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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Women in Horror Month #3: Stephanie M. Wytovich, Stoker Award-Winning Author of BROTHEL

Welcome back, everybody!  I'm very excited about today's guest.  I've been planning to have her on the blog for years and finally worked up the courage to ask, so I'm very glad she agreed.  But listen to me jawing on!  Let's go ahead and meet her and then jump into the interview.  

About Stephanie M. Wytovich:

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as GUTTED: BEAUTIFUL HORROR STORIES, FANTASTIC TALES OF TERROR, YEAR'S BEST HARDCORE HORROR: VOLUME 2, THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR: VOLUME 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, BROTHEL, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside HYSTERIA: A COLLECTION OF MADNESS, MOURNING JEWELRY, AN EXORCISM OF ANGELS, and SHEET MUSIC TO MY ACOUSTIC NIGHTMARE. Her debut novel, THE EIGHTH, is published with Dark Regions Press

You can follow her on her blog, website, and Twitter.


SK: How are you involved in the world of horror?

SMW:  I’ve been professionally working in the horror industry for about 7-8 years now, and I wear a lot of different hats. First and foremost, I write. I have five books of poetry published, one of which (BROTHEL) won the Bram Stoker Award in 2016. I also have a novel published through Dark Regions Press (THE EIGHTH), and have published a good amount of fiction and nonfiction through various anthologies and magazines.

In my day-to-day life, I teach undergraduate courses (Point Park University) and graduate courses (Western Connecticut State University [MFA], and Southern New Hampshire University [MFA]) in composition, literature, theory, and creative writing. I also tutor writing, mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing, and freelance edit both independently and for Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Something else that I’m looking forward to this year is reviewing books/movies. I’m a huge, huge film buff, and I read voraciously, so when I reworked my website, I added a space for reviews there, so I’m looking forward to critically analyzing some more work in the horror genre as a whole. My first review piece is going to be CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES by Max Booth III, so be sure to look for it soon!

SK: Who or what terrifies you?

SMW:  Some good gross out calls for me are: hair and spiders. I’m a huge arachnophobe, so just thinking about spiders makes my skin crawl, and then hair just completely guts me and hits my gag reflex like no other. Needless to say, movies like "The Ring" and "The Grudge" were rough for me.

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

SMW:  I think being a female horror writer definitely still has its issues, but it something that I’ve seen being taken really seriously and improving over the past few years. Unfortunately, I tend to see this more in academia than I do on the industry front because I’ve been in some situations where the fact that I write speculative fiction is looked down on and not taken as seriously as someone who is perhaps more literary and contemporary, and that’s unfortunate on a lot of levels (also, a quick shout-out to my fabulous programs I work in now!). But on the industry front, I think diversity and inclusivity is something that can absolutely be improved upon, and I want to thank writers/editors/reviewers like Christopher Golden, Gabino Iglesias, and Shane Douglas Keene (just to name a few) for being such fierce warriors for female writers.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

SMW:  My favorite classic female horror icons would be Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley. I try to teach these ladies every chance I get, and I love that their stories are strong, multi-genre, and deal with very dark real-world applications, regardless of if they are taking about actual monsters or perhaps something a little more political or sociological. Honestly, I could (and have) re-read FRANKENSTEIN and WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE over and over again without tiring of it.

Film wise, however, I’m going to have to go with Thomasin from "The VVitch" and Sabrina from "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina."  Both of them are strong, independent women who are all about free will, strength, and independence, and they own their sexuality and shadow selves in a way I really wish I could. I do however feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jessica Lange ("American Horror Story: Coven") and Jamie Lee Curtis ("Halloween") because Lange is my hero and Curtis is just the queen!

SK: What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

SMW:  Right now, I’m finishing up my sixth poetry collection, which is an apocalyptic science fiction book titled THE APOCALYPTIC MANNEQUIN. I’ve been working on this for about two years now, and it’s vastly different from most of what I’ve done before, but there’s still some trademark touches in there, of course. I’m also looking to publish a weird horror novelette titled THE DANGERS OF SURVIVING A SLIT THROAT this spring, and I’m beyond excited for this because it’s my first venture into something a little bizarre, and Matthew Revert drew up the most perfect cover art for it, so I’ll be looking forward to getting that into everyone’s hands soon as well.


Wytovich plays madam in a collection of erotic horror that challenges the philosophical connection between death and orgasm. There’s a striptease that happens in BROTHEL that is neither fact nor fiction, fantasy nor memory. It is a dance of eroticism, of death and decay. The human body becomes a service station for pain, for pleasure, for the lonely, the confused. Sexuality is hung on the door, and the act of love is far from anything that’s decent. Her women spread their legs to violence then smoke a cigarette and get on all fours. They use their bodies as weapons and learn to find themselves in the climax of the boundaries they cross in order to define their humanity…or lack thereof.

Wytovich shows us that the definition of the feminine is not associated with the word victim. Her characters resurrect themselves over and over again, fighting stereotypes, killing expectations. She shows us that sex isn’t about love; it’s about control. And when the control is disproportionate to the fantasy, she shows us the true meaning of femme fatale.

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