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Brenda S. Tolian - Mother Nature Strikes Back

I met Brenda when we arranged for her to make an appearance on The Ghoulish Gallery, and it was an absolutely fantastic conversation. Her passion for the beauty and fierceness of both nature and women (hell yeah, girl power) is admirable, and especially shines through in her book Blood Mountain. You can't read it and walk away without a new reverence for what Mother Earth could be capable of! She's one smart cookie with a deep respect for native cultures, and I'm so glad we connected! I can't wait to see what else she comes out with!

1. When did you first take an interest in folklore, especially relating to horror?

I think I learned early by reading the Bible. I'm pretty sure no other book has more monsters, demons, witches, plagues, journeys, and nature supernaturally made different or scary. Folklore is a story born of an older oral tradition containing a warning born of sometimes forgotten fears and warnings that we contain within our DNA. Our ancestors knew better, but we often ignore the danger to our peril.

2. If you woke up with some kind of superpower/ability tomorrow, what would you want it to be?

I would like to be more adept at a typing-a bit faster. I think wanting a superpower is on par with the Ring to rule them all. Hopefully, I would be like Galadriel and pass the test in refusing.

3. What sort of natural disaster is most terrifying to you?

Any disaster that might threaten my family. I have been through a hurricane, lived in fire country, watched tornados, and lived through no power with plunging temperatures. They all demand respect. She (The Earth) does not ascribe to our rules and seeks a balance even in climate change. Our world could be thought of as conditions in parallel to what women face—disregard for our bodies, voice, and soul. Eventually, she and we will come out screaming our rage—after all we can only bow under so much pressure.

4. How did you and Joy end up starting The Burial Plot?

We were talking and wanted to have a place where lesser-known authors, especially feminine, feminine identifying, LGBTQ+A, and POC authors, would feel safe and honored. We have had many folks with so many voices talking about their work. We wanted to elevate horror and dark writing. I think we do that. Joy is the real leader here. She is such a natural interviewer!

5. What’s been your favorite part of podcasting?

Meeting the authors, watching them read and share their craft. I've learned a lot from my fellow writers.

6. What are the most unlikely things you’ve drawn inspiration from, for a horror story? (A random event, sight, etc.)

I research my material, pulling a lot of inspiration from the news and historical documents and tales collected. Of course, all authors draw from experience to a degree, and the trick with that is to pour it into your monsters in symbolic ways. Past traumas can become a demon of the mountain, and the feeling of being small or helpless can be illuminated through a developing female protagonist. Or, as in my story of Darling Valentine in Blood Mountain, using helplessness and lack of voice and funneling it into a taxidermized angel, so to speak. A body posed, speaking more than words.

7. If the apocalypse hit tomorrow, how do you think it would go down? Zombies, natural disasters, real flying pigs/Alice in Wonderland sort of madness, or some other insanity?

I think it is natural for societies to falter. It is the way of the world, and ours is no different. It’s a scale that tips into chaos, usually caused by the few at the top making the decisions. Wars, illnesses like COVID, starvation, food insecurities, land loss, and madness such as the kind already at play-thinking if we do more of the same, it will be different. These are all symptoms of the damage we are causing to the Earth. If we burn down the house, we will all die, and that fire we set-well it's already almost too big to put out.

8. What holiday do you think would be the easiest to give a spooky makeover to?

Funny, I am not really into holidays. Um, I think for New Year’s Eve, everyone should have Aztec Death Whistles, and at midnight they blow the heck out of them. Have you heard one blown? Scary.

9. How freaking AWESOME is the community of women horror authors? <3

My community of women authors is getting bigger and louder. You see, in the past, women in horror were not as respected and often hidden behind pseudonyms, whereas the female body and our traumas were and still are exploited on the page and in film. The female writers I see are taking it back, all of it, and I find this inspiring. A direct result of this is the closeness between female writers, especially since we are not as hidden from each other.

10. What do you enjoy most about the horror community?

I think we have each other's back, especially when connected in a common bond of support. Horror is a genre that crosses lines in positive ways and beyond this in new and inventive ways. It is becoming more inclusive, allowing for more seats at the table. I think we still have a lot to do in regard to support, but it’s the one writing genre that is doing the hard work in self-examination and inclusion. Our “gods” of writing are not lofty but helpful and real. When I say this, I think of the support offered to me by EV Knight, Josh Malerman, Gabino Iglesias, and Paul Tremblay, for example. They have success, but they help those of us who are just starting out. I am a fan, of course, but I also see them as real humans who are out there helping others. Horror really is a family.

Go find Brenda!

Instagram: bstolianwriter

Twitter: @BSTolian

Facebook: Brenda Tolian

TikTok: mxt3337

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