News and Interviews

A.G.A Wilmot on Unexpected Peace, Creepy Clowns, & Reliable Cries

Banner image with author AGA Wilmot pictured on the left and text reading Behind the scenes with AGA Wilmot authored of Withered. Open Book logo bottom right.

A.G.A Wilmot has carved out a niche as writer perfectly balancing style and substance with work that is as atmospheric and evocative as it is thoughtful and timely.

Following their searing 2018 debut, The Death Scene Artist, Wilmot returns this spring with Withered (ECW Press), a queer horror novel that grabs readers from its opening pages. 

Following Ellis, an 18-year old in recovery for disordered eating that nearly cost them their life, Withered grapples with grief, fear, and silence. Seeking a fresh start and still in mourning after the devastating loss of their father, Ellis moves to the small town of Black Stone, assuming that a more rural life will lead to peace within. 

Withered by AGA Wilmot

Withered by A.G.A. Wilmot

But peace, Ellis soon finds, is not only difficult to achieve from external sources, it is in short supply in the strange town of Black Stone, and in the house they've moved into especially. Whether the throbbing veins in the walls or the basement's flickering spectres are real or manifestations of grief and trauma, Ellis isn't at first sure. But as they join with Quinn, a fascinating Black Stone local, they realize that there is more haunting them than the past. That it's no longer about one person's pain — and that Ellis and Quinn may be the only ones standing between Black Stone and a ravenous otherworldly threat.

Smart and scary, wise and deeply moving, Wilmot uses horror to talk about the deepest and darkest corners of our shared psyches, histories, and hurts. To celebrate the publication of Withered, we invited them to take our Dirty Dozen challenge and share 12 unexpected facts about themself. Get to know Wilmot here and learn more about them and Withered on their website

The Dirty Dozen with A.G.A. Wilmot:

1. I’m a former conservatory pianist. I was prepping for my grade 9 exam and starting in on a few grade 10 pieces when life—battling anorexia and starting university at the same time—forced me to redirect my energy.

2. In another life, I’d be a full-time painter—oils. My BFA is in visual art. I love it dearly and get back to it whenever I can, but in the end, that path just wasn’t for me. Not full time, anyway.

photo of colourful oil paints

3. I collect jewellery—rings mostly—to mark cities I’ve lived in and major life experiences. Each piece is a part of my story.

4. Despite being a horror junkie, I’m petrified by the sight of blood (real only, not fake) specifically when it involves injury or extreme pain. Keeping on the phobia train, I’m not a fan of insects and am terrified of infestations. Clowns are also terrible, but it’s less that I fear them and more that I don’t trust them. Mimes, however, I fear. As should you.

5. My single favourite spot on this earth (that I’ve visited) is the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. Being there is one of the few times in my life where I’ve felt totally, unexpectedly at peace.

Photo of Piazza Santa Croce

6. I write every first draft by hand, no matter how large or unwieldy the project. It keeps me moving forward—makes it difficult to go back and get caught in a self-editing loop. Also, my dialogue has a more natural flow to it when I write by hand. I can’t explain it.

7. If I absolutely need to cry and can’t, I put on R.E.M’s “Nightswimming”—does the trick every time. The final verse of the Deadly Snakes’ “Gore Veil” is also pretty reliable at destroying me when I need it most.

Image of the cover art for the REM song Nightswimming

8. If money were of no concern, I’d be one of those weird forever students with more degrees than common sense. University was life-saving and life-changing for me. I miss it more than I care to admit.

9. I’m (mildly) synaesthetic—I sometimes see colours, shapes, and patterns in music and rhythms. A lot of my painting has been about attempting to harness this in a way that makes sense (to me at least).

10. As much as I live for books and film, video games are my preferred poison when I need to really shut down, shut off, and shut out the rest of the world. In other words, when I need to not think about narrative structure or life or, really, anything of consequence. Metroidvanias mostly, and old-school action and turn-based RPGs.

Image from the classic video game Super Metroid

11. Some of my best writing has been done in airports. I hate airports. Loathe them with every fibre of my being—I walk through those doors and my anxiety redlines. But once I’m through security, I find a quiet corner somewhere, grab a coffee, put on some music, and dig into whatever I’m working on at the moment. Focus on that until it’s time to board. It’s the only thing to calm the nerves.

12. There is no meal on this planet that’s not markedly improved by the addition of a pickle. Or several. A small mountain, perhaps. You don’t want yours? I’ll take it off your hands for you. You do want it? I will fight you for it, right here. Right. Fucking. Now.

Photo of jars of pickles


A.G.A Wilmot (BFA, MPub) is an award-winning writer and editor based out of Toronto. Their credits include myriad online and in-print publications and anthologies, and their first book, The Death Scene Artist, was published by Buckrider Books in 2018. 

Kevin Hardcastle is a fiction writer from Simcoe County, Ontario. He studied writing at the University of Toronto and at Cardiff University. His work has been widely published in journals including The New Quarterly, The Malahat Review, Joyland, Shenandoah and The Walrus. Hardcastle was a finalist for the 2012 Journey Prize, and his short fiction has been anthologized in The Journey Prize Stories 24 & 26Best Canadian Stories 15, and Internazionale.

Hardcastle’s debut short story collection, Debris, was published by Biblioasis in 2015. Debris won the 2016 Trillium Book Award, the 2016 ReLit Award for Short Fiction, was runner-up for the 2016 Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and was a finalist for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.

His novel, In the Cage, will be published by Biblioasis in Fall 2017.

Buy the Book


A queer paranormal horror novel in the style of showrunner Mike Flannagan, showing the complex real-life terror inherent in grief and mental illness

After the tragic death of their father and surviving a life-threatening eating disorder, 18-year-old Ellis moves with their mother to the small town of Black Stone, seeking a simpler life and some space to recover. But Black Stone feels off; it’s a disquieting place surrounded by towns with some of the highest death rates in the country. It doesn’t help that everyone says Ellis’s new house is haunted — everyone including Quinn, a local girl who has quickly captured Ellis’s attention. And Ellis has started to believe what people are saying: they see pulsing veins in their bedroom walls and specters in dark corners of the cellar. Together, Ellis and Quinn dig deep into Black Stone’s past and soon discover that their town, and Ellis’s house in particular, is the battleground in a decades-long spectral war, one that will claim their family — and the town — if it’s allowed to continue.

Withered is queer psychological horror, a compelling tale of heartache, loss, and revenge that tackles important issues of mental health in the way that only horror can: by delving deep into them, cracking them open, and exposing their gruesome entrails.