Jamaican-born author Nalo Hopkinson burst onto the publishing scene in 1997, when her novel Brown Girl in the Ring, set in present-day Toronto and featuring supernatural events drawn from Caribbean folklore, won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. She followed that up with a string of other successes, including 2001′s short story collection Skin Folk, which was acclaimed by The New York Times. Her two latest novels are Sister Mine and The Chaos.
This interview first appeared on Wired.com’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which is hosted by John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley. Visit geeksguideshow.com to listen to the entire interview and the rest of the show, in which the hosts discuss various geeky topics.
Your new novel is called Sister Mine, and it’s about a pair of sisters, Abby and Makeda. Could you just tell us a little bit about those characters and how you came up with them?
I’ve been trying to remember that, and I’m really not sure. Part of it is because I’ve always been intrigued by “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti. It’s from the nineteenth century, and it’s about two sisters, one of whom saves the other from goblins. I wanted to write about two sisters who were very, very close, as these two were, so I came up with Abby and Makeda, who were born conjoined. They got separated at birth, and when they got separated—you know, when you separate conjoined twins, often they’ve been sharing some part of their body, so one gets it and the other one doesn’t—so when Abby and Makeda get separated, Abby gets the magic and Makeda doesn’t.
They belong to this family of demigods called the Celestials. Are those characters drawn from folklore or did you just make them up? Where did those characters come from?
The characters are kind of a kind of a riff on the deities from the Afro-Caribbean belief system, which is rooted in West Africa, and you see various versions of it throughout the African diaspora, wherever African people landed up, West African people specifically. So they are sort of based on them. Beyond that, I departed a bit and had a bit of fun and used a bit of imagination, but they are very clearly—People will be able to identify who’s who.
Could you talk a little about a couple of them and what sort of spins you put on those characters?
Well, I have Grandmother Ocean, who is loosely based on Oshun, who is a riverine deity; she’s associated with bodies of waters, such as rivers. I made her into the grandmother of the lot, and put a pun on her name so that “Oshun” became “Ocean.” I have General Gun, who is very loosely based on Ogoun (again, a pun on the name), and Ogoun is a blacksmith, but can also be found on the battlefield, where he has a tendency to go into berserker mode. So I did a bunch of playing around with Ogoun and who Ogoun is as General Gun, that kind of thing.
Makeda and Abby’s father had fallen in love with a mortal woman, and so they’re half mortal, and so they’re kind of on the outs with their family. Does that have a history in folklore, that that sort of thing might happen?
Sure, there’s a history in science fiction and fantasy, the idea of the biracial savior of two races, or what a sweetheart of mine calls, “not so subtle race allegory science fiction theater,” so I did some of my own. And the idea that they’re on the outs with one half their birth family is just the kind of thing you can see in life everywhere, where the circumstances of somebody’s birth, their family doesn’t approve of it, and so decides that they aren’t really one of them and finds subtle and not so subtle ways to keep them feeling ostracized, so I sort of drew on human foible.
The magic system in this book is called hoodoo. Is that just a variant spelling of voodoo? Is it different in any way from what people think of when they hear the word voodoo?
It is, and it isn’t. They are related. Getting into the specifics of how they are and are not related could take up most of this podcast and needs somebody with more training in it than I have, but they are definitely related, and I think I called it mojo.
I think both terms appear in the book.
Yeah, I do use them. I throw in a bunch of terms, but I call magic specifically mojo.
Is there a difference between hoodoo and mojo, or is that also too complicated to get into?
Yeah. [laughing] Mojo feels to me like a broader word, and most of us know the blues line, “I got my mojo working.” That sense of “got game” is one of the ways you’ll hear people use “mojo,” and hoodoo is something specific that’s a specific set of practices.
One example of the magic in this book that I really liked was one of the characters was once one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars, and he was turned into a human being. How did you come up with that idea?
Totally written randomly. I was writing, and I don’t do well with outlines. I have to outline in order to be able to have a project I can sell to an editor, but the outline’s always very vague, and once I’ve done that, I just start writing. So I was writing that scene and got to a moment where Makeda asks something about Jimi Hendrix, and the guy leans forward and says, “I used to be his guitar,” and that just came out of my fingers. I was just typing and there it was, and then I thought, “Okay, that’s cool . . . what? How did that happen? Did Jimi Hendrix even have a British guitar at any point? (Because this guy is British.) What did I just do?” So then I had to do some research and figure out a bit more about Hendrix and his music and his guitars, and it also went into and informed the story. That one was completely random.
