Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TAKE TEN: Author Jacqueline Rhinehart

When it comes to books that Conversations has read and enjoyed as interactive journeys with the author, in 2008 Jacqueline Rhinehart's* MY ORGANIC SOUL rises to the top of that list. Chosen as one of Conversations Book Club's "25 Best Kept Literary Secrets of 2008", it allows you to enjoy adages that inspire and encourage as well as give you the opportunity to add your own voice to the pages. We talked with the author about the motivation of the book and what she hopes it does for those who share the experience.

Jacqueline, thanks for a taking out a few moments to talk with Conversations LIVE! today. Before we get to your book My Organic Soul, tell us about your business.
Organic Soul Multicultural Marketing is a marketing consultancy . . .I advise companies such as packaged goods/financial / travel industries on ways to connect and market their products to multicultural consumers. My niche is the integration of entertainment elements into traditional marketing practices.

It seems as though you have used your adult life to try and make the lives of others better. Would you agree with that?
My interest has always been the intellectual and cultural condition of man - that's does not provide a clear career trek , but it does imbue my work with a lot of passion and curiosity!

If I had met you 10 years ago, what would be the biggest difference in the Jacqueline Rhinehart then and the one we see today?
Not a lot! Which is not say that I haven't changed... but if you had been a perceptive ,thoughtful friend you would have sensed the woman I would "blossom" into. I liken it to the evolution of a rose - the rose bud is not going to become a sunflower - 4 days into its evolution - it will still be rose ,even when the rose petals turn brown and wither - it will still be a rose. That's what you would have witnessed 10 years ago, the evolution of a rose. Its a change, sure, but not into something else- but a deeper, wiser, more joyous me - the one you knew when you first knew me!

Your book My Organic Soul is a combination of wisdom that encompasses religion, music, sports and includes the thoughts of everyday people as well. Where did the idea for doing the book come from?
In conversation with a friend,( who journaled) we were talking about the intersection - the influence of media/ hip hop/ religion, and consequently, "where was the book that spoke to us?" and a light went
off ! That's it - create a book/journal that would be the repository, for all that's going on - our philosophical mash-up , like a great hip-hop record!

Respected rapper and activist Chuck D wrote the foreword to the book. How did the two of you meet, and what was it like to have his blessing on the project.
Actually, I had not met Chuck D before the creation of this project- I am a fan like most ! We reached out to him, my agent, Gwen Quinn and I, and sent him the book proposal with my intro and sample of the book pages. He then went on to expound on the theme - he really got it ! That was gratifying.

People are always writing down or remembering quotes are adages that mean a great deal to them. Once the entire book had been compiled what led you to want to share it with the world by publishing it?
There was to me, a pronounced need to address the generational divide I began to sense within the ranks of post civil right group and the hip hop generation. A respect for the wisdom that both generations posess, not this resentment that sometimes wells up in intergenerational communication melt downs - i.e. Jesse Jackson vs. Barack Obama ; Ice T and the Superman rapper - there was just an unnecessary discord.

In the dedication and the promotion of the book you mention talking to yourself. Talk to our readers about how you feel that knowing oneself adds to better understanding others.
I say in the dedication that I thank my mother for her encouragement to talk to myself. She believed that I knew the answers I searched for, but I should trust myself and hold each thought captive - flip it over, deconstruct it - know from whence it came.
To hold thoughts captive and speak back to them . It is the only way to not let thoughts lead you - but to lead them.

This year Barack Obama was elected our 44th President of the United States and our first black President. One of the quotes in the book is from Public Enemy and it says "It takes a nation of milions to hold us back." With that in mind, what do you hope Obama's achievement does to encourage the same passion and drive in others?
Well the inverse of the quote is obviously true - it takes a nation of a million to lift us up too! I hope in the micro, Obama's election will provide an example to today's black man of what promise he holds, IF he emulates the values evident in Obama - separation from old ideologies that limit the woman's role,that limit the inclusion of "others", that aren't humble , a man that doesn't let EGO lead everything in his life - his relationship, his career.

We haven't seen this preeminent, iconic a black man - one whose life and background are so accessible and familiar to many black men - in a long time , if ever.

Do you have any advice for those who will read your book, pick up a pen and wonder how they can best add their own voice to its pages?
These quotes speak to each other ( which is why they are juxaposed and arranged in this order) they are the conversation that I have in my own head. And as I encounter thoughts and create my own life, I hope that readers too will have their own conversation - and it can lead anywhere! A conversation that can go anywhere! So, come on now and finish the book its your story and - It is about you - not me!

Thank you again, Jacqueline, for taking out the time to talk with us today. If our readers want to find out more information about you, how can they do so?
THANK YOU! You can Check out www.jacquelinerhinehart.com and www.myorganicsoulbook.com or www.organicsoulmarketing.com

* Recently author Jacqueline Rhinehart was a guest on Conversations LIVE! Radio. You can hear her interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/conversationslive/2008/11/07/Author-Jacqueline-Rhinehart-talks-with-Conversations-LIVE

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TAKE TEN: Bestselling author Elaine Flowers

Conversations talked with author Elaine Flowers as she was promoting her second book ITS MORNING, a collection of stories with rich characters that readers will love to discover and discuss as well as empathize with. The book was chosen as one of Conversations "25 Best Kept Literary Secrets of 2008", and during the interview she talked about her return to the literary world and how she feels about the response of the new project. Here is our conversation.

Elaine, thank you for taking out time out of your busy schedule to talk with Conversations Magazine! Before we get into your new book IT'S MORNING, begin by tell our readers a little bit about who Elaine Flowers is.
Although this is my second book, I’m still a new author on the scene. I am a divorced mother of two adult children. A full time writer and lover of everything literary.

When you were growing up, did those around you have any idea that you would take the path that you have and become an accomplished author?
No, in fact when I wrote my first book “Black Beauty“ no one in my family even knew I was writing a book and they were shocked when I told them I planned to publish it. It took me five years to finish it and I didn’t want the pressure of them asking me when the book would be finished, so I kept it to myself and wrote late at night and sometimes between clients at the salon. My family had no idea that I had any interest in writing professionally. But they have been very supportive and excited about my work. I have met other grassroots authors who say they don’t have the support of family and close friends so I don’t’ take that for granted.

One of the things I like to do when I am preparing for these interviews is research my guests so I can best serve our audience. You seem to have taken a hiatus from the literary industry before resurfacing this year with the new book. Tell our readers about your first book and why you took the break.
My first book is my baby. “Black Beauty“ is about three women and two of them work in a beauty salon named Black Beauty. When I independently published the first book I had to come out of writer mode and wear many different hats as a publisher. For me, and I’m not speaking for any other author out there who published their own work, but that took me away from the practice of writing. There is a certain element that I need to create in and I just don’t do my best work when I am running around and being overly interactive with people, as you have to do when you are busy with the business of publishing and promoting. Although “It’s Morning“ was written before “Black Beauty“ was even published there were a couple of other books that I was working on during that time off as well as searching for a publisher.

I was struck that your book IT'S MORNING has characters that are just as passionate and diverse as those created by Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins and even Danielle Steel, however, most stores will categorize you in the African-American section when shelving you. I want you to speak about your intended audience when writing and how you counter the obvious limitations that are put on authors as talented as yourself who just happen to be black.
First let me say thank you for that lovely compliment! I am going to answer this question like an artist. I do write with black readers in mind. I don’t concern myself with trying to cross over, or thinking how I can invite a more diverse group into the demographic of readers that I write for. Growing up I read many books that didn’t have characters that looked like me and I’m not bitter about that at all. One of my favorite books back in the day was “The Promise” by Danielle Steele. And like many other writers who were also avid readers growing up, I always wanted to read stories where the characters looked and behaved, culturally speaking, like me. So, this is the reason I’m moved to write what I write.

Addressing the categorizing of AA books in the stores, I would love to see them do away with that and categorize books based on genre alone. And maybe with this new shift in the atmosphere that we all witnessed this past Tuesday, eventually this can happen. And other cultures and races maybe will be more interested in us as a people and desire to read about us. I’m excited to see where this new frontier and true diversity that is obviously taking place right now is going to impact the literary world.

Let me also add, that the publisher may not share my exact views because at the end of the day it is all about book sales and if writing more diversely will sell more books then that’s what needs to happen. I don’t want to speak on behalf of Brian Smith or Hollygrove, but I believe we share the same ideas about being true to the art, which is one of the reasons we clicked so well right off the bat.

