Interview with Maurice Broaddus

March’s interview is with writer and editor Maurice Broaddus. Along with Jerry Gordon, Maurice edited the speculative fiction anthologies Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations. Not only did the existence of these projects help inspire our own work here at Mysterion—when we were getting started, Maurice was one of the experienced editors we were fortunate enough to be able to turn to when we had questions about how to do our new job (but don’t blame him if you think we got it wrong!). He’s also critically acclaimed for his own fiction, which you can learn more about in the interview; and there are rumors that he runs some kind of SF convention involving a lot of food...

How would you describe your spiritual and/or religious beliefs, and how would you say they influence your writing?

I’ve been called everything from a Christian Buddhist to a Christian humanist. I’m not one for labels (if I were, I’d call myself something along the lines of a post-evangelical, post-denominational Christ follower), I consider myself a simple theologian.

I know what we’re called to be: God’s hands in this world, ambassadors of love. I know the message, the grace, the peace, the healing I’m supposed to bring. I know how far I fall short.

Faith is a journey, full of peaks and valleys. A few years ago, I was trapped in a deep valley, so dark I didn’t think I would ever see my way out. My faith was shattered and I was trying to figure out if I should even try to put it back together, never mind how. I kept coming back to one question (and the central failing of my life as I saw it): what does my life say about my theology?

I kept returning to the central question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”–Matthew 22:36-40

So I boiled down my Christianity to “love God and love one another.” So that’s pretty much all I focus on. It makes for a simpler exegesis of even troublesome passages. I interpret/filter all the parts of the Bible I don’t understand through the parts that I do.

I don’t understand much. As I understand the overarching story of the Bible, it’s one of God just saying “I know you and I love you” and pursuing a relationship with us. “I know you and I love you.” My life should be a response to that. All I know is that I want to know God and pursue a relationship with Him. I want to follow Christ, model him, and pursue relationships with others.

In the end, it comes down to being known and being loved anyway.

I am called to love. I am called to reconcile. I am called to pursue justice. In response to that, I in turn return that love and, caught up in an overflow of that, endeavor to love others. I am into getting to know you and having conversations. I love to hear people’s stories. In practice:

-If I don’t challenge the paradigms of society, I have missed the point of my faith.

-If I don’t challenge the social constructs about me, I have missed the point of my faith.

-If I don’t challenge power dynamics, I have missed the point of my faith.

-If I don’t challenge oppressive systems, I have missed the point of my faith.

-If I don’t love you well, I have missed the point of my faith.

See? Simple.

With that as my worldview, it’s bound to come out in my writing. My worldview is part of my voice.

Why do you think you became a writer, and why speculative fiction?

Because I read the Bible at a young age. You can’t read me the story of Noah and the flood in fourth grade and not expect me to develop a love of apocalyptic literature.

As an editor, you’re especially well known—at least among fans of faith-inspired speculative fiction—for the two Dark Faith anthologies. Was there anything that surprised you about the process of editing a faith-based fiction anthology? What kinds of stories did you see too many of, and what would you have liked to see more of?

What surprised me was how many people of a variety of faith backgrounds wanted to send in stories. We were deluged with stories every time. I still get requests from authors who have a story that wrestles with faith. Those were the stories which were almost always short-listed: a wrestling with faith that came from a “true” place.

What I saw too much of is the “evil pastor” story. Not because I think that topic is off limits, but because most times the writer failed to do anything interesting with it.

Do you think there will ever be a third Dark Faith?

I’d never say never, though Apex Magazine keeps me pretty busy on the editorial front on a regular basis these days.

What themes do you keep coming back to in your own writing?

Usually themes of identity. A person trying to figure out who they are.

These days I seem to be producing only two types of stories: stories that take place in my neighborhood (I don’t know, urban magical realism?) and Afrofuture stories.

Do you ever get pushback from other Christians about writing horror? What would you say to Christians who are skeptical about the genre?

Ha! Not much these days. I think most of them have given up on saying anything to me. It is what it is.

From the Christian side of the question, part of the underlying issue lies with misconceptions about the genre. When churched folk typically think “horror” they think blood, guts, and the demonic. I remember once when my extended (as in, more than my siblings and parents who knew better) family sat around the dinner table (keep in mind, right after a church service where we symbolically drank the blood and ate the flesh of our Savior). Discussion turned to my web site having both Christian and horror content, at which point I was accused of being ”lukewarm” (you have to love epithets that you have to look up in the Bible to get: lukewarm refers to those whom Jesus would spit out as being neither spiritually hot nor cold) because I write horror. “That’s demons and witchcraft” and “You’re only doing the devil’s work.”

Sometimes I remind people like this about the Bible they are using to condemn me. We could object to the individual elements of the Bible, like the occultic parts involving sorcerers/witches/ mediums, and the demons/demon-possessed. We could skip the blood and guts of people being dashed against rocks, their entrails eaten by dogs, mothers eating their own afterbirth, and tent pegs being thrust through people’s heads. We could ignore the bad language (though, we play down the stuff that would be translated piss and shit today); just like we tend to gloss over the sex scenes and the rapes. Or we could realize that the overarching point of the book, the meta-narrative, is the story of redemption.

