Sara Tantlinger is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA. Currently, Sara is editing Not All Monsters,an anthology that will be comprised entirely of women who write speculative fiction. The anthology is set for a 2020 release with Strangehouse Books. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com
Sara’s poetry, flash fiction, and short stories can be found in several magazines and anthologies, including the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. II and V, the Horror Zine, Unnerving, Abyss & Apex, the 2018 Rhysling Anthology, 100 Word Horrors, and the Sunlight Press.
What’s your favorite type of poetry to write (narrative, dramatic, or lyrical)?
All types! I am very open to experimenting and pushing my own boundaries. I used a little more rhyme in The Devil’s Dreamland than I did in Love for Slaughter, but both collections are primarily free verse. The Devil’s Dreamlandalso uses a narrative arc to tell a story. I’d like to try more structured things in my next collection like a few villanelles since those are some of my favorite types of poetic structures to read like with Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” and Thomas’ “do not go gentle into that good night” (which I have a quote from tattooed on me).
What is your favorite horror poem?
There are so many to choose from, but a favorite classic I often go back to is Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” The imagery and language are stunning, plus the raw pain of the words shows so clearly through the narrator’s voice. The whole piece really highlights Poe’s mastery, as well as just being a timeless work that showcases great examples of rhythm, rhyme, atmosphere and more.
What are your thoughts on “triggers” in horror?
I think readers of horror are aware of what their personal triggers are, so if someone puts trigger warnings on a review or an author puts them on their books, that’s totally fine. It doesn’t bother me either way – the only thing that frustrates me is when others try to demean someone for having triggers. You never know what someone’s past or current experiences have been or are like; if you don’t like warnings, no one is forcing you to use them, but certainly do not make anyone out there feel like less of a horror fan or reader or writer if they do choose to use trigger warnings.
Can you tell us a little about your Bram Stoker Award Winning poetry collection The Devil’s Dreamland?
Of course! The Devil’s Dreamland is a collection of poetry inspired by serial killer H.H. Holmes. The poetry is presented like a narrative arc throughout his life, from childhood to his imprisonment and eventual death. It’s a collection I am proud of not only because it took home the Stoker Award for Poetry (which is still surreal to me), but because it is so different than my first collection, Love for Slaughter.I was able to really challenge myself and use research skills to write the book. I love historical horror, so proving to myself I could create such a work has been a truly rewarding experience.
You can check out the book here! https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946335274
Which serial killer would you like to write about next? Why?
I’m not sure! If I ever tackle another serial killer project I would definitely choose a woman to research and study. I recently read Shelley Klein’s The Most Evil Women in History and there were a few women mentioned in there I was interested in learning more about, such as Catherine the Great and Agrippina the Younger.
What is your favorite horror poetry collection?
A couple of my favorite collections are I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland, How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison, The Gorelets Omnibus by Michael Arnzen, If You Died Tomorrow I Would Eat Your Corpse by Wrath James White — and while not horror but still dark and gorgeous — Crush by Richard Siken.
Which author has influenced your work the most?
It has to be a tie between Edgar Allan Poe and Kate Chopin. When I was telling my sister about my upcoming novella, To Be Devoured, she dubbed me a horror Kate Chopin, which was the best compliment ever. Poe led me toward my love of dark poetry and taught me so much about style, rhythm, imagery, and delicious Gothic darkness. Chopin captured my heart and showed me female characters who can be flawed yet still courageous and independent.
What can you tell us about your latest work To Be Devoured?
To Be Devoured is my debut novella and will be out from Unnvering! The book centers around Andi, who becomes obsessed with the vultures circling outside her home. She desperately wants to know what carrion tastes like, and believes the vultures to be great descendants of the Old World – she is consumed with needing to know what they know, and in her desperation to find out their secrets, she also deals with anger-induced blackouts, something she’s struggled with her entire life. Her therapist, her girlfriend, and a neighbor all try to help Andi overcome her inner battles, but will they be able to help before the desire to taste carrion becomes too much? Find out on July 29th!
If you could time travel, when and where would you go? Why?
I would love to visit ancient Egypt and watch the pyramids being constructed. It is such a fascinating part of history, and I have always enjoyed studying the rulers of ancient Egypt, reading about their beliefs, practices, and culture. I think it’d be amazing to see their work, clothing, style, and day-to-day activities.
What does carrion taste like? Andi has to know. The vultures circling outside her home taunt and invite her to come understand the secrets hiding in their banquet of decay. Fascination morphs into an obsessive need to know what the vultures know. Andi turns to Dr. Fawning, but even the therapist cannot help her comprehend the secrets she’s buried beneath anger-induced blackouts.
Her girlfriend, Luna, tries to help Andi battle her inner darkness and infatuation with the vultures. However, the desire to taste dead flesh, to stitch together wings of her own and become one with the flock sends Andi down a twisted, unforgivable path. Once she understands the secrets the vultures conceal, she must decide between abandoning the birds of prey or risk turning her loved ones into nothing more than meals to be devoured.
This debut collection of poetry from Sara Tantlinger takes a dark look at all the horrors of love, the pleasures of flesh, and the lust for blood. For discerning fans of romance and the macabre, look no further than Love For Slaughter.
“Sara Tantlinger has just sent a Valentine’s present to your funeral. Seduction is a slaughterhouse in “Love for Slaughter” — the first poetry book from this brilliantly evocative and subversively disturbing new horror writer — a woman dead set on beheading Cupid and reminding us all how weird love really is. From the charm of the corpse to the beauty of butchery, Tantlinger’s poems roil with dangerous desire and are relentlessly provocative — satanically sultry stuff that you won’t be able to stop reading.”
-Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Proverbs for Monsters and The Gorelets Omnibus
“Sara Tantlinger’s Love for Slaughter is full of dark moments of exquisite beauty. She is particularly adept at making even the bleakest of sentiments sound sensual and captivating. Full of clever wordplay, haunting rhythms, and excellent phrasing, Tantlinger’s work is a must for readers who like their poetry with a side of sexy gloom.”
-K.W. Taylor, author of The Curiosity Killers