Artist Profiles: S.C. Parris & V. Castro

WoC Writing Vampires

S.C. Parris
Fantasy & Horror author

S.C. Parris is the author of the Dark World Series & horror short story, A Night of Frivolity. She is currently writing the sixth and final book in her dark fantasy/horror series, and working on a new book tentatively titled, Judgment, which is being uploaded as a chapter serial on her Patreon. She graduated from SUNY Old Westbury with Honors in Multicultural English Lit, a minor in Business Marketing, and is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the National English Honor Society. She lives in Georgia with her fiancé. She is always writing.

When did you start writing horror/fantasy and why?

When I was about 11 or 12 I started writing horror and fantasy poetry. I was dealing heavily with depression and anxiety. I didn’t realize I was depressed or that something was wrong at all until college. I was into music, probably to an unhealthy degree. Lyrics that espoused my depression and suicidal thoughts were preferred. As such, my cds were often Emo, Metal, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, Goth genres of music. Writing that deeply used to be a larger part of my identity. I was known as the writer of the school and in my family. I clung to the title because, in my youth, I didn’t know of any other talents I may have possessed or I hadn’t lived enough to gain well-rounded skills that could help foster a greater personality like I have now.

I was inspired after reading Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Raven, in school. I can’t really remember what exactly it was about Poe that captured that essence of doom and gloom I was so drawn to, perhaps it was his prose, but all the same I remember feeling an immense sense of connectedness with his writing which in turn caused me to seek out writing as a form of self-analysis. I was enraptured by the macabre, the foreboding feeling of the short story, and it seemed to speak to the darkly-inclined adolescent I was.

Can you say more about your transition from poetry to fiction? Are there still elements of poetry in your work?

Ah, it was a normal transition as I’d had poems published through school contests and all of my teachers were very supportive of my writing. They fostered my interest in writing, so I believed the next logical step was me figuring out how to write a book.

I’d say there are slight traces of my poetry in my work now. My poetry was very lyrical, very dark, often dealing with themes of death, love, and grief. My work now deals with all of those things, albeit in a much more palatable way for a wider audience (I believe, anyway).

Where did your inspiration come from for The Dark World series?

For The Dark World series my inspiration was born from, firstly, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and secondly from all the vampire movies I’d consumed in my youth.

What did you love about the Harry Potter series? What vampire movies did you watch and what specifically stood out to you?

I loved those books because they came out as I was growing up. I really felt part of the trio’s journey. When the last book came out, I was 16. Once I finished it, I took a moment to process it, then sat down at the computer and started to write The Dark World series.

Seeing Bram Stoker’s Dracula in my living room and seeing a vampire for the first time terrified and thrilled me. I’ve been hooked on the creature ever since. I also favor Rhiannon Frater’s contemporary vampire books. Her Pretty When She Dies series is lovely, urban fantasy/horror at its finest.

Why do you write vampires? Why is this genre important to you, the writing community, and even society at large?

I write about vampires because they’re sexy. For me, they’re an outlet to so many different facets of my personality. I can deal with my apprehension and confusion toward death, love, sex, lust, and being “othered” in a world I have never felt I belonged in, much like my vampires do.

Being into obscure and “different” things, especially as a black person, is how I feel “othered.” You’re immediately ostracized for not talking like your peers, or dressing like them, listening to different music…etc. It’s a giant target on your back. You’re hyper visible because of your interests and appearance, but at the same time you’re invisible and ostracized from social gatherings, events, and community. You’re forced to make your own community whether that be online or in real life.

The vampire genre is important because let’s face it, we love monsters, and if we can make the monsters the protagonists we can figure out greater parts of our own lives. There’s a vampire in us all. My vampires are facing great challenges and fighting insurmountable odds, but they keep fighting. I feel everyone is tackling some seemingly impossible issue, but it’s my hope, by reading my series that they see these fallible characters persisting despite the odds and they, themselves, have the inspiration to overcome their own burdens.

Who are your favorite and most difficult characters from this series? What draws us into their stories?

My favorite characters are, and this may be cliché—all of them. All of their difficulties bring us into their arcs. That’s how I designed it. No one is above the other in terms of time on the page, and, because I deal with it, they all deal with some form of anxiety spurring their choices. It heightens the sense of urgency they feel, and conversely, what I want my readers to feel while going on this journey with them.

For example, Christian Delacroix is a vampire looked down upon by other vampires due to his “devil may care” attitude. He drinks from humans without abandon and is not a part of the greater workings of the vampires in the world until a mysterious human woman shows up on his doorstep so to speak. For the first time, he finds himself forced to face the world outside his door and prove his worth amongst the other Dark Creatures in his community.

