Alicia: Hey everybody, and welcome to my writing playground. This is episode nine of Diverse Sci-Fi & Fantasy Stories Podcast. I'm your host, author Alicia McCalla. Thanks for tuning in. This podcast is all about me honoring my son's legacy by sharing my diverse science fiction and fantasy stories with the world. Today, I have the wonderful opportunity to share the works of another author who also writes diverse science fiction and fantasy. Let me tell you about Alledria.
Alledria Hurt is an African American speculative fiction writer in multiple genres. Well known for her work in fantasy and horror, she is best known for her series, The Fate Circle Saga, and She Becomes Death. Her most recent work is Alice, a zombie novel with a twist. You can find her at www.alledriahurt.com.
Hey, welcome, Alledria.
Alledria: Hi, Alicia.
Alicia: Hi. It's great to see you.
Alledria: It’s great to see you too and I'm digging the Wonder Woman aesthetic.
Alicia: Yes, Wonder Woman, right?
Alledria: Yes, so much.
Alicia: All right, before we get started, I wanted to tell everybody that you also are a SLAY Vampire Noire Anthology author.
Alledria: I am.
Alicia: Do you want to tell everybody about your SLAY story and what it's about?
Alledria: Well SLAY-- When I did “Ujima” for SLAY, I was looking at the family aspect of coming into being a vampire versus leaving your old life behind. And then I was like, “Okay, where does this conflict?” Because you know when you become a vampire, you don't just lose everybody that you knew before that.
Alledria: In a lot of cases, you don't just lose everybody, so your life goes on. And in “Ujima”, my main character, Imani, has to deal with the fact that she still has family that's human. So that's where we ended up with that story. And it was a lot of fun to write. It was, of course, the usual thing of “Can I get this done on the deadline?”
Alicia: Right? Deadlines!
Alledria: ...on the deadline. Because you know the quote that says, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sounds they make as they go by”?
Alicia: That's a good quote.
Alledria: I’m like, I 100% if I'm not on it, that is exactly what happens to me. It makes a nice whistling sound as it goes. So I try really hard to keep myself on track…
Alicia: And focused.
Alledria: …So that I don't lose it.
Alicia: Yes. Okay. All right. So you wrote a scene today, or you're sharing a scene today. So is this a short story or is it a part of a longer work or a longer series? Tell us about the scene.
Alledria: It is actually a scene from a book called Alice. And yes, Alice is a zombie novel. And yes, I totally stole the name from Resident Evil.
Alledria: I did that on purpose.
Alicia: So that's from Mocha Memoirs Press, right?
Alledria: Yes, it is.
Alicia: Okay. So I wasn't sure if it was Alice like Alice in Wonderland because I was wondering about that too.
Alledria: No, it was Alice, Alice from Resident Evil.
Alicia: I like that Alice.
Alledria: I’m one of those people who is a diehard, diehard horror fan.
Alledria: So it's like, getting to put little Easter eggs like that in there just makes me very happy so I titled the book. Because the original title of the book when I first wrote it was The Alice Effect. And then I shortened it when I wrote it the third time. Yes, I redrafted this book a third time before I started sending it out. And it was one of those situations where I knew what the story was, but it wasn't jelling properly. So what I did was I just took all the bones out. I took all the bones out which were mostly the characters and the setting, and I rewrote, re-fleshed the whole thing.
Alicia: Yeah, that's sometimes what writers have to do, right?
Alledria: Yeah, it is.
Alicia: Got to get down to the true spine of the story.
Alledria: Yeah, and that's the thing a lot of, I think, newer writers are afraid to do is to just go, “Okay, I just got to pull the bones out.”
Alicia: You literally can't be afraid to kill your darlings, right?
Alledria: Yeah, it’s like, “I got to pull all the bones, reconstruct the skeleton and then put the flesh on it.” You can't be afraid to do that. It takes a lot more time, but in a way, it's actually easier and faster than trying to fix a novel that you know is intrinsically broken.
Alicia: Yes. And it requires forethought. Sometimes you need that time to percolate. So whatever you originally did that first time, it was great to get the ideation moving, but whatever you come with that second time is going to be fantastic.
Alledria: Yeah, so when I drafted it the third time, and I sent it out and then I got the acceptance letter, and I just went… “They bought my book!”
Alicia: Perfect. All right. So tell us why are you the person to tell Alice and what makes Alice unique to you?
