Black Women Horror Writers: Interview With Kenya Moss-Dyme
I seem to be on a roll of finding short stories to read lately. I love to pick up a book and when I only have a short amount of time before going to sleep or when I’m procrastinating from writing my own work. (Bad Eden!) Daymares is a creepy collection of seven tales of terror by author Kenya Moss-Dyme. Moss-Dyme has a handle on what women fear. While there are stories that will appeal to the core of any person—being alone, not being taken seriously by your partner, not being able to get ahead no matter how much you try—there are undertones which speak specifically to horrors women face.
In “Baby Mine”, a woman faces a difficult choice after a passion-charged night with a lover. Her decision puts her on the path of a horror-filled experience no woman wants to have. Moss-Dyme has mastered how to incorporate various cultures in her writing without succumbing to flat, clichéd phrases, which puts this story into the most disturbing of the collection.
Moss-Dyme’s characters try hard—to get along with the stepchild who had hate and anger dripping from him, to set up a new life in a building with a demanding landlord. But for all of their good intentions, their honest attempts are thwarted and for all of their evil gyrations to make their lives perfect, they fail.
Daymares is a combination of supernatural beings who get what they want with little to no regard for humanity, and what we as humans can do if we’re pushed to our limits. And it’s disturbing how quickly some people are willing to set aside their personal code of decency, and throw off the cloak of their own humanity.
“A Colder Kind of Hell” spins the story of a brilliant defense lawyer whose skill at his job allows killers to go free. Finally, one victim refuses to accept the court’s decision.
In the world of horror, it can be easy to get desensitized—to violence and apathy on the screen and between the pages. Daymares is emotional horror that places character, ones that you know—Aunt Sarah or Brenda from the job—in hopeless situations. You hope they can get out, you want them to, but in the end… They are trapped in their lives. And that is the real horror.
I’m pleased to say that Kenya allowed me to interview her for the blog about Daymares, her love of the short story form, and how African-Americans can find success in the horror industry.
First of all, thank you for granting me this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing style.
You’re very welcome, thank you for wanting to interview me!
I’ve been writing stories since I was very young and even then, I wrote things that were very dark; I didn’t write about cute fuzzy things. I always went for the shock value, it was just more fun. I do write more than horror, but most things I write have some element of darkness, it’s never happiness and light. My writing style often reflects the way I might actually tell the story if we were sitting on my sofa sipping wine and talking about our day. I get a certain rhythm going and you have to hear it in your head the way I meant it to be heard. I like for my characters to speak naturally and easily so they sound like people you know, so they sound authentic and relatable.
What inspired you to write Daymares? How did you choose the stories to include?
I’ve always preferred shorter stories – or novellas, over the really big books that take days or weeks to finish. Although I did read books like The Stand when I was young, which I remember was about two million pages long, but my favorite books were the collections where the horror was more…shall we say, bite-sized. I attribute that to my ADHD, which I decided I had before it became popular, lol.
My first completed stories were short and I just wanted to put them all together in one neat little package. I’m always planning stories-- I think I plan more stories than I actually get around to writing! I keep this running spreadsheet of titles and story ideas, so I poked around that and pulled out the ones that I really wanted to develop the most, and those became the stuff of Daymares. The first one to come to life was "Baby Mine" because I had started the story years ago and put it away.
For you, what makes a great horror tale? What do you like to read?
A great horror tale for me is one that sticks with me long after I’ve finished it; one that makes me look warily at strangers and wonder who they might be when they’re alone, what kind of things are they capable of? I love psychological horror because that’s very real and possible but also, in many ways, defeatable, and that’s why I like it.
What research did you perform for Daymares or are the characters and scenes fictionalized versions from your own experience?
I actually did have to do some research for a few of the stories in Daymares. In fact, there is a foreword at the beginning of each story that tells a little bit about the inspiration behind the story. Some were based on my experiences or things I had read in the news. For instance, the Jamaican woman in “Baby Mine”, I knew nothing about patois so I had to enlist the help of another author, Mahogany Law, to write that portion of the story where she is helping to get rid of the problem. In “Playground”, there is an environmental reason behind the attacks so I had to research the chemical that is featured at the end of the story. There was actually a local story about chemicals seeping into the property of a former gas station, and the significant increase in cancers and other illnesses of the surrounding community. Since “A Colder Kind of Hell” is a horror story with a legal theme, I consulted people who were familiar with the criminal defense process to help lend some authenticity to those parts of the story.
Why short stories? How do you make horror scary in only a few pages?