It’s funny, there’s a part in the book where Makeda sort of zones out and creates this powerful magical artifact, and I saw a clip with you where you said you have this tendency to sort of zone out and don’t ask you how the toothpaste ended up in the refrigerator and stuff like that. I was just wondering, is that part of your creative process? To sort of zone out and then come to and kinda look at what you’ve written and you’re like, “Where did this come from?”
It can happen. It hasn’t happened reliably for about five or six years now, partly because I spent five or six years quite ill, and couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, so zoning out in a creative way did not happen much. But I have ADD and part of that means that sometimes you just kind of lose track, either because you’re hyperfocused on one thing, or because you’re not focused at all and struggling to focus and sort of taking in all the information all at once, and getting too confused to make any good sense of it, and so I know the sense of—I have had lovely moments that feel like moments where I’m writing and writing and writing, and I’m quite aware of what I’m doing, then I look up, and it’s four hours later when it feels subjectively like only a few minutes. They don’t happen often enough. Because they’re fairly easy, or—they’re not easy, writing’s never easy—but they’re exciting when they happen. But I’ve heard other writers describe going into that kind of creative vortex where you sort of get lost in the work, and everything else kind of fades away for a while, and then you look up, and you’re surprised, almost, that you’re back in the world.
A lot of the characters in this are artists and musicians and things. There’s this wonderful, I think, bohemian atmosphere to the apartment complex that Makeda moves into. Did you have a background in arts grants or something? I was just wondering if you had experienced that sort of environment or is that a sort of dream life or . . . ?
A little bit of everything. I grew up in—my dad was a poet, a playwright, an actor. A lot of his friends were writers or actors, some of them artists, so it’s a world I kind of grew up in, but not like Makeda experiences it. I have been in a warehouse, I’ve lived in a warehouse, but it was awful and filthy, and it didn’t feel bohemian so much as just really not any fun at all. But this is fiction, so I can have fun, and because I worked in the arts in Toronto, because I still tend to work in the arts, I’m very much used to that surround, so I was very much able to draw on it, and also had people I could ask for advice, like when I didn’t know anything about how an electric guitar works, for instance. So it’s a little bit of experience, a little bit of drawing on the experience of others, and, you know, I would love to move into a building that was never intended to be a house and make a home into it. I want to live in a fire station, I want to live in a silo, I want to live in an old church or an old mosque and make it my own. It’s a dream. I don’t think it will ever happen, but it’s been a dream for a very, very long time.
You mentioned that this was sort of inspired in a way by the Christina Rossetti poem “Goblin Market,” and there are actually excerpts from the poem scattered throughout the book. I was just wondering, why did you decide to include those excerpts in here?
The poem itself is gorgeous, and it manages to simultaneously be very innocent and very sexual. It’s these two sisters have such a strong love for each other that they’re physically affectionate as well as just loving, and some of the lines in the poem read like sex scenes—they aren’t, but they read like sex scenes, and I just couldn’t help but include some of that gorgeous, gorgeous writing of Christina Rossetti’s, and some of the lines that it is possible to twist, and read as perverse if you have a mind like mine.
Well, no, I mean, I think that the sexual subtext of the scene, particularly where the two sisters smush fruit all over, and the fruit is running down—
Sucked juice off the other’s body! I mean that’s, really?
And there’s a scene very reminiscent of that in here where the two sisters are kind of smushing oranges on each other—
That was the one I noticed. Were there other scenes like that, pulled out of the poem or . . . ?
There is a—I don’t want to give away too much—but there’s stuff that I refer to that refers back to the poem, between the two sisters, between my two sisters that I created for the novel, and I tried to sort of evoke their closeness with the line about “like two birds in one nest,” where they’re sleeping in the same bed, so there are a few bits where I sort of refer backhandedly to things.
The title of this book, I saw, was originally Donkey. How did that change to Sister Mine?
