I've always liked the time before dawn because there's no one around to remind me who I'm supposed to be so it's easier to remember who I am - unknown
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How did you start writing?
Originally I started writing editorials for my college newspaper because I had opinions that I didn't want to keep to myself, then I wrote a poem because of a painful break-up. However, I’m no poet. And, I can’t even remember his name.
2. How much $$$ do you get per book?
3. Why do you write?
Because I want to understand people and myself better. Especially people I’m not crazy about or have little respect for or whom I find confusing. I want to know why we do (some of the stupid stuff) what we do.
4. Where do you write?
Mostly in my home office or on a plane or a hotel room.
5. When do you write?
Early in the morning. Usually around 5:30 or 6, whether I’m inspired or not. But sometimes I sleep in.
6. Where do you get your inspiration?
From observing folks around me or that I read about or are just curious.
7. Do you use or recommend any writing aids?
There are lots of wonderful reference books and tools out here for writers: many on the Internet. I’ve tried to list some on this site.
8. Who helped you get started as a writer?
My first creative writing teacher at U.C. Berkeley, Ishmael Reed was an early mentor and very encouraging.
9. Would you read something that I wrote?
Probably not. If I read everything that people asked me to read I would never write. I’m not an editor nor an agent, and if I read it and offered my suggestions, chances are the writer would make them, taking everything I say as gospel, and then back it would come. A never-ending cycle. If I chose one over another I would hurt someone’s feelings. Or offend them. Sorry! Who should I send my work to? Get an agent…
10. Who is your favorite writer?
I don’t have a favorite writer. I respect and admire a lot of writers, some of whom are my contemporaries (they’re on a list on this website). I separate them by genre: short story writers, memoirist, essayist novelist, poets. One of my favorites is Gabriel Garcia Marquez
11. What if I want to make my book into a movie?
Get an agent. However, Hollywood is very cognizant of almost every book being published. If they like yours, they’ll find you.
12. What do you attribute your success to?
Hard work, luck & God.
13. How does it feel to be rich?
I don’t know. I don’t think of myself as rich. I can pay my bills on time and have a little left over. It’s just money.
14. What do you do with so much $$$?
Invest it and I try to support organizations that provide all kinds of aid to those who are less fortunate and who have been the victim of some tragedies. That’s what money is good for. And a little shopping.
15. Are all of your stories autobiographical?
No and yes. Most of what I write about has never happened to me, it just feels like it! Witnessing something and writing about it makes it personal and intimate, hence, autobiographical, as it’s written based on my sensibilities but the characters may not share them.
16. Which book is the most autobiographical?
Probably Stella or Mama.
17. Are your characters based on real people?
They’re mostly composites. I take character traits from many sources (including my own) and give them to my charcters, in such a/ way that they make sense and are believable, three-dimensional human beings.
18. Are you Savannah in Waiting to Exhale?
No, but I shared some of her feelings and attitude.
19. Who does your hair?
Khamit Kinks in Brooklyn when it’s twisted or braided. Otherwise, nobody. It should be obvious when I do it.
20. How do you deal with rejection?
I try to learn from it, if there is anything constructive in the criticism, and then get over it and move on. Everybody isn’t going to like my work, and I accept that.
21. How did you know you wanted be a writer?
I didn't. It just happened. It was a hobby that I couldn’t stop.
22. What advice would you give a struggling fiction writer?
Keep writing! Don't edit yourself until after you’ve written your first draft like no one will ever read it. READ everything by everybody!
23. I always wanted to write a novel but don’t know how to start, any advice?
Write about something you know and that has some significance to you.
24. How do you get an agent and why do you need one?
Consult the resources listed on this website or go to your local bookstore and look some up. Look in the acknowledgements of some of your favorite writers; they usually thank their agents. Find out if they take unsolicited manuscripts and then follow protocol.
25. What about self-publishing?
If you have to, otherwise I suggest getting an agent and let them try to find the right editor and publisher for your work. Self-publishing costs money. But for some it’s the way to go.
26. What do you think of the movie versions of your books?
I think they were well done and I enjoy them.
27. How did you get published?
I won a writing fellowship.