Peace to all of my readers and followers! Today’s feature: Creator Spotlight – Valjeanne Jeffers, Fantasy/Horror Author. She is a prolific author so take a read and enjoy!
As it relates to your earliest memory as a writer? As a young girl I found reading, and later writing, to be an escape. I loved traveling into the worlds of fantasy, science fiction and horror. I also found Art to be a refuge from a world that is often cruel, even to a child. I read black literature from my family library, but also YA fiction; and devoured TV shows like Dark Shadows, Get Smart and Star Trek.
Who or What were your earliest inspirations and present influences that that inspire your writing? My earliest inspirations were James Baldwin, Richard Wright. Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, Ralph Ellison and Chester Himes. (I was reading some of them by age ten). I know that the magic realism of these literary giants, coupled with my taste for SF and fantasy, set the stage for my journey as a writer.
In my thirties, I fell in love with Stephen King and Tad Williams. Much later, I found a copy of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, and it changed my life. I discovered other black speculative fiction writers like: Tananarive Due, Charles Saunders and Brandon Massey. These authors— all of them—and so many more like: Carole McDonnell, B. Sharise Moore, Ronald Jones, Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis … have inspired me as a writer, and continue to inspire me.
How important is it to study your art and how do you approach keeping your skills sharp? Extraordinarily important. There are several things I do to keep my writing sharp. I read other authors. While I’m reading, I paying attention to their techniques, their styles. What they do that’s keeping my attention, that makes my say: Oh wow!
Also, once I’ve finished writing and typing a novel, I print it out and go through it line by line. I’m doing that now with my 9th book, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective II. Once I’m finished, I’m going to order a proof copy, and repeat the process. I always make sure to have fun when I do this. After all, if I don’t enjoy my book, then how can I expect my reader to?
What are some books that are on your personal shelf? United Souls, Fire and Desire,and Her Black Body I Treasure (Quinton Veal), Warmth (Sumiko Saulson), The Good House (Tananarive Due), Taste: An Erotic Fantasy Series (B. Sharise Moore), My Life as An Onion (Carole McDonnell), Imaro I, II, and III (Charles Saunders), The Talisman (Stephen King), Meji I and II (Milton Davis), The Chronicles of Harriet (Balogun Ojetade), The Face (Dean Lootz), Ultimatum Osguards (Malcolm Dylan Petteway), Recurrence Plot (Rasheedah Phillips), Queen of the Damned (Anne Rice), The Friday House and The Promise (Keith Gaston), The Adventures of Fortune McCall (Derrick Ferguson) and In the Dark (Brandon Massey). I just finished reading The Talisman ( I love to revisit books I’ve already read). And I’m currently reading Broken Glass (Thaddeus Howze) and The Sycthe (Balogun Ojetade).
Give us a description of your Creative Lab or Studio where you work. I usually work in my den with music or the TV playing. I’m a film junkie, and SF/horror movies stimulate my imagination. I’m also a music junkie. I’m addicted to all kinds of music. Blues, R&B, Jazz, Rock … I love them all! There have been many times that music helped me to break through my writer’s block.
Name the song or songs that you listen to for inspiration as you create? There are so many songs that I listen to when I’m writing. Many of my readers say that the get a strong 1960s-70s make love/not war vibe from my novels. And I love music from this era—songs like Ball of Confusion, I Been Watching You and Magic Carpet Ride. I have a lot of other favorites. I actually visualized the concluding fight scene to Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective: The Case of the Angry Ghost while listening to Rollin Crumblin. I’ve Been Loving You too Long, and Jelly, Jelly are two of my favorites when I’m writing love scenes. And King Britt’s Afro-futuristic Mix is my newest favorite—especially Soul Dhamma.
I have to find an artistic space, that fits the book I’m writing, to bring my characters to life. Usually this is a favorite place where I’ve lived or visited, like Los Angeles during the 1960s or San Francisco. Listening to music helps this process. It always depends, too, on the genre of novel I’m writing. For example, when I wrote Colony Ascension: An Erotic Space Opera, I found myself revisiting Star Trek episodes, and listening to Sun Ra.
