Ten Questions, Ten Answers

Every week, an author will be spotlighted on this page. The author will respond to ten questions related to writing. These profiles will be another source of inspiration to those of us who have words in our minds, characters in our hearts, and stories all our own that are trapped inside and we just need to release them to the world. If there’s an author you’d like to see featured here, please contact me with their name and I will reach out to them. Happy writing peeps!

Adrienne Thompson has worn many titles in her lifetime–from teenage mother to teenage wife to divorcee to registered nurse to author. This mother of two young adults and one teenager currently resides in Arkansas with her daughter where she writes and publishes her stories full time. She is the author of Been So Long and Been So Long 2.

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

My breakthrough moment came after I published my first book and began receiving feedback and requests for a sequel. I knew then that I was no longer just a writer but an author.

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

I get my ideas from a variety of sources—life, observing people, dreams and daydreams, songs, TV shows, or movies. Honestly, anything can inspire me.

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

I’m a pantser all the way!! I don’t do outlines or anything like that. Sometimes I’ll write out a short summary of the story and record character names so I won’t forget them, but other than that, I just sit down and write and let the story unfold organically.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I really don’t have one. I raised three kids as a divorced mother so I can tune anything out, lol. So honestly, I can write anywhere. From time to time, I might need some music to boost me, but location doesn’t affect my writing one way or the other.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

Terry McMillan, James Patterson, and Bernice McFadden.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Trust your talent and your style. Write the story that is inside of you. Don’t write to trends because they will come and go. Make it your goal to write a story that will stand the test of time. And don’t give up. If you write it and share it with the world, someone will read it and enjoy it.

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and the author’s name.)

“i was torn from my somewhere and brought to this nowhere place.” From Nowhere Is a Place by Bernice McFadden.

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

You can find bits and pieces of me in all of my protagonists.

10. Finish the quote: Writing to me is…my calling, my ministry, and one of the reasons God put me on this earth.

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There’s nothing more refreshing for a bibliophile than discovering a great new author, unless it’s discovering a great new bookstore. Well, this week, this bibliophile discovered new author Kevin Craig. Kevin is the author of three novels: Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, and The Reasons. He has two novels due to be published this year: Half Dead & Fully Broken and Burn Baby, Burn Baby. He is represented by literary agent Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group. Actually, that’s how I discovered Kevin; I follow Stacey on Facebook and saw the announcement for his latest book Half Dead & Fully Broken. Being the journalist that I am/was, I did some snooping. I found Kevin on Facebook and, as they say, the rest is history. So, of course, I asked Kevin to be profiled for my column and he graciously said yes. I introduce to you, Mr. Kevin Craig!

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

My first book launch! It was at one of my favourite independent bookstores, Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario. It was standing room only and all those people were there for me, to help me celebrate the launch of my novel. Somehow, I didn’t quite get the feeling that I was an author when my book was accepted, or when I signed the contract, or when I went through the editing process, or when I saw the cover and final galley. It wasn’t until I was standing in front of all those people reading a passage from my first novel, Summer on Fire, that I felt like an author.

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

That’s a hard question. I don’t know. This question always makes me think of Bobbi Anderson, the main character in Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers. Bobbi is walking through the woods one day and trips over this miniscule metal object sticking out of the ground. She starts picking around it and discovers it’s bigger than she first imagined. She digs and digs around it. The object is never-ending. It turns out it was a little exposed corner of an alien spaceship. A gigantic alien spaceship. That’s what it’s like for me to discover a story. At first it’s just this unbelievably tiny microdot of an idea. I dig. And I dig. And I dig. Suddenly, I’m unearthing this huge and complicated thing. I had no idea it was festering there in the ground just waiting for me to trip over it. I don’t know why I find these things, but I know why I dig them up once I discover them poking out of the ground. To find out what happens!

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am 100% pantser. I tried outlining and I failed miserably. I need to be discovering the story as my fingers are making a racket on the keys. I need to be chasing the storyline that way, or I lose interest. For me, writing is about discovery. If I point-form what’s going to happen, there’s no discovery. One thing I always point out is that every writer should find their way. There is no right or wrong way to write a story. You try every way you know of, and then you do it the way that fits best for you. It’s even a wise idea to experiment with every new project, in case pantsing works best with one project and plotting works best with another. Never say never.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

