Latinx Heritage in Horror: Interview with Samaire Wynne
Samaire Wynne is a Puerto Rican author of over 20 novels in various genres, including horror and urban fantasy. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Black Raven Books. A longtime Californian, you can find her skulking about in southern Virginia. If you were to visit her at twilight, she might serve you flower tea or butter whiskey on her back deck. If she excused herself and strolled into the forest, you might be tempted to wander after her. Past a stream, you’d see a stone well at the edge of her property, and you might hear voices coming from deep inside.
If you were to trip and tumble down the embankment, you might be stolen away by faeries keen to offer you a cookie or a bit of mead in a flower cup.
And if you were to drink it, you’d awake to find that a hundred years had passed…
What inspired you to start writing?
My love of reading. I fell in love with books at a very early age, and the desire to write came very naturally from that love of books.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
The otherworldliness of the stories. Most horror novels aren’t real horror ⎯ that is, the horror people experience in real life, such as losing your children in a custody battle, finding out your child has a deadly disease and won’t ever live to double digits, or waking up to find yourself in the hospital after a car crash that has killed your spouse. No, most horror stories have an otherworldly quality, a paranormal quality, that heightens the dawning horror felt when reading them. I find this otherworldliness absolutely delicious. It drew me in.
Do you make a conscious effort to include LatinX characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
It came naturally to me when writing my first story, a trilogy of novels about a zombie apocalypse. The main character was Alyssa Gonzalez, a California teenager of LatinX heritage. Her father was in the military. The character naturally formed this way because I was LatinX, my father was in the military, and I lived in California. To me, that was normal.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
Writing horror has taught me that people love spooky stories that make them feel uncomfortable, but while reading in a safe place. People want to feel safe while reading horror. Most people don’t want to feel real-life horror: It feels very unsafe. Writing horror has taught me that for me to write a story, it must be interesting enough to make me want to find out what happens next. And since I am writing it, my imagination dictates what happens next. If a story I am writing is not holding my attention, I know I have to fix it. Writing in general has taught me that the world appreciates good stories.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I’ve seen trends come and go, but not completely wane: zombies and vampires, etc. There were times when more readers hungered for these stories. Right now readers seem to want the unnatural. Horror that’s placed in a comfortable setting is popular. But I think good stories– stories that draw the reader in and make them care about the characters– make the setting comfortable and familiar and then introduce an element of horror ⎯ that is timeless.
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?
I think it’s getting better, but it’s important for those working in the genre to be familiar with the subject and not just emulate whomever another community has elevated. Do your homework. There are a lot of LatinX horror writers out there who remain unknown, and that is a tragedy.
Who are some of your favorite LatinX characters in horror?
I loved Juan and Gaspar in “Our Share of Night.” That book kept me reading until 3 a.m. so I could finish it. The feelings curled my toes, and I had to remind myself that I was safe, that it was just a book. It is just a book, right? Similarly, I loved Juan in “The Devil Takes You Home.” Being a parent myself, I could understand his desperation to help his daughter. That book kept me on edge to the very last page.
Who are some LatinX horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
I would recommend Samanta Schweblin and Gabino Iglesias, as well as Gabriela Martins and Claribel A. Ortega. There are others, but these are the voices that have really caught my attention.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Keep your ideas fresh, try new things, and stay watchful of your fellow authors. There are some amazing stories coming out. Read each one of them! Keep your writing inventive and remember: Your active imagination is the engine that drives the writing. Keep feeding it.
And to the LatinX writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Write a little every day, if you can. A few hours of typing can keep your head in the story that wants to come out. Also, and nearly as important: read voraciously. Read in a variety of genres, read whatever captures your interest. It keeps your writer’s brain on its toes and keeps your head inside the words. Don’t be seduced by social media: the written word is the soup we thrive in, and you have to make the effort.