There’s no room for filler when you do a short story. You can’t drag the story on and on and beat around the bush. You have to make your point and get to the meat of it quickly and cleanly, but you also have to make people care enough to finish, even if its short, and therein lies the challenge. So you really have to plan your story so that you make the most impact in the shortest amount of time. I’m impatient myself so I know how I want my stories delivered, keep my attention, don’t take too long but make me CARE at the same time. I have a few full-length novels also but I get the most satisfaction out of my shorts and I’m more likely to read a short story than I am a novel because I just don’t have tons of free time so I need to make the most of it.
How can African American artists (actors, writers, filmmakers) succeed in horror and dark fiction circles? How can women? Do you feel your work has been received differently as a Black female author?
When I published my first book, I was involved in mostly urban fiction and when I mentioned that my heart was really in horror, I was told constantly that there was no market for that, that no one would be interested. Luckily, I didn’t listen and I started looking for the African American artists that were writing the kinds of things I wanted to read – and I found us easily. But I am often asked about others in the field so I like being able to point people in the direction of all of the great AA creatives in the industry! Not just writers but graphic artists and comic book designers too.
We just have to keep working and promoting and not just limit ourselves to primarily AA publications and events – not that I know anyone that specifically does that anyway. I don’t know for sure that being a black female has caused any difference in the way my work is received, I would hope that everyone who is a fan of horror fiction would take a chance on my work because the topic interests them, that’s how I choose what I read. From the feedback I’ve received, I have readers across the board and that’s always my goal, regardless of the race or gender of the characters in my stories, I want everyone to be able to enjoy my work.
What’s your next project? Is there a subject you refuse to touch?
I have several projects in the works at varying stages of completion and I’m just trying to plan how and when to release them. My long awaited zombie novel should be complete this summer but my next release may be the erotic-horror collection that I finished before Christmas, its 10 tales of love in its most frightening form, some creepy, some realistic and a couple are even darkly humorous.
I can’t think of anything that I wouldn’t write about, pretty much anything is fair game if I come up with an idea for a story.
I found your characters and their situations to be relatable and therefore, more unsettling. How can authors prevent falling into the usual stereotypes when creating characters and plotlines in their stories?
Personally, outlining really helps shape the story and highlight the areas that I need to work on because I can easily see the highs and lows. A story should have some waves – if you were to plot it out on a chart, if it’s a straight line then you need to punch it up so there are plenty of ups and downs because that’s the emotion of your reader. Use your outline to examine the story and if you see anything that feels like you’ve heard it before – change it. You have to always be inventing and reinventing.
I have a book that I’ve been outlining for a year now and without telling anyone about it, two other books have published by other authors with similar themes, so I had to go back and completely rework my outline because the story is too good to let go, but I can make mine so different that it will stand out among the others. It’s all in the planning.
Who is your main inspiration?
Probably my youngest son because he’s my movie buddy and I bounce ideas off of him. We can sit and brainstorm plots for hours, and he’ll tell me when I’ve gone too far. Sometimes he’ll even text me with a story idea and just drop it off with me, like, go ahead and work on that and we’ll talk about it later! Even before I started publishing my work, I could always count on him to go and see just about any scary movie with me. There have been times when I’ll pitch an idea to him and he’ll just shoot it down and we go back and forth for a while but honestly, he’s usually right – either it really was a bad idea or I just needed to work on it more before it became a good idea.
What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
Finding enough time to write. I work full-time so I have to write in the evenings and weekends but I also have to manage a family and my personal life. I’ve never been able to just sit down and tell myself to write and it happens. I really have to be moved by something in order to dedicate time to bringing it to life, and maybe the fault is in my process but that’s the way it works for me. So that means I won’t turn out projects as quickly as I probably should, but it also means that everything I do release has been well-crafted.
Thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you like to mention?
Thank you, Eden! I enjoyed meeting and getting to know you recently during February’s #WiHM tributes. As a new fan of YOURS, I’m honored to know that you’ve read my work!
It was my pleasure, Kenya!
If you’d like to read Daymares or some of Kenya’s other work, check out her website www.kenyamossdyme.com or find her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/author.kenyamossdyme
I also hear from people who are surprised black woman love, read, and watch horror. So spread the word that there are #blackwomeninhorror! We’d love to have your support.
Eden Royce is descended from women who practiced root, a type of conjure magic in her native Charleston, South Carolina. She’s been a bridal consultant, reptile handler, and stockbroker, but now writes dark fiction about the American South from her home in the English countryside. She has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Dirge Magazine, and is one of the founders of Colors in Darkness, a place for dark fiction authors of color to get support for their projects. Find out more about Eden’s brand of horror at edenroyce.com or follow her on Twitter (@EdenRoyce)