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  • Writer's pictureLee Franklin

Kenzie Jennings

G'day and welcome to the Couch of Chaos,

Yes you can move the dog, no please just put him back on your lap. Benji is the boss man after all. Thanks for popping in on a Saturday, I mean where would you rather be? No don't answer that. Oh, that dinosaur thing in the garden? Lee Murray left it here for a few days. Terra thinks it is just the perfect playmate. I'm glad you can run fast. It has been a chaotic couple of weeks here but I think we are starting to hit our groove. Ok, lets get this party started.

From where do you hail? And what is your modus operandi with the blood soaked pen?

Supposedly, I’m a Chicagoan, but I don’t really remember much of it aside from some moments of terror involving getting lost in Marshall Field’s not long after having seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the first movie I remember seeing at a theatre). I currently reside in Winter Haven, in the middle of Florida right between coasts (and neighbor to some famous mouse’s theme park).

As for my approach to horror, and the sort of horror I write, I tend to gravitate towards awful characters doing awful things to each other as life imitates art imitates life and so on. It’s not necessarily “easy” for me to write about, but I still find it much more accessible to me. Sometime in the future though, I want to write a supernatural ghost story, one that doesn’t delve into the psychological for a change. I love a good ghost story, but I’ve yet to be hit by my own inspiration for one.

If there was one thing you could change, improve about your writing or writing process, what would it be? More coffee and less cake are not acceptable answers.

These days, I need to rid myself of distractions. I’d love to ditch the social media, throw away my cell, and carry on. The pandemic, however, has forced me to have my cell on me at all times (well, okay, not exactly at “all” times, but mostly) due to my day job. I’m teaching online now, and because it’s a new environment for many of us in education, both students and professors, it becomes a necessary evil to be accessible to students and staff since we’re not around in person. The combination of online classes, the Learning Management System app we use at school, and all the social media apps for the ol’ writing career (and keeping in touch with old friends) creates a recipe for constant distractions.

Imagine I am filthy successful agent (I did say imagine) we are stepping into an elevator. Hit me with your top three elevator pitches for three pieces of your work.

I don’t have a top three. I don’t like elevator pitches, but one VERY awkward pitch to a publisher on my end over horrible Texas BBQ went something along the lines of “A family wedding reception is besieged by cannibals,” and it fared well enough I suppose. I was lucky though. I had help in my mentor, Jeff Strand, who believed in the book.

To illustrate how terrible I really am at the (novel) pitch, almost a decade ago, my first experience “pitching” to a publisher was one I’ll regret forever. I didn’t know what a novel pitch was. I’d had some practice only at pitching screenplays, true “elevator” pitches. Anyhow, I was at a conference where I had the opportunity to pitch to a publisher who asked what I was working on. He pressed me to pitch it to him, and I thought he meant like a screenplay pitch, short and snappy with analogies, so I said, “It’s Bridget Jones meets Wonder Woman.” He said, “That’s not a pitch. Tell me more. Who are the characters? What do they want? What’s the story?” So I fumbled and bumbled and mumbled my way through a lengthy synopsis that had far too many details for a simple “pitch.” Finally, the guy crinkled his nose at me and said, “That doesn’t sound interesting at all.” I was so startled and put off by his reaction that I wasn’t thinking when I responded with a blunt and totally childish, “Well, YOU don’t sound interesting at all!” and stormed off.

So, elevator pitches…novel pitches…whatever this business terms them…they’re so not my scene.

Tell us, why should we read your work?

If you like your stories twisty, your characters involving, and your horror with some splatter on the side, you’ll probably enjoy my stuff.

Is there one thing you would have done differently in your writing career?

I wish I hadn’t quit so early in the game. I lament this sort of thing all the time, being in my late 40s and coming back to it so late. Then again, life choices and changes tend to throw a monkey wrench into such silly pursuits as hopes and dreams. Ah, well. Can’t change the past. I can only move on.

Who, is your favourite monster?

Sociopaths. They’re the scariest monsters to me.

Other than reading my work, what are your goals for 2021?

Well, I’d like to have some more work published. I don’t care what, really. I’ve three short stories I’ve committed to for anthologies, with one out this month Slice Girls, ed. Carmilla Voiez, pub. Mocha Memoirs Press). I also want to finish my Florida pulp, psychosexual horror thriller Nice Girl by mid-summer at the latest. I’m a slow writer though, so I’ll just have to be content with whatever I manage, with whatever creative energy and persistence I muster.

All of our characters have elements of ourselves woven into them. Which poor character is most like you?

Having suffered benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome myself, I have that in common with Ansley Boone from Reception. I’m nowhere near as impulsive and careless as she is though. Aside from that, my characters aren’t much like me, aside from a dark sense of humor in some of them, perhaps, I don’t know.

What is the greatest challenge to women succeeding in horror?

Ever since I started in this business a couple of years ago, the only challenge I’ve come across, if we’re to call it that, involved seeing so little representation on panels I’d attended, but I think that was due to a lack of interest from women. So I think we should encourage women writers to write what sorts of horrors they want to write rather than what the mainstream culture expects from them to write. That would mean though that we would have to change the entire major publishing… “landscape”… too. Small presses, on the other hand, seem to have made it much easier for women horror authors to be a part of the horror writing community.

Where did you discover your love for all things that go bump in the night, or splat on the walls?

I think my adoration of the genre started back when I was a kid when my father came home one night, absolutely terrified, after having seen An American Werewolf in London. I just wanted to know what it was that had scared him since I’d never once considered him afraid of much of anything, and he was a pretty scary man himself. I’d been so frightened of him when I was a kid. Anyway, he’d been petrified by the famous transformation scene, and the reminder of it still scares him to this day. Since then, I’d been fascinated with horror. I guess it was almost like some kind of a talisman for me, knowing that something had frightened him like that.

Kenzie Jennings is an English professor living in the muggy tourist hub of central Florida. She is the author of the Splatterpunk Award-nominated cannibal wedding novel Reception and the Splatter Western novella Red Station (Death’s Head Press). Her short horror fiction has appeared in Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror, Dig Two Graves, Vol. 1 and Deep Fried Horror: Mother's Day Edition.

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Twitter: @kenzieblyjay

Instagram: kenziejennings2

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