Rena Mason is the author of The Evolutionist and East End Girls, a two-time Bram Stoker Award® winner, and a finalist for the 2014 Stage 32/The Blood List Presents: the Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest. Her writing crosses boundaries from horror to weird fiction to science fiction and speculative fiction, and her work has appeared in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies.
JG: So, let’s start things off with a little background. Tells us about yourself and your writing.
RM: I was born in Thailand, moved to the U.S. at age two with my family, and have lived all over from Oahu to Plattsburgh, New York. I’m also an R.N. and have worked in Oncology, Home Healthcare, and the Operating Room. I love to travel and got into extreme sports for a while like bungee jumping and white water rafting down 5+ rapids. I’m also a certified Advanced Open Water Diver with experience in ice, wreck, cave, and deep (130ft+) diving. History, Science, and Psychology were my favorite subjects in school. When I write stories, I like to incorporate something from my background into every piece.
JG: Women in Horror Month celebrates the contributions of women to the world of dark fiction. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer, and, as part two of that, when did you know you wanted to write in the dark fiction arena?
RM: Thanks to my English teacher in high school I hated writing. But after a summer of bad reading, I made the decision to give it a go. That was in 2009. I set the unrealistic goal of getting published in one year. But after a slew of rejections, I shelved that first work and started working on another novel. The Evolutionist was published three years later. I’ve always preferred reading dark fiction, so it was natural for me to take my own writing there.
JG: Where does your inspiration for stories come from? Your own fears? World events? Conversations?
RM: I take inspiration from everything, whether I’ve actually experienced them or not.
JG: You’re a graduate of the Borderlands Press Writers Bootcamp. I know those classes made a big difference in my writing. How was that experience for you, and how has it changed your approach to writing?
RM: Borderlands was awesome! It’s a very cool way to get feedback from heavyweights in the field such as Tom Monteleone, Douglas E. Winter, F. Paul Wilson, and Melissa Singer of TOR. I met some great writers from all over and got the information I needed to decide what I should be focusing on, as well as some tools on how to improve my own editing.
JG: If someone wanted to get introduced to your work for the first time, what 3 stories would you pick (tell us where to find them, too!) that you feel best represent you as a writer, and why?
RM: My first novel, The Evolutionist, because it’s a genre mashup of things that got me thinking about wanting to write in the first place. East End Girls, because it’s a historical work I had a lot of fun writing. “Jaded Winds” from the anthology Library of the Dead, because it’s a cultural piece that I hold dear to my heart for many reasons. Everything is available through the publishers, Nightscape Press, JournalStone, and Written Backwards, as well as Amazon.
JG: You’ve previously attended writers retreats in haunted houses and hotels. Can you tell us which ones you participated in, and what they were like?
RM: The Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat is one of my favorites because it’s a smaller event, and it’s easier getting to know people that I normally just see in passing. The historical and haunted aspects of the hotel heighten the experience even though I consider myself more of a skeptic. The Tucson Book Festival in the haunted Big Blue House was very low key and a lot of fun because it’s a bed and breakfast. Attending the huge book festival and sitting at the HWA table selling horror alongside other authors, like John Mulhall and Linda Addison, as well as editor R.J. Cavender was a blast. This August, I’ll be attending the Winchester Mystery House Writers Retreat and can’t wait! I’m also going back to The Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat for the third year in a row in October.
JG: Who are some of the women writing horror/dark fiction today that you think should be getting more recognition?
RM: There are too many to list, but I’ll start with Carole Johnstone. I first read her short story “21 Brooklands: Next to Old Western, Opposite the Burnt Out Red Lion” in For the Night is Dark from Crystal Lake Publishing and absolutely loved it. She’s a Scottish writer and lives in the UK. Her collection The Bright Day is Done is one of my favorites. Tracie Mcbride is another female author whose work I enjoy. She’s Australian and her collection Ghosts Can Bleed is fantastic. I’m certain both of these women get a lot of recognition in their countries, but I don’t often hear many people in the U.S. horror community discussing their works, and truly, their work is brilliant. I can’t recommend reading them enough if you haven’t already.
JG: Because this relates to Women in Horror Month, there has long been an ongoing debate that men and women write differently. Do find that there’s a difference?
RM: It depends on the author. Sometimes I can tell if a man is writing a woman, but that’s only if it’s not done so well. As a reader, I don’t really focus on an author’s gender when I’m making a purchase. If a story is good I’m going to read it whether it’s written by a man or a woman, but I do find that more often than not, I can relate more to stories that are written by female authors.
JG: As a woman writer, and particularly as a woman writing genre fiction, have you faced any particular obstacles or issues? What were they?
RM: No one has come right out and said to me, “I’d rather publish a male author.” so it’s kind of difficult to say. I’ve never experienced anything specific I could point out.
JG: What words of advice would you say to young girls or women who want to become genre fiction writers but haven’t gotten up the nerve to try their hand at it, or submit what they’ve written?
RM: Set goals. Write, edit, submit, repeat. Keep going until you meet your goal. Then set another goal. No matter what happens, keep writing and reading.
JG: Lastly, tell us about some of the things you’ve got coming out in the near future, and what you’re working on beyond that.
RM: I have several short stories coming out this year: “Sky is Falling” in Madhouse from Dark Regions Press, “Winter’s Dollhouse” in Tales from the Lake Vol. 2 from Crystal Lake Publishing, “Metamorphic Apotheosis” in The Beauty of Death from Independent Legions Publishing, “Macular Degeneration” in The Frankenstein Experiment from Rothco Press, and a few others I can’t talk about yet, possibly a novella. I’m also working on editing my next novel, rewriting another one, and am supposed to be working on a screenplay.
Rena Mason won the Bram Stoker Award® for her novel The Evolutionist and her short story “Ruminations” (in Qualia Nous). Her short stories have appeared in The Library of the Dead, Shadows Over Main Street, Blurring the Line, Tales from the Lake Vol. 2, and the upcoming The Beauty of Death. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The International Screenwriters' Association, Stage 32, and InkTip. She writes a column for the HWA Monthly Newsletter, "Recently Born of Horrific Minds" and writes occasional articles. She also does volunteer work and event planning for the Horror Writers Association. A longtime fan of horror, sci-fi, science, history, historical fiction, mysteries, and thrillers, she began writing to mash up those genres in stories revolving around everyday life. She is an avid scuba diver and has traveled the world, and enjoys incorporating the experiences into her stories. Rena currently resides in Reno, NV with her family.
Her books are available at her Amazon page.