BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – SUMIKO SAULSON

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?

When I was five years old, my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, an artist, a writer or a veterinarian. My dad explained how long it would take to become a veterinarian and how much time was involved with sick animals. I ended up giving that dream and going into technology, like my father. So I became a computer repair technician, an author and an artist. Two out of three ain’t bad, though.

Being a Black writer means you are faced with choices on an almost daily basis as to whether you are going to market yourself to mainstream or Black audiences. And mainstream authors like Stephen King will criticize people for making race more important than mainstream notions of talent. But mainstream notions of talent are geared towards people like Stephen King as a genre trope. Toni Morrison refused to write for white audiences, and I don’t think Stephen King is nearly as talented.

Yet, he’s won a dozen Stoker Awards while Toni Morrison was never recognized in the genre for works like Beloved and Sula. Octavia Butler had to win posthumously, with the Kindred graphic novel. Blind submission calls in the horror genre reward people for sounding as much as possible like Stephen King. They aren’t really blind, because people are going to favor those who sound like whoever they read. If they never read Octavia Butler and other Black authors, and their favorites are all white men they will be subconsciously biased towards white male voices.

What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fic, tion in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?

I write Horror, Sci-Fi, Erotica/Paranormal and Afrosurrealism. Afrosurrealism has a profound impact on the Black community because it is the dark fantasy analogous Afrocentric genre and Toni Morrison is the most famous author associated with it. However, I think my horror essays and non-fiction horror works like 60 Black Women in Horror, 100+ Black Women in Horror, and Black Celebration have a more profound impact on the Black Community. I also write a column called Writing While Black about the challenges I have faced on the convention circuit as a black author.

I think the essays, in particular, contribute, as they have challenged the mainstream culture. I am not the only author demanding an answer to the question, “Why would Candyman be considered horror and Beloved not?” but I am one of the voices that is forcing the question in the genre of horror. And there are changes. The idea that Octavia Bulter is valid as a horror author is a change.

How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?

Three to five months to write a novel, and another three to five months in editing.

As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?

To some extent, I do. I write a lot of political and psychological horror, like Jordan Peele does with Get Out and Us. But I also write sheer trash urban fiction soap operas. I mean, The Moon Cried Blood, my young adult urban fantasy, is like LA Bank’s The Vampire Huntress Legend Series meets Steven King’s The Firestarter. It’s all about this precocious thirteen year African and Mexican America old witch in 1976. There are many educational things in the book but most of it is action, gore, and visceral horror. And there are a lot of urban genre tropes about drug addiction, orphans, foster care, and all that which aren’t exactly uplifting. Urban fiction is pretty much all about the Jerry Springer show tropes that set it in the gritty city.

How can you educate and enlighten while including all of that? Well, honestly, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker did it. Domestic violence, child abuse, incest, and all of that showed up in their novels. In that light, I suppose that The Moon Cried Blood is potentially uplifting.

How long have you been producing artwork professionally?

I have been a professional commercial graphic artist and designer since I was 19, and I have been getting paid for artwork since I was 15, so some 30 to 35 years now.

What medium(s) do you create with and is there a favorite?

I am a cartoonist who uses pencils, inks, and computer graphic programs such as Photoshop, and Gimp. I am also a painter, and I prefer acrylics on wood, canvas or paper. I do SecondLife digital photography which is post-processed in Photoshop and Gimp.

At what point in your life did you discover that you were destined to be a comic book artist?

I always wanted to be, but I didn’t have the patience to finish enough cels for a comic book until 2012, when I started to illustrate Agrippa. It is a short story about a dystopic 1984 style future where student loans can lead to debtor’s prison. In Trump’s America it seems strangely prophetic. My father was dying in 2012 and I got writer’s block. Unable to write, I drew.

I have since illustrated my mother’s tragic mulatto/reversal of fortunes tale “Living A Lie,” and have put out some additional titles of my own. Dreamworlds is a dark fantasy about my mental health struggles and how my characters slip in and out of reality during a nervous breakdown. Mauskaveli is a kinky comic with anthromorphic, polyamorous, multiethnic queer mice in it.

How many pieces have you created and how long does it usually take you to complete work on a piece/project?

