Colors in Darkness is so pleased to interview the editor and curator of the brilliant anthology, 'Black Magic Women,' Ms. Sumiko Saulson. This anthology, filled with terrifying and wondrous tales by a select group of Black women is more than just an enjoyable read, it is a trailblazing production and showcase of talent. Published by Mocha Memoirs Press, this collection is a definite must have for those seeking horror from unique voices!
Of course, Colors in Darkness had to know more about the inspiration, creation and production of such a fascinating piece. And Ms. Saulson obliged us.
Tell us a bit about your anthology.
Black Magic Women: Terrifying Tales by Scary Sisters is a collection of eighteen horror stories by women from the African Diaspora. They all prominently feature an important black female character, usually the protagonist, although sometimes a villain or a wise elder or a love interest. They are supernatural tales, many of which involve magic users and magical creatures.
What inspired the creation of/ behind your anthology?
I put together a collection of biographies of and interviews with black women who write horror, 60 Black Women in Horror, back in 2013. This year, I updated it to 100+ Black Women in Horror, and I wanted to put together an anthology featuring works by some of the women in the reference guide as a kind of companion piece. There were a lot of anthologies I found out about these women from, such as Sheree Renée Thomas’ Dark Matters and Linda Addison and Kintra Brooks’ Sycorax’s Daughters, that it seemed like an excellent way to give back to the community that generated my reference guide.
Did you have a story limit and if so, how hard was it to choose which stories would go in to the anthology?
We only accepted stories by women who qualified to be in 100+ Black Women in Horror, which meant women of African heritage who had at least one prior work in the horror genre. We put out the call to women in the anthology first then we reached out to any black women who might potentially qualify, and just added the new women to the Black Women in Horror list. We wanted to have a certain page count, so we sought out approximately 20 stories at a length of 3,500 to 5,500 in length, preferably with a magic theme, and all had to include an important black female character.
Did you face any hiccups or problems in the creation of the anthology and if so how did you overcome them?
Well, it started out as a closed call. At first, we only put the call out to women in 60 Black Women in Horror, and that was far too narrow a selection of applicants! First of all, about a third of the women in that reference guide are women who have already passed on, like Zora Neale Hurston, Octavia Butler and LA Banks. So trying to get 20 or so stories out of a pool of 40 or so living applicants was too much. That’s why we broadened it to include any women who might conceivably be listed in the new book, 100+ Black Women in Horror.
Were there any stories in particular that blew you away?
Left Hand Torment by R. J. Joseph was absolutely mind-shattering for me. That’s the only one that honestly, gave me nightmares; it was so terrifying, hauntingly vivid, and brutal. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but we had to put in a content warning because of it and a few other stories that had raw, more than viscerally violent content. It is definitely hardcore horror; these are the kinds of story women in horror are sometimes accused of being too dainty in our sensibilities and sensitive to write. Appreciation by Mina Polina blew me away for other reasons; a darky deep tale of the psychological horror variety, and exceedingly well crafted. I was absolutely stunned to learn that this was from a relatively new horror author. She writes like veteran. Bryannah and the Magic Negro by Crystal Connor, The Lost Ones by Valjeanne Jeffers and Death Lines by Nuzo Onoh are other stand-out tales.
Did you have a target audience in mind when you created the anthology?
There is a great interest in diversity in horror these days. Some people are interested in writing the other, others in marginalized people speaking about themselves in their own words to communicate our own truths and experiences. Anthologies like these give people who are interested in equity for marginalized people like black women a chance to get a sort of “sample platter” of our works. They can check out the book and maybe come away as a fan of one or more of these authors, that’s what’s great about it. So the audience is both within the black community and outside of it; people who want to support black and/or female authors
How was it working with so many writers in the editing and compilation of the anthology?
It was a lot of fun! In many cases, it was the first time I was exposed to the author. Or, in the case of writers I was already familiar with, like Dicey Grenor and Crystal Connor, an opportunity to see another side of their work. Although editing on a tight deadline can be grueling and frustrating at times, all of the women involved were a dream to work with. But none so much as Nicole Kurtz, who works at Mocha Memoirs Press and gave me a great deal of hand-holding for my first outing as a professional editor for a midsized press anthology.
Do you consider the anthology more of an exploration of feminism, diversity, horror or all three?
It is more a study of horror and diversity than it is an exploration of feminism. Although some of the stories are feminist in their tendencies, I would say that the bulk of them go with horror over feminism. In that all are either Afrocentric or multicultural, there is definitely a diversity component there. The call for entries required a central, non-static black female character, and in a few instances she emerges as a feminist heroine such as in Kenesha Williams’ Sweet Justice Dicey Grenor’s Black and Deadly. But more often, they are literary fiction style heroines, like the sweet young girl in Kamika Aziza’s Trisha and Peter and the ornery old church lady in Dark Moon's Curse by Delizhia Jenkins. Some authors played with gender, notably Nuzo Onoh with her reincarnation story Death Lines, and Mina Polina with her gender-swapping non-binary supernatural creature in Appreciation. The strong women in other stories are either villains or deeply character flawed anti-heroes, Kenya Moss-Dyme’s Labor Pains, Crystal Connor’s Bryannah and the Magic Negro and my own Tango of a TellTale Heart feature some of those bad girl types.
Do you feel like there are exceptional problems in promoting such a unique anthology?
It wasn’t a problem for me. Since I wrote 100+ Black Women in Horror and 60 Black Women in Horror is probably the single work I am best known for, promoting this kind of anthology was easier than promoting straight horror without any type-in to the black community or women in horror. We released it during Women in Horror Month, which is February, also Black History Month. The support for it was phenomenal. We got boosted by WiHM, by black sci-fi and horror authors. When Linda Addison, Susana M. Morris and Kinitra Brooks got a new wave of promotion for Sycorax's Daughters after it was nominated for a Stoker Award, we got some push-up as well, because we share an overlap with close to half of our authors being in that anthology. Anne Rice, whom I have been friends with for about five years and interviewed three times for Women in Horror Month promoted it on her Facebook page with two different posts during WiHM. We ended up in the top 10 in Amazon Horror Anthologies three different times, and made it to #1 once! We were up there over anthologies by people like Clive Barker and Stephen King. It was awesome!
Do you have plans to publish another anthology in a similar vein/genre as this one? A sequel?
If Mocha Memoirs Press wants to do another one, I’m definitely on board for that.
List of Contributing Authors :
The anthology includes the stories Appreciation by Mina Polina, Death Lines by Nuzo Onoh, Sweet Justice by Kenesha Williams, Bryannah and the Magic Negro by Crystal Connor, The Lost Ones by Valjeanne Jeffers, Tango of a TellTale Heart by Sumiko Saulson, Blood Magnolia by Nicole Givens Kurtz, Labor Pains by Kenya Moss-Dyme, Return to Me by Lori Titus, Here, Kitty! by L.H. Moore, Left Hand Torment by R. J. Joseph, Dark Moon's Curse by Delizhia Jenkins, Killer Queen by Cinsearae S, Sisters by Kai Leakes, Black and Deadly by Dicey Grenor, Trisha and Peter by Kamika Aziza, Alternative™ by Tabitha Thompson, and The Prizewinner by Alledria Hurt.
Colors in Darkness would like to thank Ms. Saulson for giving us the inside scoop on this brilliant production and we would like to encourage you to pick up your copy today: