Interview Spotlight: Rhonda Jackson Joseph
Happy Wednesday! Welcome back to another interview spotlight, a new feature for this year’s Halloween Haunts. Today Halloween Haunts catches up with Dr. Rhonda Jackson Joseph who is a Texas-based HWA academic member. Her poetry is featured in the recently released HWA Poetry Showcase V.
Halloween Haunts: Welcome to Halloween Haunts Rhonda! We met at the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference earlier this year when you co-presented “When We Are the Monsters: Female Monsters and the Subversion of Patriarchy” with Elsa Carruthers. As a professor by trade, I thought we could start with what drew you to become a member of the Horror Writers Association?
Rhonda Jackson Joseph: Hi, Michele. Thank you so much for talking with me. I first joined the HWA as a creative writer a few years ago. I wasn’t in a position to take advantage of all the things this organization offered at that time, so I let my membership lapse. When I joined again, I was ecstatic to find that HWA had embraced the academic side of the horror genre.
HH: At the time, were you only engaging with horror on an analytical level or were you also writing horror as well?
RJJ: I’ve been an inquisitive fan of horror since early childhood, so I’ve always analyzed horror on some level. Some of the questions I had as a child, such as, “Why don’t the monsters look like me?” and “Where are the girl monsters?” morphed into perfect springboards into academic study of the intersections of horror, gender, and race. I explore these things in my horror writing through creative and academic lenses.
HH: In your opinion, why do you think it is important to study horror?
RJJ: It’s really important to study horror because I think it’s one of the most intimate windows into what makes humans human. Through the horror genre, we’re able to paint vivid images of what’s happening around us, in our communities, our societies, and our world. Fears that we might otherwise render voiceless speak loudly through horror. Examining the evolution of the genre through an academic lens gives us the opportunity to understand historical events based on what’s represented in the storytelling and more importantly, what’s omitted.
HH: Are there concepts you feel should have more analysis than they have been given? If so, which ones?
RJJ: Absolutely. I literally fell into a gap between the analysis of gender, race, and horror. There are numerous exemplary scholars who examine race, and others who study femininity, and yet others who analyze horror. But while trying to find correlations and contrasts and specific analyses on the three, there just wasn’t a lot of scholarship on how these topics intersect. Intersectionality is important because as a black, female horror fan, I experience the genre in a certain way. As a black, female writer, my experiences shape my writing in a particular way. My presentation as a black, female writer affects the reception of my work. There are precious few scholars who are pioneering research in this area, such as Dr. Kinitra Brooks, Ashlee Blackwell of Graveyard Shift Sisters, and Dr. Gwendolyn Pugh. They’re doing an amazing job at raising questions and shaping the conversation and I saw where I could lend my voice to the scholarship.
HH: In what ways you feel that your horror fiction has been influenced by your analytical pursuits?
RJJ: The main influence has been as motivation for me to continue writing creatively. The genre can be cruel sometimes to voices that don’t fall within the mainstream views. Through analyzing works in the genre, especially by other writers from marginalized groups, I can clearly see that our voices are necessary in helping to build a dynamic genre that doesn’t destroy itself with the same ideas and representations over and over again. So I can keep writing.
HH: And, how has your academic writing been influenced by your fiction writing?
RJJ: I pay a lot more attention to detail when I write creatively since embarking on academic writing. I started approaching revisions with the questions, “”If someone analyzed this story or poem, what would they say? How would they pick it apart?” This approach has saved me from many a stereotypical character or cliché storyline.
HH: Since you teach courses on writing, what three tips do you have for writers?
RJJ: 1. Read. A lot. A writer who doesn’t read won’t have the same skills as a writer who reads extensively. 2. If you can ever stop writing, you probably should. No obstacles should be strong enough to take the desire to write away from you permanently. 3. Study the genre. This really ties back to reading a lot, but I’m often surprised by writers who say they don’t read in the genre in which they write. I wonder how they know what to write or whether they know if their work even falls within the genre they’re targeting.
HH: As we wrap up Rhonda, do you have any projects coming out in print or online in the near future? And, where can people find you on social media?
RJJ: I have a featured poem in the just released Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase Vthat I’m super excited about. Also, I’m finishing up with the edits on an essay about the movie Get Out for a collection edited by Dr. Dawn Keetley, which doesn’t yet have a release date. I’m usually hanging around on Twitter (@rjacksonjoseph) and sometimes peeking into Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/rhonda.jacksonjoseph)
HH: Thanks Rhonda for your time and insight!
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: HWA is offering up an Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference t-shirt!
BIO: R. J. Joseph isa Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.
When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.
R. J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/rjjoseph
A very good interview!
I find that research really helps improve the stories that I write. Can you go into more detail about how your academic work has influenced your fiction?