To say that fellow Amaya Radjani is one of my favorite people would be a vast understatement. In fact we constantly joke that we’re each other’s sibling from another maternal figure. When her latest novel, Tainted, was released, I knew I wanted to sit down with her and have a long chat on her new book, her creative process and all that other geeky writer stuff. I knew the Middle Child Press co-founder would have plenty to say and everything said would be nothing short of brilliant.
DRU: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Second of all, congrats on the new book Tainted. I’ve started reading and my God is it intense. Before we get to Tainted, let’s go back for a moment. Corruption, your debut novel. How did it feel having a title under your belt?
AR: It feels amazing; like I’ve sucker-punched a mountain or kicked a planet out of orbit.
DRU: Looking back on your journey from then to now, what stands out for you?
AR: Sometimes I can’t believe I wrote the book. I re-read certain passages (usually near the end) and I tell myself that I sat down and I wrote it and I know I sat down and I wrote it, but it feels like someone else did. In a way, that’s true, because when I’m under the control of the muse, I am not myself. Or maybe I am who I truly am when I’m being directed and the person you’re talking to right now is the interloper.
What stands out for me is knowing that the book took a direction I didn’t plan and the muse abandoned me until I came to grips with certain things. Once I did that, she returned and I finished the novel. It was very cathartic and I knew that I laid certain demons to rest with Corruption.
DRU: Cathartic writing and laying demons to rest, I know exactly what you mean on that score. From Corruption to Tainted, how would you say your writing has evolved?
AR: My vision and scope have broadened. I’ve become experimental with the arrangement and structure of my books. I play with margins and fonts and spacings to emphasize mood, tone, flavor and atmosphere. Books look the same once you get past the cover. It’s the standard in publishing and that’s fine. But I realized that I don’t have to follow those rules. Owning my own publishing house frees me to do whatever the hell I want and with each passing day, I realize more and more how important that is to me. I don’t have to conform to anyone’s standard; I just need to satisfy my muse. And trust me; it ain’t easy satisfying that bitch.
DRU: Were there any lessons or experiences you learned from Corruption that you applied towards producing and promoting Tainted?
AR: I learned that I’m more likely to write my books in the early part of a calendar year and publish them in the latter half of the same year, and from there I developed a cycle as a way to keep track of my progress. For Tainted, I learned how to make a book trailer, and it was a fun experience. It helped me to visualize the book in a different light and focus on what I thought were the most significant aspects of the stories within.
DRU: So for your sophomore project, were there specific objectives you wanted to accomplish?
AR: Not particularly. I just knew it would be different, but I didn’t know how much until things started coming together in the ways that they always seem to do. But when I knew the book was done, I was satisfied that I did everything I needed to do.
DRU: Do you feel you accomplished said objectives?
AR: Yes. I work and work until I hear the muse say “Stop.” And I stop. I have to be satisfied with everything at that point because touching the manuscript after I have been directed to stop will ruin it. I’ve made that mistake before and one time was all it took.
DRU: So shifting over to Tainted, tell us about this incredible book, who the players are and what’s at stake.
AR: It’s a definite deviation from Corruption, that’s for sure. There are three poems, two stories, and one central set of characters. There are pictures and bios of six stunning sistahs who represent the female protagonists, a rock band named Pink Cage. The poems are songs written by members of the band, and the stories feature the women in different perspectives.
The first story, which is actually a trilogy, is about Sereyn, who is Pink Cage’s manager. Sereyn is a woman who is having a majorly epic identity and midlife crisis. Someone from her past, present and future comes to help her sort everything out.
The second story, “Mezzanine,” is the central story in Tainted; the reason why the book had to be written. I say “had” because I did not have a choice. When the muse dropped that sweet little psychotic bombshell on my head, it was with one directive: WRITE NOW!!! RIGHT NOW!!!
“Mezzanine” focuses on Pink Cage as a rock band and as a family; the sistahs of Pink Cage are actually sisters. Kemme Thornton, aka “Charm Pink,” has embarked on a whirlwind rebound romance with Keith Marshall, a goofy-looking geek inventor and rollercoaster designer. As far as Kemme is concerned, Keith is the perfect man and an even more perfect husband…until she stumbles upon his little secret, which forces her to face who she truly is.
