Hailey Piper is the author of The Possession of Natalie Glasgow, An Invitation to Darkness, and Benny Rose, The Cannibal King. Her debut novel, The Verses of Aeg, is due out later this year through Bronzeville Books. She lives in New York, writes horror, and dark fantasy, and is a genuine pleasure to speak with.
Brennan LaFaro (BL): Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Hailey. You had a big 2019 with The Possession of Natalie Glasgow and An Invitation to Darkness, your Short Sharp Shocks entry, being released. How has the response to those releases been in your eyes?
Hailey Piper (HP): 2019 was intense. I certainly didn’t expect either of those releases at the year’s beginning, and the reaction to them has been largely positive. I’m most surprised with An Invitation to Darkness, as it’s written in the style of its time, which can make it a difficult read.
BL: An Invitation to Darkness is currently sitting on my Kindle. I’m bound and determined to make time for it soon. The Possession of Natalie Glasgow underwent a title change (from The Haunting of Natalie Glasgow). What brought that about, and were there any other changes that came with it?
HP: Author Steve Stred had commented a few times how the old title wasn’t helping the book stand out, and as time went on, I didn’t think the old title even described the book. I just hadn’t wanted to call it The Exorcism of Natalie Glasgow, and for some reason the word Possession hadn’t entered my mind. Along with the title change came new cover art and a paperback release. The combo of positive changes I think helped push the novella into a lot more hands than before.
BL: The title and cover both caught my eye when I was looking into horror novellas. Can you talk a little bit about how your process from idea to finished product has developed since you started writing/publishing your first works?
HP: My process is largely the same—write down every idea, try to keep them organized, write the story, and then revise, edit, proofread. Two developments though: Thanks to working with fantastic editors, I’ve learned more about my own work and can make it stronger earlier in the drafting stages than before. The other is to do the final proofread in Comic Sans. I hate it, but I can’t argue with the results. It’s just easier to catch mistakes than in other fonts.
BL: The Comic Sans tip is excellent. Thanks for sharing. Was there any one thing that inspired you to write a novella dealing with possession horror?
HP: Every possession story I’ve watched or read has handled it from the perspective of organized religion, usually Catholicism. I wanted to tell a different kind of possession story dealing, one with solutions in witchcraft and wild forces.
BL: No argument that it provides such a unique take on possession. When did you decide or discover you wanted to be a horror writer? Who are some writers or human beings you’d consider your influences?
HP: I’ve always loved monsters. The woods behind my childhood home both creeped me out and fascinated me, and looking back, they make it feel almost inevitable that I would write dark fiction. It also helped that I was reading Dean Koontz books by age 10. Later my influences grew into Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Christa Carmen, and my wife, who’s always seen the world in her own wonderful way.
BL: That’s awesome. I loved Benny Rose, The Cannibal King and how it has an urban legend vibe. It almost reads as though you based it off a real piece of local lore. Was there any basis for the creation of the title character?
HP: That’s the insidious thing about Benny Rose’s legend—he steals stories from everyone else and makes them seem like his own. There’s no real folklore behind Benny. His story started with a girl in her bedroom and a monster outside the door. The face of that monster took time to develop, but I was always thinking of the kind of monster people can’t live with and the kind they can, and the neighborhood grew around him.
BL: Speaking of Benny, how did you get hooked up with Unnerving Press and their Rewind or Die series?
HP: When Unnerving put out the submissions call for women to pitch first, I had to jump on it. There aren’t many publishers who would do that knowing the flack they would (and did) get from certain individuals. Originally I was going to pitch something else entirely, had even written up the summary and characters, but then I looked to poor neglected Benny in my notes and the Rewind or Die premise clicked with the story, fixing all the problems that had kept me from writing Desiree’s story of facing him with her friends. I wrote the pitch that morning, Unnerving liked it, and I started writing.
BL: Benny Rose are both written in a very cinematic way, and I remember feeling the same way when I read The Possession of Natalie Glasgow. I had the distinct impression of them unfolding like I was watching a movie. Is that something that was intentional?
HP: More with The Possession of Natalie Glasgow, as I cut right to the chase since if it was a novella of similar length to Benny Rose, it would’ve covered a lot of the same ground as The Exorcist. I wanted to jump in where that narrative takes a turn. Benny Rose’s cinematic pace is intentional; I aimed to hit the same beats as a slasher film while also tweaking some of the sub-genre’s common elements.
BL: I’d call them both successes on that front, and the novella form works so nicely for it, however, you have your first novel coming out later this year. What can you share about that?
HP: Not a lot yet, unfortunately! I want to gush about it, but info comes in stages. In late 2020, Bronzeville Books will publish The Verses of Aeg is a dark fantasy/epic horror novel stuffed with murder, mystery, human sacrifice, sea monsters, and bloodthirsty gods. As the year goes, we’ll get into cover art, characters, and more.
BL: That sounds so exciting! Forgive me for how greedy this sounds, but what else can we expect to see from you in the near future?
HP: It’s not greedy, though I hardly have an answer. I have plenty of short stories coming in 2020, including entries in Bronzeville’s upcoming Valentine’s Day anthology Twisted Love and later this year Disturbia. Anything else, I can’t say for certain just yet and I hate to talk up things that won’t happen for a long while.
BL: I’m looking forward to anything that comes my way with your name on it. Thank you again, for taking the time, and best of luck with everything you have going on this year. What is the best way for readers to connect with you?
HP: Readers can check http://www.haileypiper.com, updated whenever something new is published, or follow me on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays.
Interview conducted by Brennan LaFaro