(Continued from part I, as Monica Valentinelli and I engage in a dialogue about our worldviews and how we approach our craft) Has anyone ever accused you of being non-Christian because you write horror? How do you respond to something like that?

MB: Honestly, my spiritual life functions pretty much the same way.  I’m a trained scientist and I know our culture swims in waters of rational explanation first.  So that creates stumbling blocks in my faith as well as strengthens it.  On the plus side, I question a lot of things and explore why I believe what I believe.  On the negative side, I wish I had more faith some days.  Faith in prayer, faith in spiritual gifts, faith in the reality of the supernatural.  I believe, but if I’m honest with myself, I wonder how much I truly believe.

So when people accuse me of not being Christian, my answer depends on what kind of day I’m having.  some days it’s something along the lines of I don’t think you can judge where I’m at with Christ until you’ve actually engaged me in conversation and gotten to know my heart.  Some days it’s something like horror is how I grapple with the reality of darkness, evil, and the supernatural in the reality of my life.  Some days it’s there’s a lot of what you call “horror” in the bible, it’s easy to label things if you don’t want to think.  Some days it’s just kiss my non-Christian black ass, but that’s not terribly helpful.  Though sometimes satisfying.

We are people of varying worldviews.  Do you think there is a dearth of spiritual or religious exploration in the genre?  Why do you think writers shy away from it?  Is it something you explore at all?

MLV: I’ve talked to a lot of writers who avoid sensitive subjects in general because they’re concerned with marketing: what sells, what their platform is, whether or not they’ll alienate readers? I haven’t read every story or book that’s out there, but I feel that

spiritual/religious exploration is affected by the current climate and the glut of tropes that are out there. Obviously, those tropes aren’t meant to be an accurate depiction of any faith, but I still feel they lurk in the background. What’s interesting to me is how these tropes affect what a reader’s preconceived notions are of a particular monster. Big difference between a Western European vampire and a Chinese vampire.

Anyway, I do explore these concepts from a character’s perspective if it fits the story. In “The Queen of Crows,” the Native American character turns his back on his faith to save his people. In a recent flash fiction piece that’s coming out, I wrote a story about a manticore set in a salt mine. When I was doing my research, apparently miners in Poland carved whole chapels into the rock salt and added saints, etc. Great setting with religious overtones built in; so I utilized that in the story’s plot.

While spirituality/religion isn’t part of my platform, it’s a part of yours. Why did you decide to go that route?