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Black Heritage in Horror: Interview with Ashon Ruffins


Ashon Ruffins is a native New Orleanian and a military Veteran. He earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, while also holding certifications for several other pro-fessions. He loves the art of storytelling in all genres and believes the best lessons in life can be told through fiction. Descent of a Broken Man is his debut novel. Ashon is also a huge mental health advocate.

Ashon is married and the father of two beautiful children. He also has a passion for the culinary arts. He has to go now—his kids are waiting for him to cook.

Social Media:

Twitter: @lifethrufiction
Instagram: @life_thru_fiction
Facebook: Dreadful Times Press
Website: Dreadfultimespress.com

What inspired you to start writing?

I never set out to be a writer. I always received compliments on my writing throughout school, but it was not something I thought I wanted to do. My writing actually started out with journaling during a very tough period in my life. Soon I began to wonder if I could process what I was going through or express it better if I developed a fictional story around it. From there, something awakened in me and I fell in love with writing. I started developing more and more stories and eventually a novel. So, I would say, life inspires art.

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

I have been a fan of horror movies since childhood. They provided an adrenaline rush that I didn’t always find in other genres. That eventually led me to reading horror novels. So, when I found my drive for writing I never considered any other genre. It was always horror for me.

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?

Absolutely, all of my writing centers around African diaspora characters. The main objective for me when I write a character is to show the plurality in which we come. As a group, people of African descent are thought of as a monolith, which is far from the case. I want to provide that variety that we are. Show our life struggles, victories, and personalities from our perspectives which boils down to just the human experience we all have. Doing that, I get to tell stories that everyone can relate to.

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

The main thing that being a horror writer has taught me is that horror is not all about showing gore and pain. It can truly be an avenue to tell all types of tales. It can be as heavy as morality warnings and as light as simple phobia tales. Horror has a plurality to it that is pretty entertaining and it all starts with how creative you can get.

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

It has changed and evolved a lot in the past 30 years in my opinion. Let’s take movies for example. In the 70’s horror movies were psychological in nature. The 80’s moved to slashers with a bit of gore, 90’s and early 2000’s increased the gore but they became a little more creative with the stories and villains. Now we have tons of gore and a lot of jump scares. However, with movies like Get Out, Midsomer, and others we are back in a psychological and more creative feel to modern horror.

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?

Currently, I think the black community has been represented a little better. With writers and directors more willing to tell stories focused around people of color it is definitely getting better. The stereotypical tropes of killing off the black character first or just making them some sort of dumb jock or comedic relief is also less prevalent, character wise. Black writers and directors are getting more opportunities and more people across all cultures are enjoying those stories. I think we are getting to the point where the stories being told will outweigh the skin color of the talented person writing or directing those stories.

Who are some of your favorite Black characters in horror?

I love this question. There are so many that made an impression on me as a kid and as an adult. I’ll name three with a childhood honorable mention.

  1. For pure comedy purposes, the black guy from Friday the 13th, Part 8 – Jason Takes Manhattan. He decided to literally fight a huge guy with a hockey mask on whose spine is exposed. Landed some great punches but wasn’t the best idea.
  2. The breakthrough black female character would be Jada Pinkett-Smith’s character in Tales From the Crypt’s Demon Knight. She was strong, resilient, and very crafty.
  3. The breakthrough black male character would be the character of Ben in Night of the Living Dead. For a movie made in that time, to have a black man as your lead character, portrayed in a strong leadership role and in a non-negative stereotypical way was and still is fantastic.
  4. Honorable mention would go to the character of Reggie from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. Reggie was just a young feisty kid trying to survive the fake Jason’s rampage. I was about the character’s age when I saw that movie. I thought he was pretty cool as a kid.

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

One of the more obvious one’s in my opinion is Toni Morrison. Her novel, Beloved is a fantastic piece of work which has so many levels to it. The other is a name many might know, Tananarive Due. The novel, The Between is a horrific trip centered around family and paranoia that bends the mind.

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

To any horror authors out there today, the story you have needs to be told. However, I do challenge all of us to look into the human experience as deeply as possible in every aspect of life. There are so many stories that can be told from so many unique perspectives that I believe it can bring the horror community to another level. A level that can leave lasting impressions on their readers.

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

Don’t worry about imposter syndrome. You are doing exactly what you are meant to do. The genre needs you. We need you to tell the stories you want to tell, but we also need you to tell the stories others can’t or won’t tell. In doing that, you will find your voice and your audience. Be patient and work hard.

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