Charles R. Saunders has been writing African-inspired fantasy fiction since 1971. He has also written screenplays, radio plays, non-fiction and political opinion columns. For several years, he was the main editorial writer for a daily newspaper. Born in Pennsylvania, he now resides in Nova Scotia, an eastern Canadian province. We have Saunders to thank for bringing color to the world of fantastical fiction. He is an African American man, writing stories based on fictitious Africa. His work is full of rich imagery, exquisite scenes and heroes that before him, didn’t exist in the genre. The author of the Imaro and Dossouye series, was gracious enough to grant an us interview.
Samuel Delany was our first African American writer in the sci-fi realm. How did his work influence you?
I didn’t find out that Samuel Delany is black until long after I started doing my own writing. I had read his books before discovering his ethnicity. However, I can’t say he was a major influence, because he was writing science fiction, and I was writing fantasy. He is our pioneer, and he has set the bar very high for those of us who follow him.
Tell us about your very first story? Was it a novel or a short story?
The first story I wrote that was not an English composition assignment was an origin-of-Imaro story, which eventually became the “Place of Stones” section of the first Imaro novel.
What do you love/dislike about writing?
What I like is the creative process … transferring my imaginings from my head to the blank page. When that process goes well, it’s a natural high. What I dislike about writing is writer’s block. I hate writer’s block, and avoid it as much as possible.
Dossouye features what could be the first Black woman warrior. Was she difficult to bring to life?
Not at all. But I have to say I don’t know whether or not I would have found her in my imagination if the call had not gone out for woman-warrior stories to be included in the Amazons anthology. Maybe I would. But it was the anthology that triggered the birth of Dossouye.
What do you love to do besides reading and writing?
Well … er … um … I guess I need to get out more.
Is there something you know now about the writing/publishing business that you wish you’d known when you first started?
I wish I had known that keeping a book in print after it’s been released is as difficult, or more difficult, than getting it written and accepted by a publisher. I wish I’d known how hard it is for a book that is not a best-seller to make back the publisher’s advance, and thus give the publisher an incentive to continue the relationship. I can anticipate your next question: If I had known this, would I have tried to become a writer anyway? Yes. I would. But I would have had a greater awareness of what I was getting into.
How much of your own personality finds its way into your characters?
Not much. In real life, I’m not nearly as belligerent as Imaro and Dossouye.
When can we expect to see Imaro and Dossouye’s latest adventures?
More Imaro novels will be coming out this year, via Sword & Soul Media. And I’m working on a sequel to the Dossouye novel, which will hopefully be out next year. And I’ve got some other African-themed fantasy projects on the go that do not involve either Dossouye or Imaro. I’m just letting it flow.