Scary Stories for a Good Cause: E.M. Markoff on "Leaving the #9"

By L.S. Johnson (

Latinx author and publisher E.M. Markoff writes about damaged heroes and imperfect villains. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her love of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist and spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. Her works include The Deadbringer, To Nurture & Kill, and her recent short story “Leaving the #9.” She recently published the charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire under her imprint, Tomes & Coffee Press, to raise money for California wildfire recovery and relief efforts. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and is mostly made up of coffee, cat hair, and whiskey.

Tell us a little about your story, “Leaving the #9.”

The story follows Adelia, a working class cook who has worked long and hard for a better life and is finally able to take that next step. With her are her brother, Miguel, and a client turned best friend turned “the grandma I never had.” Her sense of reality is shaken when strange occurrences begin to disrupt her attempts to achieve her dream. The setting was inspired by the ongoing gentrification and displacement of the Mission, San Francisco’s historically Latinx neighborhood. A reader described it as “[a] wonderful ghost story with some excellent unexpected tidbits.” To me, the story is about friendship and chosen family, and the ways that we discover whom in our lives we are truly important to.


Your story includes both Spanish and Nahuatl words. For readers unfamiliar with the latter, can you tell us more about Nahuatl, and why you wove it into your story?

I am fluent in Spanish since my mom never learned English, but I only recently began learning Nahuatl. Nahuatl is one of the many native languages of Mexico, and is still spoken today by 1.5 million people. I wove it into the narrative because I wanted to see all aspects of my culture represented in the story. All my works are like this, including the books in my main dark fantasy series, though the references there are not as overt.

Mind you, I’m not fluent in Nahuatl, but that’s my own fault. I’m a horrible student, but I’m working toward learning more about it. UC Berkeley, through their Program for the Study and Practice of Indigenous Cultures and Languages, offers Nahuatl courses in the fall. Another wonderful resource is David Bowles’s online Nahuatl course.


What is your relationship to California, and does California influence your work?

Just this May was Carnival San Francisco, and earlier in the year was Mexica New Year. The Mission Cultural Center had an exhibit dedicated to rebozos, and they offer classes such as Danza Azteca. My point is that California, and for me specifically San Francisco, influences my work because of how rich the Latinx community is. I live in a city where I have direct access to a part of my culture (Mexica) that I thought I could only ever experience through books or museums. I’m very privileged to be able to live here and I hope it remains so.


As writers, we constantly use our imaginations, sometimes in terrifying ways. But can you imagine a hopeful future for California? What might that future look like?

I can imagine a hopeful future for California because we live in a time where injustices are being challenged on a national, state, and local level by communities of color. What might that future look like? Diverse.


Where can readers find more of your work?

My main body of work includes The Deadbringer, the first book in The Ellderet Series, and its standalone prequel To Nurture & Kill. The first book was described by Booklist as “An amazing action-adventure, tinged with Mexican folklore, that will appeal to fans of A Game of Thrones.” You can learn more about the world of the Ellderet by visiting or signing up for my Newsletter of the Cursed. You can also follow me @tomesandcoffee on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. As for my work as a publisher, visit the Camp Fire website at, where you’ll find interviews (such as these) by other contributing authors. There’s also a Facebook page where I post T4tCF events and updates. You can also catch me, editor Loren Rhoads, and contributing author and interviewer extraordinaire L.S. Johnson at Silicon Valley Comic Con on August 16-18 at Booth 21a. I’ll have my own works available as well as Tales for the Camp Fire. If you’re attending, please stop on by and say hello!

NEXT POST ON MONDAY 7/29/19, SCARY STORIES FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Sumiko Saulson ON “Unheard Music in the Dank Underground”

"[A] brilliant collection of truly creepy tales by horror's hottest voices! Dark, funny, heartbreaking, and bizarre. Highly recommended!"
-Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Glimpse

Scary Stories for a Good Cause. From Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor of the cult magazine Morbid Curiosity comes Tales for the Camp Fire, a new charity anthology of short stories to help support wildfire relief efforts. Through these pages roam werewolves, serial killers, a handful of ghosts, plenty of zombies, Cthulhu cultists, mad scientists, and a pair of conjoined twins.