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The Official Soundtrack For 'Calliope Of Atalan: The American Dream'

BY: P. CURRY

We asked P. Curry to curate a Spotify playlist for Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream and he selected a whopping 56 songs featuring Cardi B, Ice Cube, Kriss Kross and Frank Ocean.

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Tracie Spencer - "This House"

What would a book set in 1992 be without some New Jack Swing? While this particular cut is rather obscure today, it suits the nature of the story very well. Upbeat, but a little chaotic. Spencer uses a happy, yet trembling voice that shows an optimistic outlook in spite of troubling circumstances, which defines not only this book but just the overall series of Calliope of Atalan as a whole.

Bruno Mars - "Finesse" (Remix) feat. Cardi B

Okay, so I’m sure we’ve all seen one of those movies or TV shows set in the past that are set to modern music. Anachronism can be very fun….when it’s done correctly. The problem many said films and series suffer from is how nothing about the modern music choice even makes sense. That being said, while us 80’s and 90’s babies may have a lot of nostalgia for the 90’s, the nostalgia factor will indeed be lost on younger audiences. So this is why I chose Finesse as the theme music for the series; it manages to simultaneously sound like a throwback for those who came up in the generation while still being familiar to younger audiences AND also making sense in context. Anachronism done right.

The Jackson 5 - "Lookin’ Through The Windows”

A major plot element of this book is how Calliope seems to only know the world from bedroom window. Suffice to say, there’s another mysterious character who also spends most of his time looking upon the world from her window whom she briefly comes in contact with. Although this song is more romantic in nature, I think another way to interpret it is to try to look inside the numerous people who pass you by that you never meet, which is what Calliope has spent her entire life doing.

Kriss Kross - “Jump”

Only the quintessential song of any 90’s party; parties which happen the house next door to Calliope’s quite often.

Randy Crawford - “One Day I’ll Fly Away”

Calliope’s favorite song, and probably her theme song as well. The message suits her very well; living life from dream to dream, and yet, she wants to actually live her dreams, not wait until the day when they must end.

Smokey Robinson - “Being With You”

One thing Demeter loves is her oldies, always playing and humming along to them whenever she cooks. That being said, there’s a certain irony to this. After all, she may wish she’s happy being with her husband, but she can no longer pretend that the marriage is indeed falling apart.

Frank Ocean - “Sweet Life”

After the move is made from Auburn to Griffin, I imagine that Calliope and all four of her siblings to have grown increasingly disenchanted with the upper middle-class life their family lead. After all, there’s nothing to complain about, but it often times feels like there’s nothing to live for either.

Madonna - “Material Girl”

Another song that satirizes affluence, Calliope comes across a number of girls with the sort of attitude and mindset which Madonna describes in this song.

Alicia Keys - “Diary”

One major element of this book is that of secrets and interestingly enough, it seems that Calliope is the bearer of all of them. However, as Calliope will always looks out for those whom she loves, anything anyone says will remain safe with her.

Bobby Brown - “Humpin’ Around”

You know, now that I think about it, Brutus’s character arc does correlate with Bobby Brown’s life in a number of ways. Like Brown, Brutus was reckless, arrogant, loudmouthed and just didn’t give a f-, only for his life of indulgent chaos to suddenly come crashing down. This song plays at the very moment that happens for Brutus. Originally, I just put this in because I needed another 90’s song, but this creative epiphany I’m having here makes a lot of sense. I dig the coincidence.

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - “They Reminisce Over You”

A sort of shared theme between Brutus and Julius; two brothers with a very strained and turbulent relationship. While this song largely represents grief over the death of a loved one, I still think it works as one major plot point involves them having a massive fall out.

Beck - “Loser”

I’m well acquainted with the feeling of being a deer in headlights. On Calliope’s first day at her new school, she’s the same way; staring around at everyone, ever so mousy, only to end up feeling like, well, a loser.

Geto Boys - “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”

The Megalopolis is a very unsettling place indeed, so this music definitely fits what’s going in Calliope’s mind whenever she’s there.

You can listen to the entire soundtrack below or on Spotify.


 You can purchase Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream here.

