(Editor’s note: FRESH BLOOD is a column where I interview promising new writers of horror fiction.)
In her debut horror collection, A Bouquet of Viscera, Bridgett Nelson literally comes out swinging with an axe as a woman chops a man to death and spits on his corpse within the first two paragraphs of the lead story “Auras.”
Oh, and that opening scene of “Jinx” is pure devastation as Nelson describes a violent rape in graphic detail as it happens from the point of view of the victim.
You’d be right if you guessed Nelson’s horror leans to the extreme. But whatever she’s doing, it works. Her writing has impressed not only readers of her collection but well-respected horror authors as well.
Veteran horror writer Ronald Kelly penned an admiring foreword to Nelson’s book, and horror author Jeff Strand is right there on the cover calling the collection “absolutely stellar.” Both men are winners of Splatterpunk Awards and know quality horror fiction when they read it.
“A lot of adjectives come to mind, but the one I’m going to use here is fearless,” said Strand, the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Pressure and Dweller. “A Bouquet of Viscera is a fearless collection. The story ‘Jinx,’ which delivers a Jack Ketchum-level punch to the gut, is the most obvious example, but all of these stories display a confidence that you rarely see by somebody so early in their career.”
Having a story mentioned in the same breath as Jack Ketchum may be the ultimate high praise for any horror writer.
A registered nurse turned horror author, Nelson has already enjoyed success. Her short story “Political Suicide” was included in the anthology If I Die Before I Wake: Tales of Deadly Women and Retribution. The anthology was nominated for a 2021 Splatterpunk Award. (Click HERE to read my SHORT SHOTS review of “Political Suicide.”)
The West Virginia writer agreed to an exclusive Q&A interview via email with lionelraygreen.com where she sheds some light on the darkness of her writing.
What has you glued to the TV nowadays?
I confess I’m not a big TV person. If I have free time, which is rare these days, I’m either reading or writing, almost always with music playing in the background. The one show I am currently watching (thanks to a certain Mr. Strand) is the latest season of Survivor. I watched it religiously for years and then got a bit burnt out. Jeff, dang him, got me back into it again.
What’s the last movie you watched that you’d recommend?
Hush (2016) kept me absolutely engrossed from start to finish. Not many movies, these days, are able to do so. It’s about a deaf and mute woman who retreats to a solitary cabin to write and comes face to face with a serial killer. It’s a beautifully done film, and the actress, Kate Siegel, is phenomenal. To me, that premise defines the best kind of horror.
What’s the last book you read that you’d recommend?
I used to read between 150-to-200 books every year. Since I started writing, that number has decreased significantly. It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that for the past year and a half, I’ve been making my way through Jeff Strand’s library of work. A few of my favorite Strand titles: The Writing Life (I loved this one so much, I’ve read it three times), Pressure and its sequel, Deathless, and Kumquat (I’m a sucker for road trip themed stories, and this one is exceptional). Honestly, though, Jeff is the most consistently terrific writer I’ve ever read. You could pick up any of his books and have the time of your life.
What’s the last thing you heard or saw that made you laugh?
So, I’m beginning to feel like there is a common theme here, but Jeff Strand’s reading at AuthorCon in Williamsburg, Virginia, of “Crazy Ralph’s Used Car Emporium” was one of the most epic, amazing, hilarious things I’ve seen (and heard) in a long time. I promise everyone who attended would agree. The guy got a packed house standing ovation, and it was absolutely deserved. If you haven’t watched his reading (and really, you must – take three minutes out of your day to laugh until you cry). You can find it on YouTube or Jeff’s social media accounts.
(Editor’s note: Clink HERE to watch Strand’s reading at AuthorCon via YouTube.)
Do you have any pets?
I’m an animal lover. Always have been. I currently have three Pugs, two of which we rescued, and one which we purchased: Harlow Audrey, Dexter Morgan (yes, he’s named after my favorite TV character), and Bodhi Mortimer. Bodhi is blind, and he’s my snorty baby. We also have a 200-pound Saint Bernard, Sal Gallagher, who loves to give hugs and is the biggest, squishiest teddy bear ever! Admittedly, when you get a hug, you’ll also be slimed, but it’s totally worth it. I had tarantulas earlier in my life, and I’d love to raise more. I’m also really interested in ball pythons.