Alledria: What makes Alice my story is that I wanted it to be a story about a mother, where her whole thing is “I have to get here.” It's a travel story. “I have to get here.” And even though for a large portion of the book, you don't know why they're going in that direction, you just know that that is the way they have to go. That is the answer to the question. It is somewhere in the east. And it's like okay, so I took a travel story, added zombies, and made a found family story, which is also something else that I deal with quite a bit is the fact that I have a lot of friends that I look at and I go, “You are family to me.”
Alledria: “You are my family. You have become so much a part of my world that I can't think about a world where you don't exist.”
Alicia: Yes. So that sounds like you're kind of getting into your inspiration behind your story or maybe your reason?
Alledria: Yes. I didn't Tuckerize anybody. I didn't Tuckerize anybody, but I did borrow some personality pieces from some friends of mine that I use. And they probably will read the book and recognize themselves.
Alledria: Yeah, they may. And if they do, they can rest assured that yes, I actually did do that. It was intentional. It was 100% intentional, but it was done in all love because none of my people are the villains.
Alicia: Gotcha. Perfect.
Alledria: None of my people are the villains. So it's just, I wanted a little piece of this person and a little piece of this person and a little piece of this person. And I'm going to borrow your sense of humor, I'm going to borrow something else. And my family being large and diverse as it is from having so many people who are not necessarily blood family becomes this huge thing. And I feel sometimes like I'm a little spider in the middle of a web because I'm attached to so many things. I'm attached to so many people, and I'm doing so much. And that makes me happy. Having these people in my life makes me happy. Having this connection to other people makes my life meaningful. And I think that also comes out in the book that--
Alicia: Yeah, so is that your theme that you kind of want to impart to the readers about family and connectedness?
Alledria: Yeah, I think it is. Connectedness makes life meaningful. And sometimes it means you mourn with other people; you have sorrows with other people but you also have joy. Joy multiplies when it is shared.
Alicia: Yes, right?
Alledria: Whereas sorrow decreases. So it’s like, you have so much more of a chance of being loved if you love.
Alicia: So this theme that you're talking about, that their sorrow decreases, is that something that you've personally experienced? Or something that kind of fascinates you? Tell us a little bit more about that.
Alledria: Well, it’s a little both. Like when I made some choices in my life that have left me sometimes standing on my own, and then I find out that I'm not actually standing on my own. I'm standing with friends, and they are more than willing to listen, to be there for, to take care of me, to help me not feel as if I can't have. And that is also something that fascinates me as a person. I have a little bit of a background in psychology and sociology, and that is something that, you know, I'm an armchair expert as some people would say. So, I spend a lot of time reading stuff about how we interconnect and how we deal with each other, and how these things affect us and the web in which we live. And so, watching that happen, or growing that on a page, is very different from living it but they mirror each other.
Alicia: Right. Yes. And so Alice, is that kind of one of the strongest things that you have about that interconnectedness of others and helping each other?
Alledria: Yes, there's actually a segment that I'm not going to read today, where one member of the group calls the other member of the group based on their connections to bring them back to themselves. It reminds them, “You are this to this person, and this is someone else, and this to someone else. Understand that we see you. We know you. And what you're doing is not you.”
Alicia: Okay. All right now. Okay, so do you want to tell potential readers a little bit about the diversity in your stories, of your characters, or your worlds? Why should someone who reads diverse stories give your stories a shot?
Alledria: Well, let's see. I start out with Alice herself, who is an African American mother. And then I have James who has been in a motorcycle accident, so he is crippled. He has been disabled by his accident. Then I have Ethan and Dale who are both younger. And then I have Roger who is an adult. So I have a number of different people in this book, who all have their own perspectives. They all have their own choices. They all have their own voices. They have their own sense of humor. And I think that is what we're really looking for is we're really looking for books that portray more of life the way life is.
Alicia: The slice. The slice of real life. Yeah.
Alledria: Even though they're dealing with zombies, you still kind of recognize who they are inside of that globe.
Alicia: Right. So you mentioned that Alice is your protagonist, and she is [an] African American woman, so she's diverse. Can you kind of let us know a little bit what's at stake for Alice?
Alledria: What's at stake for Alice is what's at stake for the whole family, and the extinction of humanity is really the end-all of it. They are looking to find a way to end the zombie plague. That is their primary goal. And Alice seems to know where to go, so they're following her into the east. And if she were the only person who has pseudo magical powers, I would say that she would probably fall under the magical entrope, but she's also the protagonist. So I think it changes that by making it her story. It is her story, not anybody else's.
Alicia: I got you. Okay, are you ready to share Alice's scene?
Alledria: Alice's scene, here we go. A scene from Alice.