I can’t count how many paintings I have done, but approximately 100. I have done more commissioned illustratrions than I can count. It takes me about four hours to complete a panel for a comic strip or a painting for sale. Obviously, it takes a lot longer to do a comic given that a single cel takes two to four hours. I charge a hundred dollars for an illustration for a book or album cover or a flyer, so it comes out to around $25 an hour. I do a lot less work than I did when I was in my 20s and 30s and did graphic design as a full time occupation.

How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?

https://sumikosaulson.com/
https://sfbayview.com/
https://mauskaveli.com/
https://dookyzines.com/
https://www.deviantart.com/sumikoska

Collection –  Black Celebration: Amazing Articles on African American Horror
https://www.amazon.com/Black-Celebration-Amazing-Articles-American-ebook/dp/B07XXH9WQY
Performance  – with my band Stagefright. February 8, 2020
https://www.reverbnation.com/stagefrightsfhttps://www.facebook.com/events/1222743191266917/
African American Multimedia Conference
https://aammc.org/

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – EDEN ROYCE

My beautiful picture
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
I wanted to be a writer since I was about five years old, but I didn’t pursue it seriously until I was in my mid-thirties. For me, being a Black writer means being myself on the page. Regardless of what genre I’m writing in – Southern Gothic, fantasy, horror, or science fiction –who I am as a person – a Black Southern woman – always makes it into the story in some way.   
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write full time now, after leaving my day job a little over five years ago. I have a B.S. in Business Administration and worked in finance most of my career.
As far as writing education, I’ve never taken writing classes, but I read voraciously and have since I was a child.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
When I had a day job, I did most of my writing after work. I was never without a notebook though, so I could jot down ideas whenever they popped up. You never know when something will inspire you, so I like to be prepared. I still keep one on my nightstand.
How many books have you written?
I’ve published two collections of short stories (Spook Lights and Spook Lights II), but only one novel, a middle-grade Southern Gothic historical that will be published in early 2021. I’m hard at work on two more, though.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
Zora Neale Hurston, J. California Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
Never. I listen to sounds like crackling fireplaces, thunderstorms, or rain on a tin roof when I write.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
I’ve only completed one so far, and that started out as a collection of short stories.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
Not a book, but a short story. It’s “For Southern Girls When The Zodiac Ain’t Near Enough” and it’s my love letter to Black Southerners, no matter where they may be in the world now. I’ve been lucky enough to have some readers mention that it resonates with them, and they return to read it periodically. And that means so much to me.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I want my legacy to be one of mixing African-American and Gullah-Geechee folklore and mythology into stories that show we as Black people have a rich cultural past and a tradition of storytelling despite our traumatic history. And to let that rich cultural past inspire us to do even more now and in the future.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
I’m working on two novels: a middle-grade Southern Gothic contemporary fantasy and a young adult horror/dark fantasy.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
Website: http://edenroyce.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EdenRoyce
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/edenroycebooks/  

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – DAVID F. WALKER

How long have you been writing comic books professionally and do you work for an outside comic book company/studio, freelance or own your own company/studio?

I’ve been making my own comics ever since I was a kid, but the first time someone actually paid me for my writing was 2005. I had a good career in journalism, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started earning real income as a comic book writer in 2014, as I began to freelance for various publishers like Marvel and DC. I currently freelance for DC and several other publishers, including Ten Speed Press, which published my graphic novel The Life of Frederick Douglass.. I also have my own publishing imprint, where I do my own stuff.

Do you create full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?

In theory, I’m a full time creator, but not so much in practice. That’s all on me, as I’ve had trouble the last year or two in maintaining a consistent schedule. Some days, I spent more time on conference calls or answering emails, or taking care of things like accounting than I do with the creative side of things. I’ve also branched out into non-fiction graphic novels, and that takes up a tremendous amount of time with research. I’m also an adjunct college professor, which can get very time consuming.

What style(s) does your comic book writing take and how much has black culture and history influenced your style?

Since black culture and influence has had a significant influence in my everyday life, that influence carries over to my creativity. Whether or not that is at the core of my creative energy, I can’t say for sure – some people might see it that way, while others might not even notice. I’m always thinking of ideas and stories dealing with the black experience, and how to turn those into compelling stories.

As a black comic book writer, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?

