Fashion Tip From The Bartender: An Interview with Ankhesen Mie

Ankhesen portrait

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

Ankh Speaks: The Day Job

So over on Middle Child Press, Ankhesen Mie explains why artists being unemployed is not a good look.

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I recently viewed a trailer for a film we shall not speak of here.  In the trailer, the protagonist is a struggling writer who totally sucksis having money problems because he won’t buckle down and get a damn day job.  He says that as a writer he has to “pay his dues”.

Some folks argue that the day job is the artist’s ultimate bane.  They feel they would be more productive if they didn’t have to go toil for someone else everyday.  They feel they belong with a cigarette and notepad on a park bench somewhere, watching the kids play like some child molester.  They think they’ll get more work done if they head out to the coffee house and surf the web for eight hours a day.  And then they wonder why their writing careers don’t go anywhere.

Mm-hm.  I feel the day job is the best way for a writer to pay their dues.  If you have a genuinely creative mind, you can use your job – whatever it be – as a source of inspiration.  And if you go the popular, cost effective self-publishing route – which I highly recommend – you have complete control over your own material which, last time I checked, is every writer’s dream.

Many cigarette smoking, coffee house writers are often seen as ignorant, naive, and idealistic.  The lack of a day job and the glamorization of the “starving artist” tends to keep them out of touch with reality.  They’re limiting their interactive circle, and by being financially negligent, they’re actually causing increasing problems in the long-term (starving artist ironically tend to have gourmet tastes in fashion, food, and furniture).

Fashion tip from Moi: knowing that your bills are paid and you’ll always have a place to sleep does wonders for the creative mind because even though you’re pretty tired at the end of the day, you’re not stressing out.

The Heterosexist Narrative

And my girl Ankhesen Mie comes out swinging, HARD!!!!!

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After battling the worst bout of writer’s block I’ve had in a while, I finally rescued myself by coming to one of my momentous decisions: no more stories where love is a central theme, and no more sex scenes (unless they have a comical edge).

It has nothing to do with being a prude or anything like that; it has more to do with the fact that romance as we know it needs to take a holiday.
I feel – and this is just my humble opinion – that as we are seeing a stubborn whitening of everything in media, we are also seeing a stubborn straightening of everyone.  In addition to the obsession of showing white people in romantic relationships, I feel there’s been an added emphasis on showing them in straight relationships.
In other words, not only is Hollywood pushing back against the growing number of people of color in this country, the country’s own origins of color, and the dominance of color abroad, Hollywood is pushing back against the increasingly visible and vocal gay population which is rightfully sick and tired of second-class citizenship.
I once criticized the virulent prevalence of (heterosexual) love triangles in media.  They were popping up everywhere and turning no one on.  Now, it seems, “romance” has become a shameless plug in which women in particular are reduced to mere love interests, reminding the audience that straight is great, so don’t deviate.
Now, if you’re wondering where this post is coming from, you have Nina Simone to thank for that.  First off, Zoe Saldana has no business portraying this woman.  I love me some Zoe, I’m glad she’s making her money and getting steady exposure, but despite her proud declaration of being a Black woman, Hollywood finds her “safe” enough to put in its movies, and thereby continue its quest to whiten damn near everybody.
Secondly, as Nina Simone’s daughter has pointed out, her nurse Clifton Henderson was gay.  The film intends to portray the last eight years or so of her life, and for some reason, the PTB feel the need plug in a romantic subplot.  So now we have a damn biopic being blatantly rewritten so as to once again pointlessly portray heterosexual romance – why does there have to be a romance in this situation at all?

Writing 101, kids: “love interest” is not a “purpose.”  It’s not a role.  It can be a minor aspect of a fleshed-out, multidimensional character, but not their entire reason for existing.  If they don’t contribute anything else to the central plotline, they need to be written the hell out.

