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 Daughters. Learn more about her at www.lmariewood.com.