Writer, Author, Publisher
With an academic background in writing, editing, music instruction, and media/communications, Stacey Marie Robinson directs the activities and operation of Kya Publishing, including the creation, promotion, and production of her own novels, along with the Journal of Canadian Urban Fiction. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies (University of Windsor), a Masters in Communications (Wayne State University, Detroit), and a diploma in Publishing (Ryerson University).
SB: You have a publishing company called Kya Publishing. Tell us a bit about it?
SMR: Kya Publishing is “Canadian Literature Inspired by Urban Culture,” and an outlet for me to communicate and document the experiences, the culture, and this moment in history for my peers and associates. I primarily do this through story writing, and have written 9 books to date that reflect our unique Toronto culture and the various lifestyles that exist within it. In addition to writing, designing, and producing my own books, I am also heavily involved in the promotional efforts and communication of a few urban cultural artists in the city as well. My goal with Kya Publishing is to establish and strengthen the literary genre of Canadian Urban Fiction through storytelling and character development. In addition to the reading materials, I am committed to seeing the culture grow and progress, and in supporting urban literacy and development in any way that I can. I have conducted book drives, panel discussions, a book expo, children’s initiatives, and created an academic journal all in support of this mission to document and celebrate Canada’s urban culture.
SB: How do you manage your time with your publishing company and writing?
SMR: Kya Publishing and my writing are rooted in inspiration. In order for me to be productive with building my company and growing as an author, I need to stay engaged and alert! I work full time as a Communications Coordinator for a government organization, and I also coordinate the communications/publicity for a few urban artists (photographers, dancers, DJs, MCs), sports figures, and cultural groups. In order for me to manage my time, it’s simple: I have to stay INSPIRED! That involves taking in musical events, travelling, going to shows, and a big part of that is assisting others in the community with their writing, promotions, and dreams! My writing is rooted in the experiences and cultural passions of “the people” of Toronto, so all of my activities feed into one another, and help me to sustain my interest in seeing Kya Publishing grow.
SB: Carnival Spotlight is your recent publication and 9th book. You have written 8 URBAN TORONTO TALES, a collection of stories about the cultural and personal experiences of first-generation Canadians. What is different about this book?
SMR: That is a great question. Essentially, the overall themes in this novel have not changed in that it is representative of Canadian urban culture. I anticipate that most of my novels going forward will still be the same genre: personal tales of growth and self-awareness, heavily focused on culture, with an element of romance. That being said, the Urban Toronto Tales represent a younger demographic—of the 8 books in the collection, the majority of them were written when I was a high school/university student, so they reflect many of the issues and ideals of those stages of life. I tend to write characters that are the same age as me, and the Urban Toronto Tales represents characters below the age of 30, by default. Going forward, my novels outside of the collection will feature slightly older characters at a different stage in life and personal development. The issues will change as a result, as well as how the characters handle them.
SB: Carnival Spotlight is about Toronto's former reggae dancehall princess, Delia. Why did Delia leave the dancehall scene to dance for a soca group?
SMR: Delia left the dancehall scene because of an abusive relationship that was rooted in the people and environment, and also because her friendships fell apart, and she wanted to distance herself from the people that brought drama to her life. My novel Video Light tells the story of Delia and Ryan from the day they first meet (5 years before Carnival Spotlight takes place), and the trouble she had breaking out of her old habits, and trying desperately to establish a new stable life with Ryan. Delia’s love for the dancehall remained in her heart, but being introduced to the soca group re-ignited her passion for dancing…with a new group of people.
SB: Delia’s marriage is at stake because of her involvement in the seductive party lifestyle of soca? Do you believe that soca and/or dancehall affects many marriages/relationships, if so why?
SMR: Yes, in Carnival Spotlight, Delia’s re-entry to the party scene definitely causes friction in her marriage because it brings her back to a place in her past that was filled with negativity and confusion, and it represents a part of her history that she was trying to move past. I think that any powerful outside influence can potentially affect your marriage or relationship if it’s not explained or understood correctly. For example, Ryan (Delia’s husband) is an academic, and doesn’t place as much emphasis on partying and dancing for his self-esteem or ego. Delia, on the other hand, has her entire identity rooted in being “that girl” at the club and on the dance floor. So in this particular case, that passion of hers, and the powerful force of music and drinking and dancing and sexual movements all wrapped into one definitely poses a threat to Ryan. That being said, I don’t think it’s the soca/dancehall music in particular that affects marriages or relationships…I think it’s the threat of having something break that bond, and something enticing one partner away from their union. Delia loves Ryan and what his world represents (stability, progress, etc.)…but Delia’s heart is drawn into the music and her love for dancing with a force that Ryan fears.
