Sunday, December 21, 2008
Intimate Monday with author Taressa Stovall
Thank you so much for being part of Intimate Mondays. I know readers will love getting to know you.
1. What is a typical writing day like for you?
When time permits, I take time to look over what I've written the day before, then at my outline/note cards, and spend a few minutes meditating (either sitting quietly or while walking the dog) on what I want to write for the day. What challenges are my characters facing, how will I make their dilemmas compelling, etc.
2. Do you need anything special to write? Quiet, music, a special place?
Mostly quiet, sometimes music. No special place, just anywhere people won't talk to or bother me.
3. What is the one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
That although I'm not Christian, I love and collect Christmas music. And sometimes play it throughout the year!
4. What is your writing process? How does a novel begin for you?
A novel (or any writing project) begins as an itch, a burning question, an annoyance and/or an attitude of "I can tackle that subject better" than another writer has. Also something I want to play with, explore and tease people's minds with.
5. Where did you grow up and do you think it has impacted/influenced your writing?
I grew up in Seattle, Washington. Seattle is a great place for any creative person--the city itself is eccentric, moody, very creative, funky, diverse and challenging. Also, very literate: every few years some survey is released that says folks in Seattle drink more coffee (home of Starbucks), see more movies, read more books and wear more sunglasses than the rest of the country. Seattle is full of quirks and ironies, which I hope describes my writing.
6. Do you have siblings? And if so where do you fit into the mix?
I have a younger brother and an older half-sister, but my sister is like 20 years older than me with kids my age so I'm a VERY typical first-born child of a single mom!
7. If you could choose a profession other than writing, what would it be?
Producing for TV, film & radio.
8. What is your definition of success?
Doing what I love, living on purpose, with enough money/wealth/resources to enjoy people and writing and dancing and appreciating life. Being able to immerse myself fully in my creative endeavors.
9. Who did you share your first kiss with and when?
Ray Taylor. I was about 14. He was a local boy who professed to like me a lot. The kiss was nothing interesting, but I felt I'd reached a milestone.
10. If you could have dinner with someone living or dead, who would it be with and what would you want to know? Nelson Mandela. I'd want to know anything he chose to share. He's my favorite living hero, because of how he has lived his life and the fact that he walked out of prison to lead his nation and in so doing, changed the world.
11. Your favorite past time?
Reading, writing, dancing, hanging with my kids and friends.
12. What is your greatest fear?
The same as any parent: losing a child.
13. What writers have influenced you and in what way?
Ntozake Shange: The sheer force and genius of her wordplay never ceases to amaze. Langston Hughes: my first Black poet, demonstrated the music in words and the power of simplicity. Gwendolyn Brooks: Class, brilliance, such talent. And subtlety in writing. Pearl Cleage: Her unwavering sense of purpose, quietly powerful voice, sense of humor, politics and her steadfast belief in the wonders of true love. Donna Hill: Writing that is stylish, sexy, romantic and funny. David E. Kelley (TV): The way he dives into complex issues and character contradictions is simply the best.
14. What is one book that you would insist that everyone read? (other than your own) And why?
Every Black person: The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee. Everyone in general: The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.
15. Your favorite fictional character from someone else's book.
Only one? C'mon! OK, um.......Janie Crawford, "Their Eyes Are Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston.I'd love to hang out with her for awhile.
16. Who is your favorite character from one of your novels?
I only have one novel, THE HOT SPOT, that's been published. So let's see...I think my protagonist, Kendra D. Harrell, because she's a very entertaining mess and I loved having her in my head.
17. What do you want readers to take away from your work--other than being entertained?
This varies with each work. With THE HOT SPOT, a sense of fun and sensuality. In general, I want people to feel or think something specific, and to feel uplifted in each way and happy to have hung out with my characters for awhile.
18. Your favorite saying?
How can I not be aware of this? I should ask my children. OK, I think it's "Thank God!" Seriously.Then again, I'm always reminding folks of all races of what Malcolm told us: "South of Canada is South." And lately I've taken to quoting Jay-Z: "Only God can judge me, so either love me or leave me alone."
19. Your favorite curse word?
The one I use most often and can't live without? Shit. The most fun to say? Ri-damn-diculous.
20 What is the best advice you've ever received?
Turn a negative into a positve.
21. One thing that always pisses you off?
People who deliberately harm others, especially children and women.
22. What are you currently working on and when can readers expect to see it?
When? Not sure. The sequel to THE HOT SPOT. More hilarious and sexy troubles for Atlanta's most divalicous sistahs.
23. Where do you see yourself in five years and how do you plan to get there?
Writing my books and and producing (TV, film, radio, theater).
24. If there was only one thing in the world that you could change what would it be?
In the world about the world? That we humans had been living more in concert with Mother Nature and were not busy destroying the planet. So that's the main thing I'm ready to work to change on a global scale. 'Cause if we can't live here, nothing else really matters much.
25. If you had the chance to go back and do something over in your life, what would it be?
I would be better at setting boundaries and standing up for myself in relationships with men. Oh, and I would have invested my divorce money into something like a Curves franchise.
Now, tell us a bit about your current book on the shelves and why should readers buy it?
OTHER PEOPLE'S SKIN: Four Novellas, with Tracy Price-Thompson, Elizabeth Atkins and Desiree Cooper, presents four very diverse tales of how the skin/hair thang affects Black women and ways in which we can begin to heal this left-over legacy from slavery. Readers should buy it because, unfortunately, this is still very much an issue for us as a people, it's genuinely entertaining and uplifting, and we need to resolve this issue and get to the really urgent things facing us as a people, a nation and a world.
TaRessa Stovall, a writer since age 7, has been a writer all her life. In addiition to honing her skills in such positions as Director of Public Relations for Spelman College; Speechwriter for former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan; and Director of Communications for the Children's Defense Fund Black Community Crusade for Children, TaRessa has authored an eclectic array of books. These include co-editing and contributing to Other People's Skin: Four Novellas; contributing to the upcoming On the Line by Donna Hill; her debut novel, The Hot Spot; co-editing the short story anthology Other People's Skin; co-authoring A Love Supreme: Real Life Stories of Black Love; authoring a children's history text, The Buffalo Soldiers; and co-authoring a health book, Catching Good Health: An Introduction to Homeopathic Medicine. A native of Seattle and graduate of The Evergreen State College, TaRessa also published Soulsong, a collection of poetry, in her teens.Today, TaRessa is Community Editor of The Montclair Times newspaper and lives with her family in Montclair, NJ. Visit TaRessa at taressa.com, and learn more about Other People's Skin at empowerourselves.org.
Love, gratitude and blessings,