I have been watching this author on Facebook for quite some time now. I always resonate with her status updates. It is where I learned how she thinks, the beauty of her heart, the love of her family and readers, whom she endearingly refers to as her Luvs. Recently, I discovered she is Tupac Shukar’s sister. Tupac happens to be one of my favorite rappers. I can see talent runs her blood, however, her work stands on its own merit. With every stroke of her pen, she pours her soul out on to every page, and you feel every word. It is an honor and privilege to introduce to you, the beautiful, Takerra Allen.
1) Please tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is Takerra? Where did you grow up? How was your childhood?
I think I’m a simple woman. I am, at this stage of my life, about my family FIRST, myself second – doing what truly makes me happy and writing is one of them, finding the beauty in the world while I’m here, and pleasing God which I think all mentioned is a part of that. I was born in Jersey City, NJ, moved to New Brunswick, NJ at the age of 10, and I stayed in that area since. My childhood was beautiful because it was filled with love. I had some tough times, things I don’t discuss but I don’t let that overshadow the love my mother and father poured out on me. Even when living in Jersey City, witnessing crime and all types of things, sometimes too close for comfort even, I still felt loved. Through everything, all I can remember is the good.
2) What was your earliest recollection of writing?
When I was eight or so I began taking creative writing classes for fun – a teacher recommended me. I did a few summer writing programs. I reflect now and just remember the comfort of a teacher even at ten or eleven years old saying class, we’re going to do this while Takerra and a few other students, you guys can go to these computers and type whatever you want. It was like a treat. When they would give out journals and say write in them for the school year, I would be so excited. I always got A’s on writing projects with interesting notes – some good, some critical lol. Outstanding writing, but you can’t start a sentence with “and” or “but”. Or, Takerra, this is running on too long. The same things I was told then I find myself doing now and I realize, it’s my writing style. I wrote poems, and plays, and in a diary, and songs since I could begin writing. I didn’t go out and play much, didn’t have many friends, I just stayed in my room with imaginary characters and writing them in some way. I was weird. Who knew I was being groomed.
3) Did anyone encourage you to write or did it come naturally for you?
It definitely came natural but when I was about seventeen, I started writing my first book, Thicker than Water. It sat unfinished for a very long time. A few years later my boyfriend who is now my husband, said you should finish this book. And I did.
4) What was the first piece you have ever written? Was it published or non-published?
Thicker than Water was my first novel and it was self-published originally in 2008 and then with a new cover and editing lol in 2009.
5) What is the one thing that means the most to you?
My daughter. I can’t imagine anything coming before her. She’s a whole life that I am in charge of and I’m responsible for molding her for the world and giving her all of the love so she doesn’t do crazy things looking for it elsewhere. There’s nothing bigger than that.
6) When you first decided to write a book were you afraid or insecure? If so, how did you overcome it?
I wasn’t scared at all actually and it’s crazy because now I yearn for the lack of pressure. The first is easy to me because there’s no pretense of who you are supposed to be. No expectations. You just write what you want and it’s so liberating. Now, I have more pressure. Because more people are watching; my Luvs. I want to please them. I want to live up to the last work.
7) How does the inspiration or ideas for your books come to you? How do you formulate your realistic characters?
I dream my books. Knock on wood, they keep coming. Every time I’m afraid I will run out of ideas, I have another dream. Dream Gods please keep them coming lol. The characters are real because they don’t start as people. I don’t focus on looks, or what they’re going to do first. I focus on emotions. I feel what they feel – their fears, desires, and then I create them based on that. Because all of our thoughts and actions come from the things we desire and the things we fear. It’s what makes us, us. So when you give your characters fears and desires, you make them human.
8) What was the hardest book you wrote and why?
Restricted Too. Because it was promised. I said I was going to have a sequel before I even had the entire story. So the pressure to create it was real. I would never do that again. I’ll never say there will be a sequel until it comes to be 100% and I feel it in my bones.
9) How did you learn to perfect your craft?
Oh, I don’t think I’ve perfected my craft at all lol. I reread, a lot. I reread as a reader my work and go, do I feel it, can it be better? And I just assault my work until I personally can’t do any better. I’m very into detail now. I’m enjoying it. But still, I read Jane Austen or Stephen King or Toni Morrison and I go, why couldn’t you write like this? LOL
10) How many times do you send your work to an editor? How is the editing process for you? Do you learn the most from the editing process?
My work goes through two editing processes. Luckily, they don’t change much from how I write, they really just look for structure, misspellings, tense, grammar things like that. It may not work for everyone, but so far it works for us.
11) What are some of your favorite books and authors? Do you have an all time favorite book?
I love Jane Austen, Gillian Flynn, Dorothy Allison, Toni Morrison, and all-time favorite – Stephen King. Most people don’t count Wes Craven for writing but he wrote screenplays that were awesome and he’s one of my idols. I don’t have a favorite book really.
