Latinx in Horror: Interview with Katherine Quevedo
Katherine Quevedo was born and raised near Portland, Oregon, where she works as an analyst and lives with her husband and two sons. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Nightmare Magazine, Fireside Magazine, Triangulation: Habitats, Factor Four Magazine, Apparition Literary Magazine, Flame Tree Publishing’s Christmas Gothic, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award and been longlisted for the Kingdoms in the Wild 2022 Poetry Prize. Her debut mini-chapbook, The Inca Weaver’s Tales, is forthcoming from Sword & Kettle Press in their New Cosmologies series. Find her at www.katherinequevedo.com
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been drawn to writing ever since I could hold a pencil. I have a bin of little books I made as a kid out of scratch paper stapled together. I attended my first writer’s conference in high school, and I was hooked. In college, I ended up adding an English degree alongside my business one. But I didn’t start seriously pursuing my writing career until my mid-twenties, when my husband encouraged me to join a writer’s group and start submitting my work because he knew how passionate I was about it. Many years and rejections later, I finally started having success.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I used to be a total scaredy-cat. During my childhood, as I dipped my toe into horror through things like the show “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and the adult short stories of Roald Dahl, the genre became a way for me to confront that part of myself and gain some control over it. Now, I really enjoy the horror genre as a part of the full range of human imagination and emotion. And I don’t scare as easily anymore (although there’s still one episode of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” that gives me the heebie-jeebies, and no, I’m not telling which one).
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, I often make a conscious effort to explore the various intersections of my identity through my characters, including my Ecuadorian and Peruvian roots. My stories aren’t all horror, but I’ve written about rival Latina businesswomen, an Amazonian ghost, and an amphibious person from the Galápagos Islands. I have a poem based on The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask that’s secretly about the immigrant experience. And I have a horror story forthcoming that deals with unwelcomeness and erasure. Basically, I want to portray the broad range we encompass.
All that said, having one parent who’s an immigrant and one who isn’t, and being half Latina and half German-American, I always have a sense that I’m straddling many experiences, bringing my own privileges, and passing through as somewhat of an outsider in both the Latinx and non-Latinx communities. But I’m extremely proud of my roots, and I love shining a spotlight on South America and helping increase representation of these types of characters and settings. It’s such a beautiful region, with so much complexity to explore.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
I see writing horror as a way to create something meaningful out of the parts of life we sometimes try to sweep away. When I experience something negative, I can take stock of it and think, how can I use this in my writing? In that sense, it’s made me braver and more resilient. There’s a real power in choosing not to look away.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I really like the recent emphasis on the connections between horror and mental health, making sure that the genre doesn’t default to stigmatizing neurodiversity and mental health issues. I want to see continued strides in that direction. I would also like to see the readership continue to grow.
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 love the increasing attention in recent years to Latinx voices and, really, all traditionally underrepresented voices. I hope to see that shift continue, with more Latinx writers and characters showing the nuance that’s possible, and non-Latinx writers including more fleshed-out Latinx characters in their works as well.
Who are some of your favorite LatinX characters in horror?
I’ve always loved Ofelia from the film Pan’s Labyrinth. She’s such a great balance of vulnerability and strength. I do also really enjoy tough women such as Vasquez from Aliens and Rain Ocampo from Resident Evil.
Who are some LatinX horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
I’m a huge fan of Carmen Maria Machado’s work. Whether it’s short fiction or memoir, there are so many layers. I always find her writing captivating and surprising. And Brenda Peynado’s stories, although not explicitly horror, also haunt me in the best ways.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Once in a while I’ll read a horror story where I sense this overwhelming cynicism from the author that comes across as disdain for their characters. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and not the thrilling coppery zing I’d like to get when I finish reading a horror story. Please don’t hold your characters in contempt. Yes, make life tough for them. Needle them. Deny them clear victories. Even torture them, if the story warrants it. But you can do so without a poisonous undercurrent of contempt for their (imaginary) personhood. In fact, by portraying them with dignity and compassion—even those who do terrible things—the horror can hit more deeply.
And to the LatinX writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Your voice matters. Your stories are important. When you combine passion, persistence, and professionalism, you increase your odds of finding your readers and forging a connection with them. I truly believe you need all three P’s for the long haul, and that applies to any writer.
Also, that question about my favorite Latinx characters in horror was way harder to answer than I’d like. Please help change that!