By a country mile, my very favourite place to write is the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON! It’s a 72-hour novel writing marathon that happens in the heart of cottage country in Ontario, Canada, every July. Thirty or so writers get together and camp out for 72 hours while each of them writes a novel. It’s a beautifully organic experience that I’m extremely addicted to! It’s a fundraiser. To date, we have raised over $100,000.00 for the literacy programs in the area. But more than that, it’s this magical thing that propels us each to write and write and write. Four of my published (or soon to be published) novels were written in this 72 hour marathon setting (Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, Half Dead & Fully Broken, and, Burn Baby, Burn Baby). I’ve come to believe it’s the only way I can write a novel now.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

My absolute favourite book on writing is W. Somerset Maugham’s The Summing Up. Think of it as a past generation’s On Writing (Stephen King). In this book, Maugham gives infinite pearls of wisdom. He was a playwright and a novelist, like myself. So, a lot of what he says resonates with me. My favourite line from the book, I believe, is: “Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul.”

On transitioning from novelist to playwright, Maugham was thrilled to move into the world of dialogue and put some of the world of narrative aside. He said, “Thank God, I can look at a sunset now without having to think how to describe it!” His best writing advice for playwrights was, “I think the secret of playwriting can be given in two maxims: stick to the point and whenever you can, cut.”

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, J.D. Salinger, John Knowles, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Michael Chabon, Anne Rice, Naguib Mahfouz, and, Bohumil Hrabal stand out as my biggest influences. They each have given me many gifts. I have many loves beyond these, though.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I usually begin answering this question by saying I only have one piece of advice. SIT. WRITE. BIC (bum in chair). Lately, however, I’ve been considering the benefit of living the writer’s life. I suggest they throw themselves into it. Go to workshops, conferences, retreats. Hang out with other writers. VALIDATE your writing life by living as though you are a writer.

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and the author’s name.)

The first line that gets me all warm and giddy every single time I read it is: “A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.” It’s from one of my favourite books, A Confederacy of Dunces by the late John Kennedy Toole.

From my own novels, I think my favourite first line is: “My mother was always losing things.” ~ The Reasons

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

This is a hard one. I try not to put myself in my work, but we all do it to some degree. I guess Sebastian Nelson from my second novel, Sebastian’s Poet. Sebastian is a deep thinker, and long-suffering. He takes everything personal and he wants to save the world. And he has a vein of selfishness inside him he is incapable of fully masking. I guess that could be me.

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is…that thing that brings me back to life when the rest of my world is crumbling away to nothing.

In addition to his books, Kevin has had seven 10-minute plays produced in Canada, at such places as Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival at Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, and at the InspiraTO Festival at the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto. Want to know more about Kevin, head over to his blog at http://kevintcraig.wordpress.com/. And be sure to check out his books!

Later peeps!

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One thing I always remember about my favorite authors is the book that led to my discovery of them. I discovered Pearl Cleage with What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day. After my first read of this book, it became one of those books that I would re-read and re-read because of the enduring messages and the wonderful storytelling.
Cleage is an Atlanta-based writer whose works include eight novels, a dozen plays, two books of essays, two books of poetry, essays, and newspaper columns. Her new book, Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons and Love Affairs will be published by ATRIA in April, 2014. And I can’t wait to read it.

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

I knew I was a writer as soon as I learned there was such a thing as a writer. I always wanted to be a storyteller. I guess my breakthrough moment came when my sister taught me how to read and write when I was four years old and my grandfather gave me a tiny little spiral green notebook and a little number two pencil and I started writing stuff down for my stories. I would give a lot to have those notebooks now, but none of them survived. I’ve been writing ever since. I’ve been very lucky to have both commercial and critical success, but I didn’t need any of that to convince me I was a writer. I already knew it!

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

My novels always start with a character who appeals to me. I’m going to have to spend a year with this person, so I want it to be somebody I like and somebody I find interesting. I’m endlessly fascinated by people and how we make the decisions we make. Like who to love. (One of my favorites.) Or what is right and what is wrong. Or how we are connected to other people, like our families. I do a lot of work on that first character until I can see clearly where she (for me, the main character is almost always a “she”) fits and what her problem is. At that point, I can start working on other characters and the plot, which is always the hardest thing for me. If I had my way, my characters would walk around and just talk about whatever came to mind, conflict be damned! Of course, that’s not possible, but it would certainly simplify my writing life!

