Hailey Piper writes original scary books. No, really, I’m serious. She has a way of writing scary that is both refreshing and a bit disarming, especially once you’ve had a conversation with her.
Soft-spoken and thoughtful, Piper was not what I expected when we sat down for an interview for iHorror’s Horror Pride Month series celebrating LGBTQ creatives in the genre especially as I’d just finished reading her novella Benny Rose The Cannibal King.
Piper’s love of horror began with monster movies when she was a kid. She grew upon a steady diet of Godzilla and the Universal Monsters from the time she was around four years old. Access to horror books, however, was a little harder to come by until she decided to do a little snooping.
“My mom was a big Dean Koontz fan and I wasn’t supposed to be reading those books but it’s not like there was a lock on her bedroom door,” she said. “When you’re a little kid, your books are all tiny paperbacks, but she had these giant, meaty hardcovers. I kind of went in and I kept seeing a face on the back and I didn’t know it was Dean Koontz and the book said Mr. Murder so I thought that’s who it was. So I opened that and just started reading.”
In a way, she never looked back. Of course, her mother soon discovered that she was reading the books and so they began reading them together. The rest, as they say, was history or herstory as is more apropos. Hailey was soon writing stories of her own which brings us back to her most recent novella Benny Rose.
The story takes place on a lonely cul de sac in a little retirement community where a terrifying creature born from the urban legends told about him rises up against a group of teenagers. For Piper, the story began with Glade Street, the story’s setting.
“The town grew out of there,” Piper explained. “I wasn’t sure who the monster would be at first. I had a ton of ideas and that kind of ballooned into the concept that he was all of them. He’s the stories that these kids tell. And of course, there was going to be one answer at the center of that, but that’s where the genesis was.”
Benny Rose emerges as a dark, twisted tale that is perfect for the Halloween season, but it’s far from Piper’s only offering.
The author has had numerous stories published in a wide range of anthologies. You can also read her previous novella The Possession of Natalie Glasgow.
When it comes to representation of the LGBTQ community in the horror space, Piper points out that for her, it resonates as a feeling of absence.
“I do notice the absence after a time,” she said. “Like you watch enough movies and you don’t see anybody who represents you, you start to feel it before you notice it. I see representation better in writing. Not because it’s great but because it sticks out. If I’m reading a short story collection and one of the characters happens to be gay, it immediately is like, ‘Oh they did that!’ I especially notice when the writer is not LGBT.”
As for her own writing, she says there have been moments when she has asked herself if her work will be rejected by audiences and publishers if a character is a member of the LGBTQ community. For her, inclusion became a matter of confidence as much as anything. There was the fear that perhaps, because she was not yet established as an author, the risks were higher.
Eventually, however, she came to the realization that she will never please everyone with her writing, which is freeing in its own way.
“If you have a character who is gay in there or any form of queer person in there and the story has nothing to do with being queer then they’re like why is this character even in here? That’s not important. But if it’s a story where there are gay themes, then another group of people will dismiss it saying that it’s just a statement story or it’s just politics or whatever. You can’t win with people.”
She goes on to point out, however, the importance of different perspectives in storytelling.
“Someone from a different perspective is going to have different ways of telling a story,” the author explained. “Everyone should want that. It just benefits everyone. Fans say they want new horror, but not genuinely new where they have to try or maybe it doesn’t feel the same. They want something that feels new the way that it did for them when they were like fifteen and they read an adult book for the first time. They want it to be like that but only for them and no one else.”
Horror Pride Month was born out of exactly that sentiment. New perspectives, new storytelling, invigorates and elevates the genre. It adds layers of nuance and incorporates an entirely new spectrum of experience within a narrative.
Hailey Piper is an example of that change and her voice is an exciting addition to the tapestry that is horror literature.