Interview with Christina Engela Author of Demonspawn – by Amanda M. Lyons, originally posted on ‘Inner Voices: An Author’s Blog’ July 12, 2015.
Christina’s Author Listing on JEA
Christina’s Official Author Site: The Crow Bar
Christina’s Activism Blog: Sour Grapes – The Fruit Of Ignorance
Christina’s column on Litnet
Christina’s column on Penton Independent Alternative MediaExecutive Committee Member: South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA)
Co-ordinator & Researcher for the Alternative Religions Forum
1. You’re the author of a great sci-fi series you’ve been working on for several years and have started publishing with JEA, could you tell us a little bit about it?
The Galaxii Series is set in what might be considered the not too distant future, perhaps in a parallel dimension, and is marked by my own special warped and twisted sense of humor and irony. It also includes some elements of the fantasy genre, such as vampires (which show up in some of the short stories and the later titles, which are still in process).
It started out with ‘Blachart’ and ‘Demonspawn’ – both already released by JEA, with the third title ‘Dead Beckoning’ already in for edits and due for release sometime this year. There are still loads of titles coming, and some of my fans from the pre-JEA days will remember titles like ‘Loderunner’, ‘Dead Man’s Hammer’, ‘Black Sunrise’ and ‘The Time Saving Agency’ – and others I’m still working on, all to be released in due course. Yes, I’m just as impatient!
2. What makes your series different from the others out there? What are its quirks?
I’d have to say: “me!” Every writer is a unique person, and every unique person brings their own uniqueness to the stories they write, to the worlds they create. If you look at me as an individual, aside from the LGBT angle, aside from all the eccentricity haha – there is the detail in the stories that they are set in a sci-fi future with space ships, aliens and interplanetary travel – AND vampires, and a little comedy – and who knows what else? I am the quirk in my stories!
3. Some of your humor and style can be compared to Douglas Adams of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame, would you agree with that assessment? What authors inspire you?
I would have to list Douglas Adams among my influences, yes. I am a very strong fan of Terry Pratchett, who died earlier this year – a huge loss to the literary world – huge. Also I have to mention writers like Tom Sharpe, Tom Holt, Esther Freisner and James Blish, who used to write the original Star Trek episode from script into anthologies of short stories in the 1970’s. Of course, I grew up reading sci-fi greats like Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Harry Harrison and others too numerous to mention.
4. Tell us about a few of your favorite characters in the series. Do you share anything in common with them?
Mykl d’Angelo, the main character in ‘Blachart’ is probably the first one. He’s a typical straight ‘good-guy’ hero type, who gets the girl and settles down and lives happily ever after… Although I wanted to be this, I never was, and so Mykl represents the ‘me’ that was and wanted to be, aspired to be – but never materialized. Mykl d’Angelo was essentially a character based on the person I was when I was in high school – which is when I started writing this story!
The characters on the planet Deanna are my more likely favorites. People like Cindy-Mei Winter, Beck the Badfeller, Peg (the Sheriff of Atrocity), General Smythe and his band of misfits from the Skegg’s Valley dynamite fishing club, and of course, Fred – who all start making their appearances from about title 4 onward.
5. Do you write in other genres? Non-fiction? If so, what topics do you like to write about?
Yes I do. For many years I’ve been an activist for LGBT equal rights, not just in South Africa, but also abroad on the great equalizer, the internet! As such I wrote over 500 articles for an activist blog between 2008 and 2012, which were shared and re-used and linked to by various other international human rights advocacy bodies around the world. Since 2013 I became more active in advocacy for freedom of religion, and part-wrote, part-compiled a 600 page tome intended to dispel what is called ‘satanic panic hystera’ called ‘Satanism: the Acid Test’.
Many scholars and academics – and numerous religious ‘experts’ have written around this topic for decades, but few if any have ever consulted with actual participants in various subcultures covered by the book directly – which is something that I did personally. As a result, not only did this book receive support and recognition from academics, but also lists the occult societies and organizations in subcultures discussed in the book who have given their approval of the content. This is something which, to my understanding, has never been done before.
