With parents who married on Halloween and read her Bradbury stories long before she started kindergarten, Gwendolyn Kiste considers horror, fantasy, and all things strange to be her birthright. Her genre editorials appear regularly on sites such as Horror-Movies.ca and Micro-Shock, and she is the resident “weird wanderer” for the travel-centric Wanderlust and Lipstick. She has written and directed several feature-length and short horror films, and her plays have been produced as part of the Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts. Her short stories have also appeared in Strangely Funny II and Whispers from the Past: Fright and Fear.
How did you come up with the idea for your story in History and Horror, Oh My?
I’ve always been a fan of John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath recalibrated my understanding of what fiction could be, so I wanted to pay homage to that major influence on my writing. You don’t find much horror that uses the Dust Bowl as a setting, and with the pervasive gloom from the storms, it seemed like a perfect locale for a vampire. Once I had that outline, I started researching and was able to fill in the rest.
Did you encounter any obstacles in researching the setting?
Because the Dust Bowl was well-chronicled, I was able to watch documentaries, read books, and view pictorials to get a sense of the time. However, one thing that was a bit more challenging was being sure there were still bars where musicians would have been playing in the Oklahoma panhandle—like my Woody Guthrie-esque vampire does. I wondered if maybe most of the places closed down due to the terrible conditions. But I was able to find evidence that there were at least a few establishments that got through the 1930s, and I felt that was enough to justify the detail.
Do you have a favorite historical period you enjoy reading or writing about?
I love the twentieth century. It’s fascinating how the world came into the 1900s with horses and carriages and went out with space shuttles and the Internet. Technology progressed so rapidly, and I enjoy exploring how that affects people, both human and otherwise.
What are you working on now?
Several of my short stories are slated for publication in the coming months, and I’m in the early planning stages of a dark fantasy novel. So much horror, so little time!
Read Gwendolyn's story for yourself!
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