Co-Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Hear Us Scream, Cat Benstead joined us by the campfire to discuss the horror anthology, the independent horror outlet and what's to come for the Scream Team.
It's the three-month anniversary of the release of the horror anthology Hear Us Scream: The Voices of Horror Volume One, a collection of personal essays by women and non-binary horror lovers sharing their personal journeys, connections to horror, and how horror has influenced and changed their lives. The book hit shelves and eBook catalogs in early December 2021. The anthology began as an impulsive tweet from creator Cat Benstead and has evolved into a horror media outlet and safe space for marginalized voices to be heard within the horror community with over 22 active contributors since the website launched in August 2022.
"Horror has given us all a home, it might be a little run down, knife holes in the exit doors, and some blood splattered on the beautiful white tiles in the bathroom; but it is our home. This home houses all of our trauma, our laughter, spirits and friendships. And what a wonderful home it is. Our community is one of the most inviting, supportive, and accepting communities that I have had the honour of being a part of. Without being welcomed in with open arms I would not have had the dream to create something so incredibly special for the community, but especially for our contributors."
Hear Us Scream has become a grassroots effort focused on content that inspires the horror community, creators and writers to amplify their voices, share their stories and their passion for horror. The Scream Team as the group of contributors is called, even hosts a monthly book club with fellow horror fans. You can join the Discord server to connect with the team and community.
Benstead is an Australia based horror creator, sociologist, educator and writer with Bachelor of Social Science in Criminology. She likes examining horror films through a sociological lens and spends her time hosting the horror film podcast TGIF and Club Dead, a True Blood rewatch podcast, while trying to keep things spooky all year round! In addition to podcasting, she's the co-Editor-in-Chief of Hear Us Scream online.
You can follow Hear Us Scream on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram for a continous stream of new horror content including reviews, essays, interviews and more. You can order a copy of the anthology here.
Slay Away: Cat, tell us what your favorite horror films are?
Cat: Silence of The Lambs, Salem's Lot, American Psycho and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but my favorites change all the time!
Slay Away: Hear Us Scream was published in the December and it's clearly a labor of love. How did the anthology come to fruition from the ideas, to crowdfunding and then finally print?
Cat: Absolutely! The entire project started from an incredibly impulsive tweet of mine where I was just like, you know what, I want to publish a book of personal essays from women and and non-binary people in the horror community. They don't need to be writers. I just want them to be really passionate about horror and to share what they love about horror. So, I put out this tweet and the response was insane. I was not expecting it and I kind of felt, well now that I've put this tweet out into the ether I'm going to have to do something about it. I'm neurodivergent. I have ADHD and I have a real big habit of saying I'm going to do things and then not doing them. I'm sure a lot of people can relate.
Slay Away: We understand and if we get busy, forget it...we become totally scatter-brained. What was the experience like, developing the anthology?
Cat: I got so overwhelmed with the the response, the passion and the support of people that I really believed in myself and my ability to get Hear Us Scream done. So, I kind of let that carry me through the whole process. I had to learn how to self-publish. I had to learn how to edit, specifically non-academic essays. I have a Bachelors of Social Science and a Masters of Education, so I'm used to writing for academia. I'm not used to writing, you know, these really personal essays and explorations of self. I had to relearn how to edit that type of writing and how to typeset a book.
I had great help from our graphic designer for Volume One, who worked on the cover design, Rosie Cass. She was just, an absolute god send during that part of the process and it was just a really rewarding project. The crowdfunding we achieved in half the time we'd anticipated. I was really happy with that. It was just a really phenomenal experience.
Slay Away: Well it is official, the book, Hear Us Scream: The Voices of Horror Volume one is available at all major book retailers and over 100 copies have already been sold. How does that feel?
Cat: Amazing! I sat and cried because I was like, "Oh wow, look at this baby and look at all these amazing people and people want to read these stories and I'm so proud of these writers," you know? I'm so proud of the contributors and everyone that make Hear Us Scream happen. It is so amazing, because I've gotten to meet everyone so reaching 100 copies sold is really incredible. It's so heartwarming and I feel that I I don't know... I wasn't expecting it to blow out of the water or anything, but to have some traction, slowly, but it's the kind of thing where people are like, "Oh, I'm going to pick it up because it looks interesting." 100 feels pretty cool for a self-published anthology, you know?
Slay Away: Word of mouth is definitely a powerful thing is the self-publishing space and the horror community. It's available to purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and more via digital release, paperback and hardcover?
Cat: Yeah, there's an eBook available and also phsycial copies that can be ordered.
Slay Away: Tell me about when you went into editing these essays and the things you discovered that did you hadn't expected or better yet, what was your initial reaction to some of the essays that were being submitted and how did that help to form what Hear Us Scream would become?
Cat: I had an idea of what I wanted Hear Us Scream to be from the beginning. I wanted to provide a platform for women and non-binary people to have a place to talk about Horror. We see a lot of men in the horror industry being given these platforms. So, I thought, you know what, I'm going to create a space for these amazing people and we're going create a book of essays. Some of them, I had to like, go and stand out on my porch and just look into the sky and take it all in because what a journey. What a story What an amazing person for being brave and strong enough to share those parts of themselves with others. People don't know or acknowledge that it's so hard to be that vulnerable and I appreciate each and every person for being able to shed that barrier for themselves and taking pride in their stories and being willing to share them with other horror lovers.
It's quite something. It was really, really amazing and at the start we were getting pitches because I wanted to know exactly what direction the anthology was going in and how I was going to put it together and how I was going to place each essay in the book. Like these contributors, the Scream Team feel like my family. I feel like I've known them my entire life because they were so willing to open up about their stories and their connection to horror. A lot of these people did go through real-life horrors of their own and those kinds of things are really hard to share with people and having them you know, willing to put it in a book and put it on paper and make it a physical story... I have so much respect for these people, for these writers. I just love them all so dearly.
Slay Away: You've officially announced that Volume Two is coming and there is currently a call for pitch submissions out, what can we expect this time around?
Cat: We have a mailing list and I've asked people to sign up for more information. There will be a lot of changes with Volume Two. Specifically with how we approach the writers and the process. The first book was a great learning experience. I've brought in more editors like to help us with the team of writers. I want this to be a really great mentoring experience for both the editing team and the contributors. We've had a few writers from Volume One inquire about contributing to the next book as well. It will include personal and academic essays like we had in Volume One and then personal stories. We want to include as many submissions as possible and we've already had 35 contributors express interest.
Slay Away: Tell us about Hear Us Scream online and how writers can submit their work?
Cat: Absolutely! The website is an inclusive online platform for writers mainly those starting out in their journey doing either film analysis, reviews or interviews. You don't need to be an established writer to contribute. You can email us submissions!