I recently had a chance to talk to L.C. Cruell who has worked on such independent horror movies as 31 and Cemetery Tales. She is currently working on a new horror anthology called 7 Magpies which features some writers who we have showcased at HorrorAddicts.net in the past:
When did you start writing?
When I was but a wee lass. I lived in the country, so we spent a lot of time outside making up games and adventures and trying to see if we could spin at just the right speed and angle to turn into Wonder Woman. I think my very first story was called Strawberry Fields. About a cat named Strawberry who lived in a Field. As you can see my subversive tendencies had yet to make an appearance.
What were your biggest influences?
Films like 2001, The Shining, Star Wars (the originals), Indiana Jones, The Thing (80s), Tank Girl, and lots of great J-Horror, Euro-Horror, and Indie-Horror. Authors like Asimov, Pohl, Atwood, Shakespeare, and King. And, honestly, a lot of non-fiction. I was that level of geek that read encyclopedias for fun. I just fundamentally love knowledge, learning about new places, people, ideas, and possibilities. So, of course I loved all things history, sociology, anthropology, folklore, neurology, physics, astronomy, I just loved all of it. Still do. At my core, I feel that we’re here to learn as much as we can, grow, and then give back, create something new to add to the universe.
What got you interested in horror?
Horror, supernatural, fantasy, sci-fi, all deal with hypotheses and possibilities. They ask questions that start with, “What if…” Those are my favorite kinds of questions. Sometimes, they lead you to mind-blowing places, other times to dark, disturbing, places of warning. Both are intriguing to explore.
Could you tell us about your webseries 31?
31 is a supernatural horror/thriller told in 31, 31-second-long cliffhanger episodes about a character that wakes up in darkness and realizes she’s trapped, sealed in a box. She fights to get out only to discover that what lay outside the box is far worse. She has no memory and no ID besides the number “31” branded into her skin. It was initially released as a web event with episodes dropping everyday for 31 straight days at 3:31 each day.
The idea hit me in late September when I was looking forward to the upcoming 31 days of horror movies in October. It was such a trial-by-fire growth experience, as both a writer and director. I had to develop character, move the plot forward, generate suspense, and end on a cliffhanger all in just a ½ page of script! And then do it again, 31 times!!! Every word mattered. Then each episode had to be 31 seconds long, which meant we were in editing cutting down to the frame because every second mattered. It was pure insanity, but somehow it worked. The idea and the script got a lot of people excited so a lot of very talented people jumped on board and helped make it great. We shot it in 2 ½ days for $390 and released it 2 months later- also insane. We didn’t have any money for PR so it was all word of mouth and critical-acclaim. We got dozens of rave reviews and since had international festival selections and wins, Con invitations, YT partnership, and 9 different distribution deals with new subscribers and views everyday.
I’ve developed a pilot version. We’ll see where it goes. (It’s so bloody hard to break in to Hollywood from the outside.) But, I loved every moment of it!
Could you tell us about Cemetery Tales?
Cemetery Tales came about when one of the other directors came to me about putting together an anthology of short films by Atlanta directors. We did an Indiegogo campaign mainly to make ensure that we had the same great DP, Audio Sup, and Editor throughout. The stories are loosely tied together with a death theme and a wraparound I co-wrote. By the time it was finished I was one of the producers and came up with the idea of changing the name from it’s earlier Tales From Morningview Cemetery to Cemetery Tales. My segment I Need You is about a family that’s let the minutiae of life distract them from the act of living, and a house that may or may not eat people.
Because my writing comes from exploring issues and questions, there is always some deeper sociological, scientific, spiritual, supernatural, what have you, idea being explored. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the point would be, you know?
Where did the idea for Seven Magpies come from?