That was my editor. [laughing] Editors get to change your titles. I mean, you have to agree, but they’ll work really hard to get you to agree. I called the novel Donkey because when the sisters were younger, one of them, Makeda, was a little more physically healthy and developed quicker than the other, and she would occasionally carry Abby on her back, and because Makeda is the one without the magic, she’s grown up with this notion that the family thinks that the only thing she is good for is for carrying her talented sister around. And so she thinks of herself as the donkey, and, in fact, some of the other relatives think of her that way too. So that’s what that came from. My editor thought that the title Donkey, though apt, was sort of ugly in what it referred to, and they didn’t want to turn people off the book before they had started reading it, and I figure the marketing department knows their job better than I do, so I was okay with it. The neat thing is, when I was most of the way through the first draft, I discovered a pair of sisters, black girls who were born into slavery, Millie Christine, who were born conjoined, kind of back-to-back and side-to-side, and who became singers, where one was physically stronger than the other, and actually the weaker one would sometimes sort of kite her legs up into the air, and the stronger one would walk around with her. So I went and found singing black sisters where one was stronger than the other and they were conjoined. I had not known about them before then; my friend Ellen Klages, who is also a writer, told me about them.
Makeda collects photos of conjoined twins. Did you do a lot of research on conjoined twins?
Yes, I did. Not so much on the modern day aspects of them, although there’s a little bit of that there, but the way they have been treated in history is interesting to me because of how they have often ended up being put on display and having to be treated as one person. When you read references to Millie and Christine, they’re called “Millie Christine” and referred to in the singular, as though they were one person. So I did a lot of research into various types of ways that human beings can be born attached to each other, and some of them were fascinating. The whole idea of the parasitic twin, where it’s not even a whole person, it’s a body part that’s sort of attached to the child when it is born—just some amazing stuff our bodies can do.
You also have a YA book out called The Chaos, and they made you change the title for that one too, right?
You’ve been doing your research! Yes, that one I was calling Taint, and I was getting pushback on the title from the very beginning because of, you know, some of the street names, what “taint” means on the street, and I kind of liked that meaning, so I wanted to keep it, and had tried to sort of modulate it by putting an apostrophe after the T, so that it could also be kind of a thing like “t’aint no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.” But when I handed in my manuscript, the editor wrote me back and said, “Look, my sales managers are giggling every time, can we please change it?” So I did. That whole thing of changing titles, I’ve learned now to have second title in reserve, [laughing] because frequently I seem to come up with titles that make editors’ hair fall out.
Sister Mine is very sexual, and I would imagine a book called Taint might be as well, although it is a YA book, so I think maybe I wonder . . . is there sexuality in The Chaos and what sort of—
There is. The protagonist is sixteen; she is sexually active. That’s barely there in the story. I mean, it’s obvious that it is, but I don’t make a whole lot of it. For me, part of what was going on in The Chaos is that when she was younger, before she was sexually active, she was in a different school where she was being slut-shamed by the other girls in the school, you know, that kind of phenomenon where girls will spread rumors about each other, or they’ll find one of their own to pick on and spread rumors about awful things they’re doing with the football team, or sometimes will physically attack them as well. I wanted to talk about that, because it will happen regardless of whether the girl they pick on is actually sexually active, so I have a moment where my protagonist in The Chaos remembers the other girls sort of passing around notes or something that said that she had been giving blowjobs to the whole football team, and she’s at this point maybe thirteen, she doesn’t even know what one is, she just knows it’s not good. So I wanted to talk about that phenomenon and what happens to her, what happens to girls who have this visited upon them, because often they’re the ones who are for some reason cast as an outsider. They might be different in some way, or they might be newly come to the school when all the others know each other already. There’s usually something like that going on, and I did a lot of looking into the lives of girls who had been slut-shamed.
Well, actually, one of the Amazon reviews complained specifically about that line about blowing the football team, that it was too graphic or something. Have you gotten—
Yes, but that review . . . I sympathize with the reviewer, she’s a woman who has two girls, two daughters of her own, and she’s sort of alarmed at the notion they might be reading stuff, not even about blowjobs, I don’t describe a blowjob, I don’t . . . there’s no sex onscreen in the book at all, but the notion that they might be reading words like that, and she was also alarmed that my protagonist often disobeys her parents—that one made me smile. I mean, I have sympathy for the woman, but the fact is her girls might be dealing with this stuff as we speak and they’ll need to be able to come to her and tell her. They need their parents to be allies, not so afraid of the world that they won’t deal with it. So I’m of two minds, and it was how I was going to write it anyway.
