“The Iron Hut” has a spectacular narrative voice. Where did you find the inspiration to blend Cthulu-esque horror and the many facets of the African tribal warrior/trickster figure?
I’d like to go on about my muse and my art and some such; however, like many writers, I found my inspiration in writing on spec for a theme anthology. It was looking for Cthulu-esque horror set in different times. I had just discovered the work of Charles Saunders, so everything just came together for me. Ironically, that original anthology never came to pass, but it didn’t stop me from continuing to write in that universe.
With this story, you unapologetically subvert the racist trope of much of pulp fiction and, in doing so, rebuild narratives that are accessible to a wider audience. As a writer, what appeals to you about turning a trope inside out and creating something new and exciting?
Me! Well, more on point, I like to see “me” in a story. I love pulp stories, but I don’t want to see some racist caricature of my people nor do I want to be excised/forgotten in the alternative. So the big thing for me is writing the stories I would love to read. I start with me as the primary reader and then hope that in so doing I can connect to a wider audience.
Dinga is a reoccurring character in your shorter works, a warrior, thinker, and something of a trickster. Here we see him suffer the loss of a friend and the birth of a greater evil, familiar elements of classic mythic cycles. How do you feel modern writers can benefit from studying classic myths and stories? Need they always include obvious mythic elements in their works?
It’s funny that you ask this question now. My oldest son was assigned Edith Hamilton’s Mythology to read over the summer. I remember when I first discovered that book back in fifth grade and it was transformative for me. It helped stoke my love of stories. In fact, I so couldn’t get enough of the myths, I often got in trouble from my teachers because I would end up reading them rather than pay attention in class.
Those stories helped teach me about story structure and the heroic journey. Not only that, there’s something about the classic mythic cycles which touch people on a primal level, which truly resonates with people.
And again, it becomes about finding “me” in those tales.
As with many aspects of Western culture, genre fiction struggles with the idea and implementation of “diversity.” Many markets support and promote the works of underrepresented populations, yet we still have a long way to go. What does “diversity” mean to Maurice Broaddus the writer?
Diversity shouldn’t be that hard. Sometimes we overthink it, creating imaginary checklists or percentages of inclusion. Most times I think we’re just relationally lazy and our default setting is to be around people like us. So diversity, for me, boils down to intentionality.
Keep in mind, Maurice Broaddus the writer learned from Maurice Broaddus the family man/friend. I was born in London, England, my mother in Jamaica, and my father from the U.S. (and I’ve lived in the U.S. most of my life). I have an interracial family and am raising biracial children. We have been very intentional about developing relationships across national, racial, religious, and class lines and always striving to place ourselves in multicultural environments. That’s simply the world we live in and we want to reflect that diversity in all areas of our lives.
Taken that next step, diversity for Maurice Broaddus the writer means seeing the diversity that is in the world around me reflected in the stories I write. Similarly, I am intentional about making sure my reading choices reflect as much diversity as possible. Okay, sometimes it can be harder than I originally gave it credit, but all it takes is commitment to intentionality and a little extra effort.
Keeping that thought in mind, what steps do you feel the publishing industry could take to further representation in fiction no matter the genre?
This is a relationship business, so sometimes it’s just a matter of making more friends or reaching out beyond our comfort zones. For example, any time I have set out to edit an anthology, I don’t think “I need to make this diverse” and then go through a checklist of representation. Rather it’s a three-pronged approach: 1) I reach out to some of the great writers that I know (because I’ve already committed to having a diverse “Rolodex” — a reference officially dating me as old); 2) I create a list of great writers I’ve always wanted to work and reach out to them; and 3) I ask people to make recommendations of great writers I should be on the lookout for.
I guess what I’m saying is that people could wait for diversity to happen and screen it through their checklists or simply be proactive in making it happen. One approach gets us there a lot quicker.
One cannot write well without reading widely. Who excites you when you want to get your fiction on?
When I’m reading strictly for fun, I lean towards crime novels (George Pelecanos, Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, Frank Bill). And I’ll still read the folks who make me “pick up my pen” every time I read them: Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, and Octavia Butler. But my first love is short stories and the authors who excite me most these days are: Amy Hempel, Kelly Link, and Amelia Gray. I’m currently re-reading Gray’s Museum of the Weird as I gear up to read her latest collection, Gutshot: Stories.
What’s in store for Maurice Broaddus? What can readers look forward to in the coming year?
In the coming year, we’re seeing a return to my first love: short stories. I’ve been writing a lot lately and they should be seeing release in various anthologies over the next few months. Also, a short story collection, Walkers with the Dawn, should make its official bow.
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