Friday, July 16, 2021

Lucinda Roy Interview - The Freedom Race


Photo Credit: Larry Jackson

Novelist and poet Lucinda Roy’s latest book deal is with Tor/Macmillan for her futuristic slave narrative series The Freedom Race. Her previous novels are Lady Moses, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, and The Hotel Alleluia. Her poetry books are entitled Wailing the Dead to Sleep, The Humming Birds, and Fabric: Poems. She also authored the memoir No Right to Remain Silent: What We’ve Learned from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech. Among her awards are the Eighth Mountain Prize for Poetry, the 2017 Zenobia Hikes Woman of Color in the Academy Award, and the Baxter Hathaway Prize for her long slave narrative poem “Needlework.” An Alumni Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing at Virginia Tech, she has been a guest on numerous TV and radio shows, including The CBS Evening News, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS’s Sunday Morning, Oprah, and NPR. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the GuardianUSA Today, the Chronicle of Higher Education, North American Review, American Poetry Review, and many other publications. She delivers keynotes and presentations around the country on creative writing, diversity, campus safety, and higher education. Currently, she is working on her speculative novel series, a book of ekphrastic poems, and a series of oil paintings depicting the Middle Passage.
        
  


ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08GJQX4R9
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Tor Books (July 13, 2021)
Publication date ‏ : ‎ July 13, 2021
Language ‏ : ‎ English

Praise for THE FREEDOM RACE

“Every now and then a work comes along that makes you wonder whether you are reading or dreaming. And you’re not sure it matters which.” ―Nikki Giovanni

“You ever have the feeling that if you don’t read something, you may be missing out on something momentous happening? . . . I got that vibe from the first page of The Freedom Race. It has a prescience about it in the tradition of Octavia Butler. . . . If ‘resilience’ was a book, it would be The Freedom Race.” ―Maurice Broaddus, author of Buffalo Soldier

“Roy (The Hotel Alleluia) turns to speculative fiction for the first time with this lyrical, Afrofuturist hero’s quest set in the not-too-distant future. ...[Ji-Ji's] harrowing but profoundly spiritual quest for sovereignty against all odds impresses. Readers ... will appreciate both the tenacious heroine and Roy’s intricate prose stylings.” ―Publishers Weekly

“The future Lucinda Roy calls up in The Freedom Race is a fierce, unsettling riff on our past and present. Instead of watching democracy evaporate and justice fail, Ms. Roy challenges us all to get over ourselves and join the race for freedom.” ―Andrea Hairston, author of Will Do Magic for Small Change

“American magic-realism meets the outcome of the Second U.S. Civil War in a well-told, but brutally jolting, strangely prescient, and soul-haunting narrative.” ―L. E. Modesitt, Jr., bestselling author of the Saga of Recluce series



Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
So far, the most rewarding experience has been working with a team at Tor Books that believes in this book and in the series. I’m glad to have had an opportunity to share this raw, magical, satirical story about enslaved people determined to resurrect hope. I’m also thrilled by the Macmillan Audio version narrated by Royal Shakespeare Company actor Adjoa Andoh (best known in the U.S. for her portrayal of Lady Danbury in Netflix Bridgerton). Hearing Adjoa capture the characters’ voices in a stunning range of accents is a real treat.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’ve just sent my editor FLYING THE COOP, the second novel in the series. After that, I need to work on the third and final book in the series. I’m also working on a book of poems inspired by art from Africa and the African Diaspora. I’m hoping to continue work on a series of paintings I began years ago on the Middle Passage, though finding time to do so isn’t easy. I teach creative writing at Virginia Tech and often have speaking engagements, so I keep very busy.

Can you tell us when you started THE FREEDOM RACE, how that came about?
The book came about first and foremost because the characters that took root in my head—Jellybean “Ji-ji” Lottermule, in particular—wouldn’t give me any peace until I told their story. The other reason why I felt compelled to write about a future world torn apart by a second Civil War, climate insecurity, pandemics, and racism was simple: I saw the world as it is now and drew a line from here to the future, assuming we would continue along this trajectory. I’ve lived and worked in the U.S., the U.K., and West Africa. But living in a small college town in rural Southwest Virginia gives you a different perspective on the United States. More than a decade ago, I became concerned that we could be heading toward a fundamental fracturing of the country around issues of race and culture.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope readers are thinking—these characters and their world could be us/ours. If that were the case, what would I do?

