Name: Victor Yates
Where are you from: Jacksonville, FL
A little about yourself i.e. your education, family life, etc:
I moved from Jacksonville, Florida to Los Angeles, California to be part of the larger writing community on the West Coast. I could not find a writing job in Florida. Once, I moved I realized I had to enter a writing workshop to be a writer. I researched schools and found Otis College. Being in Otis’s Writing Program allowed me to become a writer, in the sense of the word. Since graduating, I have taught several writing workshops, I freelance write for three local magazines, and I published my first book.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
In November, I published my debut novel, “A Love Like Blood.” The book was a ten-year obsession. I thought of the idea when I started working at the Ann Arbor District Library. I started reading “how to write” books and read more to help me start writing the book.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing at the age of 14. I read a poem by Maya Angelou. I do not consider myself to be a poet, but I won first place in the Elma Stuckey Poetry Awards and have two poems published in “For Colored Boys,” which was published by Magnus Books in 2012.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself to be a writer when I started teaching writing workshops. I had magazine jobs and newspaper jobs before that, but I always felt awkward defining myself as a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I wanted to write a book dealing with the layers of race, religion, Americanism, and sexuality and how those things can disrupt the father-son relationship. Carsten, the protagonist, his grandfather migrated from Somalia to Chicago to have a better life for his family. In the process, he changed the family’s last name and converted from Islam to Catholicism to be more “American.” Carsten’s father is Somali and his mother is Cuban. I wanted to examine these ideas in a reliable and sympathetic character and see how he would change and force the reader to question influencers. Now, I am just ready to hear back from the readers.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I am more of a technical writer who enjoys language that is strange and unusual and not easy to construct. I force myself to write what is uncomfortable and poetic and I am a harsh editor.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Reflections, self-identity, and family are themes throughout the book. Also, the color red is used as a symbol throughout the book. The title reflects the idea of familial love and identity.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, that it is better to love children as they are without conditions and that conditional love or love that has ifs does not equal love.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
It is far from science fiction or fantasy and readers often ask if it is based on my life. You will have to read it to know if it is.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All fiction is based on certain facts. This book is based on facts. I think that is the best way to answer that question without giving away too much.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? A mentor?
There are so many that it would be impossible to name them all. The shortlist includes Daphne Gottlieb, James Baldwin, Staceyann Chin, Toni Morrison, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Michelle Tea, Mark Danielewski, Ethan Canin, E. Lynn Harris, and Yusef Komunyakaa (Facing It changed my life). And, all of my writing mentors have influenced my writing: Peter Gadol, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and Jen Hofer.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
All of my classmates at Otis College.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am currently planning my book tour for “A Love Like Blood” and writing a short story collection.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Otis College and my writing mentors, Peter Gadol, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and Jen Hofer.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, I teach writing workshops. I freelance write. And, I am selling books. I hope to teach writing/English at a community college soon.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Reading Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise. I get chills every time I read it. Angelou is part of the Black canon of literature and I regularly return to her work for inspiration along with others. Angelou and Toni Morrison are my literary godmothers.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Excerpt from “A Love Like Blood”
Inside congested markets selling curry-flavored worms, images of disembodied hands are everywhere – in logos, pottery, graffiti, tattoos, jewelry, clothing, and charms. The image symbolizes protection. In Lama Doonka, where my grandfather is from, the symbol is eight-fingered. Finding villagers with six or seven fingers is as common as finding a traveling troupe of baboons. Eight-fingered villagers are treated like gods but are born once every one hundred years. My Father’s unshakeable nickname growing up on the far North Side of Chicago was “Hand.” His crueler friends would make tongue-clicking sounds around his name as if dressing it in quotes, but he smiled hearing it. Some of his closest childhood friends have only recently discovered why the nickname stuck. And, he smiles telling them. He moved like a professional illusionist, distracting them with overexaggerated gestures, pulling attention to his left side. The performance prevented them from gasping for breath at his right hand.
The human eye is easy to mislead, but cameras tell the truth or a distorted version of the truth. Of the thousands of photographs that I have of him, in only two are his right hand entirely visible. The first is a wedding picture buried in a bottom bedroom drawer. His hand is blurry and unremarkable from the wide angle of the living room. In the second picture, he is looming in Union Station inside the marble terminal. Tight concentration is in his face, and a Nikon camera is in his hand. He is photographing an older man in secret that is photographing his adult son. The son, partly in shadow, is cradling an infant in the crook of his arm at a slight incline. A dark-colored blanket insinuates the child’s sex. Shot from his right side, the focal point of the image is my father. A crack in the tile runs from the top of his hand and connects him to the other men like a vein; it is closer to the skin. From son to father and father to son, our relationships are equal in blood; however, our trinities are unrelated and unknowable. Five or six once-overs might be required to realize that his hand looks rather peculiar, and then the viewer notices it: skin, soft tissue, a bone with a joint, two thumbs. Fortunately, the crash of noise and Father’s concentration muted the clicks of my camera.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
There are so many, but Samuel Delaney is up there. He uses a cut-up technique with poetry. He weaves in the poetry of his ex-wife into his work. You have to read her work to know where her work starts and his ends.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I hope to start traveling very soon for the book tour.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Ranilo Cabo designed the cover for “A Love Like Blood.” He is a brilliant graphic designer.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned the importance of commas, editing, re-editing, editing more, editing more, and editing more.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read more than you write. Journal, if you can. Support other writers. Join a writing community.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
My book is available on Amazon, Kindle (if you have Kindle Unlimited it is free to download), and Create Space. You can follow me on Good Reads, Twitter, and Facebook.
Twitter – http://twitter.com/writervicyates
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I am too old to remember it.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Good books and good movies.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
James Baldwin. I would love to have taken a writing workshop with him.
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why?
Here lies a writer.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Reading and binge watching Netflix
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Orange is the New Black and Once Upon a Time and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music?
Free food, maroon, and non-pop music
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Professional traveler and wine drinker
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it? http://victoryates.wordpress.com/
Create Space: https://www.createspace.com/5793911