Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Women in Horror Month: Last Call with Sandra and Helen

Throughout February, ChiZine Publications has celebrated Women in Horror Month ( by profiling female authors and our staff. We hope you've enjoyed the profiles and we look forward to hearing from you, either here or when you join us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

The final post for Women in Horror Month 2012 on The CHIZONE presents a few final thoughts from Co-Publisher Sandra Kasturi (L) and Managing Editor Helen Marshall (R). Find out who should give Sandra a call!

You work for a publisher of horror and other dark fiction. What draws or repels you in horror?

Sandra: I've been drawn to horror since sneakily reading my friend Krista's brother Tommy's horror comics that he had packed in a steamer trunk at the summer house. This would be when I was about eight or so. They gave me crazy nightmares that I didn't need, having already had an overactive imagination, but I couldn't resist them. And of course growing up on all those fairy tales--Grimm, Andersen, Perrault, but the original stuff, not the cleaned-up versions. It turns into this crazy relationship with dark woods: they become both terrible and beloved and that stays with you your whole life. It is probably why I love Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods so much: it hits just about every subconscious note for me!

With horror, I think I've gone in two diametrically opposed directions at once over the last few years. I have gotten to the point where I have no patience with ambiguous endings or narratives where it's difficult to tell what actually happened, but at the same time, I prefer subtler horror that doesn't smack you on the head with obviousness. Go figure. 

Helen: My mother is a pathologist, so I grew up with a sort of strange sense of what was normal dinner conversation."How was work today?" "Well, honey, I collected fingernails that had been embedded in a steering wheel." That's an extreme example, but we did have a collection of slides in the basement, and the other kids used to come over to look at them. It meant that I had a sense of the physicality of death from a very young age. On the other hand, it made the supernatural all the more terrifying. Pathology works on the basis that the body has certain rules: it can take so much pressure, disease tends to appear in set configurations. The supernatural involves throwing out all those rules. That's what makes it scary. We can accept death. We're used to the idea of it, and, as a society, we've come up with so many ways of making it palatable, controllable. The supernatural strips us entirely of that control. And I find that fascinating.

How did you get started with ChiZine Publications, and what kinds of things do you do now?

Sandra: Well, Brett and I started it up together, just intending it to be an offshoot of the online zine,, to continue in that vein. Of course, now it's become its own thing, and if anything it has surpassed anything we ever expected and has a life of its own. This is largely due to our tremendous good luck in finding people with a staggering amount of talent and dedication, who let us abuse them relentlessly! Right now, I probably have my fingers in a lot of pies at the company. Overseeing manuscript selection, managing funds, helping with grant-writing and financials, coming up with new ideas to make money. But then, we all do a bit of everything, because it's a small company.

Helen: Luck, mostly, and being in the right place at the right time. I ran into Brett and Sandra at a convention at a time when I was feeling like I needed to take a bit of a break from my doctoral work. I started with slush-reading, but I fell in love with the company immediately. Brett and Sandra are such generous and giving people, and they have a true vision for what they want the company to be and the kind of books they want to produce. It's infectious. It's family. I've done all sorts of things for CZP from administration to grant applications to editing to marketing. The best thing about CZP is that if you want to explore something, you're given free reign to do so. If you have an idea, you can run with it. For a person with jackrabbit creativity, that's golden: it means you might find me dressed up like a cigarette girl selling books at a convention or sitting in on meetings at Book Expo America. 

Any last thoughts? 

Sandra: Michael Fassbender should give me a call.

Did you miss a post from ChiZine's Women in Horror Month celebration? It isn't hard to fix, just check out this handy reference:

February 1 - Helen Marshall
February 3 - Gemma Files
February 7 - Caitlin Sweet
February 10 - Carolyn Ives Gilman
February 14 - Sandra Kasturi
February 17 - Halli Villegas
February 21 - Sèphera Girón
February 23 - Nancy Baker
February 24 - A.C. Wise
February 27 - Nancy Kilpatrick 
February 29 - Last Call with Sandra and Helen

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