Neesha Meminger has a great two-part interview with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich over at her blog—stop by and hear the rather profound reasoning behind 8th Grade Super Zero. Below is my interview with sci-fi writer and new publisher, Veronica Henry. Her anthology, Bloodlines, is available now and boasts contributors from across the African diaspora (and two five-star reviews so far!). I asked Veronica to share her motivation for sponsoring a short story contest for black writers across the globe:
VH: For many years, I identified myself by what I did – an IT Professional. Then, my love of books (and some not so gentle nudging) morphed my identity into that of a writer first, IT Pro second. My first love was, and remains, sci-fi & fantasy, and having read widely in this area, I was always struck by the lack of diversity.
My partner and I run a website dedicated to reconnecting the African diaspora and part of our mission is to promote the arts. Short fiction is one of my favorite writing forms, so we thought we’d start there. We recognized that the black experience is not limited to America and wanted to provide a forum for black writers throughout the African diaspora to gain some recognition.
What was the greatest challenge in selecting a winner, and what criteria did you use in the judging process?
VH: What appeals to any reader is totally subjective and can be based on any number of factors. In our case, the challenge was geographic. Literary forms, styles, and tastes differ depending on geography. A romance story may be very appealing to an American audience, yet not so much on the African continent. So our challenge was to select a story that was not only compelling and well written, but one that people across the African diaspora might be able to relate to. The criteria was simple: a well written story, with a protagonist that we cared about. We had judging help from Charles Saunders, author of the Imaro and Dossouye fantasy series.
African American author John Edgar Wideman recently announced his move to Lulu. What does self-publishing offer emerging and established writers?
VH: I’m beginning to become less and less shocked when I hear announcements of established authors turning to self-publishing or even releasing their work under the Creative Commons licensing schemes, like Cory Doctorow. The obvious draw? Control and greater profit potential. In every industry, there comes a time for change. My first computer barely resembles my current laptop. The publishing industry isn’t immune. Self-publishing has emerged as an option in an arena that has remained largely unchanged since its inception. Technology – particularly the Internet, has made this evolution possible.
Will there be self-published books that are rushed into production by authors unwilling to put in the time and work necessary to produce a book on the level of a traditional publisher? Absolutely. But to categorize all self-published books this way is unfair. Self-publishing no longer means sub-standard. Those who succeed under this model will understand that it will take a combination of good writing, marketing, and financial resources.
What’s fascinating is the venom I’ve seen expressed by some traditionally published authors when it comes to self-publishing, and frankly, I don’t understand it. In the end, the public should be the judge, not an often far too narrowly defined publishing industry.
Describe your ideal audience for this book, and the steps you’ve taken to connect readers with these writers.
VH: Our collection spans all genres, and includes male and female authors from every age group, with representation from across the globe. I’d say that makes our audience is pretty broad! There is truly something for everyone.
Our greatest marketing tool is our website, and the authors have been promoted there. In addition, we’ve reached out to blogs, media, and other websites that cater to book lovers. I don’t think color should define reading tastes; it never has for me, at least. So, in addition to markets catering to people of African descent, we plan to approach other markets as well. Promotion, for both traditionally and self-published works, is an ongoing endeavor.