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Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence have created careers based on their love of horror.
Halloween is not just another day for Kelly Florence and Meg Hafdahl – it’s almost the reason for existence.
“It’s the best time of year,” Kelly said.
The pair met in Duluth over a shared interest in The X-Files and soon found it extended to all things horror.
“I didn’t really have any friends, especially girls, who loved horror,” Meg said. “I don’t really remember a time before I didn’t like those things. I just always gravitated towards true crime, paranormal, scary stories. I really don’t remember not liking those things. I had parents that were supportive, and they let me explore those interests. So I felt pretty comfortable. It wasn’t until I met Kelly. I was like, oh, here’s a girl who likes aliens and ghosts and horror all that.”
Kelly said her interest in the weird began when a teacher was telling her class about the legend of Bigfoot.
“Everyone else was terrified, and I looked out the window and I thought, OK, as soon as I get home, I’m immediately going into the woods to find him. So I was the kid who was like, well, this is cool,” Kelly said.
So, OK, they share a love for horror. How does that turn into a series of books and Horror Rewind, the weekly horror movie podcast they have been doing since May 2017?
“We also found out that we enjoy writing, so we ended up collaborating and co-writing some plays together,” Kelly said. “In the meantime, Meg, became a published horror fiction author. She’s got three novels, three short story collections and multiple short stories out, and I’m a communications professor, so we built our careers and then we came back together and said let’s start this podcast. And that podcast led to all of these books.”
“It’s funny, we dedicated our first book to our parents, who let us watch horror movies, because we did have a lot of friends who weren’t allowed to watch them at all,” Kelly said.
Kelly is a professor of communications at Lake Superior College here in Duluth and Meg now lives in Rochester, Minn. They seemed like the perfect pair to talk about Halloween and how they prepare for it.
“I like to revisit the first movie I ever watched, which was Night of the Living Dead, the George Romero classic,” Kelly said. “And I like to watch another old school movie, Frankenstein (1931). And that always just gets me into the Halloween mood. And of course, my love of horror is built on black and white movies.”
Kelly also mentions that her son Campbell is named in tribute to Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame. Now that’s dedication.
Meg said because of her work, she’s in the Halloween mindset year-round.
“So I think what really kind of sets it apart is I’m a really big decorator. I love putting up all the decorations,” she said. “And I like to watch the original 1978 Halloween. It’s classic, and it just makes me feel like it is actual Halloween and not just a typical day for me.”
And while she has a soft spot for some classics by Hitchcock and the 1960s gothic horror of Robert Aldrich in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, she is a bigger fan of modern horror.
“There are so many good ones that really understand not only scaring people, but having a sort of element of…”
“Social issues?” Kelly answers for her.
“Yeah, sure, there are some bad horror movies out there,” Meg said. “But overall, I think there are a lot of good horror filmmakers out there.”
“We absolutely love anything Mike Flanagan does,” Kelly said. “He’s done The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. His most recent is Midnight Mass. We also really loved the 2020 movie Scare Me by Josh Ruben. It’s just sort of a nostalgic love letter to horror fans. And again, getting at those social issues but in a different way. And so I think it’s all about kind of trying to find those gems. We really rely on people that we know and trust their opinions to help us find them.“
And for reading material to get in the spirit?
“So, again, I read a horror fiction all year round,” Meg said, “but right now I’m reading My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, and he is one of my favorite authors. He just made a real splash last year with the book, The Only Good Indians. He writes incredible horror. What about you, Kelly?”
“Not to plug Meg but she’s actually got short story collection that’s coming out next week, Twisted Reveries III,” she said. “I’m a huge fan of Meg and I love reading her stories, so I would recommend reading her short story collection.”
We think of the writing process as a very individual thing that takes place in one person’s mind. How have they made their writing collaboration work?
“Well, you know, first of all, since we’ve known each other, and been best friends for 20 years I think that helps,” Kelly said. “We know kind of what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are and we collaborate. First of all in the planning, we, you know, Sit down and we do a lot of pre planning before we get into our nonfiction books. And then after that we kind of assign ourselves what we’re going to do and then after that we kind of come back together and put it all together, and that, you know, takes a lot of communication. You know we are communicating with each other. Since we do live four hours apart, you know, we’re often emailing or texting to be like wait did you write about that or, you know, what do you think about this so there’s, there’s a lot of communicating going on, but it’s been such a rewarding experience to write together because I think we both learned from each other, how to be better writers.”
And if they had never met? Would they still be following parallel paths?
“I love that question,” Kelly said. “I think we would, but I think we’re stronger together and so I’m so thankful that we do get to do this together because we balance each other out and support each other so much that, you know, I can’t imagine doing it without Meg Yeah, it’s a great relationship.”
“I think that you need to challenge each other and I think we’re always challenging each other in the best way possible,” Meg added. “I know that that helps motivate me. I think she’s right. I think we would have something similar going if we didn’t know each other, but we’re stronger together.”
“Right,” Kelly said, “and it’s fun because sometimes even though we might go down a brainstorming rabbit hole, we can always come back and then you know, like Meg said, challenge each other and say OK, but what is this? And I think it’s really easy if you’re just alone brainstorming to never ask yourself the right questions.”
Summing up on final thoughts to share regarding Halloween, Kelly suggested folks remember the magic Halloween once invoked for the child they once were. Let that inner child out for the day.
“Yeah, I think I would just remind people to embrace the season and remember if they had that feeling of the excitement of getting to pick out a costume, dressing up and going to get a little treat,” she said. “We just love it so much. Embrace that and appreciate it, because we didn’t get to last year.”