Thursday, October 1, 2015

Black Women Horror Writers: Interview With Constance Burris


On the blog today is author Constance Burris, whose story, Black Beauty, is her first in the horror realm. Black Beauty follows a mysterious woman named Jade who makes contact with three Black youths grappling with issues of identity and beauty who discover that her mysterious powers are fact and not myth.

Burris explores the issues we as black women can face with accepting our beauty on its own terms. These aren’t issues that only adults deal with; Black Beauty is listed as a children’s book on Amazon. It shows that identity issues and standards of beauty are ingrained early on in kids. And the real horror is the lengths these teens will go to achieve that so called beauty. I’m sure any parent will want to reassure their children that they are strong and beautiful after reading this story and that beauty comes in all forms.

Black Beauty is a timely, refreshing, yet cautionary story peppered with some chilling events. As it is marketed toward younger people, there isn’t a visceral, gory storyline, but it is disturbing in its message. When Jade’s identity begins to show through, another otherworldly danger is revealed. I will let you know that Black Beauty ends on a cliffhanger, as it is The Everleaf Series Book 0.  But Book One is available and is titled Coal, which also happens to be Jade’s son’s name. I’ve also read Coal but it isn’t a horror story, so I won’t be reviewing it here (I’ll do that on my blog) but it is an engrossing read, full of elves and magic, swordplay, and high fantasy action.

Constance was kind enough to chat with me about her writing, specifically why she felt she had to write Black Beauty.

Thank you so much for granting me this interview. Tell us a bit about Black Beauty.

I’m a science fiction, fantasy and horror writer. My mission is to get more people turned on to speculative fiction. When the idea of Black Beauty came to me, I knew I had to jump on it. Black Beauty is urban, modern, horrific, and speculative. It has all the ingredients for an addictive book.

What drew you specifically to horror and dark fiction?

I really wanted to write a story with a girl whose dreads turned into snakes and a boy covered in cockroaches. It couldn’t be anything but a horror.

What was the impetus for Black Beauty?


Ooh, Girl. Let me break it down.

I have a seventeen-year-old daughter. She tells me all the time about how most of the black boys at her school don’t like black girls. And I had a nephew tell some pale-skinned girls he thought black girls looked like cockroaches. So I had to explore that in a book.

My hair is natural and my daughter used to have relaxed hair. While she was using the creamy crack, we had a conversation about hair and she asked if I thought it was bad to use relaxers. I told her ‘no’. It’s all just hair. In the long run, none of it matters. 

I also saw this episode of The Tyra Banks Show where the guests were discussing how to achieve “white girl flow”.  I desperately wanted to use the term in a story.

Black Beauty blends horror and high fantasy—fairy folk and the like—two genres that aren’t often paired and don’t often feature characters of color as protagonists. Why mix the two? Why use fairy folk?

Like a lot of folks, I read and watched The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and R.A. Salvatore’s the Dark Elf Trilogy. I loved these narratives, but I was not represented. I wrote Black Beauty because I wanted to carve out a space for myself in a genre I’ve loved since kindergarten.

What scares you in real life?

Not having control. I hate depending on people to do anything for me, but I’ve gotten better at asking for help as I’ve grown older.

Of the works you’ve written, what’s your favorite? Of which are you most proud?

I’m really proud of Chaos, the first story I published. It’s about two telepaths. I shopped the short story around to a few places, but it was rejected by all of them. Impulsively, I published it online because I knew it was good.

What’s your next project?

I am working on finishing Book 2 and Book 3 of the Everleaf Series. Once those are complete, I plan on giving the characters from Black Beauty (Shemeya, Ashley, Andre, and Jade) their own stories, which I’m really excited about.

What shape would you like to see the future of dark fiction take?

I would like to see more stories that play with settings like the Midwest, west coast, east coast, and Canada.  As well as play with intersectional narratives: gay and black, disabled and Latino for example.

Many black female authors of dark fiction tell me they struggle for fans. What has been the response to your work?

I wrote most of Black Beauty on Wattpad, sharing scenes with my family until I began to get a bigger following. And everyone loved it! I originally thought examining black beauty issues in a horror would be controversial, but the reception has been great.

Thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you like to mention?

Thanks for taking the time to interview me about Black Beauty. I want to let the readers know if anyone subscribes to my newsletter at www.constanceburris.com, you will receive my first story Chaos and the first chapter of Black Beauty “Medusa” for free!

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Constance Burris is on a journey to take over the world through fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Her mission is to spread the love of speculative fiction to the masses. She is a proud blerd (black nerd), mother, and wife. When she is not writing and spending time with her family, she is working hard as an environmental engineer in Oklahoma City. Find out more about Constance and her work on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and her Amazon author page



About The Author
Eden Royce is a native of Charleston, SC whose great-aunt practiced root, a type of conjure magic. She now wishes she’d listened more closely. Her stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines. She also reviews books for Hellnotes, a website dedicated to horror in fiction, art and movies and is the horror submissions editor for Mocha Memoirs Press. Besides writing, her passions include roller-skating, listening to thunderstorms, and excellent sushi.  A list of her work can be found on her website: edenroyce.com and she blogs about all things writerly at: darkgeisha.wordpress.com. (@EdenRoyce)
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