He is the only Creature that is most like myself, and it’s with his arc that I most explored my feelings toward love and while writing, learned how to see love differently in healthier ways.

Anxiety is at the center because, again, it’s what plagues my daily life. I don’t know life without it therefore I cannot write characters that do not deal with it. It’s my hope that people with anxiety feel represented even if it’s in one small way.

What are your thoughts on being a woman of color producing work in this genre?

I hadn’t given much thought to it until a few years ago, due to the change in climate and perception of themes relevant to the genre, but I don’t think about it as much, still. I maintain that I’m writing the stories (with the various characters I do) for those that want to read them. Other authors of various races are writing the heavy stories they need to tell. I leave the representation aspect a lot of people look for from black women and women of color, to them.

What do you hope people take away from your work as a whole?

That they’re not alone in their mental illnesses. That fictional characters such as mine can struggle with them on the page, even if the characters’ struggles seem much larger than the readers’.

Do you have an advice or resources for other horror/fantasy writers?

Write what you love even if people tell you not to or that you won’t amount to anything. There is an audience out there that wants your story. They want to see themselves on the page. Write for yourself and for them. And if you’re stuck on names, I use Seventh Sanctum, an online generator for my characters at times.

The Dark World Series by S.C. Parris

The Dark World series is a tale as old as time: Forces no one understands threaten to end the world, with Vampires, Lycans, Dragons, Elves and more. Secrets are revealed, loyalties tested, and blood is spilled. The stakes are high. It is available everywhere books are sold and can be ordered online if it’s not available in physical stores.

Artist website:  http://www.scparris.net
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/writingvampires
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/sheronparris/
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/writingvampires


V. Castro
Fantasy & Horror Writer

V.Castro is a Mexican American writer from San Antonio, Texas now residing in the UK. As a full-time mother, she dedicates her time to her family and writing Latinx narratives. Currently she is co-editing Latinx Scream with Bronzeville Books coming this fall.

Her titles include:
Maria The Wanted and the Legacy of The Keepers
The Erotic Modern Life of Malinalli the Vampire
Rigor Morbid: Lest Ye Become – “The Latin Queens of Mictlan”
Hairspray and Switchblades

Violet is a reviewer for Sci-Fi and Scary and Latin Horror.  She has contributed to Ladies of Horror Fiction, Ginger Nuts of Horror, OctoberPod Podcast and Burial Ground.

When did you start writing horror/fantasy and why?

I have stories from when I was a child! My mother saved all of them. But I didn’t start writing seriously until two years ago. I never felt like I could do it, but with age comes confidence.

I began writing because I felt something was missing in my life beyond being a mother and wife. There was an unhappiness that wouldn’t go away especially when trying to conceive my last child. I have not looked back and I encourage other women with passions to pursue them no matter what their age.

When I decided to write my first story, I sat down and did just that. I didn’t look to anyone for support yet because I just wanted to see if I could complete the tale. It takes discipline to write a complete story then go over it again and again. Once it was complete, I spent time researching the process of publishing. Writers Digest is a good resource for articles on publishing and writing.

Where did your inspiration come from for Maria the Wanted?

The inspiration was a dream. I never thought I would write something, but when the idea hit, I felt compelled to put it all down. The dream was about a young Mexican American woman named Alma that followed a vampire through a thick forest. One of his hands was gold plated but could move. It was so strange and interesting that I had to do it. This scene is part of book two.

 I haven’t stopped writing since that first day.

There are also very few Latinas writing adult horror. There is next to no representation of Mexicans or Mexican Americans in the adult market. This bothered me. Carmen Maria Machado is a big inspiration with Her Body and Other Parties. I do follow her on Twitter and Instagram. J.F. Gonzalez was prolific as well. Unfortunately, he has passed.

Why do you write vampires? Why is this genre important to you, the writing community, and even society at large?

I have always been obsessed with vampires because they embody The Other. I am part of The Other. I also like that they move usually in the shadows, but this gives them a sense of power because their victims rarely see them coming. Growing up I often felt devoid of power. Even though vampires were scary, I liked what they stood for.

Through vampires I had the opportunity to show women transform during time periods when they were oppressed to the future where they are the leaders. Especially women of color.

I would hope that this genre inspires other women of color who feel dejected or fearful about putting their words out there to find the courage to do so. You can and should write “traditionally white or male tropes” as your own experiences. It is needed now more than ever. Mexican Americans are heavily stereotyped, and through writing stories in my own words, I can help to dispel some of those. Yes, I grew up around maids and landscapers, and their stories should be told, but it would be nice to see them told through their own lens.

