Donyae Coles is a strong and unique voice in the horror writing community. Her life is fueled by art, writing, and her kids. (Not necessarily in that order.) She sits down with the Weird Little Worlds team and shares some of the creative outlets she uses to form a lyrical balance between real-life issues and powerful genre fiction.


Q: What is the question everyone seems to ask you about your writing process or published works that you dread the most? What do you wish they would ask instead?

A: I get asked some variation of how or why I got into writing and I’m just like, you know, the normal way. I wish more people would ask me about my plans outside of the genre, if I wanted to write more than horror? 


Q: Please answer the question you just told us to ask. 🙂

A: Everything is horror, darling. 

No, but I do plan to branch out into the other genres. I love horror, I love it so much but I want to write some epic fantasies and space operas. Maybe a thriller or two. And it’s not that horror is less than as some articles would have you think, it’s just because I have a lot of ideas and I want to explore. 

But I’ll never stop writing spooky stories because horror is my soulmate.  


Q: You do painting and writing. Do you usually just work on one or do you find yourself switching back and forth? What does that depend on?

A: I work on them at the same time! Well, not the exact same time, I only have two hands. I paint and draw throughout the day and write during longer stretches of time. I maintain a pretty stable art practice. The reasoning isn’t anything romantic or artistic, it’s just practical a lot of the time. I can do some art while I’m helping with lessons during the day whereas I can’t write when I’m supposed to be overseeing math. So writing is during those chunks of time where I don’t have those responsibilities. 

But also sometimes my brain just says, we painting today and I just gotta. 


Q: Anyone who follows your twitter knows you spend time with kids, your own and others. How does that shape/affect your artistic work?

A: The children, they are always around. In a practical sense, it determines the flow of my day because I do homeschool but like it’s fine mostly because I’m not really functional in the morning anyway. 

But it does bleed into the work because I spent a large chunk of my life working as a caregiver for children and I have children but honestly what it did was made me hyperaware of self and the factors around me because caregiver and mother are things that eat your identity. And the balancing act of being a good mother and not losing myself to motherhood really helped identify the kinds of stories I was interested in telling and the way that I wanted to tell them. 

My being a mother is why I’m still a writer and artist. I viciously pursued those things because I refuse to lose them. I have to prioritize my art, my work as important and vital or else it simply will not exist. If I had never had kids, I doubt I would have become what I am now, I certainly wouldn’t have written some of the work I’ve had published. 

Also, kids have the best horror ideas.  


Q: You’ve said your debut novel, Midnight Rooms, is in the publishing pipeline. How did you react when you got your deal? How do you feel about it now?

A: I didn’t even think it was real, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop because it was just too fantastic. They want MY book?? LOL stop playin. I won publishing?? Which is to say, I was very excited

I’m still excited. Even with the delays and such (my book was affected by the HarperCollins strike) I’m still excited. I can’t wait for you all to get a chance to read it! It’s coming spring of 2024. 


Q: Are there any similarities between your visual art process and your writing process?

A: They are both driven by a sort of frenzied hyperfocus and follow the same sort of timeline. First, get idea, two, briefly plan idea, three execute. Obviously it takes me much longer to write something than to paint it. Well, that’s not true. Short stories exist and are valid. 

But most of my paintings are done in one or two sittings. The bulk of my work is written in hours long stretches deep into the night (nighttime is when no one bothers you). 


Q: You’ve said before that your first dream job was to be an artist, when did you start pursuing that and how?

A: Alright so, my oldest two kids’ dad had walked out and I was very sad, understandably so, I had two kids under the age of two and like, what now?? I was on MySpace and I met this woman in a parenting group, her name was Nataki and she was gassing me up talking to me about Octavia E. Butler and reminding me that I was a full human being. We didn’t even really talk after this single encounter. 

I was able to get my shit together and move to a new city in PA where I started working in a daycare my cousin owned. It was a job, my kids could attend while I worked, what I needed right then. Nataki came in one day to teach an art class. I had no idea we were living in the same city or that she even knew my cousin. Total chance meeting. At that point she invites me to a workshop she was holding. 

Changed my life. That’s when I really started buying art supplies, treating this dream I had since I was little like A REAL THING. See how integral being a mother and a caregiver is to my life’s story arc? 


Q: What story you’ve told has scared you the most?

A: “Lights” in Paranormal Contact from Cemetery Gates Media. That one scares the shit out of me. But the stories that are really the scariest to me I haven’t written yet. 


Q: If your art (writing and/or painting) had an ice cream flavor, what would it be?

A: Vanilla I think. What a lovely trick it’s played on the world to make everyone think it’s boring and simple. But vanilla is rich, complex, difficult and despite what you may think due to the presentation of ice cream, is black as hell. 


Q: What will you be creating next?

A: The next book! Always the next book. I’ve got some other things brewing though!  But I also do have my first YA venture coming out in the anthology All These Sunken Souls which is up for preorder. 

Donyae Coles is an artist and a writer whose work is speculative in nature. Her writing is lyrical and haunting and focuses on blending real life anxieties and issues with genre elements found in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.