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Yah Yah Scholfield is the next big thing in horror writing

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Photo courtesy of the author
Photo courtesy of the author

There's a new name stirring things up in the horror genre, and the next generation is here for it! Yah Yah Scholfield is one of the newest LGBTQ+ horror writers to hit the scene, with her haunting new book On Sundays, She Picked Flowers. Inspired by one of her all-time favorite authors, Toni Morrison, Scholfield is bringing her take to the genre and making it unapologetically her.

The art is the artist
Scholfield brings her experiences as a Black, autistic, Queer person into all her work. "I can't separate myself from the art. For me, the art is the artist," she said. "I went into it knowing this is going to be very much a Lesbian situation. This is going to be very much a Black and autistic situation. I can't separate that from me, and I wouldn't want to separate that from my characters, so it's like, a natural expression."

What makes Scholfield's characters so relatable to readers is the fact that she writes from a position of honesty. "For me, it's authenticity. Because I have all these experiences, and it is my lived experiences, I don't think about them outside of myself. I know I can only speak for myself, I can only speak for my own... so I don't know what to say for someone who isn't Black and isn't Queer and isn't autistic. I write what I experience."

It was Scholfield's identity that led her to her love of writing and dreams of becoming a published author. "Let's go back to me in elementary school. I'm just your average, regular-jugular autistic kid. I feel like I don't fit in anywhere. Reading and writing are the only outlets. I read The Bluest Eye for the first time and I was like, this is how writing should make you feel. Writing should make you feel breathless and tense and excited. Writing should be... when you put down a book... it will haunt you."

The Gen Z Toni Morrison
Reading the work of Toni Morrison inspired Scholfield to create work that was authentically hers, just as Morrison had done when she first started publishing her work back in the '70s. "Ever since then, I was like, this is what I want to do. I want people to feel the way I feel reading Toni Morrison. Everything about her, even away from her art: her personality, the way she carried herself, the way she was so sure of her principles. One of my biggest hurts is that I will never get to meet her. She inspires all my work."

Image courtesy of the author  

On Sundays, She Picked Flowers is inspired by Scholfield's love of Morrison. "The biggest thing was Toni Morrison's Beloved, and just like my own process of healing... I wanted the kind of horror that I wanted to read when I was younger and the kind of horror that I still want to read now. I did the Toni Morrison thing of writing the story that I wanted to read," she said.

While writing her authenticity was freeing for Scholfield, it came at a cost. After finishing her final draft of her first novel, she couldn't find anyone willing to take it on and publish it. "Originally, in 2019, I was going to have it published under my friend's company, OniHouse Press, but then the company went bankrupt in 2020," she said. "I ended up just taking it on myself and editing it and working on it and decided... to self-publish it, just so I could have more control over the process and have the experience that I wanted to."

Self-publishing doesn't always work out for new authors, but after six years of writing, revising, and editing, she was able to finally put out her first novel in 2021. Fans have mostly reacted positively to Scholfield's debut, but she hopes that they can take away more than just an average scare.

"I hope they feel haunted, I hope they take horror, I hope they take little nightmares and self-reflection away," she said. "And I hope, especially for other Black people who get a chance to read my book, I hope it's a mirror. I hope they get a chance to read it and go, 'Yes exactly, I know what this feels like. I know what you're talking about.'"

"I don't know. I just hope the people who read my book can go, 'Yes, and thank you,' and then 'More, please,'" she added.

What's next?
For those asking for more, Scholfield is ready to deliver. "I'm working on a few things right now. I'm working on a gothic, sci-fi, horror novella called It's Warm in Here. I'm working on a collection of short stories. And the highlight of everything: I'm working on We Cut Heads, which I plan to be an all-Black retelling of Sweeney Todd," she said.

While her latest projects are still in the "all vibes" stage, she's hoping to at least see a release date for her novella by next February.

Eventually, Scholfield would like to explore other genres, like romance and sci-fi, but she says right now horror has her heart. "I've always been a super huge lover of horror. Ever since I picked up Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, it was over for me, I was like, 'Yup.'

"I love being scared, I love to scare people, and I love anything to do with the strange and unusual. I was always that kid that would look up the top ten creepiest things, NoSleep and Creepypasta: I was always that kid. It was natural to me, and because I always wanted to read horror that featured me and people who look like me and people who act like me, it felt just like good. In the best way possible, if that makes any sense. It's just like a natural outpouring of myself."

Revitalizing the genre
She's hoping that her art can help revitalize the horror genre, which has historically been dominated by straight, cis, white men. "I hope I bring a new way of looking at horror. I feel like for a long time, horror has been this realm of old, annoying white men, like the worst white men you could imagine. It's like the forefront of misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, violent hate crimes, racism — oh my goodness, the list goes on — ableism, oh my goodness.

"I hope I'm bringing the opposite of what Stephen King brings. [Instead of] 'Why did you have to say the N-word' men, I want to give 'Okay, period.' Instead of aggravation, I want people to feel that they see themselves in this. I have this knowledge that it's possible to be in something."

She is inspired by other creators who have been praised for bringing diversity into the genre of horror and hopes she can do the same thing. "I hope I am to horror books and short stories and literature what Jordan Peele is to horror movies. I want someone to be like, 'Okay, duh, Yah Yah Scholfield horror, let's get into it.' I want to be the bar if that makes sense."

Scholfield is not only setting the bar for a new generation of horror, but she's raising the expectations of what authentic, haunting, and beautiful storytelling can look like. Nothing can stop Scholfield, who is shaping up to be Gen Z's Toni Morrison, changing the game when it comes to crafting modern horror classics.