And lastly, Hollywood needs to just friggin’ deal.  Gays, like folks of color in general, are here.  They’ve always been here.  They’re not going anywhere.  So let our gay actors come out publicly and portray themselves.  When the audience can see same-sex hugs and kisses that aren’t stiff or uncomfortable or very carefully rehearsed, it’ll lend movies a whole new level of credibility and respectability.  Stop orientation-bending already.

And lose the excessive romance.  We get it.  Heteros dig each other.  How nice it must be for them…when they’re not divorcing each other in shameful rates, or cheating on each other after a needlessly expensive but at least God-sanctified wedding, or taking each other for granted, or constantly fleeing the kids they spawned during their wonderful, God-intended hetero sex.

*yawn*  We get it already. What else you got?

Review: Folklore and Other Stories

 

So late last year I was chatting with my buddy Ankhesen Mie about her novella Folklore and I mentioned to her that I planned to purchase it. She insisted I wait because she planned to re-release it. I was already even more curious because this novella had already received some serious acclaim—Midwest Book Review, RAWSISTAZ Literary, APOOO Bookclub for starters—so how much more awesome could this book get?

 

I would soon find out.

 

Confession time. I was actually very reluctant to write this review. Not because the book isn’t phenomenal, in fact quite the opposite. I was so blown away by Mie’s prose, that expressing my amazement into words simply wouldn’t do this novella justice. Just the same, I’m going to attempt to do so anyway.

 

“Folklore”

When young Kazuya Kurosaki orders the disposal of a rival’s favorite, beautiful Amisi Ryan shows up with a “‘thank you’…from the dead.” Her priceless gift, an approximately four-thousand-year-old solid gold mask, lures Kazuya into a world of myth and intoxicating fantasy, and with each telling of an ancient tale, he finds himself drawn further and further away from everything – and everyone – he knows.

As a writer, I was floored by Mie’s craftsmanship. We’re actually receiving two juxtaposed stories in one: the myth behind the mask and the fates of Kazuya and Amisi. In fact the myth of the mask plays out in the modern tale with subtlety and nuance; a testament to Mie’s masterful skills as a storyteller.

 

I had to put down my iPad in sheer amazement of Mie’s story structure and execution. I would be putting down my iPad repeatedly in amazement. In hindsight with the repeatedly placing down of said iPad, no wonder it took me forever to finish this novella.

 

While I was first introduced to the Hirosawa Klan (which reminds me, I needs to see about them adopting me because they are that badass) in Mie’s novel, The Woman From Cheshire Avenue, they actually make their debut prior to that novel her in Folklore. And per the standard they delivered the awesome. But they weren’t the only ones. Without giving anything away Hirosawa rival Raiya proved herself to be a boss chick and shows why she’s not the woman to cross.

 

I was gnashing teeth when the story concluded. I wanted more. I had to find out what happened next. Leaving her audience wanting more, Mie had done her job.

 

While I knew I would enjoy the other two stories, I was certain they wouldn’t be able to hold up to Folklore. How do you follow such a strong piece?

 

I would soon find out.

 

 

“Echo”

Rory Zheng is a young traveler who arrives at Silver Wood Manor, an enchanting residence atop a mountain where he meets an array of characters. Among them are the mischievous old Irishman who designed the buildings and the chatty nine-year-old daughter of the beautiful, somber landlady of Silver Wood, whose husband is often away….

To unlock the mystery and history of the manor and its people, Rory employs some magic of his own: the art of storytelling.

While the action and excitement of Folklore hooked me immediately, Echo’s subtlety slowly, but nonetheless completely, grew on me. In a mythical and surreal world, it still had a small town/village feel to it where the characters were like family.

Silver Wood itself had as much atmosphere and character as the characters and the backdrop leant itself nicely to the story.

Comyna and Subira were a lovely and refreshing lesbian couple. It’s not often I see two queer characters of color anywhere and both characters were handled with respect and class. The Liangs were a riot and Hannigan was a hoot.

While Rory and Lara are the two main characters, I found myself not only being invested in them but becoming just as equally invested in the supporting cast members.