Back in episode seventy, we interviewed Junot Diaz, and I asked him if he was familiar with your work, and he said, “Of course, I mean, Nalo’s my girl. I saw Nalo just a couple of days ago,” so I was just kind of curious how you guys know each other and how often you hang out and stuff like that?
Well, I knew his work because he was making such a splash for himself with his very first short story collection, Drown, and I did not know him, but turned on my email one day to an email from him, basically saying hi, how much he loves science fiction, and how much he wanted to write it, and we kept in touch. We finally met, oh, I can’t remember the year, but he and Joe Haldeman, who both teach at MIT, engineered having me go to visit MIT, and that’s when I met Junot. I’d known Joe before because Joe was a teacher at the Clarion I attended, so that’s when I met Junot in the flesh. We’ve kept in touch. We tend to see each other across crowded rooms where two thousand people have gathered to hear Junot speak and we wave. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man. I teach his work in my creative writing classes now, to give students a sense of voice and language and just fierce honesty in your writing.
Yeah, could you talk about that? You started teaching fairly recently, right, at UC Riverside?
I’ve been teaching all my entire writing career, off and on, but usually one-off things like a Clarion or that kind of thing, and I mentored at Humber College in Toronto, where it was an online mentorship, but a few years ago in 2009 I was offered a position teaching creative writing, specializing in science fiction and fantasy, at the University of California, Riverside. I don’t think there’s another job like this in the world. I mean a lot of people teach science fiction and fantasy, but they’re usually not in a creative writing department, or there isn’t a position created specifically for it. This university has the Eaton Collection, which, I’m told, is the largest science fiction archive that is open to the public. It’s a glorious, glorious collection, and there are three profs here who are part of a research cluster, a science fiction research cluster, and a lot of our work is sort of centered around the Eaton Collection. I’ve been to the Collection and sort of touched some second editions of Thomas More’s Utopia and first editions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. For science fiction writers, it’s like going to church.
You mentioned that you’ve had health problems. I saw you said that you hope this job will provide you a bit of economic security, and I think some of our listeners were just sort of wondering just how you were doing.
Oh, bless them. I love science fiction. There are ways in which this community kept me and my partner alive through some very, very bad years, and I will always acknowledge that, so thank people for asking. I’m doing a whole lot better. A regular paycheck is magic. It’s a pretty decent paycheck, though I’m still struggling with a lot of stuff. Climbing back of out of a hole of not just poverty but homelessness takes a whole lot, but I am starting to believe it’s going to hang around, that the good stuff that’s happening is going to hang around, my health is coming back, my creative focus is growing again, I’m making a home for myself here. I’m not forgetting Toronto and keep making a home for myself there, but basically I am now eating regularly and back on medication I need to be on, and doing better and better every day.
Ah, that’s great.
Another book you had just come out recently was that you were one of the featured authors in Terry Bisson’s Outspoken Authors Series. Can you just talk about that series and how you got involved with it?
Report from Planet Midnight. Terry approached me while—see, partly my memory’s bad because of the ADD and the learning disability and the fibromyalgia, but put it through then five years of destitution, and it gets even worse. So I remember Terry approaching me, I don’t remember when or how, whether it was in the flesh or whether he sent me an email, but he told me about the Outspoken Authors Series that he edits, that are chapbooks where one author is sort of featured. They will have a story or two in there, an interview with Terry, and an essay. And I said, yes, I thought I could do that, and we worked on it. Terry was very, very patient as I went through homelessness and clambered my way back out to sort of having a home to really having a home to being able to think about writing at all, and, bless his heart, he kept waiting, and he remained patient, but, you know, kept on at me until we had Report from Planet Midnight.
It’s got two of my short stories; I didn’t have the brain to write new ones at the time, but I picked two that most people would not have seen because they got published in such obscure places. One of them wasn’t even published as a short story, and it wasn’t published under my name. Then he did the interview, and I took an address I had given to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA). I was the guest author in a year where the theme of the conference was race in the literature of the fantastic. It was about a year and a half after RaceFail, so I knew it was going to be touchy, and I did part of the address as a performance piece that talked about translation, about what we mean when we say “I’m not racist.” So all of those are in the chapbook, which I really liked. I really loved the work that Terry did, the editing he did, the way he put everything in context, I loved the way the book looked, I loved working with the editor and the publishing house, but since it was a chapbook—and I know, particularly in this genre, we’re size queens; a book’s not a book unless it’s at least four hundred pages, preferably twice that—so I figured it would mostly be of academic interest. To my surprise, people have been buying it and reading it and talking about it and it’s got legs, it’s doing quite well. I’m very pleased. I’m proud of having done it, proud of the fact that Terry asked me. Terry’s been an outspoken writer for a very long time, and that he thought what I had to say was important enough to be heard is a lovely thing.
