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The 4th Circle: Interview with KAYLA WOODS

1. As a writer and scientist how do they overlap for you? What is it about toxicology and horror that drew you in?


I worked as a toxicologist at the coroner’s office for three years. I’ve always been interested in poisons and how humans have interacted with them throughout the ages, but I think the horror revealed itself clearly during my work there. Nowadays, writing is the only way I keep up with research into poisons as I’ve moved on in my career, and I co-host the Lethal Dose Podcast, which is a toxicology-focused true crime podcast.


Horror, for me, answers a lot of the ‘what if?’ questions that come up in life. Call it what you will, intrusive thoughts perhaps, but I asked a lot of ‘what ifs’ in chemistry and my other interests–rock climbing, relationships, etc.–and horror is a safe way to explore those ideas.


As of yet, fictional horror and toxicology have yet to intersect for me, but I have some ideas brewing about possible murder mysteries I would like to challenge myself to write.


2. As a writer, how would you describe your inspiration? And your process?


I’m inspired by those ‘what if’ questions, and that’s usually where I’ll start. What if someone turned into a cat? What if ghosts were real and I made friends with them? What if the horrors of childhood could manifest themselves physically in our adulthood? Sometimes a line will come to me, and an idea will spring forward like a sprout from a seed, and other times it takes a long period of gestation for a story to fully reveal itself.


3. What has inspired you to create your podcast Lethal Dose? And does it provide you with story ideas or twists? Why or why not?


I’ve always been the person that friends came to with questions about chemistry. I once got a phone call in the middle of the night in college with someone frantically asking what to do about their drunk roommate drinking hydrogen peroxide (the answer is go to the hospital because there’s no antidote for that). My co-host, Venus, wanted to start a podcast and thought it was only natural that we take it in the true crime direction as a common interest for both of us.


Reading the real stories of toxic encounters has definitely given me some story ideas, because the human body reacts in a fairly limited number of ways to the infinite amount of substances we can expose ourselves to, and it can take a trained eye to distinguish an innocuous medicine that could be the culprit from an everyday poison that actually is.


4. I see from your website that you’re currently working on a non-fiction book, a historical survey of the way that humans have used poisons as medicine, when can we expect to read this? Also, do you have any plans for your next writing project?


That book is still in the works, along with another one on the history of poisons in cosmetics. Venus is helping me rewrite the former so that it’s not so ‘academic,’ as my many rejection emails called it the first time around. Be on the lookout for that one!


In the meantime, my main focus is a horror novel currently going through the DHC virtual novel group about an island where influencers start to mysteriously disappear, under the pen name Marissa Yarrow. I’m very excited about that one and will be looking for an agent to help represent it.

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