Once again, I was gnashing teeth when the story concluded. I wanted more. I had to find out what happened next. Leaving her audience wanting more, Mie had done her job.

Two separate stories had done this, there was no way she was going to pull off such a feat with the third one.

Or would she?

 

“The Collection”

The divorce between Jason Rang and his filthy rich, soon-to-be ex-wife Mireille is actually going well. Or at least it does until Jason lets his new fiancée Maribel actually meet Mireille. Invited to Mireille’s newly inherited mansion (fully furnished with all manner of beautiful shirtless young men), Jason and Maribel find themselves lulled into a sensual world where they learn that sometimes – but only sometimes – an entire divorce proceeding can be just another lovers’ quarrel.

 

Of the three tales, the Collection was most certainly the most experimental. As a writer, I’m usually good about analyzing story structure and anticipating where the narrative is headed. This story, I honestly couldn’t get a read on. There was lot of backstory that was shrouded in mystery. The characters reacted in unexpected (but completely plausible) ways. The conclusion was satisfying, even though the mystery was never fully resolved.

The story ultimately proved to be entertaining, complex, surreal, and more enticing than I’m comfortable admitting. And while I was left wanting more, it was an intense ride and the perfect way to end the book.

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In each of the stories, Mie consistently brings the highest level of quality to her work. Quality that is distinctive. She gives the most detailed description in settings, design, locale, attire, personal style, even the smell and tastes of the meals being served. These are worlds that she’s excited about and clearly in love with and it translates well in her stories. She wants her readers to have the same experience exploring her worlds as she does.

Folklore is also an example of experimentation done right. Mie knows her craft inside and out. She knows the rules and can bend them and break them to do some incredible feats. In fact she seriously needs to consider changing her name to Niobe or Trinity because I witnessed some  jaw-dropping Matrix style maneuvering in her writing.

Said experimentation also lent itself nicely to the plausible deniability of the supernatural bent in the stories. Each story possesses a hint of speculative elements but it’s rooted in enough ambiguity that it allows the reader to interpret the text how they see fit.

But more than anything I thank Mie for the escapism. It was refreshing to read a book where the main characters were people of color. Three dimensional, complex complicated people of color.

It was a joy to see a same sex loving couple (possibly two and if you’ve read Echo, then you know what I’m talking about) who were portrayed with respect.

It was refreshing to see a diverse set of strong powerful women whether it was Lara, Raiya, Mrs. Liang, or Mierelle.

I especially enjoyed reading these worlds where POCs are wealthy and privileged and accomplished. Silver Wood had a Latino mayor, a world renowned Asian photographer, and a rich young academic. It’s a tragic reminder that more stories like these aren’t being told and yet it’s refreshing and hopeful to be reminded that someone is.

Of course now Mie has made the worst mistake possible by allowing me to read Folklore. Now more than ever I’m a huge fanboy of hers and if she thinks I’ve been pestering her before about when her next books are going to be released, she hasn’t seen anything yet.

If this review is any indication, Folklore receives five stars. This book is what the kids would call  FLAWLESS VICTORY.

Folklore And Other Stories

 

Exciting news. My good friend Ankhesen Mie is back with an awesome new title that you’re going to want to grab:

Middle Child Press is proud to present Folklore and Other Stories:

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“Folklore”

When young Kazuya Kurosaki orders the disposal of a rival’s favorite, beautiful Amisi Ryan shows up with a “‘thank you’…from the dead”. Her priceless gift, an approximately four-thousand-year-old solid gold mask, lures Kazuya into a world of myth and intoxicating fantasy, and with each telling of an ancient tale, he finds himself drawn further and further away from everything – and everyone – he knows.

“Echo”

Rory Zheng is a young traveler who arrives at Silver Wood Manor, an enchanting residence atop a mountain where he meets an array of characters. Among them are the mischievous old Irishman who designed the buildings and the chatty nine-year-old daughter of the beautiful, somber landlady of Silver Wood, whose husband is often away….

To unlock the mystery and history of the manor and its people, Rory employs some magic of his own: the art of storytelling.

