Monday, February 07, 2011
FEATURED AUTHOR: Chanta Jefferson Rand
I've always been an avid reader of African-American romance. A few years ago, I decided to share my knowledge of Egypt and Nubia by publishing my first African-American historical romance. Then, in November of 2010, I published my first urban romance. Whether I'm writing historical or contemporary romances, I always try to educate my readers and teach them something they may not have known before. On the one hand, I'm a history junkie, spending a lot of my time on research and fact-finding. On the other hand, I'm a typical Pisces, drawn towards flowery words and exotic images. This is definitely reflected in my writing.
When I'm not writing, I enjoy doing anything artsy (that Pisces thing again), including painting, designing jewelry, collecting Native American pottery, and indulging in my one true obsession - shoe shopping! I live in Dallas, TX with my wonderful husband of six years.
Check me out at http://www.chantarand.com/
How did you start out your writing career?
The first thing I remember writing was a poem in the second grade. It was about my dad. Apparently, somebody else liked it because it was featured in a book of poems that my elementary school published. We lived in Germany at the time, so I don't know what heck happened to that book. I started seriously writing romance in 1995 with my first book,Pharaoh's Desire. It was published in 2010. Then, I published my second romance, The Highest Bidder, in November 2010.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned that writing is hard work. It's not just about the writing; it's about research, follow up, fact checking, promoting, marketing, and educating yourself about the industry. You can't just write a book. You have to think about your website, the book trailer, and whether it will be an eBook or hardcopy. It's your baby, and in a way, it IS like raising kids: You have to keep an eye on every aspect of the process.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
I wanted to show a positive side of black love. So many times we are bombarded with negative images and deceptive stereotypes of relationships between black men and women. It's frustrating and demoralizing. My parents have been married for over 40 years. Maybe I'm idealist, but I want everyone to find their soul mate.
Which character did you have the most fun writing about?
Definitely T-Rex (also known as Tristan Rexford) in The Highest Bidder. He's the typical cocky Alpha-Male - the man women love and men envy. Yet, despite his cynical attitude toward women, he's still able to recognize love when it comes his way and he pulls out all the stops to show his dedication to Alexa.
What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
How much people actually like reading my books. When I wrote my first novel, Pharaoh's Desire, no publisher wanted to pick it up because it was an African-American historical novel (set in Ancient Egypt). They said it was too hard to sell. They argued that black women would not read it. But I found a publisher and I've had a lot of success with the novel. Now, people write me all the time telling me how unique it is.
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I love talking with readers and getting their feedback on my books. I like hearing about what parts of the book they liked, disliked and identified with. What do I hate? Well, I can't really say I hate this part - but I don't look forward to it: EDITS. Ugh, I'd rather just write and leave that part entirely to someone else. Spell-check has not always been kind to me.
What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?
What? You mean I can only pick three? That's like asking Mariah Carey to choose one pair of shoes! It ain't gonna happen. All I can say is I wish I knew now what I thought I knew at age 19. I moved away from home at that age and I thought I was ALL that. Now, twenty years later, I realize I didn't know jack!
Can you give us one do and one don't for those aspiring to be a writer?
1. DO write what interests you instead of worrying about what's the next hottest thing. Fads come and go. If you write what you know and love, you'll be happy with your writing whether it sells or not because you're staying true to yourself.
2. DON'T make excuses for not writing. Half the battle of becoming published is actually having a manuscript to promote. In this industry, not having a product to sell is like getting caught in a public bathroom stall with no toilet paper - it's not the ideal situation to be in.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
I require peace and quiet to write. No T.V., no phones, no texting. Whenever people call me and ask what I'm doing, if I say I'm writing, they assume it's still okay to talk to me. I know I'm not performing open-heart surgery, but the interruption can still be devastating. By the time the conversation is over, I've lost my train of thought, forgot what my characters are doing, have to back track, etc. My mother and my mother-in-law are probably the most respectful of my time. When I tell them I'm writing, they give me the quick and dirty version of the reason they are calling and then they leave me alone. Thanks moms! I love you both.
If you could be a character from any book you've read, who would you be?
