From the title onward, this is a story built in stark, vivid color. The white train, the black feathers, the red western sky. How important was the visual landscape of “Black, Their Regalia” to the inception of your story?
“Black, Their Regalia” was inspired by the colors in my home. One morning, I opened my closet to choose an outfit from its abundant selection of black blouses, black dresses, black skirts, black jackets, black t-shirts, and black sweaters. The monochromatic streak was interrupted by a blue-and-yellow Lipan camp dress, a turquoise shawl with red fringe, and a pink jingle dress. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if my regalia matched my everyday clothes? Haha. Yes.” That incident eventually led to a story of three musicians who wear black to please a very strange entity from Below.
During the writing process, the colors black and white transformed into prominent symbolic elements. White is linked to sickness and death; thus, it colors the memorial pillar, the quarantine compound, and the notorious train (among other things). Alternatively, black is linked to strength, both natural and supernatural.
If you want to admit that you are or were a goth, this is the time. It’s safe here.
As a geneticist, I can assure you that goth is woven through my DNA.
This story ends on a hopeful note, even a triumphant one, despite that the characters start out somewhat resigned to their fate. Could you talk a bit about hope, and the revitalization of hope, as it relates to these characters?
The Apparently Siblings have a complex relationship with hope. As Apache (Tulli and Kristi) and Navajo (Moraine) people, their family lines survived a genocide that killed millions. Adversity is not confined to the past; Tulli, Kristi, and Moraine must contend with the persistent weight of colonization, including dispossession, poisoned water, erasure, assimilation, violence, racism, poverty—the list goes on. They wear resignation as a shield against despair. It is so easy to be heartbroken when you are an optimist in a persistently unjust world.
However, they are also survivors. The fact that they—that any indigenous person in North America—live, create, and make new history is a triumph. Given the chance, Tulli, Kristi, and Moraine fight the Big Plague with everything they got. By embracing their personal strength, they come into hope.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing a book, something I haven’t done since elementary school. In the vein of “Black, Their Regalia,” it combines comedy with dark fantasy. The first draft has been a blast. I hope the next seven are equally fun.