“The Collection”

The divorce between Jason Rang and his filthy rich, soon-to-be ex-wife Mireille is actually going well. Or at least it does until Jason lets his new fiancée Maribel actually meet Mireille. Invited to Mireille’s newly inherited mansion (fully furnished with all manner of beautiful shirtless young men), Jason and Maribel find themselves lulled into a sensual world where they learn that sometimes – but only sometimes – an entire divorce proceeding can be just another lovers’ quarrel.
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For those of you who are always stating how you wish there was more diversity in publishing and how you wish you could support more marginalized voices, here’s a perfect opportunity to do so. Middle Child Press is a wonderful publisher, Ankhesen Mie is an incredible writer, and voices like theirs need to be uplifted like yesterday.

More information on Folklore can be found here.

Round Table

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

Recently a group of novelists decided to have a sit-down for a round table discussion.  For months they had been discussing some of the challenges that novelists of color face in both the publishing industry as well as the media in general. In addition to race, they also tackled the intersections of gender and orientation. The writers then realized that an honest conversations on these issues was something worth sharing.

Four authors, one powerful discussion.

And here we are.

Introduction: The Players

Ankhesen Mie is an author, publisher, and self-identified “professional lunatic.” Mie is a co-founder and Director of Promotions for Middle Child Press. Her works include Violet Dusk, a poetry collection, The Woman from Cheshire Avenue, and The Velvet Hall.  She can be found tending the bar at her official website: http://www.ankhesen-mie.net, and narrating all things Blasian at the Blasian Narrative: http://blasiannarrative.blogspot.com.

Amaya Radjani is an author, editor, publisher and an educational researcher. A novelist by nature, she is a co-founder and the Creative Director of Middle Child Press. Radjani is the editor of MCP’s The Sultry Court and the author of Corruption.  She can usually be found musing in the dark on her official blog: http://www.amaya-radjani.com.

Dennis R. Upkins is a writer, digital artist and a hopeless comic book addict. His debut novel, Hollowstone, was released by Parker Publishing this past summer. Novelist by day and nerd seraph by night, he can usually be found plotting to save the world and/or take it over on his website: http://dennisupkins.com.

Hayat Ali is an author who has amassed a loyal following.  A full-time attorney, her debut novel, The Alpha Promise, has been gaining much buzz. You can find out more about Ali and her work here:

http://www.ankhesen-mie.net/2011/05/at-bar-with-hayat-ali.html

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hayat-Alis-Domain/191651476357

The Roundtable

-Please introduce yourselves to those reading along.

Mie: I’m Ankhesen Mié, an Ambazonian-American author and blogger.

Ali: My name is Hayat Ali. Black woman. I’m a full time attorney struggling to become a full time writer and eventually film maker.

Radjani:  My name’s Amaya and I’m a gorgeous black woman and a prolific author.  In addition to musing in the dark, I’m an educational researcher and an editor.  I am also the Creative Director of Middle Child Press.  Some of my duties as CD include constructive and editorial assistance for new and experienced authors.

Upkins: My name is Dennis R. Upkins. I’m a digital artist, blogger and a professional author.

-How did you get into writing?

Ali: I have been writing since I was a kid. I love making up stories in my head when I played and on paper. I don’t get to finish most of them on paper but I do try. I have even written fan fiction.

Radjani:   What I am first and foremost is an author.  Storytelling is my life.  Everything else I’m doing right now is just details.  Writing has always been in me; it’s like breathing.  I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t scribbling stories once I learned to hold a pencil.  I can’t imagine my life without this gift.

Upkins: Even as a child I’ve always been passionate about storytelling. Writing is the outlet that allows me to channel that passion.

Mie: I started writing as a child.  My father says I “destroyed” (scribbled in) most of the books in his house by the age of four.  As storytelling is a very important component in pretty much every African culture, my scribbling tendencies were strongly encouraged.

-What genre(s) do you write in?

