Friday, August 17, 2012

M.R. interviews...Qwantu Amaru author of One Blood

Please Welcome to Cutis Anserina Winner of the 2012 International book awards Qwantu Amaru

Where did the idea for One Blood come from?

Great question. It started as an idea about a group of middle-class black kids being tormented by a local gang who decide to challenge the gang to a game of basketball, the winner of which would run the neighborhood henceforth. This ended up morphing into an event that came to be know in my mind as the Simmons Park Massacre, where two rival gangs obliterated each other one fateful afternoon. I had the idea that one of the gangbangers would be there reluctantly, and this character became Lincoln Baker. Then I added the element of him accidentally shooting and killing his only white friend, Kristopher Lafitte. The question of what Kristopher was doing in an all-black neighborhood that day evolved into a horror novel about a supernatural curse tormenting a group of people unaware of their hidden connections!  

 How did the creation of Randy Lafitte come about?

People have said that One Blood is a political novel because of Randy Lafitte’s involvement. I didn’t intend to make any political statements, but when I began developing the character who would become Kristopher Lafitte’s father, it became clear to me who I should use as inspiration. When I was 16 and living in Lake Charles, LA, David Duke was running for governor. A white friend of mine and I were attending an annual festival called Contraband Days in Lake Charles and as we made our way into the festival, David Duke had a kiosk located out front. Two girls from our high school were manning the booth and called us over. The entire time I stood there with my friend, neither the girls, nor Duke acknowledged my existence. I would in later years read Ellison’s Invisible Man and could relate to the sentiment. As I developed the story of the Lafitte clan, I thought it would be interesting to set son’s against father’s, but in a way that I hadn’t read before. Randy was very fun to write. I knew right off I wanted to explore the idea of what might have happened had David Duke become the Governor of Louisiana, and Randy was my vehicle to do that. I even give a shout-out to DD in chapter 1! Another reason Randy is interesting is his overwhelming ambition and belief that he can survive anything. I wanted to challenge this belief. 

You grew up in Louisiana. How did this effect your decision to use this as the setting for One Blood?

I never considered setting One Blood anywhere but Louisiana. It did, however, give me a great canvas upon which to paint a supernatural story. There is an allure and mystery to Louisiana that is very seductive and attractive to me as a setting.

You began working on One Blood in 2000 and a hair over a decade later the novel is complete and available.  What was this process like?

Wow. Looking back on it, I made a lot of mistakes and grew so much during the early years writing One Blood. I really had no idea what I was doing and what I was getting myself into! Still, I read everything I could get my hands on, I re-read the classics and my favorite novels. I found inspiration everywhere. I spent months researching settings, the religion of Vodou, and other things I had no idea about before starting the book. It was a great process. Even receiving 18 rejections from literary agents was valuable. It forced me to hone my craft and refine the story until it could be as good as I could make it. I also created best practices and a process I can depend on now as I work on future projects. Hopefully, there will be no other projects that take this long to bring to fruition.

How does your work as a poet influence you as a novelist?

You are the first person to ask that, thanks! If it weren’t for poetry, One Blood would never have existed. I started writing poetry first, and in a desire to see if I was any good, enrolled in my first and only creative writing class back in the Spring of 2000 that spawned the idea that ultimately became my book. As a writer, poetry taught me the value of each and every word and to try to find fresh language and methods of describing things. I don’t think the language in One Blood is particularly poetic, but that background is the foundation beneath everything that I write.

One Blood despite the gritty and suspenseful nature has a social awareness.  Was this a conscience choice, or did it just emerge. 

It was a conscience choice. I was inspired by Richard Wright’s Native Son, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved so I felt I had an obligation to do more than merely entertain. At a certain point I realized that I had the ability to make the story work on  multiple levels. I love books that challenge my thinking in addition to entertaining me and wanted to do this for readers as well. I designed the book to be the kind of story that gets better and deeper upon repeat readings. 

What fictional character has had the greatest impact on you?  How so?

Lincoln Baker for sure. I thought I was writing about a character who was my opposite, but when I read through everything, I realized that Lincoln was a stand-in for one of my older brothers. I was very disappointed and angry with him for certain events of our childhood and had been subconsciously judging him for years. It wasn’t until I crafted the story arc of Brandon and Lincoln, that I realized I had never walked in his shoes or lived his life so it was terrible for me to judge him. Writing One Blood helped me forgive.

What active genre authors are you following?
Stephen King of course. I also love Tananarive Due, Peter Straub, James Herbert, Ahnia Alborn, J.A. Konrath, Michael Rivers, J. E. Jones, Jeff Bennington, Brandon Massey, Gillian Flynn, and many others!
What is the first book you remember genuinely being frightened by? Was your immediate reaction to run out and find other similar tales, or stash it in your closet and block it out?

The first book that truly frightened me was The Hobbit. I must have read it for the first time when I was 7 or 8 and some of the scenes scared the crap out of me. But I came back for more and more. Once I discovered Stephen King, I was done!

Do you have anything new coming down the pipeline you would like to share?

Thanks. Well, I’m working on a Kindle short story called Bath Salt Babies about a woman who has to choose between her lifelong desire of having children and the (literal) monsters to which she gives birth. I’m a third complete with my second novel, titled The Uneasy Sleep of Giants, I hope to release Q4 2013. Thanks for the fun interview!

One Blood is currently on sale for .99 cents at click below to purchase.

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