BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: PETER OKEAFOR

I started making music in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  For various reasons, I drifted away from music and started to write Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I have written two novels.  My novels can be found on amazon.com and are called “What Burns Below,” and “Journey Through The Earths.”

Recently, I started to make music again.  My musical influences are many and include Prince, George Clinton/P-Funk/Bootsy Collins, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Beatles, Madonna, James Brown, Kiss, Aerosmith, Public Enemy, Sly Stone, Teddy Pendergrass, Isaac Hayes, Fela Kuti, Miles Davis and others. 

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

For more information go to peterokeafor.com.  You can email him at petero.xodus@gmail.com.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – RAY BILLINGSLEY

At what point in your life did you discover that you were destined to be a comic book artist?
I believe the entire concept of “destiny” to be questionable and open to debate. No one can tell what it is they were put on this earth for. We basically discover something we like, or at least mediocre to pro efficient and let our wanderings take us where it may. When I was a child, I knew that I liked to draw. I grew up under the rule of a very strict father (who did not see a Black kid doing a career as a cartoonist to be viable at all), so I was rather quiet and to myself and I picked up drawing in my room as a form of escapism. If there was truly destiny then we wouldn’t have to do anything. It would unfold as it’s supposed to. As I literally grew up in the industry I was wildly creative. When, at age 12, I discovered that others would pay money for my art I just kept at it. But as I drew, I studied writing, and panel construction and how to create strong well-developed characters with distinct personalities. It was when I signed the contract for my first syndicated strip, Lookin’ Fine, that I began to think I’d be doing this all my life. I was 21 and had been in the industry professionally for almost ten years.As a kid I actually thought I would do something in science, as it fascinates me and to this day still study it.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a comic book artist, and even more specifically a black comic book artist?
I find the most rewarding aspect of doing a Black comic is that it is revolutionary. There will never be an even-ground aspect to it and to make it survive in an almost lily-white profession, you have to be extra good. As a Black cartoonist there are a lot of topics that you may want to do or like to do but it is not accepted or appreciated. A lot of flights of fantasy are just not accepted, and a lot of expectations are not your expectation. I like to believe that my voice is unique and singular-apart from the others, At this point of my career it’s my mission to be the best I can and hopefully inspire some others to pick up the struggle where one day I will leave behind. It’s nice to have some look up to you or read you daily. You become a fond part of that person or that family. Just to find out sometimes just who has been reading your stuff is amazing. I am very lucky.
Who are some of your biggest comic book artist influences?
My art influences are vast. Most of them came as I was just growing into the industry. Some were mainstream, as the usual pick of Charles Schulz, Mort Walker, Hank Ketcham but also those whose began in “alternative political papers like Jules Feiffer and Matt Groening. I also liked some cartoonists that were definitely off the grid, and working with no restrictions whatsoever and didn’t have to worry about offending or appeasing everyone. Most of my biggest influences were incredible artists with unique styles, others were at least very clever in their punchlines.
What inspires you to create and how do you strive to reach your readers within the black community by reflecting themselves in your work?
I’m not inspired to reach out to only the Black community. I want my work to be embraced by people of all races, ages and nationalities. What I offer is a glimpse into my world. If you like it, fine, if you don’t, that’s fine too. I only hope that other Black creators feel that if I could be successful and break some barriers that they could too. For the Black community any excursion into any visual art is a hard daunting one full of rejection by non-creatives or those who just can’t grasp the bigger picture, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
