We sat down virtually with Ellie A. Collins, owner of The Blood Crow Stories podcast, event manager for Gehenna Gaming, and story teller of ATL By Night. We talk podcasts, table top games, and our love of vampires.
Monster Thoughts: You’ve been part of the Vampire the Masquerade scene for a long time as far as I can tell. What drew you to the game and what kept you playing?
Ellie Collins: Initially, I was pulled into playing by friends in school. I had recently been diagnosed with OCD, and was really stressing my diagnosis. I was going through a lot of the shame of feeling “crazy” and some friends asked if I wanted to play this game with them where I could play a “crazy” character, but that would actually be my power. So I made my first Malkavian character and fell in love with letting what felt like my weaknesses be what actually made me extremely valuable to my team. And then when playing, Vampire gave such beautiful opportunities to explore human nature and go in depth into what humanity even means to you. That keeps me always playing because I love getting to constantly explore those themes and test those ideas.
MT: That’s definitely interesting and cathartic, it seems, in a way. Can you explain a bit about the allure of table-top roleplaying games and why they’re so popular with streaming communities and gamers to someone completely new to them?
EC: I think the allure is the personal escapism and exploration. We can explore who we are, be more than what we are, and explore parts of ourselves that maybe we would never indulge, but we want to learn what would happen. When it comes to actually streaming those games I think the allure is that we love telling these stories together so getting to share those stories with everyone else feels like spending time with even more friends. When it comes to watching them, for me, it’s the allure that everyone tells stories completely differently, and runs their games completely differently. So it’s like what’s the allure of listening to different audio books? I enjoy seeing all the different stories that these groups are telling.
MT: As a writer, I can definitely see all those ways of telling a story. What’s your preferred Vampire the Masquerade Clan? Why?
EC: Malkavian is where I started, and Malkavian stays extremely dear to me.
EC: I think there’s such beauty in the tragedy of them. It’s easy to play them in a bad way that definitely can be problematic, but when they’re played right, I just think they’re such a compelling clan in what they’re capable of and the inherent pain of their very existence.
MT: Your horror narrative podcast, The Bloodcrow Stories, tells a new story every season. I love this format. And so do your listeners: you’ve been nominated for a slew of awards and made finalists for few others. What advice can you share with other narrative podcasters who seek to reach a dedicated audience?
EC: I think it comes down to having a very refined idea of who you are and what you want your show to be. It’s very hard to specifically target an audience if that’s not an authentic part of who you are or what your show does as a whole. Because, also, when you are set in your identity with the show, it will make it so much easier to write and it will elevate what you’re doing because you’re flourishing within your own parameters.
MT: I agree with this. Being authentic is the best way to get anyone on your side. Switching gears a bit, I know you don’t have much knowledge on horror movies, but have you watched any recently that stuck out? If so, what were they and how’d they stick out for you? If not, what are some horror movies that seem interesting for you?
EC: For the month of October we’ve been rewatching a lot of our favorites in the house. I definitely like the classics, but when it comes to newer ones I’m not as well versed because I’m a giant chicken. Definitely better at writing horror than consuming it, haha. Probably the most recent new one that I saw was the remake of Pet Semetary, and I definitely thought it was a good remake for people who are brand new to the story, but it has some slight pitfalls for fans of the classic. I also showed my household The Purge for the first time which is a series I’ve personally enjoyed as a concept, but definitely think the concept works better as a video game or haunted house than a film.
MT: I don’t think I saw the Pet Semetary remake, but The Purge, at first, was interesting. It fell off with the numerous sequels, though. Best part about the Halloween season?
EC: I love all the spooky decor and everything coming out, but I also really love all the art challenges that come out of this season and the amazing creativity that comes from it.
MT: Yup! Best thing about vampires?
EC: It’s a cheap answer if I say “everything” haha.
MT: Not at all!
EC: I think the best thing about them, as overly romantic as it may sound, is what it teaches us about ourselves. In almost every medium of vampires I’ve seen it’s the humanity and what either binds them to it, or what makes them shun it, that winds up being extremely compelling. They’re one of the few classic monsters that is still so adjacent to regular humans that we often find their stories are more about the things that make us very much the same. There’s beauty in it that exists even in the most brutal and violent stories.
MT: I agree! Thank you Ellie for talking a bit about your work and your love of vampires with me!
Ellie is a multi-award-winning narrative podcaster and storyteller with 20+ years of experience in convention organization and management. She is the Storyteller for ATL by Night, an ongoing Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition actual play, and creator of The Blood Crow Stories, a serial narrative horror podcast. Currently, she is also the Events Manager for Gehenna Gaming, a company focused on providing inclusive and safe horror tabletop experiences.
When she isn’t on streaming or playing, she’s also a cosplayer, actress, and voice actress.
You can find Ellie at any of her links below!