Write On The Edge

Recently the lovely Patricia Eddy and I were guests on Write On The Edge with the very awesome host, WT Prater.

Among topics discussed were, Joss Whedon, J.K. Rowling, Shonda Rhimes, our writing processes, and I share what inspired my latest urban fantasy West of Sunset.

 Click here to continue……….

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Rise of the Urban Fantasy Author

Crossposted…….

So I was recently interviewed by Derpetta Greene, author of this awesome article here. As you’ll see throughout the course of the interview, a myriad of topics get addressed. Diversity in urban fantasy and speculative media in general, the bigotries and hurdles that minority artists face in our day to day, my inspiration for penning my latest release, West of Sunset and what’s on the horizon.

 

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What was the inspiration for the story, and the characters of your second book West of Sunset?

There were so many factors that went into making West of Sunset a reality. One of the reasons I knew West of Sunset had to be written was because there was too many instances of LGBTQs being talked about, talked at and talked down to when the issues of diversity arose. You had cis straight white female authors profiting off of our identities and posing as gay male authors.

More than that, I noticed that each time I spoke out on my identity as a queer person of color, I had one bigot or another moving heaven and earth to come for me.

If it wasn’t racist game designers  like Kraig Blackwelder and Phil Brucato sabotaging the diversity forums they co-founded because they didn’t like the “tone” of the uppity colored Southern boy, then it was a white supremacist gay publisher, Steve Berman, ordering me not to include gay characters in a story for a Civil War anthology because he wants to appeal to a straight market, then it’s failed authors like Ankhesen Mie making personal homophobic attacks out of bitterness and jealousy.

In each of those cases, among others, I realized their privilege is being challenged when people like myself, Monica Roberts, George Takei, others, do the work, love ourselves and embrace our own power, bigots fear and hate that. This was all fuel for me to write a story that provided a more accurate view of what LGBTQ and PoC excellence resembles.

The amazing and prolific Toni Morrison said it best, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

I like to think I’ve done that twice now with both Hollowstone and West of Sunset.

The story of West of Sunset was partially based on my experiences and the experiences of loved ones while I was living in Atlanta, also known as home. The second half of the book was actually inspired by a vacation trip to Los Angeles, with my best friend Will, who both Grant and Van are partly based on. While Will and I were headed to our hotel room in L.A., we passed a street named Van Ness Blvd. This was a sign for me as Grant’s last name is Ness and Van’s full name is Evander Knight. So some of our misadventures in California may or may not have been included in the novella. LOL.

Brecken was a new take on the poem and song Richard Corey. An overachieving perfectionist, Brecken is also a double minority and we see that he’s constantly trying to find his footing in a world where stacked decks and goalpost shifting is the norm for minorities. We live in a society that boasts success is strictly contingent on hard work and fairness. We know that to be a lie. Breck, who is a gay person of color, has to work twice as hard as his white peers to gain a fraction of what he’s earned. His journey is definitely a conversation that’s been long overdue.

Regarding some of the other characters, Jacob and Joshua Phoenix are based on two middle school buddies who are also fraternal twins named Jacob and Joshua. Shayna was inspired by one of my old roommates and good friends, CC. And for those who follow me on social media then I’m sure they figured out that Shawn, the bartender at Slade’s, was a nod to my good friend and internet better half, Playwright Shawn Harris. While the story is as much urban fantasy about the intrepid wizard detective, it’s also about celebrating minorities doing the impossible and celebrating the people who have made this writer’s life a rich one.

 

Is West of Sunset the end? Or should we expect more from Brecken Everett and supporting characters from West of Sunset?

As far as the story focusing on Brecken’s journey specifically, I would say this is the end………for now. But I seriously doubt that this is the last you’ve seen of Breck and some of the others. In fact, don’t be too shocked if any of those characters appear in a story in the not too distant future.

 

Why do you think there is such a lack of diversity in the fantasy genre? How do you think that can be corrected?
I mean it’s simple. The industry is run by bigoted whites and there are gatekeepers of sorts who have shut down PoCs and LGBTQs anytime we attempt to take our own power and tell our stories.

Case in point. We saw the garbage that transpired with Berman.

