Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Project Q&A with Sloane Leong and Cassie Hart

We work hard at Ladies of Horror Fiction to showcase incredible writers and creators in the horror fiction genre, which doesn’t always limit us to ladies-only anthologies. We recently became aware of DEATH IN THE MOUTH, a BIPOC-led project currently seeking funding.

DEATH IN THE MOUTH is a horror anthology showcasing BIPOC and other ethnically marginalized writers and artists from around the world. It will feature twenty prose stories spanning from the distant past to the far future, real and fictive worlds, all while exploring new and unique manifestations of horror.

Death in the Mouth Official Kickstarter Page

Although unique here in that the anthology itself will include a mix of wonderful authors and artists and not only those who identify as women, we didn’t want to miss a chance to chat with the project’s creators and the book’s co-editors, two very talented women in the genre: mixed Indigenous writer and artist Sloane Leong, and Māori writer Cassie Hart.

We were grateful that they had a few moments to chat with us about this important project, and what funding it could mean for the genre. Check it out below!

Q&A with Sloane Leong and Cassie Hart, Editors of Death in the Mouth

Thank you both again for reaching out and for your interest in being interviewed on LOHF! We’re all in agreement over there that the project looks and sounds incredible! Can you tell us a little bit about the anthology’s title & the inspiration behind it?

Sloane: It’s based on a Hawaiian proverb ‘I ka ‘ōlelo ke ola, i ka ‘ōlelo ka make’ which can be interpreted as “There is life in the mouth and death in the mouth”. ‘Ōlelo can also mean a word or story, which I thought was apt for this horror collection. The stories we tell ourselves and others, the stories we are told, can wield life and death against us, figuratively and psychically. I also thought it had a nice ring to it!

Cassie: I agreed with Sloane. It was a title that drew me in and made me want to know more, and I hope that this anthology will do the same for readers.

How long has the concept for the book been in the works? Was there a specific situation that pushed it from being an idea to a fully fledged project?

Sloane: I think March? Me and some other authors were venting about gatekeeping in the lit world and how a new prestigious horror anthology was once again featuring an all-white roster of authors. This is an everyday occurrence but that day I was injected with a nitrous of spite and love for my woefully neglected writers of color and I was like ‘I’ll just make the space for us!’

Cassie: I think the idea of a book like this has been thrown around a fair bit in our circles, but recently it tipped over into a ‘we have to do this now!’ kind of vibe. Sloane is definitely the driving force here. She was bouncing off the walls with energy for it and I jumped right in, because that’s what I do when a project speaks to me. I’ve done a few anthologies in the past, so I know the processes and knew without a shadow of doubt that this was something I wanted in on. I need this book. The world needs this book.

It isn’t very common to see anthologies combining their fiction with unique illustrations, and we’re so excited to see the many awesome artists being featured. Why did you feel it was important that the project included both forms of art?

Cassie – This is Sloane’s incredible influence. She is such a multi-talented creative rockstar that it seemed like a really natural blend. A picture can say a thousand words, so, why not have literal illustrations alongside the words? There is so much talent in both of these areas – so many creators who are virtually unknown – and it’s really exciting to see how they will come together. Reflecting on it, I never once stopped to go ‘hey, why are we doing illustrations too?’ It was part of the concept of this book from the outset.

Sloane – Cassie is making me blush, haha. Yea, to me illustrations offer another lens to see the story through! I’m also just a fan of a lot of my fellow cartoonists and illustrators and wanted them to be a part of the project.

We love that the project is so devoted to showcasing creators and stories that are “outside the cultural mainstream”, to quote the Kickstarter. In your own words, what makes horror the perfect genre for doing so?

Sloane – Horror is such a dynamic genre to play in by itself but to speak to the relationship between marginalized cultures and horror and why I wanted to focus in on that, I find they are uniquely intertwined. When marginalization and Otherness is a foundational part of your being it gives you an intimacy with horror like no other. Objectification and commodification of culture, histories of brutal colonization, historical erasure, physical and psychic violence; these are all ways in which violence is perpetrated against us on a daily basis since the day we are born. We still survive and thrive but that sort of familiarity with horror is in our marrow and we understand the strata and nuance of it in a special way.

Cassie – As a big fan, I think horror is the perfect genre for exploring all kinds of things. Alongside what Sloane said, we thought it was important that there be room to explore non-western narratives as well, telling stories in the way of your culture rather than in the way we’re told we ‘must’ write stories in order for them to sell. We are really interested to see what people send in to us, and to read those within the context of who they are as writers, and where they come from.

What sort of themes can we expect to find in the stories?

Sloane – We’ll see explorations of dread, grief, fear and anxiety. Embodiments of obsession, mania and displacements of faith. Transgressions of the body and the spirit, the self and the community. The terror of love and the addictive nature of hate.

The Kickstarter has so many incredible rewards being offered for pledging – things like anthologies inscribed by Ellen Datlow, story critiques from authors, and even an hour long Zoom call with Paul Tremblay! How did you come up with the different things being offered?

Cassie: It was hard to know what level to go in with. We really wanted the book to be the main attraction – it’s going to be absolutely gorgeous – but it’s always cool to have other things on offer too. We reached out to a range of folks who work in horror, and we got some very generous donations from that. We’re so grateful for the support of everyone who offered something to our project.

Have you faced any unexpected obstacles or challenges in the process so far?

Sloane – It’s difficult to know if I’m doing too much or too little in the way of advertising. I don’t want to let opportunities go but I also don’t want to annoy my audience lol. Otherwise, it’s been smooth sailing thanks to our thorough planning.

Cassie – It has been a lot smoother than I thought, considering I had no idea what to expect as Kickstarter is a whole new thing for me. I may potentially have frustrated everyone in my house by constantly refreshing the page and reporting about how many % funded we are… 

Sloane is super easy to work with, and very thorough. I adore that.

What kind of impact do you hope that the anthology will have on the current horror market & space?

Sloane – I hope to feature lots of overlooked writers and artists and get them more readers and more work! I also hope this shows big publishers that there’s a market for PoC-led and PoC-focused anthologies.

Cassie – What Sloane said. I know that this is going to be a stellar anthology, and I really hope it gives our authors and illustrators a great boost and helps to show just how many amazing creators there are out there that don’t get the recognition/audience they deserve.

Paperback copies of DEATH IN THE MOUTH will only be available by pledging to the Kickstarter, which runs from August 1st until August 31st.

Thanks again to Sloane & Cassie for talking to us! You can support their Kickstarter by clicking here.

Cassie is one of our prolific contributing reviewers and helps with interviews and website content.

Find her online at her blog www.letsgetgalactic.com, Twitter as @ctrlaltcassie, or over at her Etsy store, where she has amazing original art prints, cross stitch kits, bookmarks, coloring & activity books, and more!

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