In the studio today is a trio of horror heavyweights—Jess Landry, Sofia Afram and Nadia Bulkin. Go watch the show to hear them read from Dark Mutilations and discuss how the project got started, what it was like to work together and what are they up to next. Dark Mutilations will be released April 28. Find your copy here!

This anthology of body horror novellas is perfect for fans of Cronenberg, Kathe Koja, Eric LaRocca, Hailey Piper, Gwendolyn Kiste, SP Miskowski, Gemma Files, Nadia Bulkin, Megan Abbott, Mona Awad, and Alissa Nutting. And of course dark social satire, flawed protagonists, and of course, horror books.

Each author has graciously shared some insight into their stories.

Let’s begin with Jess Landry. Her story in Dark Mutilations called “The Night Belongs to Us.”

AYS: Your work spans across various mediums, including film, television, and literature. How do you approach storytelling differently in each of these formats, and which one do you find most challenging?

JL: I definitely approach them the same — no matter what medium you’re working with, be it TV or movies or prose, the story idea will always be the same. It’s when you sit down to write that you have to decide just that: Is this story a TV show, a feature, or a novel/short story/what have you. When I first started dabbling from literature to TV/film, I had a tough time dropping the descriptiveness that you need in prose — screenplays are all about the facts, ma’am. There’s no “she wondered to herself…”, no inner monologue. I had relied on that way of writing for so long that dropping it was definitely a challenge. But the more you write, the more you practice, the more commonplace it becomes. And now, I’ve found a way to almost keep some of that purple prose and bring it into my screenplays, and vice versa — I’m bringing some of that sparseness of scriptwriting into my prose. But it gets the job done either way, so huzzah!

AYS: Your story “The Night Belongs to Us” explores the relationship between Laura, Cee, and Mother, three complex and layered characters. How do you approach character development in your writing, and what challenges did you face in bringing these particular characters to life?

JL: Honestly, I never deep dive too much into my characters before I start writing. I have a general sense of who they are and I know what they want, but as I write (and this is going to sound so ooh la la) I let them guide me. Their actions tell their stories, and sometimes, even after I’ve outlined something, I’ll find the story going in a different direction. I always follow it because you never know where you’ll end up — sometimes it works out great, sometimes I dropkick 30 pages of words into the sun, never to speak of them again. It’s sometimes a crapshoot, but it’s a fun crapshoot.

For Laura, Cee, and Mother, their motivations were all very clear from the beginning: Cee wants someone to love her, Laura wants closure, and Mother wants control. I kept these motivators in my brain as I outlined and then drafted the story, and then let the characters tell me where to go. It turned into this very politically charged body horror piece that was absolutely the most challenging story I’ve ever written (and longest!), but I couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out.

AYS: Please tell us about any new projects you have we can look forward to.

JL: I’m co-editing the anthology PLAYLIST OF THE DAMNED, which is currently up on Kickstarter for pre-orders. We’ll be open to submissions on May 1st. In the TV space, I have a few movies-of-the-week for rent and coming soon, including A PODCAST TO DIE FOR and A DANGEROUS ROMANCE. And keep your eyes peeled for some potential story adaptation news coming soon!

Up next, Nadia Bulkin who wrote “Your Next Best American Girl” shares her thoughts on a story about beauty being skin deep… if not deeper.

AYS: How has growing up in Jakarta influenced your writing and storytelling? 

NB: It let me experience the sense of constant supernatural risk – the sense that your reality might abruptly shift with very little warning, potentially through no fault of your own. Maybe you trespass across a boundary that you weren’t aware of, or you look at someone the wrong way, or an ancestral debt comes due. The precariousness of reality and the inexplicability of fate tend to show up as undercurrents in my writing, even the stories that aren’t set in Indonesia. 

AYS: “Your Next Best American Girl” is a unique horror story that combines elements of body horror and social commentary. What inspired you to write this particular story and how did you approach blending these different themes?

NB: I think body horror and social commentary go together extremely easily, partly because they can both work through metaphors, and partly because the body is so incredibly political. I chose to write this particular story because I wanted to tap into a visceral fear of mine – trypophobia – and I wanted to use a setting where the stakes of worsening damage to the body are very, very high – a beauty pageant.

AYS: Please tell us about any new projects you have we can look forward to.

I’m co-editing a haunted house anthology with Julia Rios, to be published by Cursed Morsels Press, called Why Didn’t You Just Leave. The goal is to address that question that always seems to come up when someone tells a story about a haunting – we’ve invited ten awesome authors to answer it and will also be holding an open submissions call this August.  Look for the Kickstarter to go live this summer!

By Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Shimanchu-American and award-winning poet, author, and publisher with 20+ years of experience as a professional writer in nonfiction. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), producer of the Exercise Your Writes YouTube podcast, two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner, and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020, find her at

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