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I don’t know what a pantser is. I know I always try to come to plot through character. I don’t write detective stories or murder mysteries so I’ve got to find a situation where the problem is serious, but death doesn’t have to be the solution. My books almost always feature a strong heroine who is grounded in the community she lives in and connected to the life that community in a way that may bring her into contact with dangerous people who don’t have good intentions. She’s also probably in love or falling in love with somebody. I really like love stories in the midst of real life situations. Anybody can fall in love if they’re rich, beautiful, healthy and strolling down the beach at sunset! The challenge is to fall in love in the midst of the messiness of real life.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I like to write at home in my office. My desk faces the front window so I can watch my neighbors going by and living their lives. I’ve never been able to write in hotels (too antiseptic in one way and too many leftover stranger vibes in another…) and I’ve never had the money to rent fabulous beach houses so I work at home. It’s actually a blessing that most of my novels take place in the neighborhood where I live. That way, everything that happens on an ordinary day is fair game for the books.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

“Being a writer is like having homework for life.” I think it’s from Laurence Kasden, the screenwriter and director.
I also like “Writing is mostly a question of continuous work, done alone.” Don’t remember who said that one.
I also like “A writer’s life should be a tranquil one. Read a lot and go to the movies.” That’s Mario Puzo.
This was my Sixties favorite from Amiri Baraka, “A black writer’s job is to write something so ba-a-a-ad they have to ban it.”
Also Toni Cade Bambara who said “The job of a black writer is to make revolution irresistible.”

6. Who are some authors who inspired you?

My two favorite writers are Langston Hughes and Alice Walker. Langston because he is so deeply rooted in his African American-ness, but from that vantage point, he was able to travel the world and feel at home everywhere. His writing is like having a conversation with a good friend. I love Alice Walker because she is unafraid to tackle subjects that are challenging. Whenever I get cocky and think I’m really a serious truth teller, I read a new book by Alice and know I still have a long way to go. I also love Lorraine Hansberry because seeing her play “A Raisin in the Sun” when I was eleven years old made me know I was a playwright.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I would say write something every day. Take yourself and your work seriously enough to set aside time and place to give it your full attention, even if it’s just for a half an hour a day. If you are going to be writer, you have to get into the habit of writing. This is the work you’ve chosen. Be disciplined about getting it done. Think of yourself as a “cultural worker.”

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of he book and the author’s name.)

“Blind people got a hummin jones if you notice.” Opening line of the short story “My Man Bovanne,” by Toni Cade Bambara, Random House, 1972.
And: “Call me Ishmael.” Opening line of Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

They all resemble me! The good, the bad, and the ugly!

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is…like breathing: I can’t live without doing it!

Visit Pearl Cleage on her website, http://www.pearlcleage.net or look for her on Facebook.

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I’m sure many of us have stories about young children and teenagers who don’t like to read. I know I have had many students who told me they hated reading. My first year of teaching, though, I discovered a writer who writes stories that many teenagers love to read. Mid-year I began teaching English II at Ridgeway High School in Memphis. The students hated me from the start because I was replacing their favorite teacher. One way I won them over and connected with them: reading Forged by Fire by Sharon M. Draper. They had begun reading it with their previous teacher. I remember reading the book with them and then moving on to Tears of a Tiger. In those classes, through reading these novels, we created a family and cultivated a love of reading. It was a year I will never forget.

Draper writes novels that deal with true-to-life issues. Teen readers can easily identify with her characters and they end up caring about them as if though the character were one of their true friends. That demonstrates true skill to be able to connect with an audience on that level.

It is with great pleasure that I present the responses from Sharon M. Draper to my Ten Questions, Ten Answers.

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

I guess that “moment” came when I won the Ebony Magazine writing contest for a three-page short story. But, because we cannot see the future, I didn’t know, at the time, it was a “breakthrough.” It was just a really cool, really awesome thing to be recognized for something I wrote. But it was the beginning of the conversation I started to have with myself, the conversation that says, “You can write –go for it!”

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

Ideas come from everywhere — from within, like memories from childhood, like worries or fears or joys, as well as from without — like from observations of people in the airports or newspaper articles or real people who have touched my life. Ideas swirl like soup. It’s fun to decide what delicacy I end up creating.

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

I’m probably both. I plot the story, but sometimes it turns a corner I had not intended or even considered. Sometimes the characters take over the story and lead me to the conclusion. I like it when the plot becomes character-driven — I think that creates a powerful narrative and makes the reader care what happens to the characters, more than they care how the “story” ends.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I write in my very messy, very comfortable office. I have books on one full wall beside me, a large picture window which helps me include realistic natural descriptions, and a desk with a computer and two printers because one of them is ALWAYS out of order.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

I learned to dream through reading, learned to create dreams through writing, and learned to develop dreamers through teaching. I shall always be a dreamer. Come dream with me.

