Monday, December 28, 2015

Twinja Book Reviews 3rd Annual Diversity Month Day Twenty-Three : Interview with @charmedcastor + month long #giveaway

So through the power of Twitter is where we met our next guest! 

If Twitter is good for anything, it's connecting with some aweomse people(especially fellow Kingdom Hearts fans ;p)

Her debut novel releases 2016, so we're getting here before she's famous =D
Twinja Book Reviews Annual Diversity Month Eveny Day Twenty-Three:

Miri Castor

Thank you for stopping by the blog! Why don't you introduce yourself to readers!

Hello there! I'm Miri Castor and I'm glad I have a chance to be a part of Diversity.

What can you tell us about your journey becoming an author?

My journey started when I first wrote a story on Powerpoint about my life as a kid. It was just something to do since I never used the program before. Then in fifth grade, I started handwriting fanfiction based on the video games I played, so Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, etc. My first novel, Opal Charm, was sort of derived from my fanfiction, and then it strayed into something different when I got older. You can find it on Wattpad and Tablo! Then in high school, I told myself, "I wanna keep doing this stuff," and I wrote for my school newspaper and literary magazine club. Since then, I've been calling myself a writer.

It's been a fun journey so far! Revising the story is the best part of being an author, I think. No sarcasm intended here, I genuinely love doing this. I build off what I have written and make better, then make what I thought was better even better, you get the idea. Marketing and waiting on editors is tedious and requires a lot of patience, I've learned. Especially if you're self-publishing.

Why do you write the types of books you write, and do you plan diversifying genres in the future?

Because no one privileged is doing it. Those who have the social and creative power as writers to seize a wide audience (and those who already have a wide audience of readers) are simply not incorporating diversity. I'm already diversifying genres in my stories, because PoC need to see themselves as something other than a token character. Queer people need to see themselves beyond harmful stereotypes. Disabled people need to see themselves represented as something other than a self-hating person.

What can you tell us about your experience growing up?

Sad to say, I didn't get to read much diverse books that portrayed black people like me, quiet, nerdy, a bookworm etc. I relied on urban fiction, which is diversity in a way, but it wasn't for me. As a little girl, I really craved the cool action adventure stories that had an exclusively white cast because it was close enough to my ideal type of stories; I had relatives who made me feel bad for reading books like that, and made me doubt my "blackness". As that saying goes, if you don't like what's out there, you have to make it yourself and that was what Opal Charm was for me. So short answer, it was me wishing I could be like the white kids in my favorite books.

What types of books did you like consuming growing up?

Anything with fantasy and science fiction that involved young kids or young teenagers. Of course, that means they were predominately white casted with a token black kid. Then I went into this urban fiction phase for a few years, mainly to prove that I really was black and didn't just read "white books."

What is the book(or books) that have the biggest impact on you and why?

The most recent one is called The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson. It features so much diversity, and has a country run by women. These women even marry other women, like it's been a normal thing to do since the beginning of marriages; it's also predominately black being based off Brazil (correct me if I'm wrong). The most shocking part about it is how Johnson portrays what happens in this world as normal in a non-satirical, or political way. It's like, "Oh, I hate Aunt X, she's trying to replace my father. I want to make her life miserable because I'm a teenager," and "The summer king (who is not important to the social hierarchy established in the least bit) fell in love with my guy friend. I can't fall in love with the summer king now, he and my guy friend are exclusive." It's amazing for me to read a book like that, it's actually inspirational.

What would you tell your teenage self that you wish you knew now about your growth?

I'd tell her something along these lines, "Whatever you think you know now, you actually don't. Growing up to be a socially-aware person is gonna suck a lot, especially in college. Find those who are also growing and don't be intimidated by them, be friends with them. Unlearning all that problematic crap you've been fed by the media will change you for the better."

Do you feel well represented in books and/or media?

Not in mainstream. For books, I mean traditional publishers; the lack of diversity is glaring, really. I find more representation in self-publishing writers and webcomic artists, which makes sense since they're taking matters into their own hands. I will say that this is getting better in the media slightly, but not so much in literature.

