Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday's Children 7.18.13: Inspired by Diversity! An interview with Craig L. Gidney

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!
A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!
Today's post brings you my very first blog interview with author Craig L. Gidney.

 Allow me to detail how Mr. Gidney and I became acquainted.

 Approximately two weeks ago, I became rather interested in observing a movement that has been gaining steam in the writing community.
The issue of Diversity in YA literature.
Needless to say I am a strong advocate for those who would bring characters of various minorities, sexual orientations, and cultures onto the Middle Grade/Young Adult stage.
Not only did I begin to examine my own work, but I begin to notice within the Twitterverse (where I find 99% of my writing/publishing contact) I was one of a remarkably few people of color.
Then I realized that I was the only person of color that I was aware of writing Middle Grade fantasy.
One step further: I was the only homosexual, person of color that was writing Middle Grade fantasy.

Surely this couldn't be, I thought. I certainly couldn't be the only one.

Thankfully (as is often the case) I was right - I wasn't the only one.
I put out a call on Twitter seeking anyone that was aware of a male, homosexual, person of color who writes speculative fiction for Middle Grade, Young Adult...and New Adult.
It took 5 1/2 hours, and many kind strangers Re-Tweeting - but I was finally directed to Craig L. Gidney.

My joy couldn't have been contained.

I found his work on Amazon, I found his Twitter, and from there I made my way to his website.
As the discussion and search for authentic Minority characters intensifies throughout the publishing industry - I fear we may forget that the pool of Minority authors is just as small as the one for Minority characters.
I e-mailed Mr. Gidney. I was hungry for the world to see and to know someone like him, who is - ultimately - someone like me (except Mr. Gidney's prose has a magical, compelling quality that I will never master).
In my e-mail, I asked Mr. Gidney for an interview and he graciously accepted.

Ladies and gentlemen on the other side of the screen please give Mr. Gidney a warm welcome....

The obligatory first question an author is always asked: What brought you to writing? How did it begin for you?

It started in the second grade. I was still learning how to print letters, and we were given a class assignment to write a story. Ostensibly, this assignment was to demonstrate our vocabulary and spelling. For me, though, it was a springboard to create. I think that long lost work was about mermaids. I filled about 10 sheets of that gray, wide-lined paper they had back then. I remember one of the teachers told me, “You will be a writer when you grow up.”

As an aspiring author the publication journeys of authors are a keen interest of mine. What circumstances led you to the method of publication you chose?

Social media was a key component. I kept a Livejournal account, and made the acquaintance of Steve Berman of Lethe Press. He mentioned that he had an anthology he had been editing, called So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction, and he announced a call to submit on his Livejournal. My short story collection arose from that initial contact.

In your new novel, Bereft, Rafael "Rafe" Fannen is a young boy at a religious school struggling with a dark secret about his identity. What was your inspiration for this story?

My older brother had a book in his room, called Black Skin, White Mask by Franz Fanon. The cover of the book a picture of a black man wearing a white half-mask. That photograph terrified me! Later, when I was in college, I read some Fanon, and as a response wrote a draft of the story that would eventually become the novel. Rafe’s last name, Fannen, is a direct homage to Fanon. The novel is opened up with a quote from a William Blake poem that gave the novel its title.

Now, it's a very crude, broad-stroke faux synopsis to say"a young boy at a religious school with a dark secret about his identity." Bereft is so much more than that; the layers and nuance wrapped in your lyrical prose are magnificent. From your perspective what sets Bereft apart from the other Young Adult LGBT fiction out there?

Bereft is a novel that’s “in conversation” with a number of cultural narratives and tropes. Rafe deals with some heavy issues through his rich inner life, which reference everything from fantasy literature to Christian theology. I put a lot of work into the subtext; as readers we absorb messages subliminally, so it was important to me to be aware of that. Rafe navigates a world where his mother’s Angels battle against his father’s African masks. Where the Virgin Mary is also Lady Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings. The symbolism in the book was carefully crafted.

You've mentioned the importance of Young Adult readers seeing themselves in the books they read. I heartily agree! What book were you reading when you first saw yourself? much of you is in Rafe?

Andre Norton’s novel Lavender-Green Magic was very important to me. It was one of her YA novels, about a black family who move to a New England town. The kids find an enchanted pillow that transports them to Colonial Times where they end up in the midst of a power struggle between two witches. I was simply enthralled that she included black people in her work.

As for the second part of the question, there is a lot of Rafe in me. In addition to the identity issues, I did go to a religious school, was bullied, and read lots of books. Where Rafe and I differ is that both of my parents were together, stable, and upper middle class.

Can you describe your writing process? How do you "get in the zone"?

I brainstorm on paper. This is where plot points, images, and various scenes are dreamed up. I have several notebooks filled with ideas. When I compose the text, I listen to music, mostly songs without words in the ambient genre. I always have my brainstorm notebooks open, in case an idea for a later section pops into my head. At the end of the writing session, I jot down where I finished and what more needs to be written.

What are three professional goals you hope to accomplish?

I don’t have three professional goals, only one. That’s to be able to write full-time. It’s become increasingly difficult for freelancers. Writing does not pay the bills, and there are horror stories about best-selling authors dying penniless or being unable to get health insurance.

We get a taste of your vivid, fantastical imagination in your collection of short stories Sea, Swallow Me. Do you plan on returning to the fantasy realm in the near future, or can we expect more poignant LGBT contemporary stories? Both?

I am currently working on two fantasy projects. One is a magical-realist novel that may or may not be YA. The second thing I’m working on is a themed collection of fantasy/magical realist/horror short stories that focus on African American characters.

In your blog you mentioned you grew up as a "geek". As a sci-fi fantasy nerd myself I know that Once a Geek, Always a Geek. What are some things you fan-boy over?

I am mostly a book geek, so when a favorite author comes out with a book, I get weak. I also am a music geek. I go to shows when I can afford to. I’ve become more of a film buff, and like everything from angst-ridden indies, cult classics and Hollywood blockbusters. I want to see Pacific Rim so much!

Top three authors (living or dead) you would have over for dinner?

I would invite the fantasy author Tanith Lee, who has been really supportive of me. I managed to get a couple of her obscure books back in print. James Baldwin would be interesting—I understand he was quite the character. And Toni Morrison—she’s so eloquent. I imagine that I would silently eat my meal (at the French Laundry; always dream big, I say) in quiet awe.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Remember that you love writing. Most likely, you won’t be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. You will end up on the midlist or published by a small press, and you will collect rejection slips (or emails) more than you will acceptances. But you will persist, because you must tell stories.

What is the most magical, extraordinary, or exciting thing ever to happen to you?

Picture it: a Brazilian beach, surrounded by surf and sand. The wild sea crashing against a rock where I was standing. An unbridled pony, nibbling beach grass. A sky the blue color that seems to only exist in fairytales. I was alone but I felt euphoric. I felt a mystical connection to everything.

Thank you so much for your time Mr. Gidney, I would have a thousand other questions, but I only allow myself twelve (it's one of my magic numbers). It is my sincerest hope that your audience continues to expand.

For those of you curious to read Mr. Gidney's mesmerizing work you can read one of his short stories, "Magpie Sisters", here. Be aware that Bereft is available on Amazon, and Kindle, it's definitely worth your time. Keep Mr. Gidney in your thoughts (and on your bookshelf) as he is definitely an author to watch!

Until we meet again!

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  1. Great advice for aspiring authors-do it because you love it, not because you expect to hit it big.

  2. What an awesome interview! It was truly an inspiring and refreshing read. Thank you Colten and Mr. Gidney for taking the time to share this with us.