New Author Spotlight: Carlyn Worthy
What drew you to writing stories that move across genres? Is this a new direction for your writing?
Science Fiction & Fantasy is a relatively new focus for me. I’ve always been fascinated by the other worldliness of the genre, but never dared to explore it as a writer. Until this year, I mainly wrote stories that fell within the realms of Young Adult Lit and Historical Fiction. I found myself gravitating toward Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Afrofuturism once I realized there was a place where people of color could command their narratives as characters and as authors.
I immersed myself fully in the genre, and it quickly became clear to me that many of the stories in me didn’t fit in the context of our world. Maybe they never did, and that’s a good thing. I like the idea that a person who looks like me can create worlds free from the margins we’ve been placed in.
The theme for this issue is Music. Please talk a little about how your story reflects that. Did you write it for the theme, or was it something that you’d already completed that seemed to fit?
Surprisingly I’d have to say the answer to that is both. Recently, there’s been a shift in the atmosphere surrounding musicianship and live music in my city. It sparked a fire inside of me, and I began to mentally write the story almost immediately. A few weeks into that process I saw the call for submissions from Crossed Genres. For me, that solidified the need to bring this story to life.
The characters in “Faubourg” are nearly all women whose business is life and death, fate-of-the-world stuff. What do you say to people who complain that the story is unbelievable because you’ve put women into every position of power and written them all as smart, independent and tough each in their own way?
I would say there’s an intrinsic power that comes with womanhood. We have unparalleled self-awareness and awareness of our world. To me, the idea that a woman can be perceived as anything less than an independent, commanding force is a reflection of taught ideals and not the essence of womanhood itself.
“Faubourg” has no prominent characters who are white, and the story is in no way hindered by their absence. Given the tendency of many in publishing to ignore or deride the demand for more diverse science fiction and fantasy, did you worry that the story might be rejected as ‘unmarketable’ because it doesn’t feature a white protagonist?
It never worried me, to be honest. One of the greatest gifts given to me has been the privilege of seeing work from writers that unapologetically tell their stories. I began writing with the knowledge that an audience for this story existed. That’s not to say that I didn’t know this path would be a difficult one to walk. Writers of Color have lived in the margins for centuries, and we have a very long way to go. But the work of my peers eliminated the possibility of fear.
You set “Faubourg” in New Orleans, a place where many different cultural forces collide and unite. From which languages, music genres, faiths, and ideas did you draw inspiration for this story?
Street performers were at the forefront of my mind when developing the plot, so you’ll find characters singing lyrics to brass band music throughout the story. I also had Blues, Jazz, Hip Hop and R&B musicians in mind, along with the artists that make the city what it is aesthetically – painters, architects, artisans, etc. Essentially, I wanted to take my audience beyond the voyeuristic experience and gather a sense of what it means to live in New Orleans today.
Tell us something about your future writing projects. Are you developing more short stories? Do you have a novel in the works?
I’m exploring the “Faubourg” universe further, so there will be more short stories centered on the other characters. I’m also in the process of flushing out the concept for my first novel. Initially I envisioned it as a short story, but then I introduced it to a friend over coffee a few weeks after I finished “Faubourg” and he said, “I think that’s a novel. You may want to revisit it.” As it turns out he was right, and I’m really enjoying the experience.
Where is your favorite writing place? Can you draw us a visual picture of the kind of space you create for yourself when you write?
My writing space has floor to ceiling windows that beckon natural light, like most traditional New Orleans houses. You can see oak trees reaching for rooftops across the street, and shadows that cascade the facades of homes whose festival-themed flags fly proudly. Sometimes I get lucky, and I can hear brass bands practicing for a late night gig. My favorite writing space is my apartment, and it often starts the story for me.
What’s the question that you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?
What’s one question you want your readers to ask after they read this story?
What’s the answer to the question in number 8?
In the case of “Faubourg,” What happens in New Orleans once the music stops and the masks come off?