What is your favorite quality about yourself? I am meticulous and have a desire to put forth my best in all things. I may not always succeed but what I produce comes from a pure place.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself? I’m somewhat impatient. I want things to happen yesterday in regard to most things, especially my writing. I feel like I’ve wasted so many years I could’ve been putting pen to paper, or hands to keyboard, that I’ve squandered so much valuable writing time.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why? My favorite quote right now is one by Octavia Butler: “People have the right to call themselves whatever they like. That doesn’t bother me. It’s other people doing the calling that bothers me.”
I suppose it’s my favorite now because of the controversy surrounding my book when it was first released. I was pretty much told by someone not of my ethnicity that I didn’t have the right to call myself or my characters, what I wanted to. Nothing spurs me to action more than when I’m told I can’t do something.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? Outside of motherhood, I’d have to say, self-publishing. I could have taken a few years to try the traditional route, but (see the question about my least favorite quality about myself) I’m impatient. I didn’t want to sit around waiting for query letters to be answered, and then wait more until an agent got me a book deal. I wish I hadn’t waited as long as I did to self-publish.
What is your favorite color? Green (see my book cover?)
What is your favorite food? Steak (I know, this is not a politically correct answer).
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? New York City. I see it as a mecca of culture unrivaled by any other place I’ve ever been.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? My father was adamant that education was a priority, despite financial and social hindrances that didn’t allow him to receive a good one. I’m so glad I heeded his encouragement and got a good foundation in the basics. I grew up in the immediate post-civil rights south and I believe this has influenced my writing more than anything. As strides have been made in equality for all Americans, I still see areas that require improvement, even with a bi-racial US President.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? My interest in writing originated, I’m sure, much like many authors’ interests have: through reading. I read many books as a child, totally immersing myself in the worlds built by wonderful authors I still enjoy. I was a rabid fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on The Prairie books, as well as, Little Women and Little Men, The Borrowers, The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and even the classics, Shakespeare, Bronte, Dumas, Dickens, and the like. I wanted to write like these wonderful writers.
When and why did you begin writing? I began writing when I was a pre-teen. My family life wasn’t the best during this time, and I used it as a way to escape some of the more unpleasant aspects of my life. I even dabbled a bit in college; however, I wasn’t sure a career in writing would pay the bills, so I majored in something entirely different.
How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing again seriously for the past five years. I’d set it aside after college when marriage, life and the birth of my first child happened.
When did you first know you could be a writer? I first knew I could be a writer when one of my college professors complimented something I’d written and encouraged me to take some creative writing classes. Unfortunately, I didn’t take her advice because my major was difficult and very time consuming.
What inspires you to write and why? I’ve found that extreme emotion inspires me to write often times. If I’m inordinately happy, or inordinately sad, I pull from those emotions and experience no blocks. I believe it has to do with my desire for catharsis. When I write under neither of those circumstances (for instance when I wrote Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever) inspiration comes as hard labor. I have to push myself and I spend many non-productive hours staring at my computer screen.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I am a romance junkie, so I’d have to say I’m most comfortable writing mainstream romance. Delving into the more risqué was quite a challenge for me.
What inspired you to write your first book? If this question is in regard to my published book, Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever, I’d have to say, E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey inspired me, unequivocally.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began? There is a growing genre of interracial romance novels and a very large audience of readers who love it. I’ve been embraced by this community of readers and writers and I now have an audience that I can cater to. This informs largely what I will do next.
Who or what influenced your writing over the years? So many authors and so many life experiences have influenced my writing I really don’t know where to begin.
What made you want to be a writer? I’ve always loved to read, so it was a natural progression for me to want to write my own stories, particularly due to the dearth of African American books and writing published in the mainstream genres since the Harlem Renaissance, until Toni Morrison penned “Waiting To Exhale.” I think it was then the publishing world took notice that African Americans will read the books of African American authors in great numbers. I’ve always wanted my name to be added among their number.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? The most challenging to me is the sheer volume of craft you have to study and absorb to write well. I am not there yet. I have a lot more dues to pay.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? Writing this book taught me that no matter how hard you try to write in a way to appease the masses, there will always be someone who is offended by what you do. In writing this book, I naively approached it like a comedy spoof in some respects. I figured, Saturday Night Live, MadTV, Tosh.0 can poke fun at things and they have a massive following, so surely this parody of Fifty Shades of Grey from an ethnic POV won’t offend anyone, least of all, non-minorities. Boy was I wrong!
