Category Archives: writing

Writing My Wrongs by Shaka Senghor

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Convergent Books
Price: $14.00
Purchase: Amazon | BN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Shaka Senghor was raised in a middle class neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic. An honor roll student and a natural leader, he dreamed of becoming a doctor—but at age 11, his parents’ marriage began to unravel, and the beatings from his mother worsened, sending him on a downward spiral that saw him run away from home, turn to drug dealing to survive, and end up in prison for murder at the age of 19, fuming with anger and despair.
Writing My Wrongs is the story of what came next. During his nineteen-year incarceration, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement, Senghor discovered literature, meditation, self-examination, and the kindness of others—tools he used to confront the demons of his past, forgive the people who hurt him, and begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed. Upon his release at age thirty-eight, Senghor became an activist and mentor to young men and women facing circumstances like his. His work in the community and the courage to share his story led him to fellowships at the MIT Media Lab and the Kellogg Foundation and invitations to speak at events like TED and the Aspen Ideas Festival.

In equal turns, Writing My Wrongs is a page-turning portrait of life in the shadow of poverty, violence, and fear; an unforgettable story of redemption, reminding us that our worst deeds don’t define us; and a compelling witness to our country’s need for rethinking its approach to crime, prison, and the men and women sent there.

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Vlog Review: https://youtu.be/ER3t-xnHgE4

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Review

Writing My Wrongs is about the power of hope, change, and redemption. It sheds light on the reality and truth of mass incarceration.

I have read many books about prison, but never as poignant, gritty, and honest as this one. This memoir provoked me in ways I had not expected.

Shaka Senghor is an inspiration and a great writer. He was born with a gift which he was able to develop during his time in solitary confinement. It was through reading and writing that he was able to heal and find himself.

His story taught me that people deserve a second chance, and should not be limited or defined by their past.

Writing My Wrongs is an important and powerful book, which touched, inspired and encouraged me. I hope it gets into the hands of the youth in public schools, detention centers, and prisons across America. I highly recommend it.

In conclusion, I want to thank Convergent for sending me this complimentary book in exchange for an honest review.

Locked up for nearly nineteen years, Shaka Senghor has used his incarceration as a vehicle for change. Through years of study and self-reflection, he has transformed himself from an uncaring “thug” into a principled, progressive man who refuses to allow his circumstances to define who he is or what he’s capable of.

Once a very angry, bitter young man, it was books that saved him from self-destructing and allowed him to see beyond the barbed-wire fences that held him captive. In an environment where hopelessness and despair grow like weeds, writing became his refuge. Eventually, he began writing creatively, tapping into the growing interest in street/hip hop literature. The author of six books and countless articles and short stories, he is inspired by revolutionary prison writers like George Jackson, Malcolm X and Donald Goines.

Whether writing street lit or poetry, Shaka speaks the truth about the oppressive conditions of the ‘hood and the not-so-glamorous side of the streets. He writes in a way that compels his readers to see the hope and humanity of a discarded generation shaped by the crack epidemic, the fall of the auto industry and the rise of the prison industrial complex. He is soon to be released and is eager to begin working with youth through gun and violence prevention programs in his hometown of Detroit.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Anchor
Price: $16.00
Purchase: Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'”

Review

What I got out of Bird by Bird is the love and respect for the craft. Writers shouldn’t get into writing because they want to be the next John Grisham or Jackie Collins, or to make thousands of dollars, or to see their name up in lights. Writers don’t write for fame, fortune or accolades. They write because they love the art and respect the craft.

This was the first book I’ve read by Anne Lamott, and I enjoyed her voice and writing style. She writes from the heart and in truth about the craft and her life. She doesn’t avoid difficult topics, and tackles them with humor.

She doesn’t sell you pipe dreams or pie in the sky fantasies about writing. She encourages you to write, and not stop, even if your work never gets published.

This excerpt spoke volumes to me:

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose or their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on the boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

All in all, Bird by Bird is a wonderful book which I will read again. This is a book you will want to keep in your library. If you write or want to write, I highly recommend this book.

Anne Lamott is the New York Times bestselling author of Help, Thanks, Wow; Small Victories; Stitches; Some Assembly Required; Grace (Eventually); Plan B; Traveling Mercies; Bird by Bird; Operating Instructions, and the forthcoming Hallelujah Anyway. She is also the author of several novels, including Imperfect Birds and Rosie. A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Scribner; 10 Anv edition
ISBN-10: 1439156816
Price: $17.00
Purchase: Amazon | BN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Review

I’ve had this book on my book shelf for awhile. I was intending to read it, but never got to it until a week ago. Now I could kick myself for not reading it sooner.

In my opinion, On Writing is one of the best books on the craft of writing. Novelist Stephen King gives you the nuts and bolts of what it takes to be a writer.

If I were to sum up the book in a few words, it would be… “Read a lot, Write a lot.”

What I found encouraging (since I don’t have a college degree), is that Stephen King says it is not necessary to attend college to be a writer. He doesn’t deter people from attending college, he just says you don’t need a degree to write books. You just need to read a lot and write a lot. Every day. Without fail.

Writing requires work, discipline and perseverance to succeed. There are no short cuts.

On Writing is a goldmine filled with helpful nuggets. It is the kind of book you want to have in your library to refer to. I highly recommend it.

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Bill Hodges Trilogy, Revival, and Doctor Sleep. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Kisha Green

Kisha and I connected on Facebook and then finally met at the Black Pack Party in Harlem last May. I loved her genuine, sweet and kind spirit. I not only am grateful to call her my colleague, but also my friend. I have the utmost respect for her and all that she contributes to the publishing industry. It’s with great pleasure to introduce to you, the multi-talented, Kisha Green.

1) Were you born and raised in New Jersey?

Yes, I was born in New Jersey and at the age of two, I moved to Richmond, VA with my mom only to return at age eleven after my grandmother died and have been in New Jersey since.

2) When did you start being interested in reading and writing?

I have always been an avid reader thanks to my mom. As an adolescent I enjoyed books by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary and then graduated to the Babysitter’s Club series and then once in high school, I started reading books by VC Andrews, Mary Higgins Clark, Jackie Collins and Stephen King.

3) Did anyone in your life influence or encourage you to read or write?

My mom. I remember watching my mom come home from work, change out of her nurse uniform, cook dinner, eat and spend the rest of the evening reading. This was a daily ritual.

4) Do you remember the first book you read? What was it?

Hmmm…It was story about a mouse and a motorcycle but I cannot think of the title.

5) Who are some of your favorite authors and books?

Jackie Collins is my favorite author. Her writing is exciting and outside the box and I get swept away in her words, she was a creative story teller. May she rest in peace.

6) Did you read any books that helped you in writing?

Some creative writing books and techniques about showing versus telling.

7) When was the pivotal moment when you decided to pursue your dreams?

Even though I had self-published my first book in 2007, it was not until 2011 that I decided that I wanted to do promotions and literary consultations as well as assist authors.

8) Were you afraid? If so, how did you overcome your fears?

I was initially afraid but I told myself failure was not an option and took a leap of faith.

9) When did you start your own business and what are all the things you offer in regards to your business?

In 2006 DivaBooksInc was formed but it wasn’t until 2011 that I really took it serious and gave it my all. I wanted to provide quality services to authors and publishers at reasonable rates.

