Interview with Jennifer Strange, Creator of Ghostkind

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I’m a collector of cool and talented people, like the demon from “The Nightmare,” I want to steal their energy, their soul. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing for them, you’d have to ask them, but I get my satisfaction. 😈

I tracked down the original Tweet from when I first discovered Jen, less than a year ago. I said it back then and I’ll say it again now, this is definitely one creator to keep an eye on.

Jen the Strange

Halloween Love: There are a lot of extremely creative people in our community. However, most of them have a singular focus, a single website, a single medium they dedicate themselves to (writing, drawing, making videos, whatever). You, on the other hand, are a serial creator like myself, with multiple websites, games, art, of all kinds of variety. Other than non-creative business entrepreneurs, I’ve only met a few (or none at all?) people with such a diverse palate when it comes to artistic creation.

For me, I can’t ever stop creating. It’s not really a discipline so much as it is something that happens by default. It’s just the way my brain works and it never shuts off. Generally, in order to get to sleep, I have to exhaust my brain first, but then… if I wake up in the middle of the night and have gotten enough rest to charge my batteries a little, my brain will just start creating again and it’s hard for me to get back to sleep. So, it’s a compulsion like a drug addiction; I have to get it out of my damn skull to make room for new thoughts or I get brain fog.

What is creating like for you? Is it truly an intellectual choice or are you likewise compelled to get it out?

Jennifer Strange: I wish I could say it was an intellectual choice! No, it’s very much the same for me as it is for you. Art is a compulsion. For most of my life, I have flitted from one medium to the next. Nothing has been off the table: drawing, poetry, story writing, knitting, music, photography, sculpting, sewing, 3D modeling, and any other thing that caught my eye. I thought surely one thing would stick, and I believed for a long time that a good artist masters only one craft. It wasn’t until this year that someone told me that artists aren’t masters of one area, but several. They are constantly learning, feeding their curiosity, and finding new ways to express themselves. I think that is why we are the way we are. We are hopelessly prolific.

Often, I feel the need to do something more visual, so I then have to decide if I want to work with a pencil and paper or digitally. Do I want to paint? Do I want to do something in 3D? Other times, I feel more verbose. I will write a story or a poem and let the reader see my world in their head as they interpret it. I think different forms of art are different ways to communicate, and we know this innately. I also joke that my compulsions toward art are more spiritual, like I am telling someone else’s story and have to get it out to the world as soon as possible in the right way. It’s really important to me that the viewer or reader sees the story exactly as it was meant to be interpreted, so I don’t have a lot of time for logical choices for pattern, color, or even grammar in some cases.

And then when that’s done — on to the next! Why do we work as if we’re going to die tomorrow?

HL Final Thought: I’m glad you mentioned the “jack of all trades, master of none” dilemma because I was thinking about this too. It’s something I’ve been criticized for before, but even if I cared (I don’t), it wouldn’t matter, because just one medium would never suffice. We need it all! Why? In terms of “the pen is mightier than the sword,” we’re modern day conquerors. And then, there might be something to be said about creating being like god. It’s a big discussion.

HL: I first discovered and started following you through one of your paintings that I saw. I’m pretty sure it was a wolf (it was, I found it). And the style reminded me of Night Gallery. I was instantly intrigued. Since then, it’s been something of a rabbit hole, discovering all the cool shit you’re up to that keeps upping how impressed I am with you.

Ghostkind Creative is your main site/company/hub/umbrella for your other projects. Can you hit us with a laundry list of all your different completed and in-the-works projects you’re working on?

JS: Too many things. I try to be strict with myself, but sometimes I feel like I am a whole boardroom full of people trying to complete multiple projects at once. It’s never wise to operate that way, so I am trying to do better at parsing my time and energy.

In 2019, I self-published my first novel: The Campfire Cult. The story is of a young woman who has been actively trying to deny her experiences with a terrible entity from her childhood while hiding from reality in a psychiatric facility. She faces a new conflict when her closest friend informs her that one of their own gang has suddenly been acting suspicious and seems to be worshiping this entity. She has to battle not only her own internal conflicts but the entity itself, and it’s all downhill from there. As with most of my works, the story was inspired by nightmares as well as my own beliefs of what makes gods and ghosts. Honestly, I still don’t know how I managed to write a whole novel while trying to complete school and navigating personal challenges, but it’s one of the very few things I am proud of. It’s not my best writing, but that would be sad if it was!

