Mack Little holds an undergraduate in English Literature from the University of Dubuque, Iowa and a Masters of Information Science from the University of North Texas. Born in Conyers, GA, Mack has gone on to live, as a University Student in Seville, Spain and, as a soldier, in Wurzburg, Germany. Her studies, and career, have taken her all over the United States. She now resides in Houston, Texas.
WG: You’ve had quite a diverse range of experiences growing up, from your birth in Georgia, to studying International Politics in Seville, Spain. Living in Germany and traveling throughout Europe in the Army. How did all these experiences shape you as an author, and does it make you feel that you’ve experienced things not so many of your readers may have?
Traveling and experiencing different cultures has definitely had an impact on my writing both philosophically and literally. Living amongst people with values, lifestyles, and customs different from what I grew up with allowed me to see that the perceptions instilled in me are not absolute. I have come to view the things that go on in my society as well as history from as many angles as possible and not just the ones that I was taught in school. I feel like my travels have given me a sense of objectivity when observing unfamiliar things in other cultures.
ML: In my writing, this is my approach as well in portraying a character’s point of view or dealing with different societies. I hope to encourage my readers to view lives from a different perspective and hopefully challenge their perceptions and previous judgments. I’d love it, also, if my work sparked conversations.
As for the literal impact of my travels, I have stumbled upon actual place and histories that are not well known but fascinating. I enjoy bringing such things to light.
WG: When did you decide to start writing, and how did you begin?
ML: I’ve always been a daydreamer, but sometime in middle school. I began to write my musings down. I found it quite cathartic. Writing became a wonderful release for me. Also, as an avid reader of horror, romance, and adventure, I rarely if ever found characters that looked like me or shared a similar background. It was as if people like me didn’t exist and if we did, we were inconsequential.
So, I wrote stories that I enjoyed with not only a protagonist that looked like me but also reflected the diverse world that I lived in. That’s how I started writing but I wanted to do it better. My whole impetus for going to college was to learn how to be a better writer. I studied other writers (and still do). Still, I felt I lacked the life experience to make it feel authentic. Traveling, I found, introduced me to adventure and struggle as well as beauty and wonder. I think that traveling, as much as any of my other life experiences, made me the writer I wanted to be.
WG: Your first novel ‘Progenie’ and 2022 Hawthorne Prize-winning ‘Daughters of Hades’ have common themes of highlighting underrepresented and marginalized people. What brought you to this focus and why?
ML: The stories I enjoyed reading never envisioned someone like me as the hero or the object of love and admiration. Could someone who looked like me ever be desired? Could someone with my background ever save the day? I wanted to create worlds where marginalized populations could see themselves reflected and I wanted to give them value.
Conversely, I want readers who are not persons of color to recognize the humanity of people whose lifestyles diverge from the mainstream and I want to do that without relying on the victimization of the marginalized. My goal is not just to show a different perspective but to allow my readers to relate to people they have always considered as “other”.
Also, there is authenticity in including marginalized people and cultures. They exist! And they have existed throughout history and they have added value to the world. However, mainstream storytellers and historians have omitted them or otherwise diminished them.
In ‘Progenie’ I depicted a black woman who is smart, strong, beautiful, and loveable despite her flaws. And in the historical storyline of the novel, a woman of color successfully ruled a prosperous kingdom. I want my readers to see that.
In ‘Daughter of Hades,’ I hoped to show the humanity of Africans in the new world. Slaves were not just slaves. They were mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. They were warriors, teachers, healers, artisans, mathematicians, and scientists. They were humans with value who were enslaved. They were survivors, heroes. They endured so that I could exist.
As for the Pirates, they were not just thieves and cut-throats. They battled an unjust economic system. Piracy was a remedy for an unequal society. Daughter of Hades also depicts same-sex relationships as they would have existed in the 17th century
WG: Your themes are also pirates, slavery, history in a fantasy fiction setting, with the Caribbean and its history as a backdrop. What drew you to these?
ML: Stories that were already in existence sparked my imagination. Characters, directions of storylines, and historical details that felt were missing gave me the seminal ideas for the stories I created.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer inspired Zenobia Grant, a heroic woman of color. It was something I longed to see. Not only that, but the idea of demons also intrigued me and led me to grimoires that listed the demons and their abilities and histories. The study of demons led me to research how they were represented in different religions. I ended up with a rich demon/vampire lore.
As a teen, I LOVED historical romance novels and I accepted that all the stories out were about white women getting their groove on with nobles, with Native Americans. One novel even had a secondary plotline with a white woman with a quadroon—that was progress, at least. But I gave up on the genre and I outgrew it, I think. Then I read a novel by Alyssa Cole with a female POC as the romantic lead and a well-researched novel. I LOVED IT! I wanted more but there weren’t many novels of that genre as well-written as hers.
Then I found ‘Outlander.’ It is a wonderfully well-research series. And I have convinced myself that the main character has a black parent with her unruly black curly hair and nice round bottom. Anyway, I wanted to emulate the care given to research and create unambiguously black characters in a historical romance. So basically, I wrote the stories I wanted to read.
WG: What’s your writing day like? Equipment?
ML: During the work week, I have a day job. Immediately, after I clock out, I set up my writing area on my back porch, line up my cigar—I’m not allowed to smoke in the house—and maybe a glass of wine. Then I make sure there’s ink in my fountain pen. When I’m all set, I sit for the next three to four hours and write longhand as I smoke and drink. On the weekend I type what I have been writing all week.
WG: Best and worst things about writing?
ML: Sometimes there is agony deciding which direction to take the storyline of a particular character or how to get to a particular plot point. And it’s hard to let go when I choose the wrong direction. But as in painting, there are no mistakes. I simply take the unusable sections and save them to be recycled into other scenes.
I love editing. When I write longhand, I let go of all expectations of good writing or how eloquent my prose is. I just write. It’s like I create this ball of clay, then when I sit to type I shape the story. I do my research to verify historical details and I refine my prose.
WG: What’s next?
ML: I have a novella coming out in the Spring. It follows the life of Badu, a privileged enslaved man. We see his life in pre-colonial Africa before his is taken by the slavers in parallel to his escape to freedom from slavery in Barbados.
I am also in the beginning stages of research for a novel that focuses Lei, the main character in Daughter of Hades, and his history as it relates to the Asian population in colonial Mexico.
WG: Tell us about your community theatre experiences and how you got into that?
ML: Acting, and performing was my first love. As a child, I studied acting and dancing. At age 16 I auditioned and became a part of the Atlanta Street Theater under the direction of Kenneth Leon. That was my first time performing. Gradually, I began to shift my focus to writing which I loved just as much. But I still love playing make-believe and being on stage. I performed in college productions and later community theater. What I’ve learned from acting has been invaluable as it helps me deal with anxiety when I come in contact with the public. It taught me to create an avatar that is confident and outgoing.
WG: What message do you have for other writers out there starting out?
ML: I only hope that the stories I write someday provide a springboard for other writers to tell stories that feature the under-represented in literature. As a straight black woman, I realize I may have some limitations in creating authentic LGBTQ+ characters. As a Black woman, there may be some aspects of Asian culture that I have not been able to tap into. I am ready to receive criticism so that I can learn how to do better with cultures and histories that I don’t have experience with but I would also like to see more stories from the under-represented themselves. And it’s my wish that more mainstream writers take my stories as a cue to be more inclusive with their writing.
Mack Little Website –
Facebook Author Page –
Twitter – https://twitter.com/authMackLittle
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