DRU: What inspired this story?
AR: I mentioned in my The Next Big Thing blog hop interview that “Mezzanine” is the result of several things clashing at once: the badassery of Alexis Brown, frontwoman of the metal band Straight Line Stitch; the awesomeness that is Massive Attack, specifically, their album and track of the same name, Mezzanine, which I listened to about 200 times; and a renewed crush on a musician I loved as a little girl. Everything marinated subconsciously and then one day, the muse shat the book on my head. There is simply no other way to describe how it happened.
DRU: Now Tainted is a far different beast than Corruption. The most obvious is that its spec fic. But it’s also darker and more sexual. Was this a conscious choice or an edict from your Muse?
AR: I should point out that I personally don’t think that Tainted is speculative fiction, which is a term I hate, by the way. Tainted’s got a sci-fi/supernatural component, but the majority of the book is contemporary. But to answer your question, it was an edict from the muse. She said go hard and that’s just what I did.
I am interested in readers’ reactions, especially to “Mezzanine.” With that story, I went H.A.M. I’m wondering if people will react the way I think they should. Probably not, but I haven’t gotten any reviews as of yet, so…
DRU: In your opinion, what is Tainted bringing to the dance that is lacking in fiction?
AR: Ooooh…well…it’s kind of hard for me to be absolute about this, as I haven’t done much outside reading lately. I can tell you this: everything in Tainted is connected; the poems, the pictures, the stories, the imagery…it all links and loops and forms one cohesive whole. It has an all-Black cast, most of which are women. These women are musicians, and they’re not your standard Black girl singing group. I deliberately made them dark-skinned rockers who wear funky pink hair and bad-ass costumes because that’s not something I personally have seen. There’s also the personnel component; I introduce you to the sisters of Pink Cage—Zora, Grace, Leseda, Kemme, Torii & Raz—via “chapter” breaks. There is a chance that I will be visiting them again in the future, and readers may as well know who they are now. Pink Cage is awesome.
With this book, I tried to explore the abnormal side of love, or love as it is perceived and received by minds less…*ahem,* fixed …by convention and normality. I also wanted to examine the nature of identity—who we are versus how we are perceived and where and how that line blurs. I can’t say with certainty that all of this is lacking in fiction, but I can definitely say I’ve never written anything like this before in my life…and I’ve written a lot of stuff.
DRU: So Middle Child Press seems to to be amping it up. You just released Tainted and your partner in crime Ankhesen Mie just released the Selo and Inya series. Was this random happenstance or part of a master plan to take over the world?
AR: Well, of course we plan to take over the world…but as far as the production of these projects, they were completely random. Tainted wasn’t planned, and neither was Selo & Inya. But Ankh and I feed off each other’s creativity; we inspire each other and we support each other. That, my friend, is a blessing, one every true writer needs. I know you feel me on this. So don’t be surprised if you see an increase in Ankh’s & my production this year. We’re both writing serials now.
DRU: What’s next for you?
AR: Right now, I’m working on two separate serial projects: Nightingales & the Velimir novels. I just finished the Nightingales pilot, CRASH!!!, and I’m currently drafting the first episode, cool air. CRASH!!! will probably be published this summer, but I’m not 100% sure of this. I can say with 100% certainty that it will be published this year, and if the muse is kind and God is able (which she can sometimes be and He is), cool air will be as well.
I’m also rewriting the first half of Blade Dancer, the first of the Velimir books. It became necessary to wrest Sheila and K’avir completely away from anything remotely resembling their fanfiction origins, so they are going to get a completely new and different genesis. This means restructuring the entire book and introducing new ideas and subplots. I hope that their fans appreciate my efforts, but I’d like to assure them all that Sheila & K’avir themselves have not changed.
DRU: Any parting shots?
AR: To all of my new fans, followers and readers, and to those who have been with me since LJ and ff.net, thank you so much for your support. I am honored and humbled for all the love I’ve received. I hope that you continue to support and enjoy my future efforts, and feel free to visit me in the Dark anytime.
And to you, Denny, my friend and creative sibling…thank you for this wonderful opportunity. Your support means EVERYTHING to me and I’m proud to know you.
DRU: Back atcha sis! 😉
You can learn more about Amaya and her writing at the following websites: