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Timothy Spencer Interview Questions

(Teresa Tennyson interviews Timothy Spencer)



  1. Timothy, I love your work. On your website, you describe your work as an intersection of African American, African diaspora, and Afrofuturism. LGBTQ themes are also prevalent in your work. Tell me, why is it important for writers to tackle these issues and increase the visibility of underrepresented communities?

    1. There is a simple and complicated answer to that question. For me personally, the answer is simple. From the first sci-fi/ fantasy fic story, I noticed no black people like me in these books of far-flung futures and wondered why? It wasn’t until I read my first Samuel Delany book that I came across someone like me. That wasn’t until the late seventies, like 1979, when I was about fifteen, so I was old enough to go to the library and check out the books my mom thought were too “adult” to read.


It wasn’t until later, around the mid-eighties, that I started coming to grips with my sexuality. So, I went looking for stories with gay characters. Back then, there was nowhere in York, Pa., my hometown, that a young gay man could go to get information about what it meant to be gay. So, I turned to the books I loved and was sorely disappointed. The only one that made an impression on me was Lois McMaster Bujold’s Ethan of Athos.


EoA was the first book I read that was clear and up-front about homosexual people that populated the world. Of course, I later discovered books like The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.

All need to see themselves represented regardless of the genre. Still, it is essential in these fantasy and science fiction realms. Although the book was published long after my early days, it clearly denotes how I felt during those years. This quote is what I keep coming back to:


“I was an Afrofuturist before the term existed. And any sci-fi fan, comic book geek, fantasy reader, Trekker, or science fair winner who ever wondered why black people are minimized in pop culture depictions of the future, conspicuously absent from the history of science, or marginalized in the roster of past inventors and then actually set out to do something about it could arguably qualify as an Afrofuturist as well. It’s one thing when black people aren’t discussed in world history. Fortunately, teams of dedicated historians and culture advocates have chipped away at the propaganda often functioning as history for the world’s students to eradicate that glaring error. But when, even in the imaginary future—a space where the mind can stretch beyond the Milky Way to envision routine space travel, cuddly space animals, talking apes, and time machines—people can’t fathom a person of non-Euro descent a hundred years into the future, a cosmic foot has to be put down.”


We need these depictions of ourselves to give us hope to keep us moving forward. Whether good or bad, these depictions ground us in the world.


  1. I don’t want to reveal too much about your in-progress novel, parts of which I’ve had the privilege of reading, but in some of your other works, like An Only Child and A Brief Moment in Time, you craft novels from shorter works that can stand alone and yet are interconnected. What do you like about this structure, and do you think you’ll stick with it in the future?

    1. I’ve always been fascinated with the moment. Time is always talked about in the macro; I prefer the micro. The moments when everything changes. You know how people say, “everything was going great, then it wasn’t.” Those moments when the world comes to a standstill. I am also interested in the witnesses to these moments and want to tell their stories. In my other collection of stories, Compartmental Lives, all the main characters are in a painful moment. They must come to a consensus about disconnecting the life support of someone they all know. That is a callous decision to make. In the stories, just the thought of doing so brings unwanted memories and unfinished business to the surface for these women.


In I approached this concept differently. Here the stories are still connected by a moment when everything changes. However, that moment has nothing to do with the main plot of each individual story. Take the two stories and the title story . Soon Kim is a lynchpin and a central character in these stories. Though at different times in her long life. In , she is in her Seventies, remembering her tumultuous childhood and the untimely death of her doting father. In , she is a secondary character. She is in her early thirties, training her son in martial arts. But both stories are connected by a defining moment in her life, the day her son leaves home.

Each of my stories begins at that defining moment and blossoms into something more.


  1. The cover art on your novels is stunning. What is your secret? How involved in the process do you get with your artist? What tips do you have for first-time novelists related to cover design?

    1. I am very involved from beginning to end and am not shy about my opinions. If you look at the cover art for An Only Child, you’ll see a difference between the art on the book cover and the art on the website. That is because I had to move on from the original artist who worked on the book cover because she couldn’t see my vision even after giving her a detailed prospectus. The art on the website is what I wanted. I will update the cover art before releasing the chapters on Amazon.


I always have a specific vision for each story. I am a very visual thinker. When I write, I not only have the story in my head, but it is like a movie playing up there, and I am just taking notes on what is on the big scene. So, I know precisely how the book cover art should look. That also dovetails into why I am more interested in self-publishing: I need that control. I am willing to try a hybrid model but will stick to small independent publishers. I love to write, although I have never been overly interested in becoming a big-name author. Though if that happens, then it happens.


The best tip I can give first-time novelists about cover design is understanding your story's theme. To a lesser extent, understand your story’s interplay between the protagonist and antagonist. You are not trying to tell the whole story with the cover art. You are enticing the reader, so the visual’s theme is the most critical part. But, keep in mind that I say this concerning the author who self-publish. If you plan to go the traditional publishing route, then the cover isn’t something you’ll need to worry about.


  1. Tell me about your writing schedule. Do you write for a set amount of time every day? Or try to reach a certain word count? Tell us about your process. Also, where do you write?

    1. I know that I should have one, but truth be told, I don’t. There are days that I will wake up at 4:30 – 5:00 am (I have always been an early riser) and sit right down at the computer. On other days I won’t write until late in the evening, like after 6. I write when the mood hits me, although I have to admit that happens a lot. Usually, when I write, I get lost in the story. I am there for no less than five hours. Most days, I write for eight or more. You would think that by writing that much, I would have tons of work for the ready. But I am too much of a perfectionist. For example, I started writing An Only Child in 2003, and here it is twenty years later, and I am ready to publish. I am slow in that regard. I am trying to change. That is one of the reasons why I am taking this course. The class deadlines push me to move faster without losing my attention to detail.


  1. Who do you consider your biggest literary influences? Would you like to give your readers a sneak peek of your latest project?

    1. My biggest literary influences are Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, and to a lesser extent Stephen King.


Yes, I plan to place the prologue and the first chapter of on my website. But I will give you a taste here:


 An Only Child is a thriller and the first book in the Only Child Series. The novel introduces the serial killer and main antagonist, Edgar Martin. I plan to write two more books: Bk 2: A Forgotten Father and Bk 3: A Woeful Mother.

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