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‘I Am Not Your Final Girl’ commemorates women in horror

No one envies the final girl.

It’s hard to imagine having to live on once you’ve endured the most horrific experiences known to the silver screen, let alone if you get a sequel and have to do it all again. That’s a concept that Los Angeles author Claire C. Holland wasn’t content with. Why not commemorate the final girl, the one with the strength to survive? Isn’t she every woman in a society like ours? In America, as many as one in four women are victims of domestic violence. In Australia, it’s one in six. As unpleasant as it is to recognise, Holland’s poetry anthology I Am Not Your Final Girl draws parallels between the empowerment of the protagonists of our favourite horror movies and the experiences of women fighting to survive off camera.

What gave you the idea for I Am Not Your Final Girl?

I love horror and I really love final girls. As a teenager, the “weird” girls from movies like The Craft and Ginger Snaps were the kinds of girls I wanted to be like. They were the epitome of cool to me then, and women from horror are still the women I admire and relate to most today. It felt comforting to speak through them, and also like I was getting to illuminate something about their stories that makes the reader think about that character with new dimension.

Which came first for you: realising that the themes in the films were universal or identifying with them as you explored the characters for your book?

A lot of the poems came to me rapid-fire when I first started (right after the 2016 election). I was full of rage, so it was easy; I was channeling everything into these characters and I didn’t care if it was relatable or not. I wrote it in large part because I felt  disconnected from the rest of the world. But some of the later poems I wrote, like Selena [from 28 Days Later], were written with certain themes in mind once the book had developed more.

What have you watched recently?

I’ve watched a ton of horror, being in quarantine for the last four months. New movies from this year that I liked a lot were Swallow, Vivarium, Blood Quantum, The Beach House, Relic. I also just saw a Thai movie called The Pool (2018) that was amazing if you like things on the bonkers side. It’s about a man trapped in a giant pool next to a crocodile farm.

Was there a movie or character that you regret not including?

Yes and no. I mean, I knew from the start that I wouldn’t be able to include every final girl, or even every good final girl, so that wasn’t my goal. I was just picking and choosing whichever characters felt right to me, or interested me, without any criteria in mind. The movies referenced in the book run the gamut from artistic masterpiece to schlocky b-movie, and I love them all. ….That being said, I really wish I had written a Sidney Prescott [Scream] poem. Maybe in the next book.

Have people reached out to you and said that it’s affected them? My first thought in reading the poem about Rosemary’s Baby was that the “devil you know” line is so hard-hitting for victims of abuse.

A lot of people, mostly women, have reached out to me about the book, or a certain poem or line that meant something to them. Or to say that they related to the introduction. It’s honestly kind of shocking to me, still, because I did feel so alone when I wrote it, and in most ways that feeling of isolation has only grown since (and now we’re actually in a pandemic). But I’ve met so many amazing women through publishing the book, it’s like a lifeline.

You’re a fan of young adult books. There are book clubs like Belletrist trying to bring back YA for adults. What have you been into recently?

So much great YA is coming out these days, there shouldn’t be any stigma around adults reading it. Books about growing up can be universal and adults can still relate to those stories. Amy Lukavics is one of my favorite YA horror authors, and Nova Ren Suma writes gorgeous, eerie magical realism. I’m very excited for Courtney Summers’ upcoming book, The Project – it’s about a cult!

What’s the next project that you’re working on and what inspired it?

I’m working on a book of poetry about mothers and daughters, again through the lens of horror, but I’m still in the midst of figuring it out. I’m also working on a couple of other things…

Who are the other women, apart from the ones in horror movies, that are inspiring you now?

I feel inspired by every woman around me these days. Even with America doing so terribly right now, women are the ones giving us hope. I’m really inspired by the people I’ve connected with over the last few years, online and off, through my book and through horror in general. I’ve met so many talented, interesting, ballsy ladies that I never would have met otherwise. And the women in my everyday life, my friends. With the pandemic going on, most women I know are practically superheroes.

I Am Not Your Final Girl is out now.

I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland