You should be jealous. So, so jealous. Because
not only did a get a review copy of Eden Royce’s Spook Lights, I also snagged an interview. Before I post the interview, let me tell you Spook
Lights
is so so awesome, and spooky and wonderful, and filled with Southern
Fried Goodness. Buy this book, I swear you will not be disappointed.
Okay. Fan Girl moment over *fans self*. Here is
the interview:
  
If I wanted to dig deeper into gothic horror,
what movies or books would you recommend?
I’d say find a copy of the TV series “American
Gothic” with Gary Cole.  I’m still mad it
lasted only one season. Sooo good. And it’s set in a fictional town in South Carolina.  Can’t say that about many shows. 
Author’s Note: I remember “American Gothic.” I so had a crush on Gary Cole after that show. 
For Southern Gothic horror with a touch of
mystery, I’d read Season
by Jewel Parker Rhodes. It’s about the great-great granddaughter of Marie
Laveau, New Orleans’ most famous voodooienne. 
Going back a bit, I’d recommend Daphne Du Maurier’s work.  She wrote the novelette, “The Birds” that
Alfred Hitchcock turned into the movie. I love her short story “The Blue
Lenses”, although she is probably most known for writing the classic novel
Rebecca, which has also been turned into a movie full of Gothic goodness. 
What inspired you to write gothic horror?
I don’t think I set out to write Gothic horror,
it’s simply what emerged when I started writing dark fiction.  I don’t typically read or watch horror with
enormous amounts of blood spilling. My first experience with horror was old
black and white classic movies—the ones starring Bela Lugosi, Peter Cushing,
Christopher Lee, and the like—and I loved them. 
I found them fascinating with their creepy elegance, foreboding castles,
and misty moors. At that time, I loved Poe, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, and the
like but I hadn’t found many examples of horror by African-American writers.
When I started writing, I set my stories in my
hometown—Charleston, South Carolina—because it’s where I felt the characters
could be themselves. When I conceived each story, the setting came
simultaneously. In Southern Gothic, the settings are as much a part of the tale
as the characters are. Since then, I’ve written about different cultures and
different parts of the world, but I always come back to the American South
because I have so many intriguing characters who need a voice. (And they’re the
ones that have been rolling around in my head the longest.) Southern accents
can be seen as shorthand for ignorance in books and in film—I’d love for that
to change.
Did you write the stories over one long writing
session, or were the stories written in chunks over years?
Some of the stories go back to 2011 and were
published with presses that are now defunct. (So sad to say that.) I polished
them up before including those tales in Spook Lights. About half of them are
new, unpublished stories. Most of the stories took me a few weeks of actual
writing time to create, as I sometimes move from one to another in order to
keep up momentum if I get stuck on an element of the tale.
One of the stories I wrote in one frantic
afternoon, then set it aside for editing a week later.  Strangely enough, I had a best-selling author
read it and it was one of his favorites.
The first story in Spook Lights almost didn’t
get written.  I signed up for a challenge
to write a story based on a prompt and the prompt was not what I expected—alchemy,
blinding sound, severed art.  Yikes! I
had no idea what to do with that combination of “must haves”. But I figured it
out and “The Watered Soul” was the result.
The stories featured beautifully crafted
characters that were all black. I’m ashamed to admit this, but at one point I
thought, “Wow. If she’d used pale skinned mainstream characters, she’d
probably have a broader audience.” So were you ever tempted to make Spook
Lights less diverse?
I wasn’t. Many of the stories of the South don’t
include people of color as the point of view characters and I wanted Spook
Lights to do that. A few of the stories use Gullah, a language I grew up with.
Gullah is a blend of English and African languages spoken by the first slaves
to be brought to the coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia. It’s dying out now,
as many people feel it is just uneducated speech, and refuse to acknowledge its
value, or the fact it is a recognized language, with its own grammatical rules
and structure.
As a writer, I don’t tend to use great detail in
physical descriptions for my characters because I want their situations to be
relatable to people outside of barriers like color.  I do use minor details to give a sketch of
the person, but I want readers to place themselves in the guise of the
characters while reading as I feel it deepens the experience of the story.
What I’d love to see is people taking away
something from these characters, being impacted by them—whether they’re rooting
for them to fail or succeed—regardless of age, economic background, gender, or
race.
What makes a good writer?
Good writers have the ability to stay true to
their version of the story, even faced with the possibility that no one will
read it or understand it. Sometimes this can take time to cultivate. A good
writer also needs persistence to stick with a project until the end. Anyone who
has gone through the full process of publishing knows it takes rewrites and
edits to the point where you may be sick of seeing the manuscript before it
hits the shelves.
A good writer also learns to see the story from
the perspective of the reader. Incredibly difficult to do at times, especially
when you as the writer love the story you’re telling. But it’s an essential skill
and worth the time it takes to learn it.
What makes a good reader?
An open mind. 
For fiction reading, a good reader is willing to suspend his or her
disbelief.  You have to be willing to go
with the author’s vision of the story, which is not always what makes logical
sense in “the real world”. This holds true especially for speculative
fiction—horror, fantasy, science fiction, and the like. I find it disheartening
when I hear a reader say, “I just didn’t believe that could happen.”
Speculative fiction should open a reader to possibilities.
As children, we are encouraged to imagine and to
dream.  We shouldn’t lose that when we
become adults. Reading is escapism. Enjoy it and experience the new, the
strange, the fascinating.
What are you reading right now?
I always read several things at a time.  Right now, I’m reading Unhallowed Graves
by African horror author Nuzo Onoh, a collection of tales about the dead taking
their revenge.  It’s steeped in African
culture and is truly chilling.
I’m also reading an old favorite of mine, Pearl by
Tabitha King. (She is the wife of Stephen King, but this is no horror novel.)
It’s the last book in a beautifully crafted trilogy: An independent black
woman inherits a house in a small Maine town, and turns the place on its ear.
She wants to lead a quiet life, but things don’t work out that way. I love how
King is able to create sympathetic characters and put them through physical and
emotional turmoil.
  
I’ve just finished The Big Sleep by Raymond
Chandler. I love a gritty detective novel. Of course, the books above are in
addition to what I’m Beta reading for friends and family. The to-read pile is
getting out of control.  *laughs*
Eden Royce is descended from women who
practiced root, a type of conjure magic in her native Charleston, South
Carolina. She currently lives in Kent, The Garden of England, with her husband
and a maniacal black cat named Samurai.
Eden has been praised for bringing “a refreshing
perspective to the table that paranormal lovers are sure to enjoy.” (B.D.
Bruns, author of The Gothic Shift). When she’s not writing, she’s walking on
cliff tops, watching quiz shows or perfecting her signature dish for
Masterchef. Learn more about Eden’s brand of horror at darkgeisha.wordpress.com and at www.edenroyce.com.

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