Black Writers Collective recently had the opportunity to chat with the creator of the riveting Brothers of the Dark Veil. Meet Ms. Carolyn Holland (who just happens to have been the first member to join Black Writers Collective).
In this intriguing interview, Carolyn introduces us to some of her characters, shares juicy background behind her stories, her experience with beta readers, and a sizzling excerpt from Behind the Dark Veil. She also offers advice for aspiring authors.
Q: Your blending of historical, paranormal, and mythological legends in your books is both utterly fascinating and irresistibly addictive. Share with us how you came up with the idea for your Brothers of the Dark Veil series.
I am a bibliophile. I purchased Rosemary Roger’s Sweet Savage Love in 1974 and fell in love with the main characters, Steve Morgan and Ginnie Brandon. The storyline was raw, violent and extremely sensual while at the same time maintaining historical integrity. From that day forward, I was hooked on historical romance. I am a hopeless romantic. (Please don’t judge me!) The historical romance genre took off like a rocket, giving female writers the autonomy to write true-to-life eroticism with a backdrop of historical fact. To date, there is minimal representation in the genre for people of color. I was determined to change that by writing books for, and about, people of color which appeal to male and female readers. When the late L.A. Banks took her readers to heaven and hell in her Vampire Huntress Legend series, garnering crossover appeal with her main characters, Damali (the Neteru) and Jose (a Vampire), a germ of an idea began to grow. I was not ready to act upon it until I came across The Book of Enoch and the Watcher Angels who were beguiled by the loveliness of earthly women and begat children with them—Nephilim. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: How did your Southern-Caribbean roots or childhood influence your writing interests?
Q: Do you have a favorite character in any of your books? Which is your favorite and why?
It is a toss-up between “Flossie” and “Calvary Nelson.” Calvary is a character my readers have yet to meet. I fell in love with Flossie because of the inner strength she exhibited in the face of devastating loss. And I adored the way Flossie loved, Ajuma, the Nephilim angel who fathered her children. She was “enslaved” on Magnolia Hill, and yet her indomitable spirit never allowed her to become a slave to the horrible set of circumstances she was dealt. Flossie will always have a piece of my heart. She is the “alpha” female in the series, a bright light in the midst of darkness.
Calvary is exquisite, with the smooth, coal black skin she inherited by Flossie, and the vibrant green eyes she inherited from her Nephilim grandfather (many times removed), Ajuma. The miraculous circumstances of Calvary’s birth must be hidden from the world until she comes to the full knowledge of who and what she is and her true purpose. I fell madly in love with Calvary, as she is my “omega.” Every character, every scenario, and every plot twist is engineered to lead the reader to her.
Q: Is there a message, theme or any secrets in your Brothers of the Dark Veil series that only a few people will recognize (or that you hope they will)?
The world of “spirit” is real. It is evidenced in every whispered warning that saves us from calamity and in every dream that gives us clarity. As we delve deeper into the series, I hope readers will come away with the knowledge that each of us is part of the creator’s divine design, and no matter how dire the circumstance, there is always hope because we never walk alone.
Oh, and many readers will not remember whatever happened to that damn book Hannah was willing to kill for! 😀
Q: Your books definitely do not aim to deliver readers what they want, so we suspect your reader feedback entails a lot of emotional responses. What are some of the more memorable reactions you’ve gotten that make you feel like you’ve truly done your job as a writer?
That’s easy! There was an overwhelming response of disbelief and, in some cases, outrage surrounding the shocking outcome in book four entitled Inside the Realm of Awe. I love it when readers become invested in the future of key characters and want them to have their “happily ever after.” In my opinion, one of the highest compliments to a writer is when the readers bring a character into their hearts and minds.
Q: What kind of research did you do for Brothers of the Dark Veil, and how long did you spend researching before beginning the first book?
