Lucy Silag: The first book you posted to Book Country is ARMS OF ANGELS, a steampunk romance set in 1690 Jamaica. How did you come up with the concept for the book?
Nigia Stephens: ARMS OF ANGELS emerged from another novel I’d written, Children of Eden, more than fifteen years ago. I love the unconventional. There are not enough people of color, gays and lesbians, or a heady mix of intelligent-and-sexy women in the world of Fantasy or Science Fiction. Children of Eden is a space saga that begins in our time. The protagonist of Children of Eden is a Puerto Rican drag queen named Almond who is a direct descendant of Jovan, my pirate captain in ARMS OF ANGELS.
LS: What’s been hard about setting your book in the past? What subjects have you been researching?
NS: Amanda, one of the main characters in ARMS OF ANGELS, uses sugarcane to mask one of her passions, training female slaves to fight like a paramilitary group. Sugarcane has an enormous connection to the history of slavery, one that is awful but fascinating. ARMS OF ANGELS has a taste of that true history, as do other steampunk novels.
I am also researching the history of Port Royal, Jamaica when piracy was at its height. That was incredible. So little has been done in Jamaica its self to unearth the industry and craziness in its Port Royal during that time. It was not all just drunken fun and games, but when you took a wealthy ship, a pirate gained the fortunes of a prince overnight, and reveled in it. Port Royal Jamaica was filthy stinking rich, literally. Pirates were nasty, and their flags are only flown by drunk Americans on vacation, but a pirate ship was the one place a slave was an equal. The crew voted on hard decisions. Not even the Royal Navy did that, often treating its men of lower classes like garbage.
I plan to gather more of the real history of life on Caribbean slave plantations, and the success of the Haitian slave rebellion. The cruel nature of subjects like that are very difficult for me, so I try to end my sagas in a hopeful and satisfying light.
LS: Tell us about what’s happening with your previous book from fifteen years ago, Children of Eden.
NS: Children of Eden is the sequel to ARMS OF ANGELS. When I have the time, I plan to retool it to reflect how I have changed some of the details in ARMS OF ANGELS. Though, I may merge the thoughts I have for a third book with Book Two. I need these stories finished, out of my head and into the world. I don’t want to dam the flow in my head by dwelling on one story for too long.
LS: I love where you are going with your work-in-progress THE LOVE OF DANGEROUS CREATURES. Why is it important for you to try new genres?
NS: I find working on erotic romance a delicious pleasure after writing more serious stuff. THE LOVE OF DANGEROUS CREATURES started as a short BDSM romance story I submitted to Cleis Press. I adored the movie American Mary, but I didn’t like the end. I envisioned its main character as an assassin instead of a brilliant and beautiful medical student who snaps after being attacked by someone she respected. It inspired me to tell a different kind of story, a tale of an assassin and her “cleaner.” Then, my lifelong love of Bond and action movies gushed forth and took over the story. With all the projects I have almost ready to go, THE LOVE OF DANGEROUS CREATURES marched up to the forefront of my mind. I had to put down everything else to work on it. It flew out of me and is a breath away from being a finished story. Trying something different keeps my mind sharp, whether it’s seeking deeper meaning or simply having fun.
In THE LOVE OF DANGEROUS CREATURES, I get to travel again, only this time, its not time travel like ARMS OF ANGELS. This story races from modern LA to Brazil, then to New York City. It is a dangerous world filled with wealthy people and hired killers… and submissives doing naughty things for which they must be punished.
That was pure, twisted fun. It’s what happens when you don’t go on vacation often enough. A writer travels regardless of income.
LS: What other kinds of art do you do? How do you all your creative pursuits blend together?
NS: I have six novels in their first or second drafts, have written erotica, and have written and performed poetry for years, but art was my first love. I have organized art exhibits, haunted art galleries and museums in New York City, were I was born. I have drawn, painted and designed things for most of my life, and I love all aspects of art, from graphic novels to older classical work from the Renaissance. Almost all of my friends are artists, writers, people in IT who create code and love gadgets, cartoonists, scientists, fire eaters and burlesque performers. My stories stem from the “worlds” I have touched upon. There is plenty of art and art references in all of my novels.