My priority as a writer is to craft the most compelling story possible. If that story uplifts or educates, that’s great, and I work to make sure there is some merit to everything I write that extends beyond disposable pop entertainment. But it is up each reader, black or otherwise, to engage with my work and take from it as they see fit. I’m co-writing a series called Bitter Root, which takes place in the 1920s, against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance. But the series itself is not meant to be an educational tool about the Harlem Renaissance itself, it is more of an introduction than anything else. For me, the best pop entertainment engages you, and motivates you to explore and learn outside of that particular work. If someone reads Bitter Root, and is entertained by it, my job is done. If they read it, are entertained by it, and they decide to learn more about the Harlem Renaissance then not only is my job done, I’ve earned a bonus and extra vacation time. But unless I’m working on something very specific like The Life of Frederick Douglass, educating and uplifting are the spices I add to the recipe, but not the recipe itself.

What have you found to be the most challenging thing about breaking into the comic book industry, especially as a black creator?

The comic industry is incredibly difficult to break into as a writer, in part because comics are drawn, and if you’re a writer, you’re only half of what it takes to make a comic. You’re an important half, but it is difficult to prove yourself as a comic book writer if you don’t have anyone to draw your work, and that can be difficult. That said, there’s a big difference between making comics and earning a financial living in comics. All you have to do to break into the industry is make a comic and put it out there, either digitally or as printed object. Sure, it can be difficult writing it, or finding someone to draw it, but getting into the comic industry is as simple as making a comic book, period. But like I said, making a living from comics is something else. It’s like playing basketball. You want to play basketball? Get a ball, go to a court, and find other folks tossing balls. That’s what it takes to play basketball. But to make it on a professional ball team, and play at the highest level, that’s something else completely. As for being a black creator in comics, it has many of the same challenges that being black in America has. 

How does your work resonate with the black community and what do you want your legacy within the black community to achieve?

Personally, I don’t feel like its may place to answer those questions. I know how I’d like my work to resonate, and I’ve seen signs that it hits the mark at times, but my focus is the work itself. I attend an event in Harlem at the Schomburg, and I meet hundreds of people, most of them black, and they let me know that they are entertained or inspired by my work, and that feels great. But its not for me to answer for the readers or the community. And as for my legacy, I’m busy just trying to do the work. If I do have a legacy, it will be determined by others. There are so many incredible creators in various different medium – I’m talking folks of every stripe and background – and some of the best have been forgotten by time. Oscar Michaeaux is arguably the most important black filmmaker of all time – every fan of cinema in general and black film in particular should know his name. But most people don’t know his name or his work. I could say, “I want to be the Oscar Michaeux of comics,” but what does that really mean? Does it mean I want to be a pioneer and an innovator that created tremendous opportunities, only to be largely forgotten? We have very little control of the legacy we leave behind, we only have some semblance of control over the quality of the work we create during on time on this planet. The legacy of our work is for the living to determine. 

How and why is it important that black people are represented in this medium and how important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?

Representation is very important to me, as is a sense of community with other black creators. When it comes to representation, I know what it was like as a kid to not see characters that looked like me and my family, and my work is always in response to what I felt as a kid. At the same time, I want to be careful that representation is true and authentic to the story I’m telling. If I chose to tell a story about 15th century French aristocracy, I’m not going to throw a black character in to the story just because. That’s pandering and insincere. But it is important that all people see themselves in a way that feels inclusive and empowering, which is why I can’t see myself doing a story that doesn’t do that. I tend to think of stories that provide the opportunity for a level of inclusion and empowerment, because that’s what I want to see and contribute to the world. But I only speak for myself, as I only speak for myself when it comes to encouraging and educating the black community. I believe it is important, but how I do it and how other creators do it can differ, which is perfectly fine. It is for each of us as individual creators to decide how we want to serve and interact with the community. I know some black creators that only want to make comics, and don’t care much about engagement. I know others that use the medium as a soapbox to spread their particular gospel. I believe that either end of that scale is fine, though I prefer more of a balance.

What are the names of some of the titles you’ve written?

I’ve written for a quite a few publishers. For Marvel I wrote Luke Cage, Nighthawk, and Occupy Avengers, among others. Over at DC, I’m currently co-writing Young Justice and a series called Naomi. I wrote a biography of Frederick Douglass, and in 2021 my graphic novel on the history of the Black Panther Party will be released. I’m co-writing a series called Bitter Root, and getting ready to self-publish a western called The Hated. I also write a weekly web comic, Discombobulated.

What upcoming project(s) are you working on, which you can share with the readers?

