Tell us something about yourself. What is there to tell…I am a mystery, wrapped in an enigma…or maybe I am just a gal that loves a good story, whether I am writing it or reading it.
How long have you wanted to be a writer? For me, it’s more of a question of when did I stop running from the fact that I was a writer. I am of the mind that a writer is not something you want to be, it’s something that you are. I have been writing all my life (I even chose a career where writing was central), but only recently did I embrace the fact that writing is my calling.
What prompted you to write the Shifter Series? I first started writing the Shifters Novel Series with my cousin in mind. He, along with many of his friends, loves to read fantasy, and I wanted to create a fantasy series where he and others like him could see reflections of themselves. I think that there is something affirming about that. Also, I write fantasy because I love to read fantasy. I cut my readerly teeth on tales about vampires, dragons, shapeshifters, tesseracts etc… Almost all of the fiction that I write has a fantasy component.
The second book in the series is about to come out. How much plotting of the entire series did you do in the beginning/have you done subsequently? Before I started, I had the major arcs of each novel and the major arc of the series. That was about as much as I planned in advance because you know what they say about the best laid plans… When I first started writing the series, I thought that it would be three books. But as I was writing the first book, I realized that it was going to be four books. The major story arcs are still the same, I just realized that it was going to take longer to tell the story.
“Interlopers,” the first book, deals with secrets and the parent’s desire to keep their children safe, a theme that resonates with me. Any particular reason you chose this theme? Well, I knew that I wanted to tell a story where families were important. In so much YA these days, the parents and the family are nonexistent, but that is not my experience. My family and extended family are so important to me, so I wanted to write a story that would honor that. Also, I wanted to tell a story that was about people (not just kids but adults too) who try their best but sometimes made mistakes–and who get back up and keep trying, even after they get knocked down. Finally, I think that the notion of secrets is something that everyone understands. There is always some part of ourselves and our stories that we hold back from the world and sometimes from the people that care about us, for whatever reason. I think that many readers will connect with that idea.
“Interlopers” is written from multiple points of view, including that of the parents, Why did you feel it was important to do this? I could not tell the story that I needed to tell in any other perspective. Though a first person perspective does lend a kind of urgency, immediacy, and strength of voice to the narrative, there are also certain limitations. To tell this story, I needed to be able to see things that no single character would be privy to. Furthermore, if I can be a little academic, though it is the twins coming of age story, all of the different perspectives, which make up the series, are also a part of the twins’ story. So it’s important for me to include those voices and those experiences.
I’m working on an adult sci fi novel now with four main characters and an antagonist, and I’m struggling with balancing them. How did you find this played out in “Interlopers?” In “Posers?” In Interlopers the villain remained somewhat abstract until the end, and that was purposeful. I think that whichever choice you make, you have to be deliberate. I wanted to use the first book of the series to introduce the twins and really create a sense of who they are as characters. In Posers, I really flesh out villains. We get to know James, Blanche, and Hawk much better and to understand their motivations and their choices more. I hope I have created villains who are complex and will turn my readers expectations on their ears. By the end of this book, we have the entire Shifters Novels pantheon completely fleshed out.
Are you a plotter or a pantser, and has this changed or not as you continue to work on your series? I guess I am about half and half. As I said, I already know the major arcs for the rest of the series, and I have a general sense on where each book begins and ends. That’s about all I carry in to the writing process, and even that is subject to change. As I write, part of the work is to figure out how to get from the beginning that I envision to the end. For me, things change so much as I write, that even if I outlined the story before hand, the final product would not look anything like that outline–so, at that point, outlining is almost an exercise in futility.
Do you have a writing routine? I am not one of those writers that writes everyday (at least not on the same project). Though I am always thinking about my stories, I will only sit down to write when I have a sense of where I am going. One thing that is a always a part of my routine is writing by hand. The first draft of every book, every story, every poem that I have ever produced was hand written. People find that strange, but for me, it is much easier to face and conquer a blank piece of paper than it is to begin with a blank screen.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst? One of the best pieces of advice that I know, which I kind of figured out for myself and then saw in a lot of different places, is to write the complete draft before revising. This is the TRUTH. If you start revising before you finish writing the first draft, you may never finish. Sure, you will end up with a really good introduction, but if that is all you have, what’s the point? So that is definitely advice that I write to live by. I can not think of any bad advice that I have received. There is so much good advice out there, that I really just try to focus on that.
I understand there will be two more books in the Shifters series. Any idea when we can expect them? The plan is to release Book 3 in 2013 and Book 4 in 2014.
I’ve been to my local Barnes and Noble many times, and I have yet to find a single Octavia Butler book in stock, and only one by Samuel Delany. What can we do to increase awareness of Black writer of speculative fiction, and any ideas for prodding bookstore owners to carry more of them? I am of two minds about this. First, I think that authors need to raise awareness about the long, rich tradition of Black speculative fiction. We are not newcomers to this genre, some of the earliest texts that I have found so far date back to the nineteenth century. Beyond that, African American folk and oral traditions are ripe with speculative elements (if you read Morrison, Naylor, Walker, Hurston, etc…you are reading fiction with speculative element). These kinds of narratives have always been a part of the way that we tell stories. So the first part is to really get black folks to reclaim this genre. To this end, I have actually started publishing a Black Sci-Fi Primer weekly on my blog. The second part is we really have to get past this idea that only black people want to read stories by Black authors. I think that this cycle of literary segregation is perpetuated by the both availability and location. People are not aware of the depth of Black speculative fiction because it is not stocked in stores and thus they are not exposed to the rich and vibrant tradition of speculative fiction. On the other hand, if people are not buying these books, store owners don’t stock them. It really is a pernicious cycle.
What do you hope readers take away from your books? First and foremost, I want them to take away a wonderful reading experience. Beyond that, I don’t really like to define my books for my readers. I like to let them bring their own experiences and ideas to the reading experience and I get a real kick out of talking to them afterwards and hearing about which parts and aspects of the story resonated most with them (like for you with the parents/secrets/safety theme). Sometimes, they mention things that I wasn’t even aware of, which tickles me.
Where can readers purchase your books, and where can they find you on the web? Both books are available on Amazon and Interlopers is available on Barnes and Noble (Posers, hopefully, will be available soon). Both are on sale until the 30th. Also, they can check out my website (www.shiftersnovelseries.com) for excerpts from both.
Any last words? Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog!