Meet the BFS committee: Lauren McMenemy, PR & Marketing Officer

We love to shine a light on the volunteers who help keep the British Fantasy Society running—this month, we meet the human behind all those member profiles, our PR & Marketing Officer Lauren McMenemy

Name, including preferred pronouns
Lauren McMenemy (she/her)

Which region are you based in?
Born in Australia to Scottish parents, now married to an Englishman and living in Sarf Lundun

Your role on the BFS committee is:
Marketing & Publicity Officer

If you write, which genre: 
Horror

Are you drawn to any specific sub-genres?

Gothic, folk horror, occult horror, religious horror, dark fantasy, folk tales/fairytales

(Photo by the supreme image-taker Nicolas Laborie, the only person I’ll trust to procure my image for the masses)

Your work with the BFS

Why did you join the BFS committee?

I honestly never thought I’d be on the committee of the British Fantasy Society, as I’d convinced myself I didn’t *do* fantasy—that was for the people who love a quest narrative and swords and off-world map-making and made-up languages. And then I was dragged to a Fantasycon and I saw the breadth of what’s on offer through the BFS, and my mind was blown. This needs to be made more clear! This needs to be shouted from the rooftops! And so, given my day job has given me almost 30 years’ worth of professional storytelling experience across journalism, content, and marketing, I got in touch to offer my services. And here we are; I officially came on board at the 2023 AGM.

Tell us more about your role: what do you do? 

I am the PR & Marketing Officer, which so far has concentrated on building out a content strategy for the BFS blog and working alongside the social media officer to promote what’s going on. Eventually, it will encompass more of the PR side of things as I work to build relationships with other organisations, media, bloggers, influencers, and so on involved in speculative fiction. I’d love to get us in front of as many people with influence as possible, because that can only mean good things for our members. 

What does this mean in practical terms for members?

So far it means I’m behind those weekly member profiles you’ve probably seen, as well as corralling members into writing guest posts for the blog. These are great resources to help raise the profile of our members, to showcase what you’re up to, how people can find your works, and generally shine a light on the awesomeness in our member base. 

Why should others get more involved with the BFS?

Because the BFS is entirely volunteer-run, and more volunteers means better representation and less silos. And it doesn’t necessarily mean a huge time commitment, either – I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to get involved in the marketing side of things. In fact, we’re starting to build a “street team” of sorts for both marketing/publicity and events: these volunteers won’t be committee members with all the responsibilities that entails, but they’ll work alongside a committee member to create opportunities and generally help raise profiles. If you’d like to run a local event, or you want to get involved in the content and social media side of things, let’s chat! It’s super rewarding, you’ll make lots of great new friends, and you’ll get to geek out about cool stuff like vampires and fairies and magic.

Your influences

Tell us about the book/film/thing that got you into SFFH: What was it? How old were you? What impact did it have on you?

Crikey. I have a long and complicated relationship with SFFH. I was that cliched kid reading Stephen King way too young (I say I was about 10, but I’m honestly not sure. It was young, though, and certainly pre-teen).

I was really into Point Horror books, too, though I was a massive scaredy cat. I also distinctly remember reading The Hobbit as a kid, and old tales with talking animals and creatures not of this earth. I was a massive bookworm and could usually be found in a corner with my nose in a book instead of socialising, so I read really widely – I wasn’t one of these kids who was highly focused and motivated on speculative fiction from a young age. That said, like every good 90s teen I loved my Buffy and my vampires of all sorts. And then I actually went through a long, decade+ phase of claiming I hated it all, around the time horror moved to torture porn and the slasher revival – I’ve never been one for serial killers or humans being evil to humans. 

(Image source)

How does that early influence show up in your work now?

I came back to spec fic when I started exploring my fiction writing again in my early 30s – it had been my childhood dream to be an author, but studying English in school put me off reading, and then working as a newspaper journalist put me off writing for a long time. I experimented with the NYC Midnight writing competitions where they assign you a genre and other parameters, along with a very tight deadline, and found that any time I was given a “normal” genre (political satire, romcom, family drama) I absolutely tanked the competition. However, assign me horror, ghost stories, anything spooky, and I’d ace it. I took that as a sign…

My work these days is very focused around the supernatural and occult, and I can definitely see a thread from those early influences. And I include going to an all-girls Catholic convent school run by nuns as one of those early influences; I am sure there’s an Exorcist-style tale just itching to emerge, but I certainly blame the high ritual of Catholicism for my interest in folk horror and witches.

Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

Right now, nowhere – I’m stuck in a massive blockage! That said, I’m inspired by the natural world, by the occult, by folk tales and mythology, by beliefs and rituals. I’m inspired and filled with joy when I’m at a gig or festival, the cinema, the theatre. I love being around other creative people. And I’m inspired by the endless joy my husband can find in the world around him.

(Pictured: Lauren’s husband Chris in his guise as sometime-mascot for Sutton United)

Who do you look to as a genre hero? Why?

Ooooh… I honestly can’t think of anyone I’d call a “hero”. I can say who I admire hugely: women writers of dark tales who do so much to raise others. Women like Tracy Fahey, CJ Cooke, Lee Murray, Ally Wilkes, Gemma Amor, Cynthia Pelayo, and a whole stack of others I can’t think of right now. Women like writers and witches Alice Tarbuck and Clare Askew, who do so much good. I’d also name Vicky Brewster, as they’re pretty much single-handedly responsible for starting me on this current journey!

