E.F. Schraeder has been weaving creepy tales since childhood.
As soon as the prolific Cleveland-born and Cleveland-based author could wield a pen, a robust library of work ranging from short stories to poetry began to form. The author of the story collection Ghastly Tales of Gaiety and Greed: Unauthorized and Haunted Cedar Point, Schraeder’s new work takes a close look at alienation.
Inspired by a period of time living off the grid, Schraeder’s debut novella Liar: Memoir of a Haunting follows a lesbian couple as they trade hostile Midwestern politics for life in an old, rustic home in a rural setting. Before long, things start to go awry: the isolation of living in the woods wears on them and doubts stretch the growing distance between them. We talked to Schraeder about the self-described “lesbian gothic” story and queer horror.
What is the scene like for LGBTQ+ writers in horror?
The scene in horror for LGBTQ+ folks in general is actually really amazing. I loved horror my whole life, but I grew up on horror that was not particularly inclusive, representative of diversity, or even positive in a lot of ways. There are so many brilliant scholars whose work analyzes all those problematic themes and images, but the scene right now is far more inclusive of diverse voices. The Horror Writers Association offers diversity grants and other initiatives, for instance, and Fright Girl Summer which was launched by two women writers, V. Castro and Sonora Taylor, to highlight diverse voices and center the work of marginalized folks with reading lists, interviews and more. There’s so many wonderful small presses, journals, and other venues. It’s a great time to be a reader and writer.
Why has that changed?
The world is a diverse place and that’s just the truth. More stories that you come across in the genre really turn social expectations upside down, and it’s wonderful. I love a horror story that thinks carefully about who the victims and villains are, and how that can engage with, resist, and subvert more dominant and oppressive narratives. Speaking to queer influences, if you look way back, horror has always had literary and cinematic perspectives and queer subtexts.
So many monster stories hinge on these dangerous, (capital O) Others, these different creatures, right? From monster identity or the lesbian vampire (who doesn’t love a good lesbian vampire story?), this concept of conversion and the dangerousness of this otherworldly creature; well, it’s all very queer in some ways, and there are different ways to approach those elements. I think sometimes that subtext is really kind of revolutionary, sometimes it’s working against the grain of oppressive social norms, and sometimes it may reinforce gender roles or do all those things at once. I think there’s just a big range of ways that queer perspectives operate within the genre historically and in the present.
How important is LGBTQ+ content in your work?
It’s increasingly important the more I write. With Liar in particular, queer content is central to setting and character. Liar is set before LGBTQ couples attained marriage equality rights, with a queer couple trying to find a more welcoming environment, so anti-LGBTQ laws and DOMA legislation positions these characters in a place of flight from the start. One character’s sense of alienation also influences her perception; she senses something sinister going on but isn’t quite sure of the cause. In future work, I plan to continue writing queer horror themes, and redirecting some of those patterns—at least in my own work—to make a little bit of space.
What do you hope people walk away with at the end of the book?
[Sinister laugh] It’s a horror story so I guess the simple answer is that I hope it makes readers very uncomfortable. I hope to frighten people. Aside from that dread, I suppose I hope Liar invites some reflection on fear, on what‘s actually scary. I hope people walk away with a little chill and maybe some contemplation. Liar is a very queer story, and also a very human story of vulnerability, believability, and isolation.
- Order the words of E..F. Shraeder via supporting your local independent bookstore.
- Meet the author during a Virtual World Event hosted by the publisher of Liar, Omnium Gathering. The event takes place Friday, February 26 (7 p.m. CT).
- Join E.F. for a virtual reading during the Mystery/Fantasy portion of ReadOut: A Festival of Lesbian Literature on Saturday, February 27 (1–2:30 p.m. EST).