It is my pleasure to have on the blog today, Jeff Carroll: author, filmmaker, and hip-hop dating coach.
Yes, you heard that last one correctly. Jeff isn’t on my blog for his dating advice today, but you can find out more about that aspect of his career here.
I had the chance to catchup with Jeff and ask him about his writing, what inspires him, and what he’d like the future of speculative fiction to be.
ER: Thank you so much for granting me this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing style.
JC: I am a Gemini to the fullest so my stories have deep political subject told with a lot of action and fun. I’ve done a lot of things in my life from leading marches with Rev Sharpton to booking comedy shows with Kevin Hart. I’ve always been a movie fan. When I was 12 years old my cousin and I would see movies on 42nd street and recommend them to our local Harlem movie theater. Since movies are my first love my stories read like movies. People tell me all the time that they would love to see my book as movie.
ER: When did you start writing and what drew you specifically to speculative fiction?
JC: I started writing screenplays in 2003 after my mother had a stroke. I made two movies low budget B movie horrors, Holla If I Kill You and Gold Digger Killer. In 2007 after my second film Gold Digger Killer was released I wrote a tie-in comic book. I sold the comic book while screening my film at film festivals. Finally in 2009 I wrote the novelization of Gold Digger Killer. It was so liberating to write without having to be limited by my production budget that I decided to write another book. After writing the novelization of my movie I fell in love with writing. I even started reading more and learning a the different genres and Black Science fiction.
ER: What was the impetus for your story in The City anthology, “Dreamer’s Recall”?
JC: When I read the City bible outlining all of the elements I felt confined and felt that if I were there in the City I would want somebody to help me escape. So, as a story creator I wanted to tell a story where someone could have that possibility. Dreams have always been a form of escapism for me so that was the entry point for me to starting my story.
ER: How did you perform research for your characters and scenes or did you work from existing knowledge?
JC: I am not necessarily your grandmother’s sci-fi writer. I am a hip hopper. I grew up on movies like Krush Groove and Boyz in the Hood as much as I did Star Wars and Independence Day so I blend the energy of hip hop with the speculation of Sci-fi. With the characters of “Dreamer’s ReCall” I simple said what if there was a couple and one of them started having life changing dreams. I didn’t go as far as Love and Hip Hop but I did want to have something for Streetlit readers who’s stories have a lot of relationship drama.
ER: When using real events and people, how do you decide when to fictionalize and when to stay true to history?
JC: In my book It Happened on Negro Mountain I used the Mountain as my inspiration because it’s name was profound. Sci-fi is the genre which explores the “what ifs” and I use that use question to determine what person or event I fictionalize.
ER: For you, what makes a great tale? What do you like to read?
JC: I love adventures with happy endings. I love good triumphing over evil. I also like the escapism that Sci-fi provides. I like urban stories with a paranormal element. The writer which provided me with the most inspiration was LA Banks. I also like Steven Barnes but my favorite Sci-fi book is Zuro a Tale of Alien avengers. However after writing in the City I am fully turned onto CyberFunk and Afrofuturism. I am planning to write my story “Dreamer’s ReCall” into a novel.
Cover art for the collaborative cyberfunk anthology, The City, which features Jeff’s story, Dreamer’s ReCall.
ER: What scares you?
JC: A lot of things scare me. I’m not a sacredly cat because I fight through my fears. I am scared of sharks in the ocean. I am not scared of ghosts or demons. I am scared of people. Psychopaths and serial killers. I am also squeamish so my stomach can’t take realistic operations with lots of organs and blood. However, I was there for the delivery of my son.
ER: Of the works you’ve written, what’s your favorite? Of which are you most proud?
JC: I am proud of all of my writings. I’ve written a piece of myself and my family and friends into each of my stories. I do think my third book It Happened on Negro Mountain was my most unbelievable book to sell and it became the first of my stories to get a publishing deal.
ER: How can African American artists (actors, writers, filmmakers) succeed in speculative fiction circles? Do you feel your work has been received differently?
JC: I think we are at an opportune moment where opportunities for black creators are opening up. I think the main thing a black creator could do is hone their craft and put it out in the market for people to see.
ER: What’s your next project?
JC: I am currently writing a story I had for a movie into a novella. It’s about transgender serial killer in a CyperFunk world. I also have three manuscripts circulating for possible publishing deals so any of those could be my next book. I just released my first collection of short stories this past August called Sci-Fi Streetz.
ER: What’s missing in fiction? What shape would you like to see the future of speculative fiction take?
JC: When I first started reading Sci-fi there were a lack of stories I wanted to read but now there are more books than I can read. I still feel we are on the tip of the iceberg with manifesting our unique African America Sci-fi expression. I think when we fully developing our variation it will be as different as manga (the Japanese comic book form) is. I think black people have a unique worldview and cultural past which inspires our ideas and solutions to the problems and discoveries of the future. I even think we will have a common storytelling pace that will appeal to black people like the TV shows Empire and Scandal.
ER: Many black authors of speculative fiction tell me they struggle for fans. What’s your advice?
JC: Thinking of the future is directly connected to your knowledge of the past and because many black people don’t know of the glory of African people they see the future as frustrating as the past. I remember watching Brother From Another Planet feeling that “Dagg, we are slaves in the future too”. Dystopian stories are big right now but for Black people the Black Lives Matter movement makes them feel like we are living in a Dystopian present day world. I think also that since white male writers dominated Sci-fi so much that Black Sci-fi is still new most black people. Once we get that hit book like The Coldest Winter Ever then everybody will know about Black Sci-fi.
ER: What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
JC: Because I work full time finding the time to write and work social media are the hardest aspects of writing for me. The actual writing process presents its own challenges with each story.
ER: What do you do when you’re not writing?
JC: When I’m not writing I’m reading as much as I can. I make it a point to read Black Sci-fi but not exclusively. I try to read the latest Sci-fi books and I mix it up with old Sci-fi.
ER: Thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you like to mention?
JC: I just want to say that The City is an amazing project and I would like to thank Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade for creating such a glorious project. Inviting other black writers to share in their universe was a historical move. The City is the first of its kind.
Thanks for the interview, Jeff! Find out more about Jeff and his work on his blog, Facebook, and on Twitter.