I’m focusing more on my own company, and publishing my own titles through my Solid Comix imprint, which is still in its infancy. This year I will publish at least two titles through Solid, my western The Hated, and a series about professional wrestlers called One Fall. Next year will see the release of my graphic novel about the Black Panther Party. And I’m currently developing a television serried based on my web comic, Discombobulated.

Where can the readers continue to follow your career? Do you have a website or blog?

I have a two websites, www.davidfwalker.com and www.solidcomix.com. I don’t update them enough, but that’s the best way to find me – I post my web comic on both sites, and there are links to all of social media handles. I’m on social media, but my goal is to spend less time on the web, and more time working and creating. Interacting on Facebook and Twitter and all of those can be a huge time suck, and often fills me with stress and negativity, neither of which I need in my life

David F. Walker is an award-winning comic book writer, filmmaker, journalist, and educator. His writing career started in the 1990s with the self-published ‘zine, BadAzz MoFo. In 1997 he produced and directed Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, and Shafted, a feature length documentary on the history of blaxploitation films. Walker is best known for his work in graphic novels and comics, which includes The Life of Frederick Douglass (Ten Speed Press), the Eisner Award-nominated series Bitter Root (Image Comics), and the critically acclaimed series Naomi (DC Comics). He has written for Marvel Comics (Luke Cage, Occupy Avengers, Power Man and Iron Fist, Nighthawk, Fury, Deadpool), DC Comics (Cyborg, Young Justice), Dynamite Entertainment (Shaft), and Dark Horse (Number 13). He also teaches part time at Portland State University.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – JOE ROBINSON CURRIE

At what point in your life did you discover that you were destined to be a comic book writer?
Hmmm destined, I’ll say this. There was a Comic-Con I had just attended in Chicago. It was my first one and it was like going to Disney World. I had never seen anything like it. The very next week I was having lunch with a friend and he suggested we start a company and create our own comics. I think I started writing comics that day.
How long have you been writing comic books professionally and do you work for an outside comic book company/studio, freelance or own your own company/studio?
About 25 years now. My company is called Strictly Underground Comics, It serves as an imprint under the umbrella of StreetTeam Studios.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a comic book writer, and even more specifically a black comic book writer?
Being an independent publisher I have complete freedom to tell any story I want. As a black comic book writer It’s telling stories that otherwise will not be told.
Do you create full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I have a day job. I went to Columbia College in Chicago. I skipped my 4th year and took the money that would have been my tuition and started Strictly Underground Comics.
What tools of the trade do you most like to create with?
Just a basic pen and a legal pad, once I have the story the way I want I move to the laptop and put it all down. Make what ever edits and changes I need to and so on.
Who are some of your biggest comic book writer influences?
Oh wow Stan Lee, Warren Ellis, Dwayne Mcduffie, Grant Morrison just to name a few.
What style(s) does your comic book writing take and how much has black culture and history influenced your style?
I think you can definitely see and feel that in the work that I do both my parents made sure that I had knowledge of self and my history. So yeah it’s a pretty big influence.
What inspires you to create and how do you strive to reach your readers within the black community by reflecting themselves in your work?
Inspiration comes from all over the place. It could be a book I’m reading. Sometimes it’s music or sometime simply walking down the street. As far as how I reach black readers. I think it’s important to see yourself reflected in a medium that really didn’t have you in there. I’m a black man and I have a certain perspective and vision and it’s important to have those visuals and stories.
Do you have a particular project or projects which stand out as your favorite(s)?
I like them all. Because being Indie you know the sheer sacrifice and energy it takes to get it out. So when It’s done I can reflect back on it. So nah I don’t have a particular favorite.
As a black comic book writer, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
I think I have to be conscious of what I’m saying. So yeah that’s definitely in my mindset when I go in.
What does your creative schedule look like and how many hours a day do you create?
There is no particular time where I sit down and just go. It’s all day.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
That’s difficult at times. You just do the best you can. Doing this creative stuff. Is challenging and can absorb a lot of your time. So I do my best.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
Not all the time but I do at times just to have background noise. It varies. One day Rock, One day Hip Hop. Trip Hop some R&B it depends on what I’m writing. Like now I’m listening to Mr. Lif lol.
What is the most difficult part of your writer process?
Trying my best not to edit myself or tone it down. If I’m hitting a topic then I need to really hit it and not try to sugar coat it. Ya know.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?   
Just relax, step away from all of it do something different for a while then you get that urge to get back to it.
What have you found to be the most challenging thing about breaking into the comic book industry, especially as a black creator?
If you mean like the big two or a major publisher. Then I really think those days are just done. I think the independent route is the way. Breaking in is simply creating an ip and putting it out. If you don’t have the funds to publish. You can run a crowdfunding campaign for it and if your property draws an audience your off and running.
How does your work resonate with the black community and what do you want your legacy within the black community to achieve?
I think it hits at least I hope so lol. Legacy wise. I just hope I leave a positive mark on the industry when it’s all said and done.
How and why is it important that black people are represented in this medium and how important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
I think it’s very important as black creators to be just as visible as our IP’s. As far as black creators working together. I think that’s important as well. There are a lot of obstacles and hurdles you have to go through and over. I have my own company but I’m also under the StreetTeam Studios umbrella which is the home of six more creators. I think people see that unity and it does resonate.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a comic book piece/project?
It can be anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years.
How many comics have you written?
About 18.
What are the names of some of the titles you’ve written?
“Something” “Prodigy” “PUNXofRAGE” “The Almighty StreetTeam”
What does artistic success in the comic book world look like to you?
I think you would like the work you do to be received well from your audience.
What upcoming project(s) are you working on, which you can share with the readers?
Almighty StreetTeam #2 is the next immediate project on deck. There are other things in the works. but that’s next.
Where can the readers continue to follow your career? Do you have a website or blog?
PUNXofRAGE.COM Instagram, PUNXofRAGE

