Celebrating POC Authors in Fantasy: Nikki Clarke
Nikki Clarke is the pen name of a poet, writer and educator from Chicago. She's always loved a good love story in books and on film. Her favorite on screen love declarations in no particular order are: Darius and Nina under the viaduct, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth in the field (Knightley and MacFadden version), and Dwayne and Whitley at the wedding. Nikki doesn't mind a little weird (or raunch) mixed in with her romance and hopes to contribute to more happily ever afters of all shades and styles. She currently lives in Florida, but Chicago will always be her home.
Interview with Nikki Clarke
What genre(s) do you write in?
Black Speculative and Urban Fiction
When did you decide that you wanted to write in your Genre?
I have always loved speculative fiction. In college, I studied under Nnedi Okorafor, and I knew then I loved the imagination of the speculative. Any writing I do tends to have those elements. When I started writing romance, it just carried over.
What things in your life do you draw inspiration from?
I am a very vivid dreamer, and I rarely forget them. I've drawn a lot from dreams, my love of strange cinema, the complexities of my family structure, my multi-cultural upbringing. I write a lot about the blending of cultures because I was raised among and within so many.
What is the purpose of your writing? Is there a specific message that you hope to convey?
I think that the nuances of Blackness are easily lost when we as writers are thinking about wide audiences. I am hoping to retain some of those nuances. I really try to write women that I know without changing them or making them palatable. My purpose is to show Black women being loved and complex and fragile but also strong (or not. I'm not married to the strength in Black women stereotype). Always, my message is that Black women are the best. The absolute best.
How much of yourself is reflected in your writing?
A lot. I think I validate my experiences in my writing, and I validate the experiences of women I know in my writing. On the page, I get to work through reactions and actions and ways of thinking in these alien settings, and it gives perspective.
What can readers expect to see from you in the next year? Any new releases, features, or celebrations?
I am releasing a couple of fairytale retellings (Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty), four stories in the Lyqa Series, two in the Conjure Boys series, and a shifter novel. Perhaps a holiday short or two.
Third Street Conjure Boys: JINX
We are of gods and men. We're magic, but we aren't magicians. We're ancient deities, all the things anyone has ever believed in, new and old. We're real and we're here, walking among you. Some of us are more special than others. Some of us hold the key to immense power and the ability to bestow it on others. Risers are hailed and hunted, wanted for the blessings they can bestow, and not always for good. From the moment I see my riser, the only woman who can help me attain maximum power in my human form, I know I want her, or at least I want what she can give me.
FROM THE BOOK:
Third Stree Conjure Boys: Jinx
Lure turns to look at the woman I can't take my eyes off. "I see her, but do you think it was wise to do that before you've had a chance to talk to her?"
I shake my head. "What do you mean? That's my fucking riser."
I nod in the direction of the woman who's currently rubbing her stomach and looking as if she is about to be sick. Everything in me is saying to go to her, but I know that isn't how this works. She's been triggered, but I can't reach peak until she renews me. She can't renew me if she doesn't love me. I'll never get her to love me if I rush her now. But it's hard. The connection I feel to her is stronger than anything I've ever known. Even the connection to my brothers, which is blood and magic bound.
"Do you know what that will do to her? You should have waited."
I couldn't, and I can't explain why if I tried, so I do the only thing I can. I hold my hand out. Lure stares at it for a moment before holding his hand over mine. The power vibrates between our palms and he frowns.
I nod again. “Exactly. That's the bounce back from when I zapped her." I turn to look at him, and my smile is wide. "Brother, my fucking riser is here! And look at her; she's beautiful."
Lure turns back, his eyes narrowing shrewdly. "I didn't feel her. I should have. Who's that with her?"
"Blossom, she's been coming to the show for a while. She's got a thing for Ab, but he's too busy fucking maggies to notice. You interested?"
Lure looks at the short, curvy woman standing next to my riser for a long moment. "She shimmers. Did you notice that?"
"She's gorgeous. All the gorgeous ones shimmer." I follow his gaze to where the two women stand. Both are surrounded by a soft, iridescent glow. Blossom's hovers close to her body, flaring out with each lush swell. My riser’s shimmer is vibrant and green. I feel each pulse through my blood. It sets me on edge and urges me closer. My deity wants her, and I'm having a hard time keeping him contained. "What are you thinking? Both of them?"
He shrugs. "We find each other. It's not crazy to think they would end up together. I doubt they know they're celestial, which is all the more reason you should have waited."