You were a registered nurse in an operating room. What did you take away from that experience that you use in your writing?
You’ll see so much of my medical career in my stories. Sometimes a lot (“Political Suicide” or my latest, “Shits N’ Giggles,” due to debut in K. Trap Jones’ latest anthology from The Evil Cookie Publishing, Counting Bodies Like Sheep, coming this summer). I’m a firm believer in writing what you know, and the medical field lends itself quite handily to horror. One can’t work in a hospital for years without experiencing death – sometimes peaceful, sometimes anything but. Oh, the things I’ve seen! But I think – no, I know – it has allowed me to convey death in a very honest, accurate way in my stories.
A Bouquet of Viscera is an awesome title. Where did that come from and what did you hope to convey with it about your writing?
From the start I wanted to write stories that were dark, depraved, totally messed up, but with a thread of something akin to beauty throughout. When the time came to choose a title for this collection, I’d already decided the word “viscera” was going to be used. But I wanted contrast – something feminine and aesthetically pleasing to counteract the idea of slimy entrails. I was coming up with all sorts of dorky ideas like “Visceral Kisses,” which sounded more like a really unfortunate romance novel. Struggling, I talked to my friend, author Richard Dansky. I explained what I was looking for and (I’m not kidding about this) within one minute, he’d suggested A Bouquet of Viscera. I’d been grappling with it for days! As soon as I heard his idea, I immediately knew we had a winner. Readers have really responded to both the title and that gorgeous cover by Lynne Hansen.
I solicited a quote from Jeff Strand about you for this interview, and he called you “fearless.” When describing some of the extreme horror elements in your stories, like the gang rape of the 15-year-old girl in “Jinx,” are you worried about crossing a line with your writing? Is there any trepidation? Are you truly “fearless”?
In the age of extreme horror and Splatterpunk, I never worry about crossing lines with my writing. Will it be for everyone? Heck, no! I’m okay with that. My only goal is to write entertaining stories that keep readers turning the pages. (And before anyone asks … no, my parents do not read my stories. Probably a good thing.) You mentioned “Jinx.” It’s dark. By far, the darkest, most heart-wrenching story I’ve written. I knew going in it was going to be contentious, yet it’s what I was compelled to write. Some of my early readers didn’t believe I should put it in the collection. I was warned I’d get 1-star reviews. I’ve prepared myself for that. I did, however, opt to put a “content warning” before the story, and it’s well warranted, I think. It’s my hope, though, that the readers who are interested in a book called A Bouquet of Viscera aren’t going to be terribly put off by this story. I want it to affect them. Hell, it affected me! But will it cause them to say, “This is horrible! How could she? ONE STAR!” I really hope not. Of all the stories in my collection, “Jinx” is the one I’m most proud of. Is it my favorite? No. But it is the most poignant. And I think it’s the one that will stick with readers long after they’ve placed the book back on their shelf.
You seem to have a knack for writing characters seeking vengeance. What’s the best revenge you’ve ever dealt in your real life?
It’s funny. I thought about this question long and hard, but I’ll be damned if I could think of a single time in my life I’ve ever gotten revenge. I’m mellow, laid-back, and not at all prone to histrionics. I’ve never felt the need for retribution. So maybe – maybe – I have a secret desire to enact revenge on assholes who deserve it, and that leaks into my writing? If that’s the case, folks had better watch out. I’ve got years of revenge-seeking to catch up on. Actually, I’ve always found human monsters to be the scariest, and there is something innately satisfying about reading and writing revenge stories. I think it’s my true love – my writing niche. Even if I sometimes turn that niche upside down.
Who or what are some of the biggest influences on your writing?
Those reading this interview might be surprised to find my biggest influences aren’t even horror writers. I love reading horror, and I truly can’t imagine writing anything else, but a good thriller is exceptionally satisfying. I’m a huge fan of Karin Slaughter, Lisa Jewell, and especially, Jennifer Hillier. I read my first Stephen King book, Pet Sematary, at age eight. Obviously, I can’t leave him out. My favorite author, though? Let’s all say it together … Jeff Strand!
For more information on Mrs. Nelson, visit bridgettnelson.com.