive. I identify with this. I support this.

I also support the recent trend of layering a show with a variety of complex female characters. I’m thinking here of the Coven season of American Horror Story, for example, where women are perpetrators as well as victims of horror. So I think we’re moving in the right direction.

TMS: What can you tease about your contribution to the anthology? I had read previously that you were borrowing from Carrie.

April Genevieve Tucholke: I actually wrote a different short story first, a nod to the 1973 film The Wicker Man. But I had a sudden inspiration to write something set on the Oregon coast. I thought of the great scene from I Know What You Did Last Summer when the four kids are all standing by the side of the road, near the dead body, screaming at each other, wondering what the hell they should do next. The Carrie inspiration came later—one of the main characters is a shy girl who is treated badly, but gets her revenge. “The Flicker, the Fingers, the Beat, the Sigh” is a revenge story, at its heart.

TMS: What other horror anthologies do you think are essential reading or watching? I always loved the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series.

April Genevieve Tucholke:  In the YA world, I’d say Zombies vs. Unicorns. I especially liked Margo Lanagan’s addition, “A Thousand Flowers.” And my husband recently edited a Lovecraft-inspired anthology for PS Publishing called The Starry Wisdom Library. It’s brilliant.

Film wise, I adore Twilight Zone: the Movie. I used to watch this with my dad late at night, after everyone else went to bed. He still talks about the John Lithgow airplane segment with the monster on the wing. My god, he loved that.

I once watched a horror film anthology called  … wait for it  … Tales of Erotica. It starred Mira Sorvino (pre-Mighty Aphrodite) and there was a segment called “Vroom Vroom Vroom” where a motorcycle turns into a woman, or something. I watched it a long time ago. It was very ludicrous. This would be considered deeply unessential viewing.

TMS: What’s next for you? What can you say about your next book, WINK poppy MIDNIGHT?

April Genevieve Tucholke: This is the official teaser.

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Two girls.
One boy.
One summer.
One bad thing.
What’s really going on?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

Wink Poppy Midnight is a book about fairy tales and bullies and liars and complex girls with a lot going on.

TMS: Have you thought about doing a second Slasher Girls & Monster Boys (More Slasher Girls & Monster Boys)? Would you?

April Genevieve Tucholke: It’s not out of the question, but I don’t think I’ll be organizing another anthology in the near future. It was an interesting journey, but it took a lot of time and a lot of emails. I’d happily contribute to someone else’s anthology, though.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys was released this August. You can find it in assorted stores and online.

(Image via Penguin Random House)

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