Latinx Heritage in Horror: Interview with Luis Paredes
Luis Paredes is the author of the horror / urban fantasy novella, Out On a Limb. Other work includes the mob-inspired short story, Forgive Us Our Debts in Tangled Web’s latest issue and The Ammuntadore on Tall Tale TV.
Luis lives in Westchester, New York where you can find him training for marathons or chatting up strangers about a platypus’s life cycle.
Q. What inspired you to start writing?
A. I’ve joked that my writing career started when I was seven. That’s when I plagiarized Mark Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. I typed out the story on my mom’s electric typewriter and passed it off as my own creation. She loved it (even though she saw me copying it) and encouraged me to write some more. I’ve been typing ever since, earning my first paycheck as a writer when I was a teenager as a freelance journalist for the Virginian-Pilot in Virginia Beach way back in the mid-90s.
Q. What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
A. I remember having disturbing visions and vivid nightmares as a young child. Growing up, I learned that when I was a baby in El Salvador, I was exposed to the civil war that racked that country in the 80s. How much of that is family lore, I don’t know, but I wonder if that was the cause of those strange dreams and visions and my affinity for dark themes.
But what made me love the horror genre were the slasher and sci-fi films of the 80s. I’m lucky that my parents let me watch films movies like Alien, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and Critters.
Q. Do you make a conscious effort to include LatinX characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
A. I wouldn’t say that I make a conscious effort to do it. I let the story tell me what to do and the characters tend to stitch themselves together as I write them. But, in the case of my novella, Out On a Limb, the lead character Rebecca Suarez popped into my head almost fully formed. In the book’s sequels, I’ll explore more of Rebecca’s background and family which mirrors my own. What I want to portray with her is a character that everyone, regardless of their background, will relate to and sympathize with as a human being.
Q. What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
A. I find that exploring dark themes in my writing is really all about me facing deep-rooted fears. And that things work out for the best when you resolve these issues rather than letting them fester.
Q. How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
A. I feel like we’re now starting to see a much more diverse stable of authors getting their work out there in the “mainstream”. And I think that our definition of what people consider horror is going to change as well with a lot of weird fiction writers blending genres and giving us some really fucked up stories.
Q. 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?
A. I feel like it could be better and sorry to say that my bookshelves don’t have a lot of representation which bums me out. My hope is that is going to change and was thrilled to hear of Cynthia Pelayo’s and Gabino Iglessia’s recent awards because those two help the community out and champion a ton of underrepresented writers.
A. Who are some of your favorite LatinX characters in horror?
Q. The first one that comes to mind is from the big screen—Private Vasquez from Aliens. My paths crossed with Jenette Goldstein, the actress who played Vasquez, a few years ago when I was the publisher and owner of the now-defunct theLingerieJournal.com. Jenette owns a successful lingerie store in Los Angeles and we were both attending a lingerie trade show in New York City when we met. Happy to say that I did not geek out completely when I met her.
Also, one of my favorite characters now is Guillermo de la Cruz from What We Do in the Shadows. I Love Harvey Guillén’s portrayal!
Damn, realizing now that I need to expand my reading to get in touch with more LatinX literary characters.
Q. Who are some LatinX horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
A. Gabino Igelsias, V. Castro, E. Reyes, Cynthia Pelayo, and Torrey Maldonado. Torrey isn’t a horror author, but his style is so crisp and clean and I love the characters he’s created.
Q. What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
A. Stay off social media. Or use it just to follow the publishers, journals, and magazines you want to submit to.
Q. And to the LatinX writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
A. Reach out to other writers and join a critique group or two. I found a good one and they’ve helped me improve my writing with their honest and helpful advice.