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The Vicious Quandary

I wrote “The Vicious” two or so years ago for an anthology. I’ve always loved New Orleans and anything related to voodoo. Absolutely hungry for any show or movie or story that combines those elements. I fully intended to write a trilogy after “The Vicious,” and even have 2 of the 3 additional covers purchased. I signed up for another anthology with the plan to write the next book (you may see a link to that anthology at the end of “The Vicious,” depending on when you downloaded it).

But here’s the thing. I’ve been BLOCKED on that series since I wrote it.

That’s why you never got the continuation in that second anthology. I had to pull my story from it. I couldn’t even start it. I paid a consultant to help me plot out the rest of the series. We met several times and I worked on at least two more books’ worth of plot. I had the characters and the overall arc figured out.

But I still couldn’t write a word.

At the time, I blamed the divorce, and yeah, I’m sure that might have had something to do with it. But there’s more going on here than just all the stress.

I feel like continuing that series would be appropriation.

I’ve never lived in New Orleans, though I’ve visited a few times. No matter how much I love the culture, no matter how many books I read about Marie Laveau, no matter how many books I study about Vodou and the loa….

In the end, I am a (mostly) white author writing about a closed practice.

While I LOVE my covers–the characters used on the covers are also white. They’re white men dressed up in costumes. The heroine is clearly white.

Meanwhile, the magic system is based on a very real and personal religion to many people. People who were enslaved and killed and forbidden from practicing said religion.

And I want to write a book about it?

The sad thing is YES. I still do want to write it. I’ve agonized about it. I’ve tried to come up with excuses in my head. It’s “appreciation” not “appropriation.” I love it so much! I can give the heroine a biracial background. I could have the covers redone and put authentic people of color on the covers.

But again, in the end, I am still a white woman trying to write a fictional story based on Vodou, a closed religion.

As a writer, I’ve always pulled from mythology and other civilizations. I love everything about ancient history, folklore, and other religions. The Bloodgate series – based on Maya mythology! The twins, Xochitl, her father, Huitz…. based on Aztec mythology. I’m proud of the research I did for those series and still have numerous textbooks I bought. But in the end, they’re still only textbooks – probably written by white people.

I made Shara and queens of her world descended from goddesses around the globe.

Appropriation? Or appreciation? Though I’ve never described the color of Shara’s skin, the woman on the cover is definitely mostly white – and she’s supposed to be descended from Isis. Granted, I don’t think there are tons of people still worshipping Egyptian goddesses today, but I’ve tried to be careful and respectful in that series. I don’t use Hindu goddesses, for example. I try to be respectful and appreciative of the cultures I use. But is it enough?

Which circles right back to “The Vicious.” As much as I appreciate Vodou, it is a closed practice that is still practiced today. And I have no known ancestral ties to that culture or religion.

I can’t in good conscience write it as I originally envisioned it.

I’m trying to do better and be a better person. A better writer. Not just in craft but in what my stories say. What I pull from. Maybe it’s fine to take the Greek goddess Hekate and make a possibly bizarre connection to snakes! (Queen Takes Venom) I didn’t think that kind of streeeetch would offend too many people.

Though as I grow in my own spiritual journey, I try to question everything.

Anyway, that’s why I still don’t have a continuation for “The Vicious.”

I welcome thoughtful discussion.

5 thoughts on “The Vicious Quandary

  1. Could you visit NOLA and see if any practicing people would chat with you to give you inspiration? I think if you could scrape together a few dollars, drive down there and walk the streets, maybe Devine intervention will kick in. And if not, then scrap it. Or write it the way you think it should be. I never go back and say your appropriation was totally wrong if the author states ” my vision my reality”. Just a thought.

  2. This has been sitting with me for a few days as to how to reply. I can understand and appreciate your views on this. Whilst I can see this story as appreciation and a way for others to see into a culture we are not regularly exposed to. If researched and written as the fiction it is intended as. I also see it from the side of. If a divide is placed it can have ramifications in the long run. That if you are not part of a certain minority then you can not write about those characters etc. I would hate to see that happen as we are people and all should be represented in the literary world. But if you feel this strongly enough change the story make it how you feel it should be. Or write as you intended but be as respectful to the culture As possible. I would like to add that this story was the first I read of yours and found your writing to be wonderful.

  3. I’m a french woman with african origins. I’m from Guadeloupe wich is a french carribean island.
    I’ve not read Vicious but I’m familiar with your vampire queen serie. Bravo for your imagination, your characterisation, your worldbuilding and the diversity in your books. Thanks for your hard work ! I’ve spent delightful moments reading your books, especially during hard times.
    I do appreciate your concern and the fact that you don’t want to be hurtful to your POC readers. It’s refreshing and pleasant for a black woman living in a world still full of bias and prejudice. I don’t have a problem with you writing a book with vaudou content. But, please, if you decide to do so, treat vaudou like it is : a religion. Talk with practitioners and belivers. Ask of them what practises and beliefs you can describe to non initiated readers. Talk about the reality of this religion and how WASP recount of history has warp the way people see vaudou worldwide as something folklorik at best and evil at worst …. and why
    We readers of african descent really do appreciate when fiction isn’t whitewhashed and for once in a while describe the truth. And I do agree with you that Shara can be predominantly white as a descendant of Isis but Isis certainly wasn’t.
    Keep up the good work and will you please excuse my clerical or typographical errors as french and creole are my first languages.

  4. I have a lot of respect for this awareness. I’m part of a social justice focused community of mostly Black practitioners that speak often on voodou and hoodoo, and you are doing the right thing. I’m even more glad to continue supporting you knowing you take this seriously. There are so many things that are open to pull from!

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