Friday, February 24, 2012

Women in Horror Month Feature: A.C. Wise

Throughout February, ChiZine Publications is celebrating Women in Horror Month ( by profiling female authors and our staff.

A.C. Wise was born and raised in Montreal and currently lives in the Philadelphia area. Her work has appeared in ChiZine, Apex, and Clarkesworld, among others, and is forthcoming in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits the Journal of Unlikely Entomology, an online magazine dedicated to short fiction about bugs. You can find the author online at

How did you get started with your writing?

Writing is something I’ve always been drawn to as far back as I can remember. It’s the one thing that stuck with me among everything else I took up and abandoned – horseback riding, martial arts, ballet, drawing, rowing, soccer, and learning to play the guitar, piano, clarinet, and ukulele, among others. I was lucky enough to have teachers who encouraged me early on, and helped me submit my work to various competitions and local publications. The fact that a few of those stories were published or won prizes showed me maybe there was something to this writing thing, and maybe I should stick with it. As a result, I still want to be an author when I grow up, but I no longer want to be a veterinarian, a psychiatrist, a cop, an actor, or a doctor. Okay, I’ll admit, part of me still wants to be a superhero, or a Jedi, or the King of France, but being an author seems like a much more achievable career goal, and besides, writing is something I can’t not do. Even if I never sold another story, and no one ever read my work, I’d still write.

How would you describe your writing?

My writing tends toward the dark. Even the non-horror pieces are usually touched with melancholy, or anger, or sadness. My characters are often unhappy people. Sometimes I let them catch a break, and things work out in the end, but it’s usually a hard road that leads them there. I don’t do light-hearted humor; it’s not my thing, and I would be terrible at it if I tried. Stylistically, I try to paint word-pictures, but take it beyond the visual as well, immersing the reader in scent, sound, taste, and feel. There’s an element of my prose that wants to be poetry when it grows up, even though the idea of writing poetry terrifies me. I appreciate the was poetry plays with language, the flow of words, and I like mashing words together, bending them and twisting them and forcing them to behave in new ways.

Who are your influences?

My earliest influences are probably fairytales, myths, and ghost stories, endlessly devoured in various iterations. In terms of specific authors, I’d have to say, hands down, Ray Bradbury. I discovered his work when I was around twelve or thirteen. He cracked my skull open, and filled it with beauty and joy in language and story. I wanted to write like him, be him, do what he did. To a certain degree, I’m still chasing his shadow. My more recent influences, the authors who inspire me and make me want to write bigger, better, and bolder are Catherynne M. Valente, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jeff VanderMeer, China Mieville, and Laird Barron, among others. Ellen Datlow’s anthologies have always inspired me, too. They made me really appreciate the short story as a form. Some of my influences in the horror genre are  Robert Bloch, Robert McCammon, Edgar Allan Poe, and Alfred Hitchcock, though oddly enough it was the anthologies he put his name on, more than his movies that spoke to me as a young, impressionable devourer of horror fiction. I also have a particular weakness for old black and white horror movies, the classics, as well as those of questionable quality, and their later Technicolor counterparts churned out by the likes of Roger Corman, particularly anything with Vincent Price in it.

Why do you write horror?

I’ve always been drawn to horror; it’s one of my first loves in fiction, both in writing and reading. My mother frequently despaired of me, often suggesting that perhaps I might like to read or write stories that were ‘nicer’ or at very least had slightly less blood in them. Obviously, I ignored her. There’s some primal need satisfied by reading and writing horror – it takes all the darkness and the monsters and makes them safe, puts them in your control. If you have to, you can always walk away. Most horror is also, luckily, completely outside my personal experience, which makes it endlessly fascinating. I want to explore those situations, which are unlike anything in my personal life. What drives people to cause pain, how does the mind of a killer work, how do people react to situations of extreme stress, what do you do in the face of an implacable and uncaring enemy, or what do you do in the face of evil that knows exactly what it’s doing, and has no intention of stopping, regardless? Reading and writing horror is a way of trying to understand the darkness from a safe distance.

Horror's top creature features: who would you date, marry and kill?

Hmm, this is a tough one. I think I’d go with the classic Mad Scientist for dating. They’re passionate about their work, and those early days of the relationship are bound to be a whirlwind of excitement full of wild scheming, and occasional moonlit grave-robbing. But it’s not the kind of relationship you want to be in long term. Marry a Mad Scientist, and before you know it, your head is being grafted onto a giant robot, your DNA is being spliced with a monkey’s, and your organs are being harvested to power a machine designed to travel back in time and raise Genghis Khan from the dead. For marry, I’ll go a little more specific, and say The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve always found him appealing. Sure, he has a slight murdering and kidnapping problem, but he’s also a brilliant DIY kind of guy, especially if the renovation project you have in mind happens to be a fiendish death-trap. Plus, there are the romantic boat rides through the catacombs of Paris, and you can’t go wrong with a man who knows how to use his organ…to play beautiful music, of course. Finally, I’d have to go with the shambling, Romero-style zombie for my kill. They’re lousy conversationalists, they never want to share their food, and they have extremely poor hygiene. Plus it’s just common sense from a basic survival standpoint.


A.C. Wise's story "The Final Girl Theory" first appeared on Coming May 2012, it appears in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four, edited by Ellen Datlow!


  1. I loves me some A.C. Wise. I've always been more of a novel reader, not so much a reader of short stories, but hers convinced me they're worth my time. They never fail to creep me out and make me think or cry or shudder.