Paula D. Ashe, the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs program assistant at Purdue Fort Wayne, has released her first collection of short stories with Nictitating Books, a publisher based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The collection, “We Are Here to Hurt Each Other,” includes 13 horror stories, and, upon its release last month, immediately shot up to No. 1 on Amazon’s list of Black and African American Horror Fiction, surrounded by titles including Matt Ruff’s “Lovecraft Country,” which was made into an HBO series.
Ashe has been a fan of horror since she was a child.
“I was never restricted with what I could read,” she says. “My mom was like, ‘You can read whatever you want as long as you’re reading.’”
She rattles off her favorite authors and series from youth, including R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps, Christopher Pike, Stephen King and Clive Barker. For her, horror is an escape, which is essential in 2022.
“What makes it such a fertile ground for escape is because it’s controlled,” Ashe says. “It’s the escape of watching something bad happen to somebody else. ‘At least I’m not being chased by a werewolf.’ There’s that distance.”
What first drew Sean M. Thompson, chief editor and owner of Nictitating Books, to Ashe was the buzz surrounding her, which was unlike any he’d seen in recent years, he says. He calls Ashe’s work “intense” and “daring.”
“It is an extremely bold collection that is incredibly disturbing,” Thompson says. “But it also has a lot of heart underneath. Paula has such a humanity to her work under the surface and above it that it makes the violence and the trauma have meaning.”
Many of the collection’s stories have what Ashe calls a “rust belt, gothic vibe” that Hoosiers will likely recognize. While none of the stories are explicitly set in Fort Wayne or surrounding cities, there are mentions of both Indiana and regional locales, including the Salamonie River.
Ashe lives in Fort Wayne with her wife and child.