What does your creative schedule look like and how many hours a day do you create?
My creative schedule is loose and strict at the same time. I never say that I’m going to create at a certain time or place. Ideas can hit me anywhere that I’m at, and I either write them done for future editing, or if I have no paper handy, to just remember key words or sentences, There are times when I’m definitely a Night-Owl, working in solitude way into the night when It’s very quiet. Or I may wake up in the early am, before the sun is up, because I cannot shut my brain off. it takes work and dedication because there are some days, say a nice summer day, when I’d rather be outside and hanging at a friends, but I know I must meet my deadline. I have been on a deadline for the better part of my life so I have learned how to juggle everything and have the readers not know what I may be going through.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
There are a few difficult parts to my process. As life goes sometimes there are bad things that happen, like a death of a close family member. An accident that leaves someone close hospitalized. Maybe even I get hospitalized. The fact that I still have to create and not have time off at times pisses me off. But then I remember this is just a business and they are not my true friends. True friendships in this industry are slim to none. And when I’m told “no” to a project I worked my ass off on. I can work on a script for animation then work up storyboards, taking several months of extra work just to have one person say no and the whole project goes down the drain. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?   
There are many ways I choose to recharge. Lying back and just doing nothing. Checking out classic Noir films or the rare movie at the theatre. I calm myself with cooking, which people tell me I’m good at. Reading science journals and nature, Music is a very big part of me and I never go a day without listening to music. But real music, not auto-tune or image-oriented and most people I like can actually play an instrument. So that gives you an idea of who I don’t listen to.
What have you found to be the most challenging thing about breaking into the comic book industry, especially as a black creator?
As a Black creator the most challenging aspect to this business is that there aren’t any Blacks in high positions like President, Vice-president or even Editors. You can’t expect anyone else to actually understand what it is you’re trying to do. Which is why there aren’t a slew of animated programs with diversity. I guess these things shouldn’t be exactly aimed at a certain group without leaving the other in a secondary role. But when you really look, that’s what is being done anyway. There are programs that go for several seasons with token diversity or none at all. It’s a challenge to even get others to even take your ideas seriously. They don’t come from where you do and have not lived the same experiences so I guess it cannot be expected for them to understand.
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?
As a Black creator I feel it’s very important to represent others that look like me and also a large part of the population. We don’t all look the same and I believe that should reflect in our works. Hopefully it does encourage those to work on their own visions, their own take on life, aside from what has always been slated as the norm. It empowers others to believe that they have a stake in the industry and their own vision to share. And in terms of education, that should come along with the work.
What upcoming project(s) are you working on, which you can share with the readers?
My upcoming projects are still the ones I’ve been trying to get for many years. I’m still working an animation scripts. Hopefully some producer out there with vision and an open mind will open a door. There are CURTIS miniatures figures in the works. And I’m to be in talks about a new series of books. And if haven’t learned anything about me from reading this article, you know it will have to be an original take. Fingers crossed!
Where can the readers continue to follow your career? Do you have a website or blog?
Readers can continue to follow CURTIS in papers, on the web, and on the King Features site called The Comics Kingdom. If you want to look up some personal things, you can always go my site http://www.billingsleyart.com. And yes, it needs a new design. I’ll get to it one day. And of course, there is always Facebook and Instagram.

BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: MAURICE BROADDUS

Maurice Broaddus is an afrofuturist author, whose work includes: Pimp My Airship, Buffalo Soldier & The Usual Suspects.

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

Maurice: Both. I full-time write AND have two other full-time jobs. I have a B.S. in Biology.

How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?

Maurice: Well, to be fair, this is a process that has taken a lot of time to evolve. A learn as we went thing, since at one point the imbalance almost cost me family. Don’t get me wrong, my wife knew that I was a writer from the beginning (this was pretty clear while we were dating when I’d put off or cancel dates because I was on (self-imposed at the time) deadline). Also complicating matters was that I have bipolar disorder with hypomania, which went undiagnosed for the first decade of our marriage. It’s the hypomania that was the big problem as I would pile up huge amounts of work and then spend my life moving at a thousand miles an hour wrapping up everything to hit my deadlines. And I always hit my deadlines. In the beginning, I’d try to bring my wife (who isn’t a reader) into the process by reading my work out loud to her (she enjoyed being read to). However, this proved a short lived experiment as I tended to draw a lot from real life to a point where it made her uncomfortable. Ironically, she recently went through a writing workshop with me and wrote a poignant piece that drew incredibly on her real life, so she gets that piece of it now. Also, we had kids pretty early into our marriage. I believed two things: I wasn’t going to get as much work as I would have liked done and kids wouldn’t understand the closed door of “daddy’s working”. The reality was that I produced more words than I ever had before, just in shorter chunks as I was blogging up to six times a day (thousand plus word pieces typically). And the kids amused each other all I had to do was be in the room. If my wife was home and I was sequestered away writing, I had an open-door policy where anyone could interrupt to chat with me. These strategies were okay, but far from perfect. There came a tipping point where I had to either change how I did things or lose everything. So I reprioritized my life around my family rather than the writing. Ironically, I ended up producing more this way. My family got the “best” slice of my time rather than my leftovers. My writing schedule was shaped around them and their hours. So I wrote either before they got up or after they went to bed or while I was at work (more on this later). On weekends, my wife would take the boys on “adventures” so that I could have Saturday afternoons to write. [Also, real money started coming in for my efforts. This alleviated much of the tension.] This strategy I call “Bring Them on Board.” Meaning, there was a family meeting where I wanted their input on how best to carve out my time with them to accommodate my writing. They came up with that schedule. This strategy has continued to evolve and broaden. My wife in a lot of ways has become my business manager. She tracks the money (who owes me what and how much) and I run potential jobs/events by her so she can ask the question “is what [I am] being paid worth the time spent away from family?” We use Google calendar as a diagnostic tool to measure the state of my hypomania (all my deadlines and meetings are calandered and color coordinated so when my schedule vomits the rainbow, we can see that I’m ramping up). She also helps me throw my writing convention, Mo*Con. As far as a day job goes, when I have one (and I currently do as a middle school teacher…ironically, this happened because the school so loved me as a sub when I was shadowing my kids through school) I do most of my writing there. It started when I worked for two and a half years in a sales job (my first 9-5 gig). My manager and I came to an agreement that I would use my breaks and lunch to write. So I’d plan my writing the night before then hit the ground running during those times. Basically, I learned to do writing “sprints.” It so changed my method and output, I’ve kept it up ever since. My oldest son sometimes “agents” me, negotiating my appearance fees since it involves them taking me away from him. My youngest often claims that he’s giving me space to write, which is usually code for “I’ll be playing video games.” But I would go to their schools to do talks or run workshops/residencies or substitute teach to spend more time together. I would work them into projects (my middle grade detective novel series is basically a chronicle of my kids’ antics in school). I recently worked my youngest’s videogame playing into a story as we played games together and called it “research.” And, when possible, the family goes to cons with me (me and the boys did a “guys road trip” to one of my speaking engagements and my wife went on a cruise with me where I was teaching. Again, nothing like her enjoying cruise life to relieve tensions and for her to encourage me to write more so we can do that again).

Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?

Maurice: Octavia Butler, Walter Mosley

Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?

Maurice: These days, jazz. Bitches Brew (Miles Davis) is getting me through my space opera.

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

Maurice: 6 months

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Maurice: I write longhand.

How many books have you written?

Maurice: Twenty. Have 12 published.

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

Maurice: People. My neighbors in community mostly.

What have you found to be the best marketing practices for your books to the black community?

Maurice: Working in the community

What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?

Maurice: A play for the Indiana Repertory Theater, work for Dungeon & Dragons, a Black Panther short story. Unfadeable, my second middle grade book. Sweep of Stars, book one of my Afrofuturist space trilogy.

Thank you Maurice, for your time. How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?

www.mauricebroaddus.com

The Best is Yet to Come, the New Short Story Collection by John F. Allen Cover Reveal!

TheBestIsYetToCome_FinalRev_1200X867

Seventh Star Press is proud to reveal the new cover art by Enggar Adirasa for the new short story collection The Best is Yet to Come by John F. Allen! A Kindle pre-order window is now open, so reserve a copy today! The Best Is Yet to Come will be available in print and eBook formats on October 17th!

Pre-order the Kindle Version at the link below!

Kindle Pre-order Link for The Best Is Yet to Come

Synopsis of The Best Is Yet to Come:

Featuring ten stories collected for the first time ever, The Best Is Yet to Come, presents nine years of creativity spun from the mind of John F. Allen. Action and adventure are ever present in these stories, but be prepared for some drama, horror, fantasy and science fiction as well.

This volume includes a holiday story, “An Ivory Christmas,” featuring Ivory Blaque, Allen’s bold heroine from his acclaimed urban fantasy series The God Killers, and the center of his literary universe, The Ivoryverse.

Also included are:

“Forest of Shadows” the debut of a fabled, ancient warrior named, Jaziri, Prince of Kimbogo Province.

You may want to think twice before venturing out into the dark woods of rural Indiana in “The Legend of Matchemonedo.”

A young, set assistant of a 50’s science fiction serial gets to embark on the journey of a lifetime in “The Adventures of Star Blazer.”

