Sara Tantlinger (ST): Today I have the pleasure of sharing an insightful interview with author EV Knight with you all! I recently had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of her debut novel, The Fourth Whore, which will be released in early 2020 by Raw Dog Screaming Press. I loved the boldness and dark beauty of the book, so I am thrilled to be able to chat more about it with the author herself.
EV, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! First of all, congratulations on all your recent successes! Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind the novel?
EV Knight (EV): Thank you so much for having me on your blog and for taking the time to read The Fourth Whore. I began writing this novel in the summer/fall of 2016 but Lilith was not a part of the book. In fact, it was a very different story. But then, I attended the Women’s March in January 2017 and met so many amazing people who’ve lived through so much. It was then that I heard Lilith’s name brought up time and again. When I studied her history, I realized that she’d been vilified and degraded all for simply asking to be equal. That’s when I knew I wanted to say something about the horrors that come with being a woman (or identifying as one). As a survivor of sexual assault, I’ve felt the rage and the desire for revenge that Lilith felt. I’ve also, at times, turned my pain inward the way Kenzi did. So, I wanted to see what would happen if I let the women in this novel act on their anger and frustration. I wanted a horror novel with well-rounded women characters who were just as bad ass, just as crazy, just as blood thirsty as their more mainstream male counterparts.
ST: I love that the incredible Women’s March played a role in that inspiration. I also can’t wait for readers to meet Kenzi! She’s a fierce character and I think there a lot of things about her that many readers will relate to in their own, individual ways.
I believe you wrote this book as your thesis during your time in Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program (WPF) for your MFA. What was that process like? What are some takeaways from the program you can share with us? I know for me the community and support from WPF is something I’m always talking about, and it’s really true how you can meet such extraordinary people there!
EV: Agree. From my first day at SHU, I felt like I had joined a family. The support and encouragement are beyond measure. To always have someone to bounce ideas off of, to vent your frustrations to, and to inspire your own creativity is priceless. Every six months, you get to forget the outside world and spend quality time with your muse. Every time I left campus, I went home energized and ready to tackle my project.
Yes, The Fourth Whore was my thesis novel and it was quite the complex story line to have taken on, so I had to adjust my process multiple times. I think it was hard for my critique partners to see the big picture that I had in my head, so every time I received questions or critiques, I found myself going back and changing things to explain better even though I knew the answers were coming. It slowed me down a lot. What I discovered in my last year at SHU, was I had to keep plugging away. I accepted the critiques with gratitude and put them in a drawer until the whole first draft was written. Then and only then, did I allow myself to read their notes and go back into revisions. That’s how I like to do things still. No one reads it until the entire first draft is done.
ST: We have to talk about the title! I love that it’s instantly provocative and gets your attention. How did you choose the title The Fourth Whore? Is it meant to reclaim the word “whore” in a more empowering way?
It reminded me of how women reclaimed words like “bitch” and “witch,” or even the phrase “nasty women” during these political times. There are always slurs women and minorities have to deal with, but the chance to try and shift the dynamic of how a word is used and drain it of its negativity seems like a strong tactic.
EV: YES! Exactly. The title as it is came late in the game, though. For a long time, it was called Four Whores of the Apocalypse which was Lilith’s bastardization of the four horsemen of the apocalypse from the Book of Revelation. We cut it down to The Fourth Whore. But I really wanted “whore” in the title. Because you’re right, it’s such a derogatory word and it’s specific to women. It’s a word used to shame us for being sexual, for finding pleasure (or like Lilith, wanting equality) with sex. What is a commonly used derogatory term for a man who has sex with a lot of women? Is there? So, I’m taking it back for all of us. Be proud to demand satisfaction and equality.
ST: I love that. The title is to the point, effective, and packs a whole lot of power, much like the women we come to know in the book itself.
The novel seems like it used quite a bit of research, which I loved! Did you have to do a lot of outside research for any of the aspects? And how much did you draw on your medical background? There are some unforgettable scenes in the book that I think only someone with your background could have written, so I can’t wait for readers to discover those moments!
EV: I love research!! I did a lot of research on Lilith’s mythos and religious history. I studied Genesis and Revelation (even bought The Book of Genesis for Dummies and The Book of Revelation for Dummies!) I studied demons and different religions ideas of the afterlife. Oh, and ancient torture devices. I love historical fiction, so this book gave me a chance to “rewrite” history (and some present-day politics as well). I had a lot of fun. I think you’ll always find my medical background identifiable in my work. Having a good understanding of anatomy and physiology makes writing gory scenes so diabolically delicious. I had to draw on a lot of my memory of being a resident physician as well for Henry’s scenes and the hospital setting.
