Thursday, February 18, 2016

Women in Horror Month Special Interview: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Editor, Publicist, and Writer

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey all!

"What's going on here?" you're no doubt intoning to a great deal of muttered misgivings, "And where the hell is Tara?"  Don't worry; your favorite (or possibly second favorite, depending on if you're a Brianna Booster™) resident reader will be back next month.  Right now she is moving, which, if I recall correctly from my time as a clerk at the substance abuse clinic, is the second or third biggest stressor in a person's life (behind marriage and divorce.)

Luckily, I had a post ready to go for my personal blog, so you will not have to go wanting today, dear followers.  In case you were not aware, February is Women in Horror Month, and I have been doing a series of interviews with such luminaries as Rhiannon Frater, Rachel Aukes, and Sharon Stevenson.  In fact, response to my call for participation has been so robust, that I have more interviews than there are weekdays in February, so I've decided to make use of the group blog since we have this open spot.  Hopefully this way we can get a little exposure for WiHM to a different audience, so remember, if you like what you see, there are plenty of other WiHM events going on all throughout February so make sure to check them out.  Today I'm going to be introducing you all to Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, so let's dive right in.

About Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi:

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication fields and is currently a writer, a journalist, a publicist, and an editor among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media and Publicity. Her third pursuit is writing her own work for publication. She volunteers her time in the community and sits on the board of directors for a local mental health center and domestic violence shelter.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and lives in Ohio and her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. Oh, and she bakes, because you can’t do any of that without cookies.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at her website. Type in Erin Al-Mehairi and you’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterestwhere she loves new friends.


1. What are your horror bona fides? Who have you scared?

If this means ‘how am I a member of the horror community,’ then at this point I’d say I’m known for being part of the supporting cast. Though I’ve been a professional writer, editor, journalist, and more for over 20 years, the last five years in horror I’ve reviewed and interviewed many horror books and authors, developmentally consulted and copy edited many horror authors, assisted authors like Hunter Shea with development, served as a pre-submission and short story collection editor for Glenn Rolfe, helped many first-time authors mold their craft, served as a publicist for more than two handfuls of successful horror authors, conducted interviews for the website Beneath the Underground of horror screenwriters, actors/actresses, and directors, and all while working away on my own body of work.

I’ve been pretty quiet with the many manuscripts I’ve been working on over the years, as well as my poetry, but this year I began to put out some of my own dark poetry online, to which I had a really good response. That was scary for me as I am so private about my writing. It was a way to take on my fears and a funnel to handle emotions. I plan to put out a book of poetry if I can this year, probably on my own since some of the work was already online, but in the future I’d like to publish one with a press.

I’m writing short stories in the horror genre too. I just finished one up that needs the editing touch still that I described as being Hitchcockian and “Twilight Zone”-esque and I’d like to make it my goal this year that no matter how busy I am, I crank out some more of those and get them published. I am not sure I’m really out to frighten anyone as my main horror writing goal, but maybe to reach into the depth of emotion, opening the dark and grief-stricken side of all of us. With one of my most recent dark poems I showcased on a website, people were a little frightened, I heard, of the villain and wanted me to turn it into a short story.

Because I stay busy in the supporting role and work more than full-time hours with three children to raise, I tend to put my writing on the back burner, but it’s my goal this year that no matter how much sleep I don’t get, I’ll do it. Doing interviews like this and talking to others about it makes it really that much easier to prove myself and stay on task.

2. Who or what terrifies you?

Over the years, I’ve read a lot of horror and I think eventually, especially if you know many of the authors, you become more desensitized to being scared! It’s a thrill and entertainment and an adrenaline rush, but for me to be truly terrified it needs to pertain to evil ghosts, serious evil demons, and certain serial killers. I can only say that now living in town and not in the deep wood as I did growing up! Pitch black night scares me, being alone, and also being buried alive. People being tortured in graphic ways scares me and predators of children truly scare the crap out of me and I don’t even want to read about it. What I do want to read about that will scare me is malevolent ghosts.

If you want to terrify me with horror, turn on the visual. Movies frighten me so much that I could pee my pants, and so, many times I can’t even watch them. I once went to a haunted forest as a teenager and literally did pee my pants. I will never go on an overnight with the cast of “Ghost Hunters.” Give me a visual of something horrifying, with my photographic memory, and you can be sure I’ll wake up in sweats and screaming in the night. Especially when I feel a tap on my shoulder…

3. Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

I feel there are challenges to women as a whole in society and in business, and since I portray writing, books, publishing, entertainment all also as business, then the answer is yes. We, as women, still need to assert ourselves and it can take double the time to get a man to trust you. And people have to trust others to bring them into their tribe. I think they might read a story by a woman and think it’s great and they will support their writing, but then, when it comes to the business side of it, it’s different. I observe that some people think they treat women equal, but don’t see all the nuances they do that shows that really in fact they don’t. It’s why I don’t agree with other women who say they won’t support February as Women in Horror Month as we should all already be equal and be showcased equally 365 days of the year. That’s true. However, well, we aren’t. It’s why Women in Horror Month was created seven years ago, to bring awareness to what women do. If everyone would just honor everyone as equal, then the world would be great right? Good thinking, but not happening. It’s why African-Americans are fighting for their rights, LGBT community is fighting for their rights, and women still can’t get the equal pay bill passed. Though men appreciate women and talk them up more than ever, we still have a long way to go and that means that women still must entertain and support any feature of them. It’s not pointing out the fact they are women and we only read them in February, but in actuality just showcasing their talents with an appreciation month. I use this analogy. We all know that people die of heart disease. We all know men die of it and women and men both fight for awareness of it. But it also is the number one killer of women. For some reason, women don’t like to talk about themselves and always think of themselves last. So February is Go Red for Women for the American Heart Association. Should we fight 365 days a year for heart awareness for women? Do women die only in February or all year long? The latter, right? By setting a month aside to do double the awareness, it sets a buzz that hopefully will last all year long to stop women from dying. So I feel the same about women in horror. It’s a way to meet and greet women horror authors and create more camaraderie that will inspire to do it all year, all the time. Maybe it’s all my PR work over the years, but having one set time to focus on something is how our human mind works in our deadline-driven society. Like how we all eat pizza on National Pizza Day even if we eat it every Friday the rest of the year too.

There are many, many more women authors in horror than I think people realize. In fact, in doing my own Women in Horror project, in conjunction with David at The Scary Reviews, I have met at least 15 new women horror writers I wish to read and connect with that I wouldn’t not have known otherwise! That’s another reason why a specific feature splash is good. I follow them and always learn new things. I’ve worked with many men in the last five years because they are the ones who approach me. Women don’t. I think it goes back to again the fact that women are more uncomfortable selling themselves or asking for help even than men. I’m so thrilled to meet so many more women in horror this month, I don’t feel so alone.

4. Who are your favorite female horror icons?

I grew up reading mostly gothic horror of the human and dysfunctional family variety, like V.C. Andrews, but I really have always admired the work of Shirley Jackson. I think that Victoria Holt and Daphne du Maurier are really inspirational in regards to gothic writing and creating atmospheric, psychological horror. Many of du Maurier’s works were directed as horror movies by Alfred Hitchcock. Mary Shelley, of course, writing FRANKENSTEIN, is an obvious of choice of a woman forebear.

Joyce Carol Oates is a classic author, as well as Toni Morrison, who have either written some horror or utilize elements of horror in their books. Other classic writers who danced the line into horror are Charlottë and Emily Brontë. Many times men, or the population, have equated these works to the romance or classic lit categories, but in reality, they are horror. A lady most inspiring for many reasons, one of which her ability to write mainstream thrillers and horror, is Heather Graham.
These are icons to me because they’ve either had books that have the test of time, pushed their boundaries at a time women certainly weren’t created equal, or have been prolific, best-selling and a role model for all women. Many of them I’ve studied in order to improve my own gothic or atmospheric writing. Horror doesn’t have to be all blood and guts. It can be very ethereal and emotional, touching the most vulnerable places of us.

5. What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

Right now in horror, I’m editing a book by a first-time writer, teaching some writing, and editing a short story collection. I’m also consulting and beginning new publicity tours for some books by Samhain authors Brian Moreland, Matthew Franks, and Hunter Shea for April and Kristin Dearborn’s from DarkFuse, Jonathan Janz and David Bernstein currently for Sinister Grin Press, as well adding a Kensington horror or two this summer along with more Sinister Grin, Mirror Matter Press, and Samhain and whomever else comes my way. I’ve just conducted two interviews with a upcoming female horror screenwriter and with a director. As for my writing, I’m writing more dark poetry to create a cache for publication and have a short story that needs cleaned up. I’m working on a gothic tale featuring a lake monster which will be a short story or novella. Besides that, I’ll be working on a short story collection inspired by Van Gogh, as well as still plugging away on my supernatural revenge novel that features Emily Dickinson. My mind is ever seeing stories in so much around me though that I never know for sure what my pencil will decide to write as a priority. Yes, I still use paper and pencil! As for why should folks check it out, I ‘d have to say that I hope they might check it out to be entertained, in regards to my stories, but mostly with the poetry, to help them deal with their own fears or to help them heal from emotional trauma or grief.

Anyone can find me at Oh, for the Hook of a Book for my reviews, interviews, and for information on my Hook of a Book Media and Publicity business, find me writing at Beneath the Underground, or on social media on FacebookHook of a Book FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Pinterest. My e-mail is hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com. I love to make friends so contact me anytime.


Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks for the post, Steve! I'll be sure to check out Erin's work pronto. We originally-from-Ohio people need to stick together.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve! Thanks! That's so cool you used to love I'm Ohio! I still do! We should connect, I'd love to meet you. :)

Carrie Beckort said...

Great interview! There's a lot of new names here for me to check out (or at least new to me)!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it Carrie! I always like to hear that inspire new readers for people I work with or for authors I enjoy. Feel free to connect with me! :)

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