A Healthy Dose of Blerdspiration with Author Montrez
1. Can you share a bit about your journey as a fantasy author and how you discovered your passion for writing in the genre?
I honestly think writing began with my love of reading. Growing up, I read everything from the back of the cereal box to encyclopedias, classic fairytales, Jane Austen, mythology, mystery, horror, you name it. Reading and writing is often a way I process life and all it brings. Fantasy is just the best way to do that. Anything is possible in a fantasy story. It gives me the ability to explore the “what ifs” in life, and to do it in a way that is both cathartic and entertaining.
2. The Novel Creature Network sounds like an exciting platform. Could you tell us more about its origins and how it aims to bring together BIPOC creators and readers in the realm of fantasy literature?
I’ve hosted live Instagram interviews, featured books with reels, and briefly ran a review blog. While I enjoyed those different experiences, I feel like I’ve finally found what works best for me when it comes to spreading book joy for readers and bookish love for the amazing authors who put these works together.
Currently, I blog for a truly amazing Black-owned indie comic publisher called Konkret Comics. I also host my own book club. If I feature a creator for the book club or write a blog post about them, they’ll more than likely be invited for a live chat. The Novel Creature Network, along with the blog and book club, is my way of maximizing the bookish love and joy.
The Novel Creature Network is all about synergy and connection. I think so often we see the success of these amazing creatives, but we don’t always hear about their journey to get to that point.
On the other end, we as creatives are constantly questioning our value and whether our work matters. This platform is designed to be a bridge between the author and the reader. I want to give BIPOC and indie creators a space to be seen, and to feel celebrated and valued. I also want to expose readers to creators they might not be familiar with, while also inspiring them to achieve their own goals and dreams.
3. Black Girl Magic and superheroes are strong themes in your work. What draws you to these themes, and how do they influence the stories you create?
I grew up watching X-Men, Batman, and all the classic superhero stories. I always felt like superhero stories had a bit of something for everyone to identify with. Even though there wasn’t the level of diversity there is now, the superhero genre has produced some iconic characters and stories. Beyond the diverse characters, I love how the superhero fandom creates community. Fans can talk about their favorite characters and debate theories about the storylines for hours on end. I wanted to create content that could inspire and build a community like that (without the gatekeeping and negativity, of course).
When I was a kid, there wasn’t as much representation in other aspects of literature and mainstream media, at least not that I was exposed to. Even when there were characters who looked like me in books, television, or film, it wasn’t usually a positive or meaningful depiction. If anything, the representation often perpetuated harmful stereotypes. Today, things have improved, but mainstream media has a way of still offering diverse representation through a limited scope, lacking the nuances and rich complexity we deserve. I write about Black Girl Magic to combat those negative stereotypes and to let those who feel overlooked and underrepresented know that they are seen and valued.
With the Black Girl Magic/superhero fusion in fiction, I hope to create a community that celebrates and empowers readers.
4. Your term “Blerdspiration” is intriguing. Can you explain what it means to you and how it’s reflected in your writing and network?
Blerdspiration is “Black Nerd Inspiration”, and if I had to sum up my writing and my creative style in general, that would be it. I’m just a Black nerd hoping that my stories and content add some extra joy to the readers and viewers who are kind enough to take a chance on my work.
5. Diversity in literature is essential, and you’re contributing to that by adding more BIPOC and indie reads to readers’ TBR lists. What impact do you hope these recommendations will have on the literary landscape?
So many times, the same book recommendations get circulated around the virtual book spaces, and in bookstores on shelves. My question has always been after everyone reads the “best seller” or the most popular books, then what? My aim has always been to shine a light on hidden gems and other noteworthy reads that might not get as much publicity and push.
Publishing is hard whether an author goes the traditional route or chooses to publish independently. It’s even harder for authors of color. There is this myth that there’s only room for so many in a particular demographic or genre, when, in truth, there’s plenty of room for all voices. Readers don’t have a limit on the books they’re passionate about. If anything, the more books the merrier. So I want to add some more joy to readers’ lives.
I also am an advocate for breaking those old stereotypes and narratives that surround indie publishing. With the technology and resources, we have today, there are many well-written books by independent authors that I dare say rival, and sometimes even surpass the quality and creative range you may find in traditional spaces.
I want to celebrate indie and BIPOC authors, amplify their voices, and help readers bypass the finicky algorithms to discover new favorite authors and fall in love with books they may not have found otherwise.
6. As a fantasy author, world-building is crucial. What’s your approach to crafting unique and immersive worlds that resonate with your readers?
Honestly, world-building is crucial for every story, no matter the genre. I see every story as a unique vacation.