Along the lines of the last question, Elaine, I want to talk about your role in marketing and promoting. You are published through Hollygrove Publishing, a company who has been nationally recognized and respected. With that being said, the author still has a major part to play in getting their books out to the public. Let's say I am a new author on the scene. What advice would you give me?
My advice is so simple, when I share it with others who ask the same or a similar question of advice to new writers or authors they almost look at me with disappointment because they were expecting something more profound. But, my advice is this; be true to yourself, read as much as possible, and write everyday. To expound on that, I would also say not to concern yourself with the finish line—because none of us start there. Don’t worry about becoming some famous, world-renowned author and big time celebrity. And if you’re writing to become famous, forget it. That’s just the wrong attitude to have. When you write, just tell your story, give your advice, or inspire someone, depending on what kind of books you write, and don’t concern yourself with all of the other stuff.

In the music industry artists sometime talk about the "sophomore jinx" when they have experienced extraordinary success with their first project. Since you had been away for a while what did you do to prepare for your return and did you have concerns about how you would be received?
Well, I’ve never heard of the sophomore jinx, but I can tell you that I don’t overly concern myself with what others think or how me, or my work will be received. And it takes way too much work to try to be something or someone that I’m not so I don’t bother myself with that. I’m just always hopeful that the readers will embrace the voice of my characters and the stories that I write.

The reviews I have read on Amazon about the new book have been incredible. Do you read reviews, and were you surprised at the response so far?
Yes, I do read reviews. And I could not be more thrilled with what I’ve read. I wouldn’t say that I was surprised but I am truly humbled and grateful. I know for a fact that human nature suggest that when people are dissatisfied they quicker to speak up then when they are satisfied. So, I’m thrilled that readers took the time to give a review instead of just keeping it to themselves how much they enjoyed the book because I need to hear what they think in order to stay motivated to do what I do.

Success comes in many forms and varies from person to person. What is success for you today when it comes to your writing?
Success to me is the absolute enjoyment I get out of creating these characters and weaving together the stories that I tell and having readers be moved and take things personal by getting angry or totally relating to what’s happening in the books. Being able to write everyday is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. I know that other people have different ideas of success and have different ideas of success for me, but I feel successful already. The only thing I would add to the success that I’m enjoying right now is to alleviate some of the simple financial burdens I experience from writing full time. Most writers have other careers or work that they do to keep with the expense of daily living. And I am a retired hairstylist and salon owner and used to make plenty of money that came fairly easily, but you couldn’t pay me to go back to doing that. On most days I enjoy the struggle of the artist it keeps the creativity sharp I think. But then there are days that I think “okay, this isn’t fun today. I need a job!”

What would you like to say to your fans that enjoyed your first book and have stood by patiently waiting for you and the release of IT'S MORNING? Well, I’m a little uncomfortable with the title ‘fans’ so I’ll call them readers. But, I will say that I appreciate them so much. And it’s because of them that I’m motivated to keep going. And actually, the readers were waiting on my novel “Broken Appointments” which has two characters spinning off from the first novel “Black Beauty.” I kind of slipped “It’s Morning” in on them unexpectedly. But, I’m hopeful that they can look for “Broken Appointments” next year.

Thank you so much, Elaine, for your time. How can our readers find out more about you and purchase your book online?
Thank you so much for inviting me to do this interview. And, I have joined the new age and can be reached at www.myspace.com/elaineflowers . And the books are available at all booksellers, and online at www.Amazon.com or www.hollygrovepublishing.com

Bestselling author Elaine Flowers also talked to Conversations LIVE! Radio about herself and her career. Listen to the interview here:http://www.blogtalkradio.com/conversationslive/2008/11/07/Author-Elaine-Flowers-talks-with-Conversations-LIVE

Saturday, November 8, 2008

TAKE TEN with author Gary Andrew Poole

Conversations Book Club became aware of author Gary Andrew Poole in late October 2008. He is a journalist who has written for the New York Times, TIME, GQ, USA Today, and the Independent on Sunday (London), among other publications. His first book--The Galloping Ghost: Red Grange, an American Football Legend, published by Houghton Mifflin--is in bookstores. In a conversation with Cyrus A. Webb he talked about the history he made by writing the book, what success means to him and what advice he has for new and aspiring authors.

Gary, thank you for taking ten with Conversations today. Before we get into the book The Galloping Ghost, why don't you tell our readers a little about your background.
I was born and raised in Colorado. My dad worked as a geologist and so, as a kid, I spent a lot of time in remote areas with him. On those extended trips in the American West we had no television or radio so I spent a lot of time reading. After graduating college in Colorado, I moved around: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. I also went to Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and that proved to be a formative experience for me. I have many interests, but other than spending time with my family, I feel most comfortable reporting and writing stories.

You have been able to do quite a bit of writing for notable publications before this. Are your family or those who knew you growing up surprised at the direction your life as taken, especially your becoming an accomplished author?
I don't ever really talk with my friends about my writing life, or sit around drinking beers and b.s. about being an "accomplished author." I am guessing they're not super-surprised that I have written for some great publications and authored a book. People who know me have seen the evolution. I am definitely not an over-night success. My first published article was in 1987 or so, and I have been grinding ever since. I was the guy in college who was writing short stories and sending them to literary journals, and writing articles and pitching them to newspapers and magazines and working for the college paper. While I was learning on the job, I was getting published almost immediately. At night I was re-typing passages written by Tolstoy so I could get the rhythm of his language. Earlier in my career, my ambitions were definitely larger than my skill level, but I have kept at it. I have been lucky enough to write for publications like the New York Times and TIME, as well as write a book, but I learned my craft at smaller publications.
When did it hit you that writing was something you not only enjoyed but wanted to share with the world?

In most times in life, you don't have an "A-ha," moment. Life is more complicated, and nuanced than that. But in my writing life, I did have one of those life-changers. I was in college. I did not have a clue about what I wanted to become. I was considering a career in photography. I loved photography and I thought I was semi-talented, but I wasn't sure I would ever be good enough. So I thought I might become a foreign language professor, but in all honesty I was taking language classes to meet girls, and, unfortunately, I was practically flunking out of French. I was really unsure of what I would do with my life. I always loved writing and reading and I idolized writers. I just never imagined I could be one. One day in my Journalism 101 class, a newspaper columnist came and talked to us. The speech changed my life. He lead off his talk by saying he was tired and hung-over: he had spent most of the night with a celebrity, wrote up the story while listening to the Rolling Stones at full blast, and then spent the morning with a local priest: he was following around the Father as he served the under-served.

That hooked me right away. He talked about journalism and how it gives you a license, so to speak, to talk with anyone. That appealed to me. The columnist mixed curse words and literary references and he was passionate about reporting, and the importance of writing, how it can make a difference in peoples lives. He also talked about re-writing, and how writing is something that you must commit to. The whole talk resonated with me. I started reading his work: he was the type of writer who would live with homeless people and tell their stories. I still remember one winter night between semesters and I was at a truck stop after working a night shift. I was reading his column and I just started crying I was so moved by the writing. I wanted to have that sort of impact on people.

The book The Galloping Ghost marks not only the most extensive volume that has been written about Red Grange but your first book as well. Now that you are a part of history, does it surprise you what you've done?
I feel very blessed.

I had told you prior to this interview that I had never heard of Red Grange before you wrote me about your book. What was it about his life and that attracted you to the story and why did you think it was something that was relevant today?
I see Red Grange as a great American character. Grange has been called the greatest ever college football player (ESPN), and he helped bring credibility to the NFL as the pro game's first superstar. He was an excellent athlete, arguably the most important football player in history, but his story is more complicated than just his feats on the field. He wrestled with different issues, and the interesting part of sports is the back-story. Many of the issues he dealt with--poverty, money, concussions, fame, paternity suits--are issues still being discussed today. Grange is the Babe Ruth of football. But surprisingly, not much had been written about him. I wanted to write his story; I think it is a timeless one.

In a previous interview you were asked how Grange would do today playing professional football. I want to know what can those playing professional ball today learn from his life in sports.
I think pro players can read this book and get an unvarnished history of their game, they can learn about its importance to this country, and they can learn that many--if not all--of the issues Grange dealt with are still issues today.

With the subject matter and the country's love of the game, I think the obvious question to ask would be have you been approached about bringing this story alive through either a documentary or on the big screen?
I think the story would lend itself to the big screen. We're working on making that a reality.

Success is measured in different ways for different individuals and situations. How would you measure as regards to The Galloping Ghost and your writing career as a whole?
That is a difficult question and I don't know how to answer it. There are different touchstone moments: my first published article, my first New York Times piece, seeing my book in print for the first time, good reviews, getting interviewed by Bob Edwards, having my kids see my book in my local bookstore, different awards I have won. All of those are nice, of course, but for me--with The Galloping Ghost and my career--I think the journey is the reward. I find my greatest pleasure at 3 a.m. when I have re-worked a sentence 106 times, and I finally make it as perfect as I can.

