Tag Archives: african-american speculative fiction

Interview with L.M. Davis. author of the Shifter series.

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!

The State of Black Speculative Fiction

I am excited to participate in a seven-week online event celebrating the State of Black Science Fiction 2012. Each participating writer will blog once a week on a common topic. Today’s is “The State of Black Science Fiction.”

There will also be giveaways. Our first giveaway will take place on Monday, February 6, 2012. Each time one of my blog readers leaves a comment here or on my Facebook page (my handle is madcapmaggie), they will be entered for a chance to win.

I will be giving away a signed copy of the Poetic Muselings anthology, Lifelines. The winner will be announced on February 6th. And you can go on over to another author’s blog for a chance to win there, too.

And now on to The State of Black Speculative Fiction

I have been reading science fiction for a long time. I’m 65 now, and I was already a fan when I selected Robert A. Heinlein’s “Farmer in the Sky” for my tenth birthday. I read Samuel Delaney’s “Dhalgren” when it first came out. I’ve read reams of Octavia Butler and smaller amounts of Steven Barnes, Sheree Thomas, Walter Mosley and Nalo Hopkinson. I’ve sampled Charles Saunders and Tananarive Due. Still, in my opinion, we need more black writers, more readers, and better press.

My first love is poetry, and I’ve read a lot of poetry by black authors. I have a book of poetry by Rita Dove and another by Michael S. Harper on my nightstand. Gwendolyn Brooks is another favorite. A mention of Robert Hayden’s poem about Frederic Douglas made it into a poem of mine. Somewhere in my mess of books is an anthology. And I borrowed another from my local library. My local library is small and old. It’s so out of date that our town is building another.

Just for grins, I searched on Amazon for “African American poetry anthologies” (1244 results) versus “African American science fiction anthologies.” (174 results).

That’s sad. If any of my readers is interested in a list of Black poets, email me – or check one of the many anthologies out of the library and start reading. Your librarian can probably furnish you with a list of names with no difficulty.

If you’re interested in Black speculative fiction, you won’t be so lucky. Of the three librarian at my local library, only one, in her 20’s, had read any at all. The other two were both, I think, over 50, were at a loss. Neither was a fan of speculative fiction, much less heard of Black writers.

I didn’t fare much better at my local Barnes and Noble. There was indeed a novel by Walter Mosley on display, but it was one of his mysteries. The only Samuel Delaney they had was a single copy of Dhalgren, and they had nothing by Charles Saunders, Tananarive Due, or Steven Barnes. I would have found this much more frustrating if I hadn’t just borrowed several novels by Steven Barnes from my local library using inter-library loan.

What about Black characters by white sci fi authors? The only one who leaps to mind is Robert A. Heinlein. The main character in Tunnel in the Sky, Rod Walker, is black, as are a couple of the other characters. And Sergeant Jelal in Starship Troopers is black as well — a fact Heinlein, who loved to jolt readers out of their comfort zone, doesn’t reveal until half-way through the book, well after readers have had time to form an opinion about the character. Tunnel in the Sky, by the way, was written in 1955, and Starship Troopers in 1959.

As to me, I’m tired of the good guys always being white. That was a big part of the reason the alien Aleyni, my main character, Raketh Frey, and his father in my upcoming novel, “Relocated,” are all black. Another character who proves sympathetic, Major Brad Reynolds, is of mixed Native American heritage. The bad guys are white, and yes, it was a deliberate choice.

I’d like to see readers, regardless of race, be more open to reading about multi-ethnic characters, and I’d like to see more writers putting them in their fiction. I wish more we had more Black writers of speculative fiction, and more white writers with who are willing to take a risk and include Black characters in theirs.

Call me naive, but in my opinion, “I didn’t think about the race of my character,” is a cop-out. We live in a race-conscious world, a world that still marginalizes Blacks. I don’t want to see that continued into our vision of the future.

Do leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Lifelines. Who is your favorite Black poet? Who is your favorite Black speculative fiction author?

And be sure to check out my awesome fellow bloggers and support them by buying their novels. And keep reading.

Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event: 

L. M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers:  A Shifters Novel will be released this spring.  For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com. 

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com and www.wagadu.ning.com. 

Margaret Fieland, Author— lives  and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is available from Amazon.com  Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013.  You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com. 

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author — is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Alicia McCalla, Author- writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012.  The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: http://www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Rasheedah Phillips,Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Authoris also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage.  Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd