• Gaby Triana

An Interview with Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient LINDA ADDISON

Happy Friday from the Witch Haunt! To celebrate and send us off into the weekend, here’s my interview with the wonderful LINDA ADDISON, first black and 4-time recipient of the Bram Stoker Award® and recipient of the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award® 2018. Everything about Linda makes me happy, so here she is!

WH: Hi, Linda! Please give us a brief introduction of your fabulous self:

I’m a writer of strange poetry and fiction (horror, science-fiction, fantasy) that has been published in anthologies, magazines and my own books. I’ve been making up stuff since I was a child. It is this same active imagination that I write from now.

I’ve published over 300 poems, stories and articles. My work has been on the honorable mention list for Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and Year’s Best Science-Fiction many times.

I am the receiver of the HWA Bram Stoker Award® four times for collections, including How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend, and I am the first African-American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award in 2001. The HWA also gave me their Mentor of the Year Award in 2016. This year my mind was blown by receiving the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award.

WH: I was honored to be in the audience watching you receive this. Many, many congratulations! What other career would you have if not writing/publishing?

I wanted to be an astronaut when I was in high school, but in the late 1960’s it felt like an impossible dream for a Black student. Science-fiction was an obsession in the beginning and I ached to see Earth from outer space. I did well in math and science (which I still enjoy) so I ended up with a B.S. in Mathematics from Carnegie-Mellon University and ultimately made a career in software development, mostlyin the financial industry. It was a good day job and I found satisfaction in creating products that helped others work. I retired from the day job in 2014 and I’ve been a full-time writer since then.

I’ve always enjoyed teaching so that might have been another path.

Per fantasy careers: I love daydreaming about being a modern/jazz dancer or ice dancer but I’m too clumsy.

WH: It’s interesting how many people I’ve interviewed wish they could’ve been astronauts, but we’re happy you pursued writing, because we get to be observers of your soul at work. Linda, what is your writing process like?

Most of the ideas for my writing comes from my daily journals: jotting down dreams, thoughts, ideas, things I overhear or see, bits and pieces of daily life. I’m a big day-dreamer so I’m always looking at some thing and seeing something else.

I’ll pull pieces from my journals to create a poem or story, sometimes for a market I have in mind or later look for a market for it. Occasionally I’ll write for a theme anthology which is still about day-dreaming only with a soft concept in mind. Whether writing one poem/story or working on a new collection the writing flows through a state of mind I’ve read described as The Zone.

In general, my first voice is poetry. It’s always playing in the back of my mind. My fiction tends to be character driven and I’ll write notes about some character in a jam, wanting something, later when I turn it into a story comes the question of what it will cost them to get their desire met—the price, like in real life, isn’t always obvious.

Before I retired from the day job I had to be relatively focused with what I wrote outside journals because there was limited time left in the day after working in an office and life things (cooking, cleaning, family). Once I retired from my day job I have more time, but I’m also involved in mentoring and other writing projects so I do my writing first thing after coffee in the morning that way no matter how my time unwinds in a day I’ve done the important work first.

WH: Love that you get the important stuff out of the way first. It helps set your mind at ease earlier in the day. I loved Sycorax’s Daughters and wished that such an anthology existed for female horror writers of Latina background such as myself. What was it like editing such an amazing project?

Sycorax’s Daughters was a deeply soul-satisfying project. Prof. Kinitra Brooks approached me to work with her on it and being the first Black to win the HWA Bram Stoker Award made me want to find a way to introduce the genre community to other Blacks writing horror. Luckily, Sumiko Saulson had created a book of Black Women in Horror, which originally was 60 Black Women in Horror, now she’s at 100+. This was a big resource for me.

I was so joyful that Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Publishing, 2017) with co-editors Kinitra Brooks and Susana Morris, was a HWA Bram Stoker© finalist in the Anthology category this year. In addition, Prof. Kinitra D. Brooks book, Searching for Sycorax: Black Women’s Hauntings of Contemporary Horror (Rutgers University Press) was also on the final ballot in the Non-Fiction category. Keep an eye out for the non-fiction companion to Sycorax’s Daughters that Prof. Brooks is putting together now with essays from different authors.

In fact, this year two other Black creative projects won HWA Bram Stokers: Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (Abrams ComicArts), based on book by Octavia E.Butler & the screenplay byJordanPeele for Get Out (Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, QC Entertainment). I am no longer the only Black with the award and I couldn’t be happier.

If I only wanted to edit I’m sure I could create collections of work by many other less read groups like Latina or something like Sycorax’s Sons but writing is my main thing. I have a book I’m finishing writing now and several other things I want to create of my own.

WH: Will look out for that companion book, and yes, I’m a big fan of Peele’s Get Out! Which of your written works are you most proud of?

I’m so proud of all my work. I try not to look backwards at old work with second thoughts—it was the best I could do at that time. I’m always working to make the current work better than the last. I will say the one book of mine that sells the most is How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend which is very satisfying because I wanted to create a collection that has a variety of my work: fiction and poetry in the areas of horror, fantasy and science-fiction.

WH: Well, you’ve accomplished that bridging of interrelated genres very well. How have you changed as a person from your early life until now?

The biggest change is that I was very shy up until high school. Somewhere between high school and college I became more outgoing. Now I think most see me as an extrovert, but back then I was definitely introverted. I read all the time, was very watchful of others and didn’t talk much in social settings. I’ve learned to trust my intuition more. There were a lot of things I worried about and was fearful of, now I pretty much try not to sweat stuff and stay in the present moment.

WH: I’ve been working on that myself, letting go of fear. Fear is part of what’s pushed me to succeed so hard, that possibility that I might not amount to anything, not make a name for myself, not provide for my family that used to drive me. Now I create because I love it, because it’s all I ever wanted to do.

So, you used to teach mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University. Because my son is in the summer program now, I have to ask (on his behalf), what do you think students in the SAMS program should be focused on if they’d like to get into CMU their freshman year?

I enjoyed teaching math in the CMU summer program for pre-college students. Most seniors think about the grades for getting into college, but it’s more than that. Colleges take in account the students involvement in areas of interest (from specific clubs like science, chess, etc. including community work).

I also thinks it’s really important for the student to be able to feel/see themselves on a specific college campus. That’s why programs like CMU’s SAMS program is good, because it give HS seniors weeks to be on campus, to be in the classroom, library, dorms and see how they feel about making that commitment.

I believe in the strength of an individual’s self-image. For a student to be able to see themselves attending a particular college is a powerful visualization.

WH: You mention the power of visualization, how imagining yourself in a setting helps manifest that dream. I think that’s a difficult thing for many math & science students to do, because they’re so grounded in facts and evidence, they forget there are other forces at play in their success, so thanks for mentioning it.

Okay, quick food break. How do you like your coffee? Do you have a favorite libation? What’s your favorite dessert?

I love that you have a food portion!

I require a cup of coffee EVERY morning with cream and sugar (otherwise things can go horribly wrong in the universe). I do enjoy wine and beer but my favorite drink on Fridays is gin & tonic. My favorite dessert, well there’s a list: white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies, cookie dough ice cream, dark chocolate caramel sea salt candy, dark chocolate bacon candy bar…you get the idea.

WH: So, you like vanilla? :) You’re a chocolate girl, which makes you sensual and sweet. Now, let’s talk about the biggie…congratulations on winning the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award at StokerCon this year! I was lucky enough to be there and hear you speak about being a black child, longing for acceptance, and never imagining that such a day would come. What was it like standing up there? We were all so happy for you.

It was beyond emotional and life-affirming. I tried so many times to write an acceptance speech, but how to thank all the people who have supported my life, all the lessons learned. It was impossible. So I decided to just say whatever came to me.

There was certainly no way to know I would end up on that stage receiving this award, until it happened. Listening to Jim Moore’s introduction, the list of things on my writing resume was breath-taking because all I’ve done and continue to do is write and help others as I’ve been supported, without thinking about rewards in return. Well, that’s not entirely true, I always wanted to see my name in print. The idea that I can write something and someone I didn’t know would read it is still pretty intoxicating.

The honoring of me and my work isn’t something any creative person can depend on. I feel very blessed.

WH: It must’ve been surreal, like an out-of-body experience. Speaking of which, what is the witchiest thing about you?

I’m committed to the idea of choosing love over fear, so whether in the day job or writing events, I walk in centered in peace and often have a calming effect on others (so I’ve been told :-).

WH: And that ties back to what I mentioned before—letting go of fear. Do you have any advice for women writers looking to not only enter, but be respected, in the horror literature genre?

Write what you want. You’re a human being first and have the right to create whatever you feel pulled towards. Write as well as you can, find trustworthy input for feedback on your writing, take workshops. I’m constantly learning to sharpen my writing skills. Don’t reject your work for a market, we writers aren’t the best judge of our work. Make a list of 3-5 markets for a piece, send it to the top market first. If it’s rejected and you can make it better, do so and either way send it right back out.

WH: Wonderful advice. What is the most awesome thing happening in your life right now that you’d like to share with us?

Readers know me for my poetry but right now I’m finishing a science-fiction collection of linked stories that take place in a future I created for a story published in 2010; When We Dream Together (published in Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Graves Sheffield Publishing). It’s very different from poetry and I’m so excited about this new work!

WH: I’m excited, too! What’s next for you? We can’t wait to see what you have coming up!

I have a story coming out in the Dark Voices anthology (Lycan Valley Press, 2018) & (wait for it…) it’s from the SF short story collection I’ve been working on! I’m delighted it found a spot in the world, I hope others enjoy it!

Also, I’m excited to be the editor for the HWA StokerCon 2019 convention book. I’m in the process of adding content as essays from creators along with the GOH interviews and contributions.

It’s like the universe has opened up to you and the good things you attracted just keep flowing in. Well-deserved. Thank you so much for being with me here today, Linda! To follow Linda Addison, visit the following links:

* Website: www.lindaaddisonpoet.com

* Amazon Author page: www.amazon.com/author/lindaaddisonpoet

* Latest release: BLACKTASTICON 2018 ANTHOLOGY (https://www.blacktasticon.com/product-page/blacktastic-the-blacktasticon-2018-anthology), edited by Milton J. Davis.  (publisher MVMedia, LLC.) Contains the first time reprint of my story,Twice, At Once, Separated, from the first Dark Matter anthology. Includes work by Guests at the Blacktasticon in Atlanta, GA (2018).

COSMIC UNDERGROUND(https://www.amazon.com/Cosmic-Underground-Grimoire-Speculative-Discontent/dp/1941958788), edited by Reynaldo Anderson & John Jennings.  (publisher Cedar Grove Publishing) contains my poem, The Black Speculative Art Manifesto (Spell)with art work by Stacey Robinson. 

* Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.d.addison

* Twitter: https://twitter.com/nytebird45

* Instagram: nytebird45

Linda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections, including How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend,and the first African-American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award®. In 2018 she received the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She has published over 300 poems, stories and articles and is one of the editors of Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Publishing), an anthology of horror fiction/poetry by African-American women. Catch her latest work in anthologies Cosmic Underground (Cedar Grove Publishing), Blacktastic anthology (MVMedia, LLC.) and Scary Out There (Simon Schuster). Addison is a founding member of the writer’s group Circles in the Hair (CITH), and a member of HWA, SFWA and SFPA. Her site: www.lindaaddisonpoet.com.

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