Anytime a racist gay white publisher feels inclined to tell a queer writer of color that he can’t include gay characters in a Civil War anthology because he wants to crossover and appeal to the straight market, then writes an article bashing other gay writers for assimilating and no one blinks an eye at the hypocrisy, that should tell you everything that is inherently broken and corrupt about this genre.

Make no mistake, ignorance isn’t the reason for the lack of diversity. It’s malice. Pure malicious intent.

 

What other projects should fans look forward to from you?

I’m about to start exploring superhero fiction. Anyone who knows me for like five seconds knows I’m a lifelong comic book nerd and the fantasy genre isn’t the only genre that continues to be virulently opposed to diversity.

As I’ve stated previously, inspiration/muse can come in the unlikeliest of forms.

I’ve also got some urban fantasy young adult stories I want to finish before I start on my next novel. As is the standard PoCs, WoC and LGBTQ protagonists often take center stage. In any event, I’m having a blast writing the stories and can’t wait to finish them and share them with the world.

 

 

Where would you like to see the genre of Urban Fantasy headed within the next 3 years?

I wouldn’t mind the genre of Urban Fantasy catching up with the rest of the world. You know how urban is usually synonymous for black and brown people in major metropolitan areas unless it’s urban fantasy and then it’s WHITE WHITE WHITE WHITE WHITE WHITE WHITE STRAIGHT WHITE!!!!!!

 

What advice do you have for those looking to get into writing their own stories?

Writing is not for the weak or the faint of heart. It’s often grueling, painful, taxing and is the most disrespected and unacknowledged of art forms, but when you’re sharing your truth, your message, that story that you know God put you on this planet for, to immerse yourself in that world, with those characters, to go on that journey with them, to discover a profound truth about yourself and about the world and to share that with the rest of the world. Greatest feeling ever.

Don’t follow the trends. Be an innovator. Be true to yourself and be true to your art.

My buddy James Artimus Owen said it best, “Yes, writing a book out of duty will yield a good book of an appropriate word count. Writing a book out of love will yield an extraordinary story that will touch hearts, move minds and change lives.”

 

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This Once And Future King

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Fighting to bring multiculturalism to YA and
speculative fiction.

I recently had the pleasure to sit down with the Twinjas for a no holds barred interview, where I share my thoughts on tackling bigotry in the industry, my Media Litmus Test, the Black Folks Being Awesome Facebook initiative, my next novel West of Sunset, and a host of other topics.

Fighting to bring multiculturalism to YA and
speculative fiction.

I recently had the pleasure to sit down with the Twinjas for a no holds barred interview, where I share my thoughts on tackling bigotry in the industry, my Media Litmus Test, my next novel West of Sunset, and a host of other topics.

continued reading….

4 Questions, Eight Answers

So recently yours truly had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a discussion on the Outer Alliance Podcast.

Hat tip to the ever-wonderful Julia Rios for setting this up.

See what happens when 8 OA members answer the same four questions (about SF awards, what “metrosexual” means, identity politics and the term QUILTBAG, and recommended media from 2013) and provide a wide range of perspectives on each subject.

The Place For Intelligent Radio

So while at Midsouthcon, I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Walter and Misty who treated me to an interview for Witin Radio.

Two of the finest people you could ever meet, Walter and Misty were an absolute delight and I was honored to be interviewed and excited and a bit nervous as you can probably tell.

In the interview I tackle Hollowstone, race, representation, being a queer writer of color, and give a sneak peek for West of Sunset.

Have a gander.

 

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Fashion Tip From The Bartender: An Interview with Ankhesen Mie

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It’s no secret that I’ve got nothing but love for exquisite ladies behind Middle Child Press, case in point. As much as I’m promoting their projects each time we do these roundtables and interviews, the truth is I get just as much out of these one on ones because if for nothing else, I get to pick the brains of some of my favorite people. Ankhesen Mie is no exception.

Mie is a woman on the move and you’re welcome to join her, if you can keep up. After the success of the re-release of the critically acclaimed Folklore & Other Stories, Mie is flexing her muscles with some new fanfic series and an ongoing serial: Selo & Inya.

And lucky for me, I get to be front row for all the awesome. And lucky for you, you get to join me. See what happens when you hang with the cool kids?