I LOVE horror anthologies. I’ve seen all the reruns of all the horror anthology shows from 60s, 70s, and 80s and all the films like Creepshow and even the old British films where in the end everyone realized they were already dead or in hell or something. So, I was so excited when ABC’s and VHS and all the others came along and made anthologies cool again. (Seriously, you couldn’t even pitch something with the word “anthology” before then. I know, I tried.) And as they kept coming, even XX, the all female-directed one, I noticed there were no black women directors, but honestly didn’t think much of it at the time. Until I started to see articles and posts even in my own women horror directors group asking if there were such a thing as black female horror directors.
I was stunned. It had simply never occurred to me that anyone would think there was a space in the world that was not occupied by people from any and every group. What could my gender or race possibly tell you about my relationship with horror, or with anything really? I don’t write characters with race in mind, but I don’t assume they’re all white or black either. They’re just people. We’re just people.
I know it sounds hard to believe but growing up in a small town where everyone knows you for being you made me horribly naïve about this kind of thing for a long time, but eventually I began to realize that “Perception is Reality.” Especially, in Hollywood, which, honestly, if I had known the depth of that town’s issues with gender, diversity, nepotism, and just general restrictiveness, I might have made different choices. A creative’s life journey is hard enough without all that BS. They don’t see us, so they don’t believe we exist, so they don’t think to hire or include us, so others don’t see us and the whole stupid loop just continues. “7 Magpies” is, I suppose, my way of yelling, “We are here! We are here! We are here!” Then after they see us and perceive us, we can all get on with the business of making great films together. Oh and this article helped a lot too:
What are the stories that will be involved in the movie?
They’re so cool. It all takes place one sultry Southern summer when the Magpies (7 birds, 3 women) come to town. The structure is based on (and the stories were chosen to fit) the poem “One for Sorrow” –
One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
Four for a birth,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told
The poem along with all the lore and superstitions regarding magpies made it kind of perfect. In the screenplay I adapted stories by Sumiko Saulson, Tananarive Due, Eden Royce, Linda D. Addison, Valjeanne Jeffers, Crystal Connors, and Paula D. Ashe. There are threads woven throughout that unite them all and a wraparound that connects them as well but yeah, great stuff.
When will shooting begin?
I’m hoping late summer. As soon as we find the right money people to come on board, we’ll dive right into pre-pro. The script, pitch package, everything is ready. The rough budget is $1M with no “names,” but with 7 strong, stellar roles for African-American woman, I’m pretty sure we can get a few names.
What is the hardest part of putting together a production like 7 Magpies?
It certainly wasn’t a lack of eagerness by the participants. Every writer and director I chose enthusiastically jumped on board. The only issue now is funding. Like anyone coming from outside Hollywood in not just location but gender, race, lack of connections, anything that makes you an outsider, the hardest part is getting this great script/idea that directors, audiences, and actors are exited to be a part of to the people who can actually greenlight something. It is not easy. Most gatekeepers do not welcome new names and faces. But, if any such person is reading right now, call me! We’ll find a way. This is too important. It is not just about widening the audiences for the authors or launching the careers of the directors to the next level but of changing that perception and opening those doors for everyone.
Where can we find out more about this production?
What other projects are you involved in?
Good god. Everything I can do to get noticed? I just finished shooting Flesh, a thriller that was chosen for fiscal sponsorship by From the Heart Productions, a 23 year old non-profit, because they believe it will have a positive impact on society and the industry. Seriously, they’re all docs, dramas, and my little horror/suspense/thriller. But that goes back to the ‘everything I write having a message/question woven through it’ thing. I did the same thing as before, wrote a script strong enough to get incredible talent on board. It’s a short that stands on its own but is also the first 15 minutes of the feature version. Mistresses of HorrorTM is a brand with over 10 directors attached that I’m trying to start for any media project from movies to comics that provides “great horror, by women, for everyone.” Cemetery Tales is on the festival circuit now. I have pilots for 31 along with 2 others (The Four and Neph). And I’m currently marketing scripts The Sitter, Crimson, and The Burning (director attached; location secured), among others. In a perfect world, one project scores, and then all the rest tumble through to create that 15-year-in-the-making overnight success story and the names Cruell and Cruell World Productions become synonymous with great horror/genre features, shows, episodes, etc. The name fits. And I’ll do my best. We’ll what happens next.
