In a month dedicated to celebrating diversity and spotlighting underrepresented genre voices, we interview author and creator S.C. Parris.
One of the biggest perks that comes with writing for a publication like Morbidly Beautiful is the opportunity to meet and support other horror creators along the way. With this month marking both Black History and Women in Horror Month, I knew immediately who I wanted to profile and present to our wonderful readers.
S.C. Parris is a horror author known for her Dark World Series of books, her videos about writing, gaming, and Goth culture on YouTube, and her streams about gaming and horror on Twitch. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with her about her journey as a voice in the realm of horror.
Morbidly Beautiful: To start, I’d like to ask how long you have been writing, and if you could briefly describe how you got into creating art (written or other)?
S.C.: I got into writing by reading Edgar Allan Poe in middle school for an English class. We read the “Tell-Tale Heart” and I was hooked. Right after that, I began writing gothic poetry continuously, and then, when I was 16, I began writing the first book in the Dark World series after reading the last book in the Harry Potter series.
MB: I love how a project you started in high school has gone on to become a multi-book published series! Although there is plenty of information on your website (scparris.net) regarding the Dark World series, what do you personally feel is the essence of the story?
S.C.: It has many. It’s about a group of Dark Creatures (vampires, werewolves, hybrids of those two monsters, enchanters, elves, and more) who deal with terrible secrets being revealed. It’s what we do with terrible knowledge about ourselves or others and if we choose to forge ahead despite how others may see us negatively, or if we choose to succumb to their perceptions of ourselves. There’s a lot of layers in the story.
MB: That sounds quite layered, indeed. Both the major themes of the story and the complexity of your characters speak to struggles many of us go through every day. I find the concept of a vampire/werewolf hybrid intriguing on many levels given the unique burdens each of those creatures must go through individually. The theme of deciding how one lives in accordance to their reputation is a potent one, especially nowadays. Would you care to discuss where the inspiration for these themes may have stemmed from in your own life?
S.C.: Well in my series, the hybrids, known as Elite Creatures, are the burden on the world. I don’t explore the powers this new hybrid has, more so the effect their nature has on the World—that is, it darkens it and the Creatures within it.
I’m also aware that how one sees you can affect your station in the world especially in this hyper-vigilant age of people passing impossibly quick judgments on one another. This is what my characters have to deal with. I guess how inspiration from my life draws into this theme is in the way the characters have to shed or accept others’ perceptions of them. It is ultimately their own feelings toward themselves that push them forward or hold them back from their goals. Something I think everyone can relate with.
MB: That’s an important message to deliver to an audience. You seem to have taken that message and applied it outside of your writing, as well. Next to your work as a writer you also make videos on a variety of topics on YouTube, and stream on Twitch. What motivated you to branch out into creating on YouTube alongside your work as an author?
S.C.: I’ve been on YouTube for about 2 years now and had plans after I signed my contract to start a YouTube channel around the book. Save a few videos and a few giveaways nothing really came of that.
With the books out some two years later I decided to go back to YouTube, this time with a breadth of personal experience as well to tie into my videos. The main focus of all of my videos and streaming is to market myself and my books. I’m not just an author, but they are a big part of what has become my brand these days.
MB: Yeah, one thing that struck me when visiting your website is how you give all of your ventures (your stories, YouTube videos, streaming and your Patreon equal amounts of attention. That is an interesting business model. You have done a great job branding yourself in a way that is in line with the times, as social media and branding oneself over any single product becomes more and more prevalent. What would you say has been the biggest hurdle in maintaining such branding?
S.C.: Staying consistent has definitely been the hardest thing. When I got into YouTube, my writing fell off. When I got this full-time job and then was still streaming on Twitch, YouTube fell off. I wouldn’t say I balance them all perfectly, but I definitely have learned to give a bit of myself in each area instead of trying to be 100% in every area. That way I’m still able to focus on what I want; it just takes a bit longer because I have a lot more on my plate.
MB: It is quite impressive to see how you have spread your attention among each of your ventures. The hard work certainly shines through! It sounds wise to give a certain amount of yourself in everything you do rather than trying to give all of yourself to all of it at once. It also allows your audience to engage with specific aspects about you in different ways. I would like to briefly explore this through the lens of one of your projects, if you would not mind. When we first spoke about this interview, you mentioned your short story “Vanessa Locke: A Servant’s Story” as a topic of interest. I read it recently (it’s available for free on S.C.’s Patreon here), and, having gotten to know your public life a bit over the last year, I could see some parallels between people in your life and certain characters. How personal of a tale is Vanessa Locke’s story, and what does it mean to you?
S.C.: It’s personal insofar as the main character being of Haitian descent. I’m half Haitian and I’ve always been quietly interested in writing more about my Haitian heritage of which I personally know too little. There’s nothing drastic, I feel, from her viewpoint as opposed to my other characters, but I have taken into account how it might feel to be taken from your family at a young age and forced to work for wealthy white people. I’ve used a little of my reading of slave narratives to color this experience for her, but it’s nothing too overt.
The real focus, as is with all my characters-turned-vampires, is the journey from humanity to vampirism and the new world that opens up. The difference for Vanessa compared to my other characters is that her existence as a human wasn’t born of freedom and a devil may care attitude as I’ve explored before, so she’s going to have quite the time reckoning what freedom means for her—and what it means for her to be a Black Vampire in the 1700s when she has—as of the letter she’s writing to her ‘friend’ in the story—no idea of the slavery and segregation that’s going on across the world at this time.
MB: That’s a rather unique twist on the more common approaches to a character being turned into a vampire. I greatly enjoyed how Vanessa’s story explores the complexities of the “freedoms” vampirism could provide—depending on the person’s experiences with oppression when they were alive. Furthermore, in the story, you highlight how she is essentially taken from her life twice. In both instances she is promised “a better life”, and in both instances she is made to suffer the indignity of having her agency taken from her in order to be fitted into a different life. Do you plan on exploring her journey and the struggles a vampire in her position would have to go through in future stories? If so, are there any themes/stories you are eager to explore with her?
S.C.: Oh yes absolutely. I’m so glad you caught that. It’s her coming into her own and reckoning with the lies people have supplanted her with. She is naïve now but naturally she will come to know the way of the world and rise up to meet it on her own terms. I’m not sure if this will be a series, I’m focusing on the one book for now.
MB: In any case, I’m delighted that these themes are being explored through Vanessa. I thoroughly enjoyed the short story on your Patreon, and I look forward to reading the wider tale of Vanessa Locke in the book. Before I present my final question, I wanted to thank you once again for being willing to talk with me for this piece. It’s been a pleasure working with you on it! My last question for this interview will be: If you could talk to 16 year-old you about where your journey has taken you, what would you say to her?
S.C.: Thank you for having me!
I would tell my 16-year-old self to keep my focus on the last book for the series, and even though we didn’t get a deadline for it, to finish it as soon as possible. Taking time off from writing it for 3 or 4 years wasn’t the best thing to do.
But that’s okay. As long as we get it done. And it’s 97% done as of right now.