DRU: Ankhesen, thank you so much for sitting down to do this interview. We got a lot to cover but I promise this’ll be fun. Okay, first question I gotta ask. In addition to your new series Selo & Inya, you’re also writing the fanfic series Gaya’s Astronomy, Orias, Soldiers of the Empire, Hotel, your blogs: At the Bar, Middle Child Press, Dark & Twisty, Blasian Narrative, The Black Girls Club. First question: WOMAN, WHEN DO YOU SLEEP?

AM: I don’t.  *wink*  Next question.

DRU: Okay, fine, next question, when do you find the time?

AM: I make the time.  I check emails, comments, and blog stats first thing in the morning.  Literally.  I roll over in bed, silence the alarm on my phone and start skimming.  I check on my lunch and breaks at work, and then when I come home, I start scribbling with a vengeance.  It drives some of my relatives crazy.

DRU: Now when we last chatted, you were looking at some titles set in the Hirosawa universe before shifting focus. Tell us what space you were in and what made you change directions which obviously was the right call for you.

AM: Sometimes a writer tries to do one thing when what they really want (and need) to do is something totally different.  The problem is, we don’t always realize right away where it is we need to go.

When I die, those who’ve read me are most likely going to remember the Hirosawa/d’Auvigne volumes the most.  They are the overarching monster projects which are going to take the most time and planning.  They are my most serious creations, and they require extensive consultations.  While I’ve harassed you about my intended story for Nathaniel Hirosawa, I’ve harassed my uncle about my intended story for Trent Hirosawa.  And all these Hirosawa-laden roads will lead to the d’Auvignes, whom I hope readers will thoroughly enjoy.

In the meantime, I’m not worthy of scribbling these characters just yet.  I still need to hone my skills, get more practice, and more feedback before I can properly delve into that world and do it justice.

DRU: Before we get to your new material, I have to talk about one of the best books I read last year. Folklore, and Other Stories. What prompted the re-release?

AM: The first issue was thoroughly flawed and published on a budget while I was still in graduate school.  Yet it received actual critical acclaim, I sold autographed copies like hot cakes, and that was just the abridged version.  So I figured I should edit and expand it, and then re-release the real version in digital form.

DRU: What has been the response to Folklore?

AM: I’m amazed.  When I was first drafting the story, I knew it was a bit different and experimental, but I didn’t realize just how different and experimental until I got the response.  Everyone seems to really love it, and to my surprise, it did exactly what I intended it to do.  It triggered people’s imaginations and let them roam; they were enchanted and spellbound and it was all because I started writing an anthology on a whim while listening to “Desert Rose” by Sting.

DRU: Congrats once again on Folklore. Okay so switching gears, you decided to embark on penning a fanfiction series set in the Star Trek universe which has taken on a life of its own in terms of scope. Tell us how Gaya’s Astronomy came to be.

AM: *chuckles* Okay, so “Gaya’s Astronomy” is a play on the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.”  While talking about Grey’s Anatonomy on my blog, I remember a commenter being disappointed with how all the fun, flirty adventures were reserved for the white girls on the show, namely Meredith Grey.  So I thought I’d do a fanfic which focused on women of color, but I didn’t want to do a medical series.  In fact, I racked my brain for ages on where to set it and what to call it.

I don’t know I decided upon “Gaya’s Astronomy”, but once I did, Star Trek just stepped in and took over.

DRU:  Did you ever expect Gaya’s Astronomy to become the epic saga that it is today?

AM: I don’t know about “epic”, but no.  I didn’t expect to do all those trailers and teasers; I didn’t think anyone would that of a much a nerd to get into it.  Like Folkore, I’m surprised by the following it’s garnered.

DRU: Has the story progressed anywhere near what you expected or intended?

AM: No.  I expected it to be a semi-parody of the show.  I matched the characters up with Grey’s Anatomy’s characters the best I could, even matching their initials and original personalities (at first).  But my lead character is a Bajoran, her best friend is a Trill, her other best friend is a Human raised on Risa, etc and the complexities of Star Trek led it in a total differently direction.

DRU: When you launched the series, where did you initially see the characters headed?

