Latinx Heritage in Horror: Interview with LP Hernandez
LP Hernandez is an author of horror and speculative fiction. His stories have been featured in anthologies from Dark Matter Magazine, Cemetery Gates Media, and Sinister Smile Press among others. He is a regular contributor to The NoSleep Podcast and was privileged to helm the Season 16 finale. He has two short story collections including the recently released and fully illustrated The Rat King. His novella, Stargazers, was published under the My Dark Library banner with Cemetery Gates Media. When not writing, LP serves as a medical administrator in the U.S. Air Force. He is a husband, father, and a dedicated metalhead.
What inspired you to start writing?
Reading fueled my love of writing. I was a constant Scholastic Book Fair customer, addicted to the smell of new Goosebumps or Fear Street books. Eventually, I progressed to King, McCammon, and Tolkien. I began writing stories at around nine or ten. I remember corralling my mother in the morning as she attempted to get ready for work, handing her what I knew was going to be a best seller and requesting she read it right there in front of me.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
Horror felt special. Different and exclusive. It was something not everyone was interested in or had access to. That begged the question as to why. I enjoyed the sensation of being scared, even though it was probably detrimental to my sleep cycle. I watched The Exorcist when I was around ten and thought my bed was shaking every night for months.
Do you make a conscious effort to include LatinX characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
Yes, in a way that feels authentic to my upbringing. I am of mixed ethnicity and was not as immersed in the culture as some Latino authors are. I recall tamales at Christmas when visiting that side of my family, listening to my uncle play his accordion and singing Tejano songs. But, it wasn’t my every day. I include Spanish surnames for many of my characters, and they represent a spectrum of cultural influences. I hope to portray the diversity of experiences growing up Hispanic in this country.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
Writing is therapeutic for me, as I am sure it is for many others. I often appreciate the personal issues I’ve incorporated into my stories in retrospect, but I almost never begin with the intent to revisit old traumas.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I recall reading books the size of a dictionary in the 90s, when my horror reading journey began. The narratives were complex, often exploring many perspectives. Horror seems to have simplified in the past 10-15 years. The stories are more linear today. I think this has much to do with the modern attention span. Just like watching a Netflix show, if the first five minutes doesn’t grab you, there are thousands of shows and movies vying for your attention. The resurgence of the novella, for example, is demonstrative of the reading experience many are currently seeking.
How do you feel the LatinX community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
It feels like the community has done well as outsiders. In cinema, there’s Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, The Orphanage, REC, Tigers are Not Afraid, and many others. In the bookstore, the shelves are far more diverse than they were ten years ago. Indie presses are leading the way in deliberately seeking out diverse perspectives, and I hope the success of Mexican Gothic or The Hacienda encourages larger presses to follow suit.
Who are some of your favorite LatinX characters in horror?
Can I say Salma Hayek in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn?
Who are some LatinX horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
I am currently reading Ghost Tracks by Celso Hurtado and loving it. V. Castro, Gabino Iglesias, and Cina Pelayo of course.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
When you’re standing in the horror section of a bookstore, what’s missing? Figure it out, then write that story.
And to the LatinX writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
I don’t consider myself a “success” yet. I still have much I want to achieve. However, I can share insight into my journey. I began by submitting stories to homegrown anthologies. The quality wasn’t always the best, but it gave me experience and the confidence to progress to the next echelon, small paying markets. I landed a couple of stories in small presses paying below pro rates. These were/are good presses run by good people. One anthology I submitted to, as an example, received three-hundred submissions, and of those around fifteen stories were selected. A pro-paying anthology I submitted to received over one thousand submissions with twenty-five stories selected. Maybe some of my homegrown anthology stories were ready for pro-paying markets, but my honest assessment is they were not. Keep writing. Keep improving your writing. Ask for honest feedback.