How can we make the conversation about diversity where it needs to be?

I think we need those who don't understand the importance of diversity in media, books, etc to sit in on these discussions. I think we need to have a kind of disclaimer that basically says, "Look, we're going to discuss why we need to have PoC (people of color) featured in more fiction. We're going to discuss the effects of white supremacy and how that leads to a lack of diversity in literature. We will not cater to your feelings if you feel offended that we've observed racist/sexist/homophobic non-PoC authors preserving white supremacy in overt ways." Something like that. I think that so many necessary conversations don't go in the proper direction because people who don't understand feel attacked and have to get defensive--cognitive dissonance at its best. We need to get past that so we can have nitty-gritty conversations about what diversity really means.

What are creators not doing well when it comes to the conversation of diversity?

One trend I notice is that they come in with their own take on diversity, and speak over others (marginalized groups), thus negating their experiences. It's very trivializing and belittling, and coincides with the problem I stated in the earlier question--creators don't want to hear that they are being racist, sexist, etc. when challenged on diversity. Frankly, they're butt hurt, and then argue that we are being "aggressive and discriminating against them."

Are there any books(or form of media) that you thinks gets representation right?

Webcomics, webcomics, can I say webcomics again? More than literature, and way more than television. That's where I got my representation from as a teenager. Olympus Overdrive, Todd Allison and Petunia Violet, TJ and Amal, The Meek, The Immortal Nadia Greene--those are to name a few of my favorites. They definitely got it right.

What has been your favorite character to create and why?

My favorite character is my main character for my upcoming book, Opal! Yeah, it's pretty conceited, but I enjoyed making her on the superficial and deeper level--on the deep level, her character development went far beyond what I had expected. It made me want to better myself as a person, and brightened my perspective on life. I don't want to go into more detail than that because her growth is a plot point. On a superficial level, she's a black girl with powers that lets her kick ass, she's the hero that everybody needs, she's the chosen one, and she cares little for romance.

Which fictional world would you want to live in and why?

I want to live in my homemade world Athre. Specifically, I want to live in one of its "countries" called Thesan. At dawn and dusk, the sky turns bright blue, and the denizens get to wear flashy jewelry to show off for this twenty minute phenomenon, or use their Light-based powers to do cool stuff; I also wanna increase my chances of having babies with Light-based powers. Then there's the setting--I've always wanted to live in a windy, grassy plain kind of place.

Who is your favorite Book Bae?

That changes on a monthly basis, but I gotta go with Octavia Butler. Her writing style is suave while also nitty-gritty. She's also the first black female author that has sci-fi stories featuring black women--I was blown away by Kindred.

If you can have any superpower or supernatural ability, what would it be and why?

The power of invisibility. There's so much power you have with invisibility, you can sneak around, avoid certain people at school, get away with sketchy stuff--these might be getting too negative. On the optimistic side, I can always get away with scaring my friends.

What sites would you recommend for those trying to educate themselves better on the conversation about diversity in books and media?

On Tumblr, there are many blogs dedicated to representation in books and media, definitely #diverseSFF on twitter, Black Girls are Magic Lit Magazine on twitter, and the website For Harriet, which has a wide variety of topics about social issues surrounding black women, and includes articles on diversity in books and media.

What type of advice can you give to those starting out?

Set aside a lot of time to write, incorporate it into your daily schedules. Most importantly, take care of yourselves and do not neglect your bodily needs.

Finally, where can folks go for updates, and to learn more about your projects going on?

My tumblr account: A Charmed Life.

Wattpad Account
Tablo Account
Tweet me @charmedcastor

I'm the nerdy, introverted writer from Brooklyn who loves biochemistry, neo-soul music, and video games, Miri Castor! I'm the author of the upcoming novel Opal Charm: The Path to Dawn, a YA sci-fi/fantasy story, coming out Winter of 2015-2016.


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