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

When I was a child I read voraciously. So I read ALL the Little House on the Prairie books, ALL the Little Women books, ALL the books of every writer that piqued my interest. So I don’t have a favorite. I think all of them combined to create in me an appreciation of words, an ability to evaluate quality of expression, a love of storytelling. I honor them all, and thank them for challenging me to create my own words. I hope my stories do the same to the next generation of young writers.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The best way to become a writer is to write. I know it sounds simplistic, but it’s true. Get yourself one of those blank journals, and just keep on writing until you fill it up! Then write some more. You don’t have to show it to anyone — just write whenever you feel inspired. It’s like an athlete. Much practice is done alone. At game time, you shine.
My next suggestion is to read a zillion books. Read the classics — Faulkner, Tennyson, Shakespeare, Dickens — all of them. Read poetry — the rhythms are essential to good writing — Keats, Dunbar, Hughes, Byron — all of them. Good writers are powerful motivators. Read bad writers as well –they’ll show you what not to do. Then write, write, write. Practice, revise, make it perfect, then do it again. Most of my books go through ten, twelve, maybe even fifteen or twenty complete edits before they are finished, and I still wish I had perfected them a little more. Many times young writers are too anxious to get published, and not willing to do the necessary reading and studying to become really proficient at the art and skill of writing. An Olympic athlete starts by running laps with no audience at all. A true champion knows the power of practice.

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and author’s name.)
“I have been in sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” This is not a first line of a book, but it is one of my favorite quotes, and I keep it mounted in a frame on my desk. It’s by Zora Neale Hurston, who is seriously my literary hero. She was so full of creative passion, and she paved the way for writers like me. Without Zora, who opened those literary doors, I would be nothing.

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

I try to keep adults out of my novels — they are written for young people and I want their voices and characters to be absorbed by the readers. So adults show up as concerned parents or teachers or caregivers on the edges of the stories. I suppose you can find a little bit of me in all of them — the teacher who takes the time to find out what’s bothering an unruly student, the parent who notices that abuse might be a factor in the life of his son’s friend, the caregiver who refuses to let an able child give excuses for not reaching potential. I try to keep myself out of the stories, but my spirit hovers close by.

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is…a blessing and a joy.

*Note: Sharon M. Draper is a two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author. She taught English for 25 years.

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There was a time in my life when I had given up on becoming a published writer, a time when the frustration of rejection won me over. After being conned by an “agent” who claimed to envision the future I did for my novel, I simply became a satisfied reader. I read everything, anything I could get my hands on. Back then, in my new life as a divorced single mother of three, I discovered an author who held me spellbound with the first novel I read by him, that seemed exotic to me. It is set in New Orleans, a place I once believed I could only dream of visiting. I’ve been there many times in recent years and always, I think of the character from my favorite Omar Tyree novel, Leslie. And how, as she sits in her nieces’ bedroom, she thinks to herself, “Their real pains would crack through …like the shine of the full moon through the project window.”

I had a reading partner back then and we would both buy the same book and read it together and then spend hours discussing it. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, one of our favorite authors was and still is Omar Tyree. The New York Times Bestselling author of 18 urban fiction books is this week’s featured author. Tyree, who graduated with a degree in journalism (like me!) self-published his first three novels, selling books out of the trunk of his car before becoming a household name. His latest book is The Traveler: Welcome to Dubai.

So, here’s Mr. Omar Tyree with ten answers for my ten questions.

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

Well, since I self-published my first three books after graduating from college with a degree in Print Journalism and becoming a well-published reporter/writer in the local DC newspapers, I forced myself into the book game by becoming an “author.” But I’m still a “writer” too, who can write everything, including newspaper articles, magazine features, opinion pieces, poetry and more. So, I didn’t really have a breakthrough moment. I forced my way into the industry.

2. Where do you get your ideas for novels?

In journalism school, we were taught that “everything is a story,” it’s just about what stories you’re interested in writing more about. So, all of my ideas are based on subjects that are all around us everyday that I chose to write more about.

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

Um, I don’t know what “pantser” means. I’ll have to look that word up (smile). Unless you mean planner. But I would just say I have a very strategic and organized flow to my work, where I always understand how to travel from A-Z. But I’ve never been big on forcing plots. I like the natural life flow better.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

In my home office. Nothing exotic. Just sit down and get it done at home.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

“Writer’s write.” and “Finish what you start.” These are two simple quotes of my own that I’ve been using to advise aspiring writers with for nearly two decades now.

6. Who are some of the authors that inspired you?

I’ve never really been inspired by authors. I’ve been more inspired by readers. People reading my work and finding inspiration of their own is what made me want to pursue it and keep on doing it.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Haha! “Writer’s write.” and “Finish what you start.” They can also take my consultation program by emailing me at Omar8Tyree@aol.com.

