R. J. Joseph- Author Interview (2019)

In this interview I would like to present you with an amazing woman, a fabulous writer and intellect, and also an inspiration. Her name is Rhonda Jackson Joseph. She is a horror writer, a member of the Horror Writers Association, and a professor based out of Texas. Her analysis of gender, race, and, horror has really inspired me to look at all who indulge in this world of horror that we love so much. Primarily a man’s game, I want to look at the differences we all bring to the table. Male/female, black/white/yellow/brown, different religions, different countries, different sexual orientations… how we all see horror differently. So starting off my adventure, I bring you the great lady herself and her answers to my questions:

First, thank you so much for having me over for a chat, Jaye. I always enjoy talking with other women in horror.

Where did you get your love for the horror genre?

I grew up in a home always filled with books and magazines and the ones my parents didn’t think to hide were the horror ones. I’ve always had a dark nature, so I was drawn to these tales of monsters, weirdness and evil. My father was the one who collected these books and every now and then I would talk him into allowing me to watch the horror movies with him. I was really young, maybe 6 or 7 or so. The adult me is glad he didn’t have the best parenting judgement because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten all that exposure to the things I love so much.

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What are some of your favorite horror films?

Some of my all-time faves are Blacula, the original Poltergeist, Pet Sematary, The Exorcist, Beloved and all the classic Universal monster movies. Recent additions to my list are Get Out, The Quiet Place, and Hereditary. Apparently, I’m drawn to sympathetic monsters and also utterly terrified by parenthood and societal horrors.

How did you get into writing?

Writing has always been how I best express myself. The written word never fails me, even when speaking does. I’ve been full of words since childhood, with a knack for telling stories. I also have a mother who always supported whatever I and my siblings wanted to do and she continuously praised my writing and encouraged me to continue the sharing of myself through words. My insatiable curiosity helps, too. I never run out of things to write about because I question everything, all the time. Everything that happens and my experiences are fodder for stories or poems. Even things that don’t happen are fair game. Writing is such a part of my being that I can just never quit.

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Who are some of your favorite writers?

So many faves! I read way more than I write, which is good in some ways but terrible in others. I love classic writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley. I also like Shirley Jackson, Octavia Butler, and Tananarive Due. Stephen King is one of my favorites as is Linda Addison and Lori Titus. And L.A. Banks will forever be #writergoals.

Which books inspired you?

I mostly read Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul as a child, so I was heavily inspired by their works to write my own creepy fare. The works of Tananarive Due and Toni Morrison inspired me immensely because they showed that black women could write riveting horror. But the most influential book overall in my horror writing was the Bible. I was raised as a Southern Baptist and those stories and the ways preachers would impart them were horrifying! I also liked the hidden messages and the ways the words could mean various different things.

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I learned the word misogynoir while researching you. Can you explain it to my readers and how you feel about it or counteract it?

This is an excellent question! Misogynoir is a term coined by African American feminist Professor Moya Bailey to describe a specific hatred that is enacted upon black women. Misogynoir reflects an intersection of race and gender in the ways black women are victimized. I grew up feeling the weight of not just being black but of also being a woman, so the word feels right and encompasses the entirety of my experiences with such hatred in a way that the term misogyny ignores with its single focus on my being a woman.

One specific way I work to combat misogynoir is simply by daring to write black women’s experiences into the horror genre, as an unapologetic black woman. I write about black women being terrorized by monsters because so many experiences of black women are horrific. I write about black women being monstrous because we should be allowed to lean into this element and receive power and sympathy as other monsters do. I write about why we need these depictions, why the genre (really, the world as a whole) should embrace these characters and stories as relevant, lived experiences that encounter horror and monstrosity in various ways.

What drew you to writing in academia?

I often tell folks I’m an accidental academic. I attended graduate school primarily to get a degree that would allow me to work part-time teaching at the college level, where I would make more money than in any other part-time job. I also needed the flexibility so I could still care for my children. I didn’t know the pursuit of that degree and the people I would meet along the way would also create avenues for me to find a still growing corner of this discipline where I might be able to make valuable contributions. I honestly had no idea that writing about black women and horror from an academic standpoint was a thing. Then I met Dr. Kinitra Brooks at a horror convention and searched for everything I could find on her work about black women in horror and popular culture and I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. My entry into academic writing may have unintentional, but apparently, this is where I need and want to be.

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What do you find truly horrific?

Ahour existence is immersed in darkness and overrun by monsters. If I had to choose the most horrific things I’m aching over in this moment, I’d have to say humanity’s lack of empathy and the assassination of intellectual curiosity. It scares me that human beings can deny other humans their right to basic personhood and exalt their cruelty. Now, I wouldn’t say there was ever a time in my lifetime when this empathy existed in abundance, anyway, but I just would have thought we’d be beyond this point by now.

And I grew up surrounded by people who didn’t have advanced educations, sometimes not even through high school, and yet they still sought knowledge and facts to make decisions about their lives in general. Now we have folks who have multiple degrees who disregard facts and make illogical and unsound arguments in bad faithand others blindly follow them. Critical thinking is pretty much dead, and it doesn’t seem it will even be resurrected as a zombie, so when it’s completely gone, it’ll just be gone.

If you could have a frank discussion with any five people in history: living or dead, who would it be and why?

This is a fun one! The chance to ask Mary Shelley about her writing process and inspiration for Frankenstein. I want to hear it from her without the filter of years of research. And meeting Edgar Allen Poe would be a dream. I often wonder how he managed to avoid ultimately succumbing to his demons before he did. I’d absolutely love to have a conversation with Margaret Garner, the enslaved woman whose story of matricide inspired Toni Morrison’s Beloved. As heart wrenching as it would surely be, I’d like to hear from her the desperation that drove her to murder one child and attempt to murder the others in an attempt to save them from slavery. I’d like to talk with Toni Morrison, too. I continue to be inspired by the way she uses words to make experiences immersive. I’d just want to shake her hand and hope some of her glitter rubs off on me. And James Baldwin seems like the kind of person I would seek out at a party, someone I could have stimulating conversations with while the world went on around us. 

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What are you working on now?

I work best when I’m juggling different projects, so I’m currently working on a few things. My main focus right now is an essay on the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House”, for a collection being compiled and edited by Dr. Kevin Wetmore. Also, I’m outlining two different academic book proposals for submission to publishers. In the background of these academic projects is a horror novella and a couple of chewed on and incomplete horror short stories that I hope to finally finish. By the end of the year, I’d like to have a collection of short stories to shop around to publishers.

I would like to yell three shout-outs. The first is to announce that I will be making an academic presentation at the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference at StokerCon in May, called the “Rendering the Invisible Visible: Black Femininity in Horror”. It would be great to have some folks come out to join the conversation.

The second is for Uncovering Stranger Things: Essays on Eighties Nostalgia, Cynicism and Innocence in the Series, a collection of essays edited by Dr. Kevin Wetmore that made it onto the final ballot for this year’s Stoker Awards. The third is for Sycorax’s Daughter’s. edited by Dr. Kinitra Brooks, Linda Addison, and Dr. Susana Morris, which appeared on last year’s Stoker Award final ballot. I’m super proud to have contributed to these amazing books and I look forward to more works from these magnificent writers and editors.