Alicia: Okay. So thanks so much for sharing your work. I love that zombie head chopping and brain busting.
The group relocated to inside the store. The day’s shadows crept toward sunset. Bodies littered the floor. Not exactly a surprise. Ethan stepped over a woman with most of her face missing. From the torn nylons and blood tipped hands, he figured she had gone zombie before someone had, not so politely, put her out of her misery. Dale was a touch surprised to find several newspapers strewn over something toward the back of the store. As she reached out to touch them, Roger stopped her and gestured to something she had only barely seen but hadn't registered. It was a bright pink Ked the size of half a slice of bread, a kid's shoe. He shook his head and stepped away. Alice propped James in a sitting position on the counter and appeared to be studying his face. He looked peaceful as though he were sleeping, though his face flashed expressions - a grimace, a smile, what might have been silent laughter, yet his eyes didn't open.
“Ethan, Dale,” the two looked at Roger as he called their names. “Check to see what we can carry with us. I'm going to find a map.”
He looked at Alice holding her friend, nodded, and then moved around her looking for the map carousel he expected to be there. Ethan shoved the entire contents of the beef jerky section into his pack. Dale made a face.
“How do you know any of that stuff is still good?”, she asked him.
“With the preservatives in it, it's shelf-stable for years,” Ethan returned as he started checking the expiration date on the cans in another aisle.
“How do you know that?”, she asked.
“Stock boy small talk. I used to work in a grocery store. Got to have something to talk about when sports and girls no longer appeals.”
He chucked a can of soup over his shoulder. “They've got to rotate their stock better. That stuff expired two years ago.”
It landed with a thud and rolled to the base of the cooler. Dale followed it with her eyes before going to the cooler door. “Bottled water you think?”, she asks.
“Yeah, we're going to need something once we get out of the city,” Ethan applied, turning a can over and his hands.
Dale opened the case and reached in. A hand appearing out of the dark like a movie tentacle grabbed her by the wrist. Behind it, a pair of flat angry eyes glittered in the cooler’s darkness. There were other eyes with it. Dale screamed. Another set of hands shot forward in a different space, bumping against the glass of the cooler, then another. The hand holding Dale developed a broken twin, a chewed through stump still trying to grab. Though it had her dominant hand, Dale managed to bring her gun up and fire, but she couldn't get it high enough for a headshot. Ethan, who had dropped what he was doing all over the floor, got to her in time to hear the first shot up close. They were all going to be deaf before this was over.
He got the headshot Dale missed and then he had to drop his weapon to grab Dale. She'd been dragged hard against the shelves by a body refusing to let her go as it collapsed. Other hands were reaching, scrambling for purchase. Dale watched, her eyes wide, waiting for the injury which would in her life. Her skin was still unbroken.
“Roger!”, Ethan screamed.
It wasn't Roger who was suddenly there but Alice. She grabbed Ethan by the waist and pulled him backward, dragging Dale, and part of the zombie along with them. Some of the shelving fell askew, crashing in place to make a gaping hole. The zombie which had lost its grip on Dale, attempted to wedge its shoulders further in, teeth snapping at the empty air. It received a solid kick to the face for its trouble. Then Alice slammed the door shut. The front of its skull collapsed toward the back of its head with the sound like a popped balloon.
“Thank you,” Dale gasped as Alice snatched her up off the ground. The strange woman didn't acknowledge the thanks, but rather turned over both of Dale's hands and ran dirty fingers up Dale's arms.
Alledria: Make you happy, don’t it?
Alicia: Yes! It’s just like ooh. I like violence in my stories, too. Okay, so where should readers go to find your work?
Alledria: www.alledriahurt.com. If you're looking to buy a book, go specifically to the books page.
Alicia: Very good. I like that. Okay, so I’d also love to hear what readers think about Alledria’s stories. Feel free to post a comment on my blog, either me or Alledria will respond. Okay, everybody, I'm author Alicia McCalla, and I write science fiction and fantasy stories for readers who want diverse protagonists and unique storylines. If you've enjoyed this episode and want to support me or donate to my “cup of tea” fund, just head over to my blog on my website, find this post and click on the “Donate” button at the bottom. If you're not one of my subscribers and want to join my league of heroes, go to www.aliciamccalla.com to sign-up for my newsletter to get updates, learn about my latest projects and purchase my diverse Sci-fi & Fantasy stories. If you're already one of my subscribers, thank you so much. And please feel free to share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Okay, guys, until next time, be safe out there. Don't lose your head. Thanks for listening.