In the midst of the current pop-culture vampire craze, author, K. Murry Johnson, manages to capture a completely different side of the ubiquitous super beings with his science fiction novel, Image of Emeralds and Chocolate.

Featuring an intelligent and deft usage of clever, layered storytelling and an imaginative concept, readers are whisked into a reality where vampires not only exist but lead lives that are as complicated and afflicted as mere mortals. Readers are also compelled to trust that beings gifted with such great powers are also capable of rich undying love that spans entire generations of time.

In telling this story, the novel also manages to venture out into new territory that has never been explored to this extent. This story is somehow uniquely original but strangely familiar at the same time.

Image of Emeralds and Chocolate strikes familiar territory in that this story is about the mythical creatures called vampires. All of the typical tropes associated with the species are presented here as well. Here, vampires are deathly allergic to the sun, need blood to survive and are essentially super-powered immortals.

Along with tales of these long-lived creatures of the night and their powers, this work of fiction also takes the time to acknowledge and explore a cross generational same-sex love affair.

While homosexuality and vampirism is often explored in the works of writers like Anne Rice, here a specific black perspective is added to the fold that uses time periods in history and current cultural references to make it feel very real and relevant. By acknowledging both the past and the present, the work succeeds in telling this rich and engrossing tale.

The main plot of the story follows a teenaged musical prodigy, Eric, in his final year of high school. While he balances his time between school and music, he is also taking a college writing courses. As he fights to maintain all of his activities, he meets a handsome stranger that has just enrolled in the New Orleans-area Loyola University in his same writing program.

Thanks to an introduction by an eccentric administrator, the two characters hit it off and become fast friends and eventual lovers.

As the reader is properly introduced to Eric and the mysterious Marquis, the novel then begins telling a story rooted in the American south during slavery as a young man experiences his coming of age during a miraculous change and  some of the most tragic circumstances and times in history.

The story itself actually functions more like a story within a story. The two main characters that have met and have a growing interest in each other in the present come from vastly different moments in time. As the story progresses the reader gets the distinct opportunity to see the storylines connect and witness the connection of the characters grow as the story plays out.

Though the main character, Eric is interesting and worthy of top billing in this work, the scene is stolen by the dark Frenchman Marquis. The story told about his life and experiences as a small boy born into slavery, then liberated because of a prophecy and made immortal, is one that is worthy of a second and even third book.

The attention to detail and calculated story telling makes Marquis one of the more compelling male leads in recent memory.

Thematically, tales of love and loss run throughout and help strengthen the overall connection made with the characters.

Another winning point of the novel is that it makes its home in the storied and enchanting city of New Orleans. Image of Emeralds and Chocolate richly utilizes this one-of-a-kind city as the back drop for both the story’s past and present in a variety of uniquely effective ways.

While the characters’ sexuality is a present component of the story, they do not dominate the landscape as there is a larger historical context and love concept being explored.

The book’s final act is also a satisfying conclusion to such a tale even if it a little over the top, compared to the rest of the neatly paced story.

Bottom Line: Image of Emeralds and Chocolate is a solid piece of fiction that is relatable and interesting to nearly every reader. It truly is as exciting as it is compelling.

Q&A with K. Murry Johnson by Joseph Brownell

What’s the meaning behind the title Image of Emeralds and Chocolate?

Image of Emeralds and Chocolate is a double entendre of sorts that is uncovered as one reads the book! But I will, for the sake of discussion, give a tiny bit away. The object of Eric’s affection has emerald green eyes and dark chocolate skin. To get the second meaning, you will have to read the book to find out (laugh).

 

Between True Blood, Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, some would say the vamp genre is saturated- what inspired you to write about vampires? Are you a fan of the aforementioned TV shows, books, movies?

I agree that the vampire genre is widely covered; however, the current offerings don’t explore black gay vampires. There are very few black vampires and no black gay vampires. I am actually quite surprised that there aren’t more black vampire leads, with the rich history of New Orleans and slavery providing so much material. I’m a big fan of all of the shows. I’ve read all of the Twilight books and the first books of the Dead Until Dark series (the Charlene Harris book upon which True Blood is based) as well as the Vampire Diaries.  My initial intention was for Image of Emeralds and Chocolate to be focused as a black gay coming of age love story. There was no vampire element. 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 vampire lead.

 

What was the inspiration for the main character Eric Petersen?

Eric is a compilation of personas, based in part on an ex-boyfriend, my imagination, and myself. He also represents the way many people feel—awkward, not sure of themselves, butterflies in the stomach— when they fall in love for the first time. He deals with love and coming to grips with his sexuality simultaneously.

 

Are you working on anything new?

People are already asking me about the sequel. It is definitely in the works and I hope to release the book Halloween 2013.

 

For more information and to stay up-to-date with Image of Emeralds and Chocolate, visit the website.

 

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