I was unaware at the time, but I have been preparing myself for the material that would ultimately become part of the Brothers of the Dark Veil novels for years. I read the works of the standard “great thinkers” while pursuing my degree in philosophy at West Virginia State University, at which time my curiosity surrounding biblical texts was piqued. This led to an exhaustive research into American history as it relates to the early German and French settlers, plantation life, slavery, Egyptology, Yoruba religious practices, ancient Hebrew and biblical texts, Hoodoo and Voodoo practices, excerpts from the Kabbalah, The Holy Tablets of Dr. Malachi Z. York, Dante’s Inferno, Angelology and, of course, The Book of Enoch.
Q: How many books comprise this series, and how did you go about mapping out such an epic undertaking?
The first series, Orun and Aye (Heaven and Earth), is comprised of six books. The second series, will be comprised of eight books, one for each of the seven Brothers of the Dark Veil, culminating in the book about Zion Shemyaza, the Nephilim King. There will definitely be spin-off books featuring memorable ancillary characters.
How did I map the series out? I didn’t. I started writing, and could not stop.
Q: How long on average did it take you to write each book of this series once you began?
As each book originally exceeded 500 pages, it took a little under two years to complete them.
Q: Your characters obviously have very strategically selected names. How did you choose the names of your characters?
Q: What was the hardest scene to write in book one?
Hands down, the most difficult scene for me to write in Behind the Dark Veil was the scene where Claude Etienne and the members of the River Road Militia kicked in Flossie’s door, destroying any hope she had of gaining her freedom. I wept as I typed the scene.
Q: Black Writers Collective has started a Beta and Advance Copy Readers Club. Did you use Beta or Advance Copy Readers? What suggestions or advice would you have for other authors or fellow members who’ve never used either?
“Yes!” I used Beta Readers and an Advance Copy Reader. I could not have written a work of this nature or complexity without my team of six—yes, I said SIX Beta Readers. There are multiple characters, plot twists, and locales in my books. The Beta Readers played an integral role in ensuring the story was cohesive and that each chapter flowed into the next one seamlessly. They also picked up grammar errors, typos, and made sure any references in the book were appropriate for the time period. The Advance Copy Reader is a writer’s last quality assurance test. They ensure there are no errors that were missed, and that the overall look of the book is up to snuff.
As a writer, we are often too close to the work to see glaring issues that literally scream out to a Beta Reader or Advance Copy Reader. With each review or edit, our brain tells us what should be on the page. I have lost count of the times I asked myself, “how in the world did I miss that?” Most importantly, as lay readers, the Beta Readers and Advance Copy Reader provided an honest critique of the integrity of the story. Beta readers and Advance Copy Readers are invaluable!
Q: What are some tips you can share with aspiring authors or valuable lessons you learned while publishing your first books?
Q: It’s been said that your books are destined for the big screen. Are there any particular actors you would choose for certain characters? Which ones?
I carry mental images of well-known actors with each of the Brothers of the Dark Veil characters.
- Michael Ealy – Ajuma
- Mel Jackson – Antioch
- Simeon Panda – Gilead
- Chiwetel Ejiofor – Boaz
- Shemar Moore – Nicodemus
- Blair Underwood – Rephidim
- Jessie Williams – Simeon
- Tupak – Zuet (sorry, Pak!)
- Idris Alba – Zion
- Flossie – Lupita Nyong’o
- Mehwish a/k/a Hannah: Jennifer Beals
Q: When can we expect to see the next installment in the Brothers of the Dark Veil series and is there anything you can share about what to expect?
The second book in the series, entitled The Bliss of the Grave, will be available on all platforms in May 2020. I love this book! You can expect a deeper look behind the Dark Veil and into the lives of the preternatural beings who abide there, a jaw-dropping trip to hell and back, a brutal slave uprising, a rollercoaster ride of mysticism and lots of majick when a Zanzibari witch arrives on Magnolia Hill to turn everyone’s life upside down.
Q: One last question: can we share an excerpt from "Behind the Dark Veil"?