Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza, better known as The Sisters of Slaughter, are two of horror’s fastest rising stars. Melissa and Michelle began writing stories together as children, a collaborative process which recently culminated with an opportunity to write alongside Richard Chizmar, Brian Keene, and Stephen Kozeniewski for Serial Box’s Silverwood: The Door. Their latest novel, Kingdom of Teeth (Eraserhead Press), combines fantasy elements with bizarro horror.
Recently, The Sisters of Slaughter joined me to discuss their writing process, Serial Box, and horror influences.
Dan – Tell me the truth: are Michelle and Melissa two separate people, or is there just one of you with a dangerous case of multiple personality disorder?
SOS – We are actually conjoined twins but before this interview only Brian Keene, Richard Chizmar and Stephen Kozeniewski knew our secret.
Dan – You’ve been writing together since childhood. As twins, do you tend to think alike when developing plot points?
SOS – We do think a lot alike. It makes writing together fun and we rarely argue over story outlines. We know what each other are interested in so when new story ideas hit we get excited to talk about them.
Dan – Usually when readers see two authors on the book cover, it’s a case of a lesser known author doing the heavy lifting while the well-known author lends his or her name (insert cough that sounds like James Patterson). But the Sisters of Slaughter are a true collaboration. Tell me about your story development process, from idea generation to editing the final draft.
SOS – We always keep notebooks of story ideas and are in contact daily. We’ve always dreamed of being writers so it’s been a shared goal that we strive towards all the time. We start by deciding what we want to work on, if we’re going to submit a story somewhere or if we’ve been invited to write within a theme. We check out our lists of story ideas or plot something new then go about writing an outline. We find working from an outline helps a lot, especially on long projects.
Once the outline is done we begin writing, splitting the workload up in chapters. We write our pieces and then sit down to read them to make sure everything jives and we continue like that until it’s finished. Michelle usually handles editing duties because she has more free time. We submit our story and work on other writing until we know if it’s been accepted. If it is accepted and we receive edits from a press then we read over those together and Michelle makes any suggested changes. We then drink the blood of an innocent in honor of the Dark lord for assisting us in our plot to dominate the galaxy.
Dan – What are examples from your writing of each of you bringing something unique into a storyline or character arc?
SOS – Michelle started a short story about a werewolf battling a vampire for an anthology but struggled with originality and worried the story wasn’t anything new, but Melissa sent her a story she read about a guy who was imprisoned for being a werewolf, but he convinced the courts that he was a holy hound and used his lycanthropic power to slay evil. It inspired Michelle and they wrote the end of the story together.
Melissa had the rough idea for Mayan Blue but didn’t know if it could be more than just a survival horror story. Michelle suggested blending a dark mythological theme centered around Mayan mythology.
Dan – You both have beautiful marriages and family lives. Do your families read your stories, and how do they react to the darker elements?
SOS – Our husbands are horror fans. They are really proud of us. Melissa’s husband often reads our work before it’s submitted anywhere. Our parents and brothers have always known we wanted to write and horror is our true love. We are lucky to have their support. Our mom got us into horror so she loves to read everything we write.
Dan – What horror movies most influenced you during your youth?
SOS – American Werewolf in London and Texas Chainsaw Massacre are examples of our favorites. Werewolves have been our favorite monster our whole lives and the TCM movies. We really related to cannibalistic families.
Dan – What’s the last movie that genuinely frightened you?
SOS – It’s hard to get genuinely frightened anymore but the latest IT was pretty creepy.
Dan – You’ve traveled to some pretty dark places in your stories. What is the origin of some of your scariest ideas?
SOS – We love mythology as much as we love horror so often times we incorporate some of those old explanations of Darkness into our work and try to capture that primal fear people felt long before technology and science.
Dan – Though your latest novel, Kingdom of Teeth, fits into the fantasy genre, the novel is clearly anomalous to contemporary and classic fantasy. How has reader response been? Is Kingdom of Teeth finding more fans from horror or fantasy genres?
SOS – It’s been pretty evenly dispersed among the genres. People have enjoyed the fact that it blurs the lines between fantasy and horror and it also displays some of our goofy humor as well.
Dan – Werewolves or vampires?
SOS – Werewolves forever!
Dan – Favorite werewolf or vampire movie?
SOS – American Werewolf in London, Silver Bullet and Dog Soldiers.
Dan – Iron Maiden or King Diamond?
SOS – Iron Maiden only because we listened to them first.
Dan – The iconic Sisters of Slaughter logo is reminiscent of heavy metal album artwork. Do you find a large crossover between readers of horror and hard rock fans?
SOS – We’ve noticed a ton of horror fans are fans of heavy music. We must be drawn to the beauty of the Dark in all forms of art.
Dan – Do you listen to music while you write?
SOS – We dig listening to music while we write, it helps the imagination flow.
Dan – Your forthcoming project, Silverwood: The Door, hits Serial Box on October 3rd. Tell us how you came to work with some of horror’s biggest names: Richard Chizmar, Brian Keene, and Stephen Kozeniewski. What was your reaction when you were asked to participate?
SOS – Brian read our first novel, Mayan Blue, and really liked it. We became friends on Facebook and he mentioned that he was doing some projects that involved teamwork. We offered our pens, honestly never thinking we’d be chosen to work with him. He’s an amazing writer and we just never dreamed he’d ask us to be a part of his team. Months later we got an email saying we were chosen and there were many happy tears, and then he told us we’d be working with Richard and Stephen and we nearly had simultaneous heart attacks. The whole process has been like some crazy dream.
Dan – Tells us about the collaborative process. Did each of the involved authors contribute to every episode, or did you write the episodes separately?
SOS – Brian wrote the series bible and we all came together out here in Arizona for three days to decide what was going to happen in each episode. There was also Lydia from Serialbox and Tony who created Silverwood for YouTube, which was really popular. At the end of our time together we divided the episodes up so each writer worked on their own episodes, except us because we always write together. Once everyone was home we knocked out the episodes in order and had many group calls to discuss edits and continuity. It worked out really well and we hope to do it again soon.
Dan – The Serial Box model, which uniquely combines e-book and audiobook versions of the story, releases serial episodes on a weekly basis. Do you see the industry heading toward the Serial Box model in the future?
SOS – We see the attraction to serialized fiction. People are very busy these days and may not read if it means diving into novels. Serialbox provides episodes that are written to keep readers engaged and leave them wanting more. They also provide audio for people who would rather listen to stories. We will definitely be writing more serialized fiction in the future.
Thank you so much to Melissa and Michelle. Look for Silverwood: The Door on Serial Box this October.