AM: I was going to let the follow similar storylines to the original show, but it wasn’t happening.  Star Trek is a very dominant fandom with decades on Grey’s Anatomy.  The alien cultures and familiar Trek themes immediately took over.  The next thing I knew, I was redoing the lineup and adding all these new characters to accommodate the Trek mythos.  I also realized that I couldn’t keep Gaya Mylanti modeled after Meredith Grey for too long; I don’t like Meredith Grey and would’ve gotten fed up halfway through the first volume had I stayed faithful to her characterization.

DRU: How has the prose surprised you?

AM: Gaya’s Astronomy gets surprisingly emotional in some spots.  Sure, when I’m tired or in a hurry, it lags in some places, but when I have ideas and energy, I almost forget it’s a fanfic and try to push myself as far as possible.

The epilogue of the first volume is still emotional for me.  When Gaya lies in sickbay recovering from a near death experience, she emotionlessly confesses her mother was a Bajoran comfort woman who married a Cardassian Gul.  In a leaden tone, she calls her mother a whore and talks about how she ran away and hadn’t spoken to her mother in years.  But after almost dying, Gaya realizes the worst thing she could ever do to her mother was to go die somewhere without her mother ever knowing what happened.

It kills me every time.

DRU: What about the journey of the characters?

AM: I’m proud of the girls.  They’ve really grown up into a diverse group of mature people.  Love them or hate them, they’re grown, and whenever I get around to writing Volume 5, I hope to show more of that growth and maturity.

Gaya in particular has been very fleshed out; she’s gone from being a bitter, immature Ensign with mother issues to a natural born operative whose mind is totally on the job.  She has to fight, to spy, even abduct a Vorta sometimes, not to mention outthink operatives far more experienced than she.

DRU: Now you’re a woman with a plan and there are a number of themes that resonate in Gaya’s Astronomy. Let’s first begin with the casting. The cast is predominantly POC which, even in fanfiction isn’t particularly common. Why the decision to have a POC cast and why is this still an important issue?

AM: I haven’t owned a television in years, and I rarely go to a movie theater.  When I first noticed this, I thought it was a bit odd, but then I realized it was because I was tired of not seeing enough people of color.  Not angry, not bitter, just tired.  It gets exhausting—literally exhausting—to have to look for a character of color, hope they get lines and adequate character development, and then be disappointed Every Single Time.  I’m always yawning or my mind is wandering, drafting my own damn stories in my head.

When my mother moved in with me last year, she brought her giant flat-screen TV and her cable.  I use that TV for two things: watching DVDs and Scandal.  The rest of the time, I’m online watching and re-watching webshows written and starring POC—Between Women, The Peculuar Kind, Awkward Black Girl, David So Comedy, RoomieLoverFriends, The Unwritten Rules, The Number—and I could go on and on.  Not to mention Julie, my partner in crime, and I are obsessively watching palace dramas, fantasy epics, steampunk, and action adventures from Asia.

It invigorates us, brings us laughter, makes us whole.  We’re reminded more than ever that we’re people, not token best friends or canon fodder.  Mainstream media tells us this and reality bends to its will.  Case in point: when I was in West Virginia, all these white girls wanted me to be their “best friend”.  They wanted me to listen to their woes and be their designated drivers.  They wanted my world to entirely revolve around them.  But if I needed something or had a problem, I was on my own.  I remember crying about something once, and a shocked white “friend” described it as hell having frozen over.

I wasn’t meant to be emotional, or attractive, or interesting.  I was supposed to be as flat and one-dimensional as every token best friend of color on TV.

Even worse, when I worked with kids, I came into contact with some seriously disturbed families.  One of my coworkers was a willowy blonde beauty.  And while she was a wonderful person, everyone rushed to protect her but never me.  When we had to deal with a particularly toxic client, the school principal had the gall to go on and on about how unsafe it was for her, how dangerous the father was, how he had a thing for young women, and how she was afraid my blonde coworker might come to harm.

“Send her instead,” she added hastily, pointing at me.

DRU:  Holy………wow. Now, as always, the Blasian theme is running strong. Tell us why this theme is important to you and why this phenomenon is explored in your work?

