I’m bringing back my Women in Horror Month (WIHM) interview series for 2023! I’ve got conversations with three amazing women lighting up the horror scene, and I’m excited to share our conversations with you.
First up is author S.C. Parris, author of The Dark World series. Check out her website here, and check out our conversation below!
Sonora: How long have you been writing? Have you always been drawn to horror?
S.C.: I’ve been writing for all my life. My first published work was poetry that got published in a collection whilst I was in middle school.
I have always been drawn to horror–my mother would watch all the Universal Monster movies while I was in her stomach. I blame my love of horror–and vampires–on her.
Sonora: Tell us about your series, The Dark World. When did you first think of it? What’s it been like writing a series of stories that has spanned 6 books and (hopefully) counting?
S.C.: When Dracula’s secrets are uncovered, The Dark World will never be the same.
Welcome To The Dark World.
A World kept from the eyes of humans where all manner of Dark Creature live, war, and thrive.
But certain Creatures are about to find that there is more to the dark than blood and bite…. The Dark World holds secrets…and the greatest of all are about to be revealed.
The Dark World was an ambitious attempt at writing my first longform prose.
In retrospect I should’ve started with a standalone book and left a series to my second or third writing attempt. I first thought of it after reading a then well-known children’s series and wanted the…special feeling I felt at the time to remain. I sat at my computer and began writing Book 1.
It’s been challenging, exciting, and above-all, a learning experience but the series is done, and there will be no more books from me in that world (knocks on wood). It’s been part of my life for 14 or so years and I was quite relieved to send DRACULA, Book 6, to my editor and close that chapter of my life. I’m super excited to work on new work and I’ve grown so much as a writer from where I started writing The Dark World (at 14!). It’s beyond time for me to put my talents into other work!
Sonora: Vampires are one of horror’s most popular and alluring monsters. What draws you to them? What are some of your favorite things about their lore, and what do you think needs to change?
S.C.: Quite simply, they speak to me. I’m pulled to them for all the things they can represent in the writer’s work, and there’s so many things one can do with them. I, personally, like to explore the foreboding, darkly haunted vampire. They enrapture me, and I find their need for blood (as that’s what I choose to focus on for my vampires) compelling.
It’s in their suaveness, their depiction across books and film, their brutality, their innocence, their need, their resistance. The sheer dichotomy of what makes a vampire, for lack of a better word, tick, is what will always fascinate me. And I love seeing how different authors and directors and game developers create their own takes on these fascinating monsters.
About what needs to change, I believe there needs to be an acknowledgement of the numerous ethnic and wide-reaching vampire stories that are being made all across the world. A focus on the vampire legends that have been told through spoken word and that live in the cultures of many should be explored.
Sonora: Black vampires have also been growing in popularity and representation, from Wesley Snipes in Blade and Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned to Jacob Anderson in AMC’s Interview with the Vampire. How do you feel about the ways Black vampires have been treated in horror? What would you like to see more of?
S.C.: I feel Black vampires can be given deeper stories both in spite of and due to their Blackness. TV shows, movies, and stories don’t exist in a vacuum. These stories, despite when they’re being made, can always find an audience provided said stories are marketed, distributed, and preserved well-enough for audiences to find them. Up ‘till now, they’ve been treated as the bad-ass, infallible, often too-cool-for-school characters white audiences love to see Black people as (Blade, Maximillian from Vampire in Brooklyn). However, these characters have also had their comedic moments that have become iconic moments for Black vampire movies (“Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice-skate uphill.” And “Evil is good and ass is good, and if you find you a piece of evil ass: woo!).
I, however, would love to see more Black vampires just as we have white vampires–emotional, lost, making mistakes, losing important things, making difficult choices. It just comes down to them being well-written characters which is what I feel is the mark of any good story, whatever the format, being well-written.
Sonora: What have been your experiences writing horror and dark fantasy as a Black woman? What does the publishing world do well in terms of representing Black women, and what do you think needs to change?
S.C.: My experiences have been that I’ve had my work reduced to less-than right to my face by, I’m sure, well-meaning white women, and I’ve had to constantly assure readers who would ask that my books are indeed Fantasy and not capital ‘R’ romance. In my experience, as a Black woman, the expectation is that 1. I don’t write and 2. If I do write, it’s only going to be Romance or ‘Urban.’
I have to introduce myself and my work to everyone I meet (if they even want to know that I write at all), and that’s fine, it’s part of the job, however, I’ve noticed I’ve had to also defend my work’s legitimacy in that I’ve written a well-thought out, lengthy, vampiric gothic fantasy series. There’s always the unspoken “It can’t really be good,” when I speak about my work only for the person to read a chapter or two and come back and go “Wow, you actually can write!”
It’s upsetting and demoralizing.
What needs to change is more Black horror writers, writing. The pride I felt when a young girl met me at a bookstore and her eyes widened when I showed her my series (that her father, rightfully, wouldn’t let her read) was indescribable. I always say if I inspire anyone to do the thing they think they can’t do, I’m happy. But I’d love to inspire more young Black women, nonbinary individuals, and men to write their weird, dark, scary stories with as much daring and belief in themselves as any white man. Nothing will change unless we continue to share our art, publish, flood agents with queries, and show our work demands just as much attention as any white persons.
Sonora: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books?
S.C.: Some of my favorite authors right now are Rhiannon Frater and her Pretty When She Dies series, Glen Cook and his The Black Company series. Colin Harker’s The Feast of the Innocents has recently warmed my gothic heart, and I’ve just started Nicole Eigener’s Beguiled by Night which I’m sure will join this list.
Sonora: What are you currently working on?
S.C.: I’m currently writing THE TALES OF SINNER SHARPE: DARK WATERS, my gothic dark fantasy adventure novel about a Black Caribbean mercenary on the last assignment of his life.
I’m also working on my gothic literary novel, VANESSA, a depressing, gothic tale about a Haitian servant who comes into her own as a vampire in 17th-century London, England.
Lastly, I’m working on an urban fantasy Romance featuring a powerful Black witch and the Italian/Mexican lawyer she drags into the darker side of New York City, currently titled SYLVIA.
S.C. Parris is the author of The Dark World series, streams on Twitch during the week, and enjoys a good steaming cup of tea when she’s not working part-time in an academic library.
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