8. What is your favorite line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and author’s name.)

“Hey sis, you wanna make a trade? A piece of me for a piece of you.” —Sweet St. Louis by Omar Tyree

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

Troy Potter in College Boy and Shareef Crawford in The Last Street Novel.

10. Finish this quote: Writing to me, is...my life. That’s what I do for a passion and a living.

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One of the greatest things about starting this Ten Questions feature is that I get to tap into the hearts and minds of some of my favorite authors and poets. These are people I already respect because I love their work. This week’s featured writer is no different. I discovered him quite by accident and fell in love with his work. Tony Medina, professor of creative writing and Howard University and author of the poetry anthology, Broke Baroque. He also was recently named a nominee for the Pushcart Prize for poetry. His poem Broke Baroque, one of my favorite poems by him, was the one chosen for the nomination.

The poem begins like this: “I was a lucky stiff/Stuffed in a garbage bag/With a Day-Glo toe tag/The size of a Winnebago/Parallel parked against/A callus so thick and red/You’d swear it was a blow hard/Right-wing televangelist/Screaming holy Jesus hell or high water”

The vividness of the images he portrays in his work and the way he seems to lend his voice to those whose voices have been snatched from them or whose voices have somehow been lost in the shuffle and bustle of life are what I love about his work. His words tend to walk up to the reader, grab him or her by the collar and demand that the reader realize that all of us are human and should be treated as such. Even the broken among us.

Okay, enough of my gushing. Here’s this week’s featured writer/poet: Tony Medina. Pull up a chair and join us.

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

My breakthrough moment was twofold: When I got picked up by Writers & Readers/Harlem River Press, who picked up my second collection of poetry, “No Noose Is Good Noose,” while I also coedited the anthology, “In Defense of Mumia,” for them back in 1996. The second moment occurred in 2000/2001 when I got my first children’s book, “DeShawn Days”, picked up. Actually, it turned out to be a two-book deal, initially, for they also wanted to publish a poem from that original manuscript that became the book, “Christmas Makes Me Think”, my second children’s book.

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels (poems)?

I get my ideas and inspiration from various sources: reading other books; my crazy imagination; news items or stories; memories or experiences; and other art forms, be they music, visual or plastic arts, etc. Basically, life itself. My mind is always operating at a rapid pace!

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

I let ideas and narratives marinate until they are ready to be fully-born. But I also believe in letting a story or idea for a poem or collection to slowly unfold and reveal itself to me bit by bit. I think reading film descriptions is good to get one thinking about the story (narrative) and its focus.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I write anywhere: while driving, on a piece of paper on the dashboard; on planes, trains, buses. In airports. Cafes. Bars. In the shower! But, of course, there’s no place like home when it comes to writing. I think most writers will tell you they feel more comfortable at home where they have access to the things that inspire them the most, be they books or loved ones.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

I like the old adage: Write what you know. Or William Carlos Williams’: “No ideas but in things.” I also like Langston Hughes’ words: “The prerequisite for being a writer is having something to say.” Or Amiri Baraka’s: “Hunting is not those heads on the wall!”
Or Mark Twain’s: “Explore. Dream. Discover.”

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

I have been inspired by so many: Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, Dylan Thomas, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Philip Roth, John Irving, John Updike, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Pablo Neruda, Jayne Cortez, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Ernesto Cardenal, Roque Dalton, Aime Cesaire, Julio Cortozar, Ntozake Shange, Miguel Pinero, Pedro Pietri, Nicanor Parra, Ishmael Reed. The list just goes on and on. This is just a cup from the ocean of great literary artists who have—and continue to—inspire me!

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read, think, write, revise. Be humble, healthy, respectful and wise. Engage all art forms. Be discriminating but not closed minded or elitist. Let your imagination be like that toddler you used to be, filled with intellectual curiosity and a healthy sense of wonder.

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and author’s name.).

I have a poem in my book “An Onion of Wars”, entitled “Cannibals on U Street”, which begins: “Regardless of which nightstick/Hits you upside your head/It still cracks in 4-4 time…” I kind of like the music that opening stanza makes.

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

Either DeShawn Williams from my children’s book, “DeShawn Days” or my character TaDow from a fiction I’m working on about a kid who plays pickup ball in New York’s The Village and Rucker Park with his crew of cray-cray friends and fellow ballers.

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is...

