My First Radio Interview: The Last King
By A. Yamina Collins | December 15, 2013 No Comments
Wow. Feeling good. Just finished my first ever radio interview for my upcoming novel “The Last King.”
I was praying before the interview and practicing my lines. But I gotta admit, I feared I would bite the bust. The interview lasted 52 minutes and chatting with Ella D. Curry was a breeze. Wish I could link to the interview, and maybe later on I can. In the meantime, here is a written interview I did with Ella for her Black Pearls digital Magazine.
My novel will be out before the end of the year by the way. Take care, all.
Written Interview with Black Pearls Magazine:
BPM: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Yamina: I recall how and where. I was nineyears old, standing in my grandmother’s living room when I had a clear epiphany that I was going to be a writer someday. As for the how, I remember reading books like The Bluest Eye, The Turn of the Screw and To Kill a Mockingbird and thinking how stunning it was that those stories could move my soul. That’s what I want to be able to do as a writer; to move people with my words.
BPM: What does “challenge” mean to you? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yamina: Challenge means not writing the same kind of stories I tend to see in AfricanAmerican literature; specifically, I decided to write a different sort of black male character, one who had, in my opinion, a real inner life and one who was not a stereotype. I wanted to see a man like Gilead Knightly be a master and king, and I wanted to abandon any concept of black male bashing. This is not to say that Gilead does not have some major character flaws, because he does. But he is not a black male archetype.
It was also a psychological challenge to write the darkcolored girl as the beautiful love interest. You would think that as a black woman that would have been easy for me to do. Not so. A history of literature had conditioned me to think otherwise – or at least to give her light skin with straight hair. But I abandoned that model altogether because it’s been played out and I believe that it harms black women’s self-esteem.
BPM: Introduce us to your book and the main characters. What makes each one special? Do you have any favorites?
Yamina: The Last King is about a line of people who cannot die because their ancestors marched into theGarden of Eden and ate from the tree of life. God, however, considers this act, and the subsequent immortality that came with it, to be theft. He wants their immortality returned and he deals with their transgression by playing a cosmic sort of chess game with them – each individual Edenite has a Glitch that’s meant just for them. A Glitch is a human who acts as an agent to retrieve the stolen property of immortality and kill off the Edenite. But all The Edenite has to do in return is kill his or her Glitch, and the game is over. But there is a conflict: and Edenite’s Glitch is also their greatest love. Emmy, my female protagonist, is the Glitch for Gilead Knightly, the male protagonist.
But of all the two, is definitely my favorite. I love his complexity; in so many ways he is a torn man – he is in love yet hates that he is in love; he is a protector and as well as the man whom Emmy should fear. He is the antagonist and the protagonist both at the same time. He is, to me, a man of great contradictions, and I love that about him.
BPM: Why did you choose to write in your particular genre? If you write in more than one genre, how do you balance them?
Yamina: The Last King is a sciencefiction romance, but its location is rooted here on earth. I chose science fiction and romance because, as far as I am aware, we don’t have a lot of AfricanAmerican books that deal with these two genres in the same breath, let alone separately. The book also has a historical bent to it and I was fascinated by African history. The history of black people – Africans, African-Americans etc. – goes beyond us being slaves in America, entertainers or thugs, and through Gilead I wanted to start exploring those other parts of our heritage. So yes, I write in more than one genre – really four genres (religious, historical, science-fiction and romance). As to how I managed to balance the genres, ha! I am not sure that I have. It will be up to the readers to decide if I’ve done a good job of balance, I guess. We shall see.
BPM: How does your book relate to your present situation, education, spiritual practice or other life path?
Yamina: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” That’s a quote from proverbs 28: 18 in the King James versions. And that’s what I think the AfricanAmerican literature has been suffering from lately – vision of what we can be Caucasian authors let their children dream of being superheroes and princesses and the Harry Potter’s of the world. But much of our fiction, while not all bad, nonetheless keeps us confined to baby mama drama, hustlers, players and thugs – tons of stories filled with unending pain. But where are the heroes that inspire us? Where are the beautiful black women who get to be the love interest? Where are the kings and queens of old? Can’t a black male turn out to be the hero in the end? That’s the path I want to be on with my stories: now, don’t get me wrong – Gilead in particular is no saint, but he is on a journey to someplace great, I think. And that’s what I liked about him.