I’m currently accepting abstracts for multidisciplinary academic presentations at the Multiverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Atlanta this October. Please see our call for papers on our website here: https://www.multiversecon.org/papers

I want to thank Rhonda so much for giving me her valuable time and insights! If you would like to learn more about her or her works, I have included some links for your perusal:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook: facebook.com/rhonda.jacksonjoseph
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph
Blog: https://rjjoseph.wordpress.com/
Email: horrorblackademic@gmail.com

https://www.amazon.com/R.-J.-Joseph/e/B0722V9DQT

Uncovering Stranger Things on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C1DTQQ5/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Sycorax’s Daughters on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Sycoraxs-Daughters-Walidah-Imarisha-ebook/dp/B06W2FLLMB/ref=mp_s_a_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=sycorax%27s+daughter&qid=1552076025&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume V:

https://www.amazon.com/HWA-Poetry-Showcase-Stephanie-Wytovich-ebook/dp/B07HPGQHXR/ref=mp_s_a_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=hwa+poetry+showcase+5&qid=1552076107&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Monstrous Domesticity on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Monstrous-Domesticity-R-J-Joseph-ebook/dp/B016JAT5XC/ref=mp_s_a_1_fkmrnull_2?keywords=monstrous+domesticity&qid=1552076186&s=gateway&sr=8-2-fkmrnull

Black Magic Women on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Black-Magic-Women-Terrifying-Sisters/dp/0999852205/ref=mp_s_a_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=black+magic+women+saulsonn&qid=1552076358&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmr0

Anne Radcliffe Academic Conference at StokerCon 2019:

http://stokercon2019.org/convention/ann-radcliffe-academic-conference/

 

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John F Leonard- Author Interview (2019)

Hey guys, Jaye here again to bring you another amazing author for you to go check out: horror author John F Leonard. John hails from the England and is an author who can spin an incredible read from the usual and the mundane by turning the topics on their head. Beautiful character crafting and scenarios that will have chills running up and down your spine and leave you thinking about them long after you are done reading. A dash of social commentary, a morsel of suspense, and a huge dollop of terror will have you clamoring to read more! So let’s get to the questions for him:

Why horror? What got you interested in writing in that genre?

The simplest answer is that I like reading horror and I think you’re best writing something you would like to read. That was all I ever really wanted to do when I started out – write something for myself. A book I’d see and think, yeah, I fancy reading that. I’ve still got the same ambition.

It also depends on your definition of horror. For me, it has clear cross-overs with science fiction – apocalyptic and dystopian stuff – and yet goes beyond that. Elements of horror are found in a lot of the ‘mainstream’ genres. I wouldn’t want to tackle a romance, for example – believe it or not, I have been asked – but a horror romance, now that’s not entirely out of the question. : )

Who are some of your favorite authors, or inspirations or who inspired you?

Too many to list them all. Some of the earliest include James Herbert, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Stephen Donaldson, A.A. Attanasio, Robert McCammon.

It’s a toughie – the early ones are the easiest and still difficult – how far back to go, how do you identify/isolate influence?

I’m holding off on mentioning newer writers because I haven’t read enough recently. That’s a sad admission, but it’s the truth. There are only so many hours in my day and I’m spending most of them writing/working – that’s set to change, once I’ve got through my backlog of work/rejigged my schedule.

Your art work is amazing, any formal training?

I had an excellent education, and it included art. Your strengths (to whatever degree) are invariably your interests – Art, English, History. They were all subjects that fascinated me. Of course, that was a long time ago.

As far as art goes, I sold quite a few sculptures and paintings and came to the awful realisation that it wasn’t going to pay the bills. I drifted away, like you do. Got lost in trying to survive the world.

Sometimes you go back though, rediscover your first loves. Sculpture, drawing, painting – I wasn’t sure what I had left in me for those.

Language, the written word, was a different matter.

It felt like I’d never really explored what I could do there. I think the desire to write is probably the last great motivation I’ll have in my life. When that urge is spent, I’ll be happy to watch the grass grow.

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Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere and anywhere. I have a list of ideas – it grows nearly as quickly as my To Be Read books and To Be Watched movies list. Reality and its subversion is something currently grabbing my interest. The Scaeth Mythos/Dead Boxes have their foundation in that concept.

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What frightens you?

Mortality – my own and that of my loved ones. There’s a terrible fragility to life. It wasn’t something that concerned me when I was younger, but I worry about it a lot these days.