10) When did you decide to write your first book?

In 1999, I read Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree and a year later I said I should write a book and tried to but shelved the idea and then picked it up again only to postpone it after my mom dying. Then going through an emotional rollercoaster of feelings regarding my writing a book to finally saying I was going to do it in 2006.

11) What did you learn from the process?

I learned that hard work and patience pay off but most importantly you must remain consistent.

12) How many books have you written in total?

I have written three full length novels, participated in four anthologies and one poetry book. I am currently working on my fifth anthology that is a collection of erotica stories.

13) Which one was the hardest to write and why?

The hardest one was Dear Mommy which was my third book that tells my story of dealing with the death of my mom to a brain tumor. I self-published it through a print on demand back in 2008 and since then took the book down and have been working on it off and on to release again through my own publishing company.

14) Where do your ideas come from?

Real life experiences of myself, friends and family and IDTV.

15) What is your writing routine or process?

I write notes all the time and then sit down attempt to turn them into stores. I write at the most random times and can be anywhere. I write the best with my laptop and music playing.

16) How did you hone your craft?

Reading books.

17) You where many hats… between writing your own books, publishing other talent, promoting other talent, your talk show and blog… how do you manage and balance it all?

The grace of God. I wear many hats and equally enjoy them all.

18) How long did it take you to build your business?

Lol! I am still building. This is a full time job and I cannot stop especially when I am trying to create a legacy for my children.

19) What’s next for Kisha Green?

This year I am entering the arena of publishing others and have signed two very talented authors that will be making their debut with DivaBooksInc this year and I am very excited about this new chapter in my life as well as helping these writers turn their literary dreams into published realities. I will take everything that I have learned from being a literary consultant, reviewer, radio show hostess, promoter, blogger and virtual assistant, and pour that into my authors while never giving up.

20) Lastly, what advice would you give to a novice writer?

Do not give up! Do not worry about any one telling you no, when you can create your own YES!

Kisha Green is no stranger to the literary world. She is the owner of DivaBooksInc, the author of several titles including the hit novel, And Even If I Did, literary consultant and promoter.

As the host of Writer’s Life Chats, an online radio show, Green interviews aspiring and seasoned authors. Writer’s Life Chats has been nominated multiple times for Best Blog Talk Show, winning the title in 2010 and 2011. Green is also an avid reader and book reviewer whose reviews have appeared on Urban Book Source, Shelfari, Goodreads, Amazon and other notable sites.

As a firm believer in “each one, teach one,” Green launched Literary Jewels in 2011, an online resource for aspiring writers interested in self-publishing. Green has also participated in numerous panel discussions on the topic of publishing. Currently Green resides in New Jersey and is a contributing writer for a number of sites, virtual assistant and promoter for various authors and is the recipient of the 2014 Literary Excellence Award presented by Black Pearls Magazine.

You can follow her on Divabooksinc, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Guest Post: What Makes A Good Story? by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

I met Andi Cumbo-Floyd on Twitter in 2012, and then had the pleasure of rooming with her at the Quitter Conference in Nashville. She is an amazing woman who has achieved her dreams by the help and grace of God. Not only is she a talented writer, editor, teacher, mentor and coach, she’s a farmer too. Her new book, Steele Secrets is releasing on February 9th. Be sure to pre-order your copy on here or her website. I was blessed to interview her back in 2013 (you can read the interview here). Today she visits again and writes about what makes a good story.

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I read a lot of novels. . . . from “literary” fiction to Young Adult fiction to cozy mysteries – I love a good story, and I have no desire to be picky about the labels I choose my reading from. A good story is as good story is a good story.

Admittedly, each of us is going to have our own definition of what makes something a good story. Some of us like setting to be prominent with the streets and trees, time period and geography guiding us to deeper understanding of the storyline. Others prefer characters who are likeable, who take risks, who struggle openly on the page. Book preferences are like shoe preferences – there’s no right and wrong, just taste.

But I do think some characteristics are universal across all the good novels we read.

  1. Not the vampire ones (necessarily) but something that could be lost. . . from a relationship to innocence to treasure to life itself. If the characters can’t be a risk to lose something, then we probably aren’t going to care.
  2. Recognizable Experience. Many of us love to share this quote from Shadowlands, the film about C.S. Lewis – “We read to know we’re not alone.” That’s totally true. We want to see ourselves on the page.
  3. New Experience. The flipside of reading to find ourselves is the fact that we read to learn. We learn about different cultures, different situations, different time periods. A good book can help us relate to the characters even as we gain new perspectives.
  4. Appropriate Pacing. A novel can move really quickly or very slowly, and both are great. But the pacing has to be fitting for the story itself. A story of a lifelong friendship will probably be paced more slowly, but a suspense thriller will probably move quickly. . . the irony is that a long timescape often has a slower pace, and a shorter timeframe moves more quickly.
  5. Consistency and Clarity. The bottom line is that no matter what sort of novel, it should be consistent within itself. We’ve all read novels where the pace or setting or point of view change for no clear reason. . . those are the novels we usually put down.

So if you prefer a legal thriller or a psychological exploration, a supernatural travail or a basic romance, the basics of a good novel are the same. . . it needs to keep you invested, engage your emotions, and insure that you are never lost within the story.

I’m off . . . I have a vampire/werewolf mystery to finish.

What kind of novels do you love? What makes a good novel for you?

Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, six goats, and twenty-three chickens.  Her new novel Steele Secrets comes out on February 9. You can connect with Andi at her website –andilit.com, or on Facebook TwitterLinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Kaylie Jones

I had the pleasure of meeting Kaylie Jones at the Brooklyn Book Festival last September. I attended a panel where she, Terry McMillan and Dennis Lehane discussed their latest books. (You can listen to the discussion here.) I immediately connected with her. As you will see for yourself, she is not only a gifted and brilliant writer, but an intelligent, interesting, lovely and beautiful person. I am blessed, privileged and honored to introduce to you, the extraordinary Kaylie Jones.

1) When did you decide you wanted to write?

When I was eight I started to write a novel in a school notebook. It was about a girl who runs away from home with her talking bear. I showed it to my father, who was very encouraging. He didn’t correct anything or give me advice, he just told me to keep going. I soon gave up, of course. He died when I was sixteen, a blow from which I will never fully recover. Soon after, I went off to college, completely directionless. The literary critics were very hard on my father and I felt I needed to understand where he stood in the canon of American letters, so I started to pursue the study of literature. I had a comp 101 professor, the writer Daniel Stern, who pulled me out of the class and told me he would work with me privately because I showed great promise. I was stunned; I didn’t believe him, but I applied myself to improving my writing. Really, all my stories were memoir in the guise of fiction. It wasn’t until my Junior year, when I was studying Tolstoy’s War and Peace, that I had a moment of enlightenment, a spiritual awakening, you might say. I was reading the death of Prince Andrew and realized that if a writer who’d lived more than one hundred years before me, with whom I shared no cultural experience, could write about the process of death and dying in a way that rescued me from my own grief, I thought – okay, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to be a writer.

2) Was there anyone in your life who encouraged you?

