Neat desk containing only my laptop, dictionary, thesaurus and cup of tea or java ... oh, and sometimes my cat
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Releasing repression, experiencing catharsis and hoping that my short stories and novellas do the same for other women in particular and all people in general
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The opportunity to laugh, love and write
What do you read for pleasure?
Mystery, romance and erotica here on Smashwords as well as the plays of William Shakespeare
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
While grade school stories about Dick, Jane and Spot kept my young mind animated in class -- though now just reciting the word "dick" inspires me differently -- they paled in comparison to the first story I ever read: Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham. That book made me hungry every time I read it, kind of turned me off of eggs early on, and inspired me to learn how to cook at a young age. Seriously, though, that Dr. Seuss book (heck, all of them) had an impact on the little poet inside me because they contained rhymes and meter.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was raised in a tiny villa in the South of France -- yeah, right! I was born in a major East Coast city in the U.S.A. and raised mostly in its suburb during the phenomenon known as "white flight." Within one year, I was called the "n" word at age 4 by a white female neighbor no more than one or two years older than I (when all I was doing was trying to invite her to my backyard tea party). Within three years, my grade school population went from predominantly pink to predominantly brown, and my best friends moved away to farther suburbs, ones closer to the ocean. Within five years, out went the German bakeries, Dutch shoemaker, Italian butcher and Russian doctor, and in came commercial fast food restaurants and lower residential property values. However, I was fortunate to grow up among Black people of Southern U.S. and Caribbean descent and Latinos from the U.S., Caribbean and Central America, because it was fun to share each other's cultures (including eating the delicious food!) and listen to all the wonderful languages and dialects. Both the racism that I experienced as a young child (which continues severely to inflict American society in the present, of course) and the multiculturalism that I later experienced in my suburban neighborhood (and, during adolescence, in and around my Manhattan high school) totally inform my creative writing. ... Further, I owe a shitload of gratitude to my intermediate-school language arts teacher -- he's long deceased but was a published poet and superb wit -- who introduced me to the French language via directing our drama club in Moliere's The Would-Be Gentleman (since, at that time, my secretive family members on my mother's side had hidden our, albeit minuscule, French ancestry) and to the Elizabethan English language via read-alouds of Shakespeare in class and in stage performances. It was that awesome teacher who helped me cultivate my gift of poetry and puns, and who accompanied me to Brooklyn for a citywide intermediate-school poetry competition. I won only honorable mention -- and a dictionary (woo-hoo!) -- but I was so friggin' happy just to be there since my parents could not get a day off from their jobs in order to be present at the ceremony. That teacher, like my grade school teacher before him (same teacher for fifth and sixth grades), noticed my gift for writing poems, but only he continued to mentor me through my college years. He reviewed, commented on and edited my early short stories, which I first wrote in high school. I am happy that I followed his advice, no matter what my day job, to take the time in my private life to "write, write, write!"
What was the first short story you ever wrote?
I can't recall the title, but it was a romance inspired by a librarian's assistant who would go out of his way to find books that I didn't need. In my first short story, I wrote a few scenes of me daydreaming in the library and then getting verbally punished by my father. Wow, how imaginative. To escape a repressed household, I would go to the local library, do my homework and then head to the young-adults section to read a new novel. I always selected a mystery novel with as much physical romance as possible -- even if I had to imagine some of it. I also loved action-packed novels with heroines (not heroin). Anyhow, this tall guy, who was either 15 or 16, ambled over as he had been doing and flashed me a smile full of braces. His courage inspired me, at age 14, to flash back a crooked smile. Just like that, our mutual crush was born. So was my short story. It was about 10 double-spaced, handwritten pages. Large, curly, feminine letters. The crush never went anywhere, but after hunting me down one afternoon, my father told me I had to read books at home "from now on." Oh, but what I'd give to be young and stupid again.
What is your writing process?
For a novella: I gather all the napkins with random notes, paper scraps, newspaper tear sheets and various found objects and sketch a rudimentary plot with pen and ink on paper. Over a period of weeks or months, I tap out on my laptop an outline that includes fleshing out characters and their motivations.
For short stories: I get excited about an idea -- either one that just leaps into my mind or one that has been nagging me for some time -- shut off my phone, prepare a cup of tea, turn on my laptop and start writing. I hold off using the bathroom until the momentum takes on a life of its own. If I keep this up, I'll need to start wearing Poise.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
As a Black writer, I didn't want to waste time trying to prove to mainstream publishers that fictional stories about characters of color deserve to get published as high art, as literature, too. The "Urban" category can be confining, and I wasn't (and am still not) trying to be another Terry McMillan. I love McMillan's work, but her type of writing has saturated the deadwood publisher's "Urban" niches, whereas the Alice Walker disciples get rejected. As an indie author who also is a Black woman, I find it exciting to explore esoteric ideas within my plots and plumb the depths of metaphysical schools of thought. ... In terms of writing as an independent woman, I was inspired, beginning in my thirties, by Anais Nin, whose sexual lifestyle and erotica were quite a revelation in the 1930s and beyond. Any woman who pens erotica owes so much to Nin, who kicked literary ass and asked questions later. ... I also hope that by publishing as an indie author, my short stories and novellas will reach a wide, diverse readership globally.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on a sci-fi mystery romance, which will have erotic treatments, of course. A novella, it will involve an existential crisis, time travel and a twist that might create a real-life scandal in a certain country somewhere in this world. Shhhh...
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Success is still elusive to me. Hopefully that will change as I continue to develop characters and plots that defy the boundaries that deadwood publishers love to set. While I'm not interested in writing about vampires and werewolves, I love that those stories involve universal values. I'm hoping that my foray into sci-fi (soon) will bring some success.
How do you approach cover design?
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.