We are lucky to have Andrew Wolter here for a quick interview. If there is a “no holds barred” writer, he is one of them. His tales are always unique and sets him apart from most. It has also created a devoted fan base for him. After having many conversations off the record with him, I knew that he would be a great interview for the Non-Horror Reader Survey. Read on to see his views on the relationship between Horror and the LGBT community and what boundaries are left in the genre
NHRS: One of the things I come across is people saying that horror doesn’t represent the LGBT community like other genres do. Many think there aren’t many LGBT Horror writers; others say main characters that are LGBT. Of both characters and writers, do you think they are right?
AW: The representation of horror in the LGBT community has, indeed, showed slow progress. Needless to say, homosexual (homoerotic) imagery has been at least hinted at in horror tales for decades, if not centuries.
In regards to the assumption of a lack of LGBT horror writers: if this question is related to the sexuality of the horror writer, and not based on the fact that he or she writes LGBT horror (which I’ll get into in just a minute), I would disagree! There are a number of LGBT horror writers in the industry (although many may not actively write or be known for LGBT horror themes). The first names that come to mind are Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Rick R. Reed and Douglas Clegg. Of course, I could list dozens more; these are simply among my favorites.
Diving into the subject of a lack of gay or lesbian characters in horror, I would definitely agree that they are not represented as much as the typical heterosexual characters in horror. Although more horror works are gradually incorporating
LGBT characters, I blame the slow decline of a social stigma that once eclipsed LBGT characters presented within literature in general. When I first began writing (hinted imagery contained within earlier works of Oscar Wilde and Anne Rice aside), I purposely altered the characters within my stories to reflect those of the “straight” orientation. After all, it was the early ‘90’s and the acceptance of the LGBT community (in general, let alone in fiction) wasn’t exactly at its highest. This was before LGBT characters began showing up regularly in sit-coms and reality television shows airing in households across the nation. I feel that the lack of tolerance to such made it difficult to sell a story to a publisher that contained gay or lesbian characters. Thankfully, that was the same time that I discovered the works of Poppy Z. Brite. Her plots were terrifying, her characters were gay, and she didn’t hold back on any intimacy within the scenes of her novels. She inspired me so much that I immediately returned to my first stories and wrote my characters as they were intended: gay!
Presently, along with a growing sense of tolerance of the community in general, it seems that LGBT characters are making themselves more known in the horror genre. Master storyteller Clive Barker has introduced readers to gay characters in his latest novels. Widely followed author Rick R. Reed (named the “Stephen King of gay horror”) continues to incorporate his gay characters into the terrifying plots of his novels. Gay themed horror anthologies are becoming more prominent in the market. In fact, the 2008 Bram Stoker Award Winner in the category of “Anthology” was the gay horror themed Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadow of the Closet (Dark Scribe Press).
Just as with the LGBT community, I feel that gay characters in horror is approaching an ultimate equality that will be abundant in literature within the next five years.
NHRS: Especially with the recent trend discrimination towards gays in the news, do you think Horror could help those feeling that feel they have to hide who they are?
AW: Quite honestly, I don’t feel there has been a “recent trend discrimination” towards the LGBT community. The LGBT community is beyond discrimination (though I’m sure there are a few backwater states that wouldn’t mind throwing a noose around one of our necks and dragging us upon the asphalt behind a fast-paced pick-up truck). At this point, we are simply not being granted the equality we deserve. From the right to marry a person of the same sex to the DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) policies that continue to play out in a tug-of-war match among politicians—these are simple rights that should be given to any man or woman regardless of their sexual orientation.
Do I feel that horror can help those hiding who they truly are in reality? The answer is no. Sure, gay characters may be inspiring to those who are still “in the closet.” However, ultimately, inspiration doesn’t dictate who a person is to the rest of the world. It’s great to have the motivation from a character a reader loves, but it’s on the onus of the person that “hides” who they truly are, to make their true selves known to the rest of the world. And why not step out of the closet? After all, I truly feel we are on the cusp of what I call the “Age of Acceptance.” Not to mention, they can help strengthen the LGBT community in attaining the rights that we so much deserve as humans.
