Scifipulse recently had the honour of interviewing Andrew Joseph White. He is the author of Hell Followed With Us. A novel about embracing the monster within and unleashing its power against your oppressors. Andrew is also the author of several short stories. Which can be found on his website and in the anthologies Transgendent 4: The Year’s Best Transgender-Themed Speculative Fiction, Dark Hearts: Tales of Twisted Love and Twisted Anatomy: A SF&S Body Horror Anthology. In this interview Andrew discusses whether he thinks a trans actor could ever play Superman and his advice for aspiring writers.
SFP: What got you into writing?
Andrew Joseph White: This is a great question! I have no idea! I’ve always been a writer. I joke that I was a writer before I actually knew how to form letters—I used to scribble between the lines of wide-ruled paper and shove it into my parents’ hands, demanding that they read the nonsense squiggles back to me. I have piles of crude booklets full of shaky kindergarten scrawl. Writing has always, always been my thing.
What really made it click, though, I think, was when I finished my first full-length novel in tenth grade. That really was the moment that I decided I wanted to not just be a writer, but to be a novelist, to make writing a career, to dedicate myself to it for the rest of my life. After that, I wrote a novel every year. I was so sure that every single one was going to be a stroke of genius, that it would rocket me to publication. It wasn’t until I came out as trans, though, that my writing found itself. My debut, Hell Followed with Us, became a bestseller because it was the book I wrote the moment I realized I needed to talk about my most terrifying feelings if I ever wanted to speak the truth.
SFP: Would you say that what audiences really fear is something inside themselves or something external?
Andrew Joseph White: I think the best horror is a combination of the two, especially when one of them inherently feeds the other. However, external horror is what speaks the most to me as both a writer and reader. I can’t speak for all marginalized identities, obviously, but external horror for a lot of marginalized identities is terrifying because it’s real. The world is always lurking, waiting to make a horror movie of our lives or the lives of those we love. It doesn’t care about your internality. You’re different, and therefore a target. For me, the best horror acknowledges that, illustrates that, and allows the internality of both the character and the audience to expand from there.
SFP: What is your advice for young trans and non-binary kids who are struggling?
Andrew Joseph White: My knee-jerk reaction is always just to tell them that I know empty platitudes will never help. Being told “it gets better” felt cruel sometimes. As a kid, I found the campaign empty and eye-rollingly frustrating. Is that cynical of me? Maybe. I tell teens that if all you can do is survive right now, that’s fine—survive out of spite, survive to prove someone wrong, survive through sheer pettiness and broken teeth if you have to. Eventually, you’ll be able to build a new life. Eventually, it will get better. Until then, though, dig your heels in, show your teeth, and survive however you need to.
SFP: What are you working on at the moment?
Andrew Joseph White: Oh, I wish I could give you details! There’s so much cool stuff happening, but I have to zip my lips and wait right now. What I can say is that no matter what you liked about Hell Followed with Us, I probably have something in the works that takes that and expands on it a little—whether it’s the horror, the exploration of trans and autistic identities, or the societal commentary. I’ve got you!
SFP: Which authors are you inspired by?
Andrew Joseph White: I have a whole list! I joke that I want to be R. F. Kuang when I grow up; there’s Carmen Maria Machado, Rivers Solomon, Courtney Summers, and Victoria Lee; and then on top of everything, there’s H.E. Edgmon. Edgmon is a dear friend of mine and I am inspired and spurred on by everything they do. It’s amazing to have someone in your life that you are so close to and admire at the same time. Can’t recommend it enough.
SFP: Do you think a trans or non-binary actor could ever play Superman or Sherlock Holmes?
Andrew Joseph White: I mean, yeah! I think it’d be fun. That said, I’d much prefer a version of those characters that addresses the whole trans thing (as long as the script is written by a trans person, of course). How would the world react to a powerful, ultra-famous superhuman if that superhuman didn’t adhere to human ideas of gender and sex? How would Sherlock’s story change if he also had to deal with being a trans man in the Victorian era? I would eat that up immediately.
SFP: In your opinion, is modern sci-fi literature tackling themes and questions that sci-fi television is not? And what could these two mediums learn from each other?
Andrew Joseph White: (Note for the editor: I am so, so unqualified to answer this question. I watch so little TV that any answer I give would be woefully inadequate.)
SFP: And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Andrew Joseph White: Be ugly! Please, especially if you’re marginalized in any way, don’t be afraid to be ugly. Writing about the weird parts of yourself, the nasty parts, the parts the world isn’t quite ready to see, will teach you so much about what you want to say, about what you need to say. Radical honesty about my feelings of monstrousness and anger got me where I am. I wouldn’t be here without it. Start with the truth, no matter how daunting, and go from there.
Scifipulse would like to give our most heartfelt thanks and warmest best wishes to Andrew Joseph White for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
Andrew’s website: Andrew Joseph White
His Twitter: @AJWhiteAuthor
Check out our Sassafras Lowrey interview here
Check out our Dominic G. Martin interview here