Joyce Carol Oates (2017) #WiHM

Denizens of CineDump, it’s my honor to welcome you to our inaugural post for Women in Horror Month. We’ll be chronicling some of the most talented women working in the field of the macabre along with some reviews featuring the most heroic heroines and villainous villainesses the genre can boast. To get things off to a ghoulish start, I was honored to interview the great Joyce Carol Oates, spinner of sinister stories and wickedly readable novels.

Oates is as prolific as she is talented, with a celebrated and diverse array of novels and short story collections. In her 1966 short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Oates brings her lyrical writing to a truly scary tale about a young girl named Connie who’s aching to grow up too fast. When she encounters creepy eccentric Arnold Friend, a tragic chain of events is unleashed, and the reader is left with a chilling climax. While many of Oates’ novels dwell on the darker side of human nature, her novel Zombie (1995) puts the reader into the head of a sadistic serial killer. Loosely based on the life of Jeffrey Dahmer, the book earned her the acclaimed Bram Stoker Award. In 2013, she published The Accursed, an ambitiously brutal story about America’s repressed sins, its colonial past, and collective guilt. Smart, complex, and haunting as an Edward Hopper landscape, her work viciously details the dark clouds behind all of America’s silver linings.

Whether you’re a long-time fan of Oates amazing work or a newcomer to her uniquely dark literary landscape, enjoy her thoughtful interview below and check out her newest release, a short story collection called Dis Mem Ber set to be published in May 2017!  

Pennis Sublime: Tell us a little about your Bram Stoker Award-winning Zombie.

Joyce Carol Oates: My short novel Zombie was awarded the Bram Stoker Award in 1995. It is essentially a dramatic monologue told by a psychopath/ serial killer with violent sadistic tendencies, who boasts of his exploits which include the beguiling of others—family members, therapists and social workers who seem incapable of comprehending the depth of his evil.

Zombie has been translated into numerous languages and has been reprinted in the United States. It was adapted into a successful off-off-Broadway play by the dramatist Bill Connington, who played the monologist with much distinction, and was subsequently made into a short film.

PS: Talk about winning the award – how surprised were you?

JO: Yes, of course—I was very surprised. Zombie is not so evidently a “horror” work of fiction—it is rather a work of psychological realism with no supernatural or surreal elements, with many historical antecedents. It had been a principle of mine in writing the novel that I would not include anything that had not occurred, in one way or another, in life. Perhaps that is what makes Zombie so horrible—one can’t dismiss it by saying “nothing like that could ever happen.”

PS: Do you think women in horror face more difficulties than their male peers?

JO: I really don’t know how to answer this. I don’t have any “proof”—so far as my own experience has been concerned. I think that I have been treated very well—as the Bram Stoker award has confirmed. I had also been awarded a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.

PS: What advice would you give to new female authors looking to break into horror?

JO: To read widely, with pleasure and instruction, and to write, write, write—write your heart out.

PS: What new works from you can we look forward to in the future?

JO: My next work of psychological horror will be the story collection Dis Mem Ber, to be published by the Mysterious Press in May 2017.