For the past few years, I have also been running an ongoing tabletop home-brew game called Cabins & Killers. It’s similar to Dungeons & Dragons, but more focused on modern-day horror and lore. I wanted to take the feel of an asymmetrical slasher video game and give players the opportunity to make critical decisions in their own horror movie. Initially, each session was a one-off (a story lasting about 3-4 hours) featuring either a completely original story or killers from horror movies, such as Jason Voorhees. If you look at past episodes, you’ll see some influences from Hellevator, The Exorcist, Krampus, Friday the 13th, and other horror movies and shows. My players wanted an ongoing story, so I created a dark science fantasy plot that would weave their stories together. We play at least once a month and stream it for everyone to watch on Twitch.

Recently, I have been compiling short horror stories together for another book project called Absolutely Quiet. I am really excited about these stories, and I am hoping to have the book self-published in November just as people are feeling the come-down from Halloween. I think the stories are as depraved as you’d expect from me!

Lastly, my longest project will be a horror maze type story game called Get in Your Grave (working title). Development is slow, as I am working all by myself and I keep flip-flopping between story ideas, character development, and asset creation. My hope is that it really immerses players of all types in my world so that they can really feel what I feel when I envision subversive horror.

This summer, I also developed Nightmare Pizza, an actively updated index of some of my favorite horror websites on the web. When I’m not meddling in any of those projects, I am making horror fonts, t-shirts, paintings, and other things. I could probably get a lot more done if I would focus my time better! My website isn’t even updated yet!

HL: Of all the things you create, what gives you the most joy, peace, and satisfaction, whether that be writing, painting, hosting, designing, building, etc.?

JS: Fiction writing by far, and it took me forever to realize it. I grew up writing horrible, nasty horror short stories as a kid. I would sell them for a dollar at school. I remember my teacher hovering over me and saying, “You know, Stephen King used to sell his stories for a dollar, too.” I don’t know if that’s true, but I remembered that. I also remember thinking, “Who’s Stephen King?” One of my teachers kept my writing journal, because she was convinced I would be a writer one day. I’ll never forget that, either.

I can spend days on a painting and never be satisfied with it, but I can sit and write for an hour and fall in love with every bit of it. That’s such a hard feeling to find. I don’t care too much what readers think of my writing at this point, and I would be content to grow fat and gross just writing stories forever.

HL Final Thought: I feel the same. I think it’s the most fulfilling way to create because it’s the fastest way to get my fix. Other projects are much more labor intensive, whereas writing is a kind of instant gratification for world-creating. PS: Yes, it’s true about Stephen King selling his stories for $1!

HL: If money was no object, what would be your dream project?

JS: Either a Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Friday the 13th story video game with the original actors’ voices or a horror movie, either a sequel to a big franchise or otherwise. I guess I would be part of the story team, but visuals are really important to me, too! I can see myself working next to M. Night Shyamalan. That would be the coolest thing!

HL: What is your favorite horror movie and what is your favorite non-horror movie?

JS: Oh boy. That’s such a tough question because there are so many types of horror movies. I always say Rosemary’s Baby. For slasher movies, I would say Halloween. Most recently, I have really had an obsession with Hereditary. Then again, The Ring (2002) has played a very important part in my passion for emotional horror. I actually boycotted The Ring because I heard there was a scene where a horse dies, and I was an advocate for horses in a big way at the time. I even stared daggers at Naomi Watts when she was in town for a scene in 21 Grams.

Then, I actually saw the movie. It changed me in one viewing. I made my parents watch it. I made my sister and her friends watch it. I brought it with me on our vacations. I dressed up as Samara that Halloween. I transcribed part of the film and intended to recreate the film… I was nuts.

So, I guess, to be honest… Rosemary’s Baby, but secretly, The Ring.

