Milicent Patrick, the woman who designed the gill-man in Creature From the Black Lagoon, was almost erased from horror history. Few people even know her name, let alone all the magnificent work she did for the genre. Milicent’s story of her rise to success and how it was all taken away by the ego of a man is not only compelling, but something many women in the horror industry can relate to.
Here at Nightmarish Conjurings we are kicking of Women in Horror Month with a bang! We were lucky enough to get the chance to interview screenwriter, film producer, podcast co-host, and author Mallory O’Meara. She took time out of her schedule to discuss her highly anticipated book, LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON: HOLLYWOOD MONSTERS AND THE LOST LEGACY OF MILICENT PATRICK. In it, readers will learn about Milicent Patrick’s complicated and inspirational life as well as O’Meara’s journey to discovering the truth about Milicent. This is O’Meara’s first book, and it is one you definitely want to add to your shelf.
Nightmarish Conjurings: First, I want to take a moment to say I absolutely adored LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. It affected me on a deep emotional level, and I think you have given a great gift to horror fans. When you began writing, what was your ultimate goal for the book?
Mallory O’Meara: When I started writing the book, my only goal was to make the world aware of Milicent Patrick, her work and her hidden legacy. Once I got deep into the writing, however, I wanted to reach further than that. I wanted to show that what happened to Milicent is still happening to women in film, in art, in every industry every day.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Throughout the book, you encounter various roadblocks when trying to find out more about Milicent Patrick. What motivated you to push through those roadblocks?
MO: It seemed like whenever I got frustrated, I’d find myself in a conversation with another female filmmaker or writer who also wanted to know Milicent’s story. It helped keep me going and remind me of all the women in the horror world who were curious about her, but also all the women who could be inspired by Milicent, like I was. The world really needs this story and that kept me motivated.
Nightmarish Conjurings: You describe a lot about your own experiences and your research process and it shows some interesting parallels between you and Milicent. Did those similarities make you feel closer to Milicent and more motivated to tell her story?
MO: They absolutely did! It got a little spooky after a while, like when I realized that the day I got my tattoo of her also happened to be her 100th birthday. Besides working in the same industry that she did, I’m also a middle child and I’m also estranged from my parents. The similarities motivated me, but they also helped give me some insight into what she might have been feeling or thinking. They certainly helped me unravel her mystery.
Nightmarish Conjurings: At one point you mention the importance of sharing all sides of Milicent, even the sides that may show her in a negative light. Why was it important to you to convey the many facets of Milicent?
MO: Women generally have fewer role models than men do, especially in the filmmaking and art world. This number dwindles even further when you get into the genre world. So much weight on not enough shoulders.
If we portray the few women who do make history in these fields as unflawed, we’re just making it harder for more women to follow in their footsteps. None of us are perfect. Showing the faults of female heroes makes achieving what they achieved seem possible.
Nightmarish Conjurings: After reading your book, it is clear that you and Milicent are both truly inspirational women. Who are the women who inspire you?
MO: Besides Milicent, my hero is Shirley Jackson. To me, she’s the queen of psychological horror and was so far ahead of her time. Jackson was both one of the most important and influential horror authors America has ever seen but was also an incredible humor writer. She was versatile, she was talented, she was witchy and she did not give a fuck. I try to channel that kind of energy.
The other women who inspire me are my group of friends. I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by kickass, creative ladies who constantly grab the world by the throat. They both inspire me and bolster me. Every woman needs her coven.
Mallory O’Meara’s LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON: HOLLYWOOD MONSTERS AND THE LOST LEGACY OF MILICENT PATRICK is out March 5, 2019 and is available for pre-order now!