LaToya: Hi Suzette, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Suzette: Hi LaToya, and thank you for having me. I’m an author who’s a wife, mother, elementary school librarian, and the owner of a small, home based cupcake business. I started writing poetry in 1st grade, and had my first publishing experience when my poetry was published in my junior high school’s creative arts journal. I went from poetry to short stories to full-fledged manuscripts. And now I’m here.
LaToya: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Suzette: I initially (perhaps like many writers) dreamt of being a full-time author whose works hold court on a multitude of bestseller’s lists. I haven’t given up on that, but right now, becoming “self-employed” as a full-time writer is a major aspiration for me. I want to be prolific and consistent. I aspire to provide quality stories that entertain and inspire. With the release of my latest novel, Taffy, I’ve experienced an increased desire to connect with readers face-to-face and/or virtually. I’m not just interested in “I write, you buy.” I’m interested in community.
LaToya: Which writers inspire you?
Suzette: I love Dianne McKinney-Whetstone! Whatever she writes, I’m reading! I also love Bernice McFadden, J.D. Mason, Claudia Mair Burney, Solomon Jones, Alexander McCall Smith, Kwei Quartey, and Andrea Smith (The Sisterhood of Blackberry Corner). But the writer most responsible for changing my life in a pivotal moment in time, is Dr. Maya Angelou. I was going through a tremendously difficult time in my early adult life when I picked up Dr. Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to read it a second time. That book lifted the darkness off of me in such a powerful way that, when I finished it, I immediately knew what I wanted to do with myself: write!
LaToya: What are you working on at the minute?
Suzette: I’m currently working on the next installment in my Camellia Series, the book that comes after Taffy. It’s not a sequel, but Taffy and Roam make a cameo appearance. It’s also set in the deep south at the turn of the 20th century, and is a coming-of-age story of a young girl in love with the wrong grown man…and the chaos that love creates.
LaToya: What genre are your books and why?
Suzette: My first two novels were contemporary fiction. However, Taffy and my Camellia Series are African American Historical Romances. While I’ll continue writing contemporary fiction, my heart has found its rhythm with Historical Romances. I felt a serious, bone-deep urge and unction to write Taffy. It was a huge switch, but after being off the literary scene since 2003, it wasn’t a risk. I could reenter and reinvent.
LaToya: In 10 words or less can you create a quote that describes you and your writing?
Suzette: I’ll borrow from the branding on my website and say, “Stories for the heart and mind.” I hope my writing engages the cerebral and the soul.
LaToya: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Suzette: Love this question, LaToya, ‘cause you know I fantasize about it! There has to be an open casting call because Taffy and Roam are so physically specific—i.e. their height, body composition, etc. However, there’s a plus-size model who I absolutely love: Liris Crosse. If Ms. Liris can act, she has to audition for the role of Taffy! I also like Daniella Chioma Okeke. As for Roam (Taffy’s love interest): dilemma dilemma! Again open casting call. Supporting characters, I’ve pretty much resolved J Chloe: Journee Smollett. Drew: Lamann Rucker or Lance Gross. Thaddeus: Dennis Haysberth. Rachel: Vanessa Williams. Aunt Vesta: Jenifer Lewis! Cousin Dena: Tasha Smith…. Told you I’ve spent time dreaming on this!
LaToya: When did you decide to become a writer?
Suzette: I remember a day in 1999. I was at work. Bored. Hungry for change. I’d started writing what would become Living on the Edge of Respectability. But I still didn’t quite have the vision of writing for life. I sat there at work (I know, shame on me) and designed a “book cover.” I needed a visual aid to help me understand where I was going. I posted that cover in my cubicle and at home and looked at it daily, spoke life over it, dared to believe and to dream!
LaToya: Do you write full-time or part-time?
Suzette: Currently, part-time. But by God’s grace and blessings, I look forward to that changing!
LaToya: Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Suzette: Yes, ma’am! Of necessity, I’ve become a morning person. I’m up Monday-Friday at 5:15 a.m. writing. I write in the morning because if I waited until getting home from work it would never get done.
LaToya: Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
Suzette: Not so much words/pages, but completing whatever section I’m currently in.
LaToya: Where do your ideas come from?
Suzette: Sometimes from dreams. Sometimes from life. Always from God. He’s the true “author and finisher.”
LaToya: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Suzette: LaToya, I’m anal! I have to have a plot/outline. Even if the story twists/turns out from under me, I like knowing where I’m going initially. That said: my current story isn’t as fleshed out in my mind as I’m accustomed to, yet it’s demanding that I write it. I’m arguing and fussing with my protagonists, asking them to reveal themselves completely, already, and they’re wrecking my nerves taking their own sweet time.
LaToya: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Suzette: This past decade has been all about evolution as a woman and a writer. I dared to step away from what I’d written (Contemporary Fiction) to step into new waters (Historical Romance) because my heart led me there. I guess this transition in genres is somewhat of a metamorphosis in that I had to develop my own voice and not merely mimic what was trending and popular. I had to learn who I was, what I wanted to say, and what I had to offer as a writer. Taffy allowed me to do that, to jump down in the marrow of my being and write from the blood and the bones.
LaToya: What is the hardest thing about writing?
Suzette: 1) Time: not having enough, 2) Writing without self-editing
LaToya: What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Suzette: 1) taking a risk in trying a new genre, 2) self-publishing. Proposals for Taffy were rejected by both agents and publishers. So, I decided to self-publish. I’m truly glad I did! But that comes with wearing “every hat in the company.” It’s called self-publishing for a reason!
LaToya: What is the easiest thing about writing?
Suzette: It’s so easy to get lost in the characters’ lives that I have to remember to live my own!
LaToya: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Suzette: Too long! I consider myself a slow writer. My first two novels were probably 6-9 months in the making. But Taffy, Lord Jesus! That girl gestated for years!
LaToya: Where can you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Suzette: Five years from now I will be writing full-time and enjoying this prosperous career!!!
LaToya: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Suzette: I’d tell my younger self to make health and fitness a priority, and to dare to do what feels as if it can’t be done.
LaToya: Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Suzette: 1) Dr. Maya Angelou, to thank her because “…Caged Bird…” saved me from a deep, dark pit; 2) my paternal grandmother who I never met just to hug and kiss her and tell her I love her.
LaToya: If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Suzette: Ernessa T. Carter’s 32 Candles because I love the zaniness of it!
LaToya: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Suzette: a) Know your genre; b) Stay focused and be ready to persevere; c) Make connections (virtual & live-time) with other authors as well as readers; d) be authentic and love what you do!
Connect with Suzette…
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/24cWVQK
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1QHFOJG
Barnes & Noble Nook: http://bit.ly/23gvAYd
LaToya: Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
Suzette: LaToya, I thank you!