Today I have the pleasure to welcome Tosin Coker to Chouett. And as far as the UK science fiction litterary scene is concerned Tosin Coker seems to be the female ambassador for Science Fiction writing by BAME authors in her own words :” in 2007 she penned her first novel, unwittingly becoming the first female, African British science fiction author”.
Tosin was kindly subjected to my usual interrogation and I am glad to be able to share her words with you today.
1) For the reader who is just about to discover Tosin Coker can you tell us about yourself in a few words and what it means to you to be able to do what you love?
I am a mother of three and inheritor of sickle cell, who is a part time presenter on a radio station. A nerd who habitually folds her trash and loves to write. To be able to do what I love is and continues to be so incredibly empowering, as writing was the method through which I was introduced to me. Through writing I have met Tosin the fearful, Tosin the beautiful, Tosin the skeptic, Tosin the courageous and so on. More importantly, in meeting and accepting me, I have met and learnt to accept others with gratitude.
2) What was your favourite book as a child?
Goodness, it is impossible to name one as I was such an avid reader, but I used to love The Famous Five and Nancy Drew.
3) Could you introduce us to the world of “Heaven’s War” your quadrilogy and in its prequel “The Chronicles of Zauba’ah” your recent release?
The quadrilogy actually begins with “The Mouth of Babes”, and it follows the story of Destiny Kingsley; a young girl aged 11, whose life path has been altered due to her parents having divorced. For the sake of guiding her back to it, her late grandmother puts her into a coma in order to bring her to a celestial realm for the purpose of reminding her of the mission she was born to undertake. The subsequent books, “Let Sleeping Gods Lie”, “Heaven’s War: The Gods Awakened” and “2013 Evolution” follows Destiny’s journey as she recalls that she is a goddess sent to Earth to pass judgement. It is a sci-fi series that is deeply metaphysical in nature.
The prequel, “The Chronicles of Zauba’ah” is the story of how this goddess earned such high accolade and came to be sent to Earth in the first place. Zauba’ah is a renowned warrior scientist that is not singular in her might; neither is she the first to have been sent to our planet. In fact she is one of a collective of beings known N9ne Bloods that police the universes and yet each of them started out as a mortal being not unlike you and I.
4) How did you come up with the character of Zauba’ah?
Goodness you couldn’t possibly fathom how big a question that is! I guess it was partly through dreams. I have sickle cell anaemia, an inherited blood disorder that often causes me to experience excruciating pain referred to as ‘crises’. There have been times where I wake up from my sleep and find myself in mid crisis. On some occasions before waking, I dream that I am getting beaten up. I suppose it is my subconscious mind’s way of rationalising my body experiencing an attack before I’m conscious enough to realise what is happening. Anyway in such dreams it is always a powerful woman who effortlessly beats the crap out of me. For how in tune I am with self, I know that naturally this woman is a facet of me; she is a version of self I admire, but also dread for what it means to encounter her. The dichotomy of what she represents is fascinating to me, and I wanted to get to know her. When I started writing, the opportunity to further explore her arose and so I incorporated her into what became my author debut.
Zauba’ah is an Arabic word meaning ‘desert sandstorm’. I don’t know why, but when looking for a name for this warrior, this seemed to be befitting of her might. A spontaneous natural phenomenon that is frightful and consuming. Thinking about it now that is what sickle cell is to me.
5) The lack of diversity has been recognised as being a significant issue in the industry of the word. How has your experience been in terms of getting your work released to readers and what do you feel could be done to improve things?
Getting my work released hasn’t been a problem because I created my own publisher name with which to do just that. However that in itself has drawbacks, because of the stigma that continues to be upheld about those who self–publish.
The lack of diversity is very significant, but I think that boils down to a fear the mainstream has of diversity, as demonstrated by the reception John Boyega received for being a black storm trooper. Without poor people, there would be no rich people. The mainstream seems to thrive on extremes, and diversity endangers the privilege of what it is to exist in the coveted half of an extreme.
What can be done to improve it? Stop waiting for permission to do you. I published myself because I didn’t want to wait on permission to be an author. Granted I was sure to check with others that I actually had a talent for writing, but once that was established, the biggest hindrance to my success was myself. We’ve spent way too much time waiting on permission to be represented, approval for whether we are worthy. We forget that together we are not a minority, we are the majority.
6) What is your most favourite place on the planet and does it help you draw inspiration in your writing?
My mind is my favourite place. By way of my mind, I don’t have to settle for being bound to the planet. I draw inspiration from thoughts of how we as humans think so highly of ourselves and yet in the bigger picture, we don’t even amount to a single pixel. Thinking from that perspective is therapeutic in a sense. Problems seem smaller and less significant and yet without that single pixel along with many other pixels, there can be no picture. You matter, I matter, we all matter and yet when the wind blows it matters not whether you are a leaf or an elephant, we all are prone to the effects of its invisible force. I’m inspired by how though we are seemingly insignificant, a superior intelligence saw fit to make each one of us uniquely necessary. Therefore the only way one can honour self is to simply BE. That is what I write about. The necessity of BEing the divinity that is you.
7) What is the best advice your mother gave you?
Never lend what you cannot afford to give away.
8) Tell us “10 things” we don’t know about Tosin Coker (Most people go for 5 so that would be ok too)?
1. I’ve always wished I could skateboard
2. I’ve been trying to become a vegan like, forever! I’ve settled as a pescatarian for the past 20 years.
3. I love watching Asian soap operas
4. I can’t walk in heels and thus they are evil creations.
5. Sometime in the near future, I will be winning a Hugo Award!
9) If you could any fictional character, who would you be and why?
Captain Katherine Janeway of the starship Voyager. Freaking the best space adventures ever, and in my own starship surrounded by rebellious geeks!!! Oh my goodness I’m hyperventilating at the thought!
10) What is your “péché mignon” (guilty pleasure)?
A toss between deep fried salt and pepper squid and aloe vera juice.
Thank you Tosin for letting us getting to know you a little better
You can find Tosin on Twitter @theafrofuturist