Tell us about your genre. How did you come to choose it? Why does it appeal to you?
- I write paranormal romance. I love the sexiness of a straightforward romance, but I also like a book to have a plot beyond the main couple meeting and eventually falling in love. Integrating paranormal aspects into my novels gives me a little more to work with. It forces me to be creative in a different way.Honestly, I used to never read fiction, no less romance books of any genre. But a few years ago I heard Marvel was going to have Storm and Black Panther marry – an unprecedented move by the comic book company. As an African American woman and fan of X-Men’s Storm, I was intrigued enough to buy all the comics leading up to their marriage. Well, from there, I fell in love with comics with romantic relationships, especially those with African or African American characters. I’m such a nerdy fangirl that I even included a silly line or two about Storm and Black Panther in Of Beasts and Bonds and made a secondary character a comic book fan.When Marvel dissolved the marriage between Storm and Black Panther, I was so disappointed. Worse, there was no comparable comic I could turn to to get that particular enjoyment fix. That’s why fanfiction is so popular. I truly get why fans turn to writing fanfiction. For some, they want to have a certain level of power over their favorite characters, writing what they would like to see in the actual comic, book, movie, or television show.Thus, I write what I see as a dearth in the romance genre – African/African American love with a paranormal twist. I spend a lot of time developing the mythology of my stories, as well as the execution of the paranormal element. If I write a book with witches and shapeshifters, I think it’s important to actually show what it means to be a witch and shapeshifter. That’s one thing a reader of my books can look forward to. The paranormal is not a sidebar in my novels. It’s center stage and critical to the plot.
Where do you get your ideas?
- For an author, the world is one big opportunity for a multitude of ideas that could be used in a novel. More often than not, I brainstorm ideas as to what I want to write or have my characters say or do. Other times, an idea will simply present itself when I’m out and about doing everyday things. I’ll provide two recent examples. This summer my family visited several museums. From the information I read at the National Cryptologic Museum, I had an idea about a supporting character from Of Beasts and Bonds, who will be the heroine in a book from a new series. Now, mind you, I still have one more book to write to complete the Death and Destiny trilogy. And the first book I’m planning for my next series won’t be with this particular character. None of that matters, however, because a good idea presented itself, and I was happy with the random thought. When it’s all said and done, I may not use the idea in the novel, but such random thoughts help with the ultimate framing and details of the plot and characters. Even a discarded idea is of value to an author and the overall story she wishes to tell.The second idea came when I was at the National Museum of African Art. What was so cool about the visit was that they have an exhibit on water in African art. The exhibit is about, not only the necessity of water for all living creatures, but the role of water in cultural myths, metaphors, and rituals. Well, water and fire are two important symbols in the trilogy, for the elemental earth witches and the African goddesses. More, Mami Wata, a water goddess known in certain parts of Africa and the African diaspora, as well as the villain in Of Beasts and Bonds, was represented in two statues.Of course I had to take a picture of the images. As you can see from the pictures, several of Mami Wata’s attributes are present, mainly snakes. For those who read Of Beasts and Bonds, it will be quite clear how much the water goddess loves her snakes.
How do you handle writer’s block?
- Fortunately, I’ve haven’t experienced extreme writer’s block. I’ve never been unable to write at all. I have, however, had the experience of having good plot points without enough ideas to pull them together to make a quality novel. That’s where I find myself with my Winged Warriors novella series. There’s a third and final book in the series I have yet to write. I have notes, main characters, even a solid working title, but not enough to flesh out something I would want to publish. After I write the last book in the Death and Destiny trilogy, my plan is to sit down and go over my old notes for the novella. My hope is that, with the passage of time since I last focused on the would-be book, I’ll be able to approach the story with new eyes and fresh ideas. We’ll see.
What is the hardest part of being an author?
- The hardest part of being an author is everything that must be done after I’ve finished writing my novel. Marketing is a beast, of which I’m struggling to get a decent foothold. I’m constantly learning, sometimes through trial and error, other times from more experienced independent authors. I research, read, and participate in webinars. Marketing is time consuming and, at times, quite overwhelming, especially since I’m not a full-time writer. But it’s one of those necessary evils. I will say, however, I’ve met some great authors, readers, and bloggers as I’ve stumbled my way through social media marketing. For a person whose an introvert by nature, that’s saying a lot.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
- Octavia Butler once said, “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” This is a great inspirational quote from Ms. Butler, especially for a new writer. And it is so darn true. Persistence, while necessary, is not easy, which Octavia Butler well understood. By some standards, Ms. Butler was an unorthodox writer. She didn’t write for any particular group or audience. She simply told stories she wanted to tell, which I respect. If I had an opportunity to have dinner with Ms. Butler, we would talk about far more than writing. Writing was her avocation but it didn’t define all there was to the woman.
What is your most interesting or craziest writing quirk?
- I don’t think I have a particularly interesting or crazy writing quirk, and this may not qualify, but I tend to write my action sequences like comic book scenes. Well, not exactly, but I use a lot of SFX when I write my action sequences. Not POW, like in old Batman and Robin comics, because, well, that’s just a little too corny nowadays. But thud, crack, smack, pop, yeah, you’ll find those sound effects in my stories. What can I say, I enjoy comics, so I find nothing wrong with adding a bit of a comic book flavor to my novels. Now that I’ve answered the question, maybe that is a tad quirky. You decide.
Your love scenes (Of Fear and Faith) were so poetic and intoxicating they took my breath away. Every writer handles love scenes differently, and I’m wondering how did you prepare yourself for the scenes?
- There are two kinds of scenes that take me the longest to write – action scenes and love scenes. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, romance novels of all subgenres. While I don’t model my love scenes after any of the novels I’ve read or listened to, they’ve helped me clarify my writing preferences and boundaries. As a reader, I want more than a “fade to black” love scene. I like intimate and sexy love scenes, romantic because of the feelings involved and not simply the physical, pleasurable act of coming together.I never write a love scene for the sake of having sex in my stories. Each love/sex scene has a strategic purpose, moving the plot forward and/or impacting the characters in some important way. I don’t try to write poetic love scenes, although it’s rewarding that you viewed them as such. It makes me feel the time I spent getting each scene just so, seeking a balance between sensuality and romanticism was well worth the time.It takes me so long to craft such scenes because I care about the message I want the love scene to convey to the reader. So, my only preparation is my message and the point of view character. This combination is critical, an emotional driving force for the scene. Finally, since I normally have multiple love scenes in my novels, I make sure not to duplicate the specifics of the scenes. I want the reader to feel an emotional connection with the couple, even if they’d been married hundreds of years and made love thousands of times.
Can you tell us something about yourself that would surprise us to learn?
- This may not surprise you, because I think it’s true for many writers. But, at heart, I’m an introvert and have more than my share of shy moments. Don’t get me wrong, I can talk, a lot, but mainly to people I know well or about topics that aren’t particularly personal. As a teacher and trainer of education professionals, I work with and meet hundreds of people, during the course of a school year. I have to be approachable and outgoing, which I always am. But people assume, incorrectly, that I’m that way naturally. I’m not. For an introvert, it takes conscious effort not to come across as standoffish, nonchalant, or disinterested, which isn’t true. We tend to live in our heads, processing and analyzing information, weighing facts and figures, and making decisions and forming a plan before uttering a single word. Such a trait is great for writing but not for marketing. That’s my professional area of growth.
Have a question about any of N.D’s novels, characters, or writing? Want a chance to see the answer to your question appear in her newsletter, maybe on this page? Send the author your question(s) here.
There’s no guarantee the author will answer all posed questions, but she’ll reply to as many as possible.