In this performance piece you mentioned, you actually enacted it as if you were sort of channeling an alien intelligence. Could you talk about why you decided to present your remarks that way?
I had been trying to write—I knew almost two years ahead of that particular ICFA, that particular year of the conference, that I was going to be a guest author, and I had been trying to write my speech for most of that time, and you know how touchy things got around RaceFail, and the kinds of stuff that was happening, and I’d start trying to write it, and I’d get a combination of scared and furious, and I’d go take a walk around the block, and plus I was, you know, still homeless and hungry. No, by then I actually had an apartment, a room in somebody’s apartment, but the words weren’t coming in a way that felt strong to me or felt like people would find them “listenable to.” Until it was the day before the conference, I was actually already at ICFA, and I took my notes down and started going over them again, and it may have been something my partner said that made me start writing in that mode of a translator from another planet, and I was mixing all kinds of modes because I have the translator sort of inhabit me, so we have the very science fiction/fantasy notion of possession, but the notion of possession is also one that you find in the Afro-Caribbean spiritual systems that I talk about in my writing. Only it’s not a scary possession, it’s not a ghost taking you over so that they can vomit out every fluid you’ve ever had in your body; it’s in the course of a religious service, you open yourself to the deity, you invite the deity, one of the deities, to come down and inhabit your body for a while so they can talk to their parishioners, so I was evoking both simultaneously, because I can’t . . . my world is a hybrid one, my references are hybrid references, so I just really worked that. And I had this translator from another planet inhabit me as a horse, which is what you’d call the person in the spiritual service who has a god riding on their head, and he and his team of translators have been listening to transmissions from Earth and having to translate them, and they’re not sure they’re really getting them because the translations they’re getting aren’t really making sense to them. So he’s asking for clarification, and when they tried to translate “I’m not racist,” they got something like “I can swim in shit without getting any of it on me.” And he looked at their own translation and thought, “That doesn’t make any sense. What sensible race would say this?” So they’ve come down to ask for clarification, always with a confession every so often that, you know, “sure you guys do some crazy things, we do some crazy things too,” because I didn’t want to give people the notion that I was standing there with some notion of purity, of being unaffected by racism. And it was a fascinating performance to give. I was shaking; I was shaking because I knew who attended ICFA, and I knew that some of the people who were there would not be fond of what I was saying. But I could also hear the supportive people in the audience who did get it and who encouraged me and I actually cut it short as a speech, because I just couldn’t bring myself to keep standing up there feeling as vulnerable as I did, but to my surprise, when I stopped, I got a standing ovation from the audience. So Terry had me take that speech and put it in context for people who don’t know the science fiction community and for whom RaceFail would not make any sense just as a phrase, and then I put the speech in with some additions.
Um, I have forgotten your question.
The question was just, I guess, why did you choose to present as an alien being, and maybe is there some synchronicity between feelings of alienation and extraterrestrials and race relations and stuff like that?
Mm-hm. Well, you look at science fiction, and look how often it talks about being alien, being alienated by the Other. Look at the numbers of blue people!
Yeah, that was funny, you mentioned all that—
Avatar, looking at you. And it is now easier to find people of color in science fiction literature and media, but the issues of representation are still really, really troubling. The way they took, for instance, Avatar: The Last Airbender, that was in a pan-Asian world, and made the protagonist white. Neil Gaiman talking about—I believe it’s Anansi Boys or American Gods—getting an offer for a film production of it, then having the producers say, “Well, of course, we’re going to make everyone white, because black people aren’t interested in fantasies,” the kind of thing you’ll hear white writers say about not wanting to write any people of color, for one reason or another, but it all boils all down to “because I don’t want people to be mad at me.” So the issues are still very, very much there. Even though we talk about race a lot in the literature, there’s still this idea of “Well, if we make this person blue and give them pointy ears, then we don’t have to actually talk about what’s happening in the real world.” And those of us who live in racialized bodies feel that lack, we feel that erasure, so yes, there was something quite deliberate in my doing half the speech as an alien.