I welcome the reader into my fictional world and treat them like a friend visiting for the first time. I share the wonders, the hole-in-the-wall spots, and the secrets of the world I create.
No matter how seemingly mundane or fantastical the world, I try to ground it in reality and engage all the senses. It’s important to make it as tangible and real as possible, as if it’s a place you’re really visiting.
Give your setting personality and quirks. Create a culture unique to your story. Give your readers souvenirs, pieces of your world they can take with them or recreate. Maybe it’s fashion. Maybe it’s a mantra or a symbol. The possibilities are endless, especially in fantasy.
As an author, it’s my job to take the reader on a journey to a place they’ve never been before, where they’ll want to stay a while, and revisit again and again.patreon.com/AuthorMontrez
7. The concept of “casual, cozy, and inspiring live interviews” on the Novel Creature Network is intriguing. How do these interviews contribute to fostering a sense of community among blerds and creators?
The Novel Creature Network is all about celebrating the beauty and power of creativity: the triumphs, the challenges, and everything in between. We have enough critics in the world, and when the outside world isn’t tearing us down, we’re often talking ourselves out of our purpose and dreams.
I want to create a safe space for blerds, creators, dreamers, and anyone who just needs a moment to recharge for their own life adventures. I believe stories save lives. Not just the ones we write or read, but the ones we live. By sharing our stories (real life and fictional), we can empower and uplift one another.
8. Many aspiring writers seek guidance. Could you give us a sneak peek into the writing tips, challenges, and tutorials you’re planning to offer on your platform?
I’m an avid reader and an author, but some might not know about my academic and professional background. I have a Master’s degree in English and over 10 years of experience in the writing and publishing world through tutoring, editing, journalism, teaching, etc. I’ve been blessed to learn and absorb so much from my education and personal experience, both in theory and practice.
The biggest lesson I have learned, which will be the foundation for all my tips and training, is the importance of developing and maintaining healthy creativity. Look for topics that tackle elements of writing, but more importantly common challenges writers may face (mindset, dealing with critique/criticism, writing/life balance, etc.). These resources will cover fundamental aspects of the writing life in all stages: from thinking up an idea to publication and beyond.
My goal is to launch some helpful resources starting this fall. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss it.
9. Collaboration often leads to incredible creativity. Have you collaborated with other authors or creatives within the Novel Creature Network? If so, could you share a memorable collaboration experience?
Honestly, The Novel Creature Network was birthed from collaboration. I wanted to spread the word about all the amazing creators I had the opportunity to connect with through my book club and through Konkret Comics. The Novel Creature Network was the missing link.
I look at every spotlight/feature as a collaboration of sorts, but I think it’s more than that. It’s a service to the creatives I feature and to the supporters who tune in. The Novel Creature Network is a bridge that will hopefully lead to many new opportunities, connections, and creative possibilities in the bookish and creative community. I’m looking for every connection to be a memorable and impactful experience.
10. What’s next on the horizon for you as an author and for the Novel Creature Network? Are there any exciting projects, events, or goals you’d like to share with your audience?
Starting this year it’s been my goal to prioritize my own writing. I have so many stories to tell, and so I plan to get them out there and make them as accessible as possible. This autumn, I’ll be drafting a YA portal fantasy. If you like Studio Ghibli films, classic tales, and fairytales (but with Black Girl Magic), you’ll enjoy this whimsical, emotional adventure.
This winter, I’ll also be releasing Scarlett, the explosive upcoming sequel to my debut novel Errant. It’s a character-driven YA urban fantasy with super-powered action. (If you join my Patreon by October 1, 2023, your name will be listed on a special acknowledgment page in the book).
Outside of my own writing, tune in to The Novel Creature Network and join the Novel Creature Book Club to celebrate and discover the authors and creators being featured. I just want to keep spreading bookish and creative joy as much as possible.
11. Share your social media/internet information with our readers.
You can find all my links to my writing, editing services, and my socials at:
You can subscribe to my YouTube channel at:
If you’d like to support The Novel Creature Network, my writing, and more check out my Patreon at:
Audra Russell is a blogger, freelance writer, and published author. She holds two undergraduate degrees in journalism as well as a Master of Science degree in Education. She also completed the Wesleyan University online Creative Writing Specialization course series.
She is an avid reader and writer’s advocate. Her passion for promoting the works of up-and-coming authors inspired her to create her podcast, Between the Reads, as well as her website, Read It Black to Me. Her debut novel, BLOOD LAND, was published on August 29, 2020, as her fiftieth birthday gift to herself. She lives in Maryland with her husband of more than 20 years, her 3 amazing children, a 12-year-old perpetual puppy, two dueling cats, and her lone surviving chicken of 8 years who she affectionately renamed Gloria (she will survive!)