Thank You John F. Allen for the interview. Shout out to StreetTeam Studios Crew!The PUNXofRAGE Radio Crew Strictly Underground and all the people that have supported me on this journey. Thank You

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – LINDA ADDISON

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
The first time I held a book in my hands in elementary school and the teacher read the story and I followed the pictures I knew I wanted to makes things like that. I didn’t know that meant being a writer until later. I also grew up lacking basics so I came to the conclusion that being an artist meant deciding to be poor and I wasn’t willing to do that, but I had to write also. I was good at math and science and that was my path to college and a career in computer science, which I retired from years ago. All along I read about writing/writers and wrote/published speculative poetry and fiction.   I was very aware of being a black writer. There were very few black speculative writers, but I couldn’t deny my imagination so I continued. As I got recognition, I was happy to represent the Other at conventions and in print. And now even happier that there are more Others (black, gay, trans, etc.) being published and publishers.
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write full-time now, after retiring from my day job five years ago. I have a B.S. in Mathematics, later I finished the NYU program for Computer Science and worked in programming until I retired. Per writing, I never took a class just for writing but read everything I could about process, grammar and the life of writers; I still do. I’ve kept journals since 1969.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
When I had a day job I would write: lunchtime, after work, when I could. Sometimes it was only for 30 minutes in a day. I would edit and outline when I was traveling back and forth to work. I didn’t hangout on weekends, but would use the time to squeeze in writing time.   This is how I came to see that even a few words a day could add up to a poem, story, book.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
I love music without words when I’m writing, like Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett and others, speculative movie sound tracks, and some local artists I’ve discovered in Arizona.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
My poetry collections have taken from two to three months to finish the first draft. Then another month or two to edit, and make sure of the order.   I can’t say for a novel since I’m finishing my first now. I’ll know more when I’ve done my second novel.

How many books have you written?

I’ve published four books of just my work (Animated Objects, Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes, Being Full of Light, Insubstantial, How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend) and three in collaboration with other writers (Dark Duet with Stephen M. Wilson; Four Elements with Charlee Jacob, Marge Simon & Rain Graves; The Place of Broken Things with Alessandro Manzetti).

As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?

My personal responsibility is to being honest with the work that comes through me. There’s no way to completely separate my work and my being a black author, a female, my childhood and every moment of my life. Some readers have said my work uplifts and educates. I’m grateful for that, but I don’t consciously inject that into my work.

What type of research do you conduct and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

My poetry collections come out of my journals, for the most part, which I’ve been keeping since 1969. I write any bits, pieces of poetry, reactions in them. Then something will shift and I start putting together a collection. This shift often starts with a poem, sometimes another person, like Stephen M. Wilson approaching me to do a music inspired collection (Dark Duet). I will go back to my journals since the last book and pull out seeds to build on. It’s very organic and not easy to explain.

