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Rising Stars: Meet Lisa Morton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Morton.

Hi Lisa, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’m a writer, a Halloween expert, a paranormal historian, a bookseller, and a lifelong Southern Californian. My particular genre happens to be horror; I’m a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award (for both fiction and non-fiction works) and a former President of the Horror Writers Association. As a writer, I actually started in film; but after having six feature films produced – four of which I’d like to disown – I moved into prose. I’ve had more than 150 short stories and four novels published in the horror and mystery genres. Last year I had a story included in Best American Mystery Stories 2020; this year started with my story from the anthology Speculative Los Angeles receiving a Locus Recommendation. As a Halloween expert, I’m the author of The Halloween Encyclopedia and Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween, and yes – I’m one of those talking heads showing up in History Channel and Travel Channel documentaries on the holiday. My latest books include Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances and Weird Women Vol. 2: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers 1840-1925 (co-edited with Leslie S. Klinger). I’ve worked at the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood for thirty years; since it’s a used bookstore, it’s a wonderful resource for a non-fiction writer!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
My biggest disappointments were in my screenwriting phase. That was really how I started as a writer, but my first ten years were an endless chain of “Almost got the big deal” followed by, “Oh my God, why is my name on this?” I’ve found far more satisfaction as a prose writer, and although I’ve never had that big breakthrough novel, I consider myself very fortunate as a writer. If I have any regrets, it’s that I wasted fifteen years pursuing screenwriting.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I think my strongest talent is in creating short fiction. I love that “short, sharp shock”; I really believe horror works best in shorter format. One of the things I’m proudest of, I think, is incorporating my hometown in so much of my work. When I was consuming horror like crazy as a kid, so little of it was set in L.A., and yet the city has such a strange, dark side to it. It wasn’t until I discovered the work of a local writer named Dennis Etchison (who I’m so privileged to have known and even called a mentor) that I saw someone using this city as a setting for horror, and reading Dennis’s stories was what really set me on the path to creating my own L.A.-based fiction.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
Horror is thriving right now, and what I really love seeing is how much it’s expanding in terms of diversity. There are absolutely brilliant women and writers of color and LGBTQ authors coming in and claiming the genre, and it’s mind-blowing seeing what these gifted authors are producing.

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Image Credits:

Seth Ryan for main headshot, Damien Valentine for photo of me holding up my book, and Rob Cohen for photo of me and Frankenstein figure

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