SB: Have you ever thought of being a dancehall queen?
SMR: LOL, that’s a funny question. I’ve always been so in love with reggae music, and there maaaaay have been a small part of me as a young teenager that truly admired the confidence and the boldness that came along with the image of the “dancehall queen.” I knew every song, every riddim, every dance move, every artist, every sound crew…everything about reggae music in the 90s! And I knew this often from the comfort of my home as a teenager, and it fascinated me! As I got older and started venturing out into the actual venues where I could experience the music and dancing first hand, I knew that I had the opportunity to do what I do best: I wrote about it! There is an element of music, and reggae/Caribbean culture, and that urban entertainment environment in EVERY story I write. It is my heart…but as a writer, I would rather capture it in print and share the electricity of the moment than actually be the girl Dutty Wining on stage. I’ll continue to let my characters live out those “secret” adolescent fantasies on my behalf!!
SB: What is it about dancehall or soca that many people, especially young people are fascinated with?
SMR: I think a huge part of the appeal of dancehall and soca music is the cultural connection. The lyrics, the dance moves, the rhythms, and the performance of it all are such a personal cultural experience and something that brings you closer to others with shared interests. In Toronto in particular, I think the young people are fascinated by what it represents: their heritage. Their families back home. It’s a way to connect to your roots at a very personal level, and by dancing to the music, and taking in the lyrics, and enjoying the stage shows and performances, and DJs with your peers…there’s a unique cultural bonding that takes place that you can’t find just anywhere. It’s a personal experience…and the music is so soulful that it almost strengthens your love for your culture and your people! Even for those outside of the culture, there’s enough energy surrounding the music that it’s hard to resist!
SB: You have been involved with Toronto carnival for 8 years. What was your experience like as a participant?
SMR: It’s been so much fun, being involved with the Toronto carnival as more than a spectator. I’ve attended the carnival for over 20 years, living in the city, and there has been a great increase in my respect and appreciation for the event as a participant. There is such intricate planning, and detail, and the competition aspect is great, and the creative energy is out of this world. It’s fabulous to have that mix of the arts and culture together, and being a participant is fun from every angle!
SB: What was it about the Toronto carnival that drew you to it?
SMR: Oh, everything! It started with the music and the social aspect, and as I became more familiar with the system and the opportunities, I became intrigued by the costume designs, the organization of the mas bands, and the promotion of the culture to others. The first year I designed/created costumes with a few friends, I fell in love with everything! The beads, the fabrics, the feathers, the mas camp socialization and camaraderie, the events, the performing artists, and then when we hit the road for the carnival for the first time as official “mas makers”…it was a wrap! I was hooked! I’ve since travelled to other carnivals and found that the culture is consistent: it’s all about music, dancing, the foods, the celebration and there are few feelings of euphoria and joy that compare to this Caribbean tradition. I love that I’ve been able to integrate my writing into this fairly new passion of mine.
SB: What is the difference between dancehall and soca groups?
SMR: In this particular case, the soca group “Groovy Massive” is a collective of trained dancers who exclusively perform to soca music only. While there are many similarities with the two genres of Caribbean music, there is a difference in movement and tempo and the overall culture that surrounds them that makes this fictional dance group unique. While the character Delia Chinn was a notorious dancehall figure, her dancing mainly took place informally in the club and at events, whereas the Groovy Massive soca group are a choreographed group of professional performers. At the heart of it all…I believe both soca and dancehall music are very similar. SD: What sort of reviews/feedback have you gotten from your fans/people about Carnival Spotlight?
SMR: I am looking forward to receiving feedback on this novel, which has now been available for about a month. I hope that readers both in the carnival community, and new to the experience, can appreciate the beauty of the culture and all of the excitement it brings to Toronto. I also hope that those who originally read Video Light, are pleased with the way Ryan and Delia’s relationships has progressed in this novel.
SB: What’s next for you?
SMR: I’m going to participate in a Culture Days panel on September 27th for a discussion about freelance writing, and in November I will be on a panel at the Toronto International Book Festival about diversity and music in writing, which I’m looking forward to. I will continue to work on promotion for Carnival Spotlight and the Urban Toronto Tales collection, and I plan to put out the second edition of the Journal of Canadian Urban Fiction later this year. In February Kya Publishing will be hosting the 2nd annual Toronto Urban Book Expo, and I look forward to seeing this genre (and hopefully my readership!) increase as a result. I am really anticipating the discussions and insights that the interaction and research brings to my journey as an author and publisher.
Buy the book: kyapublishing.com