Good morning, good evening and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen! We have reached the halfway point of February (A.K.A. Black History Month, A.K.A. Black Horror Month) and there are still so many talented African American authors that I am excited to welcome to my platform. Today, we have Speculative Fiction and Epic Fantasy, author, Tamara Mayo joining us to discuss her journey from avid reader to author and publisher.
Me: Thank you so much for joining us today, Tamara! It is an honor to have you!! So, tell us about yourself. Who are you? Where are you from? What genre(s) do you write in?
Tamara: Howdy do! I’m Tamara Mayo! I write speculative fiction and epic fantasies. I originally hail from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, specifically Norfolk.
Me: Nice! When did you know that writing would be a part of your life journey? What inspired it?
Tamara: It’s weird because my entire childhood I’d been grooming myself to be a psychologist – to the point where my peers referred to me as the “junior psychologist”. In twelfth grade for our AP Biology class, we were assigned to write a scientific report regarding evolution, complete with research. While everyone else wrote a regular paper, I wrote a fictional tale of a young man learning and researching evolution while taking a journey from the beginning of Earth’s history. The teacher was blown away, I got an ‘A’, and the teacher kept and cherished that paper for a long time. So, I did the same thing for my college essay and was promptly rejected from my dream school (Georgetown University). Somehow, I decided right then that I wanted to move to California and become a famous screenplay writer.
Me: That's interesting! Whoddathunkit? Now, let's talk about your journey from the early stages of your writing career to where you are now? How would you compare your writing style then to where it is now?
Tamara: I started out quietly. I was a ghostwriter. I preferred to help others find the words to manifest the images in their minds or the emotions in their hearts. I was only twenty years old, but I found very quickly that I felt more comfortable helping others write their stories for some reason. However, my writing style back then was more polished – I stuck very strictly to the rules I was taught and was hesitant about experimenting with new ideas. That stringent mindset only lasted for about two years, though. *chuckles* I began to embrace the infinite freedom that writing brings and now, twenty years later, I believe my style reflects the confidence I have in breaking some rules.
Me: Being a ghostwriter is actually great training grounds for writers. That's amazing! What are some things that you’ve learned about publishing? What advice would you give to a newly inspired writer who wants to publish their first book?
Tamara: I’ve learned that you can’t do it on your own. Even when self-publishing, you have to hire others to do things you can’t. So, you’ve got to know who you need to hire and how to vet them. I’ve also learned the importance of understanding how to market and what it really is. My advice to a newly inspired author is to take the time to learn the business. Don’t be impatient. There’s no need to jump out there and learn by stumbling and falling. Not when there are so many before you who already did. Read their books and learn what they did, why they did it, and what mistakes to avoid. Learn how a book is professionally made and how to connect with readers.
Me: How would you define your literary experiences as an author of color?
Tamara: LOL It’s certainly been… interesting. I think mainly because more Black authors are stepping into genres where it feels like we’re being told, “You don’t belong here. Black people don’t read or write that stuff”, and we’re pushing back.
Because we know that’s not true. I’ve always wanted to see people of color represented in mind-blowing, epic adventures - especially in the books I read growing up. And so did many other BIPOC readers. But we weren’t there, so we had to imagine that we were. And you know what? I’m thankful for that, because I don’t think we should beg people of other races to represent us. It’s our responsibility to make sure we are represented by creating it.
However, when we do, it’s hard because we have to find those BIPOC readers and bring them into our worlds, while dealing with criticism from those who believe we shouldn’t be writing fantasy, sci-fi, or horror… especially in ways that highlight our culture and celebrate who we are in a non-conformist way. I love it, though. It’s been a wonderfully dope experience and I’m glad we’re all stepping out there.
Me: Tell us about your most recent book. Who are the characters? What inspired you to write it? Who is the story directed to?
Tamara: My most recent book is an epic fantasy adventure entitled “Rise of the Demon Inferno”, which is the first book in the “Eternal Goddess of Flames” series.
I like strong female protagonists of color, so this story centers around Naya, a unique breed of angel-demon-human hybrid who fights against a rising demonic army headquartered in a small, creepy town in South Carolina. Fighting alongside her are two humans she saved from demon possession – except now they’re half-demons. There are also three human siblings who move to the town from Philadelphia and find themselves caught up in the middle of an exciting, yet dark adventure to literally save their souls. There are lots of angels and demons that make appearances, including archangels like Uriel, Raphael, and Michael… and even the fallen angel Lucifer.
I was inspired to write it by many things. One of them being the book of Enoch, as well as my fascination with angels, demons, and the true aspects of good and evil. I asked myself, “Well, if angels can fall and choose to be evil, how does that immediately make them demons? Especially if the Bible never specified that. If anything, they’d just be dark angels… so who are the demons really?” Then I thought, “Well, what if things we think are evil actually aren’t?”