"She's going to know soon enough. Damn, she's beautiful." I can't stop saying it. Every so often, her body jerks with the aftermath of her orgasm, and my dick gets hard as another tremor rushes over her.
"There's no point in torturing yourself. You can't have her if she doesn't love you."
I cock a brow but keep my eyes on the woman. "Says who? She can't renew me if she doesn't love me, but that doesn't mean I can't get all the way up in that until I win her over."
Lure makes a sound of disappointment. "Come on, little brother. You know that's not how this works."
I don't have to look at him to know Lure's frowning at me. He's for real about this shit, and I am, too, but I also like my fun. If I can have my power and eat it too, why the hell not?
"She's meant to be yours for eternity, Jinx. She can bring you a greater power than you can ever imagine."
With some effort, I finally drag my eyes back to him. "Greater than yours?"
I already know the answer.
"There is no magic greater than mine, but that isn't something I take lightly. If I ever find my riser, I'm going to honor her. You should consider the same."
"Yeah, yeah," I drawl. "Just because you have the spirit of an ancient god, doesn't mean you have to run around talking like some sage. I need a riser. She's it. As long as I get her to love me and renew me, I'm not going to worry about what happens after that. Nothing has to change."
"Everything has to change, little brother. Everything is going to change. You've made her vulnerable, so make sure she's safe." Like he does every time he delivers a dire prediction, Lure walks away. I turn back to the crowd, immediately searching for her, but she's gone.
My eyes scan the people gathered, looking for her dark curly head, and I finally spot her halfway up the block, moving quickly away. I start making my way through the fans still lingering on the corner to get to her.
"Jinx, oh my god! Can I get an autograph?" A young woman, probably in her early twenties, cuts me off, planting her hands on my bare chest. Despite the chilly air, she's wearing a low-cut tank top. The firm mounds of her tits swell up above the neckline. She holds a marker in her hand. I take it, waiting for whatever she wants me to sign, when she settles her hands on her hips and thrusts her chest up. "Right here, if you don't mind."
"Not at all." I uncap the marker with my teeth, keeping my eyes on the retreating figure of my riser in the distance, and scribble my name across the smooth, brown flesh. She trembles when I dot the eye. "There you go. Thanks for coming to see the show."
My riser is nearly a block away. I move to the right, intending to go around the woman, but she moves with me, stopping me again. I sigh, willing myself to patience even though I've never been very good at it.
"You want something else, sweetheart?" I manage to keep my voice friendly.
"The question is do you want anything?"
I do, and she's currently a block away and getting further. "Not today, hun, but thanks."
I ease her out of the way and start jogging up the block. As I get closer, a tingle starts in my chest where my power is triggered by her proximity.
She turns, and I stop a few feet away.
"Yeah?" One of her arms is wrapped around her middle, but the discomfort in her expression lifts. "You're the guy from the show."
"Yeah, you okay? That can be a bit intense."
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I wasn't expecting to be a part of the show. What was that anyway?" She nods down to my hand, which at the moment is trembling with having her so close.
I shrug. "Just a big of magic. Nothing to worry about."
"Well that bit of magic has me feeling like I'm going to throw up, so I'm going to head on home. It was an interesting show, though." She turns and starts to walk away, leaving me frozen for a moment. When she gets a few feet away, I jog to catch up again.
"I, uh, I actually wanted to introduce myself. I saw you in the crowd, and I thought maybe we could—"
She pivots back with an apprehensive smile. "Oh, um, I'm flattered, but I don’t think so. I’m with someone." She turns, again, stunning me. I'm not used to having to chase after women.
Lure's right. She can't be conscious. If she was, there would be no denying what's happening between us. She'd know it, and we'd be tearing each other's clothes off beneath the shroud of a concealment cloud. Clearly, I'm going to have to do some work to make this happen. Doesn't matter. I've never been one to pass up a challenge.
"I understand. Maybe I'll see you at another show. We're here every week at two o'clock sharp. You'll have to catch my brother, Lure, next time. His set is pretty amazing."
She gives a short smile and nods. "Maybe. You take care."
I watch her for half a minute as she makes her way down the street and then head off after her, keeping a wide distance so she doesn't realize I'm still there. She doesn't go far. A few blocks later, she climbs the stairs of a brick row house and disappears inside. I cross the street and set up post inside the mouth of an alley just in view of her building. Most of the windows are dark but a minute after she goes inside, a shadow passes a lit window on the second floor. I know it's her. The connection between us is like an electric wire, live and crackling with the promise of power. As I watch her move across the windows, I give it a little tug. Let's see if she can pretend like she didn't feel that.