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!