When I first began this journey of seriously doing the work of becoming an author, I did my research to see who else was in the space to which I was writing. At first I found it hard to pick out who wrote fantasy involving black, gay characters. The scarcity of such material – or, at least, a way to find it – was shocking, but I eventually came across someone attempting to change that. Shad O. Walker, author of the One Warlock’s Love Story series, has created a world that’s part fantasy, part paranormal romance, and very erotic. He’s amassed a dedicated following that’s stuck with him through six books. After interviewing him about his personal experiences and his work, it’s become clear to me that he’s just getting started.
JK It’s hard to find a picture of you anywhere online. Why the secrecy?
SW Great question! I’ve been told that I am as elusive as the vampires in my series. There is a reason for that. Prior to finishing the One Warlock’s Love Story series, I had the opportunity to meet a phenomenal author and spirit by the name of L.A Banks. She is the author of the Vampire Huntress series. If you haven’t read it, then you have to check it out! She gave me lots of great advice, but the one thing that she admonished me to do was to put the focus on the story (and not on myself). She talked to me about how easy it is to get caught up in the hype of being a popular author and she suggested that I learn from her mistakes. I loved her as author, but I grew to love her even more as a mentor. Unfortunately, I had no idea that she was sick. Not too long after we met, she passed away. I was devastated. So in honor of her and all that she taught me, I am not planning to put myself out there until my entire series is released.
JK Have you always wanted to be a writer? Have you had any desire to do anything else?
SW I have always been an avid reader! I didn’t realize that I had a gift for writing until much later in life. I went to bed frustrated one night because I couldn’t find a paranormal series with gay, Black characters. I woke up that night at 3:06am (I remember it like it was yesterday) and the entire story of Zander Knight was running through my mind like a movie. I started writing and I wrote all weekend long. When I was done, I had the outline for the entire series. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. This series has introduced me to so many wonderful readers. My “super fans” call themselves OWLS after the series’ title. This entire experience has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined.
JK What was your experience like growing up as a black gay male? And how has it influenced your work?
SW Growing up as a black gay male who liked to read meant that I never found science fiction, fantasy or paranormal stories with characters that looked or loved like me. When I was growing up, black gay boys weren’t validated at church, at school or at home – and not even in books that I was reading. The stories were all about unassuming, confused little white girls. I didn’t know it then, but I know now that it had an impact on my impression of my self-worth.
JK Your website mentions that Octavia Butler, James Baldwin, and E. Lynn Harris are all authors that you admire. What is it about their works that inspired you?
SW I could talk about them all day long! Let’s start with Queen Mother Octavia Estelle Butler! I think her work was ahead of its time. Her ability to create entire worlds for her characters was amazing! I felt (and still feel) connected to her because her books literally saved my life. As a result of childhood abuse, I stopped communicating with my family. I literally shut down and stopped talking (kind of like I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings). They thought I had lost my mind. To make a long story short, I found myself through reading Octavia Butler’s books. I was able to forget my own problems by losing myself in her stories. As for James Baldwin, I’ve always thought his writing was poetic and beautiful. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind or write from a place of truth. He was a proud gay Black man when it wasn’t cool to be either. You’ll notice that one of the main characters in my series is named Giovanni after Baldwin’s book, Giovanni’s Room. And then there is E. Lynn Harris who broke ground for all modern black, gay male authors. I actually met him at a book signing before he passed away. I suggested that he write a science fiction series with gay black characters and he didn’t even miss a beat before he said to me, “why don’t you write it.” I didn’t know it then, but he sowed a seed.
JK In your bio, you mention that you’re armed with your grandmother’s dictionary. What’s the story behind that?
SW My grandmother was a brilliant woman, but she wasn’t able finish school because she had to go to work to help her family. Getting her GED and going to college wasn’t an option for her, so she saved up her money and bought a dictionary that she used to read over and over to teach herself new words. I can remember sitting in her lap and learning words with her. So when she passed away, I kept the dictionary. I can still feel her presence every time I open it. Sure it is easier to go online, but using her dictionary is so much more meaningful to me.
JK You mentioned noticing a lack of LGBT characters of color in paranormal romance pushed you into writing this series. How has this affected you? And since you started writing the series, have you seen a change?
SW Although I have started to see a few other science fiction and fantasy stores that feature LGBT characters, my work is different in that it is an eight-book series that includes elements of science fiction, fantasy and paranormal romance. I am honored by all of the aspiring writers who reach out to me and say that reading my story has encouraged them to write and publish.
JK What is your series about?
SW One Warlock’s Love Story is the coming out and coming of age story of a young, Black, gay warlock named Zander Knight. I wanted to capture all of the wonderful “firsts” associated with being young and Black and gay – your first time going to a gay club, meeting your best friend, and your first time falling in love. The twist is that the series also includes magic, vampires, shape shifting and sex – lots of sex.
JK What has been the reaction to your series? And how did you feel about the positive and the negative reception?
SW The reception has been OVERWHELMING! I have a loyal legion of fans and there are new readers joining the fold every day. It is very humbling. I had a young, gay man write me and tell me that he found the series after his religious parents kicked him out after they found out he was gay. He went on to tell me that this series helped him realize that he could create his own family just like Zander Knight. Like all authors, I will run across a negative review every now and then, but that is just a part of the game. Like Jill Scott says, “everything ain’t for everybody.”
JK Who’s your favorite character and why? Is it the same for all of your readers?
SW Asking me which character is my favorite is like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite. I love them all. They are all a part of me. With that said, I do have an affinity for the main character in the series, Zander Knight. I guess mothers do have a favorite child. I think I need to call my mother and ask a few questions.
JK There’s a line in your first book that Kindle notified me was the most highlighted line. It was when Zander was driving back home to see if his family was safe after an attack: “He was sixty miles out when he started to get angry for not having been given the magical training that was his birthright. He knew that his parents loved him, but he was starting to think that they had made a critical error in judgment in raising him in the ways of mortals.” This is a line I think a lot of people could connect with. What was the inspiration for that moment? Was it all about Zander or was there something more personal behind that?
SW I had no idea that that was the most highlighted line! Thank you for sharing that with me. I think there comes a point in all of our lives when we start to evaluate ourselves and see our parents’ failings and shortcomings. It is an introspective moment that is both humbling and empowering. As an author, I wanted to give readers a peak into Zander’s thinking. This is also the beginning of the end of Zander’s relationship with his parents as he knows it.
JK You just published Book 6 this past April. Without spoiling anything, how has the series changed, if at all? And what has been the reaction to this entry?
SW One of the challenges of writing an eight-book series is that you have to maintain the integrity of the story while keeping readers engaged. The series needs to follow the eight-pint arc with stasis, a trigger, a quest, a surprise, a critical choice, a climax, a reversal and a resolution; but so does each book in the series. And that is an artistic challenge. I think I was able to accomplish this with this series. Readers also want to see the characters grow and evolve, but not so much that they don’t recognize them any longer. The series started out as a paranormal romance, but by the sixth book you’ll notice that I’ve incorporated elements of fantasy and science fiction.
JK What’s next for you and for these characters?
SW As for the characters, you’ll have to read the last two books in the series to find that out. The seventh book is due out on January 4, 2017 and the eighth book is due out on April 12, 2017. I have four other series that I am waiting to publish. I am not sure which one will be next. I am still trying to figure that out. I am currently taking suggestions from my readers as to what they’d like to see next. Beyond that, I am just living and loving life!
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