I have several novels I want to write, inspired by short stories I’ve published. I’m finishing a novel now, inspired by a story, “When We Dream Together” published in Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction (Graves Sheffield Publishing). I wrote a short outline of each chapter in three months.

What are some of the best resources you’ve found for research?

I use the internet, magazines, non-fiction books in my home/libraries, television documentaries/series, everything.

What does literary success look like to you?

There are many points that were successful events for me. I spent a lot of time submitting my work to magazines in the beginning of my career. Success is getting published for me. Every publication was meaningful and important to me.

A few of the special moments: getting an article published in Essence Magazine in 1983 was over the top amazing. I walked from news stand to news stand, looking at the issue and thinking how people I didn’t know were buying it and reading my work. Having my poem published in Asimov’s SF Magazine (May 1997) after years of being rejected was major. Then there was being the first black author to receive a HWA Bram Stoker award® 2001. I feel beyond amazing about being one of the editors (with Kinitra Brooks & PhD & Susana Morris, PhD) that put together Sycorax’s Daughters anthology, dark fiction and poetry by 33 black women, which was a HWA Bram Stoker award® 2017 finalist. Being part of introducing that many black authors to the wider horror community was exceptional, as well as, receiving the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award.

I’ve received more than I could have imagined.

Linda’s Contact Information

>Website: http://www.lindaaddisonpoet.com
>Facebook=https://www.facebook.com/linda.d.addison
>Twitter=https://twitter.com/nytebird45
>Instagram= https://www.instagram.com/nytebird45/;
>Amazon page=www.amazon.com/author/lindaaddisonpoet

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – VALJEANNE JEFFERS

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
As a young girl I wrote stories and poetry. But life got in the way, and I didn’t return to writing until I was in my forties. Discovering Octavia Butler was the catalyst for my taking the journey into writing fiction. For me, being a black writer means I have two responsibilies. I have to hold up a mirror to American society, to the world, to make folks think about the problems we’re facing, and offer solutions. I am the conscience of my nation. The second one is to write a story that grips my readers and holds on tight, one that gives them everything they want, and leaves them wanting more.
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write everyday, but I also work as a tutor/teacher. I have an MA in Psychology, which actually helps me with character development.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
I’m fortunate enough to be able to set my own work hours, so I can take off if I need to attend a CON or meet a deadline.
What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?
I’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. I actually wrote a nonfiction book, The Story of Eve, which was never published (except as articles). But Speculative fiction (horror, fantasy, and science fiction) is my favorite genre. We stand in the midst of a Black SF/Fantasy Renaissance: black and brown folks are making huge strides in film, art, and writing. As a black female writer I am part of this movement, and writing is, in of itself, a form of political resistance.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
There are so many! I won’t try to list them all, but Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemison and Brandon Massey are huge influences, as well as: Tananarive Due, B. Sharise Moore, Quinton Veal, Balogun Ojetade, and Milton Davis.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
I listen to Blues, Jazz, R&B, Rock and everything in between. It just depends on what mood I’m in and what I’m writing. King Britt, for example, is my best inspiration when I’m creating a very visual and/or romantic scene.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
It varies; anywhere from a year to two years. I took two years to finish Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child. But, I write stories while I’m working on novels, too.
What does your writing schedule look like and how many hours a day do you write?
