Shivers and Sighs Week: Interview: Seressia Glass

Today, we sit down with African-American paranormal romance author Seressia Glass. We reviewed the first novel in her Shadowchasers series, Shadow Blade, last year. Its sequel, Shadow Chase, came out in the summer and the third book, Shadow Fall, is due out this July from Simon&Schuster.

IFP: How did you get started as a writer? Why paranormal romance?

SG: I’ve been writing since I was a child – a bit of Dick and Jane fan fiction, various attempts at epic fantasies and magical realms. I finally got my break in romance, but I’ve always loved the fantastical – since reading comics and watching the Superfriends as a kid. Getting to combine the relationship-building of romance with the magical worldbuilding of the paranormal was a win-win!

IFP: What is it like being an African-American author these days? What are the challenges you face?

SG: There are pressures, some of which are self-inflicted. When I write contemporary romance, I’m fully aware that I have to make sure my core audience of black readers are satisfied with my work. They’ve supported me all this time and they deserve my best work. I also want to make a living wage from my writing, however, and that means I need to grow my share of the
market. The easiest way to do that is for my books to be where the largest possible number of readers can find them. But there’s no guarantee that someone will pick up my book. Some non-black readers will see black people on the cover of a romance and think it will be about “issues”, or that they “can’t relate” to the main characters.

Since writing urban fantasy, I’ve encountered a diverse range of readers, willing to give my multicultural characters a try, and I’ve been pleased and grateful for that.

IFP: You’ve commented on your blog about a controversy over a magazine cover about African-American writers. How would you like to see the paranormal romance genre develop regarding African and African-American characters? In general?

SG: It’s been a slow process, getting African-American readers to not look at it like paranormal = the devil. You can read paranormal romance and still go to church on Sunday. As for the genre itself, I would like for more writers to write ethnic characters and it not be seen as a risky endeavor for the writer or the publishing house (small and epresses are ahead of the
curve on this one.) Luckily, my editor didn’t see my story that way (as a risk because of the ethnicity of the main character). And I have a boost because Shadow Blade is shelved in fantasy in major bookstores, where it belongs. Readers don’t have to go to the African-American Studies section of their bookstore to find my work of fiction. I want to see more and more black writers writing black characters across genres, and have those books be shelved in their respective genres, and not lumped together in the book ghetto.

IFP: What do you think of the trend in Hollywood (as with Earthsea or The Last Airbender) to film books with ethnic characters and then cast all-or-mostly-white actors?

SG: I think it sucks, frankly. I don’t understand why major studios can’t be more like Disney. There’s nothing wrong with a diverse cast, or even an ethnic main character. I don’t know who told them that audiences won’t go see movies with ethnic leads, but I’d say that their data is a couple of decades too old. The problem with The Last Airbender is that they ticked off their built-in audience, an audience excited that a series they loved and enjoyed was going to the big screen – an audience that took to the Internet to voice their displeasure. I loved the animated series because it was an awesome story and the cultures of each of the nations were fantastic. When I heard about the casting decisions, I was like “What the hell? But they’re Asian!” I didn’t go see the movie.

IFP: How did you get interested in Egyptian mythology and lore? Why write about them?

SG: My sister and I have always loved Egyptian history and mythology. Any time any documentary on Egyptian history comes on, I’m watching or recording it. When I was in the process of developing my heroine of the Shadowchaser series, it seemed natural to not only make her an antiquities specialist, but also give her a spiritual connection to Egyptian mythology. It certainly gave me an excuse to buy more Egyptian history books!

IFP: How did you come up with the characters of Kira and Khefar?

SG: Kira is a composite of characters I’ve had tooling about in my head for a while. I’d once tried a high fantasy and then a more romantic fantasy. Then, when I got into paranormal romance, the character became more realized as I pulled in some of my favourite fantasy, anime, and urban fantasy influences. I knew I wanted to make characters that were flawed, because we’re all flawed in some way. I’d been fascinated with the idea of a person who goes most of her life without basic human contact: what kind of person would she be? Would she try to make the best of her situation and create a facsimile of a normal life, or would she be withdrawn and psychotic? The answer is both!

