Latinx Heritage in Horror: Interview with Susan X. Bradley
Susan spent her childhood in South Texas, about ten miles from the U.S.-Mexican border. As a child, she spent the summers in Mexico with her grandparents and extended family. Inspired by Nancy Drew, Susan frequently created mysteries that her siblings and cousins could solve during these vacations.
She began writing young adult mystery novels featuring strong Latina characters and is committed to creating and celebrating diverse characters. Her books, Unraveled and Uncovered, were published by Evernight Teen while she was completing her Master in Fine Arts: Writing for Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her class curriculum exposed her to additional genres, and she now also enjoys writing horror as well.
Susan loves to travel with her daughter. They’ve set the goal of traveling to all seven continents and enjoying learning about the people and cultures around the world. They live in Columbus, Ohio with their two miniature schnauzers, Bolt and Lexi.
What inspired you to start writing?
When I was younger, my sisters and I would travel to Mexico to spend the summer with my grandparents. My cousins from Mexico City would join us as well. My grandparents lived on this amazing property with an old train station, decommissioned wine and barrel factory, and a scary and dark wine storage building. Since I was obsessed with Nancy Drew, I started writing little mysteries that we could play out during the day. This is what sparked my love for storytelling.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I always thought horror would be too gory and scary for me to read, so I mainly stuck to thrillers and mysteries. The Seton Hill University MFA program features a specific genre every semester. We came to the horror genre and had to read NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. I fell in love with the novel and the genre. I realized that horror could be so much more than just the gore I had imagined the genre to be. It played on fear, much like the psychological thrillers I enjoy.
Do you make a conscious effort to include LatinX characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
Initially, I started writing using the old adage of ‘write what you know’. In addition to my parents being from Mexico, I also grew up in South Texas, 5 miles from the Mexican border. The more I pursued writing seriously, the more I learned about under-represented characters and the lack of books featuring a Latinx protagonist. I want to read novels featuring more diverse characters, so it’s important to me to represent my culture. My two young adult mysteries feature a Latina teenager that grew up in a traditional Mexican household. So many of the Mexican traditions center around food, so I wanted to make sure to portray those types of insights.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
The scariest horror themes are the ones that play on your fears or nightmares. There are so many subgenres, and you can easily look at anything and turn it into a horror experience. I’ve learned to look at things through multiple lenses, such as reality, paranormal, mythology, history, and religion. The world is multi-layered, and things aren’t always what they seem. Horror does a great job of showcasing that.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I love that in the horror genre-anything goes. The stories are so diverse and creative. You already see the evolution as there is a strong push in the writing and publishing community to produce books with characters from all backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, etc. Thanks to social media, it’s much easier to find books in the genres and subgenres you want to explore and the ability to find new authors. I’ve seen more writing groups, libraries, and schools take advantage of celebrating authors of color during Black History Month, LGBTQ+ authors during Pride Month, Latinx authors during Hispanic Heritage Month, and so much more. I think we will get to the point where all writers who are considered marginalized today will become mainstream.
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?
There is so much room for growth in the Horror LatinX community. In terms of the overall horror writing population, there are few LatinX authors and even fewer Latinx characters. The characters that I’ve read accurately represent how I grew up and are true to the culture. In the end, the character needs to grab the reader and make the reader want to invest in what happens to the character within the story. This is why I’d also like to see LatinX in everyday roles within the story, but not including stereotypical elements.
Who are some of your favorite LatinX characters in horror?
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic character, Noemí Taboada, is a strong woman that shirks the traditional stereotype of an obedient Mexican debutante. She fights furiously for her family. Family is key in Latinx culture, and I think Noemi embodies that spirit.
Who are some LatinX horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
I’ve recently read V. Castro’s Goddess of Filth and Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo’s Children of Chicago. I really enjoy stories that are birthed from a myth or folktale. My To Read list is so crazy, and I’ve really been focused on reading LatinX horror writers.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
It would be to keep supporting each other and to help new authors by talking about them to your followers and reader base. As a new horror writer, I have felt very welcomed. I will definitely post if I read a great horror novel or watch a horror movie that I like to recommend. I would say I find 80% of the books I want to read from social media posts. Stephen King, who is the most successful horror writer of all time, promotes/recommends/talks about other authors on Twitter. I love that and think he sets an example for all of us.
And to the LatinX writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
You have to read, read, read. Other pieces of advice would be to join horror writing groups for support and education opportunities. The other piece of advice would be to get your butt in the chair and write. Writing is like other talents. The more you do it, the better you get. Be open to constructive feedback and always strive to write a better story.