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.
This quarter’s spotlight feature interview is with Nigel Henry. A segment of his novel RIA’S WEB OF LIES can be found in the BIG MAMA NATURE issue of FIYAH.
If you had to sum yourself up for a potential reader, what would you say?
What advice would you give to writers looking to make a break into SFF self-publishing?
Just do it! We all waste so much time saying we’re going to do something one day only to never get around to it. Actually getting your first book out there has this effect of demystifying the entire process. Write the book and publish it! You’ll make mistakes along the way, but you’ll learn from them, and each book will be better than the last. (Because that’s what no one tells you when you’re first starting out: your first book is just the beginning!)
Also, read up on the subject. There are so many blogs, Facebook groups, podcasts and books on the self-publishing. You can learn a ton about writing, marketing, and publishing for free. And there are so many people out there that are totally willing to help. (Email me! I’ll help!)
What do you feel are the greatest benefits for black SFF writers that choose to go into self-publishing?
Control. There’s no one telling you what to write or how to market your stories. You have the ability to bring your vision into the world, exactly as you imagined it.
The second benefit is that you get to mess up silently. You don’t have to worry about earning back an advance, so if your first book doesn’t sell, you can step back and learn from the experience, see what didn’t work and try again. I know a lot of people are afraid of mistakes, I really believe there’s no better teacher.
What are some of your biggest overall writing influences?
Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series taught me about world-building and planting plot seeds. Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy helped me ditch the idea that I had to write in a “serious literary author” voice and got me to just write. I just love Julia Alvarez’s Garcia Girls books to death. I think it taught me everything about writing a family.
You’ve written numerous projects. What are some of your favorite ones and why do they hold a special place in your catalogue?
I know everyone loves their latest project, but the Ria Miller series really is the closest thing to my heart. It’s a love letter to my family, to growing up in New York City, and to my time in local journalism. It’s the series I’ve always wanted to write.
You get to have one of your projects made into a film. Which one do you pick and who do you get to direct it?
Obviously, it’d be one of the Ria Miller books. I would just die if I saw Ria Miller on the silver screen. I’d be honored to have Salim and Mara Brock Akil handle it because every time my wife and I watch Black Lightning we laugh at how much the Pierces remind us of the Millers.
You get to travel to one fantasy world. Where do you go?
I’m already on the first plane to Wakanda!
Who are some of your favorite authors currently working in the black SFF field, self-pubbed or otherwise?
N.K. Jemisin is just on an amazing roll. I’m really looking for Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation. Octavia Butler is required reading.
Five years from now where would you like to see your writing?
As long as I can keep telling stories that entertain readers while also poking the powerful and thoughtless in the eye, I’ll be happy.
What projects do you have coming up for us in the future that we should be on the lookout for?
Ria’s Witch Hunt, the third book in the Ria Miller series, just came out in March. I’ve got another book in the series coming this fall, and next year I’ve got a new trilogy coming from a different corner of the Ria Miller universe with an entirely new set of characters. I’m pretty excited about that one.