Hello, Paula.  Your work has been described as “raw and beautiful.”  Tell us a little about who you are.


Thanks very much! I am a writer of dark fiction, an educator, a black lesbian feminist, a progressive, a secular humanist, a grad student, a nerd, a geek, a wife, a pet mom, and a general shit-starter. Despite these things, I am usually well-liked by moms and animals.


How did you find that place within yourself that allows you to write horror? 


I remember at a very young age — maybe three or four — I wrote a story about the apocalypse, appropriately titled, “The End of the World”. I made the book out of typewriter paper folded in half and stapled down the middle. On the cover I drew a picture of a cracked open earth with flaming stars plummeting through space. I grew up in a fairly religious Christian household, so I heard stories about “the Rapture” all the time. They absolutely terrified me. I couldn’t even think about the book of Revelations without essentially having a panic attack. I think I made that little book as a way to express my anxieties about the “end times”. I have always been drawn to darkness, cliche as that may sound.

I was able to read before I was really able to walk, so it made sense that my love of language wormed its way into my fascination with pain, suffering, and violence. Note, my fascination has no basis in wanting to inflict that on anyone, but I have always wondered why and how people can do what they do to each other. This is a prominent theme in all of my work. I’ve realized that as an adult, writing horror helps me express my anxieties about the vileness of human behavior and the seeming indifference of the universe.


What do your friends and family think of your choice of genre?


They are overwhelmingly supportive of me, but their interest in the genre depends on the person. My friends are uber-supportive and always curious about what I’m working on. Many of my friends are writers or artists in some way, so we are all supportive of each other’s work. My spouse is extraordinarily supportive; I really can’t sing her praises enough. My family…they’re quite supportive but not nearly as enthusiastic about the genre as I am. 

As a kid, I read all the time. Once I was able to go to the library by myself, I would come home with stacks and stacks of horror novels and anthologies. I had an aunt (who passed away a few years ago, sadly) who told my mom that if I kept reading those “evil books” I would get possessed by the devil. My mother, who is thankfully a fairly rational woman, didn’t believe her. She told me what my aunt had said, and she also told me that she didn’t care what I read as long as I was reading.  


What writers influenced you the most?


The three that come immediately to mind are Clive Barker, Elizabeth Massie, and Toni Morrison.  I love the carnal spirituality of Barker’s work. I admire the fearlessness of his storytelling and the lyricism of his prose. I also appreciate the honesty in everything he does; he’s so prolific and I think it’s because he does not compromise himself or his art. He has such confidence in his vision and that is something I am attempting to nurture in myself.

I am Facebook’s resident Elizabeth Massie creepy fangirl, so I’m going to try to be brief. The first story I read by her was ” Stephen” in one of the Borderlands books. I wrote a “review” of the story in 2012 on my blog to celebrate women in horror month, so I won’t spend too much time describing it here. But Massie has a saying that has resonated with me on so many levels, “I write horror because I believe that when we look into the darkness we can better understand and find the light.” She is one of my favorite writers because I know that when I read her work there will be an honest examination of human nature and the human condition, but one that will also disturb the hell out of me. Her writing, in terms of prose and plot, just stays with you for days. Stories like “Stephen”, “Abed”, “Snow Day”, and “I Am Not My Smell” take no prisoners. I admire and write with that same ovarian might (as opposed to “ballsiness”) because I know that want my work to kick my readers in the gut and leave a terrible bruise.

Finally, Toni Morrison influences me in that she is a master of language. She knows how to present a story in such a unique, unmistakable way without sacrificing clarity or impact. I read very little (contemporary) literary fiction because most of it reads like pretentious wankery. Toni Morrison’s work is some of the most ego-free stuff I have ever encountered. I try to develop my sense of story, try to nurture that deep stillness needed to listen to the tale, and tell it in a way that is as honest as it possibly can be. 


What is your favorite among the stories you’ve written?  Why this one?


My current favorite is the story, “Bereft” that will be published in “Songs for the Raven”. It’s the most controversial thing I’ve done, and the most painful story I’ve written. It’s my favorite because I think it represents some of the themes I mentioned earlier in a very pure, uncompromising way. Also, one of my good friends helped me with the editing process and I have never edited and revised a story more than this one.

“Bereft” is the story of two sisters who have survived chronic sexual abuse by their father after their mother’s death. For years, he’s tortured, raped, and mutilated them while keeping them locked in a cage in his basement. They escape, but not without being marked in their individual ways by their father’s legacy.

Writing this story was excruciating. I felt ashamed. Disgusted. Perverse. Abnormal. I was terrified that I would never find any place to publish it because of its graphic sexual content. But, this wasn’t a story that could be censored. If I didn’t find anywhere to publish it, so be it. As polarizing and “extreme” as the story is; it is not a story I’m telling just for attention or shock value. This story was inspired by recent incidents in Austria and the United States where men were discovered to have sexually assaulted and imprisoned their daughters for decades before being caught. These girls (now women) were forced to bear their father’s children/grandchildren and their own children/siblings and raise them. In some cases, once the offspring reached sexual maturity, the father would begin the cycle of victimization again on the next generation.


What are your future plans?


My major writing plans will come to fruition by the end of this summer. At the suggestion of my wife and a few other close friends, I’ve decided to take the summer off from teaching to write.

As much as I am loftily influenced by the aforementioned people, I am learning that perseverance and determination turns a writer into an author. Murphy Edwards, Todd Card, Chantal Noordeloos, James Ward Kirk, William Cook, Brady Allen, Dale Eldon…I could go on and on. These are all a-list writers/authors who have (in the parlance of my people) “done the damn thing.” I admire that they get in front of the computer (or notebook or voice recorder) and do their work. I will spend a lot of time completing and polishing stories for a number of upcoming anthologies that have summer deadlines.

I also plan to finish the first complete draft of my dark fantasy/horror novel, “Through Silver in Blood”. Additional information about the novel can be found on my blog ( under the “Projects” tab.


Please use this space to write whatever you like:


Thanks so much for taking the time interview me James!

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