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I love this question! It points to why novelists write and readers read. Stories shape who we are and what we believe. They enable us to leap into Otherness and see new worlds. From writing novels, to politics, to history, to college applications, we’re asked to share narratives with each other about what we see, who we are, and, most importantly, why it matters. In every culture, some stories are elevated while others are suppressed. If we don’t find a way to claim our backstories, we can’t know ourselves.

What part of Ji-ji did you enjoy writing the most?
One of the parts I enjoyed writing the most occurs in the middle of the book when something totally unexpected and extraordinary occurs—something that changes everything. (I can’t say what it is. But it’s something that calls upon myths of the African Diaspora, spirituality and faith.) I loved seeing how Ji-ji reacted to both the horror and the wonder of that.

Did you learn anything from writing THE FREEDOM RACE and what was it?
I learned once again that, for me, the act of writing itself is liberation, the essence of freedom. It’s the only place where I can be utterly alone and yet connected to characters and the worlds they inhabit. I also learned how welcoming sci-fi/fantasy is when it comes to diversity and difference. I hope that THE FREEDOM RACE can be read in many different ways by different readers—as a straightforward sci-fi adventure narrative, as a reconfiguration of myth, as a spiritual allegory, and/or as cultural and political satirical commentary. Like myself and so many of the characters in the novel, it’s a hybrid.

TEN QUOTES FROM THE FREEDOM RACE
  • “Stories are the wings of dreamers, and that is why some of the Passengers found their way back home to the tribe of lost birds whose songs filled their dreams.”
  • Man Cryday said sternly, “All of us have a choice to make in this life. We can let others make us or we can make ourselves. Which will you choose?”
  • There was no escape. Round and round seeds went, lashed to the Wheel of Misfortune. The steaders’ sick rhyme ambushed her again: The only way for a seed to be Free / Is to swing on high from a penal tree. Not even a wizard from the Cradle could break a spell as powerful as that.
  • “Hope is you,” the wizard said. “Remember.”
  • “Kill us and you kill yourselves. You must destroy the cage you have nightmare into being.”
  • “Height is a sorceress,” the Tribal wizard told Ji-ji and Tiro as they sat beside the crackling fireplace in his cabin. “She begets dreams of flight…”
  • Her teacher explained that when it came to Freedom people had to do their own conjuring…. Ji-ji wondered if the formula could be something basic like Freedom = Hope × Opportunity squared, only she couldn’t figure out how you squared Opportunity, or how you kept Hope above zero so you could multiply it with something worthwhile.
  • “Law and order’s tempting, ’specially after you seen chaos up close. So you trade justice for peace an’ avert your eyes when the disease metastasizes…”
  • Dreams are promises your imagination makes to itself.
  • “Don’t you waste no more purple tears on grieving, Ji-ji. Folks who look back too often trip on the future.”
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Another intriguing question. I think I would introduce Afarra, a so-called outcast in THE FREEDOM RACE, to Monday Kabia from my novel The Hotel Alleluia. Like Afarra, Monday is invisible to many people. Yet even though they are both abused in terrible ways, these two girls refuse to play it safe. Afarra, who has mostly raised herself and communicates in unique ways with people, animals, objects, and the natural world, would listen to Monday and empathize with her predicament. She wouldn’t judge her, or assume that because she has to sell her body for money she is any less deserving of respect. I think that the two of them would get into a lot of trouble, and that they would give other people hell if they were to combine forces.

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
One of the favorite events of my childhood was going one day with my father when I was five years old to a local amusement park called Battersea Park in London. My father died soon after that, but I’ve always remembered what it felt like to ride on the carousel with him. We rode together on a very colorful horse, and I loved the fact that the carousel went round and round in a circle that could last forever. Many years later, I wrote a poem about it called “Carousel.” It’s sometimes featured on exams for secondary school students in the UK. I get the occasional question from students overseas asking me to interpret the poem for them, which always tickles me. I grew up poor, so treats like a trip to an amusement park were rare. I realized that I placed such a high value on that interaction because we rode inside a continuous circle others couldn’t break.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Travel, travel, and travel again (which is more than once, I know!) to see the glory of the world and to celebrate the resilience and diversity of strangers.