For more information on L.C. Cruell check out:
In honor of Black History month I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about two books by Sumiko Saulson. The first one is 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. This book is a compilation of interviews, essays and biographies of Black Women horror writers. Some of the writers featured in this book include Octavia Butler, L.A. Banks, Tananarive Due and many more.
I feel this is an important book because it gives writers exposure. Writers have to work hard at their craft and its hard for them to get the attention they deserve. There are more writers out there than readers and it’s too easy for a good writer to go unnoticed. 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction shows that there are some great Black women horror writers out there. I only knew a handful of the writers in this book and after the in-depth interviews and short stories collected here, I found some new writers that I need to add to my to be read list.
This book starts with biographies and pictures of several writers and then gets into interviews with Linda Addison, Jemiah Jefferson and Eden Royce to name a few. One of my favorites parts of this book was how some of the writers talk about how women horror writers get treated differently than their male counterparts and there aren’t as many. In the case of A.L. Peck she states that she doesn’t know why there aren’t more female horror writers and she wants to change that.
There is also a great interview with Jemiah Jefferson where she talks about the hardships of finishing a novel while putting up with health issues, a stressful job and financial issues. This book doesn’t just give you a new perspective on what Black Women horror writers have to go through to get their work out to the public, it gives you a new appreciation for writers in general. 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction shows you what Black Women horror writers have to offer and gives a glimpse of what goes on in the mind of a horror writer.
Another book I want to talk about is Insatiable by Sumiko Saulson. This is the third book in the Somnalia series but it does work as a stand alone novel. This book centers on Charlotte who is the goddess of erotic dreams and her sister Mercy who has been reincarnated and now has a death cult that is on a killing spree. Charolotte has tried to turn a blind eye but if Mercy continues on like she is it could have disastrous results for all the gods in the Demos Oneiroi.
The thing I liked most about Insatiable was how the reincarnation works in the story. All of the characters have had past lives and when they come back again in another form, they’re still associated with the ones they loved in the past. At the heart of this book is a love story, but it’s not the kind of love story that you are probably used to. Insatiable looks at people who have more than one romantic relationship with several different people. The relationships seem to work though.
Insatiable has some great characters, they all have complex relationships and how they act towards each other is what makes the book interesting. There are also some moments of great horror here as we get into Mercy’s death cult and the things they do. This book made me think of a therapy session as you get into the head of several characters and find out why they are the way they are. Charlotte’s husband Flynn comes across as such a nice guy and a bit of a doormat who needs Charlotte more than she needs him. Despite his issues in this story we see him act like a hero at times. We also have Phobetor who is driven by jealousy and power but comes across as compassionate and shows how complex he is.
Sumiko Saulson writes horror novels aimed at intellectuals. There isn’t a lot of action or suspense in this book but there is a lot of great complex characters and it was interesting watching them interact with each other. The story also creates a new spin on an old mythology and shows how a mythological family could exist. Sumiko’s books are different from most horror novels out there. Insatiable is a character driven story that comes across as a philosophy text-book at times. If you like books that make you think then give this one a try.
Tananarive Due’s Work in Horror
by Kenesha Williams
Tananarive Due is the spirit child of Zora Neale Hurston and Steven King. If those sound like big shoes to fill, not to worry because Ms. Due does more than fill them. Her stories overflow with soul and wisdom all while they keep the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. Tananarive Due brings us horror infused with Black history, ancient Africa, and a post-apocalyptic future where the Black guy (or in this case, girl) doesn’t die.
This love of Black history seems to have been imbued in Ms. Due from her parents, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due and civil rights lawyer John D. Due Jr. Tananarive Due received a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University and an M.A. in English literature from the University of Leeds, England, where she specialized in Nigerian literature as a Rotary Foundation Scholar.
