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!

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