Today I’m interviewing author R.A. White, who writes some fascinating fantasy fiction with a more multi-cultural background. You can find more information about this writer at Goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6968827.R_A_White
1. A lot of writers bring their background into their
writing. Tell me about your background and how it influences your writing.
I grew up in the Pocono Mountains, just a couple hours from New York City, but
our house was in the woods. My parents were foster parents and adoptive
parents, and also helped just about every needy person who came their way, so
life was never dull. It was great-I learned to accept people of all backgrounds
for who they were, and I was accepted, too. Sure, it was stressful at times,
but we laughed a lot. I think that being around people from so many different
circumstances gave me a more grounded view of the world we live in than a lot
of kids have. I knew what it was like to have a loving family, but I also
saw—very close up—what it was like to come from a neglectful and abusive home.
Very early in life I recognized that there are evil people in the world, and
that good people have to do what they can to offset them.
As an older teenager, I was introduced to real life racism and found it
disgusting. I had seen it in movies and read about it, but being in a place
where it was happening had far much more of an impact on me. Then, as a young
adult I lived in Moscow, Russia for a couple of years. The experience radically
changed my world view and gave me a great respect for those who have immigrated
to the US. It can be so hard to be a foreigner, and a lot of immigrants here
don’t have nearly as much support as I had. In Russia I also had some
disturbing encounters with skinheads, which brought the racism issue closer to
the front of my mind.
My husband and I are both white Americans, and we have adopted a black American
child. Sometimes I say he’s African American just to avoid ruffling anyone’s
feathers, but the truth is that I don’t think he’s African at all. He looks
more like a he’s from the islands.
The experiences I’ve mentioned have greatly influenced my writing,as well as
growing up with bookish parents who encouraged creativity in any way that
wasn’t overly destructive. Anyone who reads my book will see the strong themes
of racism, acceptance, family, and cultural integration. And fun. Fun is very
2. What first inspired you to write?
I would have to say reading. That or being told stories when I was young. I
can’t remember when I didn’t love stories, and I used to make them up and tell
them to my younger siblings. I’m sure those stories were fun, but I can’t
remember them. I actually have a pretty bad memory. I’m so glad we have moved
past oral tradition to the written word.
3. Your fantasy novel “Kergulen” features a dark skinned slave–my
fantasy novel also deals with slavery and racism. How do you approach this
topic in your novel?
First, I should mention that Rima’s slavery isn’t because of her color. Her
entire race is dark skinned, whether free or slave. She is a slave because her
mother was a slave, and that’s all she knows for sure. Of course I approach
slavery as a negative thing, but in Rima’s culture it isn’t the same as it was
here in the US. Most of the slaves in her country are content, and possibly
even sold themselves into slavery because they needed a secure place to live
and food to eat. The farm where Rima’s story begins is particularly bad because
her new master is abusive and uncaring, and the he has a special dislike for
Rima because she scares him.
4. Tell me more about this book. What kind of person is Rima?
Rima is easy to love. She’s an extrovert, often funny, and at times
mischievous. Like most adolescent girls, she struggles with self-doubt, fears,
and moving past personal tragedy. Also like most girls, she wants to be
independent. In Kergulen, Rima learns a whole lot about what it means to be
truly free, and about what it means to really love. She also learns why she has
the eyes of a witch and what to do about it. And she learns how to fight with
cudgels, ride a horse, eat while blindfolded, properly greet a king, sew,
dance, and take an opponent down with nothing more than a hairbrush.
5. Who is your favorite writer, and why?
Dean Koontz. In most of his books, his characters are so believable and
endearing, and the stories are addictive. I read many of his books regularly
even though I know what’s going to happen, because if I don’t I miss the
6. What first drew you to fantasy?
My dad used to tell us his version of Tolkien’s stories, so that was my first
introduction to fantasy, but then I started reading the fantasy novels off his
shelves. Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Piers Anthony, and others. I don’t think
I was even eleven years old the first time I read The Sword of Shannara. I love
not being tied to the real world’s rules. Every book has to have its own rules,
of course, but it’s fun that they’re different from ours.
7. What are you working on next?
I’m working on the sequel to Kergulen, titled Kings of the Red Shell. It should
be out early autumn. Rima’s adventures resume in a more epic sort of story with
a wider cast of characters, a quest, and all of that. Rima continues to mature
and learns just how brave she really is.
8. What advice do you have for other writers looking to self-publish?
Oh, boy. My rule has always been to get advice from those who are incredibly
successful at what they do, and as of now that isn’t me, so I feel a little
awkward about giving advice. But I can suggest scanning over the threads on
Amazon’s author community and the Indie group on Goodreads. There are a lot of
seasoned writers on there who know the ins and outs of the self-publishing
world. I learned SO much from just reading questions and posts. I also suggest
making very, very sure that your book is professional quality before you publish
it. It’s true that you can fix the text and cover later, but you can’t fix your
reviews or a bad reader experience.