While my father was very sick and unable to leave the house in the winter of 1976-77, we read books together. That was one of the highlights of my last year with him. We read Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. We read Bonjour Tristesseby Francoise Sagan, and The Wanderer, by Alain-Fournier, his favorite French novel. He did not go into explaining the authors’ stylistic choices; he liked to discuss the characters’ choices and actions, as if they were real people who were making the decisions for themselves. We also read the poems of Edna Saint Vincent Millay and Emily Dickinson, with whom he was a little in love, I think. These writers helped shaped me not just as a writer, but I believe they shaped my moral backbone and helped me to stay on some kind of moral path after my father was gone and no longer there to advise me.

I had fantastic writing teachers along the way. I often think of them as sages holding up lanterns along a dark path. In college, Daniel Stern was my first mentor. Later, I got into a very small and kind of elite writing workshop with a professor named Jack Paton, who was a veteran of WWII. He took issue with my father’s profanity and overuse of adjectives and adverbs. We would fight about it all the time! But I loved Jack, and he taught me to control my style, how to be precise and get my sentences down to their fighting weight. Later, I went to graduate school at Columbia, where I got my MFA. I studied with Richard Price, Edmund White, and Russell Banks. Can you imagine that good fortune? They were tough as nails, and I learned to listen to their criticism and advice.

Richard Price gave me a thirty book reading list one summer, telling me that I was “too immersed in the classics.” He wanted me to read what he called “down and dirty” modern fiction. So on that list were John Reechy’s City of Night, Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries, all of Toni Morrison’s works – many of the books that shaped him as one of our most important modern writers.

3) How did The Anger Meridian come about?

The second time my mother was hospitalized for alcoholism my daughter was starting first grade in a new school. We spent every free minute at New York Hospital. My mother would stare me down and yell at me as if I were somehow to blame for her condition. Everyone on the floor, including my daughter, heard her calling me the most awful names. My mother had a small heart attack while she was there, and they moved her to intensive care. I watched the heart monitor go up and down, up and down, and just kept praying for it to flatline. For her to die now, with no more pain. But she survived, and the horror went on for another four years. I often asked myself, “What would it take, what would be the last straw, that would push a daughter to kill her mother?”

I discussed this, philosophically, with my daughter, the way my father used to discuss characters with me. “I want to write a book about a woman who is pushed so far by her mother that she kills her, but it’s in a moment of passion, of rage.” My daughter, who was about seven at this point, offered advice.

That following February, we were standing on the edge of a veranda of a big house overlooking a cliff in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I was teaching a writing workshop with Beverly Donofrio, when my daughter said, “I know what you’re thinking. This is the perfect place for your character to push her mother off the cliff.” That was exactly what I was thinking and it was the beginning of the novel. But as the novel progressed, I became less and less sure that Merryn, my character, would be capable of pushing her mother off the cliff. So that is what the book is really about. What would be so awful that she’d find herself capable of such an act? Did she do it? Could she? Would she?

4) Bibi is an amazing character, how did she come to you?

Bibi, the mother in the novel, is based on several women I knew growing up, including my own mother. Educated women who grew up in luxury and without a want in the world – beautiful, admired, adored by their husbands, friends, and children. Usually they did not have careers, and perhaps that is where their feelings of insecurity, anger, and restlessness came from. They were women to whom no one ever said no. This is a little bit like being a movie star, where a person becomes so famous that no one will contradict her. In a situation like this, where a person is so insulated by her own family and her money, that the real world is only a vague scrim in the distance, her children often become her hostages. That is what I was aiming to describe: a 40 year old daughter who suddenly finds herself in actual fact stuck, held hostage, penniless, and at her mother’s mercy. That is the dynamic that drives the novel. The added dimension is that Merryn, the daughter, has her own 9 year-old daughter, Tenney, whom she adores, and whom she wants to protect and honor. So it’s a constant battle of wills between feeling like she has to honor her cruel and narcissistic mother, or honor her own child.

5) What is your writing or creative process?

Usually an idea for a book comes to me and I will attempt to plant that kernel. Then I water it and give it light and wait to see if it will grow. I’ve had many ideas for novels that never took root. It takes me about a year of thinking before I open a notebook and start to take notes. Then I start thinking about the idea of sitting down and opening a blank document on my desktop. This is the hardest part. My old friend the author Lucy Rosenthal called this “page fright.”

Then, hopefully, I start to write.

6) What are some of your favorite books or authors?

I still return to Tolstoy over and over again for style and form. No one shows characters’ feelings better, especially characters who are unaware of what they are feeling; at least, the reader becomes aware of their feelings before they do themselves. This is very hard to pull off.

One of my favorite novels is Pale Horse, Pale Rider, by Katherine Anne Porter. I wish more people still read her work. I go to her for courage. Often I’ll turn to Flannery O’Connor’s short stories for technique and precision. I especially love O’Connor’s imagery and the way she anthropomorphizes objects in her descriptions. I love that she has such despicable characters that are still fascinating. John Cheever still inspires me and helps me to hone my craft.

I fear our literature has become too obvious – white hat/black hat for the good guy and the bad guy. If only life were so simple!

Recently I took Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder with me to China while I was studying Kung Fu with Shaolin monks. I love her writing. She kept me company as I struggled to keep up with the youngsters in the Shaolin school. I think she is a very important American writer.

7) Is a writer born or made?

My friend Susan Cheever, John Cheever’s daughter, said something to me once that really stayed with me. She said, “Face it, we’re circus folk.” Meaning, if you’re raised in the circus, you learn to be a circus performer. If your mom rode elephants, you learned to ride elephants. I believe this is true for the children of writers.

I’d say most serious writers were children who felt a great loneliness and isolation, and found solace, friends, in books. The next step is giving back, writing to reach out and communicate with others who may feel the same way. This is probably a romantic notion, but I have always thought of literature as my higher power. The thing that pulled me from my own pit of despair and chaos.

8) What did you personally do to perfect your craft?

I never stop reading, studying sentences, studying writers. In an interview John Irving once said that he was never able to read for pleasure again once he became a writer, because he was constantly trying to figure out how the writer did something in the book, something technically spectacular. This made me laugh because I do the same thing.

One of my former students recently discovered Cormac McCarthy. I get texts and emails from him almost daily, quoting Cormac McCarthy and asking my opinion on how in the hell did McCarthy do this or that? Again, I laugh. This is how real writers think. Someone who tries to take the sentences apart to understand how the author did it. Which, of course, takes the element of magic, of unconscious inspiration, out of the equation. And that’s the part we can’t really account for. What my dad used to call the 10% magic part.

9) What do you like the most and the least about writing a book?

I like when I feel a chapter or a short story or essay is finished. I can look back happily and say, “Well, that is good work.”

I hate a blank page. That feeling of heart palpitations and sweaty palms as I sit down to start. What I hate almost as much as that is my inner censor/critic, who tells me I have no right to write, and that I’m a vain and egotistical person to think I have the right to sit down and express myself. It’s taken me years to silence that voice, and bring it to the fore only in the final editing process.

10) Lastly, what advice would you give to an aspiring author?

I think learning when to silence that inner censor is a crucial part of being able to be creative. When to bring that critic out and when to keep him/her locked away. It is very easy to become discouraged as a writer.

One of the most important aspects of becoming a writer is finding a supportive community. Whether this is in an MFA program or among other like-minded writers, I think a writing community is crucial. I don’t mean a wife, husband, brother, sister, or best friend who says, “This is awesome!” I mean a serious reader who will give you honest and intelligent feedback. Also, if we don’t take criticism personally, it really helps.

