Kay Hanifen was born on a Friday the 13th and once spent three months living in a haunted 14th century castle. So, obviously, she had to get into horror writing. She's a certified monster nerd and a former contributor to Screen Rant. When she isn't reading, writing, and taking in pop culture with the voraciousness of a vampire at a blood bank, you can find her on Twitter @TheUnicornComi1.
When did you begin writing your own stories? What inspired you?
I honestly don't remember when I first began writing, but storytelling has always been a big part of my life. As a little girl, I'd dictate my stories to my mom and then illustrate the little picture books we made. My family also played this game that was one-half improv and one-half campfire tales where someone would start a story and then we'd go around in a circle adding to it until we finished. I was a big reader, and I wanted to inspire others the way that I had been inspired by the writers that shaped me.
In your bio, you said you lived in a haunted castle for three months. Where was the castle, and what was it like? How did you get this opportunity?
It was through a study abroad program. My college has a campus in the rural Netherlands that also happened to be a 13th-century castle. During the week, we'd live and study there, and on the weekend, we'd travel to other countries. My room was at the top of a guard tower, and we had to climb a dark, claustrophobic spiral staircase up there that I called "the nightmare stairs." Aside from feeling uncomfortable when alone in a certain part of the castle near the computer lab and my fully charged laptop's batteries randomly draining one night, I didn't experience anything supernatural. However, some of my friends heard whispers in the common room in the middle of the night. One of them also said that a ghost laid down in her bed while she worked at her desk. She saw a depression in the mattress, but no one was there. Reportedly, the ghost of a little girl called Sophie roamed the halls.
How did you get the idea for "Advice on Dating a Succubus: An Asexual’s Perspective?" It's different, even for this series.
The idea has been rattling around in the back of my head since high school. In the first draft, the asexual woman goes on a blind date, only to discover that the date was a succubus and shenanigans ensue. At the time, I was just growing comfortable with the labels of homoromantic and asexual for myself. I wanted to see some positive representation and explore what such an odd couple's relationship might look like. I decided to write it like an advice blog post from another world because I've always enjoyed the epistolary style of writing and I'm fascinated by advice columns. You're reading the story of an anonymous person's problems and the advice in response but rarely find out the whole story. It's just a snapshot, but you learn so much about the person sending the letter and the advice giver. It seemed like a fun way to build a world and characters. I chose Lilith as my romantic interest because she's one of my favorite mythical figures. I'm admittedly a bit of a monster nerd, and I once went on a research binge about her for a school project. The thing that stands out to me about her story is that she's powerful and is condemned for demanding equality. She also lends herself surprisingly well to humor. From what I've read, although she's been referenced in other ancient texts, her first appearance as Adam's wife was actually in a medieval Jewish satire called The Alphabet of Ben Sirach. In the story, she leaves Eden over an argument with Adam about who's on top in their relationship and the angels fail to bring her back. I just think the mythical figure of her is so fascinating and hopefully, I did her justice.
Who is your favorite author, and what really strikes you about their work?
It's hard to choose just one! I'm a huge fan of Shirley Jackson, especially The Haunting of Hill House. She's a master of capturing atmosphere and her prose is just beautiful. I also take a lot of inspiration from Neil Gaiman, especially in the way that he blends mythology and urban fantasy. Another author that I admire is the comic writer, Gail Simone, because she's so great at developing characters with distinct personalities and humor in the face of impossible odds. A more recent favorite is Jonathan Sims. I discovered his writing through his fantastic cosmic horror tragedy podcast, The Magnus Archives. It's so well written and I recommend it to basically everyone I meet. His debut novel, Thirteen Storeys, is also excellent. He's so skilled at creating distinct and memorable characters in a short amount of time and knows how to weave plot threads into a complex tapestry of horror.
Thank you for talking to us!
To read Kay Hanifen's account of an unlikely (but lovable) couple, download or order a copy of Strangely Funny VIII. Perhaps they'll be in a rom-com movie one day!
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