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A Point of Pride 2024: An Interview with John Linwood Grant

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What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always written, mostly for my own amusement, since I was a small child. To me, it was something you just ‘did’ – invented stories and fancies – and I sometimes found it odd that others didn’t. My own breakthrough moment was when I stopped drafting endless convoluted novels and went directly into writing short stories, novelettes, and novellas, most of which sold immediately. So I kept doing that.

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

I’m not sure that there is a horror genre in any single, monolithic sense – it’s more an amoebic thing, which contains and offers many possibilities. As such, it’s simply the most likely place in which I can find people who want to read about the other, the different. I’m not a horror writer by some people’s standards, but I regularly employ horror as an emotion in what I write. My preference is for the odd and weird, and so I often call my own work strange fictions. The disquiet and the disjointed things which creep into life, which challenge who and what we are. Upended tropes and peculiar themes.

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

I make a conscious effort to include real people in my writing. Which means that some of them will be LGBTQ, and some will be straight. I’m primarily a character writer, and so if a character comes to me, they usually bring certain aspects of their nature with them. After a depressing menu of far too much straight white male horror and SFF in my youth, I’m naturally inclined to go with characters who have aspects of otherness, something I have felt and experienced myself, especially in my teens. Otherness from the heterosexual nuclear family model and such societal ‘norms’, that is – a model which was never entirely true to life anyway, but became a staple of most media.

I don’t force it, though. If a character feels inherently straight, they are what they are. If I just threw everything cultural out, almost all of my characters would probably be bisexual or pansexual, neither of which are labels I particularly care for, as it happens. Most labels suck. So what I seek to portray is the breadth and depth of humanity.

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

Hard one. That you’re never too old to learn. That creative and imaginative writing isn’t as valued as it should be. That researching the horrors of real history can be far scarier than anything you might write.

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

Rather than change dramatically, it extends more in certain directions, and retracts in others; it shifts its position from decade to decade. Back to the amoeba idea. The popularity of its various pseudopods – retro, folk horror, occult, slasher, psychological, new weird, and so on continues to vary with time. As a lover of weird fiction, I think “unsettling” is still in ascendance, but every time I say that, someone revives traditional monsters or seventies chainsaws, so what do I know? On a broader social level, horror is now far less accepting or forgiving of the casual misogyny, homophobia, and racism that used to crop up regularly, which is a big step forward.

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?

Fifty-plus years ago (I was around and reading, back then!) I’d have said that representation was fairly weak, with most genre works that had strong, openly-LGBTQ elements feted as literary oddities or dismissed as “experimental”, as if you had to be some highly daring author or drug-addled soul to go there. There was also niche, underground stuff as well, of course. These days it’s very different, but not always for the right reasons. The “right reasons” (for me) are creating genuine LGBTQ characters and exploring issues from LGBTQ psychological and cultural perspectives, in order to offer fiction that relates to the world’s actual complexity. And to provide viewpoints that some readers may never have encountered. On the other hand, I’m not fond of the commercial drive just to make money by sticking a gay in to look hip, or to get attention. Too often this comes from people with no lived experience. But I feel positive about the future. I know I now submit stories myself which a couple of decades ago I would have paused over, wondering if the publisher would be wary, or call it “political”, their slang for anything not comfortably and predominantly straight. I don’t feel the need to be careful about that anymore.

Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?

I’m just going to settle for Jewelle Gomez’s Gilda. And my own beloved Justin Margrave, which I’m sure I shouldn’t say. Bad Linwood!

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

From the past, always Samuel Delany. Currently, I’m reading contemporary works by James Bennett, Gwendolyn Kiste, and Craig Laurance Gidney, amongst others. Oh, and re-reading Paula D. Ashe, who is also great. I’ve had a busy year or two writing new collections and editing anthologies, so my to-read pile is threatening to crush me – there will be many more to recommend.

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

Consider deprioritizing the ancient ritual of the first novel, agent, and Big Five publication. See this as just one strand of your approach, embrace other possibilities. Writers with a hybrid approach have flexibility. So tout to agents if you wish, but at the same time explore and utilize the large range of small and independent presses, look into self-publishing, build a name through anthology and magazine submissions, chapbooks, and anything that suits your approach and your work. Don’t feel you need to spend all your time on the “straight” path (bad pun).

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

Be open and fearless. You probably have more chance of getting your voices heard and your fiction published now than at any time in the last couple of centuries. Don’t shy away from having LGBTQ characters, themes, issues in your work, not as heavy social statements but as natural elements in a diverse, multipolar world. Draw on queer friends and writing networks with a kind heart, and have pride.


John Linwood Grant is a writer/editor from Yorkshire, UK, who decided to start doing This Thing at the age of fifty-eight, for some odd reason. A few years later, he has now had more than ninety stories published in magazines and award-winning anthologies, plus a novel, The Assassin’s Coin, and several novellas. Ain’t No Witch, his fourth collection, came out in May 2024 from Mocha Memoirs. His weird fiction has been widely acclaimed, and he was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist for his third collection, Where All is Night, and Starless. His next collection (July 2024) is An Unkindness of Shadows (Lethe Press), concerning the weird exploits of the flamboyant gay art critic Justin Margrave in 1970s Britain.

Linwood Grant also edits dark fiction anthologies, as well as co-founding and editing Occult Detective Magazine, now in its eighth year. Tall, ‘large-boned’, and with his own beard, he describes his personal trudge through life and his sexuality as colorful, because he dislikes labels. He can be found on Facebook, and his eclectic website.

 

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