 

 

 

Writers Asking Writers Questions | P. Curry & D.A. Alston

BY P. CURRY


Last year, we created of series of in-house interviews called Authors Interviewing Authors, where our roster traded conversations in an attempt to get to know one another as well as provide some intimate insights into the life of a writer. This year, we expanded on our series, aptly renaming it Writers Asking Writers Questions and turned it into a five-week series involving established authors as well as new, unpublished writers.

The previous interviews from our WAWQ series are linked below.


So, first things first, what motivated you to become a writer?

A: I've  always written, but it was mostly poetry at first, thanks to my teacher introducing me to poets like Nikki Giovanni. I think the transition happened after I was just given an idea and I ran with it. That idea turned into my first novel. And I've been loving it ever since.

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Who are some of your influences, literary or otherwise?

A: Obviously, Nikki Giovanni like I said earlier. I also love Rudy Francisco. But when it comes to novels, I would have to say Veronica Roth, who wrote the Divergent series. She is around my age - her success and the way she started has always been motivating for me. As well as JK Rowling and her whole process. But the first books I remember fully diving into were the Cheetah Girls series, and that was all thanks to Deborah Gregory.

 

How did you get on board with Vital Narrative?

A: I always tell people my journey to getting published was nothing but a God thing. When I first started writing The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad, I wasn't even necessarily looking for a publisher. I honestly thought I would just self-publish at first. That all changed when I was talked to a friend of mine about my idea for a story, and it just so happened he was starting a publishing company and the relationship blossomed into what it is now.

 

What was the inspiration behind your Royal Elite Squad series?

A: Originally, the Royal Elite Squad was supposed to be a coloring book. One of my first loves was drawing and arts and, around that time, people were pressuring me to create a coloring book. So one day, when I was at IHOP, I began drawing the idea for this superhero coloring book on the back of their place mats . And then I thought ‘maybe it should have a storyline to go with it.’ That night I ended up mapping out seven books! A lot of it is influenced by young women and other people I know in real life. I've been blessed to know real life superheroes, so I used this book as an avenue to tell their extraordinary stories.

(photograph by Ken Wolter)

(photograph by Ken Wolter)

 

You appear to be very passionate about both children and diverse representation. Are those two major factors behind your work?

A: Most definitely! I've been teaching and working with children for the past ten years and I love it. They were my biggest supporters during this whole journey when it came to writing this book. We will sit in class some days and just bounce ideas off each other - I would ask what they thought about this character or even just ask them ‘is this realistic?’ It really helped my writing process. I also learned a lot of them didn't read for the same reason I didn't as a child: because there weren't a lot of books that reminded them of themselves. I wanted to use Royal Elite Squad to show children themselves in another light.

 

Are you interested in having your book series hit the big screen or little screen one day?

A: Oh yes! I would love for it to become a Hulu series, which branches off into a movie. I want paraphernalia, I want dolls, T-shirts, movie soundtracks - the whole shebang! I just want it to end up being everywhere. And it will be!

 

What do you think the future holds for the heroes of the Royal Elite Squad?

A: Greatness! It's only going to higher - no one can tell me otherwise. This is a story that needs to be told and I am blessed to be the one who gets to tell it. I want to be a beacon of hope for young men and women - for them to know that they are super and elite in their own right. They may not necessarily have a superpower, but who they are is their power. Everyone needs to be reminded of that sometimes.

 

As a writer, I feel like story ideas are swirling around in my mind all the time. Do you share that experience?

A: I am a natural dreamer, so I am always dreaming of new ideas, new opportunities, new stories and new ways to make things happen. But I'm also a planner, so if I plan it in my head, it's going to happen. As soon as something pops in my head, I usually write it down and tell my core group about it to get their opinion, and go from there.

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I notice that you are a very spiritual person. Does your spirituality influence your writing in any way?

A: Yes, I believe so. I truly believe my process to becoming a published author was nothing but God. And I say that, because everything happened so smoothly. I know so many authors that tell me their stories and how they went through the publishing process - and there’s so much angst and disappointment. By the grace of God, mine wasn't like that. Everything lined up so smoothly. From creating my story to finding Vital Narrative Press to finding an amazing graphic artist to do the artwork for my book - I'm just so thankful.

