Thursday, July 1, 2010

African inspired fantasy fiction - Interview with Milton Davis author of Meji Books 1 & 2

Chemist by day and science fiction and fantasy writer by night, Milton Davis is the author of the African-inspired epic fantasy Meji. This two-book saga follows the destinies of the twin brothers Ndoro and Obaseki in the lush, dangerous, and diverse continent of Uhuru. Drawing upon African myth and folklore, Davis crafts compelling character-driven adventures set in an alternative African-style world shaped by the ancient cultures of humanity's birthland.

Davis has also authored other works, but my interview with him focuses on Meji Book One and Book Two.

Who are your favorite characters in the Meji epic?

My two main characters are my favorites. Ndoro is a strong, determined person who is confident in his abilites. Obaseki is more thoughtful and sensitive. He's more concerned about others than himself. I also like Inaamdura. Some readers see her as a bad character, but if they pay attention they'll understand her motives.

(See characters biographies and artwork)

Do you know of other examples of African culture inspired fantasy? Or, are you pioneering a subgenre?

Charles R. Saunders is the true pioneer of Sword and Soul. His Imaro stories and novels, published in the late '70's and early 80's, set the standard.
Surprisingly enough I never read any of Charles' book before writing Meji. It was only after I completed Meji that I discovered his works. I was able to connect with him online; he read the Meji manuscript and volunteered to write my intro. He also wrote the intro to my upcoming book, Changa's Safari, and we're currently working on a Sword and Soul anthology entitled, "Griots."

Describe the spiritual and/or magical systems portrayed in your fantasy setting.

The spritual/magical systems of Meji are a composite of various African spirtual and magical beliefs. Africa is a vast continent; in the past each tribe had its own spiritual base. There are some common themes which I used as well as a good dose of imagination.

In your feedback from readers, what do people say they like best about Meji?

It's hard to say what people enjoy the most. Many like the interplay between characters; some like the world of Uhuru and some enjoy the actions scenes. Most enjoy the fact that it takes place in an African based culture which makes it fresh yet familiar.

Have you ever visited any locations on the African continent?

I've never been to Africa. I hope to go one day, maybe after I sell enough books!

What specific regions and cultural/tribal traditions in Africa are specifically inspiring to you?

I don't have a favorite. As an African American my ancestors are most likely from the West African region, but I'm fascinated with the entire continent. If I had to choose I would say the Western kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai.

Are there any fantasy genre books or movies that especially stimulated your imagination and prompted you to become a fiction writer?

Like most sword and sorcery writers Robert E. Howard was a major inspiration. I was also a big fan of Michael Moorcock. I used to love the old fantasy claymation movies. Jason and the Argonauts was my favorite!

Some fantasy fiction tends to have either strong male or female appeal. I found your male and female characters to be equally compelling and written with genuine feeling. Do you think your fiction has general appeal for both men and women or does it skew toward a particular gender?

In the past fantasy seemed geared more toward men. Recent writers are more even handed in their portrayals. I try to respect all my characters and present them in a fair way, even my villians.

Do you have any additional comments?

Thanks for the interview. I'm glad you enjoyed Meji. There's much more to come.

You're welcome, Milton. I was impressed with his writing and the ease with which his characters came to life in my imagination. I wish him success as he expands my favorite genre to include the cultural imaginations of more people.

Purchase Meji Books 1 and 2 and art prints too.