Today, we’re chatting with Madison Estes, who will have a story in the final quarterly for MSJ!
DV: Tell us a bit about yourself!
Madison Estes: I’m a horror addict who comes from a family of horror fans. My dad and I went to Las Vegas this year so we could do the Saw Escape Room, which was one of the coolest and most intense experiences of my life. Several of the rooms are duplicates of traps from the movies, and they got Tobin Bell to do narration in each room. My mother and I went to Texas Frightmare several years ago and we got to meet some of the Saw stars, plus Robert England, Sid Haag, and Sean Patrick Flannery. With two parents who are horror fans, I had a lot of horror influences growing up. I remember the crypt keeper from Tales from the Crypt used to scare me, but when I got a little older I’d watch reruns of it whenever I could, in addition to The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Like most contemporary horror writers, I read a lot of Stephen King when I was growing up, starting with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which is still one of my favorites. I also read On Writing sometime in the fifth grade. It helped me connect with literature in a way that I hadn’t before, and I believe it shaped me into the writer that I am today.
I live in southeast Texas and I have three dogs, two black and white Chihuahuas, a boy and a girl (Leo and Mayhem), and a Shih Tzu named Mika. When I’m not writing, I’m usually snuggling with them and reading or watching movies. In addition to my obsession with horror, I’m a huge nerd for Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel, DC and some of the old school anime shows like Yu Yu Hakusho.
DV: You’ve got a story coming out in February in Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology that sounds like it will be of interest to our readers. What can you share about your story without giving too much away?
ME: My story “Revival” is about a medical student who believes the cadaver he was assigned to dissect is coming back to life. He’s grieving the loss of his sister and suffering from nightmares and sleep deprivation, so he’s not mentally stable. He doesn’t trust his own judgement, but since he couldn’t save his sister, he’ll stop at nothing to save this girl if she really can be saved.
DV: You’re also working on a horror writing guidebook with other authors. Tell us more about this project.
ME: I’m working with five other writers on The Complete Guide to Writing Horror Vol. 1, commissioned by Dragon Moon Press. I’m in charge of five chapters, which cover topics such as horror subgenres, horror basics, the history of horror, business etiquette, and market resources. At the moment, I’m still working on subgenres. I’m designing this chapter to help writers learn how to categorize their own writing, and to give them an idea of what is out there so they can find their niche or niches within the horror genre.
In the basics chapter, I’m covering character struggles, decisions, consequences, and other related topics. One subject of special interest to me is character agency. I feel that in horror stories, character agency is often lacking. It’s tempting to write a passive, reactive character in a genre where the villain is often the star, but characters should have some control over their lives, or at least the appearance of control, even if by the end of the story you’re going to pull the rug from under the reader and reveal the characters had little to no chance at all. Think about the movies In the Mouth of Madness, Knowing, or Cabin in the Woods. The main characters in these stories are active. They fight back, but more than that, they ask questions and investigate. Even if they fail, they make efforts to take control of their lives. It makes stronger characters and a more entertaining story than a character that only runs from the maniac with the knife.
In the business etiquette chapter, I cover topics such as communication and conflict management with editors, and how to write cover letters, query letters, author bios, and more. Market resources covers topics such as networking opportunities, horror writing conventions, critique groups, where to find submission calls, and a list of active horror publishers. I haven’t started writing the history chapter yet (please don’t tell my editor!), but I plan to cover the origin of horror and the movements that have shaped the genre, such as the invention of film, video games, and the internet, as well as how certain authors like Stephen King forever changed horror.
I’ve very excited about this project. I can’t wait to share my knowledge and help aspiring horror writers. It takes me back to being in fifth grade with On Writing and the way that book filled me with excitement for writing. I hope to not only help writers elevate their craft, but to inspire that feeling within them as well.
DV: What’s the coolest thing about being an author?
ME: When I go on Amazon and read a review from someone who enjoyed my story, or when a book blogger reviews an anthology I’m in and singles out my story as one of their favorites, it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. It makes all the hours of writing and revising worth it.
DV: What’s on the horizon for you?
I just had a short story called “Crossroads” featured in Horror USA: California (Soteira Press) about an actor who goes through a midlife crisis when his girlfriend gets pregnant. His mental stability and fears of fatherhood are worsened by his Porsche, a haunted car that carries a terrible secret. I recently published my first paranormal romance/erotica story in The Devil’s Doorbell (HellBound Books) called “Visions of Blood”. A psychic has visions whenever he touches people or certain objects, but it comes with a side-effect of searing pain. A beautiful vampire convinces him to use his ability to help her track down the vampire who murdered her friend. Sexual tension leads to some very creative sex scenes between them despite the character’s disability.
My short story “Servant of Death” is going to appear in the last issue of Mad Scientist Journal. It’s about a child dying from cancer who is stalked by a shadow creature that he perceives to be Death. After he escapes the grim reaper’s clutches, his cancer goes away, but when he grows up, he finds out that remission came with a price.
I have a short story coming out next year in a time-themed anthology by Transmundane Press. My story is called, “The Time Loop Loophole”. It’s a horror comedy about a guy trapped in a time loop who thinks the only way to escape may be to kill his best friend. The premise sounds really dark, but the story is mostly humorous. The main character is kind of a self-described loser. At the beginning of the story, his biggest regret about being in the time loop is not being able to finish his video games or see the ending of Game of Thrones (a blessing in disguise according to most fans, not that he could know that). He’s not even that bothered by the time loop until the girl he has a crush on starts showing interest in him. Secrets come out, and everything gets complicated as he starts to wonder just what he’s willing to do to be with the girl of his dreams.