Jessica McHugh is a novelist and internationally produced playwright running amok in the fields of horror, sci-fi, young adult, and wherever else her peculiar mind leads. She’s had twenty-three books published in ten years, including her bizarro romp, “The Green Kangaroos,” her Post Mortem Press bestseller, “Rabbits in the Garden,” and her YA series, “The Darla Decker Diaries.”
Ken MacGregor: A lot of writers complain about how awful the business is, and what a struggle being a writer is. There’s a perception of writing as being painful, a struggle. I’m curious about your take on this.
JM: I agree that writing is kinda pointless if you’re not enjoying it. Even if it’s just a hobby, you should be getting something out of it besides frustration. That said, I think it’s extremely hard work, and a lot of new writers come to the table thinking it’s going to be a breeze. Even if you’re enjoying something you’re writing, or if it comes easy, there’s still the business side, which requires a lot of promo and hustle that introverted folks simply aren’t comfortable with. And jesusfuck, we haven’t even gotten into the rejection side. It’s tough to set aside your ego and accept that you might not be as good as you think. I’ve been a published author for almost 11 years and I believe I still have a lot of growing to do. I try to learn from every rejection and bad review (though sometimes you have to take the latter with a grain of salt), and I strive for every story I write to be better than the last. It doesn’t get easier. If anything, it gets more difficult to write an entertaining and poignant piece of fiction and stand out in a crowd of authors you admire. And what if you don’t stand out? What if there’s no financial reward or critical praise? You need to have that personal satisfaction and sense of accomplishment, or it gets a little rough to maintain the creative flow.
Daulton Dickey: You write across genres, from horror to sci-fi to YA. Does this cross-pollination, so to speak, say something about the real Jessica McHugh?
JM: Perhaps so! I feel like I have eclectic tastes as a consumer, so the desire to explore multiple genres in my own work comes very naturally. I also write with my mood and real life inspirado, so I don’t always know what genre or voice is going to come out until I’ve finished. The first A Story A Week challenge I did in 2014 gave me the opportunity to dive into even more new genres, voices, and POVs, so if anyone’s interested in branching out I highly recommend that challenge.
DD: Even today, horror is still male-dominated. We’re seeing some progress, I think, but not enough. What do think we can do to shatter the male dominance of the genre?
JM: I really wish I had an answer. As a female writer with, like, 80% other female writers on my social media accounts, I feel like the luckiest reader in the world. I have the best of the best of the genre, a lot of them small press, at my fingertips. I’m surrounded by insanely talented women in horror all the time. But most people don’t have that. They stick to what they know. Usually that one white dude they’ve been reading since 7th grade. And hey, that one white dude is super great. I love that one white dude myself. But if you don’t seek out new authors, you’re really missing out. Reading anthologies is a great way to experience a bunch of different styles and voices without going all-in on a novel, and there are a lot of anthologies out there spotlighting women, but I don’t know many people who actually do that–except other writers. I think people need to make the effort to read new authors, and women need to be loud and proud about what they do. Most female horror authors I know are, though, so I don’t know. I wouldn’t want them to fuck me up in fiction, that’s for sure.
illustration by Betty Rocksteady