Vampires. The afterlife. These are just a couple of the subjects Adjunct Assistant Professor of English Lisa Wood (L. Marie Wood), M.F.A., explores in her novels, the newest of which, the afterlife-focused “The Realm: Book One,” will be published on Oct. 29, just two days before Halloween.
Wood, who is in her second term as a Shenandoah instructor, teaches English 101. She came to Shenandoah looking for a change. “After an over 20-year career as a project manager, I realized that I wanted to teach,” she said.
I have been writing psychological horror for years, but had not considered teaching people how to find their own voices until recent years. Being local to the area, I wanted to explore teaching opportunities close by and Shenandoah University was the perfect fit.”
She’s received a host of accolades in her writing career, in which she’s authored not only novels and short stories but also screenplays. “I’ve been lucky enough to have my work included in over 15 film festivals,” she said. “I won an award at the NOVA International Film and Music Festival for my screenplay, ‘Home Party,’ and the Golden Stake Award for Literature for my novel, ‘The Promise Keeper.’” Her short story, “The Ever After,” is part of the Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology “Sycorax’s Daughters.” And, she was recognized as one of the 100+ Black Women in Horror Fiction.
Understanding creative writing helps her guide her students in their own writing process, whether that’s to creative or critical ends, she said. “Sure, we use several horror fiction references (that just can’t be helped!). But, understanding voice and where one’s mind can travel comes from my experience in fiction and helps me understand unique approaches to writing, even in the classroom setting.”
Wood has written since the age of 5, and her favorite authors in the horror genre include Ira Levin, Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. “I’ve always gravitated to horror, though my type of horror is on a different end of the spectrum than the slasher, or the more visceral contributions most are used to, especially in film,” said Wood, who is a night owl and tends to write during the middle of the night.
I am a psychological horror author, so I prefer to work in the space where the torments of the mind abound and the supernatural is a mainstay. I didn’t choose horror — it was there, just like my favorite color has always been there. Horror is in my blood.”
Speaking of blood. . . suckers, that is, her work has combined psychological horror and vampire lore. She finds vampires to be versatile antagonists. “The vampire reflects otherness in a way that many don’t initially realize. The vampire lives on the fringe of society, is cloaked in mystery, and is different from those around them in distinct ways that either draw people to them or push people away,” she said. “And then there’s the danger that the vampire brings along with it. Such fantastic material to use, whether it relates to social commentary or fictional exploration.” And, her vampires aren’t always what you expect. “I’ve added to the vampire canon in unique ways. For example, I have created vampires who can walk in daylight, ones who are immune to the traditional safeguards, such as garlic, and ones who operate without a coven. I enjoy how open-ended this antagonist is and I continue to explore what it can do.”
However, for her latest title, Wood delved into the afterlife because “the afterlife and what comes next is something that is always on people’s minds, whether they are religious or not. It may not be a conscious thought, but it is always there, bubbling up to the surface when we least expect it,” she said. “I decided that setting the book in the afterlife just made sense for the main character. He navigates that space with all of the disorientation that any of us would feel if we were to find ourselves in the predicament that [the main character] Patrick does,” she said before noting that the storyline could extend through several books.
Aside from writing and teaching, Wood is active in the horror community. “My second favorite thing to do (since writing is my first) is to engage in the horror space,” she said. She is a mentor with the Horror Writers Association, the programming director for the horror track at MultiverseCon, and a programming planner at ConTinual. Additionally, she is the director of curricula and outreach with the Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF).
To learn more about Wood’s work, visit her website at www.lmariewood.com.