Joe Sullivan: What was your introduction to horror media? What are the books and movies that inspired you to tell your own stories as a child and then as an adult?
Christi Nogle: The earliest horror movie that made an impression was The Watcher in the Woods. My first horror novels were Lois Duncan’s Summer of Fear and Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. I remember being preoccupied with the images in them, feeling highly disturbed and at the same time fascinated. I think that when someone has a strong reaction like that, it’s because the art resonates with something already inside them.
My best friend and I devoured Pet Sematary and Misery together not long after. I went on to read and love the rest of Stephen King’s books along with V.C. Andrews series’ and the few other horror novels available in the mall bookstore. I seemed to have exhausted the horror section and wandered in other directions with my reading, so I’ve also been inspired by a range of other genres over the years. Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale first got me interested in science fiction, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Beloved made me interested in studying literature in college.
As an adult, a few of the works I’ve found most inspiring are Shirley Jackson’s short stories, her novels The Haunting of Hill House, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle; Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day; and the works of Stephen Graham Jones, especially Mapping the Interior and The Only Good Indians. I am enthralled with the short fiction of Kelly Link, Carmen Maria Machado, George Saunders, Michael Wehunt, Nadia Bulkin, Gwendolyn Kiste, Kristi DeMeester, Camilla Grudova, L.S. Johnson, M. Rickert, Lynda E. Rucker, S.P. Miskowski, and so many others. Jeff and Ann VanderMeer’s gigantic anthology The Weird is one more inspiration. I have a big bookcase full of favorites, so those are only a few samples.
I also like to keep finding new horror and weird fiction inspirations by reading Ellen Datlow’s anthologies, magazines such as Black Static and Nightmare, and of course anthologies and collections from places like Undertow, Dim Shores, Grimscribe Press, Nightscape Press, Cthonic Matter, Swan River Press, Night Worms subscription service, and so many more.
What was the first horror story you wrote with the intention of submitting to pro-markets?
The first story I submitted anywhere was “In the Country” but I didn’t write it with the intention of submitting. My friend Elizabeth Barnes kept after me to send it out. She was persistent enough that I finally cracked open Google and did some research on how to do that (to start with the highest-paying and most prestigious markets). PseudoPod looked like the best market, so I sent it there first. The story was so personal, I was terrified hitting “submit.” Dagny Paul (who ended up narrating the story beautifully) sent a “bump” message a few weeks later saying it had gone to the editors, but I wrote and published a couple more stories before it came out in 2017.
You’ve had quite a few notable sci-fi and horror publications over the past couple years. Is horror sci-fi a niche that especially interests you, or did your dark fiction just happen to fit certain calls?
I love dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, dark science fiction, climate fiction, etc. Thinking about the future, even a relatively positive future, seems inherently horrific—it’s going to be unknown and unfamiliar, no matter what—and it’s even more horrific to think about all the ways the future could be worse than today. Future horrors seem more wrenching, more heartbreaking than past or present horrors, since we’re all hoping that the future will (somehow) turn out well.
I haven’t written science fiction for particular calls. These stories just arrive whenever I sit thinking too much and make myself paranoid about weird things that could happen.
I’m familiar with one of your horror novel manuscripts. Beulah is a really fantastic story. You’re welcome to talk about its themes and how that story came to be.
Thank you! I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but short stories come more easily and naturally. A horror novel, in particular, was a scary thing to embark upon because the particular effects of horror seem (as so many have noted) more easily suited to shorter forms. The usual advice about novel writing does not seem to apply. A horror novel does something different from other novels. You want to feel ruined or at least chilled after reading it.
I think that with Beulah, I was trying to recapture that point I referenced earlier—finding something outside yourself that resonates with what is already internal. It’s about the pain but also the promise of having a calling that’s not consistent with what others would like you to be. In the novel, that idea gets to be more concrete than in life.
Beulah is the first novel I’ve finished or even attempted, so I’m proud of it and grateful to Codex Writers’ Group members for advice at the early stages; L.S. Johnson, Catherine Schaff-Stump, and Dannie DeLisle for working through chapter revisions in our horror novel critique group; and Samuel M. Moss and Isabelle Shifrin for reading drafts of the completed novel.
Are you working on other novella/novel length dark fiction stories? Do you have a vision for your writing career going forward?
I am currently subjecting Cath, L.S., and our new member Eileen Markoff to chapters of a science fiction horror novel called All Her Really Good Friends, which was originally intended to be a novella. Novellas are wonderful, so I hope to write one soon. I would like to continue writing fiction for the rest of my life. This feels like a fragile goal because there was a long stretch of time when I wrote little and finished nothing.
Another career goal is to contribute to the writing community by mentoring and supporting other writers. I’ve received amazing mentorship and fellowship from Codex, HWA, SFWA, Moanaria’s Fright Club, Ladies of Horror Fiction, and various critique groups, so I’d like to stay involved in these communities and give back.
Another goal, I am not sure how to begin: I would like to help make more readers aware of contemporary horror. I feel it’s under the radar of many who would love it as I do, who would find these stories meaningful if only they found them.
Christi Nogle’s fiction has appeared in publications such as Pseudopod, Vastarien, Tales to Terrify, and Three-lobed Burning Eye. Christi teaches English at Boise State University and lives in Boise with her partner Jim and their gorgeous dogs. Follow her at christinogle.com or on Twitter @christinogle