Krylios Clarke Jr. is a fiction writer, playwright, producer, emcee, actor, and storyteller. He is a co-host and moderator with Team Rayceen Productions. His debut anthology “Fears, Fantasies & Freedom“ (Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2022) is a fiction collection that touches on power, passion, perseverance, love, loss, laughter, magic, mayhem, madness, and what it truly means to find your freedom. It includes several short stories, such as ‘Leave the Door Open,’ adapted into the fan-favorite stage play of the same name. ‘Leave the Door Open’ first opened in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2022. PrideIndex recently interviewed Krylios about growing up in Jamaica, the inspiration for his book, and what’s next.
PrideIndex (PI): Talk about your journey that has led to where you are today.
Krylois Clarke (KC): I’m Krylios Clarke, and Jamaican. I went to Howard University, and while there, I did a lot of writing. And since then, I’ve been working with Team Rayceen Productions. We do a lot of interviews with amazing authors, community activists, artists and musicians, and different community leaders. And through that field lens, I get the opportunity to connect with so many different people through Team Rayceen, which has been wonderful.
I’ve always wanted to write my own book. I have been writing since I was a child. I started writing all these different short stories, and eventually, I realized I had enough to create a book. That’s how “Fears, Fantasies & Freedom” was born. I wrote from my heart fiction but was inspired by what I see in my day-to-day life and the things that affect the people around me. I wanted artistically to speak about these things. I put them in a beautiful, compact narrative that people could follow and that could entertain people and teach them something as well.
PI: You mentioned Howard University. When did you attend? Did you major in writing or fine arts?
KC: I started Howard in 2014. I was there from 2014 to 2018. I majored in Broadcast Journalism and minored in English, focusing on fiction writing.
PI: When did you first come to the United States?
KC: The first time came to the United States as a child in 1999. I first visited Chicago for different holidays and vacations and stuff like that. I started living here after graduating high school in Jamaica; I went to Howard on a full scholarship. I just moved to California,
PI: I thought you were in the DMV or Baltimore area?
KC: No, not anymore. I was there right up until November of last year.
PI: Why the move?
KC: The move has to do with love because I found love as we were in a long-distance relationship for quite a while. And eventually, we wanted to take the next step to be together full-time, and I decided to move to California. What I do for work, I’m able to do it from home, so I made that move without too many interruptions.
PI: Let’s talk a little bit about your book “Fears, Fantasy & Freedom.” Were these stories based on your experiences, or did they come from friends?
KC: They’re all from my head. Most are inspired by things that I’ve seen around me. The opening story is called Ave Maria, a coming-of-age story that explores religion and sexuality. I went to an all-boys boarding school. There were many things I saw and experienced there around sexuality. Going to a boarding school in a place like Jamaica, which is known to be homophobic, colored my perspective and outlook when it came to coming out. Ave Maria takes place in an all-girls Catholic boarding school. Hence, none of the stories are one-to-one with what I experienced, but they are inspired by things I’ve seen and experienced. I took that inspiration, expounded upon it, and created something neat to tell a story.
PI: As I looked through your book, I came across a story called Leave the Door Open.
KC: Leave the Door Open is very special to me; I adapted that story into a play. It premiered in Baltimore in May 2022 for a weekend. It was fabulous for me because it was something that I had always wanted to do, have my story on stage where people could come and see it for themselves. I had a great turnout; there were so many people in my corner I wanted to thank. Team Rayceen was a big part of helping to get the word out. Robert Garcia from Garcia’s Black Box Theater helped to produce the play. I was there as a writer and producer.
We first tried to produce it in 2021, but COVID rates were still high. We found the right time in the spring of 2022 when numbers were down, and people weren’t that afraid to come out. Leave the Door Open is actually the most extended story in the book. It deals with older/younger relationships. It explores a relationship on the brink of divorce. It leaves the characters wondering, is that door open to move forward?” Leave the Door Open was inspired by many bad experiences from friends and my own experiences. I had a good time putting it on, and there’s nothing like hearing your words coming out of other people’s mouths like that. I remember our first-ever rehearsal and hearing the cast read my words and saying my words. There’s nothing like that feeling. Leave the Door Open has a special place in my heart.
PI: Have you left the door open with the possibility of reviving that play on the stage again?
KC: Oh, definitely I am. Currently, we are in the works of doing another in the DC-Baltimore area in 2023. So, if there’s anyone out there reading this story who owns a theater or space and wants to help us put on Leave the Door Open, reach out to me and let me know.