NHRS: One of the blurbs for your new collection, Much of Madness,More of Sin, states: “Andrew Wolter shatters boundaries…”. Some think there aren’t many boundaries left to break in Horror. What boundaries do you think are still out there that we haven’t pursued yet?
AW: I simply don’t believe in boundaries. I believe the aforementioned blurb primarily refers to the blatant use of same-sex imagery and the “lack of respect” for religion (as I was once told) within some of the stories that make up Much of Madness, More of Sin. In fact, at the risk of having the collection come off as “shock fiction,” I volunteered to write an introduction explaining why this particular collection of tales was more sexual and brutal that what many may read in general. Truly, it is a collection of tales depicting characters that are no different than you or I. It is storytelling without the limitations of a society that wants to hush the reality in which we truly live.
I don’t feel a writer should be limited to a scene or characterization because it may be considered “over the top.” If a tale contains the fundamentals of a plausible story (beginning, middle, end, etc), it deserves to be both published and read. I don’t limit myself at all. My characters can be crude and my scenes tend to be graphic (layered with sex and gore). Ultimately, there is a moral to each of my tales and novels. That is what my readers have grown to love. I’m not afraid to mirror the pure reality of our daily lives (as much as we may want to keep certain exploits secret) into the actions and mannerisms of my characters.
Being that I don’t believe in limitations, I think the only boundaries that haven’t been pursued are those silenced by the voice of the author in the name of current trends and which books are selling thousands of units. I may not be a bestselling novelist, but my voice is strong. I’m not afraid to use it, and that is what readers enjoy about my works.
NHRS: What brought Horror into your life?
AW: Horror has been a large part of my life ever since I was a young child.
I can credit my mother for introducing me to the horror genre. I can easily recall (since the age of six) my mother and I used to sit in front of the television late at night and watch a number of B-movies presented by Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. From cult classics such as The Children, Kiss Daddy Goodbye and Motel Hell to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Phantasm, I quickly became familiarized with a plethora of terrifying plots and ghastly images. While some may criticize my mother for her allowing me to view such, she made it very clear to me that what I was watching was no more than “make believe.”
Essentially, the movies became the catalyst for my interest in reading horror fiction. I have always been an avid reader, and my childhood was no exception. I started out reading horror-themed books in grade school. I remember a series (available in the school library) called Dark Forces. It was a volume of books that used horror in the daily lives of high school students. Truly, it was YA (Young Adult) horror for the eighties. By Junior High, I’d begun to read classic horror authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. From there, I expanded my reading into contemporary horror authors such as Robert McGammon , Poppy Z. Brite, Peter Straub and Clive Barker (to name a few).
NHRS: If you could tell everyone in the world one thing that it important about the Horror genre that you think is overlooked, what would that be?
AW: The one thing I feel is important about the horror genre that is typically overlooked is that readers shouldn’t assume that horror is the same across the board. There are different types of horror and many sub-genres to boot. Horror encapsulates our deepest fears and darkest desires. There are elements of horror that are terrifying, romantic, and repulsive. Likewise, characters within horror are straight, gay, and freakish. Horror has something for everyone, whether readers are looking for a bizarre laugh or a haunting thrill!
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Andrew Wolter is the author of Much of Madness, More of Sin and Nightfall. Currently, he lives and creates within the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona, amidst the stucco and glass that surround his environment. While his writing blurs (and tends to push) genre boundaries, Andrew feels there is always a place for darkness in any work of art. In addition to his fiction writing, Andrew has freelanced as a contributing columnist to various print magazines with over 85 published reviews and 15 published interviews.
Andrew is currently working on his anticipated “tentacle mythos” trilogy of novels. Visit Andrew Wolter on the web at www.AndrewWolter.com.