Interview with L Marie Wood

I’m so excited to be able to bring you all this interview with multiple award-winning psychological horror author and screenwriter L Marie Wood!


ER: What were some of the books, films/shows that influenced you when writing The Promise Keeper?

LMW: Interestingly enough, none.  I tend to avoid reading when I am writing so that nothing transfers into my own material.  When I do break this personal rule, I often steer away from my genre.  I typically write psychological horror and this story is indeed a psychological horror tale, albeit with a more traditional antagonist, so imagery from television and/or movies didn’t concern me either.  Much of what we were treated to on television or on the big screen when this story was conceived and written (late 2000s, early 2010s) was less psychological and more gore-based, retribution-focused: slasher-esque.

ER: Readers and viewers are starting to see more diverse characters featured in territory traditionally dominated by white characters. Did this influence your decision to write The Promise Keeper? What were some of the barriers you faced during the publication process?

LMW: The Promise Keeper came to me the way it did; the state of vampire fiction did not influence my portrayal of Angie or of the Promise Keeper himself.  Instead, these characters were written the way that they were because this is who they are.  This is the way that I approach all of my writing projects – all of my characters.  The way the character “feels” to me is most important and I make every effort to reflect that feeling accurately.  The fact that the characters in this book are Black was neither planned nor a surprise: it simply was.  As I am a firm believer in the notion that an author’s characters each reflect a little bit of their personal truth – some modicum of reality – I submit that The Promise Keeper reflects that keenly.  I am an African American woman.  I am a native New Yorker.  In that way, James from my first novel Crescendo also reflects me because he is a native New Yorker.  Similarly, a character names Corey in one of my short stories – a zombie tale called “Noon” – his favorite color is orange, and so is mine.   

The process of getting The Promise Keeper to see the light of day was eye-opening, to say the least.  I heard everything from there not being a market for this kind of fiction because African Americans don’t read horror to being told that, while they loved the story, they already had an African American vampire author onboard and they didn’t need any more.  While I appreciated the candor, it definitely made me wonder about how I would be able to navigate the publishing landscape writing what I write. Add to the mix the nature of my sub-genre, its proclivity for the quiet side of horror, and I’m sure that you can imagine how disheartening the early stages of shopping The Promise Keeper were.  But I believe that everything happens for a reason and am confident that The Promise Keeper is where it was supposed to be. 

ER: What is your approach to integrating erotica with horror? It’s a very delicate balance, similar to the incorporation of humour into horror. What are some of the things you keep in mind when doing this?

LMW: I have often said that I write the lived experience and that holds true for whatever story I am telling.  Sex is a part of life and to omit it is to leave a hole in the story that doesn’t need to be there.  That is not to say that every story needs a steamy scene – overuse is a real thing and as an author I try to be mindful of that.  But when the storyline lends itself to an erotic moment, I lean in rather than pull away.  If it doesn’t, I don’t force it.  That moment, like many others in the story, is just a part of the whole; it is not the focus of the novel.

ER: How important was it for you to integrate historical details into the sections of the novel You mention different periods of Black history, including sharecropping and some sections in the 1950s before the Civil Rights movement. What was your approach in how that affected your characters?

LMW: There is much discussion about books that are patterned around the struggles that African Americans have experienced in the past.  What I’ve done in The Promise Keeper is different in that not only is the history of African American people in the United States touched upon, so too is the Caribbean experience as well as the African experience, not from a place of hunger or fear, but of familial bond and love. People from the African diaspora have stories outside of hardship – have stories that are as relatable as anyone else’s  – therefore I strive to reflect that truth in my settings and character development. 

ER: Pregnancy in vampires is a difficult thing to pull of for a variety of reasons. What were some of the things you used to influence transferring the process of pregnancy to a vampire?

LMW: Sometimes less is more.  The juxtaposition of the minimal detail of the pregnancy – the affects on the mother, the state of the child –  against the rich detail supplied throughout the text about everything from mental state to environment was very much planned.  While I enjoy the minute details – they set such an effective scene, one that is so visual readers feel like they’ve been there, maybe even recognize it in their own lives – I also recognize the power of leaving something unsaid.  In that way the reader/writer partnership is fostered.  The reader picks up the slack and fills in details themselves… becomes part of the process.  This solidifies the symbiotic relationship between the two, creating a bond that is difficult to break.


Thanks so much to L Marie for stopping by!


Bio: L. Marie Wood is an award-winning psychological horror author and screenwriter.  She won the Golden Stake Award for her novel The Promise Keeper.  Her screenplays have won Best Horror, Best Afrofuturism/Horror/Sci-Fi, and Best Short Screenplay awards at several film festivals. Wood’s short fiction has been published widely, most recently in Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire and Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology, Sycorax’s DaughtersLearn more about her at www.lmariewood.com.

