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Writers Asking Writers Questions | Danielle Elaine & Yvette Luevano
 

BY DANIELLE ELAINE

 

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 fellow 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it Writers Asking Writers Questions and turned it into a five-week series involving established authors as well as new, unpublished writers.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.


How old were you when you first started writing?

A: I've been writing for most of my life. As soon as I learned to read, I started writing and drawing and stapling together books I'd made out of construction paper, imitating the picture books my mom got me from the library. I liked writing short stories for assignments throughout grade school and in high school, I started taking creative writing classes, learning about poetry. In college, I knew I wanted to pursue writing and I sort of fell into a few poetry courses and just fell in love with it. I've been chasing poems ever since.

 

What was the pivotal moment or time in your life when you decided to take yourself serious as a writer?

A: I guess when I was 21, 22 and started submitting my poems for publication. After going through a few workshops at UC Riverside and getting a poem published for the first time in The Packinghouse Review, the whole ‘being a writer’ thing felt a little more real. Writing wasn't just a personal, private thing anymore. I knew if it was going to mean anything, it had to be accessible to others, an audience outside of myself.

 
 

What has been the hardest thing about writing for you?

A: Revision is the hardest. Actually working up the nerve to show my work, in its various stages of completion, to other people is very, very hard for me. Terrifying and embarrassing, but also humbling and necessary.

 

Where do you find yourself when you are most inspired to write (a place, a mood, etc.)?

A: I need a lot of time alone and I often have trouble sleeping, so I end up doing most of my writing at night when the house is quiet. I'm not necessarily more inspired at night, I just have more time for quiet contemplation when it’s well past midnight and I'm not caught up in whatever needs to be done during the day. There's no work, no errands, no commute, everyone is asleep, the phone doesn't ring. I just sit with a cup of tea and listen to some music and I read and I write. In the morning, I try to figure out if it's any good.

 

Who are some other writers, authors, poets you are inspired by or admire?

A: I love Lorca. I could never hope to write anything like Federico Garcia, but he's very near and dear to my heart. I read Hart Crane, Larry Levis and Adrienne Rich as examples of absolute mastery. I read Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch for pleasure, I love their styles but I've kind of accepted I can never write like them. I wish I could be funny. I was really into Sharon Olds in high school, she probably shaped a lot of my early attempts at poetry. Michelle Lin and Kazumi Chin both came out with stunning debut collections last year. We studied at UC Riverside together years ago. I keep revisiting their books and I feel honored to know such radical, visionary poets.

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Is there any particular work that made a lasting impression on you (written by yourself or others)?

A: Power Politics by Margaret Atwood. Saadi Yousef's "America, America." Gary Young's prose poems.

 

How does who you are as a writer now compare to whom you’d like to be as a writer?

A: I think - I hope, at least - I've gotten better as a writer. I'm not so hung up on imitating or recreating an existing poem I like. The poem should determine the form, not the other way around. A poem doesn't have to be a big grand declaration. Poems can be small and intimate, but still impactful. Some poems just take time, perspective. I still have a long way to go. I never know where I'm going when I start writing a poem. I'm always unsure of how to end them.



 

If you have children or plan to, what is the impression or legacy you’d like your work to leave on them?

A: I can't say for sure whether I want to have kids or not, so I really don't know what I'd want my legacy to be for them. I just want to leave an impression of kindness.

 

What is the impression or legacy you’d like your work to leave on the world?

A: If I am to be remembered by my work at all, I hope my voice resonates with people completely unlike me. While I may draw from my own experiences in my writing, I don't want my work to be read as an autobiography. I'm aiming to transcribe both the ordinary and the universal.

 

Do you feel a sense of responsibility in your work as a female writer, or female creative, in general?

A: The personal is political. I can only strive to write from my own perspective. I can't pretend that growing up and moving through this world as a woman hasn't impacted my life, for better or worse. It would be irresponsible of me to write or create anything that wasn't true to my own lived experience. 

 

What fears have you outgrown on your journey as a writer? What are some current fears you look forward to releasing?

A: I'm not sure if I've actually outgrown any fears as a writer. The perennial ones are all still there: fear of repeating myself, fear of not having anything meaningful to say, fear of being derivative, fear of being misread, fear of stagnating, fear that my writing is actually garbage. A new one has popped up over the years: the fear that I may leave my best work unfinished.

