The road to publication is not easy for anyone and comes with a number of hurdles. For black writers, these challenges are multiplied and because of institutional issues, the path seems almost impossible. But the resiliency of black folks always finds a way and for many black SFF writers that way was in the form of self-publishing.
At FIYAH, we do not snub our noses at those writers who chose this path. We salute them because they have decided to embark on a journey by themselves that in traditional circumstances would involve a team. So we wish to acknowledge those black indie SFF writers out there working hard and dropping a good product. Our Indie Spotlight feature seeks to amplify self-published Black writers with features of their work in our magazine and interviews featured here on the website.
Our first spotlight feature interview is with DaVaun Sanders. A segment of the first book in his WORLD BREACH series, THE SEEDBEARING PRINCE can be found in the REBIRTH issue of FIYAH. It is also available on Amazon. You can subscribe to DaVaun’s newsletter on his website at davaunsanders.com.
Thanks for showcasing my novel for this first issue of FIYAH. It’s truly an honor.
1) When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a writer?
I’m pretty sure I still don’t want to be a writer. I need to be a writer. A singularity opens up in my chest cavity if I go too long without it. So I can’t pinpoint an exact moment, but the first science fiction story I remember writing was based on Contra–yeah, for the NES–and my junior high teacher made me read it in front of the class. In college I went pretty hard in spoken word for a while after getting exposed to the craft in St. Louis. The plunge for an actual novel took a lot longer, as I’d witnessed my Idaho dad struggle with writing a book for a huge chunk of his adult life so 1) duplicating that process in any form scared the shit out of me, and 2) I didn’t want to seem like I was out to spite him.
But the stories in my head always win out in the end and I buckled down.
2) What do you draw inspiration from when writing?
Any and everything. My crazy family. My peers in NSS and Fizzgig are pretty damn amazing, and I mull over the themes tossed around in those circles a lot. The idea for my first novel came from a dream that felt like a movie trailer. Which is kinda crazy, because I’m going to revisit some of those very same scenes for a book trailer at some point.
3) What do you feel potential readers will like most about your writing?
I strive to create worlds and stories that breathe you in and invite you to lose yourself.
4) Plotter or Pantser?
Neither. Strong plotting may save editing time on the back end, but runs the risk of formulaic, paint-by-numbers storytelling. The hybrid approach that’s worked best for me involves owning a strong idea of who my characters will ultimately become once the story ends, and working my way there via a malleable progression of scenes. That gives my imagination just enough tinder for those in-the-moment surprises that ignite every writer and take a story somewhere that lockstep plotting might miss.
5) Where can people find your work and what all have you published?
Currently the first three novels of my World Breach series are available on Amazon: The Seedbearing Prince Parts I & II, as well as the Course of Blades. My novella “The First Doom” has also appeared in the Dark Universe anthology, and is published by Milton Davis’s MV Media.
6) Five years from now, where would you like to see yourself writing wise?
I envision a writing career that allows me to support my family comfortably, travel, pay for the munchkins’ tuition, and offer scholarships to those in need. I never miss a recital, game, hackathon, spelling bee, freestyle session or pillow fight. A property or two in production for cinema.
7) A lot of black SFF authors self-publish. What do you think are the advantages to self-publishing for that demographic?
Right now the main advantage I see is owning all the rights to your creative work, which is a potentially fantastic negotiating space to be in if one of your titles goes nuclear in sales. We price and promote as we see fit. We of course get to tell stories that snuggle up in our Blackness, without a mainstream gaze dictating whether that story will be “successful” or “marketable.” The right to envision ourselves and tell our unfettered stories in SFF realms is especially critical with the Orange Apocalypse now upon us.
But it must be said that there are at least ten related disadvantages for every benefitI just mentioned. Minimum. Self publishing and a more traditional route need not be mutually exclusive paths.
8) What writers in the field do you look to as role models or just people you would like to emulate?
Yo…where to start? I’m not well read and constantly feel like I’m playing catch up in that regard. The way N.K. Jemisin weaves a story together will always push me to edit a little harder. Toss in China Miéville’s imagination, Octavia Butler’s damn near prophetic themes, Robert Jordan’s epic scale, and Michael Crichton’s sheer productivity (the latter two were my gateway authors to SFF.) Closer to home are Wendi Dunlap’s mastery of imagery; she crafts these visceral scenes that demand involuntary muscle clenching. I stay jealous of Brent Lambert’s organic ease of worldbuilding. Phenderson Djèlí Clark’s pacing and layering are world class. That’s just a flyover, there are so many peeps who constantly push me to level up.
9) What advice would you give black writers wanting to be a part of the SFF world?
We’re out here. Find your kinfolk and dive deep with them. I’ve found myself surrounded with writers who all own the same hunger level.Be cool. You’ll eventually find people willing to take you under their wing, dish the tea on publishers, share market tips, beta read, and celebrate your successes with you. Join a critique group you vibe with and LISTEN to what your peers say. CRAFT is EVERYTHING. If your circle isn’t pushing you in a positive, constructive direction–find or start a new one.
10) Tell us about your future projects. What all do you have in the works?
Lawd. Number one priority is completing my World Breach series, three novels remain. After that I’m completing edits for drafts of a paranormal novel, an alien invasion YA novel, and a science fiction feature script. The cinema bug bit me real bad this past year, it’s past time to push a project out for screen–even if it’s just a book trailer. Even if it’s CGI, claymation, flipbook–something! Lastly, some random project will manifest and insist on shoehorning itself into my current slate, and it will be awesome. #teamnosleep