Best date you've ever had?
With my husband Larry at the Halekulani Hotel in Hawaii where we went for dinner at sunset. Hard to find a more beautiful group of islands than those that make up Hawaii. We laughed at each other’s jokes and rejoiced in the good fortune of being together and loving the same things at the same time. I think there’s an awareness on the part of many Black couples that things could have turned out very differently and much worse. In spite of the jeopardy there is in the world, we’d found a path to something wonderful. Hard to beat that.

What was the first job you had?
From the age of fourteen, I worked on Saturdays at a department store in London called Marks & Spencer. It was at the Hyde Park end of Oxford Street. I wasn’t overly fond of tourists because I’d spend all day arranging thousands of socks so they were perfect, and then they’d come along and mess them up. Patience has never been one of my primary virtues.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
The mass shootings that happened at Virginia Tech where I teach changed everything. I was already aware of the precariousness of existence, and how easily things could change on a dime. If you grow up poor, and if you’ve seen enough of the world, you know that justice is frequently elusive. Even so, this tragedy flayed everyone who experienced it. I wrote a memoir about it afterwards called No Right to Remain Silent, in an effort to discover what we could learn from the tragedy about ourselves as teachers and parents, about students, and about the culture. It infuriates me that classrooms across this country and other so-called “soft targets” are still so vulnerable. I have spent a lot of the past twelve years speaking and writing about this issue, which poses an existential threat to education and must be faced with courage and determination.

What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh?
Yesterday (July 13) was a hoot. I’d stayed up all night to finish the revisions on the second book in the series and the first book came out on the same day. I didn’t plan it that way, and I’m sure my exhaustion made me giggly. My editor said I should partake in an adult beverage, so I did. (Everyone with any sense knows it’s different when you are given instructions, especially if it’s from your editor.) So my husband and I drank a bottle of champagne that wasn’t el cheapo champagne we usually get, and I felt like a queen.

First Heartbreak?
A boy called David when I was seven. We used to drink our milk together. He didn’t notice me, but I noticed him all the time, so I decided in the end he was quite stupid.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I think I would switch these around. If I’d never loved before I couldn’t have a guaranteed broken heart. When it comes to love stories, the sequence is always key.
 

The Freedom Race, Lucinda Roy’s explosive first foray into speculative fiction, is a poignant blend of subjugation, resistance, and hope.

In the aftermath of a cataclysmic civil war known as the Sequel, ideological divisions among the states have hardened. In the Homestead Territories, an alliance of plantation-inspired holdings, Black labor is imported from the Cradle, and Biracial “Muleseeds” are bred.

Raised in captivity on Planting 437, kitchen-seed Jellybean “Ji-ji” Lottermule knows there is only one way to escape. She must enter the annual Freedom Race as a runner.

Ji-ji and her friends must exhume a survival story rooted in the collective memory of a kidnapped people and conjure the voices of the dead to light their way home.

You can purchase The Freedom Race at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LUCINDA ROY for making this giveaway possible.
5 Winners will receive a Copy of THE FREEDOM RACE by Lucinda Roy.
WEEK ONE
JULY 12th MONDAY Gwendalyn's Books EXCERPT
JULY 13th TUESDAY TTC Books and More EXCERPT
JULY 14th WEDNESDAY Movies, Shows, & Books INTERVIEW 
JULY 15th THURSDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW
JULY 16th FRIDAY JeanBookNerd INTERVIEW
JULY 16th FRIDAY Ya It's Lit REVIEW

WEEK TWO
JULY 19th MONDAY BookHounds REVIEW & INTERVIEW 
JULY 20th TUESDAY Casia's Corner REVIEW
JULY 21st WEDNESDAY Rajiv's Reviews REVIEW
JULY 22nd THURSDAY Insane About Books REVIEW
JULY 22nd THURSDAY Nay's Pink Bookshelf REVIEW
JULY 23rd FRIDAY #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog REVIEW

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