Friday, February 05, 2010
FEATURED AUTHOR: Karyn Folan
Karyn Langhorne Folan graduated from Harvard Law School a couple of years ahead of President Obama. A former law professor, Karyn became interested in the many questions and issues surrounding interracial relationships after her marriage to her Irish American husband in 2004. After receiving hundreds of comments from readers after an essay in The Washington Post on the unique ways black Americans reacted to her relationship, Karyn decided to explore the issues further. The result is her book “Don’t Bring Home A White Boy—and Other Notions That Keep Black Women From Dating Out.” Karyn is also the author of two interracial romance novels, A Personal Matter and Unfinished Business, and two other novels.
How did you start out your writing career?
I’ve always loved writing, so in a way, my writing career started when I was a little girl. My first story was “The Adventures of Quacker the Duck” in third grade. I still have that book! As an adult, I really was unhappy practicing law and writing stories in the evenings helped me to cope with that. It wasn’t until September 11, 2001 that I decided to try to write more seriously. I realized that life is short, and that sometimes you have to gamble and go for your dreams. I started writing my first interracial romance novel, A Personal Matter then. It was published in 2004.
Have you had a "Wow" moment since you have been an author? What made it a "Wow" moment for you?
I’ve several “wow” moments as a writer, but the most significant recently was the realization that the fiction market—African American fiction in particular—was completely saturated. Too many writers, too many stories. It’s great because there’s such so much available for readers. But it’s bad if you’re trying to make a living at it, because the competition is so stiff and as a result it’s harder to make money off your writing. So about two years ago, I made a conscious decision to shift out of fiction and start writing non-fiction. Because interracial relationships have always interested me (my own husband is an Irish-American) I decided to write about why there are so many black men who date interracially… but very few black women.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
I’ve heard so many single black women say that they would “never date a white man”—even when they’re having lousy luck finding black guys who are on their same educational or professional level. I’ve even had friends who turned down successful, intelligent white men on the grounds that “it would never work”—even though the man was clearly very attracted to them and sincere in his interest—and these ladies admitted that the men were nice, funny and attractive. But they never considered the white men as viable romantic options, even with all these positives. Now the women are nearly 50… and they’re all still single, still waiting for their “good black man.”
I really wanted to understand why staying loyal to the race was more important than their own individual happiness. So I took to investigate the “notions” that keep black women from exploring the full rainbow of men in the world.
What’s playing on your CD while you’re writing?
I don’t usually listen to music while I’m writing because I love music and I get distracted by it. But I often have the television on in the background. Right now, it’s Wife Swap. I’m not paying it any attention. It’s just noise.
If you could choose to be a superhero for a day, who would you pick and why?
I really don’t know. I’ll have to ask my teen-aged daughter to pick one for me! She’s into the manga and Japanese anime and writes her own comics. She’d probably write a superhero character for me with some strange power that most people wouldn’t call “super” at all, but actually is in a weird way. I like the idea of that.
If you could be on a Reality TV show, which one would it be and why?
I was actually on a reality show, though it never made it TV. A few years back there was a casting call for a show called the “Ultimate Author” and I went for it. I made the cast and we taped about 10 episodes. We did all kinds of strange things and then had to write about them. I had fun and made some really good friends with the other authors there. But nothing ever happened as far as it being shown on television or even on the Internet. It’s hard to come up with a show concept about writing, because it’s something done alone, and in silence, and it’s boring to listen to people read their work for long periods of time!
What is the neatest place you have ever visited so far and why?
I’ve stood on the desert and looked into the eyes of the ancient Sphinx guarding the tombs of the Pharoahs. When you turn around, there’s a Pizza Hut across the street—seriously. We saw the City of the Dead—a massive cemetery in the heart of Cairo—and living people inhabit the crypts with the bones of the dead because they have no other shelter. Egypt is fascinating like that. You get the modern and the ancient, the rich and poor, the living and the dead—all jumbled together. It was an amazing experience.
If you had $100.00 and had to spend it today, what would you buy? Why?