A young woman in late 1970’s Indianapolis, learns to be careful what you wish for in “HoodRatz.”

When a woman struggles to care for her ailing father, she discovers the truth behind her troubled past in “The Sweetest Autumn.”

Long ago, a noble samurai finds forbidden love with a beautiful, ebony skinned princess in “The African Princess.”

A mysterious, military operative is sent on a covert mission in Egypt, when he encounters an alien monster bent on revenge in “Lazarus.”

Forty years ago, a young boy discovers that family means everything in “The Chocolate Malt.”

The Best is Yet to Come also features the special bonus short story, “Witch Way is Up.”

Explore the words of John F. Allen today!

John F. Allen to attend Imaginarium 2018

mainpromobanner-1_facebookpage

Greetings All!

This coming weekend I will be attending Imaginarium 2018.

And though my books will be available at the Seventh Star Press table, I’ll be more mobile. Unlike Imaginariums of the past, I intend on focusing the majority of my time attending workshops/panels and participating in panels of my own. But, FEAR NOT TRUE BELIEVERS, I’ll still visit the Dealer Room, but this year I want to participate more.

Imaginarium has become a great convention for networking and learning more about craft. It’s also a venue for veteran author friends to come together in a safe and friendly environment to mentor new and up and coming writers.

So, if you’re olanning to attend Imaginarium 2018, check out the panels I’m scheduled to sit on and of course stop by the Seventh Star Press booth and pick up a copy of my work.

IMAGINARIUM PANEL SCHEDULE

Fri, 5:30 pm in the Derby Room.
Defining Urban Fantasy Today –
 The definition of urban fantasy has evolved and broadened over the years, and this panel will discuss where that definition is today.  The panel will explore the elements of urban fantasy for those interested in writing in the genre. Fri 5:30pm in room Derby. Panelist inlcude: (Mod- Megan McIntosh) John F. Allen, S.C.Houff, Michael Williams, Nathan Day, Carma Haley Shoemaker

Fri, 8:00 pm in the Derby Room.
Superheroes and Villains in Writing –
Our panelists will discuss the elements needed for writing compelling superheroes and villains for today. Fri 8pm in room Derby. Panelist include: (Mod- Dan Jolley) Eric Moser, John F. Allen, Michele Lee, Tim Waggoner, Victoria Escobar

Sat, 5:45 pm in the Appalachian Room.
Marvel Vs. DC – A Face Off! – A fun “showdown” panel where our panelists (and audience) can debate and compare the worlds of Marvel and DC!
Panelist include: (Mod- Tony Acree) Leah Pugh, Sara Marian, John F. Allen, Brian Hatcher, R.J. Sullivan, Brandon Aten

 

AUTHOR JOHN F. ALLEN TO APPEAR AT BOOK SIGNING FOR SUBMERGE: ECHO 51 NOVELIZATION BASED ON THE FILM BY DEMETRIUS WITHERSPOON

Hey everyone BIG NEWS! Last year I authored the novella length, novelization of Submerge: Echo 51, a Science Fiction film by Demetrius Witherspoon. The novella debuted on October 6, 2017 at the Imaginarium Convention sponsored by Seventh Star Press, and is now available on Amazon or through me by direct mail.
To those who live in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas, on Saturday November 18, 2017, I will be featured at a book signing, movie screening and Director/Cast Q&A for the Submerge: Echo 51 film & novelization (see below for details).

Location: The Box – Media Production Space
1413 E Riverside Dr.
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202
Who: Meet Submerge Echo 51 Director Demetrius LaSean Witherspoon, Novelization Author John F. Allen, Actress Grace Carlton, Paisley Blackburn, Amy Thompson, Actor Brad Clark, Makeup Artist/ Submerge 51 Model Rachel Madison, Submerge Concept/ Book Cover Artist Bart Willard
Time: 2pm-4pm

2pm – Book Signing and Photographs with Actors in full Costume

4pm – Showing of the film: Submerge: Echo 51 and Q&A

Check it out on:

#getsubmerged #submergeecho51 #scifibooksigning
http://www.dventertainmentpictures.com
http://www.johnfallenwriter.com

Free your schedule, mark this day on your calendars!
Remember, TBIYTC!!!