 

As a teacher, do you ever get any ideas or inspiration in the classroom?

A: Always! Kids are hilarious and they inspire me daily, from their mannerisms to how they react to certain situations to their funny nuances. My book is geared toward a younger audience, so I'm grateful to be surrounded by them all day, so I can really get an authentic representation of them.

 

What are some other goals you have in mind for your writing career?

A: Besides having an original series or movie on Hulu, I want to become a best-seller. I want to be able to travel the world, talking about my book. But honestly, the moments that I love and will never get tired of, are when people come to me and tell me how much my book meant to them or how they loved seeing someone who looks like them on the cover. Or Hearing that I'm telling their kind of story correctly. Or how good it made them feel to read The Royal Elite Squad. Honestly, that is thanks enough.


You can purchase The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad by D.A. Alston here.

THE UNLIKELY TALE OF THE ROYAL ELITE SQUAD by D.A. Alston
14.99

116 pp. The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad is a Young Adult novel that follows four young girls as they embark on an exciting new journey after an accident occurs at their school.

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Fantasy Film Casting for 'Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream'

BY: P. CURRY

 

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Pan

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When I was conceiving the character of Pan, I thought back to every film I had ever seen with a character who was an abusive father and/or husband. I gravitated towards Jacobs’s portrayal of Joe Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream. In a lot of ways, their characters are very similar in the sense that they both are shady, sleazy businessmen who are loathed by their children. The biggest difference is that Pan is more neglectful than physically abusive, but both of them are monsters, no matter how it’s sliced or diced. If Calliope of Atalan had actually been released in the 90’s, Jacobs would have fit the role to a T.


Loretta Devine as Demeter

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For Demeter’s character development, one of the tropes I delved into was that of a woman scorned. In regards to classic 90’s films, what better choice would there have been in that department than Waiting to Exhale? With Devine’s character, Gloria, being the most matronly of the bunch, I closed in on her in particular. After deciding to base Demeter off of Devine’s image in Waiting to Exhale, I looked at some of her other roles as well. Devine’s character in Dirty Laundry was very similar to Gloria aside from being much meaner, so that definitely gave Demeter a kick in the pants as I found my initial characterization of her to be “too nice.”


Marcello Thedford as Julius

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In just about everything I’ve seen him in, Thedford’s always been the big guy in the back. His characters are usually gentle giants with a good sense of humor, an attribute that fits Julius’s character very well.


Brutus

Brutus is such a unique character that I really couldn’t pick an actor to play him. Omar Gooding’s character from Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper shares a number of similarities with him personality-wise, but even then he’s far too nice. Dominic Santana (All Eyez On Me) is VERY close to what I would imagine Brutus looking like. And yet, his only notable role is as Suge Knight, but not even insufferable, hyper-masculine and oftentimes-bigoted Brutus is THAT much of an asshole. It’s honestly way too difficult for me to choose.


Keisha Knight-Pulliam as Isis

When thinking of Isis’s character description, Rudy Huxtable during the later seasons of The Cosby Show fits her to a T, even though Isis is much quieter, nicer and more even-tempered than Rudy ever was. But Pulliam has shown herself to be a versatile actress time and time again, so I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem had this been a movie or television series back in the 90’s.


Orlando Brown as Atum

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Most people may know him as Eddie from That’s So Raven, but before that, he was 3J on Family Matters. 3J was always a little jokester, so Brown would have definitely been a good fit for Atum.


Tyrin Turner as Herc

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Caine doesn’t have that much in common with Herc personality-wise, but Turner comes pretty close to my idea of Herc’s appearance.


Countess Vaughn as Bolina

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Bolina is a very minor and inconsequential character in the grand scheme of things, but I do imagine her being short with loudly colored hair and a high-pitched, squeaky voice, so Kim Parker definitely fits the bill.


Big Boi as Perseus

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Slurring, Southern-style drawl? Check. Floppy hair? Check. Pothead? Check. Basic sense of dress? Check. Laid-back demeanor? Check. Rapper? Check. Yeah, 1990’s-era Big Boi has Perseus written all over him.


