Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Road Kill: Vol. 6! As the editor and a contributing writer, how would you describe your thematic approach when arranging the horror story collection?
Madison Estes: The main theme of the anthology is Texas horror, so I wanted to make sure the anthology had several stories at the beginning that contained several elements of the south. One of the first stories, “Cemetery Days,” opens up with a southern community picnic before delving into some good old fashion monster horror. “The Sons of Billy Clay” by Stephen Graham Jones is about the souls of serial killers being transferred into bulls who then murder riders at the rodeo. “Fandango” is about a cursed sandstorm. All of the stories are set in the Lone Star State, but the front end of the collection is loaded with tales that could only take place in the south.
I also wanted to arrange the collection with a combination of supernatural and realistic horror stories, so there are stories that revolve around mental illness and innate human darkness in addition to tales of hauntings and monsters. I also arranged the collection with story length in mind so that the longer stories are surrounded by shorter ones to help with pacing. Lastly, although all of the stories in this collection are unique in some way; there are several stories that are a whole different level of weird. There are stories about homicidal sentient snow, plant monsters, and a talking javelina that helps a man rescue a woman and her son. I tried to space out the strangest horror stories so as not to overwhelm the reader or disappoint them when the following stories were not quite as bizarre.
BD: In bringing together creators from across the Lone Star state for the project, what can you tell us about the shared creative process of working with the creators to shepherd their stories to completion?
ME: I have several videos on my YouTube channel, where I discuss the process of working with the authors in this anthology. Most communication happened through email and most stories ended up needing at least two revisions, one for line edits and minor story changes and the second for proofreading.
With some authors like Stephen Graham Jones and Bev Vincent, I only had to proofread their work. With others, I went in and did more extensive line edits. I added a few lines near the climax of one story to help transition the scene between the climax and resolution of the story. In “For Sale By Owner,” the author and I decided to cut a few lines where one character was apologizing to another because it created confusion near the ending. All of the authors were receptive to feedback and wonderful to work with. This was my first time editing an anthology, and it was interesting being on the other side of it and helping authors revise and improve their stories.
BD: In addition, what can you share with us about your own story within the anthology, and what (or whom) were some of your creative influences?
ME: I had the idea for “Getaway Car” when I was listening to Taylor Swift’s song by the same name. My grandmother and mom love true crime, and I’ve seen many documentaries and shows about Bonnie and Clyde, so I thought it would be fun to write a story about a mechanic who ends up getting more than he bargained for when he wins the bid to restore their getaway car. I wasn’t sure I was going to have enough time to write the story, but when I visited Dallas last summer, I ended up inadvertently visiting the Parker and Barrow restaurant for drinks. When I saw newspaper clippings of them on the wall, I knew I had to write this story for Road Kill Vol. 6. It felt like too much of a coincidence that I ended up at that spot at that time.
As much as I find the duo fascinating, I’m also a little disturbed by how they have been glamourized so much, as if they were Robin Hood, just because they gave some of their victims money. They also killed innocent people and cops that were just trying to do their jobs. They were not completely without compassion but they were criminals, not vigilantes, and I tried to depict them that way in my story. I have my own bias in that I see Clyde Barrow as being the instigator and Bonnie Parker as getting sucked into the life of crime due to her affection for him and possibly delusions of grandeur. This carried over into the story I wrote. Although I flipped the script in that, the mechanic ends up getting pulled into Bonnie’s criminal activities that are fueled by her desire for fame.
BD: What makes Death’s Head Press the perfect home for this continuing anthology?
ME: Death’s Head Press is an independent horror publisher that specializes in the grotesque and bizarre, making it the perfect home for this anthology. This publisher has printed anthologies such as Breaking Bizarro which contain oddball horror stories that feel similar to some of the stories in this collection. They also publish more visceral horror, as well, comparable to other stories in this collection like “The Teeth” and “The Chickens That Are Not Her Chickens.”
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
ME: At the moment, I’m currently working on a cybercrime novel about a pair of siblings that get in way over their heads when they try to rob the boss who fired one of them a week before Christmas. After that, I’m going to finish my first bizarro horror story, Blister Baby, about a teenage boy who discovers an embryo growing inside of one of his blisters. He wants to get an abortion, but the Texas government interferes and then the story falls into the realm of The Handmaid’s Tale. My favorite bizarro horror stories are the ones that contain social satire like Bad Box by Carlton Mellick III. His work is inspiring me to finish this story.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 6 and your other work?
ME: You can find out more information about Road Kill Vol. 6 on Amazon.
You can find out more information about my other work by visiting my Amazon author page, my YouTube Channel, or my author website. Please feel free to contact me on my channel or website. I love hearing from my readers!