Radjani: Contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, supernatural, erotica and gothic.  I have a love of and an appreciation for dark subject matter, and in certain places, I’m known as The Goddess of Smut because I know how to write exceptional sex scenes.  Read my blog and you’ll see that for yourself.  Anyway, my work is far more than about sex, and I’m always seeking to test my boundaries and branch out into new genres.  Lately, I’ve been fascinated with monsters and demons and I know it’s only a matter of time before you’ll hear about my foray into erotic horror.  Don’t worry, I always issue proper warnings beforehand.

Upkins: YA, noir, urban fantasy, paranormal and superhero/comic book.

Mie: I write fiction, or what I call “experimental fiction.”  I try very hard to think outside the box.  To do so, I look for inspiration in unexpected places.  I believe that reading/seeing/listening to one thing and wanting to do something similar is not inspiration; it’s just imitation.  True inspiration is experience one thing and think of doing something completely different.

Ali: I write mostly sci-fi, fantasy and supernatural but with a friend I have done contemporary/romance stories. My first book [The Alpha Promise] is a vampire story. I also have a fantasy and sci-fi story I want to start.

-Are your protagonists usually POC?

Radjani: Yes.  But back when I was cutting my teeth on the writing stone, I took my infantile inspiration from what I saw on television.  Which, of course, were white people.  That era didn’t last long because 99% of my world consisted of black people, and writers typically write what they know.  I didn’t know a damn thing about white folks.

Mie: Yes, my protagonists are usually POC.  I don’t hide the fact that I have a target audience.  I don’t believe in “universal narratives” so I don’t bother trying to write them.  I write for POC, so my characters are POC.

Upkins: It’s usually 50/50 with me. It really all depends on the story. But even if characters of color aren’t the main protagonists, they definitely have vital key roles.

Ali: Yes they are primarily because in the genre of sci-fi/fantasy it usually isn’t. In fact there aren’t people of color. You only get the diversity from sci-fi by them injecting aliens, trolls whatever in it. It gets frustrating.

-Do you share the same gender/race/orientation as most of your lead characters?

Ali: Yes my main characters reflect my race and gender and that’s deliberate on my part.

Radjani: Sometimes.  Most of my protagonists are sistahs, but I have written from a male perspective.  But as I mature and develop and branch out, so do my characters.  Within the past four years, I’ve seen my characters’ sexual orientation evolve.  It’s never deliberate; my characters are real people, as far as I’m concerned, and their lives are what they are.  I have yet to write a story where a protagonist happens to have a different orientation than I do, but I know it will be soon.

Mie: I do mostly write women because I feel we’re quite shafted by media.  I recently learned that on Netflix that there’s a separate category for shows and films “with a strong female lead,” as though leading female protagonists are just some cute, quaint little novelty belonging on a shelf, preferably out of sight.

Upkins: Not necessarily.  And as a rule, generally no. The lead character may be queer and/or a POC but for the most part, you probably won’t find me writing a story about a queer black male character, simply to avoid being falsely accused of author insert.

-Has anyone falsely accused you of author insert simply because you share the same gender/race/orientation as a protagonist? I.E. she’s black, you’re black, OBVIOUSLY that’s supposed to be you.

Radjani: Don’t even get me started.  I’ve had to—and still have to—shut down many an ignorant soul. My female characters embody aspects of me and women I know, but they are never me.

Ali: No. Not yet but I’ve argued with white people about the lack of PoC in fiction and was told that I should just change the color in my mind. I find that lame. Race is a conscious choice an author makes, just like time place and setting. I want to read about a POC not just impose it on the story.

Mie: Only with my first book, Purple Jars of Rice, has anyone automatically assumed that a main character was based on me.  Because I write experimentally, and often give readers a WTF moment, they don’t usually think author insertion is involved.

Upkins: Most definitely. I’ve seen this happen to too many other writers of color. These bogus accusations are blatant attacks to undercut and discredit them from writing about the POC experience. It stems from this failed mindset that we as POC writers can’t be objective or “universal” in our storytelling. We’re not sophisticated, nuanced, or real writers.

