Words of Wisdom
What inspired you to write your book?
I was a huge fan of the urban fantasy genre growing up, but never saw books with characters like me as the heroine. Or worse, the person who looked like me was the evil one, or a stereotyped caricature as a minor character. I never saw the issues that I faced in my daily life considered in, for example, what it might mean to be Black but also a wereleopard. It always seemed like discrimination against the supernatural was meant to be a stand-in for real-world racism, rather than considering what it would be like to be both marginalized in human form and supernatural. So I had these ideas swirling around all of that and when I moved to North Carolina I finally found my setting.
What is your writing process like?
I'm usually working on 3 books at any given time. They'll be in different stages -- writing one, a second with beta readers, a third with my editor or cover designer. When I'm drafting, I tend to get 20-40% in and throw out the outline because the characters have told me we're going somewhere else. It works out in the end
How many hours a day do you write?
Usually 1-2 hours per day. It increases as I get closer to the end of the book and get excited about finishing it. But that time might also be editing or other activities needed to get a book published.
What does literary success look like to you?
I'm still working on that! But impact and recognition are two components. Am I reaching people who haven't really seen themselves represented in the genres I write? Am I showing that self-published books can be as good as traditionally published? But then also, is that quality being recognized by reviewers, with awards, etc? Long-term, it'll look like being able to live off my writing, but I'm a ways out from that still. Mostly I love hearing from readers who feel the representation or see issues in a new way. Lastly, success looks like continuous improvement, making each book better than the last one.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Time. I work a full-time job in addition to writing part-time, and it can be a lot to manage. So both making time to write after work, but also making time to rest or exercise so I can refresh my brain.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Energize. I feel great when I get words down. Even if I don't feel like writing I'll sit down for 15 minutes as a compromise and then find that an hour has passed. Stories and characters keep filling my head and I need to get them out.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Writing is a valid job. I thought I had to stop writing and get a "real job" to qualify as a success in life. And yes, the day job pays the bills so that is important. But I feel more successful as an author than anything else and writing books is valuable even if it generally doesn't pay as well as other jobs.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Depending on the book I might do a little research before I start, but I've found it helps to get the story down and figure out where there are gaps to fill in later. Otherwise, it's easy to get stuck on learning all these details that might never get used. Since the Shadows of Otherside series is set locally, I spend time in local settings observing and capturing details of the area. There's also a lot of Googling. But I've also got a book set in ancient Egypt, and that's been a lot of book research.
What advice do you have for other Black writers?
There's a lot of talk about writing to market, but that has to be balanced with two considerations: is it authentic to your story, and what does that mean in a market and industry that has historically excluded Black voices? Writing authentically makes for a more powerful story. And we have the power to create a market with the new stories people crave -- look at the comments under any movie or TV reboot to see people calling for something fresh. We can be that something fresh.