Interview With an Author: Linda Addison

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Linda Addison and her award winning book

Linda Addison is an award-winning poet and author writing in the genres of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction. In 2001, she became the first African-American writer to win a Bram Stoker Award for her poetry collection Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes and she has gone on to win the award three more times. In March of this year, Addison was awarded the Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award. Her latest collection, Sycorax’s Daughters, co-edited with Kinitra Brooks, PhD and Susana Morris, PhD was also nominated for a Stoker this year. Ms. Addison recently agreed to be interviewed by Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

Congratulations on being the recipient of this year’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement! You’ve won the Bram Stoker Award four times previously for your novels, poetry, and collaborations. How does it feel to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award?

When I received the email from Lisa Morton, the President of HWA, I had to read it several times before it sunk in that I was getting the HWA/Lifetime Achievement Award. It felt unreal until I actually went to StokerCon for the weekend. There were two things that made it real: at StokerCon people came up to me, one-on-one, and told me how something I wrote affected their lives. As a writer we don’t usually get that feedback from readers, it was humbling.

The other thing that made receiving the LAA real was seeing the anthology, Sycorax’s Daughters, on the HWA Bram Stoker final ballot and having some of the authors at StokerCon. This impacted me on many levels—I was no longer the only African-American associated with the Bram Stoker award. The anthology connected 33 authors, two co-editors, Kinitra Brooks, Susana Morris, and a publisher, Cedar Grove Publishing, to the HWA Bram Stoker award that weekend!

Two other works did receive Bram Stokers that weekend, happily ending my being the only African-American with Bram Stokers: Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Abrams ComicArts, by Octavia E. Butler, Damian Duffey and John Jennings; Get Out, Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, QC Entertainment, screenplay by Jordan Peele.

The truth is that Tananarive Due was on the 1997 final ballot for an HWA Bram Stoker award with her excellent novel, My Soul to Keep, way before anyone knew of me, and she would have been the first African-American recipient of the award. She didn’t win, but her book was certainly worthy of winning. I met her then and have followed her work. She’s a fantastic author and good person. The reality is that I’m always challenging myself with different kinds of writing, so I take the Lifetime Achievement award as a reminder that I’ve got a lot more work to do.

What was the inspiration for your latest anthology, Sycorax’s Daughters, co-edited with Kinitra Brooks?

Kinitra Brooks conceived the idea to do the anthology and asked me to be a co-editor. Prof. Brooks had been interviewing African-American women horror writers for her research; her book, Searching for Sycorax, was on the final ballot for the Bram Stoker in Non-Fiction this year. I was honored to be part of the project and joined her and Prof. Susana Morris to create this historic anthology. One of our sources was Sumiko Saulson’s book series 100+ Black Women in Horror Writing. I’m looking forward to the companion book to this fiction/poetry anthology that Prof. Brooks is putting together now which will be a volume of criticism centered on black women and horror.

Is editing, or co-editing, a collection of other’s work into an anthology different from working on a collection of your own work? Is working with the works of others easier than working with your own (or vice-versa)?

It’s completely different to edit others than my own work because I believe it’s most important for the editor to understand the author’s voice/style and help them clarify their writing without injecting the editor’s style. This takes extra time, but it’s so worth it when the revised fiction/poetry shines.

You are a founding member of the Circles in the Hair (CITH) Writing Group in New York. Can you tell us a little about CITH and its publication Space & Time?

Our writing group, CITH, formed out of a workshop some of us took at NY New School in 1990 that was taught by Shawna McCarthy. After it was over, a few of us decided to keep meeting. I can say, without question, that my writing has grown in leaps and bounds because of CITH. In the years between 1990 and now, some members have left, new ones have joined. The rules of the group were developed between what we learned in that workshop and from workshops we took after that, with Nancy Kress and Terry Bisson. Even though I’m not in NYC, I still send my new fiction to the group through email for feedback.

The connection between CITH and Space & Time is indirectly through Gordon Linzner, one of the founding members of CITH, and owner of Space & Time Books. He also owned Space & Time Magazine but sold it to Hildy Silverman some years ago. Three members of CITH are still involved in the magazine as editors; I’m poetry editor, Gerard Houarner fiction editor, Faith Justice associate editor, and Gordon is listed as Editor Emeritus.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

I learned a while ago to be careful what I read, or watch on TV before going to sleep because of my active imagination and even more active subconscious. So I plant words/images in my mind that will lift/expand me, right now I’m reading:

My copy of my mother’s bible is always in a drawer of the nightstand, she left a copy for each of the nine of us, and It’s comforting to pull it out, turn to a random section and read it. It’s full of scribblings from my mother, which I love.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

The first book I remember is Fun with Dick and Jane, which wasn’t my favorite book but was an evolutionary memory. Holding that book I knew I wanted to make things like that, even though I had no idea what that meant.

There weren’t a lot of books in my house growing up, which is why libraries became my favorite places, but someone gave us a huge dictionary the size of a footstool, and I loved laying on the floor and going through those tissue-thin pages, discovering new words/images. The end section was full of maps which introduced me to the planet Earth.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

Not until I got to college. Up until then, the only things I didn’t flaunt with my parents was my comic book obsession, even though they knew I spent every extra cent on them. In college, I discovered Anais Nin’s book, A Spy in the House of Love. When I came home for the summer I put her book on the bottom of my trunk under my textbooks so they wouldn’t find it.

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

Wow, that’s not an easy question, so many authors have and continue to help me grow. Rather than top five of all time, I can tell you the five I remember from elementary and junior high school: Edgar Allan Poe, James Baldwin, Kafka, Shakespeare, Langston Hughes. I read them out loud and didn’t always understand what I read but fell in love with the language, the sound of the words.

What is a book you've faked reading?

The Hobbit. It doesn’t come up in conversation often but I remember trying to read it in college and just not being able to get into it. I love the movies, perhaps I should try reading the books again.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

Hmmm, I can’t say I’ve bought a book just for the cover, but an intriguing cover will certainly make me pick up a book and read the cover copy which could result in my buying a book. Looking at my bookshelf the latest I remember being drawn to the cover of was Cartoons in the Suicide Forest by Leza Cantoral at Necon in 2017, a writer’s camp I’ve been going to for more than 20 years. Leza was there and after talking to her, I liked her energy and took a chance to buy the book. It turned out to be supremely weird, edgy fiction and I loved it! She’s now on my list of authors to buy.

Is there a book that changed your life?

There are so many. To mention a couple: I think I was about 13 years old when I read Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein and it shifted my sense of being an outsider, making me feel less alone. In high school, I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and again I felt the main character in my soul, as a light-skinned black girl, I felt like I didn’t fit anywhere. In America, I was black no matter what shade my skin and some black girls in my neighborhood gave me a hard time because my skin was lighter.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

There are too many books on that list to pick just one:

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

Again, many books, but one I haven’t talked about, Her Blue Body Everything We Know by Alice Walker. After first reading this amazing collection of poetry I made the decision to put together my first collection, Animated Objects. That moment of realization would be wonderful to repeat.

What is your idea of the perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

It would start with a massage, then sitting with Maya Angelou in a cool shady place outside and us reading poetry out loud to each other. Heavenly!

What are you working on now?

I started writing a short story SF collection in 2017 that I’m excited to finish. There’s a story I published years ago When We Dream Together; Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Graves Sheffield Publishing, and I loved the future I created. I wanted to play in that future again and decided to do stories from the different points of society view. Without pre-planning, different storylines and characters interact in more than one story. I later found out that what I was writing is also called a linked story collection.

Thank you for taking the time to interview me.