I don’t have a set schedule, but when I’m writing (especially if I’m in the “zone”) I may go as long as six to eight hours.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I drink too much coffee and smoke too many cigarettes!
How many books have you written?
I have written ten books. This includes: The Story of Eve, my  Immortal and Mona: Livelong series (six books), Voyage of Dreams, Colony: Ascension: An Erotic Space Opera, and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books I and II). I also co-edited, with Quinton Veal, Scierogenous: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volumes I and II.
As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
As I’ve said earlier, writing is a form of resistance. For black folks reading novels and stories in which they are heriones and heros is both uplifiting and empowering. As black writers, we are quintessential to this journey. No one can tell our stories the way we can. I’d like to share something I wrote several years ago, and it’s still relevant today. In the 21th century there are very still few characters like us, and out of this small pool many are post-modern “Step-and Fetchits” (stereotypes). This is why speculative fiction is so important. This genre helps us to see outside reality, to say: what if? It helps us to imagine and create spectacular, wondrous realms, step back and find the beauty and wisdom there, and then transform our own space. We need to dream, and we need our writers to help us to dream. Even if – especially if – these dreams are of fantastic, imaginary creatures and happenings. We need this because dreaming can be an escape. One should never underestimate the power of escape. Imagine a child living in squalor, and escaping into pages of a novel. Or a slave reading by lamplight and envisioning her freedom. Or a man working as a sharecropper, and at sunset telling his story with harmonica. We all need to escape, at least sometimes, into the worlds of those who dream like us, who understand us; who look like us. To paraphrase B.B. King, we need authors who get us where we live. Second of all dreaming helps us to change. If you can dream it, you can do it. You can move yourself and your corner of life forward.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
I love my Immortal series, but then I also love my Mona Livelong series. I am passionate about both.
What type of research do you conduct and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Nonfiction research typically takes longer (for me) than fiction research. But both can take hours or even weeks. When I wrote my essay for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler, I re-read Wild Seed, took notes, and watched interviews with Ms. Butler etc. It took me around a month to finish my research.
What are some of the best resources you’ve found for research?
It varies. I use the same method I used to complete my MA, which is googling a resource, reading it and then using this resource to find other articles.
What have you found to be the best marketing practices for your books to the black community?
I have found devoted readers on facebook and twitter. But, for my community, going to SF/Fantasy Cons and  author signings works best.
How important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
Collaboration and sharing resources is very important for our community to help us grow.
What does literary success look like to you?
I’m very well known, and I am humbled and honored by this. But I would like expand my audience and reach even more people. Eventually, I’d like to become a full time writer.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I dearly hope that my legacy will be that I am talented, humanistic author who cares about the black community and the globe, and one is who is not afraid address issues like homelessness, racism, sexism and climate change in her writing, but who can so in a beautifully written and exciting novel or story.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
 My co-editor Quinton Veal and I are working with Director Balogun Ojetade to bring my novel The Switch II: Clockwork to the screen, and possibly Scierogenous (as a series). I’m also releasing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child this year.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
Readers can visit me: www.vjeffersandqveal.com http://tehotep.wixsite.com/scierogenous and http://tehotep.wixsite.com/immortaliiiaudiobook  