It has become common practice for me to ask writers such as yourself what advice you would give to those who see your example and want to know how they can take their work to the next level.
Four-fold answer:
01: Write. Working on your craft is the most important part of being a writer. I would never tell someone to write an hour everyday, or anything so specific. Some people are disciplined, others work in spurts. I don't believe in formulas. But I think it is important to write, and that is why journalism can be a good starting point in a writing career. There are some wannabe writers who spend too much of their time worrying about getting published when they need to be working on their craft.
02: Read. I find a lot of writers are surprisingly not as well-versed as they should be in the best books, magazines, newspapers and blogs.
03: Accept rejection but stay persistent. As a writer, you will experience a lot of rejection, especially early in your career, but it is important to understand that it is incredibly competitive in the publishing world. Remember: if you work on your craft and keep improving, it becomes easier. It really isn't as much about college degrees and connections, as it is talent. Writing is very much a meritocracy.
04: Follow your passion. In all writing, but especially book-writing, it is important to follow your interests. If you're interested in football, write about football. If you adore organic farming, write about that. If you love mysteries, write mysteries. It takes a tremendous amount of work and commitment to write a book; you have to string together 130,000 words.

Thank you so much for your time, Gary. If our listeners want to find out more about you, the book or just share their feedback with you, how can they do so?
Thanks, Cyrus. For more information about my book, you can go to my Website: www.garyandrewpoole.com. To contact me, email is best: info@garyandrewpoole.com

TAKE TEN with author Monica Marie Jones

Driven and determined, author Monica Marie Jones has given readers exactly what they would want in a page-turner: a relatable storyline, relatable characters and discussion points that will bring both sexes together for an honest assessment of who they are and what they want. Moderated by Conversations Book Club founder Cyrus A. Webb, the author shared what have been her ingredients for success. Here is their conversation.

· Monica, thanks for taking out a few moments to share your thoughts during this "Take Ten" interview. Before we get into your book FLOSS why don't you tell our readers a little about yourself.
Well first and foremost I am a word lover! So in addition to FLOSS I have also written and published an inspirational fiction novel called The Ups and Downs of Being Round and a poetry book called Taste My Soul. I was also a contributing author in New Directions for Youth Development and Chicken Soup for the Girls Soul. When I am not writing I am reading voraciously. I also absolutely love to travel and exercise. I either teach or take kickboxing classes at least five days a week! I love to dance and have been studying various forms of dance including ballet, tap, jazz and liturgical for over twenty years now!

· You recently were interviewed on our radio show and you shared with me how personal your first book, THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BEING ROUND, was to you. Did you have the intention to make your sophomore project as revealing?
Releasing a book that is close to the heart is both liberating and frightening. FLOSS was based on some things that I observed and experienced but it was nowhere near as personal as The Ups and Downs of Being Round. As I grow in my writing I hope to take my fictional books further away from my personal experiences which will force me to do my research!

· There are many who find the actual writing process to be the easiest when compared to the marketing that has to be done. What are your thoughts on the two?
Marketing in itself is a full time job! I find myself spending far more time marketing my existing books than I do writing new ones. I would love to find more of a balance. My ideal situation is to be in a position where I have a staff that can handle all of the marketing and public relations so that I can just sit back and focus on the writing part of it.

· FLOSS was the first book that I have read of yours. As a man it was great for me to read a book that took into account the feeling of both sexes. Since so many book clubs are mainly women, do you think it would be a good idea for co-ed groups to come together and discuss the issues that you address in the book?
FLOSS definitely has some great conversation starters for co-ed groups. I would encourage book groups that are comprised of all women to invite some men to read the book and join them for them for a juicy discussion! I would be glad to provide discussion questions for such an occasion.

· What has surprised you so far when it comes to how people have responded to your two books?
With the Ups and Downs of Being Round, in my mind, I was just writing a book based on my experience. I was surprised that it was totally received as inspirational fiction and I was particularly happy to see that it really spoke to a lot of young women and girls. I have been told by many that it really moved them to action when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes.

With FLOSS, my surprise came with how well received it was by men. I always felt like I had a gift for tapping into the male psyche, but that was just my own opinion. My opinions were confirmed when I began to get feedback and reviews from men saying how much they enjoyed and related to the book.

· One of the things that struck me about you, Monica, was that you said in our radio interview that you were so into writing that you made the decision to do it full-time. Not all who write have that same passion, even though they want to be taken more seriously. What would you say to that group?
All that I have to say is that it’s possible and the fulfillment that you receive when you live your purpose and your passion is priceless. It’s not easy, but the challenge makes it that much more fun. There is no better feeling than waking up in the morning and knowing that all that you have to do is what you love to do. If you believe in yourself and work as hard for yourself as you work for others (i.e. your boss or the company that you work for) you will reap the benefits…AND others will believe in you too.

· With any career, there are goals in mind. When others look back at your writing career, what do you hope they say about you?
I hope that others look back at me and say that they were encouraged, inspired, educated, motivated and entertained. Not only by my writing, but also by my motivational speaking and by my being a living example of what it means to truly live in your purpose by pursuing your passion.

· I know you are busy promoting both books at this time, but can you tell our readers what is in store for you in the New Year?
There are SEVERAL things in store for the New Year. I plan to continue to tour to promote my existing books. I am currently working on four more novels and another poetry book and I hope to release at least two of them in the New Year. I am going to take some classes to learn how to write screen plays. I am also working on developing a talk show (TV) and a radio show.

· Thank you for your time, Monica. If our readers would like to find out more information about you where would you suggest they go online to do so?
For more information readers can visit my website at www.moncamariejones.com, my MySpace pages at www.myspace.com/monicamariejones.com or www.myspace.com/flossthenovel, I am also on Facebook, Tagged, and Twitter, all under the same name, Monica Marie Jones, and finally I can be reached via email at monicamjones@hotmail.com

When in doubt, just type Monica Marie Jones into the Google search bar and you will find me.

· Finally, what would you like to say to your fans and those who will read your books after this interview?
Thank you for supporting my dream. I used to write in my journal but then I felt led to share my experiences and thoughts with the hopes that my words might encourage, educate, inspire, motivate and entertain others. It is my hope that my book left you with one, if not all of those things. I appreciate you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"Take Ten" with author/playwright M. G. Hardie

All the world is a stage---well at least author/playwright M. G. Hardie sees it that way. In his book/play EVERY DAY LIFE he takes us into the lives of four friends as they address the issues of the world while becoming aware of more issues of their own. Hardie talks about that, the work that goes into promoting a work like his and why he will continue despite the hate that comes his way. Here is our conversation.

M. G., Thank you for taking out time to talk with Conversations. Before we get into our writing career and the book EVERY DAY LIFE, tell our readers a little about yourself.
First of all thank you Cyrus for the opportunity to be interviewed by Conversations. I appreciate the review as well, you were much too kind. You are doing an excellent job of getting the word out on a wide range of authors. I call Cali my home and I have written fiction stories, sci-fi, and a whole lot of poems all unpublished. I have been a lifeguard, played semi-pro basketball. I have even written and filmed movies in school. Oh, I have a couple degrees and once I even dropped a rap album in 1999 that went nickel.

You have recently released your debut book EVERY DAY LIFE. What has the publishing and marketing aspect has been like for you?
It has been one learning experience after the other. Writing the book was the easy part. As a writer I am glad I went through the process instead of being told what to do or what to expect.

Can you give us an idea of the things that inspire your stories?
I am inspired by just about everything. I love talking to people especially women because they do tend to stick together, but they don’t always agree. I love good movies, poems, music, and my children inspire my stories. When I looked at what was missing from the market and I saw that EveryDay Life would be the first to fill the gap I used that as inspiration.

Is there any amount of M. G. in any or all the characters?
At sometime or another in my life I have been all of the characters. As you noted in your review that EveryDay Life is listed as Non-Fiction, yet it is a play. I didn’t do that as some sort of gimmick, the people in EveryDay Life actually do exist and at that time they actually did most of the things that are portrayed in the book.
What about the actual story itself. Can you give us an idea of what you decided to tell this story and after making the decision why did you decide to write it as a play?

If you step back and look at life it is as if we are on the world’s biggest stage and all of us are players on that stage. These are real and serious issues and I really didn’t see anyone dealing with this subject matter. These are the types of subjects intelligent people should be discussing not glossing over. EveryDay Life does make you laugh but it also leaves you with a lot of things to talk about. It takes courage for men to share their feelings and thoughts. What everyone has experienced is valid, but when you start talking about how men feel no one wants to hear it.