Like having the wind scoop me up, having me fly above the projects’ buildings of my childhood. Like riding the roller coaster at Coney Island. Like hitting a game-winning home run or catching a Hail Mary football throw and dusting everybody—diving into the end zone—for the game-winner. It’s like drinking red wine, walking the streets of New York on a fall or spring day, contemplating love or melancholy, as if a blues or jazz tune. Driving a car with the stereo thumping and the wind raking across your face and hair. It’s like riding a ten speed bike down a steep hill with no hands. It’s like the feeling you get with a new love. Having completed a piece of writing you really dig is akin to having an orgasm. Yeah. Like that.

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And today’s Featured Author of the Ten Questions, Ten Answers column is: Kai Leakes, author of Sin Eaters: Devotion Book One. Kai, like many writers, has had a long love affair with the written word. In her own words, she gained an addiction to books at an early age and loved to share stories with her family members, even as a teenager. “Storytelling continues to be a major part of my DNA.” She said she desires to add color to, what she calls, a gray literary world. So, here’s Kai:

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

I’m not sure I’ve had my true breakthrough moment, but I think the first time I was contacted on Twitter and a fan favorited my comment about Sin Eaters and reblogged it, as well as later being inboxed and asked questions. I believe that was the moment I told myself I was no longer just a writer but I was an author. I used to be the one favoriting author comments and inboxing my questions or emailing my favorite authors, lol, it was so surreal for me and still is. I love every comment, every response or question I receive from fans, especially my Team Sin Eater crew.

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

Typically they come to me in a dream or they’re just ideas that spark from what I would love to personally read.

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

I so wasn’t sure what you meant by that, so I had to look it up. LOL I am 100 percent a pantser. When I officially write my stories, I let the characters dictate where it goes, what they want, need, desire, or have to do. I usually write my notes as I develop my story.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I don’t really have a favorite place to write. I typically can write anywhere that is
not too loud.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

“What I will not do is change what I do, the way I tell stories, and who I am for anyone. For that would be ridiculous and suicidal.”- Tyler Perry

When I first started promoting Sin Eaters, I continuously heard, I don’t read your genre. Why don’t you write standard romance? Why (I don’t) have specific types of characters? And it really stared weighing heavy on my writing spirit. So, when I heard Tyler say those words, it gave me a sense of rejuvenation and kept pushing me forward in my craft. I write how I write. I write who I write. This is why I am a writer because no one can do it for me, and I prefer it that way.

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

Number one at this point in my life is L.A. Banks. She gave me what I craved: to see myself in the genres she wrote, especially paranormal romance. She wasn’t afraid to give me a African American Buffy the Vampire Slayer and make her better, and unapologetic for loving her own skin and demanding love while kicking butt.

Brenda Hampton and NIkki-Michelle are my next inspirations. I do write contemporary romance, but these two women have a talent in it and a fire that I’m observing and trying to perfect for myself.

Another was Anne Rice.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Believe your talent is more than just that. Believe that it is a gift. Protect it, cherish it, and trust in it. Then be your own number one fan. Otherwise, if you aren’t writing for yourself first, then you won’t be a success in your gift.

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and author’s name.).

“Yeah…shawty is crazy as hell, but that tongue was da business. Ya dig!”- Calvin (Sin Eaters: Devotion Book One)

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

The she-ro of Sin Eaters Sanna Steele is a slight mirror of who I was at that age and who I still am. She is the fire I wish to have with many of the qualities I hold.

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is…passion and commitment.

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This week’s (November 6, 2013) featured author is Bernice McFadden, author of Gathering of Waters and Sugar. The woman with a wonderful soul and sweet spirit took the time to answer Ten Questions for me. Enjoy!

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

I guess that was back in 1995. I was attending Fordham University, continuing education program at night. My creative writing professor, Dr. Lamb, took me aside and said: “I don’t know why you’re not published.” That was confirmation for me!

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

My stories really don’t start out as ideas. I usually hear a line in my head. The line repeats itself for weeks, months – sometimes years. This happens until I write down that first line and then an entire story follows. It’s really very magical.

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

Panster!

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

It used to be my home office. But last year I sold my house and so, haven’t really been writing. My new favorite writing place hasn’t yet revealed itself.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” —Allen Ginsberg

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, J. California Cooper, Terry McMillan and Stephen King.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read as much as possible. Write as much as possible. Experience all that life has to offer – as much as possible!

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and author’s name.).

“Jude was dead.” – Sugar

One of my all-time favorite books is Sula by Toni Morrison.

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

Well, there’s a little bit of me in Campbell from Loving Donovan and Kenzie from The Warmest December.