The other thing I remind these well-intentioned folk of is that the language of the genre is the language of Christianity. What do horror stories—like the ones they had to read in high school (like the stories of Edgar Allen Poe or Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”) or movies I knew they had watched (like The Sixth Sense) wrestle with? The total depravity of man (if you want a Calvinistic loaded phrase), the nature of good and evil, the mystery of the afterlife, unseen spiritual forces (like angels or demons), or the meditation on mortality/our fear of death. Even the most “atheistic” horror writers, at the very least, are moralists; using writing as therapy, wrestling with what they see in the world around them.

So, in short, when people accuse me of not being Christian, my answer depends on what kind of day I’m having. Some days it’s something along the lines of I don’t think you can judge where I’m at with Christ until you’ve actually engaged me in conversation and gotten to know my heart. Some days it’s something like horror is how I grapple with the reality of darkness, evil, and the supernatural in the reality of my life. Some days it’s there’s a lot of what you call “horror” in the Bible, it’s easy to label things if you don’t want to think. Some days it’s just kiss my non-Christian black ass, but that’s not terribly helpful. Though sometimes satisfying.

You’re the author of an urban fantasy trilogy (The Knights of Breton Court), a short story collection (The Voices of Martyrs), and several novellas, including Buffalo Soldier from If someone is new to your work, what should they start with?

It depends on what sort of experience they want to have. If they want a measure of my voice and breadth of storytelling, I send them to The Voices of Martyrs. If they want a solid sample of what I do, I send them to Buffalo Soldier. But those are my two starting points, and, not coincidentally, my latest two books.

What can you tell us about Mo*Con?

It’s back after a nearly two year hiatus. And it has a spiffy new site:

Basically, imagine a convention that’s nothing but “barcon”: all of the writers sitting around, eating, drinking, and talking. We wrestle with the business, the craft, and the social practice/justice of writing. Imagine Dark Faith: the gathering. With food.

What books or authors most influenced you when you first started writing? What are some of your favorites now?

Sandman by Neil Gaiman (stirred my imagination and love of story)
Desperation by Stephen King (encouraged me to explore my faith in my writing)
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (made me step outside of my fear and be proud of who I am)
Futureland by Walter Mosley (showed me what writing could do)

Amy Hempel
Kelly Link
Tananarive Due

Do you have a day job besides writing, and if so, what is it and how do you think it influences your writing?

I am the Logic teacher, librarian, and manager of the Resource Room at a private middle school.

I am a freelance teaching artist. I am a community organizer.

So, yeah, throw in writing and I essentially have three full time jobs. That said, next year will see the debut of my middle grade mystery series. And I mentioned my short stories typically taking place in the neighborhood that I work in. So there’s that.

How much time would you estimate that you spend writing in an average week?

I’m writing all the time. I include the time I spend thinking about my stories as part of the writing process, so even when it looks like I’m just zoning out in front of the television or taking a shower, my brain is doing the work of a writer, so it all counts. Even sleeping, since I keep a notepad next to the bed to jot down the solutions my dreams come up with.

Do you tend to plot out your stories first, or just start writing and see where they go?

Most times I plot first because I spend a lot of time worldbuilding.

What's the first thing you do after you finish the first draft of a story? Do you start revising right away, or wait? Do you have a critique group or beta readers?

I just finished the first draft of a novel. It’s going to sit for a bit while I write a completely different novella. When I’m done with the novella, I will do another draft of the novel. Then it will go to my critique group. I’ll do another draft. Then it will go to a beta reader. Then I’ll do another draft. Then I’ll send it to my agent. Then I’ll do another draft. Then I’ll send it to the editor. Then I will do two more drafts.

Do you have any stories you want to write someday, but aren't yet ready to?

If I wait until I’m ready, I’d never get anything written. If I want to write it, I write it.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on an urban fantasy novella and the next book in my middle grade detective novel series. I have two pieces out right now:

“Ache of Home” (urban magical realism)

“El is a Spaceship Melody” (Afrofuture)

What advice would you give to authors who'd like to see their work published but aren't there yet?

Keep writing. Keep submitting. Look, the only thing that separates me and the circle of folks who I started with is that I kept doing it. Make no mistake, my “secret” has always been that I will out work and out hustle most folks.

Photo by WildStyle Da Producer.

Maurice Broaddus is a community organizer and teacher whose work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance, Black Static, and many other publications. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court, and the (upcoming) middle grade detective novel series, The Usual Suspects. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, and Devil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. His gaming work includes writing for the Marvel Super-Heroes, Leverage, and Firefly role-playing games as well as working as a consultant on Watch Dogs 2. Learn more about him at

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