How would you describe your writing style or artistic technique? I’ve coined one of my favorite author’s, Derrick Ferguson’s, description of my writing: “Imaginatively Experimental.” He also said I’m “fearless” when it comes to mixing horror, science fiction and fantasy—often with a touch of erotica. I also like to push the boundaries of my writing, try out new things. My Immortal series, my first series, is SF/fantasy. (Although, mind you, some readers have described it as both horror and erotic science fiction). The Switch II: Clockwork is steamfunk (my newest literary craze) and science fiction. And my newest series, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective, is steamfunk/horror.
What is the Flagship creative project for your company and how did you come up with the idea for the concept? My novel, Immortal, was the book that started everything rolling for me. Here’s the synopsis: Her dreams are terrifying. In the year of our One 3075 Tundra has been at peace for 400 years. There is no racism, poverty or war. Karla is a young, Indigo woman working as a successful healer. Yet she is tormented by lucid and erotic dreams. Dreams in which she is Immortal. Two men emerge from these phantasms: the first a Copper Shape shifter and the other a demon more dead than alive.
But when this creature appears in her apartment Karla realizes that they share a lust that may one day consume her. His will unlock a mystery. Joseph always dreamt of becoming an artist, a warrior…and a shape shifter. Now he’s dreaming of a sorceress who commands that he leave his homeland. Together they will journey to the end of time. To a nightmarish world of revolution and magic. But will they save Tundra or perish in it’s destruction?
I believe that the wolf is my totem animal, hence my writing about werewolves. Even before I started writing Immortal, I actually had scenes (some would call them visions) appear in my mind. As any committed author would tell you, a story will not leave you alone until you write it. Over a period of 3-4 years I wrote Immortal: A novel about folks gifted with supernatural powers who use them to change their world. It also a novel about the characters personal struggles. These are not your run of the mill werewolves (I introduce vampires in Immortal III: Stealer of Souls). These are revolutionary werewolves who time travel.
Immortal has become my signature piece. One of the things I love about Immortal is that, depending who reads it, readers describe it as horror, fantasy etc. My Immortal series is what landed me a spot in Sixty Black Women in Horror Fiction (edited by Sumiko Saulson).
After I released Immortal, I went on to create the series, which includes 3 more books: Immortal II: The Time of Legend; Immortal III: Stealer of Souls; and Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds. Immortal IV is actually a crossover novel; the characters from The Switch II: Clockwork and Immortal IV, meet up in both novels. I got this idea from Octavia Butler. She had a beautiful habit of overlapping different series and characters; as for example in her novels, The Pattern Master, Mind of my Mind and Clay’s Ark. We all, as writers, stand on the shoulders of giants like Octavia Butler.
Talk about the difficulties of being an independent artist and the hurdles you’ve overcome to produce and publish your own works. In the beginning there was the stigma of being self-published that I had to overcome. Today, self-publishing is becoming more and more acceptable. This is in part because of the brilliant works created by Indy authors; and also I think because of the growing number of traditionally published authors who are deciding to self-publish their own work.
But there is also, and this a constant, the fact that as a self-published author you have to do everything yourself: marketing, finding an editor, cover art, etc. It can be overwhelming. I’ve learned to manage my time in order to get this stuff done. I have been blessed with a fantastic cover artist, Quinton Veal, who’s also a writer. So, each time I finish a book, all I have to is tell him what I want. He’s my fiancée too, and we’re on the same wavelength. Sometime, I feel like all I have is think about an image and he creates it.
What is your preferred medium for your stories; comic book, graphic novel, animation or movie? I love all of the above. I cut my teeth on Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman comics. I also grew up reading Conan the Barbarian, and other graphic novels. But my preferred medium is the paperback. Recently, I’ve released Immortal and Immortal II as audio books (I love these too). I plan to release Immortal III as an audio book in 2016.
Name a mainstream project/character or an independent project and/or character that you’d love to work on or revamp and what would you do to put your twist on it? It’s funny you asked that. One of my favorite writers, Keith Gaston, is working on the next book in his fantasy series. He’s invited me to work with him, and I said I be delighted to. I love his work! I plan to bring a very magical, feminine voice into the mix. That’s all I can say for now because the project is hush, hush.
For the independent artist, how has technology affected the way you are able to do business or make progress on your art? Technology has really impacted and improved the self-publishing experience. There is so much talent out there—artists, graphic artists, writers. Not to mention how easy it is to package and market your product. It’s just very time consuming because as I said, you have to do it all yourself.
