Chesya Burke has written and published nearly a hundred fiction pieces and articles within the genres of science fiction, fantasy, noir and horror. Her story collection, Let's Play White, is being taught in universities around the country. In addition, Burke wrote several articles for the African American National Biography in 2008, and Burke's novel, THE STRANGE CRIMES OF LITTLE AFRICA, was published in December 2015 by Rothco Press. Poet Nikki Giovanni compared her writing to that of Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison.
Burke's thesis was on the comic book character Storm from the X-MEN, and her comic, Shiv, is scheduled to debut in 2016.
Burke is currently pursuing her PhD in English at University of Florida. She's Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Charis Books and More, one of the oldest feminist book stores in the country.
1. Tell us three things about yourself.
1. I’m black.
2. I’m a woman.
3. Those things sometimes bother people when I speak out.
Bonus: I don’t really give a shit.
2. What was the first thing you had published?
Interesting question. I had been writing and sending out submissions for a few months with no bites. I had gotten personal rejections, but no offers of publications. Then my grandmother died. I went to the funeral and came back, tired, planning to close my writer’s email and give up. I opened the email account to my first acceptance. It was for pro rate (3 cent a word) publication titled 1000 Delights. The story was 'Out of the River'.
3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
I read somewhere that artists always pimp the most recent project. I’m not sure if that’s because, as artist, we are always growing and thus our work gets better with each new piece, or if it’s for pure promotion reasons. Or both. Either way, I really would say my novel, The Strange Crimes of Little Africa. It is based on my favorite short story, 'I Make People Do Bad Things' and I enjoyed researching and writing it.
4. …and which makes you cringe?
Cringe from being embarrassed or horrified? If embarrassed, I’d say all of those oldest works. Thinking back on 'Out of the River', for instance, I cannot believe anyone was willing to publish it. It was horrible, but it did help me as a writer and pushed me to hone my skills. If, however, you meant horrified, I’d say my short story, 'I Make People Do Bad Things'. It follows a woman who is forced to decide between killing a powerful child or saving herself and the people around her. The problem is the child is who she is because my protagonist made her that way. I’ve been told that it’s disturbing for many readers.
5. What’s a normal writing day like?
I wake up too early after falling asleep too late. I fight getting out of bed. I get dressed for class. Spend too much time taking selfies in the mirror. Miss my first bus. Sit through class. Talk too much. Go back to my apartment. Write, maybe. Smoke, probably. Realize its 4 am and I still can’t sleep. Because I have insomnia.
6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?
7. What are you working on now?
A few projects that I can’t mention yet. And a sequel to The Strange Crimes of Little Africa.
P.S. Have you gotten your copy of The Strange Crimes of Little Africa? Did I mention it enough in this interview to make you want to buy it? The Strange Crimes of Little Africa.