L. Marie Wood is an award-winning author and screenwriter. She is the recipient of the Golden Stake Award for her novel The Promise Keeper, as well as the Harold L. Brown Award for her screenplay Home Party. Her short story, “The Ever After” is part of the Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology Sycorax’s Daughters. Wood was recognized in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Vol. 15 and as one of the 100+ Black Women in Horror Fiction.
L. Marie is a fun and vivacious lady. We spoke of writing, vampires, and The Realm.
NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, L. Marie! Thank you for joining me today.
LMW: Thank you so much for having me!
NTK: What have you been up to since we last talked?
LMW: Oh my gosh, so much! After Slay came out, my third novel was released. It is called The Realm and it’s about a man who wakes up in an afterlife he never expected with a responsibility that he doesn’t know if he can shoulder. It is a fast-paced novel, and I am so over the moon about it. In May of this year, my first novella was released by Mocha Memoirs Press. It is called Telecommuting and it is a purely psychological horror tale about a man who finds himself utterly alone for most of the time. We follow him as he navigates this new normal, all the while wondering when he will hear the whispering…because we definitely do. My first and second novels, Crescendo and The Promise Keeper respectively, will be re-released by Cedar Grove Books at the end of July.
NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?
LMW: Believe it or not I was five years old! I started writing a story and it was just… dark!
I didn’t associate the term “horror” to it, but that’s what it was, it was psychological horror. And I still write in that sub-genre today.
NTK: Was it inspired by a book or a movie? What inspires your writing?
LMW: No—it literally came from out of nowhere, which is actually, how I find inspiration now.
Sometimes an idea for a story just comes to me. Could be something I saw–some detail about how someone was dressed or something they did maybe even the weather or catching a glimpse of someone making a facial expression they don’t realize is being noticed. When I go looking for inspiration, I can’t always find it.
NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you? The one you could identify with the most?
LMW: I identify with the villains and Darth Vader’s cool calmness is just so awesome to me, I’ve always wanted to emulate that. You know… should I have the need to subdue someone… you know what I mean! (Laughs.)
Then I was always partial to Bruce Lee—like I wanted to kick like him and the sound effects—heck yes. So, combine those with my favorite horror antagonist—vampires!!—and you have a really kick-ass villain. I can’t say I’ve seen this character yet… maybe Blade…wait—DEFINITELY Blade! And I have to say that I never realized that I am Blade until JUST NOW. I always saw myself more like Jerry Dandridge.
NTK: Did you see yourself as Chris Sarandon? Or Colin Ferrel?
LMW: Definitely Chris Sarandon. He was sooooo smooth.
So I guess I am the female Blade… I’m going with that. (Laughs.)
NTK: (Laughs.) Do you have a favorite horror movie?
LMW: I do! Angel Heart! Being the psychological horror lover I am, I love a movie that has twists and turns and makes me think. I find something new every time I watch that movie!
NTK: That movie is so awesome and underrated! Did you like Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the Devil?
LMW: I did, even if it was a little ham-handed… Louis Cypher HAHAHA! He looked awesome though, just enough to make sure you know who he was and what was going on, but easy enough to miss if you aren’t trying to focus on the flick.
NTK: Exactly! Do you have a favorite horror television show?
LMW: Horror Tv shows are difficult. I was a Walking Dead Fan for years and then… I mean, ok and…? I loved The Haunting of Hill House and Lovecraft Country but those are just season-long entries. AHS – I’ve really only enjoyed one whole season – the one with Cuba Gooding Jr…Roanoke.
So… I might have to say no…?
But if the stand alone, one season and one shows count, I will definitely say Haunting of Hill House. Creepy as hell, that one.
NTK: What about favorite horror author?
LMW: That is a harder question than you might realize! I adore Ira Levin’s work, the way he spun a yarn was like no one else. Very casual, conversational, it’s like he is sitting with you on a park bench or while waiting in line at the movies and telling you this creepy thing. I find that my own writing is a lot like that—like we’re having a conversation, only what I am saying is scaring the bejesus out of you. Reading his work just feels good to me.