I even had a few (read: racist white) critics make that accusation about my character Noah in Hollowstone and he’s straight and based on three high school buddies. But because he’s a black male and I’m a black male, CLEARLY that’s supposed to be me. Never mind the fact that there are white queer characters and a young black woman in the novel who I personally identify with.

If you don’t accuse Jim Butcher of author insert with Harry Dresden or George Lucas with Luke Skywalker (who Lucas has gone on record of stating that he named Luke after himself), then I don’t want to hear that BS now.

-Have you ever been treated differently because you are a POC author and/or your stories feature POC characters?

Upkins: Absolutely. I’ve had more than a few white colleagues sneer and give me the evil eye because I chose to go with an excellent black publisher and because my novel features a black co-protagonist and tackles racism. I’ve had the snide remarks along the lines of it’s a vanity publisher: Because Negroes don’t read, much less write, much less publish books with powerful stories. And if black people accomplished something that many racist white writing aspirants haven’t, then CLEARLY there’s some chicanery afoot.

Ali: No I haven’t. But people challenge me on why there is a need for POC in fiction and I find that remarkable.

Radjani: Well, that depends on what you mean by differently.  I’ve had a hard time getting published in the past, but I can’t say with any certainty that it had to do with my race or the race of my characters.  Probably, but I don’t know for sure.  I never worried about it.  I’ve spent most of my writing life in a complete void.  All of this interacting with a community of real writers is still very new to me, but welcome all the same.  It’s a beautiful thing, networking with like minds.

Mie: I have been treated differently because I’m POC and I write for POC.  I’ve made white people quite uncomfortable because once they learned this about me; they didn’t know what to say.  POCs, of course, tend to be more encouraging.

-What are the double standards you feel that POC authors have to contend with?

Mie: I’m not sure “double standard” is the appropriate term.  In my experience, there’s just been “the standard” – white, heterosexual, and infallible.  I cannot count how many times white people who learned I’m an author were quick to start rattling off what I should write, how the characters should look, etc., and then were shocked when I said, “Yeah, that’s nice…except I won’t make them white.”  And thus the uncomfortable silence followed.

Upkins: As I mentioned previously, bogus accusations or being accused of not being a “real” writer. And heaven forbid you decide to showcase any real diversity, you get accused of pushing an agenda. Or if you have a competent character of color that’s anything more than the token sidekick, then they’re a Mary Sue.

Ali: Well in some respects yes. There is an expectation that your books need to be diverse. It is assumed by some that the authors can’t tell a story that anyone can relate and read. Once there is a black character some assume it’s a black story.

Radjani: Never thought about it, honestly.  As I said before, I spent most of my writing life in a void, so I can’t speak on this.  I will say that I write what I want to write because I write for me.  If people expect me to conform to a particular standard just because, then they’re in for a hell of a surprise.

-Being a POC or for that matter a woman and/or an LGBTQ, do you feel obligated to tackle certain issues/themes/topics?

Mie:  As an African woman who supports gay and transgendered rights, yes, I feel obligated to tackle certain themes.  By I prefer to simply have characters themselves be the message, if I can.  If I write a well-adjusted, gainfully employed, educated person who is otherwise often portrayed as dysfunctional, I feel my characterization in itself is the message.

Radjani: Obligated? Not really, unless you consider real sex and food an obligation.   My characters eat and they fuck, and this is a common theme in my work.  As I said earlier, I will say that I write what I want to write because I write for me.  If I tagged myself with obligations, then I’m stifling my muse and I absolutely will not do that.  If people decide to read my work and want to come along for the ride and perhaps learn something from it, then I consider it a bonus.

Ali: Yes and no. I’m a very political animal so my stories tend to be that way. I love tackling with issues of race class gender and politics in the story.

Upkins: Because it’s very rare for a person of color to be in the position to represent our people and culture with any sense of accuracy and respect, you definitely feel obligated, I believe, to debunk stereotypes and showcase marginalized people as real organic human beings.

