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Note: Although Richard Thomas is not a Black writer, he graciously agreed to share a copy of his work with NIGHTLIGHT listeners, so we are featuring an interview with him as thanks for donating his work.
What inspired you to start writing?
I woke up one day at the age of 40, after seeing Fight Club and was inspired. I went to Chuck Palahniuk’s website, devoured his books, and then took a class with Craig Clevenger. I’ve always loved reading, writing, film—all kinds of storytelling. I got a story out of that, “Stillness,” which Craig suggested I send out. Eventually it ended up in Shivers VI alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub. I was hooked. Now I had the faith and confidence to keep writing.
How do you feel about this renaissance Black horror is experiencing?
I love it. There are so many stories to be told, and whether it is with a historical influence or not, these are powerful stories. Everything from Get Out to Lovecraft Country to Watchmen. The same with books, stories, and comics.
Which Black writer inspires you the most and why?
There are a lot of Black authors who are doing amazing things right now—Roxane Gay, NK Jemisin, Victor LaValle—but I think it was probably in my MFA program where I was reading Beloved by Toni Morrison that really opened my eyes. Not only did the literary aspects of the story influence me, but the horror was deep, layered, and sincere. A powerful and personal story, of universal truths.
What are your favorite pieces of Black horror, whether it be literary, film, or audio?
Beloved is right up there, as are those movies and television shows I mentioned—Get Out, Lovecraft Country, and Watchmen. I love what Jordan Peele is doing. I think for me, my favorite Black horror (or Black fantasy/sf as well) is the NEXT ONE. I’m trying to read broadly, but still have a long way to go in my education. So right now, it’s probably the next new voice (or new to me, at least). Some recent stories that have blown me away: “Loneliness Is in Your Blood” by Cadwell Turnbull, “Boys Go to Jupiter” by Danielle Evans, “Whose Heart I Long to Stop with the Click of a Revolver” by Rivers Solomon, and “Through the Flash” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. I taught all of those in my Advanced Creative Writing Workshops, and loved them.
How can we support you and your work?
Most of my focus these days is on writing, editing, and teaching, so if you want to spread the word about Storyville, that’s always appreciated. I have stories out this year in Cemetery Dance and the PRISMS anthology (PS Publishing). I guess what I’d really like though is for people to read more new voices, to read authors of color, Black horror writers for sure, but beyond that as well—open your mind to gender, orientation, race, religion, country, culture, and POV. Running Gamut for a few years, one of the most exciting parts of the job was getting submissions from all over the world, from a wide range of voices. But if editors and presses don’t hire staff with more diversity and publish wider, they are doing their business and readership a great disservice.