Erika Alexander as Urania

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Urania is another character on the minor side of things, but I do have big plans for her. Being a career-oriented woman, in a lot of ways, she’s based on the image of Maxine Shaw from Living Single. The biggest difference is that she’s much more pleasant to be around.


David Alan Grier as Leto

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This may seem like a bizarre choice, but Grier is actually a very versatile actor. So no, Antoine Merriweather from “Men on Film” wasn’t what I had in mind. Joe from The Carmichael Show on the other hand is perfect. I think Grier could play a stern, ornery and old-fashioned paternal figure very well.


Harry Lennix as Zeu-se

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Remember Mo’ Money? His character, Tom Dilton, is exactly the sort of pompous, snobby and condescending elite I have in mind for the character of Zeu-se, even if he’s the complete opposite of Zeu-se appearance-wise. Samuel L. Jackson was another actor I considered - not only is he closer to the appearance, but he’s played quite a few characters with ruthless motivations over the years.


Jill Marie Jones as Hera

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Even though she hasn’t made an official appearance just yet, I already have a very thorough image in mind for Hera. As the wife of Zeu-se and matriarch of The House of Peloponnesian, I imagine a ridiculously self-absorbed and materialistic woman who has a taste for nothing but the finest things in life, dressed head to toe in a number of designer labels with a very aloof demeanor, bougie attitude and classist mindset to boot. For those who remember the series Girlfriends, each of those descriptors fit Toni Childs like a glove.


Joseph Gannascoli as Romulus

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When I first started this thing, the image I had in mind for Romulus was a slightly more sinister Danny DeVito. Upon watching a random episode of The Sopranos, I closed in on Gannascoli’s character, Vito Spatafore, and he just fits. Not only is he close in appearance to Romulus, but he’s also close in personality with a proper balance between his comedic moments and his threatening ones.


Steve Schirripa as Cicero

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I was never really into The Sopranos, so I’m not all that astute on the characters. However, Schirripa’s character, Bobby Baccalieri, was probably the nicest guy there. While Cicero is far from a nice guy, he’s shown to have a conscience and a soft side on a number of occasions, especially when it comes to his daughter. Baccalieri is also a big guy, refrains from getting his hands too dirty in Mafia business and isn’t taken seriously by the other Mafiosos, which are other attributes he shares with Cicero.


Bianca Santos as Fortuna

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While this deviates from the theme of actors from the 90’s, I really struggled to find any actresses from that time frame that fit into the image I had in mind for Fortuna.


Sharon Stone as Tyche

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Going back to the mob movies, I remember Stone playing the character of Ginger in the film Casino. Like Tyche, she is an abrasive and nagging alpha bitch who was prone to manipulation and, likewise, made for a horrible mother.


Diahann Carroll as Syne

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For some reason, Syne strikes me as an older version of Claudine - at least in a vastly different universe.


Kirstie Alley as Hestia

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One defining attribute of Hestia’s character is her fashion sense. Back in the 90’s, Kirstie Alley was widely thought of as being one of the most fashionable women around.


Dianne Wiest as Themis

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One of my all-time favorite movies is Edward Scissorhands, and Wiest’s character in the film, Peg Boggs, was an absolute hoot. She was stuck in the 50’s, and so naïve and oblivious just like Themis.


Kirsten Dunst as Eris

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In her younger days, Kirsten Dunst looked very close to how I imagine Eris would look, even though I don’t recall Dunst ever playing a character with a similar personality.


Lauren Ambrose as Moirai

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I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about her just strikes me as the type of girl whose nice face belies a mean, catty and judgmental personality underneath.


Omar Epps as Thespis

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Nia Long as Melpomene

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When it came to films with predominantly African-American casts in the 1990’s, I feel that they all pulled from a relatively small pool of talent. There were a number of actors who seemed to be in just about EVERY movie, Omar Epps and Nia Long being two examples. The whole idea I had for Thespis and Melpomene is to create a sort of running gag about that. There’s a scene where Calliope’s watching a movie which they star in, but all the details about said movie are so vague and generic, it creates the whole “another one of those movies” effect. While minor and inconsequential, I think the whole plot line surrounding nameless and faceless Thespis and Melpomene movies will make for a fun little easter egg in the background for those who get it. Not to shade Epps or Long at all, as I think both of them are wonderful actors, but due to appearing in so many of those “nameless and faceless” movies back then, they are woefully underappreciated, as are a number of other African-American actors regarded as relics of the 90’s.


