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World of Horror: Interview with Tonya Liburd


Tonya Liburd is an Apex Magazine Reader’s Choice 2022 Fiction Winner, and is a 2017 and 2018 Rhysling Award nominee. Her fiction is used in Nisi Shawl’s Writing the Other course and Tananarive Due’s Black Horror course at UCLA (which has featured Jordan Peele as guest lecturer) as an example of “code switching.” She is also the recipient of a 2020 Ontario Arts Council writer’s grant, a 2021 Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant, and a 2023 Recommender’s Grant for writing.

She is an editor at The Expanse Magazine.

You can find her blogging at https://www.Tonya.ca, on Twitter at @somesillywowzer, or at Patreon at www.Patreon.com/TonyaLiburd

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

It was more of the genre drawing to me; I never realized it, but my subject matter tends to be darker. It’s not something I’m averse to—although you won’t find me being a Western Goth and wearing all black, non-western horror is in technicolour (see the movie The Cell, starring Jennifer Lopez)—but you’ll find me playing horror games like Dead By Daylight, for example.

Is there a horror tradition in your country, in your culture? A taste for horror, a market? Not necessarily literature; perhaps oral tradition too.

I think that’s true of every culture, really; we have creatures of horror like the Soucouyant, of which I have written in “10 Steps To A Whole New You,” Moco Jumbies, Midnight Robbers (of which Nalo Hopkinson has written). And so on.

Who are some of your favorite characters in horror, internationally and/or in your own culture?

See above (grin).

Do you make a conscious effort to include characters and settings from your country in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Yes, indeed. I want to portray us as non-monolithic, nuanced, intelligent and complex beings as possible.

If you are not a native English speaker, but write in English, do you first think of horror in your native language or English? How do you draft them in your mind, in English or your mother tongue?

Patois is considered its own genuine language, and that is my mother tongue, as is Standard English. See my short story “10 Steps To A Whole New You,” and my short story “The Ace Of Knives,” which Nisi Shawl uses in her Writing The Other classes as examples of code-switching. At one point, Tananarive Due also used it in her UCLA course for the same reason; at that point in time, Jordan Peele “crashed” one of her classes and gave a lecture. It became a Twitter Moment and Peele even spoke about it on Stephen Colbert. Interesting, huh?

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

It has taught me that I am not alone in my pain and struggles, and that I have company. And friends.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve, both in the US and in your country?

It has become more diverse, writing about postcolonial issues is not seen as writing a diatribe anymore, and with my help, people especially from the Caribbean have written their stories beautifully, in their own native languages and dialects.

How do you feel the International horror writing community has been represented thus far in the market and what hopes do you have for representation going forward?

I hope postcolonial horror can find a venerated and deserved place within the international horror community.

Who are some international horror authors you would recommend?

Usman Malik, Victor LaValle, Stephen Graham Jones, Richard Thomas, the great Linda Addison, to name a few.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Bleed onto the page. And then edit. Always edit.

And to the writers from your country out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

We are here, in other countries, waiting for you to unfurl. Come join us, if not physically, then every other way possible.

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