I love the term “Literary Citizenship.” I believe it was coined by my friend, writer Lori May. Jim Warner, the poet, often uses it to describe a writer’s willingness to share, and to offer advice without assassinating another person’s work. And doing what we can to support each other without competitive jealousy. Many years ago I made the decision to help other writers whenever I could.

When I was in Soviet Georgia as a student in 1987, we Americans could NOT pay for anything! The Georgian cabbies wouldn’t even take our money. When we tried to pay for pirozhkis at street kiosks, the street vendors would not accept our money. I’d never had this happen to me anywhere in the world. I asked one Georgian cab driver why they would not let us pay. He told me a Georgian fable: “When God was making the world, he walked all over his creation, distributing goods from the Horn of Plenty. But he tripped over the Caucasus Mountains, fell and dropped the Horn on Georgia. That is why we have everything here! But the secret is, the Horn of Plenty only stays full if you give everything away.”

I have tried to live by that rule ever since.

KAYLIE JONES has published seven books, including a memoir, Lies My Mother Never Told Me, and her most recent novel, The Anger Meridian. Her novel A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries was adapted as a Merchant Ivory film in 1998. Jones has been teaching for more than twenty-five years, and is a faculty member in the Stony Brook Southampton MFA in Creative Writing & Literature program and in Wilkes University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. She is the author of Speak Now and the editor of Long Island Noir. Her newest endeavor is her publishing imprint with Akashic Books, Kaylie Jones Books.

You can follow Kaylie Jones on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Author Interview: Fabiola Joseph

I connected with the beautiful and talented Fabiola Joseph on Facebook almost a year ago. I watched her from afar, and saw her passion for the arts; writing, reading, music, film, cooking, and everything in between. She has exquisite taste and I resonate with everything she posts. Her writing is beautiful. Her energy and vibe is unique and special. I was so happy she agreed to do an interview with me. My prayer is that the rest of the world will see her gift. I see it, and I know others do too, but my hope is that the rest of the world sees it, and experiences her talent firsthand. It is with great pleasure to introduce to you, Fabiola Joseph.

1)  What was it like growing up in Springfield, Maryland as a child?

Growing up in Maryland was lovely. I have always enjoyed watching the seasons change and it offered so much to do. I love the zoo, museums, and poetry clubs. I could go on for days; there was always something to do. There was always a reggae club or house party I was sneaking out of the house to attend. I just love the feel and flavor of Maryland. One minute, you could be in Washington D.C. enjoying the fast city life, and the next minute, you could be in the suburbs. I had the pleasure of growing up in Montgomery County. It was extremely diverse and allowed me to interact with people from all over the world. I always laugh when I think back and remember this girl Sarah. She was a Jewish girl who introduced me to Snoop Dog and 4 Non Blondes. I grew up not seeing color or religion, I just saw people…and I credit that to growing up in Mo county, as we call it.

2) You found your passion with the written word in middle school. Do you remember what book did it for you?

Yes, it was a combination of four books and a movie. Whoreson and Street Players by Donald Goines. Disappearing Acts but Terry McMillan, Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree, and the movie “Poetic Justice.” I was captivated by all four of them and they made me want to build my own world and tell a story.

3) What was the first piece you ever wrote?

The very first book I wrote was titled, Among Us. It was a tale, of sex, friendship, and deceit. It was soooo juicy, but someone stole it from me years later. It was hand written.

4) Did anyone influence or encourage you to write?

My school mates and my teachers all pushed me to write. I was in middle school yet I had teachers letting the class socialize quietly so that they could read the fresh chapter I wrote the night before. I had to keep a separate notebook and write names down so the students could get their turn as well.

5) Describe the world through your eyes?

The world through my eyes is a beautiful, tragic, scary, loving, and colorful place. Beautiful because I have decided to see the beauty in the good and the bad. Tragic because monsters are real. Scary because at times, we don’t know who the monsters are until they are unmasked. Loving because I have had the pleasure of experiencing true love. Colorful because when it comes to people, I love them for exactly who they are, and that takes things from a dim grey to an array of colors. I get to understand the truth of their soul, and that is priceless because as a writer, we yearn for authenticity.

6) You have excellent taste in music. Where did your passion for music begin?

Thank you. My love for music comes from my upbringing. My mother always cooked and clean at night. She was also married to a man who was in a Haitian folk dancing group. They would practice at our house and the music would be blaring from morning to night. When my mother cooked and cleaned, she always had music on. She also has a great musical palate. She listened to everything from Haitian and Jamaican music, to Latin and American. I got so used to falling asleep with music on that I still go to bed with it on today.

7) What is your process as a writer?

I am always stumped when it comes to this question because I don’t think I have a process. My ideas usually come to me while writing. I guess that’s when my creative juices are flowing. For me, as long as I have a computer, music, and a snack, I’m good. At times, I need the music very loud, and other times, I need dead silence. It all depends on my mood and the mood of the piece I’m working on.

8) When you started to write for your first novel, how did you feel? Was it difficult? What did you find the most challenging? What did you learn through the process?

I always say that writing for self is one of the best experiences. When there’s no pressure from readers or publishers, I feel like I have free range to create. They only thoughts or voices in my head are that of my own, and my characters. That’s what it was like when I wrote my first book. I was free, and every single word on that paper was exactly what I wanted, not what I thought people wanted to read. That is what I have taken with me, what I have learned from writing that first book. I learned to write for myself. To stay true to me, no matter what. I still live by that motto today. I write for me, and hopefully, the world will understand and appreciate it.

9) What do you believe makes you different, distinct and sets you apart from other authors?

I laughed when reading this question because I have had shows where people call in and say, I know your writing, as if they could pick it out in a literary line-up, and I love that. I only know that I am different because the people who read my work say so. When I sit down to write, I don’t think, how can I be different this time around? I just sit and write what the characters are saying to me. I write what I am seeing while my fingers move. I don’t try and recreate anything someone else has done. I strive to tell the story my way, and that sets me apart I guess. Maybe that’s why each and every one of my books has been different from the last. I follow the characters, they lead me.

10) Are you a full-time writer, and if so, how did you make the transition?

I always say I’m a full-time author, even when I work. {lol} To me, writing is always full-time. If I’m not sitting there writing, I’m thinking about writing.

11) What does your typical day look like?

I’m always busy. I can’t wait to move back to Maryland and just have days to myself. I run around a lot. Always helping someone else, which is rewarding, just tiring. I don’t make it to bed until three, four in the morning. Then I’m up by ten the next morning to do it all over again. I hit the malls a lot between all of that. I have a shopping addiction I need to get control of. {lol}

12) What steps did you take to perfect your craft?

I’m still learning and I’ll die a student. I don’t think anyone ever reaches perfection as a writer. Hopefully, you just get better with every book you write. But, I do try and read authors far more advanced than me. I am also a huge movie buff, and that is a great teacher as well.

13) If there is one thing you could change about the industry, what would it be?

