How did “Up Falling” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
This story is based on a dream I had in spring 2019. A wild, sad dream, where I was desperately trying to jump to the moon. And on the jump, I saw these fantastic colors all around me. Purples and pinks streaking past me. And I remember waking up literally feeling like I was falling. Like I was being pulled into the Earth. It was terrifying and so intense. So naturally, I tried to recreate it with words. And after several drafts, I think I was finally able to capture the beauty and wonder I felt in my dream.
What led you into writing genre fiction?
I’ve been writing genre fiction since I was eight. Genre fiction started out as a way to escape for me. I grew up moving to a new town every year until late middle school into high school. It was hard to make friends because of how often I had to say goodbye. On top of that, I grew up being sexually abused and feeling like I wasn’t safe . . . like the world wasn’t safe. So genre fiction was a way for me to create worlds where I could be safe. I started with fantastical elements, like talking dogs or magical portals to other worlds. But as I grew older, I gravitated more towards science fiction because of the sheer possibilities within it. I could tell my story the way I wanted to, without others making choices for me.
Is there anything you want to make sure readers noticed?
I wanted readers to take note of the humanness of this story. Not just of the drive and passion that Aliishi has for salvation and safety, but of the humanness in Jumplead that Aliishi never really sees. That this story isn’t just about one girl’s determination, but two people’s drive to survive together, to learn each other enough so that they can get what they want and need most. The way Jumplead is Aliishi’s teacher and parent, and the way Aliishi becomes Jumplead’s student and child, is complex. I love their relationship so much.
What are you reading lately? What writers inspire you?
I’m currently reading No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull. I might be biased, since he was my advisor during my MFA at NC State, but his writing constantly inspires me. I’m also in awe of N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and Tomi Adeyemi. Those three powerhouses fueled my determination and drive to pursue writing as a potential career. But not just that—they’ve inspired me to want to inspire others. I hope one day someone can look at my work and say, “Who inspires me? Ah, well have you heard of Jendayi Brooks-Flemister?”
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
Oh gosh, what am I not working on? My ideas and the stories I want to tell pull me in so many directions! Right now, I’m currently working on the first draft of my debut novel. It’s a speculative fiction, fantastical multi-perspective narrative with themes around othering, displacement, loneliness, sensuality, and so much more. It’s still heavily in the works, but I hope to have my first draft completed within the next few months so I can start querying in 2022!
I also love short fiction as a medium to tell impactful stories, so it’s not like I’ve abandoned that at all. Hopefully I’ll have more short stories out soon, but for now, you can find my work in Anathema Magazine, Santa Fe Writers Magazine, and Constelación Magazine. I’ll also soon be out in Asimov’s, so be on the lookout! I always post updates on publications, and I’ll soon start a blog on my website, jendayibrooksflemister.com.
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