A lot of what is out there has already been done, where is the challenge in that? So I took the road least travelled. Why does a Play have to be fictional? If we followed rules all the time we wouldn’t be talking about Barack now. So when someone says that you can’t do something because of the rules, the most important question should be “Why?” Why do I have to follow what is done by other people? I’m MG.
An EveryDay Life example of that would be that most historians say that Hip-Hop began in the 70’s or even in ’68, but EveryDay Life contends that it started long before that and who the characters list as rappers is even more surprising. EveryDay Life asks the questions how is it that a human being born in America can be called a minority, and furthermore how is it possible that we have accepted this label or any other label. Being different does not necessarily mean that you are wrong.

Many authors I talk with are surprised as to how much leg work they still have to do in order to make sure their book doesn't just fade into the background. How are you making sure that this is not the case with your book and that it can go far?
I was surprised by the amount of time that goes into that aspect of being an author. I approached this as any other challenge, Plan and Adapt. I drive to fairs, go to book stores, send emails, post on sites and network with others. EveryDay Life is even in music stores and that is exactly where it should be... in the Hip-Hop section.

Out of the four characters, which one would you say reminds you the most of who you represent today and why?
I would say that the L reminds me the most of me today, but they all are a piece of me. These characters actually live they don’t just exist in my book. Some readers may know someone like E, or perhaps they may have been like C at one time in their life. In EveryDay Life you’ll find truth, characters and themes you have never seen written about before and they are not just from the male perspective and in many ways they are universal.

In a review that I recently wrote about your book, I said it was a mixture of the movies THE WOOD and THE BEST MAN along with the humor of your favorite Tyler Perry movie. Would you agree or disagree?
Tyler Perry...Who? Not really Tyler Perry has done a lot in a relatively short amount of time. He has got people watching Plays and looking at themselves in a much deeper way and it says a lot to be compared to him. If you throw in some Seinfeld, Friday, Pulp Fiction, Do the Right Thing and stir in some Boys in the Hood let it marinate for six to seven hours, while listening to Tupac after you read A Raisin in the Sun then you’ll have EveryDay Life.

What do you hope readers of Every Day Life get from the book, whether they are male or female?
My hope was to bring more males into reading literature and also to have more females understand our point of view. I want males and females alike to enjoy EveryDay Life through opening up dialogue. My book probably brings up issues you didn’t even know you had. I intended EDL to be a conversation starter so I put a lot of humor in it so I could talk about larger Black-American issues. There are many messages to be dug up between the pages of EveryDay Life.

Can you give us an idea of what is on the horizon for you?
Although I have been hated on I will continue to get EveryDay Life to the masses. I am also looking to work with Hip-Hop artist and Entertainment companies that could help me bring EveryDay Life to a stage or a screen near you. So Diddy if you are reading this EveryDay Life is the new frontier for Hip-Hop.

Thank you again for your time, M. G. If our readers want to get in contact with you, how can they do so?
Visit me on my site Myspace.com/mghardie I am also on Black Planet, GoodReads.com and a number of other sites. To schedule and interview hit me up at MGhardie@Yahoo.com. Be sure to go out a get a copy of EveryDay Life laugh and discuss, send me a review, or comment on my page. Thank You again for having me.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Take Ten" with author Tinisha Nicole Johnson

Mystery lovers can now add another author to their list of must-reads with the release of SEARCHABLE WHEREABOUTS by Tinisha Nicole Johnson. Conversations Book Club was pleased to add the title to their list of "Readers Choice Selections", and was glad to have the ability to talk with the new author. Due to schedule conflicts with the book club president and host of Conversations LIVE!, Cyrus A. Webb, Tinisha's interview on the radio show had to be rescheduled. In the meantime, Webb and Johnson were able to get together to give readers this exclusive "Take Ten" interview.

Tinisha, thank you for taking out time to talk with Conversations. I know we have been missing each other for the radio show, but I appreciate your taking out time to share with our readers about yourself and your book. Let's start with Tinisha the author. When did your love of reading and books begin?
No problem Cyrus, thank you for providing me with the opportunity to interview with you. My love for reading and books started at the age of eleven. At that time English was my favorite subject and poetry was my new-found hobby.

When you look back over the years, do you think those who knew you best would be surprised that you are a writer today?
Probably not. I’ve enjoyed writing for some time now. After spending many years writing poetry, I moved on to short-stories, then articles and now novels.

While reading your book SEARCHABLE WHEREABOUTS, I was struck as to how universal the story is, meaning it could apply to characters of any race or in any location. Was that part of the goal?
I wouldn’t say it was part of the goal, and thank you, I’m glad you consider it to be universal. My goal was to write a mystery – period. I enjoy watching mystery shows and movies. My favorite old-school shows were Kojak and Murder She Wrote. So basically, I thought I’d take it upon myself to see if I could write a mystery.

Even though the country has progressed in its thinking about a level playing field among the sexes, do you find that you have to work harder as a woman to get your voice heard?
I’d say yes and to make it even more of a challenge, I haven’t always been an outspoken person. While a child, I was very shy and quiet. And some of that quietness has followed me. I consider myself a laid-back type of person.

Tinisha, what you have done is truly amazing. To have your debut novel picked up by a publisher is a dream that many authors have. After you wrote the book, how did you go about shopping it around for publication?
I sent out several query letters to agents and publishers. Finding someone to publish my novel was actually harder than writing the novel itself.

I often ask authors what their goal is by sharing their stories, so I want to ask the same of you. Why did you feel as though your story needed to be told?
For me, writing is who I am. I’ve been doing it for a long time although, my novel Searchable Whereabouts is my first published novel. However, almost four years ago, when I started writing Searchable Whereabouts, I knew there were not a lot of African American’s writing mystery novels. I searched for them. Actually the only two people I knew of that wrote mysteries were Walter Mosley and Valerie Wilson Wesley. So for me, it was that much more important for me to finish the book.

Share with our readers some of the feedback you have gotten about the book.
I’ve gotten really really good feedback and I’ve gotten just okay feedback. Honestly, it seems like more white people liked my book than blacks. I was really shocked at that. But then again, like I said before, there aren’t that many African American authors, therefore, not that many African American mystery fans.

What advice would you offer to aspiring authors that are out there who may be looking for the answer as to what they should do after writing their story?
Well, after they write their story, they should network with other authors, and they should get it edited, whether that’s getting it proofread, joining a critique group, attending a writer’s conference or what have you. After that, it’s really up to author what route they want to take. They could either try to self-publish it, find an agent or find a publisher. For me, trying to self-publish was way too much work. I wanted to find a publisher.

And what would you like to say to your fans out there or those who might pick up the book after reading this interview?
I first want to thank them and then I would love if the ones who haven’t purchased my book would go to Amazon.com and do so. I also would love if those who read it, would leave me a review and visit my website and leave a comment for me either on Myspace or in my guest book.

Thank you for your time, Tinisha, and I look forward to having you on the radio show, Conversations LIVE!, real soon. In the meantime, how can readers find out more about you online?
People can reach me by visiting my website: www.tinishanicolejohnson.com Thank you again for interviewing me Cyrus and a big hello to all who are reading this interview.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

TAKE TEN: Bestselling author LaTonya Williams

In March 2008 readers breathed a sigh of relief with the release of Bestselling author LaTonya Williams' new book Messin' Up. Known for not disappointing, she gave us exactly what we have been waiting on: a book that kept the pages turning 'til the end. So what has it been like to experience her success? What has she learned from her readers about what they expect? And most importantly, what does she hope readers get from her newest literary contribution. Read her interview with Conversations to find out the answer to these questions and more!

LaTonya, thanks for taking out the time to speak with Conversations. You have been very privileged to enjoy the success of three novels: MIXED MESSAGES, MAKE YOU LOVE ME and MISSED OPPORTUNITIES and now you have the new book out this year MESSIN' UP. Does it ever just hit you what you have been able to accomplish in the past few years?
It is truly amazing that I went from aspiring writer to a published author. It's a huge blessing.

When you write, do you find that it is more for your enjoyment or for your fans?
Writing a novel begins as a completely selfish process. During the final edits, I do think about my readers, because I want to deliver an enticing story that is entertaining.

Your novels really bring to the fore the lengths that people will take to get what they want, especially in relationships. Why do think people work so hard to get others to love us rather than we try to learn how to love ourselves?
To love ourselves takes a tremendous amount of work and reflection. It is far easier to want to gain the attention and love from others, since we want immediate gratification. However, when we learn that we will never appreciate love and we still feel that emptiness, then we seek out the knowledge to obtain it.

Though you are published through URBAN BOOKS, do you still try to have a hand in the way your work is marketed or promoted?
Absolutely. Any writer that wants to actually sell books needs to be involved in all aspects. Also, I spend a great deal of my own money to promote as well.