I would change how a lot of African American writers are pushed to the masses. I think that there needs to be more visibility when it comes to our work. I would love to see more of our books turned to movies, and have our books read outside of our community. Don’t get me wrong, I have readers of all races, but let’s take a book like…Fifty Shades of Grey. The reason it was so huge was because EVERYONE wanted to read it and see what the hype was all about. I only wish that for our work as well. Books don’t have a color, no matter the race of the writer or the race of the characters. A good story is just that.

14) What are some of your all-time favorite books and authors?

Donald Goines and almost all of his work. It’s so chilling and real. I love how Terry McMillan tells a story. I love the diversity in Omar Tyree’s work. I think Brandie Davis weaves words like a magician and makes them so beautiful. I love the tragic tale of Janet Fitch’s White Oleander. I also love the raw and sexy swag of Jackie Collins. There is also a book called, Groove, Bang, and Jive Around by Steve Cannon. It’s nasty, crude, shocking, and downright disgusting at times, but I loved every minute of it. I had never read anything like it. I could really go on for days but, they stand out to me right now.

15) Please list and describe your books.

I will go in order of publication. 1. The Art of Deceit. It’s a tale of sex, drugs, music, murder, and the grime that dwells behind the shadows of Hip-Hop. Tangie is a video girl who wants the world, or she’ll take it. She’ll do anything to make sure she gets what she wants. 2. Porn Stars 1&2. Author Mathew Ramsey and I really wanted to dive into the lives of our porn stars and fill you in on what happens once CUT is yelled and they go home. It’s sexy, thrilling, and full of action. 3. Rebel’s Domain. Scarlett is a 15 year old girl with an insatiable appetite for blood. Her father trains her in the act of seduction and murder, and soon, she grows into a full-blown monster. 4. Niya 1&2. Niya is a coming of age story that deals with the main character coming to terms with being a lesbian and falling in love with her neighbor, Jamilla, who isn’t quite sure how to deal with falling for a girl. It’s touching, has helped so many people, and are my most successful books to date. {Niya 1&2 has been picked up by Urban books and is not available for purchase at this time. It will be re-released into one book late 2016} I have two shorts, The Bully Bangers, and Truth or Death. In the Bully Bangers, the victim finds a way to get even with her tormentors, and in Truth or Death, you find out what happens when a man lives a double life and someone is out for revenge. Coming soon I have The Turn Out Queens anthology. Four other authors joined in on the fun to bring the readers sexy stories dealing with the workers in a lesbian night club in Washington D.C. I had a blast working with Christiana Harell, Raynesha Pittman, Ben Burgess Jr., and Renee Wallace. Pricey: Playing in Traffic was also picked up by Urban Books and it’s a hell of a story dealing with human trafficking and what happens to its victims. It will be out August 2016.

16) Which book was the hardest to write and why?

The hardest to write was Niya 2. I was going through hell emotionally and I didn’t want to have to go to that place I knew Niya would take me. A lot of my real life is in that book and that fact made it hard to write.

17) How long does it generally take you to write a book?

I have written books in as short as a few weeks, Niya 1. And up to six months, The Art of Deceit. But TAOD was well over 100k words, and Porn Stars 1&2 was well over 200k.

18) What do you want your readers to get from your books?

I want the readers to walk away from my work understanding the world more. Maybe acquiring more tolerance, more love, and more peace with themselves. I want them to be entertained. I want them to laugh and cry along with the characters. I want them to be turned the hell on and drop my book and jump on their mate. I want them to enter my world and never come out the same person they were when they read the first sentence.

19) What are some things you still want to accomplish?

In 2015, one of my literary dreams came true, and that was being signed to a major. Now, I plan on reaching the masses and changing the world, one reader at a time. I dream of my work on the big screen. I pray to touch more people and open minds. And yes, I am working on something new. I feel like she’s taking me back to that place I haven’t been since writing TAOD and Tangie. She is so raw and sexy, and I love it.

20) Lastly, what advice would you give a novice writer?

The only advice I constantly give when I am asked is, remain true to who you are and what you want to write. Never follow fads…they fade.

A lover of literature, good music, movies, and art, Fabiola Joseph is multifaceted. She was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland and while in middle school, she found her passion for reading and writing. She began her love affair with the power of the written word, and it was clear that writing was her destiny.
In 2011, The Art of Deceit, a novel about the grime that dwells behind the shadows of Hip Hop, through the eyes of a video vixen, was released. In 2012, she co-authored the erotic tale, Porn Stars 1 & 2, which provided readers with a behind-the-set look into the pornographic life style. November 2012, Fabiola unleashed the fifteen-year-old serial killer, Scarlett Rose. Rebel’s Domain is new and exciting,, and it brings something different and captivating to urban thrillers. Suffocating in darkness, this teenager is nothing like any girl you’ve ever read about before. Her newest release is NIYA: Rainbow Dreams. Niya explores the world of a stud lesbian named, Niya, and her best friend, Jamilla. This is a story about two young women who are coming to terms with who they are. It’s a touching tale of friendship, love, dreams, and murder. Niya 2: Dreamer’s Paradise was released in 2014, continuing the Niya saga. Ms. Joseph also published two short stories The Bully Bangers, which deals with a growing problem in America’s schools. The Bully Bangers brings justice to the jilted with a twist where the predators become the prey. Truth or Death brings to the readers a new meaning to couple’s therapy and the repercussions of a man who is living a double life. Pricey: Playing In Traffic is Fabiola’s next major release. She delves deep into the world of human trafficking, and is sure to tug at your heart and soul with this gut-wrenching novel. Billie and Carmines story is not for the faint of heart. Join them as they go from kids to monsters, and from slaves to beasts.What does it take to survive in the world of human trafficking? Find out August 2016.
Fabiola is uncompromising when it comes to her work. She believes that for her… there is no box, so never try to fit her talents into one. Taking risks, being open and free within the realms of her words, and writing from the heart is the only code she lives by within the domain of literature. Enter her world and she promises that you will not come out the same. With her pen, she plans on changing the world.
In 2015, Fabiola signed a multi-book deal with Urban Books. Niya 1&2 will be turned into one book and re-released under Urban Books, 2016. It is no longer available for purchase independently.
Contact Fabiola Joseph
*Twitter – @Soulofawriter
*Facebook – Fabiola.Joseph3
*Fan Page – FabieTheDreamer
*Instagram – TheArtOfBeingFabie

Author Interview: Takerra Allen

 

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.

You can follow Takerra Allen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Author Interview: Allison Grace

I first met Allison at the Black Pack Party in Harlem this year. I felt a connection to her right away. We just hit it off. She exudes wisdom, intelligence and talent. I took an immediate liking to her and am so happy to call her my friend. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you, the gifted and beautiful, Allison Grace.

1) Who is Allison Grace?

Allison Grace is many things. I’m a woman, mother, daughter, author, introvert, comedian, master of sarcasm, author and unicorn. LOL.

2) Are you a native New Yorker?

Yes. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York. I’ve lived in Brooklyn and Harlem as well.

3) I read your love for reading and writing started early on. What was the first book you read that ignited your passion for writing?

The first book I read was Whoreson by Donald Goines. I didn’t know how much it would affect me until later on. It was my mother’s book. I used to sneak peeks of it when she was at work. The sexual nature of it ignited my passion for eroticism. Now I know why my stories are sexual in nature. When I became an adult I ventured more into romance and urban fiction. The first urban fiction novel I read was A Hustler’s Son by T. Styles of the Cartel Publications. Imagine my surprise and glee when she asked me to be a part of her Street Team in 2008 where I promoted, read and reviewed their novels to create a buzz for the company during its genesis phase. It was there that I learned the business of publishing from the outside in as opposed to the inside out.

