For our seventeenth entry of Beneath the Needle, we discuss Peach, Love & Harmony (Ali Seay's short fiction feature included in The Needle Drops... Volume One) alongside Ali's latest novellas -- Go Down Hard and To Offer Her Pleasure, before exploring horror media, scream queens and pulp horror finds.
Ali Seay has written professionally under a pen name for the last 15+ years. Now she's shaken off her disguise to write as herself in the genre she loves the most.
Her debut horror novella Go Down Hard was released in 2020 by Grindhouse Press. Her short works have appeared in The Big Book of Blasphemy, Campfire Macabre, Paranormal Contact, Far From Home, and online at Dread Stone, with more coming in the near future.
Ali lives in Baltimore with her family and a very spoiled geriatric dachshund. She’s a vintage junkie, loves to hunt for 80s pulp horror, and digging through thrift stores for treasures is her favourite pastime. Her greatest desire is to own a vintage Airstream and hit the road.
So, Ali - Peach, Love & Harmony stuck with our editing team for days after reading, sparking much discussion amongst us; it truly feels original, evoking the best of body horror across horror mediums, but still standing firmly on its own individual merits. Could you share a little background on the story, and how the original concept evolved through your creative process?
At the time the idea came, I was addicted to a certain blush-colored drink from a certain famous coffee joint. I loved the fruit that floated in it and I craved one almost daily. It didn’t hurt that I wrote at said establishment so every day I got my fix.
I believe I wrote the story for a call for submissions that involved magic, conjuring, and the like. My daily drink and my brainstorming collided and I had the idea for the particularly gruesome magic the story contained.
It was my partner who actually came up with the drink name. I had a few names scribbled on a waterproof pad in the shower, of all places. He pencilled in a bunch of suggestions (some of which appear in the story) but "Peach, Love, and Harmony" was my favorite.
The rest is dark magic and history.
Go Down Hard, your debut novella under your own name, has achieved unanimous praise as a brutal yet incredibly fun take on a clash between two serial killers. For you, is there any particular author or work that you think achieves this balance particularly well, that you hold as an inspiration?
The work of Chuck Palahniuk has always had that effect on me. His work can be particularly brutal or heavy but you can’t turn away because you’re having so much fun. Which is odd but true. Also, quite a few indie authors like C.V. Hunt, Hailey Piper, Kenzie Jennings, and Eric Larocca.
Much praise has also been directed toward Meg, who subverts many horror tropes and stereotypes, ruthlessly capable in the predator vs. predator set-up. Can we ask who epitomises the term “scream queen” to you?
For me, the ultimate Scream Queen and my unflinching horror crush has always been Jamie Lee Curtis. She is someone I think I would try to channel were I in a particularly perilous situation. Another noteworthy scream queen for me would be Neve Campbell in the Scream movies. Sidney Prescott is indeed a bad ass who finds a way to come out on top time and time again.
"For me, the ultimate Scream Queen and my unflinching horror crush has always been Jamie Lee Curtis. She is someone I think I would try to channel were I in a particularly perilous situation."
Now developing* your second novella, To Offer Her Pleasure, have you found it freeing writing under your own name, being able to somewhat start afresh?
Writing as myself has been a breath of fresh air. Something I wasn’t sure I’d ever do beyond a short story here and an article there. I didn’t abandon my pseudonym. She’s still alive and kicking. I did, however, shift my focus to writing horror and dark fiction as myself. After fifteen years it was time for a step in a new direction and I don’t regret a second of it. I don’t think horror comes as easily to me. I have to work a bit harder, think a bit longer, finesse it a bit more—but that challenge doesn’t deter me. The pleasure of seeing my work as myself go out into the world and (so far) be well received makes it totally worth it.
*To Offer Her Pleasure has since released. Find out more here.
Our contributors vary in their adoration of the genre and consumption of horror media in their spare time, but you very much position yourself as a horror writer with much experience with the genre. Has it always been that way for you? What are some formative memories that established your love and interest?
Honestly, I’ve always loved to be scared even when it was to my own detriment. My poor mother had many night time visits from me when I was young saying I was scared. Usually, as a result of me scaring myself—choosing the spooky books at the library, sneaking and watching something scary on TV, or even making up stories in my head.
My father died when I was 4 so a fascination and a weird kinship with death and the macabre is something I’ve always had. Experiencing the death of someone close to you at such a young age is bound to have an effect. For me, I strayed into scary stuff more than my peers. I have no idea if it was a coping mechanism or just my nature.
My first horror read was The Shining by Stephen King (borrowed from my grandmother) and that was it. I was off. This was the 80’s so I read a lot of King, Koontz, and Saul. But I loved a good spinner rack and anything that had a flashy cover (Zebra, Leisure, Pocketbooks), I was in!
Horror movies came a bit later. I was lucky enough to see a lot of the 80’s horror classics in the theatre. It was a cheap way to spend time and hang out with friends. Ironically, I missed a lot of the slashers (my mother did have her limits) but I made up for it as an adult.
Currently, we watch a lot of movies and I read a lot. I’d say about 85-90% of what I watch and read is horror. It is my go-to genre and my comfortable space.
"...usually, as a result of me scaring myself—choosing the spooky books at the library, sneaking and watching something scary on TV, or even making up stories in my head."
Out of your varied selection of short works, what’s a story you’ve developed that you have particularly fond memories of?
I don’t know if I can call it a fond memory, but when I finished writing a short called Jesus or Jacob? (The Big Book of Blasphemy) I burst into tears in the middle of the crowded café where I was writing. It was such an emotionally charged story that when I finished, all those feelings I had funnelled into my characters came rushing out. It completely took me by surprise.
On a lighter note, there was a story called Descending (Far From Home) that had me a little too gleeful about writing a female killer. Spending the day with her as she made her way down a cliff with an unsuspecting date was a pleasure.
As an avid reader yourself, and to celebrate the incredible works within the medium, what were some of your favourite reads of 2020?
I had so many! I guess if I had to pick the best of the best, my top 5 would be The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper, The Cipher by Kathe Koja, Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver, We Need to Do Something by Max Booth III, and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.
Finally, in quick-fire format, what are your favourite pulp horror finds from thrifting and/or your vintage collecting?
Honestly, anything from Zebra or Leisure with foiled covers. If it has a living skeleton on it, I’m buying it. Some of those vintage books are brilliant. Some of them, well, the cover is the best part. But they are all fun to find and sample. Finding a Ruby Jean Jensen is always a charge. As is finding the work of Patricia Wallace. I also love coming across UK editions of classic Stephen King. They are hidden gems in the dusty stacks.