WE’RE NOT OURSELVES TODAY: A Chat with Jill Girardi

cover of We're Not Ourselves TodayJill Girardi is no stranger to horror. She runs the independent publisher Kandisha Press, which so far has put out five volumes of Women of Horror Anthology series, among other titles. Her latest work is We’re Not Ourselves Today, a pulp anthology featuring short stories by Girardi and fellow horror writer Lydia Prime. Cemetery Dance spoke to Girardi about the stories in We’re Not Ourselves Today, her horror influences, and what’s going on with Kandisha Press. 

(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)

CEMETERY DANCE: How did you and Lydia Prime come to work together on the anthology We’re Not Ourselves Today?

JILL GIRARDI: I met Lydia about five years ago, when I put out an open call for the first Women of Horror anthology from Kandisha Press. She stood out from the crowd, submitting a werewolf story that had a Goth/rock vibe I connected with, but which also displayed some serious writing chops. We became instant friends, and over the years we’ve worked together on numerous anthologies both as TOC-mates and co-editors. I’d been wanting to do a collection of short creature-focused horror for a while, but didn’t have enough material for a full book. At this point, Lydia and I had grown so close and worked together so many times that we knew each other’s work through and through, and it made perfect sense for us to team up for a project. And I don’t think either of us realized how perfectly our stories fit together until we did a read-through of the first draft. It wasn’t intentional in any way, but we’ve melded this project into one huge monsteriffic death fest.

What do you like about writing short horror stories? 

I like the challenge of telling a story in very few words (as compared to a novel). You don’t have time to mess around. Every line counts. Every word counts. You’ve got to tell your full story, make readers give a damn what happens to your characters, scare them, shock them, and (hopefully) entertain them within a limited space. I’ve learned so much just from studying the short stories of other authors, not just horror but all different genres.

What would you like readers to take away from We’re Not Ourselves Today?

Lydia and I would like to evoke a feeling of nostalgia for those childhood days when one first discovered the magic of horror. From the old EC comics days to the Tales from the Crypt days, to the classic charm of Hammer horror, and even stretching way back to the beloved Universal monsters era. Re-Imagine being a kid reading a horror comic under the blanket at night, or sneaking downstairs when everyone is asleep to watch The Cryptkeeper introduce an episode of Tales from the Crypt with his terribly delightful puns. Going further back, I can remember my grandpa Vic telling me he used to listen to The Witch’s Tale on the radio as a kid in the 1930s, and that he never missed an episode of that program. I can just imagine him curled up in front of the radio, listening raptly to stories of witches, ghosts, and vampires. We hope our readers will remember those days of discovery, of something new and exciting, a little bit forbidden and more than a little terrifying. To make a long answer even longer, we want the reader to close the book and feel that they had FUN.

Who are your early influences in horror? 

Billy Nocera from Razorback Records taught me everything I know about horror today. I co-founded Razorback with him many years ago, a horror-themed metal record label. There’s nothing he doesn’t know about horror. Name a movie, and he can tell you everything about it down to the last detail. And it was (and still is) a joy to him to impart this knowledge to anyone willing to listen. He’s even written a book called Waste City, which is a reference book of sorts with hundreds of obscure films. His mom, Lorraine, also had the largest collection of Stephen King books I’ve ever seen, and I devoured every single one of them. So I can say that the Nocera family definitely gave me my introduction to horror and film in general. As far as creator influences, my biggest and most eternal influence is Daphne DuMaurier. Echoes from the Macabre, which was given to me by my dad, was the horror book that changed my life. Every story in that collection is gold. My novel, Hantu Macabre, is partly titled in tribute to that book.

What can you tell us about Kandisha Press and your Women of Horror anthology series? 

When I first joined the writing community, I learned quickly that the ratio of men to women in these books was off-kilter, to say the least. I loved the idea of putting together my own book of short stories, and publishing it myself. That felt like a dream come true to me. So, I wanted my first anthology to be a bit different. I wanted it to be for women only — all women, from all walks of life. I honestly never thought beyond that, or thought that it would become what it has today. I’m still surprised when people tell me Kandisha was their first ever publisher, or that it has done so much to empower women. It’s the greatest feeling to know that I have done something, no matter how small or insignificant in the grand scheme of things, to help our cause. At this very moment, I’m in the very early stages of planning the next volume of the Women of Horror series.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

You can find me on Twitter or Instagram, or on our website. If you love horror and metal, do come and find me! We’re Not Ourselves Today, my new co-collection of short pulp horror stories with Lydia Prime, will likely be available on Amazon by the time you read this interview!

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