4) Was there a particular person, family member, friend, teacher or mentor who encouraged you to write?

When I was in elementary school my second grade teacher encouraged me to write an essay and entered it into a contest. Because of that, I won and had to read it to all of my classmates and peers. I won the District 11 essay contest. I felt proud. Aside from that, my mom and my sons always encourage me. There’s nothing like being encouraged by those that stand by you. In this journey, I’ve also met amazing people such as Kevon Gulley of Save Black Boys who every day reminds me that I need to strive for bigger than I am. Also, my business partner Chris Styles and I speak every day. Sometimes I don’t even talk to him. I just text him “Foot to Ass” and he knows we need to get cracking on projects. He will also call me and remind me that I cannot slack or else nothing gets done.

5) What has your life been like and has your experiences been infused into your books?

My life has been pretty damn interesting. I have absolutely infused some of my experiences whether positive or negative into my books. They provide the passion and emotion that causes people to text me in the middle of the night and cuss me out. I’ve got a slew of animated friends and I weave some of their stories into my tales as well so it’s a mashup so to speak.

6) How does your ideas and inspiration come?

They come in the bathroom. I get my best ideas on the crapper or in the shower…. it’s quiet and you can think without being bothered, LOL.

7) What is your writing process? Do you write every day and for how long?

I try to write every day, but since I work a full time job, it’s not always possible. What I do is write in my phone when I can. Most times I zone out in my pajamas with my laptop and snacks. I can knock out about 5000 words in a weekend if I focus and I am passionate about the story told.

8) When you wrote your first book, what did you learn the most?

Oh boy! That book was basically born from a horrible relationship with my ex boyfriend. Lies, betrayals and broken promises caused me to pen poems and then they turned into short stories which ultimately turned into the books, Broken Promises Never Mend and Bound by Lies. I am working on finishing the series and tying it all together. Since it’s been a while I need to revamp it and modernize it. It’s coming though.

9) Tell us a little bit about each of your books. Which book was the most difficult to write and why?

The names of my books are Broken Promises Never Mend which is about a woman that discovers that her mate is living a double life. Because of his disrespect and betrayal, they both lose something dear to both of them.

Bound by Lies is the sequel to the above and continues where the last one left off. It chronicles the effects of what happens when one person isn’t truthful and the repercussions of love, lust and lies.

Bittersweet is my third novel and is far more gritty than the other two. It’s more erotic and “hood”. It details the story of a woman that’s a nurse by day and a stripper by night. She gets sucked in by the love of money and can’t get out of its grips.

Prepaid Mistress 1 and Prepaid Mistress 2 is the story of a woman with a torrid past. She loses her mother and father respectively at important times in her life and it molds her idealism of future relationships with men. Because of that she doesn’t know how to love and substitutes sex for it.

Bitch Clique Reloaded chronicles how past hurts can influence your future especially when it comes to family and most times when it comes to friends.

Blaque Widow tells the tale of a woman that’s married to who she sees as the love of her life. It all changes and she realizes when it’s almost too late. Struggling with abuse and addiction, she feeds her obsession with murder and ends up being out of control.

10) Typically how long does it take you to write a novel? Do you write long hand or type?

It normally takes me nine months to a year to write a book. I write with long hand at times when I don’t want to miss a thought and then type it out. Nowadays I just type it and keep moving. I go over it twice and then begin rewriting it one last time before it goes into editing.

11) How has your writing and publishing journey been thus far?

It’s been interesting to say the least. I’ve met some phenomenal people that have influenced me and encouraged me. I’ve also met some evil sons of bitches that are praying for my demise. To them, I tilt my hat because what’s for me, will be. I no longer try to please people. At the end of the day it’s OKAY to be selfish because not everyone will love your work but those that do, you push hard for them because THEY are your core fans and audiences.

12) What would you like to see change in this industry?

I doubt it will change but the backbiting… There’s enough love out here for everyone. NO one has to lie, cheat or steal to get ahead. It’s the norm however and it gets people where they need to be. I’ve been tempted to go that route but I see greater things beyond that road so I don’t dare. My blessings come from GOD not man. The end will justify the means.

13) What are specific things you did to hone your craft?

READ, READ and READ some more. I read outside of my genre and I read some within my genre when I am not working on a project. I tend to watch well written shows and translate them into how I would have written them. It takes a lot of practice, patience and perseverance.

14) How do you develop your characters?

Very carefully…. my characters are a mash up of myself and some of my friends and family. I also people watch when I travel. They show you much with their body language.

15) Do you learn a lot from the editing process? If so, what specifically?

The editing process showed me that you cannot edit your own book! Aside from that there’s a difference in line editing, copy editing and developmental editing. Those are the most common ones used and should be apart of the process each and every time. Please EDIT PROFESSIONALLY!!

16) If there was one thing you could do differently, what would it be?

I would have devoted more time to building my brand. It’s a long hard process and I’m still not as known as I should be with the amount of books I’ve written. I know however the more I grind out good material then people will want more from me and I will garner the attention I deserve.

17) What do you want your readers to take away from your books?

In all my books, there’s a woman that struggles. She struggles with if she’s pretty enough, if she’s a good mother, if she’s sexy enough, if she makes enough money. I want my readers to understand that without struggle there’s no progress and my characters make it through to the end even though their future appears dim. There’s truly a lesson in it all and a testimony when it all boils down to it.

18) How do you see yourself in five to ten years?

In 5-10 years I see myself on the New York Times Bestsellers list…….. in my home with my husband and my dog relaxing on our porch in Atlanta. I see myself basking in success and working for myself as an author published by a major imprint. I know that’s an anomaly now but it does exist and I want to continue to believe it can be my reality.

19) What new projects are you currently working on?

Shit! The true question is what am I NOT working on!? I’m working on Prepaid Mistress 3 as well as beginning another series for Sevyn McCray Presents. I am also working on two novels under my own imprint. One of them is something you all have been waiting on for a few years. Another is something new and fresh in a different genre than many are used to seeing me write in. I’m also collaborating with my business partner on a web series entitled “Slow Sippin… Yes LOVE I’m talking to you”. This collaboration is with Chris Styles, from out of Brooklyn. New York. He is a wonderful spoken word artist/poet and author. It is slated for release on Valentine’s Day 2016. We are super excited about it.

20) Lastly, what advice would you give a novice writer?

Write from your heart. It’s your heartbeat translating onto those pages. Five hundred people will have the same beating heart but no two have the same rhythm. Pay attention to your own!

Meet Allison Edwards formerly known as Essence M & now known as “Allison Grace”. The beautiful brain behind Illuminnessence Publishing, founded in  2007 by this avid writer/ reader who began her love affair with words at a tender age. Allison went on to create an extensive catalog of unpublished works including poetry & short stories.