Author’s Biography

Valjeanne Jeffers is a speculative fiction writer, a graduate of Spelman College, and a member of the Horror Writers Association, and the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. She is the author of ten books, including her Immortal and her Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective series. Valjeanne has been published in numerous anthologies including: Steamfunk!;The Ringing Ear; Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler; Fitting In; Sycorax’s Daughters; Black Magic Women, The Bright Empire, and Blerdrotica (in press).Readers can also preview or purchase her novels at: www.vjeffersandqveal.com.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – BALOGUN OJETADE

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was five and vowed to write stories like Wild, Wild West, but with a Black protagonist.  To be a Black writer in this society is the same as being a Black man in this society—there are obstacles to overcome; there is white supremacy, covert and overt racism, and white privilege, but I continue to move forward and I write for a Black audience, although others are welcome to read my novels and watch my films.
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write full-time.  I also own and direct a martial arts school, teach survival and preparedness classes and camps, and provide divination, counseling and other spiritual services. I attended Howard University as a Finance Major then transferred to Columbia College where I majored in film, with a concentration in screenwriting.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
Since I work for myself, I set my own schedule.  I get up early and write, then drop my two youngest children at school.  Then I come home and write some more until my wife awakens and we spend time together until she leaves for her business.  I then write until I go to my martial arts school or have to meet with a client.  When the children come home, I spend some time with them and then spend time with my wife when she gets home.  Then I go to bed.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?
I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, comedy and action-adventure. My favorite genre to write is horror and most of my speculative fiction includes some elements of horror. I think my work in Steamfunk has had the most important impact on the Black community.  I see us creating more speculative work in film and television. That is going to be the key to getting more and more Black Speculative fiction to the masses. Starting late last year, I returned fully to my screenwriting and filmmaking roots, so I am confident my work will be seen on the big and small screens and will inspire more to create Black Speculative Fiction.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
Charles Saunders, Henry Dumas and Donald Goines.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
No, I do not. I listen to ASMR audios while I write—tapping and brushing sounds relax me and help me to create.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
A novel takes me about 60 days to write the first draft.
What does your writing schedule look like and how many hours a day do you write?
I write off and on from 6am until 6pm on days I don’t see clients/students for spiritual work. I write a total of eight or nine hours a day.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Listening to ASMR. I also say my dialogue out loud if no one is home.
How many books have you written?
34. Fiction and non-fiction.
As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
No. I just write what I enjoy. However, since I work to uplift and educate my people in everything else I do, it translates into, and is intrinsic to, my writing.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman and the as yet unreleased Granma’s Hand.
What type of research do you conduct and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I conduct several months of research before I write most of my books and I conduct small research throughout the writing.
What are some of the best resources you’ve found for research?
Thesauruses, Questia and Bio-Med Central. I also speak to my teachers in Ifa back in Nigeria, to my wife, a priest of Ifa and owner of a botanica who travels to Africa every six months, to students and friends that are mathematicians, scientists, computer programmers, professional basketball players and other spheres of knowledge, so my writing is as authentic as possible.
What have you found to be the best marketing practices for your books to the black community?
Combining a topic of interest with a panel discussion and the sale of books. My programs, From the Black Panthers to the Black Panther and Reading for Warriors have been huge successes.
How important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
It is very important. Collaboration brings about creativity and work that is fun, original and creative.
What does literary success look like to you?
Being able to live comfortably just from selling books.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I want my books, films and television work to show that African/Diasporan spirituality, martial arts, romance, heroes and villains are cool, meaningful, and make for great stories and storytelling.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
I am working on several screenplays and a teleplay. I have completed a few screenplays that will be shopped later this year and an award-winning screenplay I co-wrote with Milton Davis that is getting a lot of attention and making buzz in the film industry.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
You can follow my career on chroniclesofharriet.com, on Facebook (facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts) and Instagram (@balogun_ojetade).

As  a former combat veteran (MOS: 18F), Master and Technical Director of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Co-Chair of the Urban Survival and Preparedness Institute, Balogun Ojetade is the author of the bestselling non-fiction books Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within, The Afrikan Warriors Bible, Surviving the Urban Apocalypse, The Urban Self Defense Manual, The Young Afrikan Warriors’ Guide to Defeating Bullies & Trolls, Never Unarmed: The Afrikan Warriors’ Guide to Improvised Weapons, Ofo Ase: 365 Daily Affirmations to Awaken the Afrikan Warrior Within, Ori: The Afrikan Warriors’ Mindset, Ogun Ye! Protecting the Afrikan Family and Community, Kori O: Protecting Afrikan Children from Violence & Sexual Abuse, and SKG: The Black Man & Woman’s Guide to Sticks, Knives and Guns.

He is one of the leading authorities on Afrofuturism and Afroretroism—film, fashion or fiction that combines African and/or African American culture with a blend of “retro” styles and futuristic technology, in order to explore the themes of tension between past and future and between the alienating and empowering effects of technology and on Creative Resistance. He writes about Afrofuturism/Afroretroism—Sword & Soul, Rococoa, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.

He is author of twenty-five novels and gamebooks – MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman: Freedonia; Redeemer; Once Upon A Time In Afrika; Fist of Africa; A Single Link; Wrath of the Siafu; The Scythe; The Keys; Redeemer: The Cross Chronicles; Beneath the Shining Jewel; Q-T-Pies: The Savannah Swan Files (Book 0) and A Haunting in the SWATS: The Savannah Swan Files (Book 1); Siafu Saves the World; Siafu vs. The Horde; Dembo’s Ditty; The Beatdown; Initiate 16; Gunsmoke Blues; Malik: Confessions of a Black Identity Extremist; Malik: Confessions of a Black Identity Extremist 2: Enemy of the State; Granma’s Hand; Kill City and Steamfunkateers: The Steamfunk Role Playing Game and the Steamfunkateers adventure, The Haunting of the House of Crum—contributing co-editor of three anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk and contributing editor of the Rococoa anthology and Black Power: The Superhero Anthology.

He is also the creator and author of the Afrofuturistic manga series, Jagunjagun Lewa (Pretty Warrior) and author/co-creator of the Ice Cold Carter photo-graphic novel series.

Finally, he is co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo and co-creator of Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game, both with author Milton Davis.

Reach him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts and on Instagram at @balogun_ojetade and @afrikanmartialarts. Find his books on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Balogun-Ojetade/e/B00AVEA7SU.