At the same time, I love Stephen King. His ability to make the mundane spooky is so unsettling and I really love that! Finally, Shirley Jackson has psychological horror in her pocket. Her work just creeps up on you and you don’t even know why you are afraid, but you are. Read “The Lottery”… you may find yourself shivering—either because you might be the one to get stoned, or go along with the stoning and not even know why!
So my fave… Shirley Ira King. Hell of a pen name!
NTK: (Laughs.) That would be! Do you have a favorite horror novel?
LMW: I do, and interestingly enough, none of those three wrote it! Quietus by Vivian Schilling. It is so lyrical! I remember thinking that I wished I could write something so tight, so beautifully done. No purple prose. No fluff. Just amazing control and beautiful execution. I fangirled a bit when I read it and contacted her (this is like 2002 or 2003). Had to tell her it was an amazing experience reading her book.
NTK: That is so awesome! What did she say?
LMW: She was so kind. We actually spoke for a while—she was gracious about the compliment I lavished—I can only imagine that she was red-faced… I was laying it on thick because this book is… chef’s kiss!
She encouraged me to write after I told her I was actually writing my novel. Wonder if she ever read it…? Wow, how cool would THAT be??
NTK: Tell us about your book, The Realm. What’s it about and what inspired it?
LMW: The Realm is about a man who finds himself in a predicament that he never ever thought possible. The story starts with him awakening in the afterlife, but this space is nothing like he had been taught to expect. Patrick has to run… right away if he wants to save his family and himself. It is a high-energy story that never let’s you settle down. So much fun! As for inspiration, I’ve always been interested in what lies beyond the stars and this story allowed me to create a world in the space – an alternate reality. It also allowed me to do the cross-genre work that psychological horror so often lends itself to. It is a lot of fun.
NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?
LMW: My characters do what they want to do when they want to do it. They routinely defy me.
And I can be as upset as I want to about that, but they do not care. I like to say that I sit back and watch the show and just write it all down for posterity.
NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror community?
LMW: Good, actually. I have been lucky enough to not have experienced a lot of what I have heard about. I started being active in the community in about 2003 and met some wonderful people from everywhere. Had signings, broke bread, shared stages, etc. I took a bit of a break for a number of years and when I came back in, I encountered the same. But as a person of color, I know that my experience isn’t everyone’s and that there have been some challenges that my fellow creatives have encountered. I can only help to be one of those people who helps pave the way, ease the way, help others along.
NTK: You’ve won some interesting awards. Could you tell us about the Golden Stake and about the UMMFF award for The Black Hole?
LMW: Ahh the Golden Stake Award! Seriously, I love that thing, it is literally a golden stake with blood on the tip!!!!! I wouldn’t even bring it back with me—left it in London to be shipped over so that they didn’t take it from me in customs, because, seriously, how could I have explained it?? (Laughs.)
My second novel, The Promise Keeper, is a psychological vampire horror tale! I must say, it felt AMAZING to go over to London during the 200 year anniversary of the publishing of The Vampyre by John Polidori and WIN this coveted award! We drank cocktails out of syringes later that night—it was a freaking blast!
As to The Black Hole, it is a very timely screenplay about colleagues who compete with each other on the paintball field along with a group of their friends. And let’s just say this… all is fun and games until the paintballs fly. My undergraduate degree from Howard University is actually in Film Production. Years later, I went on to get an MA in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University that has a focus in Screenwriting. It is my second love and I am back to doing it with a vengeance. This particular screenplay won best Afrofuturism/Horror/Sci-Fi Screenplay at the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?
LMW: Tons, actually! I mentioned that my first two novels are coming out again in July. Then we prepare for the release of book two of The Realm series – Cacophony. This comes out in October from Cedar Grove Books, and I am just so ready for people to meet Gabby! I have a few more things coming out in 2022, including a neat project that I am working on with Falstaff Books. Please visit my website and sign up for the newsletter to get updates!
NTK: Thank you for joining me today, L. Marie! It’s been a pleasure!
LMW: Thank you so much for having me! I enjoyed the discussion!