PI: Okay, is there a possibility of adapting any of the others from “Fears, Fantasy & Freedom.” into a play?
KC: Leave the Door Open lends itself to that because it’s grounded in reality, and the subject matter is relatable. And it is pretty long. Some of the other stories are a bit shorter, and then some of them, hence the fantasies and fear in “Fears, Fantasy & Freedom” is a fantastic idea. Unless we got a huge budget, putting it on stage might not be the easiest thing. I have thought about putting on the other stories on stage. If I were to do another story, it would do Ave Maria.
PI: Who are some of your influences in the artistic realm, in terms of writers, playwrights, and so forth?
KC: One of my biggest inspirations is Marlon James. He is a Man Booker Prize winner. He is from Jamaica and is gay. When I read his book, “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” I realized that he could infuse his Jamaican culture into this book to have LGBTQ scenes and characters and still be successful. He was still able to tell the stories that he wanted to tell. Marlon James has inspired me in my writing and the stories I want to tell. I didn’t want to tell a nice story; I wanted my stories to be easily accessible to the mainstream. I want them to have a little of my culture. Those were some of the things I grappled with when I started writing. Marlon James broke down those barriers for me. Now I can think, this is the story that I want to tell, this is how I’m going to tell it, and the audience will love it or say, whoa, but hopefully, they will love it.
PI: I loved watching your interview with my buddy, Derrick Tennial, of REThink the Narrative last summer when we were promoting “Artists in the Afternoon Prose, Poetry & More.” You were lively and made it fun.
KC: Thank you. I had a great time with that interview as well. The thing is, I’ve always enjoyed interviewing people and learning more about them and what they put into their work, the passion that led them to where they are and being able to have that wonderful conversation. I’m so glad I’ve gotten the opportunity through Team Rayceen to do that. But I’m also happy that we can talk to many different people. We’ve interviewed politicians running for office in the DC area and all over America. We’ve had the opportunity to speak to authors, artists, and people from all over the world. Some of my favorite interviews are the ones where we are super conversational. We get to share stories and learn more about things. It’s one of the highlights of my work because you get to meet someone new every day and learn something new. And I can’t ask for anything better than that.
PI: If Krylios Clarke were a vacation, what kind of vacation would you be? Do not say an island in the Caribbean. Choose somewhere else in the world. (Laughs.)
KC: I would be a Greek vacation in Santorini, giving you some good Greek culture, letting you live that fantasy in a world you’ve heard of but never experienced. I would be in a world with many stories, all the fantastic stuff. My name Krylios is actually Greek. It comes from the Greek root word kurios, which means masterful or lordly. I’ve always had a connection to Greece and its history. I have not been there; it’s on my vacation list.
PI: What else would you like to tell us about your work, specifically this book?
KC: Well, specifically about the book, “Fears, Fantasy & Freedom,” the reason I chose that title is it was about learning to overcome one’s fears, fulfilling one’s fantasies, and finding your freedom through that. When you go through these stories, you will see they’re all so unique and different in their own way. Suppose you are a fan of mystery, thriller, science fiction, low fantasy, high fantasy, or drama; there is something in “Fears, Fantasy & Freedom” for you. And one thing I must talk about is fear, psychosis, and freedom. It’s LGBTQ+ themed because it was really important for me to have it in the book to make sure that when I was writing. Not all the stories have LGBTQ+ characters, but even the ones that don’t, there’s that underlying latent queerness that runs through it. I wanted to infuse that with these stories.
I could not find many LGBTQ+ stories to read when I was growing up. I remember the first time I found this queer-themed book in the library in high school; I would read it in the library. I would never check it out because I didn’t want anyone to see my name on the checkout card. I finished that whole book in the library. I wanted to write something where the reader could see LGBTQ+ people represented in different ways with different stories; some of them are coming-of-age, some are about adulthood, and some deal with keeping your head up when it comes to dealing with grief.
PI: Where can I purchase this book?
KC: “Fears, Fantasy & Freedom” is available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Or you can check out my link tree at https://linktr.ee/itskrylios where you can check out all the other things I’ve been involved with, the play, additional interviews, and music videos that I’ve been in.
PI: If I want to make sure I don’t miss another one of those wonderful interviews with Rayceen Pendarvis, Krylios, and the entire Team Rayceen crew, where should I go?
KC: You can go to linktr.ee/rayceen It has all things that are Rayceen Pendarvis related, as well as all the links to the Team Rayceen YouTube channel, Team Rayceen Twitter, Team Rayceen Instagram, and Team Rayceen Facebook.