I need a new pair of black shoe boots. Low-heeled, like to wear under slacks? Booties, some people call them. Lord and Taylor had a pair I liked for that money, but I had my kids with me and there was no point in stopping to try them on.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
That sometimes I’m working when it looks like I’m not doing anything. For me, reading is a part of my job—I read a lot and a lot of different kinds of things. Sometimes, watching television is working. So is traveling and staring into space! Writers pick up inspiration from all kinds of things so even if I’m sitting with friends in a restaurant talking, I can be working because the conversation can lead me to something I want to write about!
What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?
The crime novelist Walter Mosley—whom I just love—told me fifteen years ago not to worry about selling/marketing books. He said “write what you write, as well as you can.” It was great advice and very true.
The worst advice I’ve ever gotten was to change some of my romance novels from interracial novels to stories with two black characters. Those are my worst books. All the tension was gone when I changed the male lead to a black man! Interracial stories just make sense to me—both in fiction and nonfiction.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
Don’t self publish unless you’ve got a really good budget, lots of time and you’re a born sales person. Self-publishing works if you’re also good at business and you have a product that can be linked to an identifiable audience. Without that, you’re just one more person trying to convince “everyone” to read your book and there’s too much competition. Personally, I’d rather write than worry about sales, and that’s why I’ve always looked to publish with a traditional publishing house. I write, they pay me, and they worry about distribution, marketing, etc. while I move on to the next book.
Do take classes and join writing groups. Some of the people I met in writing groups are still my friends today. And the feedback is invaluable—especially when it’s very honest. I’d rather have a writing group tell me something sucks than get a million rejection letters from publishers before I figure it out!
What is something readers would be surprised you do?
Bake bread—and I’m not talking about with a bread machine! I’m talking about like your great-grandmother made it. I love making my family homemade bread. Smells sooo good and we skip all the preservatives in the stuff you buy at the store! We’re big on real food at my house. It’s not that we’re health nuts—I make a lot of cookies and cakes. But I make them with real ingredients from scratch. I’m very suspicious of processed food and we eat as little of it as we can.
Our theme for this month is Writing The Book. What advice do you have for staying motivated to complete the book?
Deadlines! Make one for yourself or have someone give you one. I always work best when I know a book is due to an editor by a certain date. In the absence of that, I’d get a friend or hire a copyeditor. Get someone to play “police” and demand that you have a certain amount done by a certain date. That external pressure really works.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
I wish I could… but I’m not completely sure what’s next! I’m interested in writing more about relationships, but I’m also really interested in some of the unique issues of the black community.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
http://www.karynlanghornefolan.com/, or you can friend me on Facebook as “Karyn Folan”.
Don't Bring Home a White Boy
IN AN AGE WHEN AMERICA HAS EMBRACED a mixed-race president and a strong, independent black woman as first lady...when black women are on the move and more empowered than ever before...there remains one hot-button topic that stirs up cultural resistance and intensity of emotion like no other: interracial relationships -- or, specifically, when black women date or marry white men.
What is it about the black female/white male dynamic that sparks such controversy and depth of feeling? What keeps many single black women from exploring relationships outside of their race at a time when the pool of eligible black men is at an all-time low?
"Don't bring home a white boy" is the cultural message stamped deep into every black daughter, an enduring twenty-first-century taboo with origins dating back to the Civil War era, the turbulent Civil Rights decades, and beyond. Now at last there is an honest, eye-opening examination of this societal phenomenon that will resonate with women everywhere and give voice to all sides of the debate. Karyn Langhorne Folan, herself a black woman happily married to a white man, brings together historical, statistical, psychological, and personal perspectives in a groundbreaking book that boldly debunks the "notions" that can keep interracial dating off the table for many women, including:
After slavery, I could never date a white man...
My family would never accept him -- and his would never accept me...
White men don't find black women attractive unless they look like Halle...
Our biracial children would have no sense of identity...
It means I'm a sellout, or fi lled with self-hate...
We'd just be too different...
Filled with real-life anecdotes from, and interviews with, men and women of both races and informed by Folan's thorough and expansive research, Don't Bring Home a White Boy is both an invaluable contribution to the topic of interracial dating and a timely handbook to help women look beyond skin color in the quest to have all they deserve and desire in a life partner.
Leave a question or comment for Karyn for a chance to win a copy of Don't bring home a white boy.
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