Ooh, good question. I'd want the role of somebody ruthless or evil, because the bad chicks are always the memorable ones. Like Denzel in Training Day. He's had a lot of great movies, but you remember his performance as a crazy, warped cop because it was so out of character for him. Vanessa Williams plays a bad girl a lot of times, and she is terrific. Her portrayal as the witch, Calypso in Odysseus is the type of villainess that would be right up my alley.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Collect Native American pottery, watch Sci-fi movies and old westerns, and chill with my kids.
What do you do to interact with your readers?
I keep in contact with many of my readers through my website, Facebook, and email. Also, I've entered the world of blogging. The blog gives me a chance to write about topics that are on my mind, but not necessarily geared toward my books. And hey, all this is a huge step for me 'cause I'm old-school. When I was in high school, personal computers and cell phones were like something straight out of Star Trek. But you have to stay current with the technology if you want your work to be relevant.
Our theme for this month is Writing the book, what advice do you have for staying motivated to complete the book?
The best advice I can offer is WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, and then WRITE some more. Even if you only write one page or one paragraph - just write something. You can go back and edit later. It doesn't have to be perfect. With our busy lives, work, and families, it's easy to fall into the "I'll Do It Tomorrow" trap. If you just start writing something you'll be surprised how much you can motivate yourself.
Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?
I know that Oprah asks a lot of questions that I'm not always sure how to answer. There are some days when I don't think I know anything, and there are other days when I feel like a genius (Today is not one of those days, by the way). I guess if there is one thing I know for sure, it's that I am at my best when I'm writing. I enjoy telling the story and making people laugh and cry. The ultimate compliment was when one of my readers told me she didn't want to read the last chapter ofThe Highest Bidder because she didn't want the book to end. I'm getting misty-eyed just thinking about that!
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
Is the Pope Catholic? You know if I wasn't a writer, I'd probably be a hype-man (or hype-woman, in my case). Scheduled to be released in April 2011, Dirty Laundry centers around the lives of three best friends and their quest to find love. ALERT: This book contains a hopeless romantic, a sexually repressed school teacher, and a freaky, Latin lover. If you are offended by steamy sex scenes in unusual places and descriptions of half-naked men, this is not the book for you!
I'm also working on an historical romance called The Price of Passion, about an 11th century black Moor who falls in love with a thief. It's rarely discussed that the Moors ruled Ancient Spain for 700 years. A lot of people think Black history began with the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade and the kidnapping of Africans to America. Black history is a rich tapestry of threads woven together, just waiting to be uncovered. Know thyself folks, and know thy history.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
I love hearing from readers. Please contact me at Chanta@ChantaRand.com or check out my website at http://www.chantarand.com/. I'm also searching for a model for the cover of my next book, Dirty Laundry. If you're over 21 years old and you have a fabulous body, I want to talk to you!
The Highest Bidder
It’s no accident that Tristan Rexford is nicknamed T-Rex. As a quarterback for the California Predators, he’s a hunter both on and off the football field. He lives a lavish lifestyle and carries a black book thicker than the average dictionary. Correction: “black book” is so outdated. Let’s just say his Facebook contacts could rival the Yellow Pages. He has the world at his fingertips and he has no thoughts of settling down. And why should he? With a seven-figure income, a dazzling smile, and a body resembling Michelangelo’s David, he’s every woman’s fantasy. But Doctor Alexa Kennedy lives in the real world. She barely has time for her patients, and even less time for fantasies. At thirty-something, she’s lonely, bored, and sex-starved. But when it comes to dealing with men, she’s short on patience and long on disappointment. When one of the hospital’s board members attends a charity benefit and ends up with the winning bid for a date with Tristan, Alexa is chosen to escort him. She could less about watching some grown ass men run up and down the field smashing into each other. But the moment she meets Tristan, all that thinking flies out the window. Tristan is an erotic cocktail with a dash of sex appeal and a pinch of hedonism. Simply put, he’s the sexiest man she’s has ever laid eyes on. They share a week of unbridled passion in Jamaica. Then Tristan retreats back into his glamorous world, leaving her aching for more. Alexa tells herself it was all in the name of charity. She’s far too sensible to fall for someone like Tristan. Or is she?
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