BPM: What drew you to tackle the questions or topics in The Last King?
Yamina: I, personally, have gotten tired of either reading slave narratives (though they do have their place in our world, so this is not to put them down – we do need them) ghetto lit stories, stories about bad black women and no-account black men. Yeah, I just got exhausted of it. I wanted to see black love written about , but one that jumped outside of the prisms of what we are used to hearing and seeing. And I wanted to address it from a fantasy perspective. I dig the world of fantasy. I think it can be fun and your characters get to be larger than life. And Gilead Knightly is definitely larger than life. I mean, the man keeps panthers with him in his bedroom, for crying out loud!
BPM: Does your faith or education inspire your writing?
Yamina: Absolutely. For example, I intentionally do not have my character’s curse or take God’s name in vain. I chose not to cross that line even though my main character hates God and is angry with him. I believe, as a Christian, I am not called to do those things, even in literature. So I have had to be real creative in how my characters vent their frustrations.
I also could not help but bring God into the story. He is literally the One behind this cosmic chess game that Gilead and Emmy must play with one another.
BPM: Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from your book?
Yamina: Ultimately, I hope readers get to enjoy a good story. Period. The Last King takes place in this narrow world that Gilead inhabits with his family and Emmy, in a sense, steps into. And I wanted to take readers along for that ride and help them begin to view AfricanAmerican characters outside of the usual stereotypes we are too often placed into. Please, no more mammies and Sapphires and Jezebels and brutes and minstrels with an updated face. I want readers to dream bigger.
BPM: What are your goals as a writer? Do you set out to educate? Entertain? Illuminate? Inspire?
Yamina: Ha, ha. Okay, I must admit that, as a writer, I dreams of writing The Great American Novel. Yes, I admit it. It’s a lofty dream, but it is a dream that inspires to want to be excellent, and not just run of the mill.
My other goals are to educate and inspire. Like I said in an earlier question, I intentionally created a dark-skinned girl as the love interest to a black man because I wanted to combat the same old-same old notion of what beauty is; and I wanted to combat the increasingly odd assumption that black love is a bad thing, or an unrealistic thing. Yes, I’ve been wanting to see more of such books. So I thought to myself ‘Well, I’ll start to be the change I want to see, I guess.”
BPM: How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books?
Yamina: I think they are both wonderful. Even as the world begins to discover the ease and accessibility of ebooks, I think print books will never go out of style. There is just something special about holding a print book in your hand and smelling those pages, and it can’t be duplicated with an e-book.
BPM: Do you think book sales are the only indicator of your success as a writer?
Yamina: Ha ha. Books sales are an indicator of whether a writer can quit her day job or not. So who doesn’t appreciate book sales? But I also think a larger indicator of success might be how much a writer influences other authors.
BPM: What are the most important responsibilities of a published author?
Yamina: I feel, in particular, that for AfricanAmerican authors we need to do more than just entertain. Our readers need inspiration. They need to know they can be and do great things. I think it’s our responsibility to rewrite the images that 400 years of black inferiority/white superiority have fed us.
BPM: A Legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another. Finish this sentence – “My writing offers the following legacy to future readers… ”
Yamina: “My writing offers the following legacy to future readers: flip the script; offer a new story about you that has not been written before. Yes, you can talk about the bad things, but always let the good outshine the bad, so that there will be an abundance of great stories about our people – so that generations down the line can aspire to heights of greatness! I admit I am a bit of dreamer, but what can I say?
BPM: What can we expect to see/read from you during the next stage of your career? Any series or new characters?
Yamina: The Last King is a two part book series. The first book will come out starting this December in 2013, and subsequent chapters will be released each month until December of next year. Readers can either purchase each release for .99 cents, or join the Amazon kindles series, and for 2.99 they will receive all eleven parts as they are released. After that, I begin work on Book II of The Last King. Yes, I do have other novels in the works – quite fun books they are – but I have to keep quiet on future projects. I am not giving my plots away.