Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired this story?
It’s been so long that I scarcely remember. Part of it has to do with the history of marronage in the Caribbean; of enslaved Africans escaping plantations and forming their own communities in the hinterland. In part I’m doing a thought experiment about one of those communities thriving, as did the quilombo of Palmares, for about two centuries before being destroyed by the original colonizers.
You’ve had success writing both novels and shorts stories. Do you have a preference for working with long or short form in fiction? Do you take a different approach to writing novels as opposed to short stories?
I used to prefer short stories because they’re, well, shorter. But I learned that some short stories can take as long to write as novels do. Now I don’t have a particular preference. The difference between novels and short stories is that novels have a longer, more involved story arc. There are more plot threads to tie off. A short story is like a sprint, usually. A novel is like running all the legs of a relay.
Do you ever pick up one of your older works and find that you’re surprised or amazed by it? Is there any piece from your body of work so far that you’re particularly proud of?
Sometimes I read an older work and find a word in it that I don’t know the meaning of, although oddly, I can remember knowing the meaning of it when I wrote it. I love those moments. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that writing isn’t magic. As to pride, I’m always proudest of the work I’ve most recently completed. I have ADHD and a learning disability; finishing is really hard.
You’ve won several awards, from the John Campbell Award for Best New Writer (1999) to the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (2014). What do the nominations and awards mean to you?
Somebody out there likes me! I’m always humbled by the awards. And they give me some of the push to keep going.
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