Allison’s passion for words began in early childhood, she had always been fond of reading about life, love, poetry and short stories. As she matured, she challenged herself to hone her craft, exploring various story lines and navigating into the tumultuous world of adult relationships. Throughout her teen & young adult years she decided to put pen to paper and indulge one of her fantasies, to become a writer. Some of her favorite authors include Donald Goines, VC Andrews, Jackie Collins, Judy Blume and ZANE. This eccentric choice of novels allowed her to see different genres, writing styles and what they entailed. Each were very different and taught her a lot with regards to target audiences, story lines, and descriptions. Nothing prepared her however for her venture into Urban Literature.Allison’s first experience with Urban Lit began when she, as an avid reader received a message from one who promoted for a brand new unknown publishing company and was seeking assistance in promoting novels. Members would receive a chance to win free books and other spectacular prizes. Allison jumped at the chance and was soon an official Street Team/Pep Squad member of the “Cartel Publications” spearheaded by Essence Best-selling Author T Styles and her partner Vice President, Charisse Washington. They both would play an important role in Allison’s literary career later on as mentors.Their influences and support caused Allison to link up with KingPen A.S of HHEAT Magazine and she was able to co host a show with him featuring authors on Blog Talk Radio. Authors interviewed include K.D Harris, Jason Poole, Iesha Brown, and much more. This allowed Allison access to an industry untapped where new and established authors were able to speak with her regarding novels they wanted to promote. She then took on the responsibility of hosting her own radio show which showcased authors such as Takerra Allen, Tanisha “Mahogani P” Pettiford as well as others. During this time, Allison shamelessly continued to promote The Cartel Publications and began writing her first novel.

It is with that unwavering tenacity that we’ve arrived at this point. Allison’s first venture into self publication “Broken Promises Never Mend” became available in paperback in January 2010.  An amended version of which was released June 2010 in paperback, which features a new cover. It premiered on Amazon for Kindle, as of June 2010 as well. Allison learned various lessons while putting this novel together. Some of which she’s still learning to this day and with every novel she improves her craft and tries harder. She proved that by releasing a follow up to her debut less than a year later showing naysayers that she wasn’t a one hit wonder.

The sizzling sequel Bound By Lies debuted on Amazon for Kindle, February 2011 to rave reviews and is still causing mouths to drop with an ending that rivals its predecessor. Both novels are considered an “underground success” and were edited by Brandie Randolph of Editing Couture. Allison followed up with a novel for the streets entitled Bittersweet which showed the world that she was here to stay. During a brief hiatus, Allison published a short story series (Bitch Clique) that brought just as much drama as an entire season of “Scandal”.

Allison is currently focused on a collection of other works slated for release in 2016, under her  imprint “Full of Essence Publications”. The idea to reinvent herself came about with prayer and the desire to be so much more than she already established herself to be. In 2013, Allison Grace was signed to an independent publisher “Sevyn McCray Presents” spearheaded by Sevyn McCray and David Weaver of SBR Publications. Her novel under that imprint PrePaid Mistress debuted at number 5 on the Amazon Bestsellers list for African American women’s fiction. She followed up with the sequel Prepaid Mistress 2 and also revamped her ebook series Bitch Clique Reloaded into a full length action packed standalone. in 2015, Allison released an emotionally charged novel focusing on domestic violence and addiction entitled Blaque Widow. Allison anticipates an abundance of blessings in 2016 and beyond beginning with work on other titles she’s got in store as well as promoting authors that seek her assistance in publishing.

“I was blessed to enter this industry and know how hard it is, so the least I can do is give back.” she says with a gleam in her eye and a smile on her face. This native New Yorker prides herself in assisting others and promotes literacy to her children. This isn’t the end of Allison Grace and we can tell she’s got a long way to go but the rewards have been phenomenal.

You can follow Allison Grace on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Author Interview: Raynesha Pittman

 

I first met Raynesha Pittman on Facebook. I watched her from afar and was impressed by what I saw. Fate had it that we would connect, and when we did, it was if we knew each other all our lives. I am extremely proud of this talented young lady and believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of her successful literary career. It is my pleasure to introduce to you, Raynesha.

1) Where did you grow up? Did you have a good childhood?

I grew up on the east side of Los Angeles in a area known as the Low Bottoms. Now at thirty-three years old, looking back, my childhood was okay. If you would have asked me this sixteen years ago, I’m sure the answer would have definitely been different. Growth of the mind does change the memories.

2) Did you always want to be a writer?

I have always written to express myself or to entertain my friends. Writing wasn’t the shocker, but being published….now that was the shock.

3) Who was your greatest influence in your life?

My father and maternal grandmother. My father was not the ideal role model or law abiding citizen, but he was my dad. The life lessons he thought me are held near and dear. And my maternal grandmother is the reason why I am not a female version of my father.

4) What motivates you?

I was raised by two street hustlers, so being a go-getter was ingrained in me at an early age. But when that self-motivation begins to run low, my family immediately gives me a refill. I look at my babies faces, and watch my husband work two full-time jobs, so I can stay home to write. I also watch my mother fight her battle with Lupus with so much strength and determination that it recharges me. My family is my largest motivation.

5) Who are some of your favorite authors and what are some of your all-time favorite books?

My list of favorites is long, but John Grisham is number one. I love all of his work that I have read, but there’s something about The Rainmaker that makes me read it at least once a year.

6) Was there a book that changed your life after you read it?

No, not really. I’ve read a lot of eye openers that brought light to issues I’ve faced or a few to bring me to tears, but nothing powerful enough to excite change.

7) What was your experience like self-publishing your first book, Kismet?

Self-publishing was a headache and wasn’t the route I originally wanted to take. When the publisher I initially submitted it to fell through on promises, my alternative was to publish the work on my own. The rainbow that followed that storm was that the publisher walked me through self-publishing. And with a phone call to K’wan for more information, I was able to put it out myself.

8) What are some of the valuable lessons you learned by writing and publishing your first book?

Editing is key!

9) If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?

I’d definitely hire a professional editor and a couple of proofreaders. I entered the industry trusting everything I heard and it was a very expensive mistake.

10) How have you honed your craft?

I research more and I don’t attempt to publish everything I write. A lot of what I write are skill builders. I take my non-fictional day and turn it into fiction or a medication commercial turns into a story using the side effects. It keeps my creativity going. I’m also in a lot of writer’s groups and I take lots of notes.

11) How did you go from being a self-published author to signing with Write 2 East Concepts? How did that come about?

When I reached out to K’wan in 2010, he wasn’t taking submissions. In 2011, he opened them up briefly, but my writing wasn’t where it needed to be to get signed by him. In 2013, he reached out to me and asked me if I was still writing because he hadn’t seen me mention it. I said yes. He told me to submit a story and the rest is history. He released Dog Food in July of 2014 and Dog Food 2 May of 2015. It still feels like a dream to me!

12) Do you have a writing routine and do you write every day?

No, I do not, but I do write daily when and wherever I am. With eight other people in the house having a real routine would be perfect, but with six of those eight being busy children who need me constantly, I write when I can steal time from them.

13) How do your ideas come for your books?

Life’s seasons and reasons. Everything that catches the attention of my six senses is a story waiting for me to tell.

14) How long does it typically take you to write a book?

It depends on what is going on around me. I’ve written one in three weeks and the longest was three months. It really depends on how much time I can sneak away from my responsibilities to my family. Even with pulling all nighters, there’s never enough hours in a day.

15) What are some of your goals you would like to accomplish in the years ahead?

