If I had to name Gloria’s genre, I might call it monster girl chic.

For the past two years, I’ve been stoked to work with a writer who specializes in gut-wrenching, heart-gripping short fiction. We’ve grown in the craft together as writing partners, in workshop groups, and focusing on similar stories. I wrote several of the pieces you’ll see in Starlight with Gloria reading every single draft.

Watching her writing grow from the fumbling fantasy manuscript she was wading through a few years ago to the complete bangers she slaps out now has been incredible. Gloria writes the kind of stories that will make you say, “Wait…words can do all that?” Reading her stuff has helped me grow my own writing in directions it never would have turned its head otherwise.

Today I wanted to pull Gloria in for a chat about her process ‘n projects, and to tell you guys a little about why I think her work is fantastic.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Hey, Gloria!

Howdy. [she tipped an imaginary hat]

Got a few Qs for you today–first off, what’s the best thing about being friends with me?

Uh–

Too many to choose from? I understand. Moving on: What is your ideal writing space for max productivity?

Quiet, mostly, and also at home. Lately I’ve been getting more into ambient white noise, but I can’t do music, and I’ve never been super comfortable doing long writing sessions in public.

When the ADHD hit. What inspired you to start writing?

I started writing when I was six, so I don’t remember exactly why, but mostly I think it was that I loved to read. Once I realized I could make my own characters and universes and talk about whatever I wanted, it was all I wanted to do. The creative freedom is still my favorite part. 

As a writer, what’s the scariest thing you’ve had to do?

I guess the part that’s still the most nerve-wracking is sharing my work with people in my personal life who aren’t writers. I’ve gotten more honest about myself in my writing, I’ve been exploring darker themes and more mature material, and there’s always that fear that people you care about will think less of you for what you create. But people mostly don’t care or they’re cool. 

What’s your favorite story from your collections?

Definitely Host. It came from a pretty rough place, but it gave me the space to talk out heavier stuff, like whether we should struggle against the inevitable, whether it’s worth it to try for something better in uncontrollably bad circumstances. I used a first-person narrator who’s sort of a demonic entity, which was definitely new and strange, but I’m really happy with the narrative and how it’s dark but also grounded in hope.

What are you working on right now?

A couple things! I’m working on a novel, which is coming along. I’m hoping to self-publish a paperback collection in the next year, so I’m writing new short stories for that. 

To who or what do you owe your success?

A lot of people! Writing is way less solitary than you’d think. But mostly my writing partners, Micah and yourself, for y’alls absolute support over the last few years, and also my readers, for buying the books and being a generally stellar audience.

What has surprised you most during your writing journey?

One, when I was coming out of college, I thought I wanted to write fantasy because it seemed like everyone was writing fantasy. Someone–I just cannot remember who, it’s so crazy how I’m just blanking on her name which was Hannah–told me I should switch to contemporary, and I have never looked back. It absolutely transformed my writing for the better. 

Two, I was surprised at the darker themes and horror-esque genres I wound up working in when I started putting these chapbooks together. I never considered myself a horror writer (and I still don’t, really), but when I sat down to write, that’s just what came out.

Wow, I’m glad that I could have such a remarkable, impactful influence on your life and career, and you’re so welcome for it. Speaking of, do you have any advice for people who want to pursue writing?

Practice all the time! And work to make your stuff weirder and more exciting to you. Make honest friendships with other writers, and focus on what you want to make, not on what you feel like you should be making.

Thanks so much for hanging out with us today, pal.

Thanks for havin’ me! You still owe me significant emotional damages re: Starlight, so you’ll be hearing from my attorney soon (my attorney is Hamlet, the cat). 

While I absolutely despise Gloria’s cat, I love her writing. Gloria has three collections of shorts available now, and I’m a huge fan of all of them.

Lost Light

A violinist struggles for survival in a war-torn city. A prince pines the loss of his former love in an opulent, secluded palace. A trespasser breaks into her ex-girlfriend’s home, desperate for closure. Lost Light is about isolation, longing, and madness.

I felt this collection at the beginning of this year HARD. Even though most of these stories are set in alternate realities, you can really feel the inspiration draw from current predicaments. If you’re into broody, foggy tales (think Wuthering Heights type vibes), this guy is for you.

The Graveyard Three

A resurrected bog body, a teenaged girl, and an immortal monster seek vengeance across Texas.

This collection has one of my all-time favorite short stories: Mud. It’s nasty, it’s dark, and it makes you think way more than you might be comfortable with. If I had to name Gloria’s genre, I might call it monster girl chic.

HOST

A little girl stalks the Texas highways at night, looking for a ride home…or so she claims. The Pirate King promises an innkeeper a life of adventure, and not even death can break an oath. A demonic entity must possess and kill her hosts for survival, but when she possesses a depressed college dropout named Heather, things get complicated.

Her latest collection, Host, is some of my favorite writing. Her mastery of writing unhinged female characters is impeccable. The namesake story, Host, is the only short that topped Mud on my list of favorites. Gloria is a masterful storyteller, and when I tell you I’m absolutely goddamned stoked to read her debut novel, consider it an understatement.

FOLLOW GLORIA!

Gloria Benjamin Russell is outlandishly talented and getting better by the minute. If I were you, I’d keep up with her! Twitch, Instagram, Twitter, her website.

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