This item has been sent out via email to numerous human rights organizations around the world, including the UN, and has received formal recognition from a modest listing of academics and scholars and human rights advocates – and represents, for now, the crowning glory in my research writing achievements.
6. You’re an outspoken advocate for many and aren’t afraid to say what needs to be said on many things, what made you stand up and speak out?
I despise injustice and unfairness. Something in me has always wanted to set things right, rush in where angels fear to tread and to come to the aid of those in trouble. Perhaps it’s my Aquarian nature, but I simply can’t sit by and watch injustice in action.
7. Do your books allow you to address some of these political and social issues?
Absolutely. In most of my stories I use gay or transgender characters. Not always as the lead character, but where I feel it would be fitting or fun, I do. In stories like ‘Black Sunrise’, ‘Dead Man’s Hammer’ and one or two others, there is a present transgender theme with at least one lead character, but I don’t feel it prevents readers who don’t understand transgender issues from enjoying the story. At least two of my lead characters in Blachart and Demonspawn are gay, and in ‘The Last Hurrah’ there is a strong lesbian character.
When I do write about social issues I try hard not to hit the reader over the head with the issues – but I do try to reflect how gay or transgender people are not as different from ‘ordinary folk’ as they might think! My stories are more about typical human problems, and more about unifying society than separating people because of their differences.
8. You also have a children’s anti-bullying books coming out. Tell us a bit about it.
Yes, I can hardly wait to see this one! A friend told me about her friends little girl who is transgender and going through some difficulties at school. She mentioned that the only kind of children’s books that addressed bullying she could get for her were books that harped on the things that made LGBT kids different from other kids, and she asked me to write a children’s story about the subject taking a more reconciliatory approach. I think, combined with the beautiful illustrations, this story will touch lives and make a positive difference in a lot of little kids lives.
9. You’ve taken part in a few anthos at JEA, Inanna was about strong women and Autumn Burning was a Halloween themed antho, what other anthos can we expect to see you in this year?
I’ve entered short stories into the running for a few JEA anthologies this year! I haven’t heard yet if ‘Midnight Station’ is appearing yet in ‘All That Remains’, but I do know that ‘Beyond’ is coming out in ‘For Love of Leelah’ very soon. I might have another story appearing in either ‘Against The Grain’ or ‘Fearotica’ as well.
10. For Love of Leelah is an anthology being put out by JEA in honor of Leelah Alcorn and intended to raise money for disadvantaged LGBT kids who are at risk, how do you feel about taking part?
When I first joined JEA I was very happy to see how accepting and open-minded everyone is! Not just the staff, but the other writers as well. When Leelah’s death made the news, it was extremely touching to have my publisher make public statements of support for the transgender community – of which I am a part. The announcement of the anthology was for me far more than just a chance to submit a short story and to get my name out there as a writer, but it was a gesture that reached inside of me, as a human being, as an activist, and as a transwoman. I’m hugely honored as well to have been asked to write the foreword for the Leelah anthology. Thank you!
11. What would you like to see being done to help kids like Leelah and others who aren’t being allowed to have a voice?
I’ve always said, education and information is the key. People hate what they fear, and they fear what they don’t understand. When you give them the right information you dispel the ignorance and break the vicious circle of ignorance, fear, and persecution. That’s why I’ve always been open about who and what I am as a transwoman. If people ask questions, I give them everything they want to know. Afterwards, they aren’t so ignorant anymore. Haha!
Understanding is very important for LGBT people – but most especially when they are children. People tend to forget that children are the most brutally and plainly honest human beings. It’s very important that society reaches out to, identifies and embraces children in the LGBT spectrum, to very early one give them self-acceptance that help them to grow into strong healthy adults. It’s also important to encourage and educate non-LGBT children to understand what sexual orientation and gender identity ARE as concepts, and to foster caring environments in order to minimize bullying.
12. Are there any other books and projects we can expect to see form you this year? How about in the next few years?
‘Dead Beckoning’ is due to come out this year still, and I’m not sure if the fourth title will still make it out this year, but anything could happen haha. I still have at least another five previously self-published titles to follow, and a few new ones in various stages of completion.