Tananarive Due is a former Cosby Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College, where she taught screenwriting, creative writing and journalism from 2012 – 2014. She also teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles and has taught at Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA), the Hurston-Wright Foundation’s Writers’ Week, and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Among her honors, Ms. Due is an American Book Award winner, NAACP Image Award recipient, and was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism’s Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University in 2010.
I first read a Tananarive Due novel in my senior year of high school. I’ve always had a voracious appetite for books that was fed happily by a bibliophile mother. She had just read a book that she knew I would love and it was My Soul to Keep (1997). My Soul to Keep was the first book in the African Immortals Series by Tananarive Due. I had never read anything like it, a horror story with an all Black cast of characters from Africa.
I was instantly enraptured. I devoured the entire series as each subsequent book was published, The Living Blood (2001), Blood Colony (2008), and lastly My Soul To Take (2011). While I waited on each new story in the African Immortal series my appetite was whetted with other stories of the supernatural, The Good House (2003) a completely fresh take on the Haunted House trope and Joplin’s Ghost (2005) about a musician being possessed by the spirit of ragtime musician Scott Joplin. The magic of Due’s writing is that each work is infused with history, black culture, and the supernatural. In fact, I learned more Black history in her books than I did in all of my high school History classes.
Reading Tananarive Due’s books stretched the limits of what I believed was possible as a Black writer. Before reading her books, in my experience there were white books and black books. And while white books could be about anything, it seemed like black books were squeezed into a few genres; romance, folklore, “black issues”, but not the supernatural. The books I read by Black writers that weren’t the classics, i.e. those by Walker, Hurston, and Morrison, were contemporary novels by authors like Terry McMillan, Connie Briscoe, Tina McElroy Ansa, and Bebe Moore Campbell. Due has said:
“It’s ironic, I don’t think the publishing industry would have been knocking on my door for black horror novels if not for Terry McMillan. Although I guess she doesn’t write horror — although if you are dating you might consider it horror — but she opened the field for commercial black writers. That’s why publishing industry was willing to take notice and say let’s give this book a chance.”
I believe that if not for Tananarive Due and Octavia Butler, there would have been no L.A. Banks, Nalo Hopkinson, or Nnedi Okorafor. Personally, without first reading My Soul to Keep, I doubt that I would have felt that I had the agency to write a story about the strange and the fantastic with a main character that looked like me.
For further reading, Tananarive Due’s works in Horror:
The Between (1995)
The Good House (2003)
Joplin’s Ghost (2005)
African Immortals Series:
My Soul to Keep (1997)
The Living Blood (2001)
Blood Colony (2008)
My Soul To Take (2011)
“Like Daughter”, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000)
“Patient Zero”, The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Eighteenth Annual Collection (2001)
“Trial Day”, Mojo: Conjure Stories (2003)
“Aftermoon”, Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2004)
“Senora Suerte”, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (September 2006)
The Lake (2011)
Devil’s Wake (with Steven Barnes) (2012)
Domino Falls (2013)
Ghost Summer (2015)
CNN Sunday Morning Interview with Tananarive Due October 30, 2005
Kenesha Williams is a multi-genre writer and lover of speculative fiction. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of speculative fiction literary magazine, “Black Girl Magic Mag”, which specializes in fiction with Black female main characters. You can read more from Kenesha on her website Kenesha Williams, her Black Girl Magic Lit Mag site, Black Girl Magic, or twitter @Kenesha_W
Last Febuary to celebrate Black History Month, I did a post on African-American Horror Writers which you can read by clicking here. Some of the authors in that post included L.A. Banks, Maurice Broaddus, Wrath James White, Brandon Massey, Octavia Butler, Jermiah Jefferson and a few others. Since that post went up I’ve had other authors leave comments so I wanted to expand my list. So if you’re looking for a good read I’m sure you will find something by the authors listed below.
