Monday, May 4, 2015

Writing While Black

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is, why do you write fantasy. Let me back for a little bit. If you know anything about me I am a proud and loud social justice warrior. I believe that all people should be free and equal, in all manner of things. And I am not afraid to let the world know that.

In my interactions with people I often find myself in discussions and debates about the state of and the treatment of African Americans. I am black and I am American so that is the black experience that I know best. When I talk about these things I get assertive and passionate. After all I live as a black American ever day of my life. And people wonder why I don’t write literary fiction or even non-fiction about the black experience.

The first reason I give is that the easiest thing to do is to write what you know and more importantly, what you love. I love fantasy. I know fantasy. I love every thing about fantasy. The dragons, the elves, the vampires, the slayers, the necromancers. Every thing. Well not Twilight or the Mortal Instruments, but that is a different post entirely, but everything else I like. I live and breath fantasy, even when I try to write a pure mystery the killer turns about to be an elf with a raging candy cane addiction. Seriously my first NaNoWriMo story was the Candy Cane Murders. Don’t worry that manuscript will never see the light of day again.

Second if I wrote a searing commentary on black america under the guise of a lit fic novel it would get shelved in the African American section and no one save a handful of black people would read it. One of the best selling books in the African American fiction section, The Coldest Winter Ever has only sold a million copies. I know that a million copies is a great number, a number that any author would be proud to have but I have bigger dreams. I think its great that libraries and bookstores have an African American fiction section, but I think its become a dumping ground for any book with a black protagonists. CWE is a crime drama and if it had be shelved in that section along side Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Womens Murder Club it would have gotten better sales. I don’t want my book to end up in the Land of MisShelves Novels, lonely and forgotten.

Thirdly, I just want my books to entertain the masses. Yes in real life I am educator, not by trade but by passion. I am a tutor and a mentor, but as my grown up job I want to be a writer. A children’s, YA and TV writer if you want specifics. I will use my real life to educate people about the black experience I will use my books to entertain.

Not every black author feels the way that I do, so understand this is a deeply personal choice for me and in the years to come, as I get older and wiser, I may change my mind. For now I will write my fiction with a healthy dose of fantasy.