Author brings black gay vampire love to Atlanta
Author K. Murry Johnson breaks new ground by mixing never-before combined genres in his novel “Image of Emeralds and Chocolate,” and he presents the result to his beloved gay Atlanta on Thursday.
Thursday’s event is the latest author reading presented by Brushstrokes at Mixx Atlanta, the smoke-free gay bar and event space in Ansley Square across the parking lot from the two Brushstrokes stores.
The Atlanta-based author’s “Image of Emeralds and Chocolate” is the first black gay vampire coming-of-age love story. In the breakout novel, Johnson revisits his native Louisiana to explore the past and the present. The novel sets out to speak to anyone who has ever been in love or dreamed of finding romance.
The story follows Eric Peterson, a talented high school senior enrolled in a creative writing course at Loyola University. Insecure and inexperienced, he often daydreams about finding love. His fantasies quickly become reality when the strikingly attractive new student, Marquis LeBlanc, is assigned as his writing partner.
But the man of Eric’s dreams is hiding something. His therapeutic motive for enrolling in a writing class is abruptly derailed when he unexpectedly falls in love for the second time in his life. If Marquis reveals his secret, will Eric accept him … or even believe him?
Johnson (photo) spent some time with us to talk about the book, his motivations behind it, and the importance of black gay representations in popular culture. But before he did, he offered this teaser for Thursday’s event:
“There are two rumors going around: K. Murry Johnson might pull out his clarinet and play a tune at his ‘Image of Emeralds and Chocolate’ book reading, and that there will be book-themed drink specials: a dangerously delicious SB6 drink and very grown and sexy ‘Green Eyed Bandit,’” the author says. “One-way to find out if the rumors are true: Everyone please come out and join me for an exciting, posh and sexy book signing at Club Mixx in Atlanta.”
What gave you the idea to combine the black gay genre with the vampire genre?
“Image of Emeralds and Chocolate” was conceived in an undergraduate writing class. My initial intention was to try my hand at writing a black gay coming of age tale as my short story assignment. I completed the class and earned an “A.”
I decided to continue writing once my class had ended. But it wasn’t until after I penned nearly 50 pages and decided to go see Stephanie Meyers’ “Twilight” that the seed was planted in my mind to change one of the characters into a very handsome vampire.
I was set to be the first author to feature a black gay male vampire lead. I was actually quite surprised that there weren’t more black vampire leads, with the rich history of New Orleans and slavery providing so much material.
What’s your take on the importance of having representations of black gay men in literature and other entertainment media?
The downlow (closeted men) is often portrayed as a badge of honor in black gay literature and other entertainment media. I wanted to show my young protagonist, Eric Peterson, grow as a person. I wanted to show him slowly come to grips with his sexuality and eventually have a healthy view of himself as a black gay male, instead of celebrating the downlow.
There are gay men in this world that actually love being gay and like being a part of healthy gay relationships. Black gay men need characters whose relationships, although not perfect, can serve as a model union. “Image of Emeralds and Chocolate” applauds and uplifts healthy black gay images, relationships, and themes.
Does the book’s complicated romance draw from your experiences in love?
Creating the romantic situations was like cooking a Louisiana gumbo.Gumbo consists of a multitude of your favorite seafood, chicken parts, and smoked sausage. I used a compilation of my personal experiences and wild imagination. I’ve read many books, viewed a countless number of movies, been through a few relationships over the last sixteen years and heard many stories from friends and families about love. I mixed all of these elements into my Gumbo and created interesting relationships within “Image of Emeralds and Chocolate.”
If readers could finish the book with one message, what would it be?
“Image of Emeralds and Chocolate” speaks to so many different groups of people. It incorporates a plethora of genres: black, gay, vampire, coming of age, mystery, fantasy, and historical, but most of all it is a love story. The characters will make you laugh and cry, and the plot will transport you to the past, as well as immerse you into a world of musical delight. “Image of Emeralds and Chocolate” was a wonderful story, told in a very unique way.
What do you expect from your Atlanta audience, and what can attendees of the reading expect from you?
I lived in Atlanta from 2007 until I got laid off and was forced to relocate to the District of Columbia to find work in 2009. Although I loved DC, I never wanted to leave Atlanta. I moved back to the Peach City in December of 2011. I’m ecstatic to return home. I expect the Atlanta crowd to come out and enjoy themselves while they are entertained. Attendees should expect to learn about my interesting background, how I unexpectedly became a writer, and about the first black gay vampire coming of age novel.
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