The Morbius Trope: Misrepresentation of Characters with Disabilities

For those who don’t know, Morbius, who is a comic book character getting a big screen adaptation starring Jared Leto next year, represents one of the most problematic misrepresentations of characters with disabilities. I find the term that TVTropes.com uses to be too offensive to use directly, so I will link to it here.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/morbius_the_living_vampire_vol_2_1_textless.jpg
Morbius is not looking too happy here

The basic distillation of why Morbius is so problematic is that he summons the idea that a disabled person is worthless or useless until they get enhancements of some kind, whether cybernetic or supernatural, or via some other unexpected means. Morbius is a brilliant scientist who has severe mobility issues and extreme pain — until he becomes a vampire and then he no longer has disabilities, and suddenly he’s “powerful” and “kicks ass” and other descriptions that only serve to reinforce that disabled folks are not worth a damn unless we can join the land of the nondisabled by some magical means.

One of the most problematic aspects of this trope is that it assumes that disabled people all think we are worthless and useless and that our only goals in life are either a) to discover some miraculous cure to be able to join the land of the nondisabled again, or b) to seek out a swift death. I can’t begin to explain why both are beyond hurtful and contribute to the severe depression disabled folks already feel in many cases.

I recently reviewed a forthcoming title that features vampires (and that’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to do a call-out or make a bigger deal than is necessary). In this title, one of the stories features the “Haha, fooled you, I was never disabled! Gotcha!” trope, which I absolutely detest. It involves a female character who presents as disabled for much of the story, and then near the end, has the “Gotcha! You’re on Candid Camera!” moment with the protagonist. While I think that the author handled part of the reveal skillfully in the sense that this was a character who had me as a reader fooled for most of the story, I had some serious issues with the the reveal of “Oops, I’m a vampire and I traded in my disability to become a supernatural creature of the night! Aren’t I awesome?”

One of the other aspects of this story that bothered me as a disabled person, reading the book by an author who is nondisabled, is that they also reinforced the “disabled people are surly and don’t want your help” trope. They think it’s cool to present a disabled person as someone who is gruff, rude, and doesn’t want pity. Now, obviously disability is not a monolith. It is a very complex state of being that feels different for everyone, it comes in varying forms, and what offends or insults one disabled person may not register with another.

In any case, I wanted to take a moment and remind nondisabled authors that depicting disabled folks as characters is totally fine–if you do your homework and don’t reinforce problematic tropes. In this case, the author may have benefited from a sensitivity reader if they did not already hire one, or if they did not already ask a disabled person to do a beta read on their manuscript. Sometimes authors do take those actions and do their homework and the depiction still ends up coming off badly. There’s no way to control how folks will react. Basically, this is your friendly disabled librarian’s reminder that if you’re going to depict folks from marginalized backgrounds other than your own in fiction, do your homework.

Females of Fright: Lucy A. Snyder

During the month of February, the Horror Writers’ Association (HWA) has been posting a series called Females of Fright to highlight female horror writers for Women in Horror Month (or #WiHM as you will see the hashtag).

I contributed to them a post about Lucy A. Snyder, which I am re-posting here.

I would like to write about Lucy A. Snyder as being one of the women who I would like to give a special shout-out to during Women in Horror Month. She exemplifies what it is for women to build each other up instead of tearing one another down. She is a consummate professional, dedicated to producing the most excellent writing she has, but also takes time to do teaching as well as coaching.

I hired her for editorial as well as coaching services, and it proved to be the single most helpful thing I have done to improve my writing. I am still working on it, of course, as it’s a long and difficult process, but she helped me more than she knows. At the time I hired her, I was soon to be out-of-work after working hard to graduate from a new degree program. I was stuck in a situation that I could not get out of it and that I had convinced myself for years would never get better. I let the pain from my disability and other chronic conditions eat away at my soul and gnaw at my heart. She worked with me and showed me compassion. She made me feel like I mattered. She made me feel seen and heard.

She told me that all women share that visceral reaction to the fact that loud men who often come from a position of privilege don’t want to hear our voices and try to silence us, but that we can fight back against that and reclaim our writing as a site of empowerment. During this dark period, I struggled against the thoughts that my life was worthless and that nobody cared. Lucy restored my sense of purpose and saved me from treading down dangerous paths even further.

She deserves accolades yes, but also to be recognized far more for her work, her brilliance, her professionalism, and for all she has brought to this field.

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