My biggest goals are to be signed by a major publishing house and get my books on the shelf EVERYWHERE! I’m working hard to be able to cross those goals off my list so I can make new ones that are even larger.

16) What is the hardest thing about writing and publishing?

Writing isn’t hard when you love to do it. My issue with self-publishing is that I don’t have a marketing team or a promotion staff doing my leg work. I’m a one woman team and if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.

17) What would you like to see different in the industry?

The crab in the barrel mentally needs to be done away with. It’s easier to uplift than to breakdown. Hopefully, we will all realize this one day.

18) What do you want readers to get from your books?

I write in different genres but as a whole, a new understanding or view on the issues I touch on. If I wrote to entertain then I hope the book accomplished that goal.

19) Lastly, what advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Study your craft, read contracts before signing them and if you don’t understand the lingo, get a lawyer. Finally, never let anyone stop you from living your dreams. Giving up should NEVER be an option!

Thank you, Raynesha. It was a pleasure to interview you!

Raynesha Pittman grew up as one of Los Angele’s many troubled youth which led her into serving four years around Los Angeles juvenile corrections centers, placements, and camps. She first recognized her love for writing while incarcerated. Her first manuscript was written to her mother in hopes of giving her insight to what Raynesha was going through as a teen, but never published. One positive thing Raynesha had during her troubled years was book smarts, her ticket out of the hands of correctional facilities. She was an honors student since kindergarten, certified gifted in the third grade, and was sent to Woodland Hills, California for a more challenging education, yet she had to be placed in advance placement classes there too. Her temper and fighting had her removed from the enriched schools, but that didn’t stop her. She graduated high school at sixteen years old and received acceptance letters to five out-of-state universities which she later declined offers to due to still being on probation until eighteen years of age and not being able to leave the state. California State University at Los Angeles and Northridge accepted her last minute application with open arms. After attending school for a little over a semester she discovered she was pregnant and decided to put her role as a mother first. She moved to Tennessee for a new start with her boys and received her PTCB national certification in July 2010 after three and a half years of being a licensed Pharmacy technician. It was while working in a pharmacy, she met Michael Antonio of Payne Publishing, Inc., who encouraged her to write a book. She took his opinion to heart and wrote her debut novel, KismetRaynesha currently lives in Tennessee with her husband and their six children.

Raynesha Pittman is the CEO, Founder and a author at Conglomerate Ink, an Urban Literature publishing company established November 2010 to help authors expose and share their talents of storytelling while developing discipline in their craft. In May 2011, Raynesha was offered the opportunity to help promote literacy nationwide by childhood friend, author and now publisher Terry L. Wroten by joining the West Coast Authors Movement also known as W-CAM where Raynesha not only fills the position of an author on the team, but is also over website design and management and acts as W-CAM’s Southern liaison due to her living in the South. Her greatest literary achievement came in January 2014 when she was signed to Write2Eat Publishing under the legendary K’wan Foye.

You can follow Raynesha Pittman on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Author Interview: Faith Cheek Weathers

I first met with Faith months ago on Facebook. It was on King Publishing Group – The Buzz page. We connected instantly. Then I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at the Harlem Book Festival back in July. I have a great deal of respect and love for this talented author. While we were talking the other day, this interview happened. It’s my pleasure to introduce to you, Faith.

1) Where did you grow up? How was your childhood?

I was born in Albany, NY and raised in Syracuse, NY and Louisville, KY. I had a great childhood. I did a MS Readathon commercial. We lived a nice middle class life. My father liked the finer things. My mother stayed at home and always put us first.

2) When you wrote your first book, did you find it hard?

Yes.  I didn’t know first person from third. The editors chopped my book up. I had to change it to make it more urban. But I pulled it together.

3) Is that how you learned to get better, with an editor?

Yes, and I learned quick! When I wrote part two, I didn’t have any rewrites.

4) How long did it take you to write your first book?

It didn’t take that long, a few weeks. But I use to write in notebooks, so it took a while for me to type it up. I wrote Church Whore in two weeks.

I feel closest to God when I’m writing. I’m at peace when I’m writing because I know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

Now I type on my laptop, but I still have about ten stories in notebooks. My first book was written in 2008. Shxt Happens was written in 2007.

5) So when did you decide you were a writer?

I’ve always written. I use to write letters for all of my friends in middle school. Break up letters, and love letters.

The first time my teacher noticed my writing was at the end of my eighth grade year and she said, “Had I known you could write, I would have gotten you published.”

I just knew I loved it. My best friend Angie told me that writing was my calling. That was in 2006 before my son was killed.

6) Can I ask what happened?

He was run over by a school bus on Sept 28, 2006. He was 14. He was the second child I lost. I had a stillborn in 1999. I was seven and a half months. I named her little Faith.

7) So would you say this was the impetus which propelled you into writing full-time?

Yes, after Sean died I decided to take my writing more seriously. Because before then I would write movie scripts, but never stories.

8) How do your ideas come to you?

I never know what I’m going to write. I free style. Like with my first series all I knew was I wanted a woman who was strong and no nonsense. I knew I wanted her to have two best friends. That’s all I knew and I just wrote.

The funny thing is one of characters became bi later in the book, but when I first described her, I said she seemed like she could be a lesbian, but I didn’t even remember that.

My friend told me well that’s how you described her. I talk about my characters like they are real and in the house with me.

9) What are some of you all-time favorite books and authors and why?

VC Andrews! I grew up reading all her books. That’s what made me say I want to write. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

This is how God works. Years ago, before I was signed the author, Carla Pennington put up a list for summer reading. Budussy by Eros was on the list. Once I read it, I was hooked. At that moment, he became my favorite author. And years later, not only is he my publisher and mentor, but he’s one of my best friends.

10) What was your most favorite book to write?

Church Whore was my favorite book to write. It just flowed out of me.

11) Do you write every day?

No, I don’t write everyday.

12) What do you believe made you a better writer?

Life experience. Listening to my spirit.

13) Are you working on anything new now?

Yes, Church Whore 3. Plus a few other jewels I’ve started on.

What is the most important thing to you? What inspires you? Pushes you to higher heights?

I want to grow as an author. My parents gave me the gift of words. Watching my father preach and stir up souls made me want to do that in my own way. They taught me the power of words. My kids push me to follow my dreams. I’ve made many sacrifices to do so.

My mother wrote poetry and played for our church, so words were always important. At the end of the day, I always have my words.

14) What advice would you give a new writer?

Stay true to yourself. Stay humble. This game changes people and most times not for the better.

Thank you so much, Faith. Wishing you the world of success and abundant blessings on your literary journey.

Faith Cheek Weathers was born on September 15, 1974 to Rev. & Mrs. Earl Cheek. Faith learned at an early age the importance of words. Faith used to write letters for friends in school and quickly made a name for herself as “The Letter Writer.” Faith would write for fun as she obtained a Bachelors in Psychology. In 2014 she was signed to a publishing company. In September of 2014, she was signed to KPG. Under the direction of her mentor Eros, Faith started to build her catalog. One year later Faith has then ten releases under KPG with many more  to come. Faith resides in Greensboro, NC with her four remaining children. Faith has experienced many trials and tribulations including the death of two children, but she doesn’t let anything stop her. Stat tuned to see what this preachers kid has up her sleeve. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.