Sunday, December 14, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 15:Author Interview w/ Zetta Elliot +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

We've been so honored to meet a truckload of authors in our beginning stages of being bloggers. Not every author exceeds your expectations and lots of times when you do meet one, they continue to be those untouchable entities that you connect with on paper but in real life...not so much. 

Luckily, the next author in our series, Zetta Elliot is amazing both on and off the pages and we're so happy to have finally caught with her(she's so super busy)to better introduce her formally on our blog!

*That time we met Zetta Elliot @Kidlitcon! When you meet one of your fave authors, you will look as stupid as Libertad has in this photo =)*

1. We've been honored to meet you in person and through your writing, but for those who haven't been as lucky, why don't you introduce yourself?

Hey, everybody! I’m a black feminist writer based in Brooklyn. I’m also an immigrant (I grew up in Canada) and I’d describe my writing for teens as historical fantasy. I didn’t start out writing for young readers but I’ve worked with kids for 25 years, and kid lit has been my focus for the past few years. I also blog and present on equity and diversity in kid lit. I used to be a professor but I’m taking a year off (maybe more!) to focus on writing and self-publishing some of the many manuscripts that have been taking up space on my hard drive.

2. So we have to ask what is it that attracts you to Speculative Fiction?

For some reason, as an adult I never thought of myself as a fan of fantasy fiction. Yet when I started writing for kids in 2000, I made a list of my favorite books and realized I had been reading—and loving—fantasy fiction ever since I was a child. 

I grew up in a former British colony so most of what I was reading came from England—C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, etc. I wrote my senior thesis in high school on Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and studied medieval history in college. So I’m still a big medieval geek (Games of Thrones!) and I love magical stories, but graduate school helped me develop a black feminist lens through which to view those texts. What I found, of course, is that black girls/women almost never appear in the books I love—or they show up in really problematic ways. 

I discovered Octavia Butler after college and her stories opened up endless possibilities for my own; I was really moved by Jamaica Kincaid’s writing, too, and her writing helped me to “decolonize” my imagination. I still love “straight” historical fiction but I love speculative fiction because it allows us to ask, “What if?” In her most famous poem June Jordan asks, “Who in the hell set things up like this?” And I feel like spec fic allows us to answer that question. What if I had the chance to design a different world—what would that look like and what kind of power would Black women have? So many doors are closed to me as a woman of color—especially when it comes to publishing—but within my storytelling, anything’s possible…

3. We at Twinja Book Reviews talk about diversity in every conversation we have. In your book "Ship of Souls" all of protagonist's are people of color. What and/or who inspired their characters?

I can’t say that any one particular kid inspired D or Nyla or Keem, but I do lots of school visits every year and I want my books to reflect the kids who get silenced and erased or marginalized in kid lit. I hardly had any books that served as a mirror when I was growing up, and so it’s important to me that I offer urban kids the chance to star in their very own magical adventure—here, in NYC. They don’t have to live in a castle in England, which is what I thought as a child reader. That said, there is so much diversity within the Black community that I felt obligated to represent that as well. 

Like I said, I’m an immigrant and so was my father. That experience has shaped my life and I wanted to reflect that in my book—Nyla grew up in Germany and she’s also got a punk aesthetic yet she’s the smartest girl in her school for gifted kids. Hakeem is a ball player but he’s not the usual stereotype—he’s Muslim and biracial (Senegalese/Bangladeshi) and wants to become a chef. D is being raised by a white foster mother and he’s a math whiz. These are the kinds of kids I see whenever I go into schools, so these are the kids I write about—the voices we rarely get to hear.
*One of Zetta's faithful readers and as luck would have it, a carbon copy of Nyla*

4. Your road to getting published is a very interesting one. What advice do you have for other writers looking to see their work out there?

If that truly is your goal—“to see your work out there”—then I recommend you develop multiple strategies for making that dream a reality. I’ve published with traditional and nontraditional presses—Lee & Low holds an annual contest, which I won in 2006, and Amazon started an imprint (AmazonEncore) that picked up my self-published YA novel, A Wish After Midnight. They also published my second novel, Ship of Souls, but over 80% of my books are self-published through CreateSpace. 

I had my copy of The Writer’s Market; I did all the things it told me to do, but even after I won a number of awards for my first book Bird, publishers’ doors didn’t open. I self-publish so that kids of color don’t have to wait for the books I wish I’d had as a kid. Would I continue to write if I never got a six-figure advance? Yes. Would you? Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. That will guide the choices—and the compromises—you make.

5. People are hooked! Please tell us where we can go to gain insight on your future titles, blog posts, or just everything and all things Zetta Elliott?

You can visit my newly designed official website here .

You can link to my blog from the website or go straight to it through here.

I’m occasionally on Twitter—mostly when I need to make an announcement:

If you want updates via Facebook, please “like” my page:
*About Zetta Elliot*
I’m a black feminist writer of poetry, plays, essays, novels, and stories for children. I was born and raised in Canada, but have lived in the US for 20 years. I currently live in my beloved Brooklyn. When I’m not writing, you might find me strolling through the botanic garden…
Zetta has been extremely gracious enough to donate both Ship of Souls and The Deep to one lucky winner, so please don't hesitate to enter our giveaway! These books could be on your shelves to bring in the New Year!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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