|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.
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