As it relates to your earliest memory as an artist, did Art choose you or did you choose Art? The Art of writing that is, explain.
Good question. I think the art chose me. As I look back I’ve been writing of and on since the fifth grade. I never thought of it as a talent. It was just something I did when I felt like doing it.
Who or What were your earliest inspirations and present influences that inspire your art/comics/writing?
I read non-fiction, mostly history, until high school. The first writer to catch my interest was James Baldwin. I love the way he could say so much with so few words. My second inspiration was Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was the first time I read a science fiction novel where the world building felt real. It became my standard for world building. The book that made me think what I write was possible is Segu by Maryse Conde. It was the first fiction book I read using African history as the backdrop.
Charles R. Saunders is my most important present influence. We met online shortly after I finished Meji and we’ve been friends ever since. If I’d read Imaro when it was originally released I probably would have tried my hand at writing Sword and Soul years ago.
How important is it to study your art and how do you approach keeping your skills sharp?
It’s very important to study your art. I took two writing courses when I decided I wanted to write, and I’m constantly reading. Some authors I read not because I particularly like their work, but I read them because the writer is considered good and I want to figure out why. As far as my skills, I write every day. I think that’s the key.
What are some books that are on your personal shelf?
Wow. That’s a long list. I just completed The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabelle Walker, a book about the Great Migration. Fiction wise I have all of Charles R. Saunders
books, the first two books of the Acacia trilogy by David Anthony Durham, and Dances with Dragons by George R.R. Martin waiting in the wings. And a slew of books by my independent writing friends.
Are there any titles that you are currently reading?
I’m currently reading the Tarik al Fattash
, a history of the rule of Askia Muhammad, one of the rulers of the Songhai Empire. I’m also reading Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman
, an excellent alternate history/steampunk/horror mash up by Balogun.
Give us a description of your Creative Lab or Studio where you work and how is the environment a co-creator or partner in ultimately what you create?
I write either in my study or at the kitchen table. It’s nothing fancy. I don’t need much, just a clear space and some good music.
If Art can save the world, then that makes the Artist a Superhero; and every Hero needs theme music. Name the song or songs that you listen to for inspiration as you create?
My musical inspirations change based on what I’m writing. I have a jazz playlist that I usually put on when I’m writing in my study. It includes songs by Herbie Hancock, Esmerelda Spalding, Al Jarreau, and others. I’ve recently been checking out the soundtrack to Inception, and I love me some reggae.
What techniques & tools do you employ to bring ideas to life?
My ideas come from many sources, but I think the main two sources are history and music. I’m constantly reading history, which has been a gold mine for many writers. I love music, and sometimes the mood and lyrics of a song will spark an image that I’ll build a story around. In general, my Sword and Soul stories are inspired by history while most of my science fiction is inspired by music.
How would you describe your writing style or artistic technique?
When I decided to write I wanted my style to be exciting and efficient. I like books where the writer describes things by using the right words, not by being verbose. I also wanted my books to be action filled. Based on the feedback I’ve seemed to have accomplished my goal. I still have a ways to go yet.
In terms of personal projects, what is the Flagship creative project for your company and how did you come up with the idea for the concept?
Meji started it all. I had the idea for the book for years but it didn’t really come together until I got deep into my research of African history and culture. I wanted to write a book that celebrated these things while also displaying the beauty and diversity of the continent. This book set the tone for everything I’ve written since.
What are some of the most immediate follow-up projects?
I’m currently working on Woman of the Woods
, which will be my first Sword and Soul novel with a female main character. I’m also working on my first publishing only book, Once Upon A Time In Afrika
, a Sword and Soul novel by Balogun. I’m also laying the groundwork to release Charles R. Saunders first new trilogy since Imaro and Dossouye, titles Abengoni
The Griots Anthology
had been very successful. I released it last year and it has become a flagship for Sword and Soul. If anyone was to ask you, ‘what is sword and soul?’ you could give them a copy of Griots. We’re currently working on Griots: Sisters of the Spear
, an anthology of Sword and Soul stories featuring women of color. Our sisters have been seriously neglected in this industry, so this is our way of giving them their recognition and respect. The stories have been selected; the anthology should be available early 2013.
Talk about the difficulties of being an independent artist and the hurdles you’ve overcome to produce and publish your own works.
The biggest challenge of independent writing is that you have to do everything yourself. You have to handle it like a business, which it is. Everything is a challenge; writing, artwork, editing, printing, etc. I had my own business a while ago so I have some experience at this. It’s been a challenge but it’s working out well.
What is your preferred medium for your stories; comic book, graphic novel, animation or movie?
My preferred medium is novel. I’d love to see my works 3D animated, and a movie would be great, too. Graphic novel would probably be my last choice, but in terms of cost it’s probably the most realistic.
Here’s a fun question. 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?
I can’t answer that one. I don’t have an interest in doing that. I’d rather concentrate my energy on creating new and hopefully unique characters.
For the independent artist, how has technology affected the way you are able to do business or make progress on your art? For example, but not limited to: Finding Clients? Artistic Collaboration? Getting work done?
Today’s technology is essential to what I do. Ten years ago it wouldn’t have been possible. Print on Demand, social networking and e-books have leveled the playing field and freed writers from the limits of mainstream publishing. I think the internet has been the greatest tool for not only selling and promoting my books, but for also finding and collaborating with other artists.
Here are two questions about event presentations, conferences, fairs etc.
What are the conferences that are on your yearly schedule to attend?
I attend OnyxCon
every year. I’m looking to expand to other conferences once my sales get more consistent. I have my eyes set on Dragoncon.
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?
I think it’s important to attend these events. You expose yourself to potential customers and you get immediate feedback on your work.
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?
I think it goes both ways. I think art imitates and influences life. I believe this very strongly. Many artists and writers accept this and I think they create art for that very purpose. Other artists create for themselves and don’t concern themselves with the influence their work might have. I write for myself, but I also write to create positive images of black men and women with a sense of pride and place.
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?
I think art is vitally important. Children must have a venue to explore and express their imaginations. That’s where progress comes from. Without the fresh imagination of youth there is no change.
Whether it’s the concept of Six Degrees of Separation or Its A Small World, the culture to are smaller than outsiders know. To bridge the gap between yourself and your peers, do you belong to any artist groups or forums, if so which ones?
I’m a very active member of the Black Science Fiction Society. I also participate on my own social site, Wagadu. I spend a fair amount of time at SFreader, Blacksuperhero, and of course, Facebook. It’s essential as an independent writer to participate on social networking sites. It’s how you get the word out.
Now to bridge the gap between your art and the public at large, 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?
My site is www.mvmediaalt.com
. This is where you can find and purchase my books. My social venue is www.wagadu.ning.com
. This where I post stories, share ideas and fellowship with Sword and Soul fans. I’m also on Twitter (Milton Davis @thegriot) and Facebook.
What impact would you like your art to make on the world?
Wow, that’s a deep question. I have modest expectations. I just hope people enjoy my writing, and that people find it positive uplifting.
What are your favorite quotes or philosophies of life that help you improve as a person or artist?
My favorite quote? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I think it’s the perfect quote that explains how to deal with big challenges. Take it step by step, a little at a time.
That’s it for now and If you or any visual artists or writers would be interested in an interview, be sure to contact me via one of the links below:
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