Bumper Robinson as Troy

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Bumper Robinson is one of those actors who we’ve all seen in a number of films and shows, but we can never remember the guy’s name, if we ever even knew it in the first place (I had to do quite a bit of digging to find out what it was myself). Back in the 90’s, he was always that “dream guy” that girls took one look at and fell head over heels for. As Troy is a very suave young man who girls instantly feel smitten with, I think it’s a good fit.


Lester Speight as Pothos

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I was VERY close to picking Terry Crews for this role, but found that choice to be a bit too basic. When thinking about other actors who are large in build with intimidating, angry faces but are total goofballs in most of their roles and/or in real life, I thought back to Calvin from My Wife and Kids. Looking through Speight’s other roles, he’s usually playing a humorous character like Calvin or Terry Tate or some sort of security figure. All of it works really well for my idea of Pothos.


Michael Douglas as Hadrian

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He fits the physical profile of Hadrian very well. Of course, a large amount of his roles have been as shady businessmen or morally dubious political figures, so if he was Hadrian, I’d imagine he’d totally own the role.


Julia Roberts as Theia

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Given her background as a mistress to wealthy businessmen, for research purposes, I looked to the classic 90’s rom-com, Pretty Woman. I’m aware it’s not exactly the same, seeing that Roberts’s character in the film, Vivian, is a sex worker who has a much kinder attitude and warmer demeanor then the cold and slightly rude mayor’s wife who sleeps with other men on the side that is Theia, but there are a number of parallels in their narratives, which is why it’s easy for me to see Roberts as Theia.


Narcissus

Like Brutus, the image and character of Narcissus is so strong, she’s taken a life of her own. In my mind, everything about her is so distinctive I struggle to imagine her as any actress I personally know of (although, I will admit that a few of Kathy Bates’ roles did serve as an influence, especially Annie Wilkes from Misery and her depiction of Delphine LaLaurie in American Horror Story: Coven).


Chazz Palminteri as Remus

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As the other brother of Romulus and Cicero, Remus was the cold, humorless and most straightforward one of the three. Palminteri usually plays the “straight man” in mob movies, so he would do an exceptional job pulling off such a character.


Jada Pinkett-Smith as Pandora

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Before marrying The Fresh Prince, Jada was one of Black Hollywood’s ‘it’ girls. She was sexy and alluring with an air of mystery surrounding her - qualities very much in line with Pandora.


Eartha Kitt as The Oracle

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There’s a few characters whom I unintentionally dream-casted the moment I began to develop them - The Oracle is one of those characters. Although she doesn’t make an official appearance until the second book of this series, I already imagine her as a refined, sophisticated woman who holds strong political and feminist views that she isn’t afraid to share with the class, speaking with a cat-like purr all the while. She has Miss Eartha written all over her.


Calliope

Suffice to say, with Calliope I suffered the same problem I did with Brutus and Narcissus. While I wouldn’t quite say she took a life of her own, the image I have in mind for her is very hard to pin down. I thought of Brandy, Aaliyah, Taral Hicks and even one of the Mowry twins, but alas, none of them really fit. In some ways, I guess that could be the beauty of it. The majority of the tale is told from a first-person perspective after all. When you think about it, that makes you, the reader, Calliope Thessaly. As you take the journey, you are tracing her footsteps. It is rare that you will ever know something she doesn’t know.


Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream will release on November 23.

Writers Asking Writers Questions | Darlene P. Campos & P. Curry

BY: DARLENE P. CAMPOS


Last year, we created of series of in-house interviews called Authors Interviewing Authors, where our roster traded conversations in an attempt to get to know one another as well as provide some intimate insights into the life of a writer. This year, we expanded on our series, aptly renaming it Writers Asking Writers Questions and turned it into a six-week series involving established authors as well as new, unpublished writers. 


