Women in Horror Month is all about celebrating the ladies who make horror such a complex, crazy, fun, and fascinating genre. It’s also about exploring those aspects of horror art and literature that mainstream journalism often overlooks. Eden Royce, with a background steeped in Southern gentility, is one of the most creative voices in horror fiction today. Much of her writing is in the Southern Gothic tradition, expanding on the already formidable legacies of such Great Ladies of the Grotesque as Alice Walker and Flannery O’Connor. Mixing luscious descriptions as sensual as a honeysuckle scented Southern evening with heady magical realism and blunt cruelty, Royce is a writer you’ll savor first, then devour.
Added to her prolific fiction writing, Royce also contributes to the Graveyard Shift Sisters which is dedicated to reclaiming the place of Black Women in horror art and literature. Eden Royce is currently working to help profile twenty-eight amazing women of color during Women in Horror Month, but she graciously agreed to grant CineDump a fascinating interview. Read on to learn more about her muses, her dynamic work with Graveyard Shift Sisters, and her special mix of manners and the macabre that mingles like perfume and smoke to create her own brand of Southern Gothic literature.
Pennie Sublime: What inspires your horror fiction?
Eden Royce: I can get inspired by almost anything—a quote from a movie or what I see as I look outside and think, “My grass needs cutting.”
My earliest and most consistent inspirations are my family. I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. Believe me, the Holy City has a dark side. My family is split—half of us are rootworkers, conjure magic practitioners, and the other half want nothing to do with “that hoodoo voodoo.” Makes family reunions interesting.
Hollywood tends to portray Southern conjure magic as evil, as it does those who use it. It’s more fearsome that way. Much of my writing shows rootworkers as I know them—everyday people with jobs, families, and taxes who are trying to protect themselves in a world that is fascinated by and fearful of conjure.
PS: You love to write Southern Gothic stories. What does Southern Gothic mean to you?
ER: I can sum up Southern Gothic in a comment my grandmother made that has always stuck with me. “Just ‘cause you got to hurt somebody, ain’t no reason not to be polite about it.”
To me, that is Southern Gothic—the world through the lens of the cultural mores of the South. Manners masking hatred, acceptance of the strange and unusual as normal, finding beauty in the grotesque. It goes hand in hand with magical realism—when realistic settings are threaded with magic and the supernatural—traditionally associated with Latin American authors.
PS: How have you seen the place of women in horror change since you first became involved in the industry?
ER: Years ago, I went to a book signing where I mentioned I was featured in the book 60 Black Women in Horror Writing. Someone in the audience commented, “I didn’t know there were sixty black women in horror.” That comment is what drove me to contact Graveyard Shift Sisters, a site dedicated to purging the black female horror fan from the margins, and ask if I could spearhead a book review and interview series that featured women like me—black women who write dark fiction.
Since then, I’ve noticed the number of books labeled as horror written by women increase. I’ve noticed the amount of horror fiction by women of color increase. More characters of color are protagonists, driving storylines instead of dying in the first scenes. There’s more discussion of horror topics in women’s writing groups and on social media.
While there are still writers who prefer the terms “paranormal” or “supernatural” to describe their genre, more of us are embracing the term “horror” to describe what were create. We’re getting shelf space, reviews, and awards. The popularity of indie work has created more opportunities for us to broaden the definition of horror.
More women are in positions of power now to help increase the presence of women in horror circles. We’re editors, publishers, screenwriters, and directors. So I expect our presence to grow even further.
PS: What advice would you give an aspiring female horror writer?
ER: Read as widely as possible. In and out of the horror genre, traditional and indie publications. Take note of what moves you, what impacts you—even if it’s not intended to instill fear. Some of the most descriptive writing I’ve come across is on websites that review food and perfume. Luscious, rich language. You never know where inspiration may come from.
Have your own definition of success. Surround yourself with people who encourage your creativity. Set goals and reward yourself when you achieve them.
Most of all don’t be afraid to embrace feminine ideals and subject matter in your writing. Our visions of horror are potent.
PS: What was your favorite horror book/movie of 2016?
ER: That’s so difficult. I’d have to say my favorite is Before You Sleep: Three Horrors by Adam L.G. Nevill. Horror can pack such a punch when condensed into the short form and Nevill is great at unnerving a reader and making a chill linger in your mind.
Find her books on Amazon HERE.
Also, check out her writing for Graveyard Shift Sister at GraveyardSister.