Black Heritage in Horror: Interview with Lori Titus
Lori Titus is a USA Today Bestselling author and Bram Stoker Award finalist. She writes stories that center on the monster in humans and the humanity of beasts. When she’s not plotting out new adventures for her characters she lurks on social media. You can catch up with her on Facebook or on her website, The Darkest of Lore https://loribeth215.wordpress.com/ .
What inspired you to start writing?
I had nightmares as a kid, and my mom suggested that I write them down to exorcise them. It worked like a charm. It got rid of the dreams, but it started a new lifelong habit.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
It probably has to do with living in a family of horror lovers! My mom and sister loved scary movies, ghost stories, tales about the supernatural. It was either that or sci-fi and fantasy. I have a deep-down attraction to things that are dark, unknowable, or somehow otherworldly.
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?
I do make it a practice to include black characters. They’re usually the central protagonist. I empathize with the characters. By virtue of who they are and the situations they find themselves in, certain themes find their way into the stories. We’re perceived by the outside world in ways that are often inaccurate or flat-out untrue and that’s one of the main issues that my characters seem to struggle against.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
It’s taught me that the biggest monsters are humans. Vampires, werewolves, and the like are all an allegory for the bloodlust, evil, and cruelty found in ordinary people. The biggest monster is the man next door with teenagers locked in his basement or the spouse that beats and threatens his wife and children. And then there’s the megalomaniacs, those who deal in pure hatred against groups of other people. Humankind has a lot of issues. It’s taught me that despite whatever I might personally go through, it’s important to be kind.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
Horror has really changed over time. It used to be that much of horror was meant to chill and thrill, but without much substance. There was a period when horror meant zombie flicks or slasher movies and not much else. Those have their place and can be entertaining. What we’re seeing now is a rise in really thought-provoking, multi-layered stories. I love that the fear comes from the possibility of what could happen rather than all-out gore.
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?
I think this is the best time for black creatives in the horror industry, hands down. It used to be that black characters didn’t last the first ten minutes of any film. Now not only are they the heroes, but they can turn out the be the final survivor. Many horror films or novels were white-centered and didn’t address the kinds of fear that comes from living on the margins of society. We’re finally seeing stories that have the kind of boogeymen that black folks have told stories about for generations. It’s refreshing to see.
Who are some of your favorite Black characters in horror?
The ones who really stuck with me were characters I saw in movies when I was growing up, all the way up through my teens and early twenties. Ben from the original Night of the Living Dead,
Kendra from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and of course Candyman. For me, Tony Todd is up there with Vincent Price, but with swag.
Who are some African diaspora horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
There are so many! We have a wealth of talented authors with great stories to tell. I have been a fan of Tananarive Due and Brandon Massey for a long time. Other authors I love to read: Paula Ashe, Eden Royce, Kai Leakes, Zin E. Rocklyn. And you too, Sumiko!
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
My advice would be to not let yourself be discouraged because there are a lot of people who will try to make you think your choice of genre means something is odd about you. And that might be true. The way that you’re different gives you something to offer the world. Embrace that. Most people in this business know something of suffering. Start with your own fears because you understand those the best.
And to the Black writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
I would give them the same advice that I got from an experienced writer when I was starting out. Consume stories. Movies, books, television series. Know what’s going on in your genre, but make sure you read outside of it too. You never know what may inspire you or what you may be able to reimagine. Even badly done stories can teach you things. They’re often a great example of what not to do. And additionally, I’d like to say that this is our time to do it. So don’t let anything deter you!