Your work

You’re stuck in an elevator for 60 seconds with that hero, and they want you to describe your work. Give us the pitch.

I love digging into rituals and beliefs to find the dark side of community and humanity. What’s hiding in the dark? Is it there to hurt us or help us? I write gothic-influenced folk, occult and religious horror that veers more towards the psychological than the gory because, at the end of the day, I’m still a massive scaredy-cat who’s afraid of the dark. 

What are you working on right now?

Honestly? Trying to get my mojo back. I’m told I spend too much time doing things for others!

Thinking about all of your stories/work you’ve done, which one sticks out most in your mind? Why?

I wrote a short story for an NYC Midnight competition about 10 years ago that keeps nagging at me. I think it’s got legs, and I’d love to explore it further. I’ve tried a few times to turn it into a novel or longer-length piece but I just can’t find my way through it. I’d love to use it to explore what it means to be a woman in her 40s who’s not a mother.

If you’re a creator, where and when do you create?

Everywhere and anywhere. I’m the person who keeps telling myself I need X thing and then I’ll be able to write – it’s been a dedicated writing desk, a Freewrite, a ReMarkable, copious new notebooks, a new laptop, a private library membership, co-working space, a cool cafe, a week in the woods (seriously). I’ve learned there is no magic wand, and I’m training myself to just grab a pen or my notes app when the mood strikes and make the most of the moment. That said, my *work* work is done at my kitchen table, which was turned into my desk during the pandemic when my husband started working from home and stole my upstairs office, on an iMac, with huge bookcases with bursting shelves full of horror and occult books and plenty of trinkets (and which I’m pictured here standing in front of).

What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?

Oof. Um, honestly probably that creative people are always working even if they’re not *producing*. That we need time to rest our brains and soak up the inspiration. That reading, watching films, going to the theatre or a museum or an art gallery, taking a walk, having a holiday – all of these things are writing because they contribute to sparking our brains. If only I could convince myself of this!

What’s your writing soundtrack?

Depends on what I’m working on! When I need to focus on writing an article for the day job, it’s often instrumental techno to help my brain tune out. When I’m tackling my BFS work, Spotify is usually on indie from the 90s to now. I can’t have anything with words if I’m trying to write fiction, so it’s often dark and atmospheric rock. I’m a former music reporter, so I’ll listen to pretty much anything to see if it sparks something!

Lauren sitting next to, ahem, Joanne Harris as part of the contracts panel at Fantasycon 2023 in Birmingham.

The quickfire round

Sci-fi, fantasy or horror?
Horror, with a dash of dark fantasy

Quiet or loud?
Loud (I have ADHD and tinnitus, so quiet is my nemesis)

Dark or light?
Dark, 10000%

Strict lines or genre blend?
Blend it up – rules are made for breaking

Awards or bestseller?
How about first I try for something that actually gets finished and published?

Fiction or non-fiction?
Both: fiction for escapism, non-fiction for information and inspiration.

Poetry or prose?
Prose

Plotter or pantser?
Plotting makes me feel trapped

Reading or listening?
Reading – ADHD and sensory processing disorder make it difficult for me to focus on spoken audio

Notebook or computer?
Both, depending on the task

Favourite SFFH book of all time?
Pass

Last book you read?
My friend is currently making me work through the ACOTAR series because she’s just discovered them and wants to talk about them. Before that, though: non-fiction was Lucy Jones’ Losing Eden, about how we need wild nature for our mental health and which I read while alone in the woods at the Solstice, and fiction was Evocation by ST Gibson, a lovely gift from the Angry Robot crew. 

Any SFFH author on auto-buy?
I try not to put anything on auto-buy because I’m terrible with money 🫣

Favourite podcast?
Uncanny is one of the few I can focus on (and also I want to be Evelyn Hollow when I grow up). I should also mention the husband’s podcast though because I definitely listen to that (shhhh): The All-New Adventures of the Doctor Who Book Club.

The home stretch

What’s the best thing about being in the SFFH community?

Honestly, I’ve been in loads of different writing communities in recent times, and I can honestly say the SFFH community is the most welcoming, accepting, supportive, non-judgmental and generally full of awesome humans. (Generally; obviously there are issues and problematic people, but let’s not give them air.)

Time to plug your stuff! Where can we find you and your work? What have you got coming up? Consider this your advertising space.

OK, so I wear many hats:

  • Obviously I’m also the PR & Marketing Officer for the BFS; you can email me at online@britishfantasysociety.org with ideas, requests, comments, suggestions, etc.
  • I curate and run a series of virtual conferences called Writing the Occult, in partnership with UK genre events icon Alex Davis, in which I bring together writers of fiction and non-fiction with folklorists, practitioners and academics to explore a particular topic or theme. So far we’ve covered witches, vampires, ritual, the fae, and connection to land; next up is the uncanny (21 September), and then we’ll finish the year with hauntology (30 November). Visit writingtheoccult.carrd.co for details.
  • I’m a freelance writer and content marketer specialising in editorial content, especially blogs, articles and interviews, and a community builder/manager. I’m also a certified coach (through my Society of Ink Slingers) who specialises in working with SFFH writers, especially those who identify as neurodivergent, to help keep them on track, be accountable, and achieve their goals. Find more about my work here.

I’m on most of the socials, because work:

I’m always getting dragged into something, so feel free to say hi if you see me around! Just be aware I’m also incredibly socially awkward and never remember a name or a face 😳

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