We live in a generation where sex sells, especially in books. Judging a book by its cover is something that we are all guilty of, especially those of us who read a great deal. Did you find yourself at odds with the powers that be when it comes to the covers of your books?
I love all of my covers, so it has never been an issue for me.

I'm always curious as to the reaction authors get from their books from readers who have been following their career. Tell us about the feedback from MISSED OPPORTUNITES versus MAKE YOU LOVE ME?
The readers hated the cover for Make You Love Me, and I loved it. I didn't understand it at first. Soon, we (publisher and myself) learned that any cover that resembles a romance novel will not appeal to my audience. Once the book clubs raved about the book, then the sales went through the roof. That was a tough lesson. All of the readers loved the cover for Missed Opportunities.

You address a great deal of social issues in your books. In MISSED OPPORTUNITES, was there a certain message you wanted to convey to the reader?
Years ago, I worked at a data entry company. I hated the job, but loved my co-workers, who were dealing with a lot of issues. The experience was too juicy not to write about. Also, I wanted to write about the issues of obesity, drug addiction, and the dangers of internet dating. It was important to me to write a book that was realistic. It will make readers think twice about the women they work with and the lives they lead behind closed doors.

Can you tell us what is the largest misconception when it comes to authors who have books in bookstores and large retail outlets? Do you think it takes that kind of exposure to give the author credibility?
For me, that was the case. It took a year before Mixed Messages went into mainstream distribution. It was hell trying to sell those first 10,000 copies. I did book signings in every black bookstore that was willing to carry my book. Whenever I approached black folks about my book, the first question was whether or not the book could be purchased in Borders, and if it was available from Black Expressions. The minute I answered a "no", some turned away. I understand that people want to be careful when spending hard earned dollars on a new author. However, there were many that purchased. I am very grateful to them.

Tell us about Messin' Up. What can our readers expect?
Messin' Up is the highly anticipated follow up to my second book, Make You Love Me. It centers around Daneisha, who is the daughter to the beloved character LeQuisha. The story picks up from Daneisha becoming a teenaged mother and moving in with her adult boyfriend, who just so happens to be a well-known street pharmacist.

Thank you again for your time. How can our readers find out more information about you and your upcoming projects?
My website is www.latonyawilliams.com. Thank you for the interview. Many blessings!

Monday, September 8, 2008

TAKE TEN: Author T. L. James

Not to be stereotyped as just another African American author on the scene, Author T. L. James is poised to give writers of all races and genres a run for their money when it come to true talent. Hailing from Texas, she has created a cast of characters that will leave you wondering how you managed to survive as a reader without the fresh ideas and storylines that she creates. So how did what began as one storyline develop into an intricate trilogy? What part does the author's own faith play in the series' development? All this and more is discussed in this conversation.

1. TL, first I would like to thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. We have a lot we want to cover, but I have to ask you about your career as an author first.
Writing is my outlet for my emotions from both work and home. It also serves as my entertainment. I spend about 20-30 hours a week writing or researching background information to support the stories I have outlined. I’m a commercial analyst by day and a full-time mother.

2. How does it feel to see the characters you created in your mind now make the transition to the written word all over the world?
Amazing and empowering. But the best part is hearing the responses from my readers and the anticipation in their voices for the second installment, Death Cometh.

3. Your characters are not traditional in any sense of the word. Where did the idea come from to write this type of series?
I wanted to write about a powerful black family whose history and roots were deep and enchanting. I also wanted to write something that was out of the ordinary and I wanted it to be a family saga. Many people write about ghosts, and vampires, but I wanted to tap into something that wasn’t really apparent. Being one of the horsemen is definitely a family saga.

4. If you had to pinpoint one thing about Mallory Haulm and his family that made you feel as though the story would work, what would it be?
It was the uniqueness of the family. The family is headed by educated men who love their wives and they protect their family’s history. They know their roots and they’ll go through great lengths to ensure the fate of the world is right, though sometimes it may seem unjust.

5. Writing for publication in itself is ambitious, but you have already outlined two additional books to continue The MPire series. Do you feel any pressure to live up to a certain expectations when it comes to your next work?
The pressure definitely exists, since I keep hearing that sequels and trilogies tend to fizzle out towards the end. I find comfort in knowing that The MPire Trilogy originally began as one story. The consistency of the characters and the storyline throughout the installments is present. With that said, my hope is that readers who enjoyed In Search of the Lost will love Death Cometh and The Trinity of Mallory Haulm, since it is a continuation of one story.

6. I'm sure you are asked all the time where the idea for The MPire Trilogy came from. For the sake of our readers, share the concept with us.
The MPire Trilogy is premised on an enchanted journey into family drama, corporate greed and scandals and epics wars older that Revelations.
The trilogy begins in The MPire: In Search of the Lost. Readers are introduced to the erotic and sensual picture perfect world of a rich and handsome “Texas Englishman”, Mallory Towneson Haulm. His world collides with reality when he is summoned to return to the family that cast him away when he was seven. This gives way to much of the family drama, on the surface, but as the story progresses readers will quickly learn that there is much more to the Haulm family.

7. There are biblical references laced throughout the book, affecting the main characters and those in which they come in contact. I'm curious as to how much of your faith and beliefs made it into the book.
None; however I used a lot of my personal and education experience with the Old and the New Testament, along with historical research about Armageddon to craft the plot in The MPire Trilogy.

8. 2008 is proving to be a big year for you, promoting IN SEARCH OF THE LOST and preparing for the second book DEATH COMETH. What can you tell us about what's next for you and the characters you have created?
Readers can expect Death Cometh in the fall. In this installment, they will receive “personal invitation” inside the Haulm family. As Mallory reluctantly accepts his destined charged; readers will witness Mallory’s attempts to balance his earthly paradise with his diabolical calling.

9. We always try to get advice for our readers that may be interested in writing the story that is in their head or that they have thought about. What would you tell them from what you have learned in your own career?
Write for your enjoyment. Write to make yourself laugh, cry and express anger. Write for you. Don’t write based on a formula or for someone else’s enjoyment. Doing this will result in a story that can’t fail; because it will already a success in your heart.

10. Thank you for your time, T. L. How can our readers keep in touch with you as well as find out about your upcoming projects online?
Readers can go on my website, www.authortljames.com, and check out events, reviewers, excerpts and book trailers. They can purchase an autographed copy of book from my website and receive a free gift. I’m also on Amazon and in Borders, Barnes and Nobles stores. If it’s not in a bookstore near you, ORDER IT!

Monday, September 1, 2008

TAKE TEN: Author Recha Peay

Author Recha Peay has been on the national scene for approxiamately three years, and already she has given us a body of writings that will stay around for quite some time. She began working with Conversations in early 2007, and already the two have organized not only this interview but her touring schedule as well. Now with the success of her new book, ILLUSION OF LOVE, Peay talks with her fans and authors about her career, the role of journals in her writing process and how what she loves remain a test for her to fully promote. This is our conversation.

Recha, we came in contact with other in 2007, and I am glad we were finally able to share you for with the Conversations audience. Before we get into your newest book ILLUSION OF LOVE, I want you to tell our readers a little about yourself.
Before we start I would like to take the time to thank you for this opportunity. Also I would like to thank family, friends and book clubs for their support.

I currently reside outside of Memphis, Tennessee. I have two wonderful children Ebone age 19 and Frederick age 15. I'm employed full-time as a Medical Technologist and I manage to write whenever and wherever I can.

I have read your first two books, MYSTERY OF A WOMAN and INTIMATE BETRAYAL, and it seems as though you really have a grasp on getting the reader in touch with your characters. Is that something that comes easy for you or is that just part of the craft you have developed?
Visualizing the character comes easy but developing them into individuals with true to life physical traits and characteristics can be challenging. By far I'm my own worse critic as I examine then re-examine each project for future improvements.

Looking back at your beginnings as a writer, was there a time when it really just clicked with you that this was something you wanted to do for life?
Since the 9th grade becoming a full-time author has been a dream. In high school I wrote poetry and short stories. After graduation I wanted to major in English with a minor in Communications but was side tracked when my vision was doubted. Never letting go of my dream I majored in Biology eventually obtaining a B.S. in Medical Technology.

Writing was a passion so I kept a journal with me at all times. Years later news of a job closing propelled me to finish my first project 'Mystery of a Woman'. Then I knew I wanted to do it for life.