Some themes will naturally manifest in my narratives simply because it’s a part of my experience. Just as elements of racism, homophobia, and other forms of prejudice will rarely show up in the works of many white writers because their experience is from a place of privilege where they haven’t had to contend with that in their day-to-day. Or if it is addressed, it’s often done very poorly. But believe it or not POCs and LGBTQs love escapism too. Sometimes we don’t always have to tackle racism or homophobia. Sometimes just presenting a great story that just happens to feature a woman of color or a butt-kicking gay action hero speaks volumes without even having to raise the issue.

-What has the treatment from white readers/white authors/white colleagues in the industry/fandom been like?

Ali: With The Alpha Promise? We’ll see.

Mie: My experience is that white folks want to read works about themselves.  They are especially excited if the author is POC because that offers them the role of “guide.”  They can’t wait to tell you what to do and how you should do it.  Even if you make it clear that POC are the leading characters in your work, they dismissively nod and go, “Yeah, yeah…so back to this random white character in the story.  I think they need more lines.  And bigger backstory. And a [white] love interest.”

Radjani: I believe that TPTB typically want stories by PoC authors that portray us in a negative light; i.e. “hood lit.”  Anything of quality tends to get ignored.  You’ll see all kinds of bullshit on the shelves in the “African American” section, and the themes are typically the same.  I’ve been fortunate to have sorted through the dreck and found a few good authors, but it’s a rare occurrence.  My collection leaves a lot to be desired, and that is one of the reasons Ankh and I formed MCP, to fill this void.

I’m a fanfic writer, and 99% of the time, I have no idea of what the majority race of my fan base is.  I assume they’re white; but I don’t know for sure, nor do I care.  For the most part, they’ve been decent in terms of supporting my fanfics, but considering most of the fandoms I’ve written in are lily-white, that’s easy for them to do.  I’m sure they ignore the blatant (at least I think they are) indicators that the fanfic author is a black woman, because it’s easy to do so.

Upkins: It’s been mixed for me. I’m sure as most POCs know, when you gain any modicum of success (much less publish a book), you find out very quickly who your real friends are. Since Hollowstone’s release, I’ve gotten some rebuke from bitter white peers. On the flipside, I’ve also received a lot of love and support from white readers and industry types who truly are fighting for change and progression. I’m very grateful for them and their support but at the same time, you learn quickly why things haven’t improved.

-Support for POC artists? Are audiences doing enough? Is there room for improvement?

Mie: I think we’ve developed a culture of complaining.  We’d rather complain about what’s not being done in Hollywood, rather than support, praise, and analyze what IS being done outside Hollywood.  And while we don’t realize it, we’re boycotting the wrong people.  If you’re bitching at Jay-Z or Kanye after you’ve bought their albums, and realized you’re tired of rims, hoes, and Cristal, keep in mind you’ve boycotted Asheru, whose albums cost half as much and are one hell of an investment.

When you pay $80-120/month for cable for a bunch of channels you don’t watch, where POC presence has been in decline for the last decade, you’re boycotting perfectly good web series where POC write, cast, and star in stories which relate directly to you.

We have to learn to make that correlation and hold ourselves accountable.  POC fans have got to relearn to take the initiative and do things for themselves to get what they want.

Upkins: I think Ankhesen nailed it. I was talking to a friend about this very issue and we both concurred that POCs, and we were discussing blacks specifically, have become too complacent with the status quo. Rather than demanding better, we rarely take any kind of proactive measure to improve our conditions.

For years I’ve purposely sought out media that features women, POCs, LGBTQs, the disabled and other marginalized people as the primary protagonists. I believe in voting with my dollars. And I regularly make posts, lists, and other recommendations on my blogs to provide resources for other people looking to support quality marginalized media. I was disheartened to learn that I was in the minority in doing that much. I have to admit that for so many people I encounter who cry and moan about the lack of diversity in the media, few actually bother to support it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve boosted the signal on POC media and as a result I only receive e-crickets.

