The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia
20 January 2009
Interview with sword-and-soul author Milton Davis
Milton Davis’s debut novel, Meji, is set on the fictional continent of Uhuru (Swahili for freedom), a composite of Africa that brings different people and customs of Africa into close proximity. Two brothers, separated at birth, struggle to find their places in a world of tribal conflict.
Welcome, Milton, and congratulations on publication of your first novel, Meji!
Thanks! I’m honored to be invited.
Your book’s genre is sword and soul. What is sword and soul, and how is it different from sword and sorcery?
Sword and soul is action-adventure fantasy based on ancient and medieval African culture, mythology, and traditions. The main characters are almost always Africans or people of African descent. This is what makes it different from conventional sword and sorcery, which is steeped in European medieval and Dark Age myths and traditions.
For you, what were the advantages and disadvantages of self-publication?
Self-publication allows me to present my visions exactly the way I wish. It also frees me from the timetables, commercial restrictions, and content meddling of mainstream publications. It was very important to me to bring my sword-and-soul stories to the audience as is to have an effect on the genre, and I felt self-publishing was the only way. The main disadvantage to self-publishing is distribution. If you view it as it is, a small business, then that challenge goes with the territory. Dealing with it is just a matter of patience and persistence.
What marketing tips would you give to other people who are self-published or published by a small press?
Sell yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and network. Every reader is a potential customer, so be prepared for the opportunity to sell. Set up book signings on your own, and always have copies of your book and contact info on you. Concentrate on your local market. Try to have an event set up every month to promote your work.
What writers have influenced you the most?
I love James Baldwin because of his simplicity. Of course, Robert E. Howard was a great influence on my sword-and-soul work, and I’m a big fan of the Dune series by Frank Herbert. Philip José Farmer’s World of Tiers series was a favorite of mine, as was the Casca series by Barry Sadler.
Recently I’ve become a big fan of Charles R. Saunders. We met online last year, and now I consider him a friend and a mentor. We communicate on a regular basis, and his opinions and support have a great influence on my work. I’m glad to see him back to work on the Imaro series.
What is your writing regimen? Would you recommend it to aspiring authors?
My motto is “A page a day,” and I highly recommend it to aspiring authors. You have to treat it like a profession to get production. I write at least a page a day, more on the weekends.
What was your favorite part of writing Meji?
I loved the way the story began to write itself. I spent an enormous amount of time on the background research and the details. Once I began writing, the characters and the settings took me in directions I didn’t anticipate. It was the first time that happened to me while writing and it was exciting.
If someone wanted to write sword and soul or if Meji made someone want to learn about Africa and its history, what sources (books, Websites, museums, whatever) do you recommend?
I have a long list of reference materials on my forum, Djembe. A good place to start are the books by Basil Davidson and Cheikh Anta Diop. The Web is always good, and if you live in Atlanta the Auburn Avenue Research Library is a great source.
In Meji, groups living close to each other have such different cultures that conflict becomes almost inevitable. We seem to have the same situation in today’s world. Do your studies of African history give you any hope for creating a peaceful future?
I wouldn’t say it gives me hope, but it does give me insight. Many of the conflicts we have today in Africa and elsewhere are rooted in disagreements that go back centuries. These long-standing conflicts must be considered when developing a solution.
Can you tell us anything about your next book?
I’m working on Meji Book Two; I hope to have it available by the summer. My next project is a historical fiction fantasy, Changa’s Safari. It’s about a 14th century Swahili merchant–adventurer.
Milton, thanks so much for visiting my blog, and good luck with book two!
Thanks for having me!
You can learn more about Milton and Meji by visiting his Website at http://www.mvmediaatl.com/ and his blog at http://mvmediaatl.com/obana/. His book can be purchased at http://www.mvmediaatl.com/order-BLD.htm.