12) What do you want your readers to get from your books?
Love. I want them to feel love, experience love – the good and bad of it. I want them to get lost for a little and then take a message from it in the end. I believe there is a message in each one of my works. Devout – unconditional love and doing what’s best for you even if it hurts. Heaven’s Hell – strength, growth, standing on your own. (There’s Power in the…) V – forgiveness, the importance of family. Restricted – consequences. The Lonely Pole – following your dreams even when life throws a bunch of stuff at you, and it never being too late even if you lose your way. Thicker than Water – friendship, betrayal, trust, getting through hardships and losing people.
13) Do you have a writing routine? Do you write every day?
No, and no lol. I mean, I don’t go out of my way to write everyday but it does end up happening most of the time. I follow my heart and spirit and try to write when I’m feeling inspired. I feel like people heard someone say, you should write a little everyday even if you don’t want to, and now that’s like bible. That sounds terrible to me. I think that’s how mediocrity happens. When you wait until you really feel it then you have a heartfelt story. I would rather put out one heartfelt story once a year than three okay ones. Since when did it become a race? But again, it’s what works for me.
14) When did you decide to start your own publishing company, “Angelic Script Publishing” and why?
We started Angelic Script Publishing when we decided to put out the book in 2009. My business partner Sandra, saw something in my work and invested in printing the books and I appreciate her for that ,and luckily it was successful and she and I were able to make that back and more and we are still going! I thank God for what we’ve accomplished so far and all of the readers who made it possible.
15) Who had the most influence in your life and why?
I’m influenced by so many people for some many reasons. I’m influenced by my mother, God rest her soul – her strength and just the qualities of being a lady at all times. My father and his consciousness he instilled in me. My husband and his honesty and the ability to appreciate the simple things in life. My daughter and her innocence, the way she sees the beauty in everything. My brother, Tupac, his passion, his talent, the fire that couldn’t be tamed. My sisters, my other brothers, my best friend, Sandra, my readers who are so inspiring and dedicated and loving, I cannot limit it to one person.
16) You have ten books published, correct? Thicker Than Water being your first. How long does it take you to finish a book?
V2 was number 11, yay! But yes, Thicker than Water was my first. It really varies, but it can take anywhere from two to nine months lol. But I am always working on a few things at once. So I may stop a project for like six months and then pick back up and finish it in three weeks. And then I send it to Dee-Dee (Sandra) for her stamp of approval.
17) Are you currently working on any new projects?
Yes, I am working on three novels, one is top priority as well as finishing up the Heaven’s Hell film. Very excited about that.
18) Is there something else you still dream of achieving?
Film and television. I always loved film – I took drama in high school and college and adored it. Now I see it wasn’t for the acting, it was for visualizing a story. I want to see my stories played out. That’s a dream.
19) If there was one thing you would want to change about the industry, what would it be?
The lack of creativity and weed out the people doing it for the wrong reasons. It has become so trendy and I am scared for the future of urban fiction. I see great potential for the growth as far as movies, and commercialism, and the way it has expanded is phenomenal; but it seems like it’s expanding with too much crap. Too much repetition, no respect for other writers or the readers for that fact, people are looking to make a quick buck and want to be famous, and writers are not famous lol. You have to love the craft. You have to be born for this.
20) Lastly, what advice would you give new writers?
Write from your heart and make sure it’s in your heart. I’ve had many new writers contact me, and let me just say, to many, I am new as well. But I’m honored anyone would look to me for advice and I tell them the same, write from your heart and follow your own path. Many of them have gone on to write books and although many don’t mention the advice I gave, or that they’ve talked to me at all, (and by the way I try to answer every question lol even through my schedule, and some asked lots of questions lol but it’s cool and I love it). It’s love on my part and I still give that advice first. I don’t know, for reasons people like to keep their interactions with other authors quiet. Tracy Brown answered a question of mine when I first started, K’wan has always kept it real with me, Ashley and Jaquavis have shown love, Wahida Clark has shown love. I acknowledge them and thank them for that. But whether new writers chose to follow my advice or not, I tell them all the same amongst other things, and I hope that they appreciated it. Shout out to my inbox lol. And shout out to my Luvs!
Takerra Allen is the author of eleven urban-romance titles, including the 2010 African American Literary Award nominated hit novel, Heaven’s Hell and the 2015 RT Reviewers Choice Award nominated, Thicker than Water 3. In addition to being an author, she is the proud daughter of former Black Panther William Garland and sister to the late, renowned Tupac Shakur. She has been featured in publications such as XXL Magazine and Don Diva Magazine, featured four times in the Top 10 Urban Books Listing. Her Thicker than Water series is currently published through Kensington/Dafina Publishing and an independent film based on the novel Heaven’s Hell has been filmed, directed by Takerra and produced by Angelic Script, the independent entertainment company of Takerra and her business partner, Sandra Mobley.