Women in Horror Month Feature: J.C. O’Brien

J.C. O’Brien is our feature today. She comes to us in the upcoming State of Horror: Tennessee and is taking the time out to answer some questions. Let’s learn a little more about the our author.

J.C. O'Brien feature Women in Horror MonthCharon Coin Press: What drew you to the horror genre?
J.C. O’Brien: The opportunity to write about darker things without being told I was being “too intense” and watching what happens to characters when they face their fears.

CCP:  Do you have a favorite monster/horror character?
JCO: I have to go with Dracula, but Lizzie Borden in “Maplecroft” is a close second.

CCP: Do you have any advice for other female writers who want to write horror?
JCO: Among many other things, being female means developing a heightened awareness for your personal safety and coming into close contact with blood on a regular basis. Use that. Also, there’s something lovely in writing that makes a man scared to be alone on the street at night.

CCP: What do you look for in a good horror story?
JCO: I like blood and violence, but I don’t have to have it — whatever the writer can do to take me to that sweet spot of psychological tension, then I’m there.

CCP: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
JCO: On a large round leopard print matress. Not in some swinging home, but in my hometown library. Sadly after that great introduction, it took some time for me to quit trying for well-behaved stories and write what I want to read.

CCP: Who is your favorite horror author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
JCO: Today it’s Cherie Priest because “Maplecroft” blew me away. First there’s the genius of making Lizzie Borden the heroine. Then there’s gore that moves the story forward combined with lyrical writing — pure pleasure.

My biggest regret is that it took me years to listen to Hank Edwards (author of the Venom Valley series) when he would tell me I needed to read Stephen King. The more I write, the more I appreciate how naturally King’s stories flow. It takes some serious work to make it sound that easy on the ear.

CCP: What are your favorite horror films? What book would you love to see on the big screen?
JCO: For fellow Detroiters out there, I grew up watching “Sir Graves Ghastly” on Saturday mornings — lots of B movies and black-and-white horror films. I love old mummy movies and I don’t think there’s been a good werewolf movie since “The Wolf Man.”

I’m dying for someone to grab “Dracula” and do it well. Please!

CCP: What are three “Good to Know” facts about you?  Be creative.  Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details.
JCO: I’ve belly danced for 18 years. These days, I’m into vintage Turkish style, concentrating on playing finger cymbals; my writing companion is a fluffy black dog who gets disgusted if I quit early; I take my whisky straight, no water, and have recently developed a fondness for arak, the Levantine spirit that smells like ouzo, but goes down like water.

CCP: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
JCO: For me, the biggest thing is staying in the flow.

I use small cues like a special writing mug and lighting candles in my writing space to let my brain know that it’s time to write. It’s almost like tricking your brain into writing by happy habit. If I have to bump my schedule or miss a day, it can be a cold start.

But if I get stuck or don’t like what I’m doing, I try to give myself more writing time. If I’m still stuck, I take a day off and spend the time doing yard work or dreaded dusting or dancing. Doing something physical helps my brain find a solution.

If that still doesn’t work, I just sit down in the chair and write until it’s done.


 J.C. O’Brien’s Bio

J.C. O’Brien delivers horror and supernatural noir with a large dose of blood, muscle and action – and a firm respect for the mystical arts. When not at the keyboard or reading, she belly dances. She lives in Seattle with a jazz-musician husband, their son and a black dog with a strong sense of deadline.

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