Rashid Darden is not afraid to write about subjects that don’t get enough attention or the same exposure as others.
Darden’s Lazarus Trilogy explored LGBT themes, with the protagonist, Adrian Collins, being an openly gay man at the fictional Potomac University in Washington DC. With nothing less than five stars on Amazon for his trilogy, Darden is already an accomplished author, if not a fearless one.
Being unafraid to write stories that need to be written, Darden focused his attention to his #BlackVampireProject novel, ‘Birth of a Dark Nation’, a novel about vampires who come to the New World via the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade… And I am so excited.
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time out to do this interview. Tell us a little bit more about the #BlackVampireProject and your inspiration to write a horror novel, Birth of a Dark Nation, after having penned the Lazarus Trilogy and The Life and Death of Savion Cortez.
Thank you so much for having me!
#BlackVampireProject is the name of the campaign I am implementing to obtain support for my novel Birth of a Dark Nation. This is the first in a series of novels about African vampires who come to America during the transatlantic slave trade. Their origin is seen through the eyes of Justin Kena, a contemporary, thirty-something professional in DC who gets tangled into a world he can’t believe, which only starts with vampires who can walk in the daylight.
I’m not entirely certain that my novel is horror, although it has some scary and gory elements. The more frightening aspects are actually from the horrors of slavery. I think most people would classify Birth of a Dark Nation as urban fantasy, and even that doesn’t seem precise enough to me. I guess the most important category I want it to be known as is “good.”
You’re a Washington D.C. native, but you’ve spent time in Russia and the United Kingdom growing up. Did your experiences in Europe influence any aspect of Birth of a Dark Nation?
I was in Moscow as a teenager on an exchange program and I studied abroad in England when I was in college. I think the overall oldness of both places definitely influenced my work a little. America is such a new culture compared to Europe. Walking down the cavernous streets of Moscow and among the cottages of England really made me feel like I was back in time. Remembering how that “tine travel” made me feel was essential to the flashbacks which occur in Birth of a Dark Nation.
Your previous novels featured a strong LGBT protagonist and themes. Will you explore those themes again in Birth of a Dark Nation? And if so, to what extent?
Absolutely! I promised myself a long time ago that I would always write strong gay and black characters in all of my novels. This new genre is no exception. Aside from any humans in the novel who may be gay, I delve into the sexuality of vampires as a species. I think we all sort of buy into the notion that all vampires are pansexual. In Birth of a Dark Nation, I talk about that pansexuality a little bit as well as illustrate how sexuality works in all-male communities.
Your current endeavor to write a novel about black vampires has garnered a lot of buzz and your Indiegogo campaign has already received over 100% funding! How does that make you feel and what do you think it says about the speculative fiction landscape and people of color?
I am so humbled that my campaign was fully funded with time to spare! At first I didn’t even want to do it because I didn’t think books were successfully funded as crowd-funding opportunities. But a few friends talked me out of that negative thinking and I threw everything into this campaign. It really paid off. But it’s only half over! I’ve revised some of my goals, and I’m hoping now to get at least $6,000 in total. The basic administrative tasks of the book are paid for now, but I want to put more effort into this creative writing tour we’ve established. I want to go into as many colleges as possible to inspire the next generation of writers—especially writers of color—so that we can have even more black novels, more LGBT novels, more vampire novels.
To your point: the success of this campaign as well as the success of Octavia’s Brood make me confident that people want to see more of themselves in speculative fiction, no matter how bloody, weird, or fantastical the story.
People of color have a very colorful history when it comes to the supernatural. My own grandparents’ ghost stories from Panama make my eyes water with fear. These tales seem to be similar no matter where we/our families hail from, be they from the Caribbean, Latin America or the United States. Yet, we have a dearth of horror shows, films, and literature that feature those stories. What are your thoughts on this and what do you think the solution would be?
Let me first say that I enjoy being black. I love it very much. And I would love to see big budget, high quality adaptations of our supernatural stories. I think that day will come. But in the meantime, we absolutely must support our independent voices. Self-published novels are being printed every day. New web series are coming up all the time. And yes, independent films are still being made. If we want to see us, we must support us. Make Indiegogo a regular part of your philanthropy. Just browse it and see what people are creating. Support the projects with promise. And when the do come to fruition, actually buy the DVD or Blu-Ray. Don’t give your money to the bootleg man when you can give it to the artist.
I would think that to write a vampire novel, one would have to be a fan of that genre. So who are your favorite vampire novel authors and what are some of your favorite vampire books?
The Vampire Diaries was a big favorite of mine when I was a teenager. I also really respect the careers of Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris. And of course, I must give homage to those writers from the Diaspora who have come before me: Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, and Steven Van Patten to name a few.
Which actors would you cast in a film or TV adaptation of Birth of a Dark Nation?
I love questions like these! There are so many talented African American actors out there right now, but to narrow it down to my core four vamps: Brandon Jay McLaren (Graceland), Mehcad Brooks (True Blood), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), and Lamon Archey (The Young and the Restless). If you don’t know them, please Google them!
Can we expect more horror books in the future from you that explore other horror themes and supernatural beings?
Absolutely! Each book in this series will focus on a new element, even though the vampire beings will exist throughout. I am currently working on the second novel in the Dark Nation series, which will focus on a werewolf-like being called the Jackal. Later books will deal with demonic possession and telekinesis. Now, the one thing I’d like readers to know is that there are no fairies in the Dark Nation universe—but there are plenty of beings from other African, Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures that I am looking forward to introducing to you.
Rashid, thank you so much for your time. Good luck and we can’t wait to read the Birth of a Dark Nation when it comes out!
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