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Black Heritage in Horror: Interview with Paula Ashe


Paula D. Ashe (she/her) is an author of dark fiction. Her debut collection — We Are Here to Hurt Each Other — was released in early ‘22 by Nictitating Books. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and an Associate Editor for Vastarien: A Literary Journal. She lives in the Midwest (which is best) with her family.

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve had the compulsion since childhood. I never wanted to do anything else.

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

Since childhood I’ve been drawn to things that have a dark bent to them. I feel like horror is the most honest genre and it’s a place where I can tell some painful and usually private truths. I also just really enjoy disturbing the shit out of people.

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 but the effort is…conscious but not forced. The majority of my characters are Black Americans or multiracial and Black presenting, but I occasionally write about other races as well. Mostly I just want to write stories that center Black characters in compelling ways.

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

Honestly, writing horror has helped me find myself and my place in the world. So many aspects of my life and so many of the roles I occupy influence how I view and how I write horror. I feel very grateful for that.

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

We’re in a renaissance. And it’s because of ‘ahem’ ‘DEI projects’ that we’re in that renaissance. New voices, new perspectives, bring new life and interest to what was becoming stale and out of touch. Horror is now the vanguard (it won’t be forever, these things are cyclical of course). I’ve said this before but 2022 was a banner year for horror and I feel that momentum in 2023 as well.

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’m thankful for all of it, y’know? We had to start somewhere and in many cases we stand on the shoulders of giants. Going forward we’re seeing the continued refinement of a Black horror subjectivity beyond ‘representational ethics’ and I’m all for it.

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

Johnny Compton, Alex Jennings, Tamika Thompson, Eden Royce, Shannon Barber, Victor Lavalle, Tananarive Due, Steve Barnes, Zin E. Rocklyn, Nuzo Onoh, Suzan Palumbo, Linda D. Addison, and many more!

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

Nothing really beats Toni Morrison’s advice (for anything, really) that you should write the stories you want to read. In addition to plot and character type, what kind of stories resonate with you linguistically and why? You are you own most accurate compass.

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

Persevere, persevere, persevere. It’s what we do. Do not give up. Find people who support your vision and don’t be afraid to share your work with others (get their permission first— but make sure they aren’t vultures too). Especially those writers and creators whose work you dig.

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