Interview with Valjeanne Jeffers, Author of Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds
This is a part of our Black Women in Horror Interview Series. February is African American History Month here in the United States. It is also Women in Horror Month (WiHM). The Black Women in Horror interview series celebrates the place where the two intersect. These interviews are included as a part of the free eBook “60 Black Women in Horror Fiction.” The Black Women in Horror Interview Series is designed to raise the profile of and bring attention to the more than 60 black women who write horror and related genres of speculative fiction.
Valjeanne Jeffers Bio:
Valjeanne is the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the steampunk novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books 1 and 2). She is a graduate of Spelman College, NCCU and a member of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. She has been published under both Valjeanne Jeffers and Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson. Her writing has appeared in: The Obamas: Portrait of America’s New First Family, from the Editors of Essence, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Pembroke Magazine, Revelry, Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary, and Liberated Muse: How I Freed My Soul Vol. I. She was also semi-finalist for the 2007 Rita Dove Poetry Award. Valjeanne’s fiction has appeared in Steamfunk!, Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Possibilities, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear (in press). She works as an editor for Mocha Memoirs Press and is also co-owner of Q & V Affordable editing. Her two latest novels: Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension will be released later this year.
The Book: Immortal IV, Collision of Worlds
“The New World awoke to a roaring wind, light blazed from the mirror swallowing the planet…”
The Guardians broke the rules. As punishment, Karla and Joseph are transported to a steam powered realm. Tehotep is now ruler of the empire. Karla is his concubine. Vampires roam the streets. Androids enforce a demon’s will.
And there is no way out. Except death…
Valjeanne Jeffers Interview
Q. You write paranormal erotica, fantasy, sci-fi and steamfunk. Can you tell our readers about the steamfunk genre?
A. Steampunk first emerged as an alternate reality genre in which everything was powered by steam (and gas). For example, the 1960s Wild Wild West series (which I loved as a kid) was a steampunk TV show; although I don’t think the term had been coined yet. Wild Wild West the movie, starring Will Smith, was based upon this series.
Steampunk has given us wildly imaginative costumes, gadgets and worlds, often set in an alternate Victorian England or Western America.
But in the beginning the biggest problems with steampunk, as noticed by readers and authors, was the absence of color. Peoples of color were excluded as main characters, as were their worlds, and their challenges. So, writers and artists created steamfunk: steampunk from a Native American, Black, Latina, Asian . . . worldview; with our own heroes and heroines, in worlds we created, and taking on causes that mattered to us within an artistic space—such as oppression, equal rights, and neo-slavery— or we’re just simply telling groovy tales that came out of the Black and Brown experience. In steamfunk, folks like George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, and my own Simone2, become characters that tell our stories.
Authors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade deserve an honorable mention because they released the first steamfunk anthology, entitled simply: Steamfunk! I’m very honored to have my story, The Switch (Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork) published in this groundbreaking anthology.
Q. What do you think it is about vampires that people find so sexy?
A. Vampires are sexy, aren’t they? I think folks find them so, because they were first created as creatures who unleashed their victims’ sexuality and inhibitions. Take Bram Stoker’s character “Lucy,” for example, and Dracula’s transforming her into a vampire—which was very sexualized in Francis Ford Coppola’s remake of this classic. Of course Lucy, as all traditional victims of vampires, paid for her sexual awakening with her immortal soul.
I’m a long-time fan of vampires and, even as child, I thought they got a raw deal. Classically, every single vampire movie ended with a stake to the heart of the Nosferatu. And if you read between the proverbial lines, you see that the vampires’ greatest sin was their sexual liberation. But what’s wrong with being sexual? It’s something which should be celebrated not punished.
Others allures of the traditional vampire are that: not only do you get to live out your fantasies, the “curse” comes with meta-human speed, strength, and immortality— as well as (usually) wealth. So, the original vampires had preternatural speed, strength, and were rich. Their lives, undead though they might be, were one long, sensuous blood-drinking party. That’s the original vampire template.
Now, of course, vampires come in a myriad of varieties. Take the main character of my novel, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, “Annabelle.” Annabelle doesn’t drink blood, she drinks time: killing her victims slowly over a period of years. Yet in keeping with the original vampire archetype, she is very sexual and an opportunist—always looking out for herself. But beneath Annabelle’s shallow, self-serving persona is a tragic history and a core of steel.
Q. More and more writers, especially women, are publishing under the speculative fiction genre category rather than the specific category of horror. Do you think that horror is a maligned genre? Do you think that people feel horror is “unladylike?”