AM: The Afro-Asiatic experience is my life, and for those who don’t read the Blasian Narrative, understand that when I say “Blasian”, I’m referring to Indigenous Americans, Polynesians, etc in addition to Asians and Africans.  There’s so much shared history and culture between the two continents which most American POC don’t realize and don’t understand because we live under the boot heel of a Eurocentric narrative.  We don’t realize the significance or implications it will have on our future because we’re told to focus on the black/white dynamic.

But the reality is, Afro-Asiatic relations are part of that “wholeness” we need to fortify our identities.  I mean, everyone comes from Africa, this is true, but while that tells us everything, it also tells us nothing.  We have to explore the human connection much more deeply if we truly want to learn about who we are.

From a writing standpoint, the Blasian aspect adds new dimensions to characters and familiar plots, and caters to a thoroughly ignored market.  It also presents a unique exciting challenge.

DRU: Now with Blasian Themes, it’s often Asian male and black female. Is there a possibility that we may see a black male/Asian female, Asian male/black male, Asian woman/black woman, etc?

AM: Oh, hon…yes.  With me, that’s a given.

DRU: You wrote a piece last year that hit me to the core. It was about how you were done with the Heterosexist Narrative. Tell us what inspired that post and how has this affected your writing in your opinion?

AM: The epic fail of Zoe Saldana portraying Nina Simone in a fauxmance with a man who was gay in real life was the last straw for me.

The Heterosexist Narrative tries to tell us the couples we see in film and on television are normal, healthy, happy people in love and we should all try to be like them.  Bullshit.  Do you fall in love with every stranger who buys you ONE beer or goes out for coffee with you?  How many of your one-night stands have ended in romantic waterworks and a wedding?  And where are all these charming, good-looking, gold-hearted strangers with money anyway?  I get stalked by weirdoes and losers.  Last I checked, it was called being female and living during a recession.

Hollywood has become one long-winded, airbrushed commercial for heterosexuality, and like every other commercial in existence, it’s a big fat lie.

So to answer your question, being done with that Narrative has prompted me to start drafting more and more gay characters, plain and simple.  I consider it being the change I want to see in the world.

DRU: I personally want to thank you as a queer reader for practicing what you preach. You’ve proven that in Gaya’s Astronomy with characters Isi, Cillia, and Rindy. You developed these characters and show them with respect. Something most writers seem incapable of doing. Tell us what is your secret?

AM: Thank you.  I was once asked a similar question about the Asian men in my stories.  I explained that I wrote them as men first, and Asian second.  Sexuality is no different.  Isi, Cillia, and Rindy are strong, proud, capable women first.  Being attracted to women is not who they are.  It’s a part of who they are.

DRU: Interestingly enough, Isi and Rindy are two of your most popular characters. Thoughts?

AM: Rindy was added on a whim.  She was only meant to appear two or three times but I felt there was something going on between those two that they weren’t telling us.  So I kept writing and sure enough, they turned out to be a very emotionally charged, complicated, passionate couple.

I want to thank everyone who’s supported “Risi”.  When I get around to penning Volume 5, the fireworks will continue.

DRU: Another thing I noted is that this story is refreshingly female-centric and woman positive. There’s a cast of diverse women. Gaya’s Astronomy almost reads like a love letter to women. Was this a conscious choice or something that naturally manifested?

AM: Definitely conscious.  We need more female-centric projects; my goal is to attempt to write as many as possible.  In Gaya’s Astronomy, the characters keep bringing up the Ovarian Rule of not compromising yourself for another person.  I want to bring the Ovarian Rule from the 24th Century into the 21st Century —no more compromising.

DRU: Dreamcasting. Tell the readers what it is, why it helps you as a writer and why it’s one of our favorite hobbies as we’ve discussed in the past.

AM: Dreamcasting—which you got me into—involves compiling your dream cast of real life actors for either an established project or a hypothetical one.  I’ve been known to redo the entire cast of Trek shows, for example, with predominantly POC actors.

But once I do, original ideas start surfacing and what starts out as a laugh on a blog turns into a project of its own.

Gaya’s Astronomy involves dreamcasting; every main character and almost every guest character is “played” by a real-life actor.  For example, Gaya Mylanti is Megalyn Echikunwoke.  Isi Soyinka is Rutina Wesley, and Rindy Ruçi is Eliza Dushku.  By giving characters faces and voices, they become a lot easier to write.