There are other things. Stupidity, for one. That scares the brown stuff out of me. Not being able to intelligently reason is a surefire recipe for bad decisions and worse outcomes. It’s great friends with greed, you often find them skipping hand in hand through the wastelands they’ve created.

Heights is another, more prosaic one. Not in and of themselves – nothing wrong with simply being up high, its height combined with a feeling of vulnerability. Standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower is an amazing experience. Beautiful and breathtaking. Stuck at the top of a stepladder trying to fix your roof is insane!

Thinking on it, probably doesn’t count – comes under mortality.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Nothing very exciting. I love to read when I’m not knee deep in my own writing.

Television – I can vegetate in front of the box with the best of them. My viewing mostly consists of horror, science fiction, comedies. Some drama, although a lot of it is dross. Some sport, football and snooker. Current affairs (when you can filter the truth from what the networks want to give you).

I like a drink and relaxing with family and friends. Don’t do enough of that.

Sleep! I know that sounds factitious, but there’s nothing like a genuinely restful spell under the duvet.

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Do you have a writing muse or mantra?

I don’t think so. Not sure I actually subscribe to the idea (on a personal level). I believe the need to create exists in most of us. How it comes out is down to the individual – art, writing, learning how to fix the plumbing. Whatever.

For me, the process isn’t always easy. It’s often hard work. Putting in the effort and hours. What makes it worthwhile is the end result. Well, sometimes anyway. Now and again, you finish up, wipe your hands on the oily rag, and find out you’ve written a turkey. Or the damn tap is still dripping : )

Whilst I love it, writing doesn’t belong on any sort of pedestal. It’s an admirable ability, but ultimately just another skill.

Where did the Scaeth Mythos come from?

It began with me asking family and friends to suggest a name for an Irish vampire (I’m of Irish heritage and very proud of the fact).

I was inundated by ideas – seems my folk can’t resist taking the pee. ‘Mick the Biter’ was one suggestion that made me howl with laughter.

Anyway, I cogitated and researched and eventually got to ‘The Scaeth’.

The vampire side of it also morphed into something else. Broadened into a bigger concept. The Scaeth is a kind of cosmic vampire. A parasite infesting the walls of reality. It’s hollowed out a space for itself and no longer resides in any universe, just plunders those it can access. Dips into them to interfere and feed. It loves to feed.

If you could have dinner with any 5 people, living/dead/real/fiction who would it be and why?

That’s a killer question! Can’t even begin to factor in fictional. This would change with my mood, but here we go:

  1. R. Giger – The mind that created Alien, that’s all I need say. Plus, I’d try to persuade him to get me a Harkonnen chair.

George Best – knew how to enjoy himself and my favourite footballer.

Peter Cushing – a gentleman, part of the Hammer Horror crew so lots of gossip/insights.

Siouxsie Sioux (from the Banshees) – a punk presence.

James Herbert – ignited my love of horror and struck me as a bloke with hidden depths.

We’d need an extra seat – my wife is usually at my side for big events.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been busy lately with some shorter fiction, novellas of varying lengths. I may put together a collection of what’s already out there along with new, unpublished stuff. After that a novel is most likely.

My latest is A Plague of Pages – another story from the Dead Boxes Archive. In the same territory as Bad Pennies and Call Drops. Old school horror, to my way of thinking anyway, about the perils of writing under diabolical influence.

What happens when a normal guy wants to redefine himself and become a horror writer …it doesn’t work how he plans. Not surprising, there are supernatural, cosmic forces cooking the books, so as to speak : )

I want to thank John so much for taking the time to answer my questions and may I say his dinner guest list was inspiring. If you would like to know more about John, read his works or connect with him on social media, just follow these links:

A Plague of Pages:

AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N7MPMGN

AMAZON US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N7MPMGN

Get in touch with John on Twitter – https://twitter.com/john_f_leonard

John F Leonard Author Pages:

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B01BHUE6Z6/

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14953570.John_F_Leonard

 

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