I first knew Troy as a reader of my Shifters Novel series, then as the author of a incisive blog on all things geek culture. In the past couple of years, Troy has also become a published author, with shorts stories in several notable collections. I wanted to interview Troy because of his perspective as an author at the beginning of his career and, as usual, he has a lot of smart thoughts to share.
You’ve acquired several pretty impressive credits to your name over the last two years, with publications in Long Hidden and Griots: Sisters of the Spear. Can you tell us a little about your stories in these collections?
No problem. A Subtle Lyric, my story in Griots: Sisters of the Spear, was my first published story. It deals with motherhood, sisterhood, and loss. In it, a girl who takes over her mother’s farm finds out some secrets about her mother’s previous life when someone from her past shows up again. I like to think of it as my first “adult” story, because it deals with my first love–writing Fantasy–and it handles it maturely. There are no Orcs or monsters, and barely any men in the story. It was also my first time writing women as main characters. I also got to play around with a different magical system in it, so I was happy to be able to put all of that together in one story, and even more happy that it got published.
A Score of Roses, my second published story, came about because I really wanted to examine how an immortal person of color, specifically a black person, would deal with living during a time where black people were oppressed. This turned into a love story, somehow, with elves and earth magic and a baby, but I’m not mad at that. It was a difficult one to write because all of the stories for Long Hidden were supposed to have some sort of historical basis, and I almost got totally distracted doing research for the story instead of writing it.
As someone who is at the beginning of his career, do you have a strategy for publication? How are you finding your opportunities?
I subscribe to the George R.R. Martin newbie strategy, which I think he developed from someone else’s rules. He said that he used to submit his stories anywhere he could, and if they were rejected, he’d turn around and submit them somewhere else almost as soon as they came back to him. That’s pretty much what I’m doing now: keeping tabs on markets that would like to take a risk on my work, and sending them my stories.
I was actually invited to submit to Long Hidden, so it’s not something that I sought out myself. Also, my writing friends are really good about sending interesting opportunities to me. But, I do have a SFWA shortlist of places that I would like to have stories pop up at, and every so often I shoot some work their way. So far, though, that hasn’t worked out all that well.
I’m starting with short stories and working my way up to shopping a novel around somewhere. The short stories give me time and space to work on my novel and, also, I’m kind of terrible at sticking to one idea when another one pops up in my head, especially if I’ve reached a kind of stagnation in the initial project. But I’m plugging away at the novel still. I hope to be finished with a draft by the time the year’s out. Cross your fingers for me.
Your story on Fabella Meats is, to be frank, a pretty cool digital comic. Is this something that you see yourself doing more of (especially since the comic is incomplete)?
Actually, the second part of the story is (sort of) available. The artist (the amazing Bryan Rollins) had it printed up and bound to give away at a comic convention in my hometown. It’s not available online yet, but it does exist. We are also working on finishing the story, so yes, there will be more of it.
I actually got my start in comics. My background is in visual art, and when I was in high school I was doing a weekly horror strip that had, like three readers. I love comics, still do to this day, so if I were to get an opportunity to do more comics writing, I wouldn’t turn it down.
Your blog is pretty critical of the status quo (in terms of races, geographies, rules) in the fantasy genre. What drives your critique?
My father’s views have a lot to do with why i’m so critical of accessibility of genre fiction, and, lately, nerd culture in general. He would always scold me for reading comics because there were never any black people in them. His constant questioning, “where the black folks at?” started to really resonate with me as I got deeper and deeper into comics, sci-fi and fantasy, and video games. There really weren’t any people of color anywhere in any of my favorite works. This actually made me stop doing a lot of the things that I enjoyed when I got to high school and college, because I felt so alienated from them.
I remember when I reawakened, though. First, being exposed to Octavia Butler in an African American literature class in college rekindled my love for speculative fiction. Then, after college, I picked up David Anthony Durham’s Acacia at the library. I was shocked at how deftly he handled having brown and black people everywhere in his novel. I thought, “if he can do it, why can’t everyone else do it? Why is there no room for people like me in Fantasy?” This line of thought has evolved into, “why is there no room for people like me in nerd culture,” but it’s basically the same thing. I want to make sure that, if there are kids of all races and genders and religions and ability levels who have a budding interest in fantasy and sci-fi, they have a safe place to nurture and cultivate that interest, using stories that consider them, stories that speak to them, and stories that feature people who look like them.
Actually, I think we’re in a historical point in time. There are more thoughtful creators than ever and there are so many people who make no bones about supporting these creators. I make it a point to signal boost creators who are actively challenging the status quo in SF/F and in nerd culture in general. I think I said this on my blog a couple of weeks back, SF/F is not, and should not be, escape for only straight white men. We all deserve to have an escape.
This is my new favorite question to ask authors. What is the strangest thing that you’ve had to do or research in order to write your novels?
My novel in-progress has a woman who is somewhat of a hoodoo practitioner (magic from roots and herbs), and I’ve done a lot of looking into what different potions are made of and their desired effects. It’s amazing how different people have different conceptions of magic and what magic is supposed to do for them. It kind of helped me to realize that magic can be a lot more subtle and nuanced that throwing fireballs or telekinesis or things like that.
But the weirdest thing that I had to research for this was how to make a love potion. You need a lot of really…personal ingredients to make a potion that will ensure your true love doesn’t mistakenly fall in love with someone else. I actually considered ordering a book on the practice but decided against it. Other than that, I’ve had to research what gunshot wounds actually look like and people’s physical reactions to death for some of my stories. It’s sobering stuff. I’m actually starting to get sad now.
Any final advice for all of the NaNoWriMos or other final words?
I actually finished NaNoWriMo for the first time last year and I realized that NaNo is definitely a long game. It’s about building good habits and really learning how to silence your inner editor. Also, I learned that writing every day is really hard, and that even though everyone says that’s what you need to do, it’s not exactly true. You do need to write consistently, but it’s really up to you what that means. I write every other day, 4 days a week. The other 3 days I spend taking notes or revising the plan that I made for the month. Oh, and there’s another tip. It definitely helps to have a plan going into NaNoWriMo. A plot outline, a map, anything that gives you some sort of structure so that you’re not writing blind.
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**Leave a comment at the end to win a copy of the Long Hidden or Griots eBook and a copy of the Skinless or Interlopers eBook. Winner announced 12/1/14.**