Horror Writers Association

A Point of Pride: Interview with David Demchuk

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I’m David Demchuk, author of The Bone Mother and RED X, and I would be happy to be interviewed as part of the HWA Pride Month LGBTQ+ author interviews.

I live in Toronto, Canada and have been writing for print, stage, digital and other media for more than 40 years. My debut horror novel The Bone Mother, published in 2017, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Amazon First Novel Award, the Toronto Book Award, the Kobzar Book Award and a Shirley Jackson Award in the Best Novel category. It won the 2018 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic in the Adult Fiction category. My troubling new novel RED X was published by Strange Light in August 2021. It was listed as a Rakuten Kobo Top 20 of 2021 selection, a CBC Books pick for Best Canadian fiction of 2021, and a New York Public Library Best Book of 2021—one of just three Canadian novels on the list. RED X is nominated for an Aurora Award in the best novel category.

You can find out more about me at my website, daviddemchuk.com – and can follow me on twitter at @spo0ky_dad. If you need any more information, just let me know.

What inspired you to start writing?

While my mother and I did not have the best relationship, I’ll always be grateful to her for regularly reading to my brother and me when we were children–picture books, fairy tales, children’s stories, and also classics that she had enjoyed when she was younger that were not necessarily for children: some Charles Dickens, some Zane Grey, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Jane Eyre. For me, this grew into a love of reading, and storytelling, and ultimately writing.

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

I was an anxious child and easily frightened, and for whatever masochistic reason (that largely persists today), I loved being scared, I just found it thrilling. I was fortunate to be born in the early ‘60s, so I was coming of age just as the great wave of interest in the occult swept through fiction, film and television in the late ‘60s through the mid-’70s. Although I did not start writing fiction until much later, my early writing was still very much influenced by the works from this period.

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

The vast majority of my work centres LGBTQ themes or characters or both, as we still have comparatively little queer and trans* horror available to us in any medium. I try to write thoughtfully and honestly about queer and trans* people, our communities and our relationships. I am not shy about writing queer/trans* villainy or monstrosity when the occasion arises, but I always try to come from a place of empathy.

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

As much as horror is about trauma, it’s also about empathy and resilience. Founded in fear, it is an innately conservative genre, but it is possible to ‘flip the script’ and find beauty and power and dignity in monstrosity and explore the terror of conformity and homogeneity. It is also an elastic genre, and lends itself well to experimentation in form, voice, style and approach.

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

Horror has gone through several boom/bust cycles in my lifetime and it is still going strong, cross-pollinating with other genres, expanding into new platforms and technologies, always looking to provide its audience with fresh thrilling terrifying experiences, carving new pathways into the darkest parts of the human imagination. In recent years we’ve seen inventive, unsettling horror stories told in online magazines and reddit forums, on twitter, over youtube and zoom, in VR experiences and via TikTok. As each new generation gives voice to its own fears, horror will grow and change to make a home for their 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?

Of course for hundreds of years of horror storytelling we were relegated to the roles of grotesque villain, tormented victim and hapless fool–if we were depicted at all; our tragic monstrosity was the direct result of our ‘perverted’ sexualities and ‘corrupted’ gender identities. As we reached the 20th century, the best we could hope for in these portrayals was to evoke pity in the reader and viewer. It has been a joy to see queer and trans* characters, communities and experiences take centre stage in contemporary horror stories, and to see our fears represented–literally and metaphorically–in ways that cis straight audiences can understand and appreciate and in some ways identify with. I can only hope that LGBTQ writers will continue to find success through these explorations.

Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?

Some of this is a matter of interpretation but: Theo in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House; Renfield in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Hutch in Rosemary’s Baby; Mick and Judd, the bickering couple in Clive Barker’s In the Hills, the Cities; Burke Dennings in The Exorcist; Armand in Interview with the Vampire; the whole Femm family in The Old Dark House.

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

Clive Barker, Thomas Tryon, Daphne DuMaurier, Eric LaRocca, Hailey Piper, Gretchen Felker-Martin, Carmen Maria Machado, Amber Dawn, Sarah Waters, Alison Rumfitt, Kelly Robson, Nino Cipri, Jonathan Edward Durham.

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

Read widely within the genre, with a particular eye to what’s been published in the last five years, and then ignore it all and write what matters most to you.

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

Do not be afraid to write as your own unique self with your own voice and perspective and from your own experiences. These are the things that make your work distinctive and your stories meaningful.

David Demchuk has been writing for print, stage, digital and other media for more than 40 years. His debut horror novel The Bone Mother, published in 2017, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Amazon First Novel Award, the Toronto Book Award, the Kobzar Book Award and a Shirley Jackson Award in the Best Novel category. It won the 2018 Sunburst Award in the adult fiction category. His troubling new novel RED X was published by Strange Light / Penguin Random House in August 2021. It was listed as a Rakuten Kobo Top 20 of 2021 selection, a CBC Books pick for Best Canadian Fiction of 2021, and a New York Public Library Best Book of 2021—one of just three Canadian novels on the list. RED X is nominated for an Aurora Award in the best novel category.

Author photo by Tanja-Tiziana

 

 

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