A. I think authors are choosing to publish under the speculative fiction moniker because genres and sub-genres are tending more and more to bleed together (forgive the pun) and can’t be categorized under a single genre. For example, Charles Saunders, the creator of Sword and Soul, and a writer I greatly admire, has described my Immortal series as a world in which “science and sorcery co-exist.” Derrick Ferguson, another writer whose work I love, describes Immortal as “imaginatively experimental.” Anyone who’s read my books will tell you that they easily fit into several genres or sub-genres such as horror, science fiction, erotic and/or fantasy. I’m sure that’s true of a lot of today’s writers.
I certainly don’t feel that horror is a maligned genre, nor do I think it’s unladylike. In contrast, I think women, with each passing decade, are beginning to break out of the myths and stereotypes which have oppressed us for so long. Look at the criticism that Zora Neale Hurston endured during the Harlem Renaissance, just because she refuse to stick to the script that male writers laid out for her.
I feel that eventually terms such as “unladylike” will become a thing of the past. Female authors are constantly redefining themselves ―flexing their literary muscles if you will. So, today you’re just as likely to encounter a ghost, ghoul, bloody fight scene or sociopath in a woman’s novel as in a man’s.
Q. As you have mentioned in other interviews, science-fiction is a very white male dominated genre, and the same certainly can be said of horror―a casual search of top 10 and top 100 lists of horror writers reveals virtually no writers of color and very, very few women of any color. Do you think it is because women of color don’t write in the genre, or do you think it is due to the barriers we face when we do write?
A. Without a doubt, it’s because of the challenges we face in becoming published, whether we chose the traditional or Indie route, and then in getting exposure for our work. We face hardships as female writers. If you’re a woman of color, writing SF or horror, it’s that much harder. Oftentimes publishing houses won’t even talk to you (this was my experience) if you are a writer of color whose chooses to create characters that look, and act, like you. They don’t understand yet, that readers of all colors are looking for multicultural novels. After all, we live in multicultural world and art imitates life.
But we are here. We write. We create. We get our novels out there and our readers find us. Because they’ve been looking for us.
Q. Do you think the independent and small publishing revolution is helping to increase diversity in horror and related genres?
A. Self publishing has helped tremendously, as has the social media revolution. Both are helping writers of color get around barriers and walls that, oftentimes, were built to keep us out.
Q. One of your fans recommended you for the Black Women in Horror Writing list specifically because of your Immortal series. What can you tell our readers about the books?
A. Readers enter Immortal during the year 3075, on the planet Tundra, a utopian world that has been without racism, poverty or war for 400 years. I begin with the story with “Karla,” a young Indigo (Black) woman who works as a “healer “(drug counselor). Karla is a recovering drug addict who has gotten her life together, and used her journey to heal other addicts. But she is having disturbing dreams―some erotic; some terrifying. Two men emerge from these dreams. One of them, Joseph a Copper (Native American) man, will help unlock the mystery of her nightmares. . .and her werewolf nature.
The series continues through three more volumes: Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the concluding volume (or so I thought when I first wrote it) Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds. With each book, new characters emerge each with their own preternatural abilities. In writing the series, I drew heavily from my memories of the 1960s, one of the most beautiful and turbulent eras. And my readers tell me they get a strong “make love not war” vibe from my books.
Q. Is there an Immortal V in the works?
A. Yes, there is definitely an Immortal V in the works! Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds is actually a steamfunk novel, and one which overlaps with The Switch II: Clockwork. Both both have open-ended conclusions. Which is a hint that I’m not through with either series yet. My readers won’t stand for it, and neither will my characters.
But it will be probably one to two years before I release Immortal V. In the meantime, I’d like to invite my readers and fans to check out Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective, a steamfunk horror novel that I’m going to release within the next few months; and Colony: Ascension An Erotic Space Opera, which will also hit the shelves later this year. There is already free ebook preview of Colony available at amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Colony-Space-Opera-Valjeanne-Jeffers-ebook/dp/B005ZWQ66K/
Q. Is there anything you would like our readers to know that we haven’t already covered?
A. I’d like to thank writer extraordinaire, Sumiko Saulson, for interviewing me and my readers and fans for their support! I’d also like to give a shout-out to my fantastic cover artist, poet Quinton Veal. Folks can preview or purchase our books at: www.vjeffersandqveal.com
Where to Find Valjeanne Online:
- Her website www.vjeffersandqveal.com
- Excerpts from The Immortal Series
- Excerpts from her Steamfunk Series
- Her two latest novels: Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension will be released later this year. Preview or purchase her novels at: http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com
- Her Blog: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com
- She has a podcast as “Crystal Temptress” (with co-host Quinton Veal as “Loyal Fang”) http://www.blogtalkradio.com/vjeffersandqveal
~ by Sumiko Saulson on February 27, 2014.