It’s been a while since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo interview with Valjeanne so I thought it about time we caught up with what she’s all about and what she’s doing 17 MONTHS LATER…
Derrick Ferguson: Have there been any major changes in your life since we last talked?
Valjeanne Jeffers: Actually, yes. I’m pleased to announce that my new grand-baby, Kyle Toussaint will arrive in December of 2013. My first grand-baby, Logan Alexander, turned four this year; and he is a continual source of joy in my journey.
I’ve been published in two anthologies, which were just released this year: Griots: Sisters of the Spear, and Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction Volume II. And I’m releasing two new novels, Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera and Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective.
Colony: Ascension, is a spin-off of my earlier short stories, “Colony” and “Probe.” It is a full-length novel about an apocalyptic, dying Earth. . .and what becomes of it. In the year 2045, Earth’s leaders are hell-bent on colonizing new planets. But an alien species has its own agenda, its own ideas, about what the future of Earth should hold. Here’s a short excerpt from Colony: Ascension.
Earth’s atmosphere was polluted. The weather was a miasma of storms, heat waves and solar flares; shifting from twenty to ninety degrees within the space of a day. Mutated animals roamed the streets. Those without jobs, panhandled and squatted in alleys and deserted building. When their rationed water was gone, they used homemade filters. They ate rats, insects, dogs—anything they could find. Some had even become cannibals. Those with jobs lived under the Domes.
I thought I’d be finished with both novels by the end of the year, but they won’t be ready until sometime in 2014. Quinton Veal, my cover artist and fiancée, is releasing his fourth book, Fire and Desire, in 2014—which is also a very big deal for me.
I have two audio books, too, which are coming out soon (both narrated by voice actress Darla Middlebrook). The audio book of my first novel, Immortal, will be released on December 31, 2013. The audio of the second novel of my series, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, will be out in March 2014.
DF: How do you feel your writing has developed since we last talked?
VJ: As writers we are always developing, always growing. When I wrote my first novel, it was more fun than work. I would slip into my characters’ world during the day, like a beautiful waking dream. Even when I wasn’t writing, my characters were never far from my mind.
Now, as a more seasoned author, I’m still just as consumed with my writing. But I have to remind myself to have fun. Writing is hard work. But authors also have to enjoy themselves. That’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. Especially when you have self-imposed deadlines and quotas to meet.
I have to remind myself, too, to slip into my characters’ skin; to let let them evolve emotionally and connect with them emotionally. In this way my characters become “spirits who walk across the page,” rather than chess pieces I’m pushing across a book. I enjoy them, love them, and so do my readers.
DF: In what direction do you think your work is heading now as opposed to seventeen months ago? Or is it heading in the same direction?
VJ: I believe that in last year or so, I’ve learned to take my time—to not rush my writing. I’d venture to say that I’ve actually developed more patience, which is no mean feat for me. Anyone who knows me well, will tell you patience is not my strong suit. But I am learning.
DF: Tell us about Mona Livelong.
VJ: Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective is a new series, in which I introduce Mona Livelong, a seasoned detective who is takes on a case, “The Case of the Angry Ghost”, of a family haunted by an angry poltergeist, an evil spirit if you will. Mona grudgingly takes the job, and finds herself swept up into a dangerous plot to turn North America on its head. But she’s “sharp as a mosquito’s tweeter,” as one of my characters describes her, and gifted with preternatural abilities.
In “The Case of the Angry Ghost” the first novel of the Mona Livelong series, I introduce my readers to a whole new cast of characters: Mona, the darkly beautiful sorceress and sleuth; her on-again/off-again lover, Curtis Dubois, a Haitian detective; his partner and best friend, Harold Polanski. And a charming Southern gambler, who also happens to be a ghost, “Larry Junebug Walker.”
Here’s a short excerpt:
Mona turned the crank on her steam-powered auto and trailed Bouvier, traveling east to Bourbon one of her town, Clearwater’s, Black communities. The home was a freshly painted, two-story, bone-white house with a wraparound porch complete with swing, and roses blooming in the yard.
The moment she stepped out of her auto, she felt it. Negative energy surrounded the house. In the second-story window, Mona saw the silhouette of woman. And she knew she wasn’t human. Broke as she was, Mona was starting to think this was a bad idea. Vengeful spirits were among her least favorite preternatural beings. They couldn’t be trusted.
