Maurice Broaddus Interview with OTDWBL I’ve had the great pleasure of interviewing Maurice Broaddus. He piqued my interest in part because he’s a man of apparent contradictions: a man who operates as a rational, pragmatic scientist by day and a literary creative at night; a Christian church leader who writes horror stories, and a person who would love to meet both Alexander the Great and Malcolm X. Somehow, though, all these apparent differences combine to create an intelligent, complex writer with a lot to say. So, without further ado: the Legendary interview with Maurice Broaddus.

1. At a glance, you’re a man whose life juxtaposes many things that one wouldn’t normally pair together. For example, you write about pop culture, but from a Christian point of view with Hollywood Jesus. And you’re a Christian who writes horror movies that would love to meet one of the most famous American Muslims, Malcolm X. (Note: I’ve actually read some of your philosophy about this in one of your blog posts awhile back, but I think it’s an interesting topic.)

It’s funny that you mention that. The idea of identity is a major thread in a lot of my stories and I have to guess that stems from my own journey of reconciling these different aspects of myself. I’m a scientist by training and vocation, I help run a church, I write. I’m Black. I’m Christian. I’m American. I’m a man. Sometimes these aspects are in sync with each other, other times at war. Either way, it keeps my life interesting.

2. There are relatively few Black writers in the horror genre. What attracted you to the genre? Beyond that, what motivates you to write? How did you get into writing? When did you realize that you had a gift for it?

There are relatively few of us, but we’re growing. We even had a bit of a roundtable discussion about this very fact.

I’ve always felt like I’ve snuck into the genre through a backdoor because it’s not like I grew up loving it. I’ve always been drawn to writing dark stories. The first story I ever wrote was in 5th grade and it was the tale of a Big Mac being devoured … from the Big Mac’s perspective. After that, I was the kid in Sunday School class freaking out the teacher by having her go over the gorier stories in the Bible. I never knew it was “horror” until a friend pointed it out to me and directed me to similar stories.

The actual realizing of any sort of a gift came in high school when a teacher took an interest in my work and started pushing me. I tried setting writing aside when I got to college, but by then it was in my blood and I had to keep writing.

3. Your stories have been featured in several books. Any plans for a book of your own?

There’s always plans. I actually have two novels that I am actively shopping around now, one horror and the other fantasy. In the meantime, I have at least one novella due out next year, with a couple other projects in the works.

4. What was your road to getting published, particularly with your fiction?

My road has been paved with the right people showing up at the right time. In college I took a few creative writing classes, but it was when I entered a mentorship program with a professor, who, as it turned out, was writing a thesis on Stephen King and Clive Barker, that I was pointed in the right direction in terms of how to go about submitting stories. A few years later, after my first story sold, another writer came into my life through a fluke and convinced me that I ought to start attending conventions and making contacts in the business. Making friends, be they fellow writers or editors, has been one of the essentials to the business side of writing.

5. What does your writing process look like? How do you develop your characters and plot?

I do a lot of prep work so that I never have to face a blank page. I jot down any ideas for the story, any plot points or scenes that come to mind. I outline because I’m a control freak and I like to have an idea of where the story’s going before I start. Then I research. It’s what gives me the time to think through what I want to do with the story.

Next comes the character sketches. I try to “bio” my characters, especially in my longer works, trying to get their stories down. Not just their physical descriptions and names, but how they know the other characters.

While I’m still at the note stage of the game, I figure out the overall plot and arrange the scenes. I like the scattering of all my notes then, like a jigsaw puzzle, shape them into an outline of a plot and putting which notes with which scene. Only then, armed with a rough story, scattered bits of dialogue descriptions and turns of phrase, can I then sit down and write. I wish my process was more organic, but it works for me.

6. I noticed that you’ve won a few awards for your writing. To what extent does that motivate you? How did you feel about winning? And is there any award that you would just love to win?

My big win was the World Horror Convention 2003 short story contest. The year before I had received an honorable mention and was handed my award by one of my heroes, Neil Gaiman. As great as that was, winning the whole thing was better. It helped validate my dream and encourage me that I was on the right track (and that story ended up being published in Weird Tales). While I’d be honored to win a Stoker or one from the International Horror Guild, I always believe that if I’m going to dream, dream big: I’m aiming for a Pulitzer.

7. Random question: the paintings of you and your family on your website: did you do those?

Not me, but a close friend of the family. I tend to surround myself with creative people in all areas of my life.

8. What scares a horror writer?

Deadlines and not getting a check for my work.

9. What’s the “after” of publishing a story or book? Many writers spend a lot of time on the “before.” What do you do in the “after” so that your work is commercially successful?

Well, you have to know going in that a lot of the promotion and marketing of your book is going to fall on your shoulders. So the after involves having a plan to get your book to the attentio
n of as many folks as possible. I’m already thinking through various online campaigns, possible book tours (though I’m losing faith in how much they actually do for a book), lining up book clubs, and arranging speaking engagements. As much time as you devote to editing your work “before” you have to put in just as much, if not more, into marketing it “after.”

10. You do a lot, from your 9 to 5 to writing for several different blogs and publications, not to mention maintaining your website and continuing with your fiction work. Besides that, you facilitate for your church and you’re a husband and father. How do you find time to write what’s important to you?

I’m all about multi-tasking. I carry a notepad and pen everywhere I go and every minute I can, I squeeze out words. That and I only sleep three hours a night. And in the “credit where credit is due” department, my wife has been great about helping me carve out time to write.

11. What do you hope to accomplish as a writer? This sort of goes back to the question of why you write in the first place, but I would specifically like to know about the connection you hope to have with the reader.

Answering this question is much like a magician revealing their tricks as it is the fact that it’s hard to explain the strange alchemy of imagination, writer, creation, and reader and not sound, well, rather silly. Ultimately, though, I simply want to make a connection. I’m going to write from my heart, being as frank and open as possible, trying to find that elusive bit of … honesty, I guess. Some essential truth. Once it leaves my hands, I’m hoping for it to hit home with the reader in some form or another. It may not be even what I intended, but that doesn’t mean would be a bad thing, either.

You can read Maurice Broaddus regularly at his blog or read his short story “Nurse’s Requiem” in the anthology Whispers in the Night (Kensington, 2006)

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