Black Heritage in Horror: An Interview with Linda D. Addison
Linda D. Addison is an award-winning author of five collections, including The Place of Broken Things written with Alessandro Manzetti, & How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend, and the first African-American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award®. She is a recipient of the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award, HWA Mentor of the Year and SFPA Grand Master of Fantastic Poetry. Addison has published over 380 poems, stories and articles and is a member of CITH, HWA, SFWA and SFPA. She is a co-editor of Sycorax’s Daughters, an anthology of horror fiction/poetry by African-American women. Catch her work in Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (May/June), Classic Monsters Unleashed and Giving the Devil His Due.
What inspired you to start writing?
I had a very active imagination when I was younger, kept alive by my mother telling us stories she made up, often putting characters in them with our names. Since I was the oldest it was my job to keep the rest of the children entertained. The idea of making up fantasy stories came natural after listening to my mom. It was later that I started thinking about wanting to have my own work in print, like the books that I enjoyed reading.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I actually started writing in SF/fantasy, which I read in Junior High and High School. When I graduated from college and I was out in the world, I became ready to face my own fears. It has been said that horror is an emotion, once I opened to that emotion, which includes fear, anger, etc. there was no closing to it.
Do you make a conscious effort to include African diaspora characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
Themes come naturally from my feelings and reactions to living as a human that is also Black, female, older, etc. I’m very aware of what my characters look like in my stories, often they are African diaspora, but not always. I’m interested in different cultures around the world, so I’ll place my stories in a country/culture that I’m not familiar with and therefore I have to research a different culture.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
One thing I’ve learned is that facing negative feelings like anger, fear, frustration, etc. is healthy. I can allow those feelings to interpret through my writing in a way that gives voice to this emotions, so I can communicate them to the world. I’ve had feedback from readers that my writing has touched them in different ways and that makes me very satisfied; a surprising effect.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
For sure in the 50 years that I’ve been writing I see changes. Per diversity: In the beginning there were so few Blacks (and others) in genre writing. Since then it has increased in horror and science fiction and fantasy, which is good. The birth of black publishers and self-publishing has created an outlet for Other authors to offer their work to readers, in addition to the traditional publishers. We need this expanding to include more Others to continue. There are many different kinds of stories to be told and and creators to be seen. A big part of making this happen is for the publishing field to increase awareness and be willing to work at including other voices and realize that decision makers need to include Others.
How do you feel the Black community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
This is a continuation of the previous question as we see more Black creators on Best of lists and awards, but there’s still places that are lacking. Some publishers/editors and organizations (ex. Twisted Book of Shadows anthology, HWA) have put in effort to be more mindful to include Black creators, but more needs to be done. To say you want to include other voices isn’t enough, action to change how reaching out is done is what makes change.
Who are some of your favorite Black characters in horror?
There are so many, but some are:
In fiction: Sethe from Beloved by Toni Morrison; Shori Matthews from Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler; Akai from Destroyer by Victor LaValle; Angie from The Promise Keeper by L. Marie Wood; Cozy from Lipstick Asylum by Nzondi (Ace Antonia Hall).
Who are some African diaspora horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
Once upon a time this was an easy list to come up with, but now there’s so many writers of color publishing that it’s a wonderful problem to have. Here are some I enjoy (there are many more): Jamal Hodge, Gerald L. Coleman, R.J.Joseph, Francis Wesley Alexander, Sheree Renée Thomas, Bryant O’Hara, Tonya Liburd, A.J. Locke, Jacqueline Johnson (has written work in all realms, including speculative), John Edward Lawson, Wrath James White, Chesya Burke, Maurice Broaddus, Marc Abbott, Steven Van Patten, Michael Boatman, Jeff Carroll, Zig Zag Claybourne, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and C. Michael Forsythe.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
I feel it’s very important for horror authors writers is to write from their authentic emotions, what is it deep inside of you that makes you angry, fearful, frustrated; even if the story or poem that you’re writing at the time isn’t that exact thing, the work you create will be flavored by your authentic feelings and that will make it connect with the reader.
And to the Black writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
The advice I have lived by:
- Write whatever comes without worrying about what the market might call it.
- Write the first draft as wild as possible to get from the beginning, middle and end.
- Edit after the first draft to get it in the best shape possible.
- Get a second opinion from someone after you’ve edited it.
- Make a list of at least three markets with the highest one first; so you’re ready to send it back out, if it comes back. Don’t let the fact that a market hasn’t published a Black writer stop you from submitting to them; someone has to be the first, why not you?