Black Women Horror Writers: Interview With Dicey Grenor
Um… regular lust.
I’ve just described Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul, the first book in Dicey Grenor’s The Narcoleptic Vampire series.
Aren’t vampires done to death? Not at all. And most horror lovers of color agree: we want to see ourselves reflected in the previously pale, translucent-skinned bloodsuckers. We want to be represented in vampire lore because vampires were at one time, human like us, with all the failings and foibles of the same. And taking people of color out of the vampire equation isn’t going to cut it.
Grenor’s book embraces multiple levels of the underrepresented. Sleepy Willow, a fetish club dancer, makes crafting the perfect horror image on stage an art. Maybe not so challenging when she’s a vampire, and can recover from her wounds. But in this world, vampirism is illegal and heavily persecuted. Unfortunately for Willow, a nosy detective thinks he’s onto her secret and she has to scramble for help from other club members to hide her nature. Hard to do when she has her hands full with a suitor. Well, only on Thursday nights. When Willow learns the reason she only sees her suitor on one night of the week, she wonders if he might need help more than she does. Her undead heart goes out to him, but the detective smells a big case and keeps hounding her wherever she goes. On top of that, Willow’s vampire maker is jealous and wants back in her life. Willow needs all her energy to stay one step ahead of the law and her maker, keep her friends safe, and stay awake.
Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul was so much fun to read. It was gory, hilarious, heart-breaking and tender all in one. Grenor reveals the fetish club workers to be a family, and in so doing, made characters so easy to adore. I wanted to see them win. Grenor is also clever in when she reveals information about their lives and their origins, but it never feels forced or held solely for a ‘gotcha’ reveal moment. This darkly sexy novel also carries a message that will resound with many: no matter what you think is wrong with you, you deserve to be loved.
Thank you for granting me this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing style.
I’m just a married mother of two, trying to balance those roles with my burning passion for writing fiction. I’ve self-published ten racy books and several short stories, with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. At some point, I’d love to make a living from my creative works, so that I won’t have to worry so much about the student loans I must pay back for the degrees I earned when I was too chicken shit to pursue what really sets my soul on fire. My skills as a lawyer come in handy sometimes, but mostly, I enjoy living life to the fullest via concerts, movies, books, fitness, traveling, porn and comic cons.
My writing style is bare bones, and much like my author brand: sexy, wild, daring, and risky. I take risks in life and with each provocative story I write, hence the pen name D-I-C-E-Y. That’s just how my brain is wired.
I have to know: Where did the idea of a narcoleptic vampire come from?
As someone who fell in love with vampire stories as early as the 1985 Fright Night movie and then went on to love Anne Rice’s books, writing my own vampire stories has always been my desire. It was important for me to write something fresh for the genre, and it took time to come up with that. Finally, during a conversation with my husband about a unique vampire story, he suggested a narcoleptic vampire. We laughed at first, until we realized… hey, that’s not a bad idea.
As a writer of color, how important is it for you to include characters of color in your work? How is that different from what you see in mainstream media and fiction?
Representation matters. Period. It matters in literature, because when people read about characters that aren’t like them, they learn to empathize with people who aren’t like them. When people read about characters that are like them, they learn to normalize who they are. So, part of what drives me to write such diverse characters is wanting people to see the world as the diverse place that it is, and to understand that our differences are a beautiful thing. I specifically write my leading vampire character as a black woman, because I wanted a vampire that I can relate to. I’m disturbed when people automatically think “pale” is an accurate description for a vampire. Says who?
The year I started writing my first novel, I read forty-eight mainstream novels. Not one of them had a person of color in it, and that didn’t just cause me to pause, it made me angry. I still get angry every time I think about it, especially when I finally stumbled across a book years later that had a black male character and he was the thug of the story.
That sort of thing is harmful in literature. More so than the erotic scenes in my books, because it helps brainwash people into thinking black men are thugs. Readers don’t even realize that is what’s happening.
Don’t get me started. The point is, that’s why I write my characters the way I do.
What research did you do on the medical conditions in Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul and how did you incorporate it into your characters’ lives?
I researched each of the medical conditions—I love that you said "condition(s)". Ha! Because yes, narcolepsy is not the only one I incorporated in this story. I digress. Anywho, I researched the conditions thoroughly via online forums, books, and films to have a working knowledge of how to describe the symptoms and treatments believably. It was fun research, because I’m always curious about these things anyway. I didn’t use all the information I gathered, but I used what felt right for each situation. I wanted to make sure that if someone with either of the conditions read my book, they would feel that I described it accurately. Though some of the scenes are written in a comedic way, I wanted readers with the conditions to also not feel that they were being disrespected, only represented.
What’s your response to people who say that blacks shouldn’t love horror and dark fiction because our lives are difficult enough? Can we be people with a history of trauma and still embrace dark fiction?
