Publication date: June 9th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads N ot all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse. When Amelia turned 12, she be...

Guest Post || Melissa Eskue Ousley, Author of Constellations of Scars


Publication date: June 9th, 2021


Not all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse.

When Amelia turned 12, she began growing pearls. Every month, a crop of beautiful pearls bursts from the skin on her back. Her mother, Denise, believes her daughter is blessed, and sells the pearls to put food on the table. Amelia sees her condition as a curse. As the pearls form, her body aches and her skin grows feverish. The harvest of pearls brings temporary relief from the pain, but leaves her back marred by scars. Denise hides Amelia away from the world, worried that Amelia’s gift will be discovered and she will be abducted for the wealth she can provide. Now a young woman, Amelia realizes she has become her mother’s captive, and plans her escape. When she runs away from home, she finds a new family in a troupe of performers at a museum of human oddities. She soon discovers the world is much more dangerous than her mother feared.


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Body horror and the female body
by Melissa Eskue ousley

I love stories where magic comes with a price. I was thinking about that concept as I wrote
Constellations of Scars, which is about a girl who grows pearls under her skin. A gift like that would be both a blessing and a curse. You could sell the pearls and become wealthy, but the act of growing the pearls would take a toll. It would be painful and leave your skin marred by scars. It would also be a dangerous gift, because if the wrong people found out about it, they might exploit you to enrich themselves.

I paired Amelia’s gift of growing pearls with her menstrual cycle because it seemed logical to link the phenomenon to hormones and a monthly occurrence. To stay true to the story, I needed to describe the process of growing pearls in a way that was both magical and realistic, that gave a sense of the pain and horror that a person would experience if they had to go through that every month.

But how much horror is too much? There’s a fine line between evoking horror and keeping readers engaged, and pushing that boundary so far the reader becomes disgusted and is turned off by the story. That line is subjective. Every reader has different limits when it comes to horror.

On the other hand, the human experience—growing older, dealing with illness, wrestling with one’s own mortality—is full of horror. In the end, that’s what Constellations of Scars is about: what it means to be human. Amelia’s experience, and the experiences of some of the other characters in the story who have physical oddities, may be different than that of most human beings, but suffering is universal. We all know what it’s like to experience pain and hardship. In that sense, horror is a shared experience.

Melissa Eskue Ousley is an award-winning author living on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, two charming cats, and a piranha. Her suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, is set in Seaside, and won a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award. Her young adult novel, Sunset Empire, debuted in a bestselling boxed set. Her short stories have been included in Rain Magazine, The North Coast Squid, and various anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found volunteering for her local wildlife center, caring for injured owls and hawks.

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