I’ve been published in seven anthologies, the most recent one is The City (edited by Milton Davis) a Cyberfunk anthology; and two issues of Genesis Science Fiction Magazine as a result of collaborations with other self-published authors. Then of course there’s my ongoing collaborations with my fabulous cover author, Quinton Veal. Quinton and I are also co-editing Scierogenous: An Erotic Science Fiction Anthology which will be released in 2016.
I’m also one of the screen writers for 7Magpies, a black horror film anthology created and produced by Lucy Cruell. I’m working with a fantastic group: Tananarive Due, Sumiko Saulson, Linda Addison, Eden Royce, Crystal Connor, and Paula Ashe (writers); and Lucy Cruell, Rae Dawn Chong, Moesha Bean, Lary Love Dolly, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nicole Renee, Robin Shanea (directors).
What are the conferences that are on your yearly schedule to attend? I do plan on attending the State of Black Science Fiction Society Convention (SOBScicon) in 2016. Another event I’d love to attend, if it’s held in 2016, is FAMU’s Black to the Future. I presented at this event this year, and I had ball! I actually got a chance to meet the famed civil rights lawyer, John Due (Tananarive Due’s father) and Walter Mosley; and I hung out with an awesome group of writers: Tananarive Due, Cerece Murphy, Milton Davis, Penelope Flynn, and William Hayashi.
What advice do you give to aspiring artists of all mediums about the importance of events and how do you prepare to maximize your potential at these fairs? As an author, attending events and Cons is super important. It gives writers a chance to get their name and books out there, to connect with readers, and other writers. In short, it’s an excellent opportunity for exposure. My advice to aspiring authors is to always take books to these events, and to always prepare in advance for presentations, speeches etc.
On the idea of Art Imitates Life or Life Imitates Art, is the role of Art in human existence a catalyst for behavior and community building or is Art a mirror to reflect the world of what was and what is? As an artist, I believe it is our responsibility to be socially conscious, and to whatever we can to move our corner of the world forward. That is both our burden and our gift. Such has been the role of the artist since time immemorial. Each of us has our own unique voice, our own unique space, with which to do this. Science Fiction/fantasy authors, I believe have even more freedom because we’re not bound by the laws of physical reality. We can build fantastic worlds. We can the build the worlds we like to see, or make a prophecy about what we may come.
Art is life. And writing is freedom.
Due to budget cuts for schools, classes and after-school programs, primarily in black and Latino communities, the youth are not getting exposed or are exposed to very little physical education and the arts. How important do you feel the arts are to the lives of the youth?
Never underestimate the power of dreaming. As I first said in an interview with BlackFaery (UbatiMweze mythwhispering): 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.
As parents, we must bridge the gaps when schools fail our children. This means collecting books for your own home library, and taking your child to museums when you have time. We must help our children to dream.
Do you belong to any artist groups or forums, if so which ones? Here are the links to the ones where I’m most active:
Better in The Dark https://www.facebook.com/groups/1586189398327285/
The State of Black Science Fiction Society https://www.facebook.com/groups/blackscifi/
Black Science Fiction Society http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com
Give the name and address of your sites and forums where people can see your creativity and how people can get in contact with you for commissions and/or to follow your work?
Here’s my site where you can preview or purchase my books: www.vjeffersandqveal.com
You can also email me or Quinton from this site and subscribe to our mailing list.
What impact would you like your art to make on the world? I’d like for my art to change my corner of the world. To inspire people to change something—anything—in a positive direction. And I’d like for readers, after reading my books, to feel optimistic, and to say, “That book was out-a-sight! I really dug it!”
What are your favorite quotes or philosophies of life that help you improve as a person or artist? Audre Lorde, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other peoples’ fantasies and eaten alive.
Audre Lorde, from Sister Outsider, “Your silence will not protect you.”
Dr. Masters (character) from the show, Masters of Sex, “Love is that which carves the lines and grooves. It is the curvature of our desire.”
Joseph (character) from my first book, Immortal, “Man leave the past in the past. That’s where it belongs. The trouble with addicts is that they carry bad memories around with them― like old luggage. And in that luggage that’s where they carry their blueprint for living. You got to decide what’s worth keeping, and then set the rest of it on the curb for the garbage.”
Is there anything else? I’d like to thank Ced Pharaoh, one fabulous author, for interviewing me. I had a blast!
Thank you Valjeanne for your time! I appreciate it! Stay focus and continued success!
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