ST: Historical horror is so fun! I love the twisted variations of religious horror we see, too. All that research really shines throughout the whole book.
To shift gears a bit, you co-host a delightful podcast called Brain Squalls — tell us more about how that got started! What are your goals for the podcast moving forward?
EV: I do! I cohost Brain Squalls with my husband Matt. Matt and I have been talking about starting a podcast since we met. We’re both creative types and he’s always been a great guy to bounce ideas off of—to brainstorm with. Two important historical pieces of info to know about us: 1. I got my start writing professionally by first proving to myself that I could and would spend time dedicated to writing every day by doing 1 year of writing prompts (writing a piece of flash fiction once a day for a year) and 2. Matt and I have always enjoyed people watching and making up background stories for anyone who catches our eye. So, we decided, after listening to a lot of storytelling podcasts and writing tips podcasts, to do a podcast where we challenge each other with a prompt and then work together in an hour’s time to tell a story in real time. Basically, exposing the creative process and hoping our audience would play along and maybe make up their own story too. We hoped it would spark creativity—even if its for an artist or a baker or designer. We changed Brain Storm to Brain Squall because its just a short little burst of creativity once a week.
Moving forward, this season, we’re inviting other writers and creatives on the show to do a story with us and to talk a little about their creative process. Ultimately, we’d like to branch out to schools to encourage creative writing which is such an important skill in today’s market.
ST: Such an excellent and inspiring idea!
Have you ever gone on any literary pilgrimages, or are there any that you’d like to go on? Personally I’m dying to take a literary tour of New England, and well, actual England for that matter.
EV: I would love to do a literary pilgrimage to New England. In fact, I have done a mini “Poegrimage” to Edgar Allan Poe related sites in Baltimore and Philadelphia. I was inspired by J.W. Ocker’s book Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe. I hit all the sites in both cities but I have a few more to go in New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island. But I really love road trips in general and anytime I go to a city, I look up Atlas Obscura on line and Road Side Oddities as well. I try to go anywhere strange/eclectic or just plain weird. Its so great for the imagination.
ST: That’s lovely! I’ve been to the Poe sites in Baltimore, too, and the amazing Poe Museum in Virginia! I hope you get to have more literary adventures soon.
What are your ultimate goals as a writer, or what does being a successful author look like to you? Are you working on anything now that you can share with us?
EV: Well, if I’m being honest, I want to win a Stoker because those little haunted houses are THE COOLEST and because it’s nice to be recognized by your peers. But truly, I just want to write good, creepy stories that people like reading. I’ve tried poetry and short stories and I do enjoy them, but my love is in the novel. I love the plotting and puzzling that comes with it. I’d like to put out 1-2 novels a year ultimately. That, for me, would be success. I love it. So, if someone reads it and says they enjoyed it. Then I’ll feel successful.
I am working on a novel right now that I am super excited about. The story is an “unreliable ghost story” centered around the disappearance of an entire hippie commune forty-seven years ago and the modern-day sociologist who moved into the abandoned house to write a book about them and their worship of an ancient Greek deity.
ST: Those are excellent goals, and I wish you all the luck and success in the world! Thank you so much again for sharing more about your process, life, and writing with us!
EV: Thank you for having me.
EV Knight writes horror and dark fiction. Her debut novel, The Fourth Whore, will be published in early 2020 by Raw Dog Screaming Press. She has also written a novella as part of Unnerving’s Rewind or Die series titled Dead Eyes, which will be published in the fall of 2020. EV’s short stories can be found in The Toilet Zone Anthology by Hellbound Books and Siren’s Call magazine and the anthology Monstrous Feminine from Scary Dairy Press. She is also cohost of the podcast Brain Squalls with Knight and Daigh. She enjoys all things macabre; whether they be film, TV, podcast, novel, short story, or poetry. She lives in the cold northern woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her family and two hairless cats.
Sara Tantlinger is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA. Her other books include Love for Slaughter and To Be Devoured. She recently edited a short story anthology by women in horror, Not All Monsters, which will be out in Fall 2020 with Strangehouse Books. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com.