I also love anime. Lots of anime. One of my favorites is “Saiyuki”, where a Buddhist monk named Genjyo Sanzo goes on a journey with a band of demons to take a “journey to the west” and try to stop the resurrection of a powerful demon named Gyoumao. Along the way, they have to fight other demons and it’s often asked of Sanzo’s clan, “Why are you fighting against us when your demons just like us?”, to which they’d kick butt while usually replying, “Because we are not like you”, meaning they chose to do good – to use their powers to protect and help people, even though they’re far from perfect. Definitely a huge inspiration for my band of Rebel Demons.
The story is directed to readers who love paranormal and fantasy, as well as those who enjoy reading urban fantasy. If you like contemporary fantasy where people like you and I are thrust into situations that are supposed to be reserved for movies, then this one is right up your alley.
Me: Which character (that you have written) is your favorite? Why? Which book can readers find this particular character?
Tamara: Honestly, I don’t have a favorite. They’re like my imaginary friends, and they’re all so fun to write for. Luke has been a joy to go on some journeys with. He has a short story series on my website called “The Vow”, where he fights against me – then with me – to bring his world back. Writing his journey was the catalyst for “Rise of the Demon Inferno” even coming back, to be honest.
But right now, I’m having fun revisiting a young lady named Raja. She died unexpectedly in her early twenties and was given an offer to “cross over into the light” but refused it because she is naturally suspicious of everything. Lucky for her she is, because she finds out that wasn’t the “real light” that we see upon death and is something nefarious set up by higher dimensional beings to trap souls. Now she’s on a truth- seeking journey I can’t wait to take with her. You can find excerpts of her story in “Universes of A Creator: An Anthology of Paranormal Fiction” and her upcoming book, “Raja’s Requiem”.
Me: YAAAAASSSS! Alright, so tell me, who is/are your favorite all time author/authors?
Tamara: Okay, here goes: Christopher Pike, Terry McMillan, Eric Jerome Dickey, Beverly Jenkins, Edgar Allen Poe, Terry Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, and anyone who writes about science, physics, and outer space.
Me: I love Christopher Pike! I devoured many of his books during my middle school years! Alright, we talked about some of your struggles and life lessons and even other authors that you admire, now it's your turn to shine. Brag on yourself: What are some of the things you are most proud of since publishing your first book?
Tamara: I’m proud that I learned how to edit! I’m having so much fun flexing my creative skills in new ways and figuring out how to share the love I have for my characters in a way that will make people interested in knowing more about them.
I’m also proud about healing from a really dark, painful place and coming out of my shell to meet more authors like myself. I’ve now been opened up to a super amazing world of fantasy, horror, and speculative fiction written by talented Black authors that I otherwise may have never known about.
Me: Have you ever suffered from writing burn out? If so, how did you recover? If not, what keeps you from reaching that point of creative exhaustion?
Tamara: Not yet, thankfully. I also run a publishing house, so I have works by other authors that keep me busy. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I don’t write enough.
However, the burnout has occurred before and it was a very frightening time. I recovered by going back to my first love: reading the books that first sparked my imagination and desire to create. When I’m not reading, it’s impossible for me to write.
Me: What is one thing that you want readers to know about you that they may not know already?
Tamara: I worked in a 911 dispatch center for ten years and heard the worst of the worst humanity had to offer. As a result, I have a big smile that masks very thick skin and a person whose mantra is, “It’s not that serious.” When you’ve seen and heard some of the things I have, you realize certain things in life just aren’t worth stressing over. I love to laugh and enjoy life. I love to enjoy stories being told to me. Stories where the good guys win, because I had to experience so many instances where innocent people didn’t win. I’m not afraid to write the struggle, but I’m going to always write us a path towards the light and to hope.
Me: How do you want to be remembered by future readers long after the sun sets on your writing?
Tamara: As the J.R.R. Tolkien of the Black literary world. I write epic adventures. As in, they will have high word counts, lots of action, and mind-blowing fantasy elements. My characters – and readers – go on exciting journeys where mysteries have to be uncovered. I know I have a LOT of books to write before I can claim that title and crown, but just know that I’m coming for it. I want to be remembered as the little creator that wasn’t afraid to write epic adventures where BIPOC characters fought and prevailed over evil.
Me: What challenges do you think newer authors face today compared to what you experienced when you first began your publishing journey?
Tamara: Having to figure out how to connect with, gather, and nurture relationships with your target audience in a social media world. Everyone is clamoring for attention and it’s hard to cut through the noise sometimes.
There is a lot of misinformation out there, unfortunately. Now, it’s all about how much money you can make selling books, all so you can use that as a validation tool to then sell a class or something to some hopeful writers and get their money. Capitalism dominates what was once a pure market where the merit of your work was all that mattered. As a result, new authors are more prey to the sharks and wolves out there who want to exploit someone’s lack of knowledge. That’s why I stress for authors to learn the what the industry standards are, especially for the traditional path of publishing.
Me: What would you say, separates you from the other authors that are on the market right now?