I read for escapism, and I’m naturally drawn to the dark side. Horror and dark fiction just make sense to me. One, I think people should read what they are normally drawn to. As with anything in life—just be yourself. Two, life’s too short to worry about what other people think, or to waste time reading things that don’t appeal to you. If someone feels the call of the wild and dark, they shouldn’t deny themselves just because other folks are pussies. And lastly, we, as black folks, need to stop being so damn judgmental. Let people live.
Where did your love of dark fiction originate?
It seems most of us who love dark fiction felt a kindred spirit to something dark very early on. The darkness called to something dark that had already started brewing deep within us, perhaps due to our own traumas, sense of helplessness, or other inner struggles. Some of us answer the call and find solace there, like me. I was an unhappy child. I found peace in fiction, because I was able to escape my own realities and thoughts. I got lost in other worlds where anything was possible and fantastic. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice are tied into my earliest memories of this feeling.
How do your personal fears inspire your writing?
Hmmm… Each of my characters are a bit of me, no matter how different they appear to be from me. I work through a lot of my own issues through their struggles. My fear of being alone, unloved, unaccepted, an outcast… all of that is probably more pervasive in my character developments than my fear of running into a creature that goes bump in the night attacking me. In other words, all my fears are on my pages, exposing my insecurities and vulnerabilities, and it’s not the ones easiest to see. It’s not the monsters that I write that frighten me. They are neither good nor evil. It’s how people perceive and treat them that is most frightening, because people behave heinously towards things they don’t understand.
What’s missing in dark fiction? What would you like to see?
More buyers and readers. More discussions about self-published dark fiction authors.
In a culture that tends to vilify sex workers, exotic dancers, and fetish clubs, how did you make Willow such a sympathetic character?
Thank you for saying she’s a sympathetic character. I believe… I hope, at least, that my respect for sex workers, exotic dancers, and fetish clubs is what comes across on the pages. I take a sex-positive approach to life, and I see people who work in the sex industry as people who work in the sex industry. Period. I do not place negative labels on them. I see no difference in their jobs from any other jobs. Everyone is trying to make a living in a safe environment. Sex is a natural part of life. I feel it should be a natural part of my characters’ lives…and afterlives. *cheesy grin*
Sex and lust is used in many ways in Sleepy Willow—as a form of control, to show loving emotion, as the result of blood sharing. What, if anything, does that say about the sexuality of black women?
Sexuality varies from person-to-person. I think in all the ways you mentioned, sexuality can be seen in each of these ways in black women at various stages. I just hope that whatever way women are experiencing it, that it is consensual and pleasurable.
You’re a prolific writer, with ten novels and novellas available, in addition to having a day job. How do you find time to write and what’s your next project?
I love that word “prolific”. Thank you. I’m struggling, to be honest. *laughing* I drink lots of coffee and energy drinks, and I take blood pressure pills.
My next book release will be Fast Friends, Desperate Lovers. It is a rock-n-roll erotic romance (i.e. kinky), the sequel to Best Friends, Fantasy Lovers. Every once in a while, I write something that’s grounded in reality, without creatures of the night. This series falls under that. It’s still dark though. No way around the darkness swimming in my head.
What subjects do you consider taboo when writing?
My most taboo subject to date is in my novel, Shameful, about a married woman involved in an extramarital relationship with an underage male. Or maybe it’s my references to necrophilia and bestiality in The Narcoleptic Vampire Series. Or the BDSM in my rock-n-roll books. Or the interracial, interspecies, polyamorous relationships throughout my books. Dear god, I don’t know. This is why I have difficulty finding my tribe and reading audience, and why my books keep getting snatched off virtual shelves. I deliberately write controversial subjects. Most of what I write is probably considered taboo. Incest is the one taboo subject I can think of that I haven’t written.
What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
The most difficult part is writing my first few chapters. I’m muse-driven, so when my obsessions are at a peak, I’m writing heavily. When the muse isn’t speaking, I’m unfocused. It takes me a while to get the character voices, tone, and pacing of the plot for a new novel. Once I get going though, I can write the whole rest of the book within a week.
When you want a good scare, what do you like to read?
It’s been a while since I’ve read for a good scare, but Dean Koontz was my favorite horror writer many years ago.
Thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you like to mention?
I’m so very grateful you read my book and took the time to send me these questions. Getting the word out about my books has been the most challenging part of being an author. Sometimes, it’s downright overwhelming. Whenever I come across someone who reads my books and loves them, it’s always a breath of fresh air. You are appreciated more than you know. I understand that you are a writer as well. If there’s ever anything I can do to support your work, please let me know.
Of course I will! And thank you. I love to see us supporting each other’s work.
If you like to read Dicey’s dark tales or know about her work, find her on any of her social media outlets: