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Horror Pride Month: Author Ricardo Henriquez

by Waylon Jordan
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Ricardo Henriquez

When author Ricardo Henriquez tells you that he’s a horror fan, he means it. It’s something that has been a part of him his entire life, or at least as far back as he can remember to his childhood in Chile.

“Did you ever hear of Dark Shadows?” the author asked me as we began an interview for iHorror’s Horror Pride Month 2021. “Okay, so Dark Shadows was popular in Chile when I was a kid, and I’m talking I was like four or five, something like that. My grandmother loved it and I would watch it with her like a soap. It was on during the day and it was dubbed in Spanish. I was obsessed with Barnabas Collins and I thought that he was the most amazing thing ever. Even though it is only ‘horror,’ I’m still obsessed with it to this day.”

It wasn’t only the admittedly campy lives of the denizens of Collinsport, Maine that spoke to the young creative who was already a burgeoning storyteller. Every morning, as his Grandmother walked him to kindergarten, he would tell her a new story.

He loved telling stories. He loved making up a tale on the spot and watching people react to the things that lived inside his imagination. Then when he was around seven years old, he sat down at a typewriter and wrote his first short story.

“My first short story was about a guy who got run over by a car, and no one knew who was driving the car,” Henriquez explained. “Everyone in the town was worried that the car was going to go out and kill other people. That was my story. I remember showing it to my mom and she thought it was very dark and she was like, ‘Why are you writing about this?’ Since then, the older I got, the darker my stories got.”

Those darker stories were perhaps aided by the storyteller’s discovery of horror films at the local video store.

Chile in the 1980s was under a strict dictatorship. They censored everything that came into the country. The thing was, they were only looking at the overtly political content of the films. Violence? Gore? They had little concern about these things, and never examined horror films for the underlying socio-political themes that were often present.

As such, young Ricardo Henriquez had a vast amount of uncensored entertainment at his fingertips.

“There were so many horror movies available,” he said. “You couldn’t get serious drama movies in Chile but every good to piece of trash horror movie that would come in, we would get at our local video store. I rented them all. I’m just thankful that my parents could not care less what I was watching.”

Henriquez’s parents might not have cared much about what he was watching, but there were other parts of his personality that did indeed give them trouble.

“Where I grew up, there was no language for [being gay],” he explained. “There were slurs, but there was no language to identify yourself in any way unless you wanted to identify yourself as something horrible that people would scream at other people on the streets. I knew at a very early age that I liked boys. I knew that at a very early age and I was a very feminine kid.”

He does remember the first time he realized this was going to be a problem for his family, however. He was young, again perhaps five or six years old, and playing superheroes with his friends. Everyone chose a hero to be and well, young Ricardo was all about Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter. His friends thought nothing of it. If he didn’t want to be Spider-Man or Superman, all the better for them.

Sadly, his father also saw him playing that day and asked him what he was doing. He explained they were playing superheroes and he was Wonder Woman with all the enthusiasm a child can muster.

“The look on his face,” Henriquez recalled. “He was very nice about it, but the look on his face told me I had done something terrible. I didn’t even ask why. I knew something was wrong with my decision. From that moment on, I began hiding that side of me. I knew at a very early age that something was different for me. I think in terms of physical attraction, it began at maybe 12 or 13, but before that it expressed itself with this strong feminine side that I felt like I had to repress because it was shameful to my family.”

At around age 18, Henriquez came out to his family. It was a difficult time for him. His support system fell away just as he was stepping out into the world to find his path, and though he says that he and his family have healed since then, there is still a lot of emotional fallout that he carries.

Thankfully, he had writing. His childhood stories had given way to darker, more grown up literature and after immigrating to the U.S., Henriquez published his first novel, The Catcher’s Trap in 2016. The novel centers on an introverted, reclusive young man named Andres who is kidnapped and taken to a nightmarish world called The Mist where he is sold into slavery.

The dark fantasy allowed the author to dig into some of those feelings he’d been carrying for some time, giving them a face and a name and giving his protagonist the ability to fight them back.

A year later, Henriquez wanted to try something different.  He had recently become a fan of fiction podcasts, listening to them on his long commute to and from work. When a friend recommended The Black Tapes, however,  a switch was flipped in his brain.

“After the election, 2017 felt like a very dark time,” he said. “There was a lot of negativity. It was a very dark place. I decided I wanted to create art for the sake of creating art without any kind of expectations and I wanted it to be a community project instead of working alone. I’ve done that before. That’s been my whole life. Creating on my own without anyone else. I thought that writing a podcast was a great medium to do this.”

Before long, he was writing Mermaids of Merrow’s Cove, a six-episode tale set in a small fishing village in New England. He reached out to his friend, Julie, who worked at NPR and was also looking to do something fun and different.

As the pieces fell into place, Henriquez couldn’t believe how exciting it was to see and hear actors as they recorded words he had written on the page. It remains one of the most creatively rewarding projects that he’s worked on in his career.

As our time together came to its inevitable conclusion, the author’s thoughts turned inward once more. There is still so much he wants to do, so much he wants to share, and though he hasn’t written for the public in almost three years, he is still writing.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more from Ricardo Henriquez very soon. Until then,  I cannot recommend his novel, The Catcher’s Trap and his podcast enough.