DRU: You’re an accomplished author, publisher, prolific blogger and fan-fiction writer. Some people would think being a published writer, the last thing you would do is pen fanfics. What are your thoughts on fan-fiction and the common opinions associated with it. Why do you write it? 

AM: Fanfiction is essential.  When studied, it tells you a lot about the society you live in.  Anyone who’s paid attention to the rampant fail in the Spock/Uhura fandom or Swangate knows what I’m talking about.

Aspiring writers who look down on fanfiction need to get off their high horses.  That’s how you learn.  Fanfiction is great way to hone your talent and get regular feedback.  When you dreamcast and organize your work into volume, you can watch yourself grow and learn from your mistakes.  It helps with writer’s block and is a great way to reward fans who are nice enough to buy your books.

I will know that I’ve truly arrived when people are writing fanfiction based on my original characters.

DRU: The site has gotten a massive surge since the launch of Gaya’s Astronomy. No doubt you’re excited about the series’ success.

AM: I am!  I’m still a little surprised that it developed a following, though.  I wasn’t sure anybody would go for it.

DRU: Any other fandoms you’re looking at penning fanfics for?

AM: I’ve actually opened up a poll and a thread on my fanfiction blog for people to vote and make suggestions.  So far, I’m considering a fanfiction focusing on Kendra the Vampire Slayer.  And since I regard J.K. Rowling a master storyteller whom I could learn a lot from in terms of prose and whimsy, I’m thinking of penning a Harry Potter fanfiction set in the future with an all new cast.

I’m also considering penning a fanfiction starring the Fox Demon from the Painted Skin films, and having Gabrielle Union reprise her role as Perri Reed from Night Stalker.

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DRU: You’ve launched a new series: Selo & Inya. First and foremost, congratulations. I loved Book 1.  For those who haven’t read it yet, what is the series about?

AM: Selo & Inya are about two women who meet and decide to travel a fictional, ancient world together.  Selo is a tall, dark-skinned warrior from the all-female Queendom of Tiy.  She doesn’t have much experience traveling in a mixed society.  She’s young, and though she’s tough, she’s a bit naïve and driven mostly by curiosity.

Inya is a short nomad and a skilled herbalist from the Kingdom of Oon Sati.  She’s grown up in a mixed society and often acts as Selo’s guide as they travel, but the truth is, Inya needs some serious guidance herself.  Inya has a colorful past, and doesn’t show the best judgment.

DRU: What inspired the series?

AM: The usual. Watching shows like Xena and waiting for a brown girl—any brown girl—to show up.

DRU: With this being and ongoing serial, can you give us a glimpse of what you have planned for our two heroines?

AM: Comedy, mostly; the two are going to learn about each other’s society and each other.  Book 2’s about to be released for publication; in Hunter, they agree to assist an old friend of Selo’s who is a bounty hunter.  Unfortunately, the fugitive in question has more than just a bounty on his head.

DRU: Between Selo & Inya and Tainted from your partner in crime, Amaya Radjani, it appears as if 2013 is going to be the year of Middle Child Press. Was this coincidence that all of these titles are coming out this year or is this merely an elaborate plot for world domination?

AM: Coincidence. Amaya and I just try to keep writing and get to know our readers…but I wouldn’t count out world domination just yet.  Amaya has a Warrior Princess Complex.

DRU: Indeed she does. LOL! Because you know I have to ask, do you know if we’ll be seeing the Hirosawas again?

AM: Definitely.

DRU:  So what else lies ahead for Ankhesen Mie?

AM: Finding time to write all this stuff down.  *crosses fingers*  Wish me luck.

DRU: Any parting shots?

AM: I just want to give a shout out to our other partner in crime, JNguyen.  The beautiful and talented Julie does artwork for Amaya and me and I don’t know where we’d be without her.  She’s responsible for all the covers of Selo & Inya and I owe her so much.

Indeed. JNguyen is awesome indeed. See for yourself.

For more excellent reading, you can find Ankhesen’s other titles here.

Interview: Amaya Radjani

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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 airCRASH!!! 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:

http://www.amaya-radjani.com

http://amayashorties.blogspot.com

http://pinkelegance.blogspot.com

http://middlechildpress.blogspot.com

And Amaya’s books are available here and here