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is…Is like breathing..

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Essence Magazine Bestselling author Brenda Hampton is the author of In My Shoes and the recently released novel Who Ya Wit‘? She took the time out of her busy schedule to answer my Ten Questions this week. (October 30, 2013)

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)
I knew I was an author, not just a writer, when I was able to handle constructive criticism and use it to my advantage.

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

I get most of my ideas for my novels through real life experiences.

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

Plotter.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

Late at night, in my office or in bed.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

As a writer, I do not accept advice or suggestions about WHAT should be written in my books, but I welcome advice about HOW it’s written. When a book is written by me, I follow what’s in my heart, not what’s in the hearts of others.

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

Terry McMillan and Carl Weber

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Patience is needed in this industry. Don’t count on others to promote your work for you. You MUST do it yourself.

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and author’s name.).

Eeny, Meeny, Miney and Moe. I got Eeny and Meeny, now all I need is Miney and Moe. (Brenda Hampton, Naughty One)

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

Daisha from the Naughty Series.

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is…my life, joy, and salvation.

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Jocie McKade’s debut novel, “High Frequency,” has been described by early reviewers as a “page turner” and “an amazing adventure.” The book was released earlier this month and already people are raving about it. The book is the first in the Between the Lines series.
Meet this week’s (October 23, 2013) featured author: Jocie McKade as she answers ten questions from yours truly!

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and not just a writer?)

This moment came at a really low point in my writing career. I’d had multiple rejections, and I was at work feeling rather sorry for myself and on the verge of throwing in the writing towel. I work as a librarian and I was shelving new books. One of those books was by Stephen King – On Writing. I opened it to a page and began to read. One sentence stood out: “If you’ve earned enough money to pay the bills, you’re an author.” It stuck with me. When I went home that evening, in the mailbox I received a check for a short article I’d written. It was enough to pay the electric bill, barely. I remember holding that small check, tears streaming down my face, looking at my husband and saying, “I’m an author, I can pay the electric bill.”
It was several months before I received another check for writing, but that moment was enough to keep me going. So, thank you Mr. King for that kick I needed.

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

My latest novel, High Frequency came to me in a goat barn at the county fair. An overheard conversation sparked an idea that became a novel. My Three Baers romantic comedy series was sparked from an idea at a rodeo, and sometimes they just appear like a download, usually when I don’t have a darn piece of paper anywhere!

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

A panster. I plot a little, once I get the general idea of the book. But my characters just will not stick to their outlined script. The little varmints just go where they want without thinking about me or that outline at all. They end up in places they weren’t supposed to be and do things they were told not to do. OMG, I suddenly realized they are just like my kids!

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I have a small office in a spare bedroom and when I get one of those story downloads in the middle of the night that is where you will find me. My first choice however, is on my deck with a large glass of Southern Sweet Tea.

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

My favorite quote: “The answer to all writing, to any career for that matter, is love.” – Ray Bradbury
Write it because you love it.

My inspiration is and always will be my mom. There was never a time in my life that she didn’t have a book in her hands, and books strewn around the house. Her best advice to me — “If you can read, you can do anything.” Few things have ever struck a truer chord in my life. She loved westerns, and I that’s why my first series of books – The Three Baers – was set in Wyoming with cowboys, as a tribute to her.

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

So many! I read everything and I love the work of so many authors — Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, Janet Evanovich, James Rollins, Clive Cussler, Brenda Jackson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, are among the many I adore. Allan Eckhardt, Ray Bradbury and Issac Asimov were early inspirations because of the scope of their work from children’s books to narrative historicals, non-fiction works, and screenplays.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write your story. Every writer is unique and has a unique story to tell — write that story and write, write, write. As with any profession, you must practice to perfect your craft. Never give up.

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by another author? (Please include the name of the book and author’s name.).

“There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever.” Janet Evanovich, One For the Money.

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

LOL, probably Stephanie Plum because there isn’t much I haven’t screwed up!

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is…necessary to keep me out of the psych ward, off pharmaceuticals, and out of trouble. I have stories that must be told.

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Alretha Thomas: This Week’s (October 16, 2013) Featured Author

In the movie Brown Sugar, Sanaa Lathan’s character, Syd, asks Taye Diggs’ character (Dre) when he first fell in love with hip hop. That is one of the questions she asks all the musicians that she interviews and they can all recall that moment, that aha moment, when they just knew that music would be the life. The same can be said for writers. Take, for instance, Alretha Thomas. She knew writing was going to be an important part of her future when her fifth grade teacher chose her to read a story she’d written in front of the class.

