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A Point of Pride 2024: An Interview with Briana Una McGuckin



What inspired you to start writing?

I have cerebral palsy, so when I was ten and everyone else was playing pretend outside, in their bodies, I realized that I was more comfortable playing pretend in my mind, sitting still. When we got a computer at home, Microsoft Word was a gaming application for me: an open-world simulator where I had complete control of everything that happened. This was a huge contrast to my life pre-corrective-surgery, where trying to imitate my peers as they found ways to express newfound coordination and energy always led to me discovering a new limitation on my own expressive powers. Storytelling was the exception, and I ran (ahem) with it.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

For me, as a kinky person, dread and desire are braided. Discovering Gothic literature was like finding my own personal playground, for that reason. And, in a broader sense, I’m very aware that to feel afraid is physically exhilarating. The first time I ever fell off a bike (when I could finally ride one, post-op), and I got bloodied up, I remember feeling… so much stronger than I ever imagined myself to be. Like a survivor. I think, when we contemplate death, we remember that we are still alive. That’s the high of horror.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Looking back at all my short fiction, and my debut as well, I think I am actually incapable of writing a love interest who is not a femme fellow, or a heroine who appreciates and gravitates toward queerness. At least it doesn’t occur to me, because I am writing first to please myself. The main character in On Good Authority is traditionally feminine, in a rigidly gendered, Victorian world, but that was deliberate: I was concerned with the harmful way BDSM is conflated with abuse specifically in heteronormative relationships—aided by constructs of toxic masculinity, and the “tradwife”, that kind of thing—and I wanted to address the line between catharsis and corrosion in that particular minefield. Now I’m working on a new novel, set also in the 19th century at Trinity College Dublin, that is the opposite: many queer characters, each on a different sort of journey, circling one another in a story very much centered on self-discovery. What I’m most interested in, when it comes to representation, is less planting flags and saying “I understand me, I am X,” more “Whoa, I don’t know if categorizing a whole person makes sense —learning about myself will be the work of my lifetime.”

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

That what happens in the dark, furtively, is often not the real, big-deal danger. The terrible stuff we have normalized so that it can happen in full light and no one screams, is what’s really scary.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

Well, Gothics are having a moment, which of course I love. And camp is coming back. Maybe it never left? I like seeing all this talk of Horror-mance, too. Sometimes I want to whisper “Gothic Romance” into those threads—not to be a stickler or anything, just to make sure the classics don’t get lost in the shuffle. I don’t care what we call things, really; I’m just happy to see more sensual sub-plots in with scary stories!

How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

I probably don’t even need to say that Gothics are historically queer-coded. I’m excited that we’re keeping the queerness—that it’s part of the literal Gothic tradition—and that just the furtive coding is less and less necessary. More overtly queer horror!

Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?

Oh, Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca leaps to mind. Everyone in The Picture of Dorian Gray, let’s be real. And I love Robin, in Stranger Things.

Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?

I have to shout out my comrades in kink, Rae Knowles and April Yates, who put out the fierce, queer erotic horror Lies that Bind earlier this year. Or go to the wonderful duo that is M.K. Hardy for exquisite sapphic longing and dark n’ pretty language. And, similarly, for anyone who has not had the pleasure of coming across Sarah Waters: run, don’t walk.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

The longer I live, the more terrified I am by the human capacity for anger, hate, violence, deliberate and willful misunderstanding, and othering. No matter how supernatural or otherworldly your brand of horror is, I think that these are the things that are really scary and that at least one of them is probably at the root of the story you have in mind. If you can tap into that, and perhaps offer a glimpse of navigating—if not totally surviving—that particular darkness, you will reach readers who will keep reading.

And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

Hm. Right now, I think there is a lot of pressure to perform your identity, or identities, in expected ways. We are in a moment where representation opportunities are still scarcer than they should be for people on the so-called fringes, and this means that people will sometimes clamor to demand that folks demonstrate their queerness, or else be judged. Please, please don’t let yourself be pressured past your own limits. I for one would rather accept, and believe—and be fooled now and again by an opportunist interloper—than ever be responsible for forcing someone into discomfort, or doubt, about who they are, for failing to meet my standards about an experience that belongs wholly to them. Live your truth, at your pace, that’s all. It will cause strife and discomfort for some, but discomfort and strife are an inevitable part of the learning we all have to do. Better that—growing pains, toward understanding—than your self-destruction.

Briana Una McGuckin has cerebral palsy, a concerningly large collection of perfume oils, and an obsession with all things 19th-century. Her debut novel, On Good Authority, is a kinky coming-of-age Gothic Romance about a lady’s maid who must teach a terrible master the difference between servitude and surrender—confronting her own dark desire for the footman along the way. Briana’s short, Gothic/fabulist fiction appears, among other places, in the Stoker-nominated Not All Monsters anthology (Rooster Republic Press), Hidden Realms: Gothic Fantasy (Flame Tree Press), and Artifice & Craft (Zombies Need Brains). A former reference and instruction librarian, Briana is a teaching mentor in Western CT State University’s Creative Writing MFA Program, as well as through Writers dot com.

Website/Blog: http://brianaunamcguckin.com, Twitter: @BrianaUna, Facebook: @BrianaUnaMcGuckin, Instagram: @brianaunamcguckin

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