Hailey Piper writes horror and dark fantasy, and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. She is the author of The Possession of Natalie Glasgow, An Invitation to Darkness, and Benny Rose, the Cannibal King. Her short fiction appears in publications such as Daily Science Fiction, The Arcanist, Flash Fiction Online, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, Tales to Terrify, Blood Bath Literary Zine, and many more. She lives with her wife in Maryland, where she haunts their apartment making spooky noises. Find her on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays and on Instagram via @haileypiperfights.
Welcome, and congratulations on The Worm and His Kings! Without giving too much away, would you care to give folks a taste of what your novella is about?
Thank you so much! I’m happy to be here! The Worm and His Kings is a cosmic horror novella that follows Monique Lane in her search for her missing girlfriend beneath Manhattan in 1990. She faces both her past horrors that haunt her and the shadows and secrets that lie ahead.
You do a wonderful job establishing character, mood, and mythology in the novella. What came first for you, in terms of inspiration, or did the story arrive as a whole package?
Weirdly enough, the lore came first. That’s usually not the case for me, I’ll have a concept or characters in most cases, but here the mythology grew in pieces. The characters who would approach that, and what they chose to do about it, developed later and had a few false starts.
On a related note, I’m particularly interested in Gray Hill and the empty place, as both are so effectively described. I was wondering if you could talk a bit about Gray Hill’s origins, and the idea of the empty place. I love the idea of absence as a horror concept, a place that people instinctively avoid because it just feels wrong.
Some elements of Gray Hill are essential to the lore, but how she impacts the story in some ways emerged from Staten Island urban legend Cropsey (there’s a 2009 documentary on Netflix by that same name if anyone’s curious!), and as was the case with my last novella, Benny Rose, the Cannibal King, urban legends seem to seep into my work. The empty place started as a bad feeling. I’d experienced this myself not over any particular place, but it would just come upon me sometimes, exactly as you say. Sometimes a spot would just feel wrong, and I’d move away from it. But that grew into the events of the book, even if Monique can’t immediately understand what’s haunting her.
Another thing you do a fantastic job with in the novella is blending supernatural horror with very human horror like the rejection Monique experiences at the hands of her family, or the idea of losing someone you love. As an author, is one type of horror – human versus supernatural – more interesting to you to explore, or do you prefer to combine them as you do here?
I think horror is at its strongest digging into those human elements and at its most interesting when digging into supernatural elements. Supernatural ideas and beliefs have been part of that human experience for all of human history, and I think it’s hard to untether that from our emotions. That’s probably an overlong way of saying that I prefer to combine the two. The story, characters, themes, and reader all benefit when the speculative elements of a story draw from humanity, even if they’re presented as monsters.
The majority of your published work to date has been horror. What in particular appeals to you about the genre? Are there other genres you’ve written in, or would be interested in exploring in the future?
For me, horror is the truest genre. We can peel layers from our emotions and cut to the bone when we look at our fears as sources to draw from, and I think often characters are the most themselves when afraid. I’ve written some science fiction and fantasy too, and one steampunk detective story that showed up in Planet Scumm #9 in September, but many of those still carry darker or horror adjacent elements.
Switching gears, you currently reside in Maryland. What are your favorite spots in the area, or places you like to bring guests visiting for the first time?
With it being 2020, I’m struggling to remember places that aren’t home or the grocery store (or what guests are!). There’s a place with a pond near the movie theater where we like to walk, and it’s pretty through every season.
Now that The Worm and His Kings is out in the world, what’s next for you? What are you working on, or have coming up that you want folks to know about?
I’m juggling a body horror novel and a novella that I’m struggling to classify, though I should have that situated soon. The kind people over at The Seventh Terrace are also working with me to get my first short story collection out the door, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy, full of queer horror, isolation stories, and the monstrous feminine. That should release in spring 2021.
The collection sounds fantastic! Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you again for having me! It’s been lovely!