First up, I want to mention Tananarive Due. While Tananarive is primarily looked at as a Science Fiction writer some of her novels can also be looked at as horror. In 2012 Tananarive co-wrote a zombie novel with her husband Steven Barnes. The book is called Devil’s Wake, its set in a post-apocalyptic future where a school bus full of young people try to escape the walking dead and human raiders as society crumbles around them. Tananarive Due is also the writer of the African Immortals series which has been compared to Anne Rice’s Vampire chronicles. The storyline is about an Ethiopian sect that traded their humanity to be immortal.
Also I briefly mentioned Andre Duza in my previous post on African-American horror writers. Andre writes hard-core horror mixed with with humor and social commentary. He has written several short stories and novels including Dead Bitch Army about a zombie woman out for revenge after the apocalypse. Another of Andre’s novels is Jesus Freaks which takes place on Easter morning in 2015. Detective Phillip Makane woke up to a world of bleeding rain, a homicidal ghost and thousands of zombies along with two men with powers claiming to be Jesus. Andre Duza has also written the hardcore pulp novella about dog fighting and black magic called Son of A Bitch with Wrath James White.
Just recently I heard of another author named Sumiko Saulson. She has written three novels and a collection of short stories called Things That Go Bump In My Head. One of her novels is called Solitude which is about people who wake up and find they are all alone in San Francisco. The story follows the characters as they try to figure out what happened as they explore the deserted city. One review I read for this book compared it to Stephen King’s The Stand and The Dark Tower. Another one by Sumiko is The Moon Cried Blood which is about a woman named Leticia who is growing up in Los Angeles in 1975 and has just discovered she comes from a long line of witches.
Getting back to the zombie theme you might want to check out George L. Cook III’s The Dead War Series. There are three books in this series, they are set in the future and tell the tale of an army battling the undead. Some of the reviews on this one say its a fun time and not to read it on a full stomach.
Another author with some good horror titles to her name is L. Marie Wood. Her debut novel is Crescendo: Welcome Home death Awaits. This one is about a man haunted by a family curse. When he dreams, people die and now he has to try to break the curse and keep from going insane. Some of her other works include Caliginy and The Promise Keeper.
Next up is Qwantu Amaru who’s book One Blood won a 2012 international book award, a National Indie Excellence award and several other honors. One Blood tells the story of Lincoln Baker a man in prison who orchestrates the kidnapping of the daughter of the governor of Louisiana. He also resurrects a family curse which goes back to slavery. This book has received great reviews and has been recommended by Brandon Massey.
Writing more for the young adult audience is A.J. Harper. A.J. started the Night Biters series which is geared towards fans of Harry Potter and Twilight but with much more ethnic diversity and in an urban setting. The story follows 16 year old Jamilah and 14-year-old Omari who arrive in Oakland to live with their aunt and Uncle. They are given a mysterious CD that gives them information about the danger of vampires and they soon became caught up in a street war between vampire gangs.
Another Author that I need to talk about is Tize W. Clark. Tize has been referred to as the new king of horror. His first novel is called The Maze which is a horrifying journey from the streets of New York to the Mountains of New Mexico and back. Another book by a new author is The Dark Side Of Grace by M.L. Cooper. This is a paranormal romance novel about two lovers that try to uncover the truth about their family’s haunted slave past.
Keeping with newer authors, If you are into short horror fiction check out Afro-American Stories Of Fright From The Old South by Darnell Wright which also comes with a down home southern recipe. If you like psychological horror check out Abstract Murder by A.L. Peck. The description of this one says that if you like Pulp Fiction and Silence of The Lambs then you will want to check this one out. One more independent author that was brought to my attention by Sumiko Saulson is Ron Huston whose first novel is called The Rogue Prophet. This is a classic tale of good versus evil set in a place of worship. I also don’t want to forget to mention J. Malcom Stewart who wrote The Eyes Of The Stars which I have reviewed on this blog.
