Celebrating Our Elders: Interview with Yvonne Navarro
Yvonne Navarro is an award-winning author of twenty-four published novels and a lot of short stories, articles and a reference dictionary. She writes several genres but favors horror or dark fantasy. Her work has won the Bram Stoker and IATW Awards, among others. Her shorter work has appeared in hundreds of anthologies and magazines. Her franchise work includes the Predator, Aliens, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, V-Wars, and more. She lives in Tucson, Arizona and dotes on her rescued dogs, Kyah and Chewbecca, and cranky talking parakeet, BirdZilla. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/yvonne.navarro.001
Did you start out writing or working in the horror field, and if so why? If not, what were you writing initially and what compelled you to move into horror?
Yes, that’s how I started out. I love horror. I love it now. I loved it when I started writing, and I loved it when I was a kid. I was born with horror in my blood.
Who were your influences as a writer when you started out and who, if anyone, continues to influence you?
Although I enjoyed all the horror books that I read back then (1980s), one author, Robert R. McCammon, really influenced me, so much so that he made me want to become a writer. And when I contacted him, he supported me. I wish every wannabe writer was as lucky. As to his writing, even now, every time I read his latest book, I’m amazed by the readability, the intricate plotting, the way the words feel like magic to me.
How have the changes in horror publishing over the past decades affected you?
Negatively, but it’s not just in the horror genre. I’m disappointed to see how authors are paid less in advances and the way publishers play an ongoing game of rights-grabbing and greed. I’ve had publishers reprint my books without my permission and to which they did not have publication rights anymore, print books without telling me and paying royalties owed, and avoid making contract payments on time by accepting manuscripts and then publishing the books without notifying me.
Do you think you’ve encountered ageism? If so, how do you counteract or deal with it?
Yes, I do. Thanks to self-publishing, younger authors will accept a shamefully lower amount of money for books while older, experienced authors still want to be decently paid for their work. Recently, a younger writer with less experience in a certain media tie-in universe in which I have worked extensively was chosen over me for a project. Unless someone has a mystical wand, I don’t see any way to fight this.
What do you wish you knew when you were just getting into the field?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Maybe just how poorly publishers support their authors as far as promotion goes. They have enormous budgets to advertise new novels by authors who are already best-selling, when a fraction of that spending could highlight a newer or mid-list author and push them in that same direction. When my first novel was published, I spent as much as I could on local advertising, until I simply ran out of cash. I called my editor and asked if they would spend $60 dollars on an ad in an extremely popular horror magazine. I received a one-word answer: “No.”
Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?
Assuming they still want to be writers—lol—my best advice is to read your work aloud. Do it like you’re auditioning for a movie, with emotions, different voices, yelling, etc. That’s where you’ll find the typos, the sentences that are too long, the semi-colons that you just don’t know how to use. Think it’s too much trouble? I’ve read all my novels aloud—even Final Impact, which was 190,000 words.
Do you think older characters are represented fairly and honestly in horror fiction?
Somewhat, depending on the writer. I think they could be portrayed better. Too often they’re stereotyped. My Dad never sat on a lawn chair in his garage and guzzled beer while wearing boxers and black socks and sandals. He didn’t even like beer. I don’t think my Mom ever baked a cake or a pie in her life.
What are some of your favorite portrayals of older characters?
The main one I can think of is Detective Bill Hodges in Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes trilogy. I’m sure there are many more.
Do you have anything you’d like to add that we haven’t asked?
Beyond asking me how I became an older woman writer? Nothing that comes to mind. For the record, I didn’t realize I was an older woman writer until I was asked to do this interview. Every morning when I wake up, my brain believes I’m still thirty years old. Now excuse me while I go get my hip replaced.