A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
Not at all! I am very compatible with others. My writing reflects first-hand experience and knowledge of the human condition and personal observations of human behavior. I consider myself a socially conscious individual who is very aware of how attitude and perception are linked. I try to manifest my beliefs in everyday interaction with others.
Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
I would not consider myself a “rigid” grammar Nazi but I am constantly annoyed by improper spelling of common words like to, too and two, their and there, or misuse of effect/affect.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
I honestly can’t say I would like to be the original author of any book other than my own. I feel the writers of original work deserve all the glory. Since so many authors have provided me so much pleasure reading their works, I could never single out a particular book anyway.
What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?
I love fiction. Contemporary fiction allows writers to delve into social issues and imagine a million different scenarios where any ending is possible. I believe that writing is a way to touch the very heart and soul of the reader and by writing authors can influence society and impact the world.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
Research is a valuable took every writer should employ. There is nothing worse than to find times, places or information that is not factual even in a fiction writing. I find it particularly annoying to find things like cell phones showing up in the 1960’s or the author having characters using electrical gadgets not even invented in the era being written about. Good research is the only way to avoid silly errors. Good research might not be noticed by the reader but poor research will!
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
I compose at the computer but keep a notebook beside my bed. I wake up all hours of the night and jot down thoughts and ideas.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. At four or five, I remember vividly making up stories for my grandmother and entertaining my great-aunt with “original” plots while working in her dairy farm.
What inspires you to write?
I am inspired by observing humans, their relationships and interaction. I am amazed at how differently people react to the same situation based on their own history and conscious. Tribalism, tradition and culture can create unity or disharmony depending on the individual. I love to people watch and write from different viewpoints with the belief there is no totally evil or totally good people. Each of my characters comes with a personality that is well defined and reflects their individual conditions.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
I have no set schedule but prefer to write when I am alone. Some nights I get out of bed and write for hours. When I write, I do not like to talk or be in contact with others. I find the distraction annoying. That is probably why I enjoy nighttime writing. Everyone else is asleep and my mind is free to wander and imagine as it will.
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
One of the hardest things for me is the knowledge that people I know will read my work. Much of my work deals with the harsh realities of life; I graphically talk about race, poverty, domestic violence and child abuse. Sometimes writing about these issues is difficult and affects my mood. As a writer, I feel I must be true to the piece and cannot constrain myself based on how friends and family might perceive a particular writing.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?
Writing comes naturally for me. I come from a long line of storytellers and began entertaining friends with wild and imaginative tales at a very young age. I’ve never suffered Writer’s Block; rather, I have an abundance of ideas and lack the time to get them all down to print.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I am an avid reader and would find it very difficult to point to a favorite author because each writer offers their own insights and writing styles. I read almost anything from ketchup bottle ingredients to voluminous novels. I loved Mark Twain as a child and read his books over and over. I love crime novels, mysteries and fantasy. I love J.K. Rowlings for her ability to write a consistent series. I like the way Jonathan Kellerman researches his works and the way he develops his characters.
Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?
I edit and proofread consistently and find myself writing and rewriting over and over until I finally say, I will not read this again. Unfortunately, I am a perfectionist and have to resist the urge to keep rewriting!
Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?
I find that I write best when I have several different books going at the same time. I often begin writing a book and set it aside until I am moved to write on it again. Because many of my books deal with “dark characters” and the unsavory side of mankind, I find it easier to “breathe” for a while by writing on other works while I de-escalate the feelings stirred by the heavier works.
If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?
If I had the opportunity, I would rewrite THE PINK STONE OF VENUS. The book was a fantasy novel for “tweens”. I would have developed the characters better if I had the opportunity. I would also have insisted on a different cover because I have never felt the cover reflected the content of the book.
Have you ever designed your own book cover?
The cover of NOT COLOR BLIND was my own design. Because I knew the characters so well, I drew pictures I wanted to represent the shack and main three characters. The drawings were replaced with representative pictures of the characters and shack but the cover stayed true to my concept.
Do you attend literary lunches or events?