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.

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

Writers Asking Writers Questions | Gregory Hedgepeth & Danielle Elaine
 

BY GREGORY HEDGEPETH

 

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.


The previous interviews from our WAWQ series are linked below.


What is the first book that made you cry?

A: I believe the first book that made me cry was Kite Runner. I remember most vividly how that book took me through so many emotions. I loved it. I still do and recommend it. It was a lot for me. Very eye opening. I find pain so poetic.

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What is your writing kryptonite?

A: My writing kryptonite would definitely be deadlines. Even deadlines I give myself, I can never seem to keep. I’ve learned a lot about myself lately, and one thing that keeps coming up is fear. I’ve been running from myself, and doing “the work” for so long out of fear. Now, my challenge is pushing past the fear, running straight to the things I’ve been running from and commit to myself and that work.

 

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

A: Sadly, I’m not friends with any other authors. I have friends who are creatives in other ways, we keep each other motivated by being honest with one another about our work, and ideas. We are honest about our kryptonites. Being vulnerable is truly an inspiring gift. People always ask me for advice when they want to start writing, and I always say just write. Get the words out and worry about perfect later. I live by this and Im always asking my friends to double check and edit things for me. Some writers I am inspired by push me to stretch my creativity, take my writing form, depth and vulnerability in my writing to another level. I just want to make a last impact on at least one person. I want at least one person to read my work and feel something.

 

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

A: If I could tell my younger writing self anything, it would be start now. I would tell myself don’t wait, and there is nothing to fear, however I don’t think my story would be as good if I hadn’t made some of the mistakes I made to get where I am today.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

A: Publishing my first two books independently did not change my writing process, only my desire to solely do it alone. Independent marketing is hard. That saying about family and friends joining the bandwagon last is very true.

 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A: LOL!!! Far too many!

 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

A: Yes, my novel details many experiences people would never believe. I am excited to see what people will decipher as true and fiction.

 

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

A: I would give up anything to become a better writer. I would give up fear and definitely procrastination. I’m not sure what the timeline for most writers is like, but I always feel like I’m off.

 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

A: The most difficult part of my artistic process would be consistency and balance. Once I start writing, I take off and I’m on a roll. That’s a place I’d like to live in daily, even when I am not actively creating. Life has been such a rollercoaster, trying to pursue my passion, be a good mom, and find stability as an adult, I tend to get bogged down by it all which makes it difficult to get artsy at the end of the day.

 

Does your family support your career as a writer?

A: Yes and no. It’s the typical scenario: when I’m doing good they are all for it - but when I’m not, I need to “grow up”, “be realistic” etc.

 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

A: Yes, I believe in writer’s block, I had it for a very long time. I think it is a subconscious unwillingness to produce for whatever reason that may vary person to person. There have been many times I wanted so badly to write, but for one reason or another I just couldn’t find the words.

 

Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?

A: My only advice is just get the words out. Don’t worry about writing rules and being perfect. That will come later. If you just get your words out, as you think and feel them, the process becomes less daunting. Also, there’s never a need to compare yourself. You would not have been given the gift or inspired creatively if you were not meant to write. You’d have the desire to do something else if there wasn't room at the writers table for you too. Don't compare yourself to others, and don't critique yourself until it’s time to edit.

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When did you first consider yourself a writer?

A: There was never an “aha!” moment - it was just something I always felt and knew about myself. I have always written, because I felt stifled communicating my emotions any other way. I had always wanted to be a published author, but never took my writing careers serious until I found out I was pregnant and decided to be a mom. I knew I couldn’t tell my daughter she could be and do anything, and have her believe me without having anything to show for my own dreams manifesting.

 

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

A: I have two projects in the works: one major and one a little less major (but not minor, lol). The latter is Fire Affirmations for Dope Women in Transition, a compilation of affirmations I have written over time, to preach to myself in hard times to push through and inspire myself. It’s for women and moms of all kinds creating space for us to be light with ourselves, to be vulnerable, to push through and execute our vision in spite of things seemingly crumbling around us. The major MAJOR project I’ve been working on for years now is A Minister’s Child, which may end up being titled Spratt Street. It is a novel based on my life and the wild things I’ve experienced. There will be tons of truth and many exaggerations as well. A Minister’s Child is an obvious title, because that is what I am. Spratt Street is part of the street address of the shelter I stayed in recently. I was there almost a year, way longer than I intended - but as you can imagine, there were some characters in there!

 

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?

A: The most surprising thing is how much I’ve been through, how much I’ve endured. My resilience and strength. When you’re going through tough time after tough time after tough time, you kind of keep your head down until you clear each rough patch. To look back at it all on a macro level while writing make it profound to see that I am still intact, peaceful, and happy after it all.


Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. Yeah, two’s probably good — he’s not that interesting. Gregory Hedgepeth is also the author of MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUNRISES, THE YEAR THAT ANSWERED and A COLLECTION OF ECHOES. BUY THAT SHIT.

Writers Asking Writers Questions | Yvette Luevano & gsoell
 

BY YVETTE LUEVANO

 

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.


The previous interviews from our WAWQ series are linked below.


How long have you been writing and when did you really start calling yourself a writer?

A: I've always written but inconsistently (which is basically everything in my life). It's really based on what I feel like I "need" to write. Do I need to write a poem? Do I need to write an essay for school? Do I need to write a journal entry about this feeling or event? I'm always writing but sometimes it's less artistic and more practical. And, to be honest, it seems so far-fetched to call myself a writer that I don't. Maybe when I have a published book in my hand, I'll actually accept the title.

 

How did you get into poetry?

A: I was really inspired after my vacation last year in the psych ward and needed to write something and to write it well. I had been laboring under the illusion that I couldn't write poetry for years but my prose never got to a level I felt confident in. I decided to try poetry again and it fucking clicked.

 

Your work touches on themes of identity, language, mental health, sexuality. Would you say that your personal life informs your work? To what extent does it influence your writing?

A: My personal life is my work and the foundation of my writing. Small Nights Gospel is entirely autobiographical. I'm hoping to evolve from that style in the near future.

 

What does the creative process look like for you? Do you have a set routine or mood that you need to get into in order to write?

A: My creative process is a mess because I'm a mess. I need to be able to process my emotions or thoughts to be able to write and, as someone with severe depression, that can be difficult. My best strategy is to seize the moments where I have the balance and energy to harness my words. I always have a small notebook because I like the tactile feeling of writing and that fuels the creative process as well.

 

Tell me about your favorite place to read and write.

A: Is it super basic to say that I like to write in Starbucks? I have a really specific order that I get almost everyday (venti iced coffee with vanilla and soy) and when I go in the mornings, it feels like my life is just together. I also like to read and write in bed. I have this really expensive and luxurious bed because I literally do everything important in it. I earned my Master's degree in that bed and wrote most of my book in that bed.

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Who do you love to read? Which poets excite you the most?

A: I have to confess, I don't read poetry enough to have a favorite author (I'm so ashamed omg). However, Neil Gaiman is my favorite author because his writing is so beautiful and poetry-like. If I could live in his writing, I would. The best I can do is aspire to his level.

 

What do you love to do outside of writing?

A: I love playing with my dogs. I adopted two Chihuahuas and I'm obsessed with them and we're best friends. On a more pretentious note, I also love to read and visit breweries.

 

What images or ideas do you keep coming back to in your work?

A: I play with images of birds and the ocean a few times in my current book. I feel like the auras and energy around these images are worth unpacking, even in minor ways.

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How do you feel you have grown as a writer?

A: I found my niche. I really sucked ass at prose. It actually wasn't that bad but most of my writing was static and expressionless. I found a genre in which my brevity and creativity could flow more naturally. I also think being honest in my writing, being unembarrassed by perceived vulgarity, and understanding who I am (good and bad) helped my writing grow.

 

When you write, do you have a particular audience in mind? Who do you write for?

A: I write for people who don't know what the fuck they're doing. Because I'm that person. I have no idea where I'm going and I have no idea how the fuck I'm getting there but I'm getting there and it's going to be a triumph when I arrive.

 

The idea that an artist must suffer for their work is one of our most damaging cultural myths. Self-care is important, especially in these difficult times. What is your favorite way to be kind to yourself?

A: My self-care is more practical because my mental health is so wacky and extremely inconsistent. It often takes the form of paying bills, making appointments, packing lunch for work, etc. It can also just be a low-stakes activity like reading a book or watching something on Netflix.

 

 

Small Nights Gospel will be released January 18.

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.