Alot of authors reveal that their first work includes a great deal about themselves and those around them. Your first book dealt with a violent assault on the main character. Tell our readers where the idea came from and what the reaction has been to such a jarring storyline for a debut novel.
'Mystery of a Woman' started as a collection of poetry. If read from start to finish the poetry represented a female that had overcome an insurmountable circumstance. During a moment of meditation the first chapter of my novel played out in my mind like a movie. All I had to do was write it down and develop it from that point.

Yes, the storyline was jolting but not unbelievable as there are so many violent rape cases. In particularly those that go unreported for whatever reason. For me it was an eye opener when I had so many readers approach me with similar situations.

Ironically my first book wasn't about me or any one around me. How it affected my family members still makes me laugh as several of them tried to find themselves within the plot. I hated to disappoint them but all of my characters were indeed fiction.

Your books are published through Urban Soul, an imprint began by New York Times Bestselling author Carl Weber. How did the two of you meet, and how does it feel to have such a powerful literary family around you with Urban Books?
I met Carl Weber through my agent Kimberly Matthews. I was fortunate in the fact that Urban Soul was a new imprint and they were still recruiting authors. The door opened and I but all ran through it. Working with them has been fantastic and I don't regret making the decision.

In the recording industry there is always talk about the sophomore jinx when it comes to following up a strong debut. Where you in any way concerned about that with the release of INTIMATE BETRAYAL?
Honestly, I was very nervous about the release of my second project 'Intimate Betrayal'. Even though I was dealing with a different plot and new characters I wanted my readers to become emotionally involved in the plot.

I'm curious about the lessons you learned between the two releases, Recha. What did you do differently when it came to promoting the second book that you didn't know to do with the first?
With both novels I basically used the same marketing techniques ie...booksignings and internet marketing. I'm a new author and knew I had to use several marketing techniques simulataneoulsy to develop my readership. I've realized that word of mouth is by far your greatest tool.

Your third book ILLUSION OF LOVE seems to once again address the issue of relationships. Tell our readers about it.
At an annual Christmas party an image of perfection stepped into Tatiana's life. From the outside looking in, Courtney McAdams appeared to have it all; career, good looks and charming personality. Nine months later they were married, moving into a suburban dream home and planning to start a family. His request for her to quit teaching art at the elementary school to become a full-time wife and mother seemed ideal when he revealed plans to convert an extra bedroom into an art studio. With all they'd accomplished she felt obligated and realized a child would be the most perfect gift any wife could give a husband. Courtney, on the other hand had a different agenda. Overcome by greed, Courtney and his best friend record sexually explicit adult videos and sell them on the internet. Having children was never in his plan and marrying Tatiana was only a cover to protect his image.

What can we expect differently from you with the new book that maybe we didn't see as much of in the first two?
In book number three I was inclined to step outside of the box a little more and create bolder characters.

Recha, this has truly been a pleasure. Here is your chance to make your sales pitch to our readers. Why should they go out and get a Recha G. Peay novel on their next trip to the bookstore?
I'm a new author with a new voice whose not afraid to deal with topics that seem tabu. 'Mystery of a Woman' delves into the psyche of a young female that was violated in her own home. 'Intimate Betrayal' takes you deep into a twisted love triangle. 'Illusion of Love' explores a favorite cliche if it's too good to be true then it is.

We appreciate this opportunity to connect you with your fans and new readers. Tell our audience how they can find out more about you online as well as purchase your books.
Cyrus, again thanks for this opportunity. Anyone interested in connecting with me should visit my website www.rechagpeay.com. I would love to hear from you guys. Books maybe purchased from my website www.rechagpeay.com, www.amazon.com, www.urbanbooks.net www.blackexpressions.com or any book retailer.


Author Peron Long is not waiting on others to establish his success. Everyday of his life he is constanting grinding, determinied to make sure you know who he is. The 38 year old from Rock Hill, South Carolina has a real story to tell about how he has achieved the success he has attained-- and you would do well to listen to it.

Peron, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. Before we get into your book PULPIT CONFESSIONS, I want to get your reaction to the success you have experienced since it was published. Have you been surprised at the response from readers?
I have been extremely surprised at the response received of Pulpit Confessions. My first thoughts were that those who are fans of Christian Fiction would want to hang me from a cross and those who were not fans of Christian Fiction would write PC off as just another “preacher done wrong” story.

You thank a lot of family in the acknowledgements for the book. Would you say they are surprised at how the book has been received and is a career as an author something they would have expected from you?
No one who actually knows me is surprised at my career. Most of my family members often remind me of how as a child I would lock myself in my room for hours never coming out with the exception to use the bathroom. When my parents would punish me they often did so by taking away all of my paper, pencils, pens and books and they would force me outside to play.

One of the things that intrigues me about your book is the fact that it takes the reader into the motivations of someone who is in a position of power. Tell us how the idea for the book developed and what your motivation was for writing it?
My inspiration for this novel was based on the current state of today’s Spiritual community. Over the past couple of years we have seen the fall of congregations due to the acts of Man. My goal while writing PC was to show a more humanistic side of those viewed as the epitome of Righteousness.

PULPIT CONFESSIONS is a layered story that evaluates what happens when individuals don't live out their truth. As the story developed, is there one character in particular that seemed to take on its own life and control the way they were portrayed?
There are a few characters that I believe really stood out and took control but I would have to say that the one that really stood out to me was the youngest Sabrina, the oldest daughter of Raymond Jr. and Katherine. She didn’t have much dialogue but when she spoke for me she spoke volumes. I am actually in the process of developing a storyline for her in the sequel SINFUL WAYS.

Your first book was IF IT AIN'T RIGHT IT'S WRONG. Tell us about it and how it is different from your current release.
IF IT AIN’T RIGHT IT’S WRONG was basically your typical boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, an ex from the boys past comes back into the picture with a child and boy and girl have problems. Although I enjoyed writing it and believe it is a great story, I can’t say that I wrote it where it actually stood out amongst books in its genre. Now with PULPIT that story actually stands out and yells; “Jesus, My Lord!” HaHaHa.

Peron, how did you believe yourself that there was a market for your book? How did you go about submitting it for publication and what led you to Xpress Yourself Publishing?
I believed there was a market for PULPIT mainly because it gives the reader a traditional Christian story tapped with unconventional Christian antics. Those of us who have chosen to walk a Christian path often times don’t get the opportunity to read books or even watch Christian based movies/TV shows that capture many of the trials and tribulations of that walk in a way that does not beat us up or condemn us to hell.

Because of some of the language and explicit scenes written in PULPIT, many Christian Houses would not accept it. After talking to a couple of Xpress Yourself Publishing authors, I decided to take a chance and submit.

A lot of people who write believe that once they are with a publisher they don't have to work as hard in promoting it as a self published author might, however, you are constantly on the grind with PULPIT CONFESSIONS. Why is that?
I made up in my mind 5 years ago that I am in this for the long haul. I can’t create a fan base without being on my grind getting my face and work in front of the eyes of readers. It’s very important not to get lazy and believe that people will support your work because it’s published by a major house. As an author it’s still our responsibility to make ourselves/our work visible.

Other than promoting your current release, what is next for you?
I am currently in the early stages of promoting my March 09 release LIVIN’ AIN’T EASY, published by Urban Books along with working on my current project THE FIRST PERSON

There will be aspiring authors that will read this interview, Peron, and wonder how they can take that next step to get published. What would you tell them?
The first thing I would say is do your research. Research your own work by reading works in the same genre. Be sure to create a style of writing that will be unique and stand out in your genre. Don’t be afraid to take risk. Also research publishing houses that you would like to submit to and also think of self-publishing avenues. The most important thing I could say is DO NOT GIVE UP! You may receive 100 rejections before 1 maybe. Do not allow rejections to dictate your path.

Thank you for your time. If our readers want to find out more about you online or purchase your books, how can they do so?
Cyrus, first I would like to say thank-you for allowing me this opportunity to reach more readers and tell a lil bit about me It’s extremely appreciated! I can be found at www.peronflong.com, www.myspace.com/lilsouthernboy, www.xpressyourselfpublishing.org PULPIT CONFESSIONS can be purchased from my personal website, the Xpress Yourself Publishing Site as well as all bookstores and all sites on the web that sell books!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

TAKE TEN with International Bestselling author Father Andrew M. Greeley

When it comes to discussing international bestselling authors today, it is impossible not to include Father Andrew M. Greeley. He has produced over 50 bestselling novels over the past few decades, and I have had the pleasure to read and enjoy 15 of them myself. His tales of the lives of those who devote themselves to the service of the church have sparked dialogue and controversy almost from the beginning of his career. But there has been a positive side to his career and success as well. When talking about Greeley, Reverend Ron Rolheiser said this: "Nobody has ever left the church because of an Andrew Greeley novel, but many have been attracted back to it by him." Why is that, you might ask. Read this exclusive interview to find out.--- Cyrus A. Webb, Conversations Magazine

Father Greeley, we appreciate your taking out the time to talk with TAKE TEN today. Having enjoyed numerous bestselling novels and praise from around the world for the stories you create, do you see your writing career as an extension of your ministry?
Not so much an extension as an essential part of my ministry.

