Alumna Kea Wilson teaches the art of horror fiction

  • Author Kea Wilson during her master class with creative writing students.

  • Students write their own horror stories during Wilson's master class.

December 13, 2017

On Nov. 30, creative writing students welcomed Interlochen Arts Academy alumna Kea Wilson (IAC 97-00, IAA 01-05) back to The Writing House for a student-led interview, master class and reading.

Wilson released her debut novel, “We Eat Our Own,” in Sept. 2016. The novel’s plot follows a struggling actor in the 1970s who travels to Colombia to star in a horror film—and finds horror both on and off set.

Wilson shared her journey with students, explaining that as a young writer, she fell in love with two seemingly incompatible genres: literary and horror fiction. “I thought horror and literary fiction belonged in separate sections of the bookstore,” she said. “It turns out I was wrong.”

At Interlochen, Wilson expanded her writing horizons, but always maintained a deep affection for the horror genre. While at the Academy, she developed the concept that eventually became “We Eat Our Own.”

During her master class, Wilson then tackled some of the common myths that writers have about the horror genre, which, as a teenager, had held her back from writing horror stories. For example, Wilson challenged the notion that horror fiction seeks only to terrify its audience; instead, she argued, horror fiction provides a platform for authors and readers to ask core questions about the human condition. Wilson offered Night of the Living Dead as an excellent example of this concept, and encouraged students to watch the film and analyze its underlying themes.

Wilson paused midway through the lecture to allow the students to write the beginnings of a horror story based on the concepts she had introduced. The session concluded with several students sharing their work with the class. Wilson praised the students’ work and encouraged them to finish the stories they had begun during the class session.

After the students shared their work, Wilson opened the floor to student questions. One student asked Wilson about the process of researching “We Eat our Own,” particularly if she had traveled to Colombia to understand the setting. Wilson explained that while she was unable to travel to Colombia, she attempted to immerse herself in the environment in other ways. Wilson researched the 1970s to provide context to the sociopolitical issues of the day. To understand the setting, she visited botanical gardens and zoos, and watched numerous videos about the flora and fauna of the Amazon rainforest.

Later that evening, Wilson returned for a reading from her novel, “We Eat Our Own.” Wilson also signed books, answered questions and spoke with the editors of The Interlochen Review during her visit.

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