I’ve seen this countless times with other POC fandom efforts. Too many POCs will rather spend money on media they despise than to actually support something that they complain about wanting more of. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about an author or an artist (usually white) being racist/sexist/homophobic, but they’ll still put money in their pockets. While queer, female and storytellers of color who are trying to do something positive rarely get any love.

True change requires doing actual work and coming out of comfort zones. It means actually making the effort to be the change we wish to see in the world. But because so many people are slaves to comfort, it’s little wonder why things don’t improve.

-Tell us more about Middle Child Press and its mission statement.

Radjani: A year and a half ago, Ankhesen and I came together and formed Middle Child Press.  We needed a publisher for The Sultry Court, but current eBook publishers didn’t meet our standards.  So we formed MCP around The Sultry Court and decided to focus it on being an independent publishing house for WoC authors.  The time has come for WoC to tell our own stories: stories that run the gamut of human experience, because no one else will do it.  We don’t all write hood lit or streamlined interpretations of our culture.  We don’t all write romance or stories that paint PoC in a negative light.  The problem is that we’re rejected from the mainstream publishing world by the powers that be because we refuse to fall in line with their narrow-minded standards.  Ankhesen and I want to give WoC a chance to see their work in print, or in our case, in eBook format.  We are dedicated to MCP and we believe in this endeavor, or we would have never fronted the cash to give birth to it.

Mie: When we first got into this venture, we invested literally thousands of dollars and reached out to several female authors of color spanning multiple styles and genres.  I understood that such an endeavor takes time (and money) and I was willing to invest the necessary patience.  I still am.  I believe in what we are doing, most importantly because it’s not something I’m seeing widely done, yet is so very essential for the literary needs of the modern WoC.

Radjani:  As of right now, we have three (soon to be four) books in our E-store.  We need your help to spread the word about MCP and what it is we do.  Support us by promoting us on your blogs and websites.  Help get the word out for WoC authors who’ve faced arbitrary hurdles in trying to get published.  We believe in reciprocity; if you promote us, we’ll promote you.  If you follow us, we’ll follow you, be it through blog, Facebook, or Twitter.  It’s the way to get the word out for all PoC authors.  We’ve got to get better at supporting each other.

 

-Any parting shots?

Upkins: It’s obvious that we’re four authors among others who are fighting for change, fighting to have our stories shared. Why is diversity in the media so important? Because there is power in perception. Malcolm X said it best, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

If our discussion has proven anything, it’s that POCs have a host of other obstacles and challenges to contend with and there is a reason why there’s so few of us in the industry. It’s bittersweet. The fact that we have to go through so much to get our foot in the door is all the more tragic. The fact that any of us made it also makes our victory that much richer.

Reading, Writing, And Musing In The Dark

A few writing posts that are definitely worth checking out:

My good friend Amaya Radjani has a new book out entitled Corruption. She discusses that and her experiences in becoming an author a co-founding an independent press.

An excellent post on the importance of POCs pooling their resources and supporting each other in the media.

And people, I can’t stress this enough. Reading is truly fundamental. It really is. ESPECIALLY, if you’re aspiring to be a writer. Talented author Pauline Trent comes out swinging with the cluebat here. YOU READ NOW!!!!!

Help Middle Child Press Reach 1000 Copies

“We wear our weird on the outside.”

Middle Child Press is a publishing company that was founded by and is for women of color. Their goal: to meet the needs of WOC who have been marginalized, ignored and denigrated by mainstream media. What makes MCP unique is that they not only provide traditional literary titles but also Blasian, gothic, experimental and speculative fiction as well.

And now they need your help. With the release of their latest title, The Woman from Cheshire Avenue, MCP is aiming to sell 1,000 copies by Oct. 15, 2011 with the aims to expand their titles, promote other POC authors, and produce more POC titles.

MCP founders Amaya Radjani and Ankhesen Mié discuss why we desperately need more publishers like MCP.