When did you know that you were such a gifted storyteller? Did you come from a family of readers?
I don't know that I'm a gifted story teller. I must leave that to others like yourself to judge. Both my parents read and both like to tell stories.

I have been curious for sometime about was there any one individual along your literary journey that inspired you to write and then seek to be published. Can you share with us what led to your submitting your first written work?
The late Bernard Geiss, a "packager" of novels, urged me to write a story about two young men who grew up to be priests. The Cardinal Sins emerged from that suggestion.

I became a fan of yours some 10 years ago, and I can say that one of the things that I loved about your work was how you allowed us to see the human side of people carrying out God's work on earth. Do you think we sometimes forget that the people carrying his message are prone to the same mistakes as the rest of us?
Many people expect perfection from their clergy and are shocked and dismayed when they see not perfection, but humanity. Sometimes the clergy abet this by pretending to be perfect.

Your work doesn't seem to try and protect anyone from scrutiny as we saw in THE CARDINAL SINS and PRIESTLY SINS. How much do you think the scandals of the Catholic church were worsen by the denial of any wrongdoing?
They were certainly made worse by constant denial. Why should anyone believe a bishop any more.

I know from talking to other fans of yours that regardless what their faith, you books strike a chord with all types of readers. What do you contribute that to?
I don't know how to answer that question. Apparently I write stories that many different kinds of people like to read. On the other hand I get lots of hate mail.

In a world where marketing is everything and the literary community is having to compete in a sense between itself, has there been the pressure to change the formula that has enthralled your readers for so long?
Only once when someone suggested that I set the novels somewhere besides Chicago, like maybe Denver. With all due respect to Denver, I declined. Chicago is a character in the stories. I've had a few helpful suggestions from editors and publishers, but they did not involve a change in style.

The Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rawling seemed to captivate readers of all ages. What are your thoughts about the impact the Harry Potter franchise has had in encouraging young people to give reading a try?
A lot of young people gobbled up the stories about Master Potter. Whether they will read more because of those books, I'm not sure. Better that they get lots of good example from their parents.

Father Greeley, alot of authors that we speak to have an experience that has encouraged them to keep going when it comes to their careers. What does it for you?
I never once thought about abandoning the telling of stories. I am always encouraged by people like you who understand what the stories are about -- comedies of grace.

Thank you again for sharing a few moments with Conversations. We appreciate your time. You’re welcome, Cyrus. Thank you for the work you are doing to educate and encourage reading.

Additional information about Father Andrew M. Greeley can be found at http://www.agreeley.com.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Take Ten" with author Valerie Wilson Wesley

Bestselling author Valerie Wilson Wesley grew up an army brat who moved around to different places. Now she is a celebrated novelist who has been featured all over the country and beyond through the stories that she weaves together. No matter what she has done in her life, she has always been a lover of words and it shows in her newest book OF BLOOD AND SORROW that Conversations read this year, a book that is part of the Tamara Hayle mystery series. So who is this woman that has enthralled readers with her universal characters? She gives you a clear glimpse in this exclusive interview.

Valerie, it has been a long time coming. Thank you for taking out time to speak with Conversations. For those who aren’t familiar with your work, why don’t you tell our readers a little about yourself.
I’ve had several careers, but I’ve always been a writer. I’m a former teacher, an editor at Scholastic News, and I was executive editor of Essence magazine for a number of years. I wrote my first novel, Where Do I Go From Here for young adults in 1992; it’s no longer in print. When Death Comes Stealing, the first mystery of my Tamara Hayle series came out in the mid-1990s and Of Blood and Sorrow, the eighth Tamara Hayle, was published last year. In between mysteries, I’ve written three novels, Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do, Always True to You in My Fashion, and Playing My Mother’s Blues as well a the Willimena Rules! series for children.

With many books under your belt, the main character of your mysteries, Tamara Hayle, has been celebrated by readers and critics alike. What do you think about her has resonated with so many readers?
I think that many readers find themselves, or parts of themselves, in Tamara Hayle. She’s a single mom coping with raising a teen-age son alone, no easy task these days, yet she always manages to take care of business–make a living, care for her child, and solve her case. And she does it with style and a sense of humor. She also manages to find a little love on the side. too, which always adds some zing.

Readers tell me they like her because she’s funny and tough, the kind of friend everyone needs in their life. People often ask me how I found her character. Truth is, she’s a bit of all the women I admire–my sister, friends, and all the smart, savvy women I knew at Essence.

Speaking of the critics, there have been reviews of your novels in some of the most celebrated media outlets in the business. Has it surprised you that your career has been so highly praised?
It’s always a delight to get a good review, but I’ve certainly had my share of bad ones. You take what you can use from each review–good or bad–and then go on to the next book. The important thing for a writer to remember is that she has to be her toughest critic. My advice to students in my creative writing classes is to write, edit, let it rest for a few days, and then read it again with new eyes. Never write and edit during the same period; you’ll never finish the story.

I guess an obvious question to ask is what led you to mysteries?
I’ve always loved mysteries, even as a kid. I remember going to the library each week for a new Agatha Christie. I also loved the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. I love writing mysteries because you can do so much with the form. It’s a genre which easily bends to incorporate unique settings, styles and characters. Although they are formulaic--there are always red herrings and a denouement–a writer can make the form her own.

Was there ever a doubt in your mind that your career as a writer would take off?
Writers are always faced with that blank sheet of paper or computer screen so there are always doubts. You might get a contract, but you have to finish the book and it has to be accepted by the publishing house. All one can do about doubts is to write through them. The process itself has to be the most important thing because nothing in life--or publishing--is guaranteed.

You are published by Ballantine Books, one of the most celebrated divisions of Random House. For the sake of aspiring writers that are reading this interview, tell them about the process for going from story idea to manuscript to ending up with a publisher.
My story ideas come from many places. I may be inspired by a story I’ve read in a newspaper or one that has been told to me. Often a character will come first, and I’ll build a story around her. Once a I get an idea, I let it “simmer” for a couple of months until the characters come into full view. Often, I’ll do a very short, general outline of the story, but that always changes when I begin to write. Character drives plot, so I need to really know my characters before I begin to write. I usually do character bios to get a detailed sense of each character, and then I put them on stage and let them play. Equally important is setting and the point of view the story will be told from.

When I’ve written the story or a much of it, I’ll say a prayer and give it to my agent who will try to sell it. Hopefully, I’ll get a contract. Publishers usually want to see a completed manuscript from a new writer and often from established ones as well. Publishing has changed in the last ten years, and I usually advise unpublished writers who can’ find an agent or to try regional or small, independent presses.

When the manuscript is given to the editor, she will accept or reject it and write a revision letter. I’ll incorporate her suggestions into the piece. When I’ve completed the revision, she’ll pass it on to a copy editor for copy editing. It will then will come back to me for a final review with the copy editor’s revisions.

Of Blood and Sorrow was the novel I read this year. It was released earlier this year and continued your series. I think one of the most intriguing qualities about your career is that you have not been pigeon-holed as just another black author. Your books have cross-over appeal How much of that was your goal?
I’m an African-American woman writer, but I write about things that concern all people–regardless of race or gender. Strong plots are always universal, and well-drawn characters are full, rich people whom readers connect to regardless of a writer’s ethnicity. A good book is a good book and writing a good book with believable characters and a strong plot is always my main goal.

Children’s books seem to be something else you are gifted at writing. What can we expect next from you on the literary front?
I’m currently working on a proposal for a new novel, and shortly after that I’ll start one for a new Tamara Hayle Mystery. Wish me luck!

Any other advice you want to give writers who seem to write outside the box of what would be expected of them?
Yes, be true to your spirit as a storyteller and respect the craft, which means taking your writing very seriously and learning as much as you can from the masters.

Thank you again for this opportunity, Valerie. If our readers would like to find out more about you online or purchase your books, how can they do so?
There’s my website www.tamarahayle.com. It promises a blog, but I must confess, I haven’t begun blogging yet. I hope to start a blog very soon. Most of my books can be purchased through www.amazon.com, www.borders.com and other book outlets.

And thank you so much, Cyrus, for giving me the opportunity to talk to readers!

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Take Ten" with author Sam Love

Author Sam Love came to the attention of Conversations in early 2008 and has kept our attention every since. The 61 year old native of Aliceville, Alabama has taken his love of the 60s and brought readers an enjoyable, unforgettable tale in the book ELECTRIC HONEY. Though written years ago, the message and social issues it addresses are beneficial for every generation as you will see in this interview.

