Friday, July 09, 2010

Featured Author: Katrina Spencer

Katrina Spencer is the author of Six O’clock and lives in Texas with her husband and daughter. She readily admits that if she was trapped on a desert island, the three things she couldn’t live without are her family, her bible, and her hair weave. Learn more about her at and stop by her blog, Curl Up and Write, where she dishes about writing, hair and more.

How did you start your writing career?

On a dare! My sister was writing a novel and I thought her first chapters were great, but the book seemed to wander around chapter four. I told her so and she replied, “Well, I’d like to see you do better.”Never one to say no to a dare I began writing Six O’clock. The first draft was a disaster—as most first drafts are—so I bought as many writing books as I could find and started again. And again. After a few years I had my novel.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned a lot while writing Unbeweaveable. I have a theme occurring in my books—my main character always suffers from esteem issues—in Six O’clock Yolanda struggled with being thin in a bootylicious society, and in Unbeweaveabale Mariah places her identity in her weave and when it’s gone, she has to start over in discovering who she really is. I had to learn to leave Yolanda’s voice and step into Mariah’s struggles and make them two totally different women. I struggled with that at first, but I finally ‘got’ it. In writing Unbeweaveable I really found my voice as a writer.

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

Two things: I want people to laugh. I love making people laugh in my writing and I hope people can put down their problems and pick up my books and laugh. The second thing is that I noticed that women—especially black women—put so much emphasis on their hair. Their hair is their identity. As a former hairstylist, I know all too well how important hair is to women and I wanted to explore the idea of getting so wrapped up in your hair that you forget that who you truly are begins under the scalp—in your mind and heart. Hair cannot be who you are. An extension of your authentic self maybe, but it can’t be you.

What is the toughest test you’ve faced as a writer?

My own expectations. When I was doing hair, my income and clients were a direct reflection of my hard work. Being a writer your diligence to your craft and late nights writing are not always rewarded with money and a large readership. Some of us make it to the holy grail of writing and hit a few bestseller lists, but the majority of us never will. I had to learn that deserving success does not warrant success. And who was I to even expect that with just two books under my belt? I have a long road ahead of me, but I hope to be writing every step of the way.

If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?

That changes all the time. I love to read contemporary women’s fiction—it’s a market I hope to crack one day soon. I would like to talk to Jennifer Weiner. Her books are hysterical, yet pull on your heartstrings. I like Kristin Hannah for the way she describes scenes in her books—she really knows how to pull you into the book. Barbara Delinsky because she writes simply-but somehow knows how to pack an emotional whollop.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

To stop worrying about things that are out of your control. I didn’t like my book cover with Six O’clock and I worried about that for months. But ultimately my publisher felt that it would be the best fit for the book so I had to let it go. Second, I wish I knew then that after your book is published that life really does go on. It’s like planning a wedding, you plan and plan and when the big day comes it’s gone in an instant. It’s important to do your best for a book launch but in the end it’s the writing that you have to put the focus on. And the last thing is patience. It takes awhile to get your book published so I wish I could tell my former self to be patient—that everything will work out in the end.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

A definite do is to read. Read the poorly written books to see what not to do and read beautifully written books to see what you can emulate. A definite don’t is to think that writing is easy. Sure, I started writing on a dare, but I studied the craft for years and took the necessary steps to do it seriously. So get educated in any way you can and know what you’re getting into before you start.

I borrowed this question from author Carleen Brice, What is your author fantasy?

Well like Carleen Brice I would love for one of my books to be made into a movie and hit a bestseller list. But lately I’ve been really enjoying the fact that I’m a published author. So my real fantasy would be to do this for a very long time. I have a lot of books in me and I hope to get them all in readers’ hands one day.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

That writing is a job! We’re not sitting at home playing on the computer, we are working. So no I don’t have time to drop off your dry-cleaning or watch your baby—I’m working!

What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?

The best advice I’ve gotten was from my mama. I was used to advertising and selling myself as a hairstylist, but when it came to my books, I felt like I was bragging or something so I wouldn’t say anything. Now, I realize that writing is my job and if I don’t tell anyone about my books then who will? The industry now requires writers to promote their books, so I better roll up my sleeves and promote.

The worst advice I’ve gotten is that I need to sex up my books to sell more copies. Really? I know that sex sells, but there are certain lines I won’t cross to make more money.

If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?

I know this is such a cliché but I really want to go to Paris. London would be my next stop. I’m a big history buff and I would love to explore the history of those old cities.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

I don’t know how surprised they would be, but I love doing embroidery. I can sit with my hoop and needle for hours and come up with some pretty neat stuff. One thing I surprised myself with is how much I love to work in my garden. There’s something about getting your hands in the soil that is cleansing for the soul.

Our theme for this month is Agent Hunting. What advice would you give someone searching for the right agent?

To make sure you’re novel is 100% ready. We tend to think our books are the best ever, when in fact they might need a lot of work. So when you are ready to query make sure you have at least done five to seven revisions on your novel. Yes, that seems like a lot but with each revision your book becomes stronger. After you’re finally convinced that there is nothing more you can add to the book then begin to query. And be patient! Agents are busy.

Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?

That being a writer is not who I am. It’s what I do. It’s great to be passionate about writing, but it can’t be your whole world. What could you write about if writing was your everything? By living life and being the best wife and mother I can be then my writing improves because I have something to write about.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

My next book deals with a woman who struggles to get along with her very difficult mother-in-law. And before you ask, no I didn’t draw this experience from real life—I have a wonderful mother-in-law!

How can readers get in contact with you?

I love to hear from my readers! They can check out my website, my blog Curl Up and Write—where I dish about hair, writing and more. They can also follow me on Twitter at @katrinasspencer or Facebook.


Mariah ‘Weavy Wonder’ Stevens doesn’t take no for an answer. Her take charge, tough-as-nails exterior has helped her become Book Review Editor at Spirit Magazine—no small feat considering she’s only 29. She lives in a stunning apartment in Manhattan, her clothes are ripped straight from the runways, and her manicured nails are never chipped. Life is good.

Her secret weapon? Her long, glorious weave, which she’s been wearing since she was 16. It’s her power, her strength, and she’s completely addicted to it. She can’t even remember what her real hair looks like.

In a sudden move, Spirit Magazine folds, and for the first time in her life she’s left asking, “What’s next?” With her savings dwindling, she’s forced to remove her weave and make the call that she hasn’t made in years—the call home.

Now Mariah is back home in Houston, living with her well-to-do biracial sister and light skinned mother, both who are blessed with hair long enough to sleep in. Mariah has always stuck out like a sore thumb, and is constantly reminded of such with her dark skin and kinky short hair.

Living in Houston has Mariah facing her old demons and without the support of her weave she’s losing her most important asset: her confidence. When she discovers a family secret, it opens the doors to her past and threatens to break her already fragile world apart. With her sister by her side, Mariah is determined to learn the truth. Unbeweaveable is about Mariah’s quest to confront questions of love, loyalty, and family to find her way back home.

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Nina D. said...

I'm an avid fan of Mrs. Spencer. Her earlier book, Six O'Clock was both witty and insightful. Since then I have started a book club and we are now reading "Unbeweaveable". So far we are having the best time because we all can relate to the three different women. Each one of them we all know in our personal lifes. We give Katrina TWO THUMBS UP!!

PatriciaW said...

Now that sounds like an interesting book. I'm unfamiliar with Ms. Spencer but I'm definitely adding her to my TBR list.

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