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Roxie Voorhees Interview

The Longest Thirst is the story of Lillian, who flees across the desert to the town of Calico after killing her father. Billed as “The Quick and the Dead meets Carmilla”, this upcoming novella by Roxie Voorhees is an exciting new addition to the horror western sub-genre.

Read the full interview below.

The Longest Thirst is a great title for a horror novella set in the desert. Did you come up with that right away or was it something you decided on after you finished writing everything?

So, a direct answer may provide spoilers, but it is a reference to the final showdown. The Longest Thirst’s origins started in early 2021. After reading several horror westerns (something entirely new to me at the time), some with harsh social constructs that I didn’t care for, and in the aftermath of George Floyd and my dedication to anti-racism, she was born. She, being Wyanet, the Indigenous woman that is key to the plot. The main take away of The Longest Thirst is the commentary on white savior behavior, so I knew I needed her to be strong in her own power. After a discussion with my best friend of several decades (who is Indigenous and Mexican American) I researched local folklore to an area south of our hometowns. In doing so, I found the lore that inspired Wyanet’s journey.

I absolutely love the Carmilla comp in the synopsis. Can you talk a little bit about that? Bram Stoker’s Dracula is often considered to be THE vampire novel but J. Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla is such a favorite for so many readers.

Like most, I heard about and read Dracula at a young age. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally read Carmilla. What I love about it is the tone. It's beautiful and heartbreaking, and delicately intimate. Readers of The Longest Thirst will hopefully feel the push and pull between the main character, Lillian, and the woman she saves.

Fun Fact: There is a Carmilla easter egg in The Longest Thirst, (instead of Dracula) because it was published before it takes place (early 1880s).

What was it like leaning into the splatter western as a genre? Do you have any favorite books/films that you returned to for inspiration or to get you into the right headspace?

Red Station by Kenzie Jennings was a major inspiration as was the film The Quick and the Dead, both with flawed female leads. In The Longest Thirst’s very first scene, Lillian is slitting her father’s throat. This is on purpose. Not only does it cut her off from any familial tether, it fuels the rage she needs to finish her task—saving the woman. Once she gets the peach dress dirty, she really just goes for it, getting more and more risky and violent as desperation sets. These aren’t meek, well-behaved women.

The horror western is having this really great moment right now. What do you make of that?

I am always on the hunt for the next unique or different thing. I don’t follow trends so much—my ADHD craves variety. I’m grateful readers are giving the wild west a shot. Growing up in California, it’s a big part of local history, so I appreciate the nostalgia of it all.

One of my favorite things about all these new horror westerns is the diversity it brings to what for a long time was a straight, white, male genre. The Longest Thirst is a story about women. How did it feel to write that story, knowing the western’s history?

This is not a John Wayne western. There are no rough tough men spitting tobacco and shooting at noon. There are no strong male characters, because as AFAB men have been my abusers. Between my father’s bigotry, and intimate partner violence, men weren’t safe for me, especially at Lillian’s age. The Longest Thirst is part of that trauma healing. Lillian is a manifestation of reclaiming my voice, sticking up for myself. She is sick of everyone’s shit and will do whatever it takes, including killing her father.

How did you go about crafting the setting? Was there a lot of research involved?

Well, I spent the greater part of 25 years in California. The location is real, somewhere I’ve passed by on several road trips. My 6th grade trip was to SCICON—a weeklong science and conservation camp. There you learn local science and all about conservation. We’re home to John Muir and his legacy is felt throughout the area. One of the days, you go “into town”—a small pioneer town with little shops and places to see workers play out life. It was such a cool experience that I signed up to be a counselor my junior year. But Calico is a real place, a real silver mining town that was extremely popular for a very short time. It’s a ghost town tourist attraction now thanks to the Knott’s Berry Farm folks. They’ve restored it and it’s open to the public. I used both these places as the backdrop for The Longest Thirst with artistic liberties, of course.

Horror, as a genre, is no stranger to blood and guts. The splatter western leans super hard into the havoc of that. Did you ever have to reel yourself in or did you just go all out embracing the splatter aspect?

Most of the real splattery stuff is at the hands of Lillian, again on purpose. This is a woman that is waking up to harsh realities of the world. She’s angry and scared, both emotions strong enough to make you act differently. In her case, the soft, beauty-driven woman turns sharp and deadly. And she uses any and everything at her disposal. She isn’t a professional or a person that enjoys violence. She’s a survivor.

The cover for this book is such a great mashup of vintage western and vintage horror vibes. Who designed it and how did you feel when you saw it finished for the first time?

Thank you so much! I did. I Searched for western book covers, because I’m not very familiar with them and found my favorites used orange as a background. The opposite of orange on the color wheel is blue and they complement each other well, but the neon aqua just made my eyeballs sing. Like the title, the cover design just came to me. I knew I needed a bold shape that told a story and was accessible with my mediocre design skills.

Part of the reason I chose indie/self publishing was creative control. There is something ultra satisfying about creating the entire project and watching it come to fruition.

Do you have any other work coming out this year you’d like to tell people about?

I do. I co-edited Reader Beware!: A Fear Street Appreciation Anthology with the amazing Briana Morgan. It releases October 13 by DarkLit Press. Then, NORƉ, a folk horror novella will release December 5th by my newly formed micropress, Book Slayer Press.

What’s your favorite recent read? Any genre or category. It doesn’t have to be horror.

Not to brag, but I have amazing taste, so nearly all the books I read are amazing, but my last read was Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott. It blends Jewish myth with fairytale magic. It’s a complete win for me: the writing style is lush and lyrical, it made me feel deep emotions, and it was clever. Highly recommend.

Thank you so much for talking to Frightful!

The Longest Thirst hits shelves on September 26, 2023.

Roxie Voorhees (she/he/they) is a tangled threesome of Gag me with a Spoon, Welcome to the Darkside, and Catch me Outside. When she isn’t writing, she hyperfixes on whichever hobby her ADHD demands. A California native, he resides in Little Rock, where he refuses to use the word fixin’, battles pollen, and fantasizes of using a public bathroom without it being a political stance. They are author of THE LONGEST THIRST: A Splatterwestern, editor of THE PLEASURE IN PAIN, and co-editor of MINE and READER BEWARE.


Twitter: @theb00kslayer

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