As for Khefar, I’ve again been fascinated with a Longinus-type character, a tortured hero. Going through African and Egyptian mythology, I knew I wanted to make him Egyptian or Nubian or even from Meroe. But I wanted a compelling reason for him to be immortal – not just because he was a vampire or something. So, I not only made him the keeper of a mystical blade, I put him
on the ultimate path of redemption. He’s immortal because he took a lot of lives in revenge for his family being massacred, and he has to save a life for every life he took, with Isis – with a little help from Anansi the spider god – telling him which ones actually count toward his total.

IFP: What do you like best about writing?

SG: The best part about writing is being able to translate the voices and images in my head! Hearing that people enjoy the characters that I’ve conceived is wonderful and continues to be a pleasant surprise!

IFP: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the field?

SG: Realize that it takes hard work, dedication, and belief in yourself and the words you put down. There are many paths to publication and there are pros and cons to each one. Knowledge is a writer’s best friend.

IFP: Who are your favourite writers and/artists? Which ones have influenced you the most?

SG: Hhm, there’ve been so many. David Eddings, Isaac Asimov, Madeline L’Engle, Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Octavia Butler, and a host of anime/manga like Bleach, Full Metal Alchemist, Inu Yasha, and tons of others.

IFP: What other books and authors in romance and/or fantasy with African-American characters would you recommend?

SG: For contemporary romance, I highly recommend Brenda Jackson, Donna Hill and Gwyneth Bolton. For paranormal/UF, I recommend F.D. Davis, Monica Jackson’s paranormals, like Mr. Right Now, and the Vegas Bites anthology. I’m reading Given by Lisa Riley and Roslyn Holcomb, and it’s a paranormal, historical, multicultural romance put out by Loose Id, and it’s quite good.

For fantasy, I recently met Maurice Broaddus, and I like his take on the King Arthur mythos in an urban setting. Of course, I believe everyone should read Octavia Butler. We definitely lost her too soon.

IFP: What makes for a good paranormal romance read for you?

SG: It has to have a combination of a great, in-depth, fantastical world peopled with rich characters and a hero and heroine to cheer for, whether they’re fighting the bad guys or fighting for their relationship.

IFP: What artistic accomplishment are you most proud of in your life?

SG: I enjoyed writing a Living the Dream essay to celebrate MLK holiday and getting to meet Coretta Scott King. I also enjoyed winning a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award for Through the Fire.

IFP: What is your dream project?

SG: An epic fantasy series set in Africa, or an alternate history fantasy in which the ancient Egyptian, Merotic and Zulu nations all continued and flourished. Spin-offs of my current series that uses more of the mythology and tales of Africa.

IFP: Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

SG: The third Shadowchasers book, Shadow Fall, will be out at the end of July. I’m working on a new book, set in the Shadowchasers universe, and a vampire romance that is currently under development.

IFP: Please tell us about your book projects. How many have you written? Do you have a favourite?

SG: As of this interview, I have seven novels and seven novellas out. As for a favourite, I love all my stories, really. My books show my growth as a writer, so I always love and hate the last one I finished.

Photo Credit: One Six Studios

Bio: Seressia has always been a voracious reader, cutting her teeth on comics, cereal boxes – anything at hand. So, it came as no surprise to family and teachers when she began creating stories featuring some of her favourite characters. One of her earlier works included the fictional autobiography of a piece of bubblegum.

When not working on her next story, Seressia is an instructional designer for an international home improvement company and lives in her hometown of Atlanta with her husband and pony-sized poodle. She spends her free time people-watching, belly dancing, and watching way too much anime. You can visit her website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

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IFPShivers and Sighs Week: Interview: Seressia Glass