I have not had any events yet but have signed books for everyone who has asked. I have a personal Facebook page and one for the book. I take readers’ opinions seriously and try to be cognizant of them at all times.
Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?
I always try to keep my readers in mind. I read their comments and answer their questions as promptly as possible.
Does a bad review affect your writing?
I have never had a bad review, even as a student from grade school to college to professional writing. I am sure one day, one will come. I will probably be quite upset for a while but it certainly won’t deter me from writing and staying “true to myself” and my ideas.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
I would tell aspiring writers to follow what they know. I know about the subjects I write, I write with feeling because I know my subject matter. I think when writers try to write about subjects they do not know, they cheat themselves and fail because the writing does not come from a place of understanding.
Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
Books have always been a part of my life. I love them. I love their feel and look. I love holding them in my hand and turning their pages. There is no telling how many books I have read over the years. While I don’t remember the first book I read, I remember vividly sitting in my dad’s lap, at age one or two, while he read to me.
Do your novels carry a message?
I write from the heart and know my characters as well as my family. I give them substance and life. My novels lay bare the harsh reality of life and its inequality and inequity but also give hope. I would say my novels carry a message about the human condition and while they cannot provide a solution they bring a level of awareness to the reader.
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
When I am writing, my novel becomes as much a part of my life as eating and sleeping. My books are soulful and hauntingly realistic because parts of myself and things I have seen or experienced are vividly recalled in my writing.
How realistic are your books?
My books graphically depict issues of poverty, domestic violence, child abuse, and racism. I come from the south and NOT COLOR BLIND is set in Mississippi and Memphis, TN. People have read it and asked who I was talking about because it is so “real” they felt the characters have to be“real life people” instead of characters I created. I think that is one of the highest compliments a writer can receive!
What books have influenced your life the most?
I have always loved TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Harper Lee became my hero for many years and I was pleased when NOT COLOR BLIND was mentioned by one reader as having the same relevancy. As a teenager I built Atticus Finch into a super-hero and have been reluctant to read GO SET AWATCHMAN because I fear I will come away disillusioned.
Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?
I love reading books about old Hollywood and I read anything about the Golden Age stars. I am currently reading THE GIRL WHO WALKED HOME ALONE about Bette Davis. I’ve read almost everything ever written about Mae West and actually did a thesis on her impact on society in 1920-30’s America.
Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
I am currently working on ACROSS THE COLOR LINE. It is the story of a white woman who in 1977 chose to live life as basically a “black” woman in Tennessee. It details the family and societal alienation white women endured when they chose to marry outside their race in the south. It is also an intense novel that does not parse the harsh reality of racism in America.
Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
I know my Muse calls me frequently and whispers for me to get up and start writing. Sometimes she even forces me to return to a character and flesh them out more because she wants them better understood.
Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
I believe everyone has a story but I don’t believe everyone can be a writer. Writing is either in your blood or it isn’t. It isn’t easy to lay bare your soul but it is well worth it when you hear someone say, “I couldn’t put down your book. I had to know how it ended.”
Given the chance to live your life again, what would you change about yourself?
In all honesty, I would probably change very little if anything. I like me. I like the person I am and all the steps and missteps I made along the way to get me here were the building blocks that made me who I am. Like me, my characters are not perfect, they are imperfect people trying to get by the best way they can with the tools life gave them.
I was born before the civil rights era in Guntown, Lee County, MS, one of the poorest counties in a poor state. My mother failed to complete the 7th grade and had three children before nineteen. We were the poor white southerners popularized by many novels that have so inadequately addressed the life circumstances of Mississippi life. Witnessing racism and bigotry had a life-long impact on my outlook about race, poverty, basic human relations and my own self-image. My writing reflects first-hand experience and knowledge of the human condition. My writings are intended to challenge, inform and stimulate the reader to examine their belief system.
I write from the heart and know my characters as well as my family. I give them substance and life. My life has been challenging and my novels lay life bare, its inequality and inequity as I know it. I am an unapologetic liberal who has railed against poverty, racism, domestic violence and child abuse before it was politically correct to do so. I have been targeted by the KKK and shot at and still refused to be silenced. My ideology of equality for all comes through loudly in my writing.