When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm always writing - or making notes about writing! I have an ongoing list of titles, plots and characters for stories that I plan to write. But I try to make time to read also because there's so much good stuff out there and I don't get enough time to read it all. I have hundreds of books between my Kindle, iPad, phone and the cloud reader, and I try to sneak in some reading every day or so.
How do you approach cover design?
I like to make my cover begin the story - it should match the theme and be attention-grabbing. I don't like to do things the same way as everyone else, so when it comes to urban lit, I'm really trying to move away from the same cookie-cutter styling of half dressed women and tough looking men. Those don't catch your eye anymore because they're in a sea of sameness.
What are your five favorite books?
This is always a difficult question to answer because I've read so many books over my lifetime. But there's a few that always stand out:
I Know This Much is True, Wally Lamb Left to Tell, Immaculee Ilibagiza Krik Krak, Edwidge Danticat They Thirst, Robert McCammon The Stand, Stephen King
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a project community in Chicago, then moved to Michigan and finished growing up in more projects, so my writing does reflect a lot of the characters I knew in my childhood. People who were weathered and worn but also colorful and wise. I try to make my writing show a different side to the people who are often portrayed in stories as very one-dimensional. Growing up among people who had to fight and struggle for everything they had, you learn that everyone has a story and a shell. I like to crack open that shell in my stories.
What's the story behind your latest book?
A Good Wife is about a couple who decide to have a threesome with the wife's best friend, and the long term devastating effects of that decision on the wife. The threesome turns into an ongoing sexual thing and the wife just kind of slowly loses her mind over it. The story opens with her in the hospital talking to a psychiatrist after a suicide attempt.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on an urban horror story involving the government trying to segregate and then kill off the poor - but they don't die, they come back as zombies, haha. But because the poor have been localized behind a wall, no one knows what's going on - until they start escaping.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have many but just a few are J. California Cooper, Toni Morrison, Wally Lamb, Robert McCammon and Gillian Flynn.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Bill. Light bill, gas bill, cable bill, etc. They don't take "no" for an answer, so up I go!
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
If the cover grabs my eye and then the synopsis fulfills the promise of the cover, I find myself checking out the sample to see if I want to buy, but more often than not, I'll end up buying. Even though there's no expiration date and I could always come back later, I still have a bad habit of clicking and buying because I feel like I have to have it.
Advice for new authors?
Check your ego at the gate. Give up the notion that only good books make it to the bestsellers list, and if your book didn't make it then it wasn't good. This business, unfortunately, is not all about good writers or good books. You could write like James Baldwin but can't chart while another writer who can't put together a grammatically correct sentence will be at #5. Just keep your head down and do your best work. Eventually, you'll get the reward you deserve. But the urban fiction world is a strange beast, and this side of the book publishing industry is not at all like the one you might have grown up wishing you could be a part of. So check your ego, write because you love it, and be proud of the work you do.
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