Mark Twain has been credited with saying that the two most important days of our life are “the day you are born and the day you find out why.” If that is indeed true, Mrs. Thomas’ most important day occurred for her that day in fifth grade because that is when she realized that she was destined to share her stories with the world. And the days and milestones that have come after are just the icing on top. As she will tell you, she’s been making her name through the pen since she was ten years old. Most recently, her name has been the topic of conversation as many of her readers and fans discuss her newest book, “The Baby in the Window.”

Though she is currently promoting her new book, she was gracious enough to be the first author to appear on the Ten Questions, Ten Answers page. So, here goes:

1. When was your breakthrough moment? (When did you know you were an author and
not just a writer?)

Great question! Actually, I’ve never been asked this before. It was after my third novel, “Married in the Nick of Nine,” debuted. It’s the first book in a four-part series about the couple Cass and Nick. I got such a huge positive response from readers and I sold more copies of that book than any other book that I felt like I had turned a corner, reached a new level and yes, for the first time in my writing career, I began to feel like an author. It’s a rewarding feeling. I love writing. I get a joy from the process, but as a writer, you want to share your work with the world and when a lot of people in the world receive it with open hearts, it’s amazing and humbling.

2. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

My life experience is my muse. I’ve led two lives. I’ve had a life that was wild and crazy…a time when I was trying to find myself, a time when I had to put on the brakes and get it together spiritually. The second half of my life, the past two decades, has been pretty steady. Over the course of my life, I’ve experience unrequited love, heartbreak, disillusionment, infertility, you name it, and I’ve probably gone through it. The blessing is that I’ve been able to use some of my ordeals for my books. For example, in “Married in the Nick of Nine,” the protagonist Cassandra is anxious to get married, meets a guy from New York, falls for him, goes to New York and then suddenly finds out that there’s something rotten in the Big Apple. I too, meant a guy from New York, left my life in Los Angeles to be with him and found out there was something rotten in the Big Apple. LOL! In “The Baby in the Window,” the second book in the series, Cassandra is having difficulty getting pregnant. I experienced the same struggle. I like to write what I know. When I write what I know, I can get into the characters shoes and feel their joy and pain and that comes through the page.

3. Are you a plotter or pantser?

I would have to say I’m a combination of the two. I definitely need to know where my story is going, but the direction I take to get there invariably changes along the way. I always start out with a story idea and an ending and I do sketch out an outline, but once I start writing, I let my characters take over and they often tell the story, and do a better job than I can! Thank goodness for the computer age. It’s neat when you’re writing and you come to a place in the story where you want to write something or have the character say a particular thing, but you need to set it up, so you go back in the story and do the set up. Writing is so fluid. Writing is like putting together this massive puzzle and all the pieces have to fit. It’s definitely a high for me.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I write in the family dining room/hang out room. My computer is up against a wall and it’s my special place. Whenever my husband wants to get my attention, he’ll leave a note on my keyboard knowing it won’t be missed! He calls it my home within the home. Lol!

5. What is your favorite quote or advice about writing?

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
W. Somerset Maugham

6. Who are some authors that inspired you?

Growing up, Alice Walker, Tony Morrision, Lorraine Hansberry, Maya Angelou, and Zora Neal Hurston, wowed me, but it wasn’t until later in life that I began to develop my own voice, and I have to say the work of Terry McMillan and the late Bebe Moore Campbell influenced me greatly.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Never give up! It’s a cliché, but true

8. What is your favorite first line from one of your novels or your favorite book by
another author? (Please include the name of the book and author’s name.).

I was looking at myself in a tarnished mirror taped to a crooked wall. This line is from the late Bebe Moore Campbell’s novel “What You Owe Me.” I more than loved reading this book!

9. What fictional character from your novels most resembles you?

Cynthia, Cass’ cousin in the Cass and Nick series, in my twenties and thirties and Cass at this present time.

10. Finish this quote: Writing, to me, is…what I was born to do!

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6 Responses to Ten Questions, Ten Answers

  1. Jocie McKade says:

    Great post. I really like this 10 Q&A it’s an awesome way of meeting new authors and getting more insight into their work.

  2. Rosalind Guy says:

    Thanks, Jocie McKade. I have definitely found the responses to be inspirational and informative.

  3. Jocie McKade says:

    Thank you for hosting me Rosalind. You have a beautiful blog, and I thank you for letting me be a part of it. Jocie

  4. Pingback: Smarter Every Book » Blog Archive » Sharon Draper Webquest

  5. Pingback: Check Out My Latest Interview « K.T. Craig

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