• Sam, Thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. Before we get into your book ELECTRIC HONEY, I want to talk about your desire to write. Where did it come from? Is it something you always knew you wanted to do?
Thank you for the work you do promoting books. I’ve often wondered why I have a desire to write. Something inside me keeps pushing me. I am a mix of Scott and Irish and they have a great tradition of story telling. I have a feeling it is one of those genetic problems medical science can’t cure.

• I am always curious as to what authors enjoy reading and how much it coincides with the time period they write about. What about you? If I was to visit you at home, what would I find on your bookshelves?
I have always enjoyed the off beat. I loved “Gods in Alabama” for example or any of the books by Carl Hiaasen and Jodi Picoult. I just finished “The Diamond Cutter” about a Buddhist monk who goes to work in the diamond district in New York. I am also reading books now about the psychology of the workplace as research for another writing project.

• ELECTRIC HONEY takes us through several generations, however, the main story takes place in the sixties. What was it about that time that drew you to it?
I lived through the sixties and some of my friends didn’t. I also feel we are living in a culture where memory is disappearing. We are overloaded with noise and information and our brains are forced to shed anything they don’t need to function. I reference this in the Disclaimer in the front of “Electric Honey”: “Much of this story relied upon my memory of Mississippi in the 1960’s and since memory is disappearing from our culture, the story has all the accuracy of a fairy tale.” I have thought about making a bumper sticker that says, “Remember Memory”.

I do think the sixties was a period that many people want to forget. Parents are not proud of some of the things they did. The conservatives have also attacked some of the alternative values young people explored during that time. The peace, women’s, and civil rights movements all opened up a Pandora’s box of questions about a white male dominated, materialistic and militaristic society. It led to clashes in the culture that are still happening. I heard a debate last night on TV about the role of alpha males in corporations. Much of this discussion I first heard 40 years ago. I even have a section in “Electric Honey” that describes a meeting where the women break off into a “consciousness raising” session on “sister power”. They discuss the role of women in the meeting and return to the main group with a list of demands. As they start listing their demands, some Neanderthals drive by in a pickup and fire a shotgun blast into the meeting. As odd as this seems today, it happened and I was there when the building got shot up in Mississippi. For years too many people voted with their shot guns in the state.

• For those who are just finding out about ELECTRIC HONEY, give them a little bit of an overview as to what the book is about?
I create an interesting cast of characters from the time. I first wrote the book from the third person perspective, but I couldn’t make it work—too dry. I then rewrote it from the perspective of a young woman struggling with some of these issues and her mother, who worked for a right wing conservative who attacks the youth revolution as a way to gain a political platform. So, I have two women characters on opposite sides of the cultural clash. Both of them are honest about their worldview. One is seeing her safe, conservative world challenged and the other is involved in questioning the old Southern culture. It gives me a classic protagonist and antagonist clash. Of course, they do have a bond and only time allows the daughter to develop more of an appreciation of her mother’s perspective. Interestingly enough this clash is still going on. I just saw a McCain commercial that talks about the excesses of the sixties’ hippies and how he represents the real patriotic America. This is right out of one of Colonel Billy’s speeches in “Electric Honey” (Colonel Billy is the right wing zealot who is the mother’s lover). One interesting thing about the current presidential race is that some people are too young to have experienced the culture war and none of this resonates with them. I actually thought we needed to parody the conservatives and get a good laugh at the absurdity of some of the things they believe.

I actually wrote one of the love scenes as a military maneuver and some women wince when they read it, but I had never seen that in fiction before and I thought it might symbolically capture the ongoing battle between men and women.

One interesting audience I never expected is young people who lived in Russia and the Eastern bloc. The book chronicles the anti-Communist phobia of the time (young people today don’t realize how “Communists” were the ultimate boogey men). I have had several people from Russia, Poland and Belarus read the book and they are fascinated at Colonel Billy’s anti-Communist rhetoric.

• What stood out to me the most about the book, Sam, was the way the mother and daughter in the book weren’t as different as they might have seemed to each other. When you look at what is considered the “generational divide” today, do you think a lot of it is just because we don’t take the time to get to know each other?
I actually think every generation rebels, but the cultural rebellion in the sixties was bigger and more challenging to the accepted social values. I don’t doubt that all of us have some of the same basic motivations and that developing a better understanding of each other can lead to more tolerance for the other’s views. I really see the “generational divide” today as a function of those of us from the sixties who are now getting too old to run things and leadership is being passed to a new generation who are facing some huge problems. Solving these problems is going to take all of us working together. We can’t afford any divides now.

• There is an interesting story about the title of the book. Tell our readers about the supposed “Electric Honey” that was talked about between Bobby Joe, Peach and her mother.
The title “Electric Honey” comes from a rumor I heard when I was a student in Mississippi that bees would fly through the fence that surrounds the government sponsored marijuana farm at the University of Mississippi and pollinate the plants. They would bring back the marijuana pollen and create a very special honey that shared the buzz. In researching the book, I found some references to bees doing this so it is likely true. In the book, this “electric honey” weaves in and out of the characters’ lives on both sides of the cultural divide.

• In a world where perception is reality, what is the largest parallel you see between the world today and the world you write about?
I am often amazed at the parallels. People are questioning the wars in the Middle East just like they did the Vietnam war. I just read a discussion that Obama may have to bring back the draft, which was a really contentious issue in the sixties. The recession is forcing some of the economic issues about women in the work place. It is also creating a collapse of the materialist culture. The fears of Communists are gone, but we have replaced it with a fear of Muslims and “terrorists”. It does seem like gays are making progress, but the cultural clash about sexual freedom is still with us. Some of the rumors being spread about Obama’s historic bid for the White House have echoes of the ugly racism of the fifties and sixties.

• At the end of the day, Sam, what do you hope people take from ELECTRIC HONEY?
I would love for someone to take away the idea that this would make a really entertaining movie that could give us a good laugh about some of the absurdities of the sixties. The book has already inspired a song by Tom Pacheco, “Big Jim’s Honey”, about a farmer whose honey sales take off because his neighbor is planting marijuana. It’s actually a great song, which audiences love. Maybe it will be the “Alice’s Restaurant” of the 21st century.

“Electric Honey” is more of a fun-filled chronicle of a time that we are conveniently forgetting than a book with any serious idea that will save the planet. In the opening sentence Peach talks about how the book chronicles a time when “my life flirted with magic”. We could use a little magic now to pick up our spirits.

• The book was originally released a couple of years ago. Are you surprised that it is still being talked and written about today?
This book is a tribute to the fact that the publishing industry is undergoing radical changes. I think we are actually entering a “Golden Age” for poetry and fiction. We are seeing a parallel in publishing to what happened with film that allowed the “Indie Film Movement” to flourish. I first wrote the book about 25 years ago and after a number of rejections, it sat in the drawer. It was on a disc so old I could not find a computer that could read the document file, but a friend had an old one he was throwing out. It had an old version of WordStar on it and it read it. I then started work shopping the novel here in New Jersey and got some very good criticisms that led me to rewrite it. I was also encouraged that some women in New Jersey who write romance fiction were intrigued with the story. We all know what happened with the sixties in California, New York and London, but very little has been written about how it played out in the heart of the country in places like Starkville, Mississippi.

Now with the changes in the publishing industry and the internet, it is possible to get “independent” fiction out. That makes this book possible. Otherwise, I would have gone to my grave with these wonderful characters trapped on a computer disc that archaeologists couldn’t read. We really are seeing a renaissance of poets and story tellers now and it is exciting. Your work with Conversations is a perfect example of sharing some of this excitement and helping unknown voices find an audience. Your work is critically important as bookstores close and newspapers cancel book review sections. I think the culture will be a better place for it. Keep on blogging.

Nothing excites me more than when someone discovers the book and it resonates with them. One exciting aspect of today’s literary market place is that books can now have a longer life. They don’t have to be published and sell in one month before they are remaindered. You can now reach a world wide audience with the internet and that was impossible a few years ago.

• Thank you for your time. If our readers want to find out more about you, the book and your upcoming projects, where can they find you online?
Thank you for this opportunity. They can check my web site www.samlove.net or purchase the book on Amazon. Some sellers of used books are already trying to get over $50 a copy for some of the copies I have signed. This is either wishful thinking or they know it is odd enough it could be a collector’s item.

Electric Honey was chosen as one of Conversations Book Club's "Top 20 Summer Reads of 2008". This is definitely one book you don't want to miss out on. Thank you Sam for sharing with us. We are better because of authors like you.