This is an incomplete list of African-American writers and comes mostly from comments made after my first blog post on the subject. If you’re looking for more authors check out Nerdy girl’s blog post here. If you have anyone else to add, please leave a comment.
With February being Black History Month I thought it would be nice to do a blog post talking about African American horror writers. I knew of four writers when I started this post but managed to find more as I was writing. I’m sure there are quite a few more out there that I missed, so if you know of any others please leave a comment on the end of this post.
The first author I want to talk about and probably the most popular is L.A. Banks. L.A. Banks was born in Philadelphia. She has written under several different names, has written in multiple genres and has won many literary awards. L.A. Banks is the author of the Vampire Huntress series of novels and comics. There are 12 novels in this series along with one graphic novel and a YA novel. Some critics have called her work: “fresh, hip, fantastic and far superior to Buffy.” Some of her vampire novels include Minion and The Awakening.
L.A. Banks has also written a series of six werewolf novels called the Crimson Moon series. Some of the titles include Never Cry Werewolf and Left for Undead. L.A. Banks was also the co founder of The Liar’s Club, a networking group for professionals in publishing and other aspects of entertainment. Sadly L.A. Banks died of adrenal cancer in 2011. You can find out more about her career at leslieesdailebanks.com.
Next up is Maurice Broaddus, he was born in London, England but now lives in America. He graduated from Purdue University and is a senior writer for Hollywoodjesus.com. Maurice has written in several genres, his horror novels include: Devil’s Marionette and The Knights of Breton Court: King Maker. Maurice now live in Indianapolis Indiana and is part of the Indiana Horror Writers Association. You can learn more about him at mauricebroaddus.com.
The next author I want to talk about is Brandon Massey, he was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1973 and has published three novels a year since 1999. Brandon loved watching horror movies growing up and he was a life long reader. He then decided that he wanted to start telling his own stories and became a horror writer. Some of his novels include: Thunderland and Covenant. Brandon has also edited two collections of short stories by African American Horror writers called: Dark Dreams and Voices From The Other Side: Dark Dreams 2. To learn more about Brandon Massey go to: brandonmassey.com.
Next on the list is Wrath James White. Wrath is a former MMA fighter and hard core horror author. In 2011 Wrath wrote a book of dark poetry called Vicious Romantic which was nominated for an HWA Bram Stoker award and a movie just went into production based on his novel The Resurrectionist. some of his other works include Succulent Prey and Population Zero. Wrath James White also has a great blog which I’ve been reading for the last 5 years where he talks about politics, religion and anything else that he finds worthy to talk about, to check it out go to wordsofwrath.blogspot.com.
Jermiah Jefferson is another author who like L.A. Banks has written a series of vampire novels. Jermiah grew up listening to disco music and watching horror movies. She also loved to daydream and read. She has written non fiction, erotica and has written four books in the Voice of Blood vampire series. Some of her works include Wounds and A Drop of Scarlet. For more information about her go to: jemiah.com.
The authors above were authors that have written more then one horror novel but there are also some authors that have only one horror novel or is a writer of horror flash fiction or poetry that I wanted to mention also. One writer that I have to mention is Octavia Butler. Octavia wrote mostly science fiction throughout her life but she did write a vampire novel called Fledgling. Another great science fiction writer that has written some novels that could be considered horror is Tananarive Due; one of her horror novels is called Joplin’s Ghost.
Another author I want to mention here is Angella C. Allen who edited a vampire anthology by African American Horror Writers called: Dark Thirst. I also can’t fail to mention Michael Boatman who wrote a book about monster hunters called The Revenant Road which I will be reviewing on this blog in the next week or so. Last but not least is Andre Duza who has written a book about a zombie woman out for revenge against a serial killer called Dead Bitch Army. Once again, this is an incomplete list if you know of any authors that I forgot to mention please leave a comment.