Sneaky, unreliable hants. Like this one, being quiet until these folks moved in and then raising all this hell. She’d known them to lay low for weeks at a time, sometimes years, lulling folks into a false sense of security. Only to attack the new owners of the house later.
This is a new series I hope my readers will love, as much as they love my Immortal series. But it is detour off the beaten path for me. Mona Livelong is a detective novel, and a horror/steamfunk book, with shades of Voudon.
In writing a horror novel, I deliberately steered away from my comfort zone. Those who are familiar with my writing will tell you that I like to mix genres. But this was the first time that I’ve gone out my way to scare my readers. I hope they enjoy it.
DF: You’ve got a story in Griots II. Tell us about it.
VJ: Griots: Sisters of the Spear (edited by Charles Saunders and Milton Davis) is the second volume of the Griots Anthology series; and my short story, “The Sickness” is included in it. In “The Sickness”, the journey of Nandi, a young West African woman, continues. Nandi is also the heroine of “Awakening”, my story which was published in Griots: A Sword and Sword Anthology. She is a warrior who has taken control of her own destiny— with a little supernatural help from her friends.
This anthology features some exceptional writers; including the man himself, Charles Saunders, Carole McDonnell, Ronald Jones, and Joe Bonadonna. It is a pleasure and an honor to be listed among them.
DF: Tell us about Steamfunk and your place in the genre.
VJ: Steamfunk is a sub-genre in which Steampunk is written from an African American’s, really any person of color’s worldview. This genre gives me an opportunity to be creative with gizmos and gadgets, as well as to tie them to other plot mechanisms; such as (as one of readers described it) environmental racism. And when writing within this genre the author is automatically creating an alternative universe—which I love.
I found my niche in Steamfunk back in 2011, when I wrote The Switch. In the beginning, The Switch was an open-ended short story that I really enjoyed writing, but had no intentions of continuing. But, at the urging of my oldest son, Toussaint, I revisited it and developed it into a full novel: The Switch II: Clockwork: which includes The Switch as a Prologue and The Switch II as the Conclusion.
The Switch: Book I, was later published in the Steamfunk! anthology. It was also nominated the 2013 E-festival of Words for Best Novella Award. Since 2011, I’ve become very comfortable with Steamfunk. I’ve written two more short stories, “Mocha Faeryland” and “Outcasts”, a story of an alternate Haiti and Toussaint L’Overture’s revolution. And then, of course, there’s Mona Livelong.
DF: Where do you see Valjeanne Jeffers in five years?
VJ: In five years, Quinton and I plan to edit and release at least one SF/Fantasy anthology. I also plan to write four more novels, and connect with more of my wonderful readers, so that I go on to become a bestselling author.
DF: Hollywood calls and says that they’re going to give you 500 million dollars to make a movie out of one of your books and let you pick the director. Which book do you let them have and which director do you choose?
VJ: I don’t even have to think about it. Immortal. Not only is the first novel, of my first series, very near and dear to my heart, I believe that Immortal would make a dynamite movie. The special effects alone would be off the chain.
The director? Also a no-brainer. I’d pick filmmaker/director M. Asli Dukan, who is writing and directing a film documentary of Black Speculative Fiction, entitled “Invisible Universe”. I’m very, very honored to be listed among the authors of the “Invisible Universe.”
DF: Recommend a movie, a book and a TV show.
VJ: I’d recommend “Sugar Hill”, a Blaxploitation Horror classic about a young woman, Diane Hill, who avenges her lover’s death with the help of a powerful Voudon Loa. For books, how could I pass up a chance to recommend The Switch II: Clockwork? It’s got science fiction, time-travel, Steamfunk and even a little erotica. What’s not to love?
For TV shows, my all-time favorite is “Supernatural”—a horror series. This show features deep, subtle commentary about life, from some very likable characters. It even manages to be funny. “Supernatural” also has one of the best rock soundtracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening too.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Valjeanne Jeffers: Readers can preview or publish my books at: www.vjeffersandqveal.com
I’d like to thank Derrick Ferguson, Author Extraordinaire, for taking the time to interview me.