For non-horror movies, What Dreams May Come. That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Is Beetlejuice horror? If not, then Beetlejuice.

HL Final Thought: Nice pull! Not sad; What Dreams May Come is a pretty fucking cool choice.

HL: Are you a believer? Do you believe in aliens, ghosts, or anything supernatural?

JS: Definitely. I used to pass around pictures of ghosts in middle school. I went to a Catholic school, so I was very lucky to not have been suspended, but I quickly became “that girl.” I was obsessed with ghost hunting shows, Casper, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, spirit guides, magic, and paganism. My parents didn’t have time to worry, so they never saw me mixing love potions in my room or writing down all the “paranormal” things that happened to me that day. I have been part of a legitimate ghost hunting team. I have conversed with about thirty unique spirits over the Ouija board. I dowse and use a pendulum to regularly talk with my spirit guide Joe, and I have been known to do some automatic writing.

Yes, I am full-blown whack-a-doodle.

With that said, I have a degree in psychology, and I understand the line between mental illness and paranormal experiences. I also understand the way spiritual encounters can have an effect on our psyche and how our psyche can have an effect on our perceptions of reality. I approach the subject with a scientific methodology that is off-putting to believers and too illogical for skeptics.

HL Final Thought: Mental illness is definitely the biggest detriment to these things being widely accepted. For example, aliens are pretty much science fact at this point, but everything that’s real evidence gets pulled down and drowned by being lumped in with all the nonsense.

HL: What are your fondest childhood memories of Halloween?

JS: I was always terrified of Halloween and specifically, skeletons. I loved dressing up, though. As a kid, I was a cat once, a pumpkin, a witch a couple of times, a bride, and other sweet things. I didn’t start really enjoying Halloween until I was older, though. As I gained more creative liberty, I planned more elaborate costumes. I was a morbid Alice from Alice in Wonderland one year. I wanted to be May from the movie May (2002). I participated in haunted houses and learned the art of the scream. And how I could make those kiddies scream!

My favorite Halloween was when I dressed up as a witch on horseback. I think I was around thirteen or fourteen. I dressed my gelding in purple cloth with silver trim and black tassels, and I rode him around the neighborhood. People poured out of their houses as the echo of hooves ricocheted in the night. I galloped like a night terror down the street, feeling full of myself. It was great.

HL Final Thought: Fuck yeah! I know that feeling, like when the perfect “soundtrack of your life” song comes on while driving. Also, I was an actor in a haunted house one time too!

HL: What’s a question you’d like to be asked, but never have been? Go ahead and ask yourself that question now and answer it.

JS: Jen, why aren’t you doing what you love professionally?

I dream about it a lot. I remember the night when I decided that my purpose was horror. I was absolutely drunk, full of joy and tears, and I knew in my heart this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to be deeply rooted and entangled in the horror community in a big way. I wanted to die knowing that I made a contribution somewhere in this wonderful genre. I think I am working towards that in small bits, but I also feel like the sun is setting on me. I have come to terms with that. Horror itself is actually very intimate and personal to the artist. Whether you are a big name on the silver screen or just a nobody writer folded over a laptop, the important part is your relationship with fear and horror and everything within it. It’s the long romance behind the curtain that really matters most.

Although, I would absolutely love to do something on a grander scale professionally, I feel like it requires more than I could ever give or a stroke of serious luck.

HL: At HL, we love getting weird. Anything bizarre, random, or off-topic you’d like to share?

JS: I wish paranormal therapy was a thing. Like, I wish I could become a therapist for ghosts, you know? People think their troubles end when they’re dead, but detaching from a life that you spent so much energy building and growing is really hard. When I used to talk to spirits over the Ouija board, a lot of them lamented things they missed or felt indomitable guilt over past transgressions. It was hard convincing them that such things didn’t matter anymore and that they had to move away from their old identities and ego. If they had a therapist and could talk about these things regularly, they wouldn’t feel so trapped. And I wouldn’t need to get another degree and a license to practice it!

Thank you for all the great questions! Really made me think.

Thank you Jen!

How to reach out to Jen:

Ghostkind Creative / Amazon / Twitter / YouTube / Twitch

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