Who are your favorite and most difficult characters from this book/series? What draws us into their stories?

The most difficult character to write was Sandra, a woman brought to the New World from Africa during the first wave of colonization. As a mestiza (Indigenous and Spanish) this is something I cannot escape and always question. How would our civilizations have been different if not interfered with?

I feel when you write someone from a marginalized group, you must do so with respect and not try to “own” their story. At the same time, I want my characters and histories to be diverse. Even though Sandra is a leader in modern times that was not how her life began. She is not subverted to raise the other characters; she possesses no magic to help other characters to the detriment of her being. She is a fleshed-out woman that chooses a vampire life. She works alongside Maria.

I wanted to pull women from different times in history and from different cultural experiences to show them rise throughout the ages (as vampires), to show that women are more than their assigned places. For example, brown folks have sweat and bled to build nations. We were told time and time again that is what our purpose was. My grandparents were migrant workers. My grandfather was in the military. Marginalized folks have been used as scaffolding but given no credit. Our bones are broken under that weight to this day. This angers me to no end.

But what if, through vampirism, marginalized folks could shape the future as they saw fit. I wanted to see a power shift.

When I thought about Sandra I tried to find an appropriate place in time to bring her into the story. I didn’t want her to become a vampire as a result of violence because that’s a common storyline for women of color. The more I thought I about, I realized there was no time that was easy or without struggle for women of color. So, I made the decision to start at the beginning of it all, colonization. Sandra could be part of changing history and eventually inherit a house that was built by her brethren.

That is why I wanted her to come from Africa in the 1600s and live to become a hopeful presidential candidate. She will lead a country that said she had no right to. I know this is not my story, but I wanted to see women working together. I truly believe we could be the future.

My favorite character is Maria, the main character, because it’s easier to write in your own voice. Misogyny is common in my culture and I wanted to write a woman that rebelled against that. As a Mexican American, we typically grow up Catholic and women are supposed to be demure and sweet, even in the face of abuse. Maria was also a way I could work through my own identity and experiences as a Mexican American woman growing up with assumptions of what my place in the world should be.

Maria comes from a broken home with a low self-esteem. For her, rebuilding her family is a way to heal old wounds. The man she chooses is controlling. That is when she decides she wants to make something of herself. She is inspired by Selena Quintanilla.

What are your thoughts on being a woman of color producing work in this genre?

When I write folktales and horror I write through the lens of my experience as a Latina. It is not easy considering not everyone wants to read something different. What about our legends and monsters? I don’t want to just write the same old ghost story. People shy away from what they don’t understand or fear.

With that said, the horror community is incredibly openminded and welcoming. I have only had good experiences. There is a strong desire to lift women within the horror community. Ladies of Horror Fiction, Sci-Fi and Scary, and Ginger Nuts of Horror are all good places to look.

What do you hope people take away from your work?

I hope people will just become more receptive to diversifying their reading. It is not enough to read white authors integrating marginalized folks into stories. Of course, we should be there because we exist, but not at the expense of also publishing, reading, and reviewing books from marginalized authors.

Do you have any advice or resources for other horror/fantasy writers?

Just write. Sitting down and beginning is the most difficult part. You also must persevere because it is not an easy road and there are no shortcuts.

Always be professional. Social media is a valuable tool, but it can also be toxic. It is hard to not compare your journey to other people’s journeys. If all you see are white authors getting all the deals and spotlight, it can be discouraging.

Ladies of Horror Fiction and the Horror Writers Association are fantastic resources. If you are looking for freelance help or you choose to self-publish Reedsy is helpful. Manuscript Wishlist is also helpful for looking for agents.


Maria the Wanted by V. Castro
Maria is a woman working in a maquiladora in Juarez, Mexico to earn enough money to cross the border. During one of her shifts, a group of vampires attacks the factory. Maria is spared; however, she is now a vampire. The book is about her journey as a dark enforcer of justice.

Hairspray and Switchblades
Maya takes up exotic dancing to provide for her younger sister Magdalena after their parents are murdered. Maya and Magdalena are not like other females as they come from a long line of Jaguar shifters. But there is something on the loose in San Antonio, Texas, and it wants their hide.

Maria The Wanted is out now.
 
Hairspray and Switchblades is out on February 20th

Twitter: @vlatinalondon
Instagram: @vlatinalondon
Website: http://www.vvcastro.com/