I think actually a lot of our listeners don’t know what RaceFail was, so do you want to maybe just explain that for them?
Yes, I believe in 2009, discussions on race and racism in science fiction and fantasy in literature and community blew the hell up on the Internet. There are some ten thousand posts that have been archived, with people of color in the community talking about what our experience has been, with white people in the community talking about what their experience has been, with lots of people who are very proud to say that they’re colorblind opining very loudly on why the people of color were talking nonsense. It just got very productive, and I use that word deliberately because a lot of good came out of it. For one thing, people of our color began to see that there were [others out there], we made contact with each other. Often, you go to a con, and it can still happen that you’re the only, or one of the handful of people of color there. When Octavia Butler was alive, it was the experience of all the other, maybe four, black women science fiction writers in the community that we would go to a con, and someone would assume that that’s who we were, to the point that Toby Buckell suggested that we call ourselves “The Butlerian Jihad.” [laughing] I want t-shirts!
So a lot of the buried and not-so-buried systemic racism in the science fiction community became laid bare. Lots of people denied it was there, but how could it not be? We’re part of the rest of the world. Like I said, you can’t swim in shit and not get any of it on you. This idea that the worst thing that could happen to you is for somebody to say “That was racist,” and that you should react virulently against the very notion that you can be affected by your own society. People began to talk about that, and people began to make space to talk about it. One of the lovely, lovely things that come out of it was a publishing venture that’s going quite well and got supported by the community beautifully. And out of it came this sort of Fifty Books Challenge where a lot of the readers realized that they weren’t reading writers of color and started challenging each other to read fifty books by writers of color in a year. And they’re doing it. It’s a lovely thing. There’s still this notion that you are somehow morally superior if you don’t know anything about the background of the writers you read, and I maintain that writers have every right to not talk their backgrounds, that’s fine, but when people do and it’s important to their work, to not know doesn’t mean you’re morally superior, it means you are indifferent. And so there’s just all of that going on, still going on, still getting challenged, still arguments going back and forth. It’s a very rich time, I think, in the science fiction community, and a lot of nastiness has come out of it, but a lot of change, I think, is beginning to come out of it, and it’s, at base, a hopeful time for me.
If people want to embark on that Fifty Book Challenge you mentioned, what would be five or six they should start with that you would really recommend?
Oh my god. [laughing] You want me to get hate mail. Five or six? Okay, let’s start with one on my desk: The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord. It’s her new one. I am reading it now and really enjoying it. Something I’m teaching my students: Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water. He’s a Canadian First Nations author. Uhm, that’s two. Samuel R. Delany: pretty much anything. That’s three. Hmmmmm . . . The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by Nora (N.K.) Jemisin. Charles Saunders: pretty much anything. And Love and Rockets [by the Hernandez Brothers], which is a graphic novel/comic, as well as Bayou [by Jeremy Love], which is another set of graphic novels. There! Off the top of my head.
Actually, speaking of graphic novels, I saw you said that you were very slowly working on a graphic novel. Is there any—
Progress? No, but I’m still collecting research. It’s something that my life partner and I were working on together, and he’s gone back to school, so it’s on hiatus. But I’m still collecting research and notes for it. I don’t know when it’ll happen; it’s nowhere near imminent.
Can you say what you’re researching or what the overall topic is or . . . ?
Part of what we’re looking at it is discussions of what constitutes a human being at a time between sort of the Second World War and a few years afterwards, where we had the suffragist movement where women were fighting to be recognized as people, we had corporations being designated people under the law, that kind of thing. But I’m also looking at a particular African supernatural creature and the history of black men on the railroad in North America. You know, it can’t be just one thing. It all comes together, I promise you, but I just don’t know when.
Okay, so that pretty much does it for the questions. Are there any other projects that you’re working or have coming up that we haven’t touched on yet?
Yes, I am back to working on Black Heart Man, which is a novel that I’ve mostly finished and had to put aside, so I will be working on that over the summer. I am shopping around a new short story collection, and just generally getting about the business of learning to become a full-time professor and getting back into my creative brain. So that’s where I’m at.