DARLENE: You have a book that's about to be released - what emotions are you feeling?

P. CURRY: A wide range of them. Part of it is sheer disbelief; I really can’t believe this is finally happening. I’m also feeling a bit overwhelmed as now that I’m about to be published, I’m really not sure how to go about actually pushing and marketing my book. I even have a few questions in the back of my mind that are scaring me. Like….is this thing going to crash and burn? Is it even ready yet? Will people love it? Will people hate it? Could it become a bestseller? Could it be “discovered” and turned into a worldwide phenomenon? There really is no way to know.

Going beyond all of that, I am very happy and excited. For years I’ve been telling people I’m a writer but up until now haven’t really had anything to show for it. It truly means the world to me to finally have a book on the way. I know I still have a long way to go before I get to the point I wanna be at in my writing career, but this is a definite step in the right direction that I feel will open many doors of opportunity for me.

 

If you were hungry and couldn't cook for yourself, which character in your new book would make the best chef? 

 A: Well this is random, LOL, but it would likely be Demeter. One major element of this character is how she loves cooking. In particular, her cooking is everything to her. She stands at the stove with a smile, concealing the turmoil which goes on within. I suggest you read my book if you wish to know the whole story behind that. Just saying.

 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

A: You know, I’ve attempted many different things. Cooking. Art. Photography. Graphic Design. Barbering. And a few others. Now, mind you, I did and still do enjoy all of these things, but only as hobbies. I’ve briefly worked in all of these fields and it was like, the minute it became a job, I either lost interest or realized I just wasn’t cut out for it. And yet, the whole time I was doing all of that, writing showed itself to be my true talent time and time again.

 That being said, foolishly enough, it was a talent which I ignored for the longest time. Going all the way back to elementary school, teachers, family members and various others would shower me with praise over my writing and I just shrugged it off each time. In particular, I remember one English teacher in high school who routinely pushed me to get into poetry competitions, join fiction writing programs and even recommended me for a summer writing course with a prestigious author (I can’t remember who it was). Each time he asked, I just said no thanks. And yes, I now HIGHLY regret blowing all of that off.

 I continued to be “eh” about writing until my second year of college. This was when two very pivotal incidents happened. The first was when I walked in late to my U.S. History class towards the end of the semester, only for the professor to be all “Well there he is!” It was then everyone cheered for me and upon asking what happened, she proceeds to tell me that, in her thirty-plus years of teaching, my final essay was the best paper she had ever read. The second was when another teacher accused me of plagiarizing my paper. I was called into the English Department and everything just so she and the department head could check over my sources to make sure I didn’t copy anything, only for the two of them to be stunned when they saw I didn’t plagiarize a single thing. Suffice to say, it was then when I finally realized I should probably take the writing thing more seriously.

 

What's your usual writing routine like?

A: I’m not sure I could say I have one. At least not a healthy one. Beyond being my profession of choice (even though it’s not paying the bills yet), writing is also my escape. Given that my day job is in a field that’s not at all related to writing, at the end of each day, I’m pretty much hyperventilating over the fact that I’ve spent my entire day not writing. So the minute I get home I immediately get on my computer and start typing my fingers off.

Granted, I’ll admit this may have had something to do with pressure. After all, I was really eager to get either Calliope of Atalan or something else I was working on published and/or noticed. I may develop a healthier routine now that I don’t have that dark cloud hanging over my head. In particular, I greatly enjoy spending time at cafes. Something about coffee, music and a baked treat really gets my creative juices flowing.

 

If you could go on a writer's retreat with any author, who would it be?

There’s quite a few actually. Harry Potter is one of my all-time favorites as well as having some influence on Calliope of Atalan so of course I’d love to spend time J.K. Rowling. Another book I drew inspiration from was Akata Witch, so Nnedi Okorafor would be another choice.

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Let's talk movies! Who is your favorite screenwriter and why?

A: You know, this is a bit of a tough one for me to answer given that when it comes to movies, who’s acting, who’s directing and/or who’s producing all take priority to me over who’s writing. The writing process for a film or TV show is much different than it is for a novel. With a book, the writer is also the actor, the director and the producer. It’s up to them to tell the story, give a convincing performance, create the image and keep the idea and presentation of it under control.

