“Never give up,” author L.L. McKinney told writers hoping to publish during a Writers’ Track panel on Saturday. Her animated, provocative discussion prompted me to approach her for more sage advice.
Daily Dragon (DD): Tell us about your work as an author. How would you describe your stories and novels?
L.L. McKinney (LLM): I would say it’s fantasy with an urban twist. My first series in the Nightmare-Verse is a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. I’m also doing a Nubia graphic novel for DC.
DD: What has your journey to publication been like?
LLM: It has been a rough road, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Even after ten years, I wouldn’t want to shorten it or skip anything, because I learned a lot. I’ve also faced a lot of challenges, such as while on submission hearing things like “we have our Black girl book for the year,” because there could only be one. I didn’t realize how racist publishing could be until I was in the thick of it, but I’m more stubborn than that.
DD: Is there anything you would do over on your journey to success as a writer?
LLM: Not really? Perhaps I would like to change a few things in my published books, but what writer wouldn’t look back and feel the same way? We grow with each book. Maybe I’d like to learn just how hard the industry can be sooner, how it can take so much out of you. But my journey is exactly what it’s supposed to be. I’m blessed and grateful.
DD: What advice can you offer to new or emerging authors to overcome any obstacles they might face?
LLM: Honestly, to keep going, like I said above. Sometimes those obstacles won’t be fair—like the thing with the one Black girl book or one Asian boy book allowed a year—but we’re fighting against that every day. In addition, find your people, the ones that will support you no matter what. This business throws a lot of negativity at you, from reviews to rejections. You need a port for the storm.
DD: What challenges do you see for the fantasy and science fiction communities, writers and readers, in the third decade of the 21st century?
LLM: There’s still a lot of work to do regarding diversity, especially when it comes to race. We’re still not allowed to be safe in these spaces, and that needs to change.
DD: In what ways can we, individually and as an allied community, act to enhance creative opportunities for new writers and artists?
LLM: Support diverse stories by diverse authors. Give those authors time and space to be visible. Pass the mic. It’s important for readers to not only see themselves in these stories but to see themselves in the people behind them as well.