I expected reviews that touched on my writing itself, on the mechanics of it, and my adherence to the plot, and the like, but my first “reviews” on GoodReads were people calling into question my audacity to write this book at all. I call it blind censorship. They were judging it unread by the subject matter alone. Mind you, some of it was hate for Fifty Shades of Grey, but some labeled me racist and misogynist right out of the gate.
Then I had people who asked for ARCs and entered the Giveaways only to pan the book because they didn’t get the wry ethnic humor, or were grossly offended by it. I had to begin my next Giveaway with the disclaimer: If you are offended by ethnic humor, please don’t read this book!
Do you intend to make writing a career? This is a second career for me. I’ll do it as long as people enjoy what I write and I enjoy producing stories.
Have you developed a specific writing style? I can’t say that I have. I hope to, eventually. I realize that erotic romance is in a boom right now, so this series of books may be a one-off. As I grow and write in the mainstream romance or women’s literature genres, I hope I develop a unique literary signature.
What is your greatest strength as a writer? I’ve been told that my dialogue is a strength, so I’ll go with that.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? I experience tiny bouts of writer’s block all the time. I write through it if I can, knowing that in the end, I’ll have a pre-reader or editor tell me it doesn’t work, then I can re-write. If the block is intense, I usually try to break through it by going to another project, because I figure, just because I’m blocked on one project, doesn’t mean I’m blocked in all of them. This usually works for me.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? I’m deep in the throes of writing the follow up to Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever, Volume 2, which will tie up Keisha and Tristan’s stories in the Quadrilogy. This second book, as yet unnamed, will deal with the immediate repercussions of Keisha safewording to opt out of the D/s relationship entirely, how she and Tristan will reconcile, and the new conflict that threatens to sabotage their relationship for good. What I hope for in the second book is a departure from mirroring some of the situations in Fifty Shades of Grey to developing Keisha and Tristan’s own unique world.
The final two will be Jada and Nathan’s stories, and will be even less like the Fifty Shades saga. Jada had a much different upbringing than Keisha. Her family has always been upwardly mobile, but even her family has its skeletons in the closet. As she enters Nathan’s world of professional sports, she is thrust into a situation that plays out similar to “Basketball Wives.” However, Jada, an even stronger personality than Keisha, will eventually learn to handle it, just as she embraced her Domme nature when it was a brave new world.
How did you come up with the title? I wanted a title that let people know this was a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey, but would also clue them in as to how this might be different than Fifty Shades of Grey. I remembered a movie from back in the day called “Jungle Fever” and Stevie Wonder’s song of the same title. I also remembered the connotations of this term in the African American community, so when I was brainstorming for a title, it quickly became the frontrunner.
Can you tell us about your main character? My main female protagonist, Keisha Beale is a sassy two years post-college girl from south Chicago. She is straight-forward and like her mother doesn’t mince words. Usually, she says exactly what’s on her mind unless it’s something she hasn’t quite come to terms with herself. She’s of African American and Brazilian descent and is a musician first and foremost. Her dream has always been to have a successful business that combines what she loves with making a living.
My main male protagonist, Tristan White, is the thirty-two year old billionaire CEO of White Enterprises who comes from a long line of wealth and lives life as a “One-Percenter” on the Gold Coast of Chicago. He was born into a life of privilege, and is accustomed to controlling every aspect of his life. Tristan White isn’t fifty shades of fucked up like Christian Grey, but he does have some issues in his past that have largely shaped who he is at present. In this story, Keisha is the one with the past that affects their relationship.
How did you develop your plot and characters? I thought about making them as much opposite of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele as I could, then I built the plot based on the social mores that separated Tristan and Keisha. Then I built in the conflict that made this gulf between their two worlds bigger. Despite Keisha’s misgivings, she really isn’t very different from Tristan. The only thing that really separates them is the logistics of the families in which they were born. They are both well-educated, but come from polar opposite sides of the track, if you will. I wanted that to be the intrinsic conflict, and then threw BDSM into the mix. Knowing where I wanted to go with it, I drafted a crude outline and just went with it.
Who designed the cover? I collaborated with my friend, L. T., who manipulated a kente cloth tie on a white business shirt to rival the indelible gray patterned tie on the cover of Fifty Shades of Grey.
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Genre – Contemporary Erotic Romance
Rating – R
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