Meet Nancy Collins, a local horror writer who is no stranger to the world of the macabre

Eryn Lee

By the time she was 3, Nancy Collins’s family knew she would be a writer.

“I always loved telling stories,” she said. “At the time I couldn’t read or write, so I would draw stories and stand by my parents or grandparents and tell them what was going on in the story. It was very natural for me.”

Born and raised in McGehee, Arkansas, Collins’s first novel, “Sunglasses After Dark,” was published in 1989. Since then, Collins, who currently lives in Macon, has written over 30 novels and short stories. A majority of her work is within the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres, with some Southern Gothic elements. She has also made a career in writing comics–even working for big names such as both D.C. and Marvel Comics. 

Similarly to her love of storytelling, Collins developed a love for the horror genre at a young age. She attributes this love of horror to her grandfather. Even years later, she can still recall their trips to the theater of her hometown to watch classics on the big screen.

Collins pictured with her Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel for her novel “Sunglasses After Dark”, circa 1989.

“My grandfather was a big Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi fan, so he loved the genre,” she said. “The man who owned the theater would have different theme nights–one night would be cowboy movies, one might be musicals, or silent movies–but one night was invariably horror movies, and my grandfather would take me to those. So I got to see all these classic scary movies the way they were originally intended.”

Although most of her work is original content, Collins has also written material for licensed media and franchises. She said the biggest difference between producing her own content versus working under a corporation is the creative freedom. 

“Obviously when you’re making your own content, you have more control of what your writing. But with work for hire, sometimes they let you do what you want and sometimes they don’t. It’s difficult when someone is constantly trying to micromanage…especially if they’re not paying you nearly enough the aggravation,” she said. 

According to statistics compiled by Vida, an organization dedicated to women in literary arts, the percentage of men in horror greatly outnumbers the amount of women. However, despite this gender imbalance, Collins says that for the most part she has been treated equally by her male peers. 

“Most of my mentors were male, but I don’t we saw it in those terms. They saw me as someone with talent, and wanted to pass along knowledge as their mentors had ton for them,” she said. 

Casey Wong, a correspondent for Vida, said that it is important for women like Collins to make a name for themselves in horror. 

“Having more and more women writing is really beneficial to both creators and consumers within the genre. Ironically, even though women are heavily featured in the media, there is an abundance of sexism within their portrayal,” Wong said. “So having more women writers can help combat these overt sexist nature and provide fans with content worth consuming.”

The best advice Collins has for an upcoming writer is to not be afraid to take your time to craft your work.

“Nothing to write is set in stone, and nothing is pure gold–especially the first draft. So don’t be afraid to go back and look at what you do, and don’t be afraid of what people think,” she said. 

When she’s not writing, Collins also like to bake, go bowling, or play Dungeons and Dragons.