With film and television, the writer only has to tell the story. Not to say this makes them less important of course, but there’s a distinct difference. I’ve seen numerous films and shows which had a good story that was ruined by terrible acting, cinematography and/or production. On the other side of that coin, there’s also a lot of films and shows out there with horrible stories but the acting, cinematography and/or production are fantastic enough to mislead the audience into thinking it’s a good story.

I still have a lot of admiration for screenwriters, so I’m in no way trying to speak down on them here, but I feel that when it comes to good screenwriting, the actors, directors and producers are just as important in bringing that vision to life. After all, if Calliope of Atalan were ever to be adapted into a movie and/or television series one day, I wouldn’t want just anyone to direct, produce and/or act in it.

 

If you had the chance to write an episode for any TV show, past or current, which show would it be?

A: I would love to write an episode of Black Mirror. I really gravitated towards that series in particular because I frequently find myself feeling disturbed and/or uncomfortable with a lot of modern technological advancement, so it’s good to know I’m not at all alone there, lol. One recent digital innovation I’ve felt particularly disturbed with is the whole “Alexa” thing, so if I was given an offer to write a script for a horrific satire of that item, I’d jump on it in a second.

 

Are any of your characters based on real people?

A: Yes, quite a few of them actually. I have a lot of experience with women who have been through a lot in life and yet resort to taking out their anger and depression on others; Demeter in particular draws influence from that. Upon rereading and revising, I noticed that I subconsciously drew from my own high school experience when writing a lot of the teenaged characters that Calliope interacts with throughout the novel, and I’m not sure if I can say that’s a good thing or not. Pan is essentially a walking satire of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, especially in the black community, so I know more than a few individuals who are just like him. Brutus on the other hand is a combination of just about every “fuckboy” type I’ve ever met in my life, lol.

 

What's a goal you hope to attain in your writing career?

A: I have a long list of goals, but one of the most important ones is to have some sort of impact, especially in regards to representation. As a minority myself, I’ve grown quite tired of being limited to certain outlets in order to see faces that look like mine. I’ve always been drawn to works that fall under the umbrella of speculative fiction, and until very recently it was quite rare to have well-rounded, three-dimensional and sufficiently humanized depictions of not only black people, but also non-black POC, members of the LGBTQ+ community, religious minorities, people with disabilities, people of size and neurodivergent individuals as well in such works. And really just in general.

In recent years, we have been moving in the right direction. In the arenas of fantasy, science fiction, superhero/comic-related material, horror, supernatural, alternate history and what have you, I’ve seen a marked improvement across the board. But there’s always work to do. I want to be a soldier in this revolution.

 

Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?

Honestly, start small. To elaborate: I began work on Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream in 2014. Very early in the process, I would momentarily post excerpts of it on my old Tumblr, and managed to come in contact with Greg and the Vital Narrative through sheer dumb luck. He liked what he saw, words were exchanged, and I was signed to the roster the next day.

Now, personally, I think I just got VERY lucky here. I had no idea what I was doing, and had I never spoken with Greg, I’m pretty sure that the moment I finished my first draft I would have just naively submitted the manuscript to Penguin or something, only to give up after getting my rejection letter, even though I already knew full well they only publish like five percent of the books submitted to them.

Instead, I was found by an independent publisher who liked what he saw and was willing to give me a chance. The editing and revision of my novel was a long and arduous process that lasted for nearly three years, but after all this time I can honestly say it was worth it. Had I sent my novel to a major publisher, they likely wouldn’t have said a thing about why it was rejected. Greg and Sacha both took the time to painstakingly review it so I would know exactly what to fix. I ended up actually learning even more about writing in the process. Even if it may take some more time for me to reach a wider audience, I am truly thankful for this experience and to be apart of this team.

Long story short, don’t sleep on the independent and small-name publishers. With Vital Narrative, I found a team that was more than willing to thoroughly and personably work with me on my project. Much better than having to deal with a team of editors from afar who would either reject me without a word and/or drastically change things in my work without my consent. Besides, just being published alone is valuable experience, even if you don’t become J.K. Rowling overnight.