Friday, May 18, 2012
FEATURED AUTHOR: Gigi Gunn
In NEVER BEEN TO ME, against the backdrop of Washington, D.C, Persi Sinclair seems to have it all: a great career at NIH, her own home, car and wardrobe to complete the picture. She has one flaw... she's dating a married man, Brad Shelton, her high school crush. After an ugly breakup, Persi dusts off her old dreams and moves to Paris, France where she is romanced by Nick Betancourt, a handsome, sexy sax player. They romp though the Parisian country side and marry in Monte Carlo. This new idyllic life is shattered by a knock on the door... Brad's come for her, offering marriage, money and status~ everything she always wanted. What will Persi do?
I am a native born and bred Washingtonian who, in the early nineties, tired of the limited literary offerings available to us as Black women and men. Seeing the need I filled the void with my first three novels: Everlastin' Love, Nowhere To Run and Pride and Joi, all of which became required reading at the high school and college levels. CAJUN MOON, RAINBOW'S END, LIVING INSIDE YOUR LOVE AND NEVER BEEN TO ME followed, beginning in 2008: all highly acclaimed novels with positive portrayals of black women and the men who love them and peppered with life lessons.
How did you start out your writing career?
I sat down and wrote a novel I wanted to read, just for the pure joy and need to do so. One in which the characters were ordinary Black folks with ordinary problems and internal crisis of "trying to do the right thing." No drugs, abuse, murder, mayhem or alcohol challenges, no wondering about rent or where the next meal was coming from... Just folks striving to be their best selves. To my delight, it and my subsequent novels were very well received...three were required reading. I think readers appreciated the literary reprieve and readily related to the characters and their situations.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned to edit about twenty pages. I wasn't a happy camper but it had to be done. Only once.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
The goal was to put a new twist on an old paradigm; to burst the stereotype of a single woman dating a married man who didn't need or want anything material from him...she had her own. I wanted to showcase Persi's naivete, while exposing her self discovery and personal growth, which at the end, causes her to re-evaluate Brad, his wife and Nick, none of whom changed but Persi's perception of them did. I wanted to highlight a "true sister-friend" relationship between Persi and Doxie...and promote an awareness of the very aggressive IBC--Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
What came first with this story, the characters or the plot? Why?
It's different for each novel, but in this one the characters came first. I wanted to set it in my hometown, D.C. and honor my grandfather, whose middle name was Percy; so her name is Persephone, nicknamed Persi. Then I asked well, what's her story? She's perfect... except she dates a married man... how "imperfect" can one be?
What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
How satisfying it is to have readers embrace and get loss in characters and their stories that you conceived in the quiet of your office with just your thoughts and a computer. I am always amazed at the level of emotion well-placed words on a page can evoke from "strangers" who become your most avid readers. I love it. I am cruising to St. Maarten because "fans" so loved Cajun Moon. Who woulda thunk it?
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I love the creating a story, fleshing out the characters to make them real, and putting them in situations which appear hopeless. I don't "hate" any aspects of writing but find dealing with editors who have limited experience in the multi cultural genre tiresome--explaining things to them your target reader audience will get.
What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?
1)How much the author is responsible for promotion. In the Harlem Renaissance, white sponsors paid for authors' living expenses and give them a stipend in exchange for him/her appearing at the "salons." Authors did nothing but write. Heaven! Those days are gone but I see a big difference between the novels I wrote in the 90's and those now. Then, publishers paid for tours, promotion, transportation, hotels and set up scheduled appearances. Now, publishers publish and the authors have to either do that themselves or hire a publicist. So authors write, promote, set-up, follow-up and make appearance all while being scintillating.
2) The absolute level of commitment, especially when on a deadline and you must essentially miss Christmas et al to meet it on time. And you always want to meet a deadline on time. Your reputation depends on it.
3) How much pleasure an author receives from appearing at Book Clubs where the members have already read the book, have their favorite parts and read to you. Ecstasy. Besides creating the novels, this remains one of my favorite things to do. u give us one do and one don't for those aspiring to be a writer? DO sit down and begin your novel. Writing is re-writing. Once you get a publisher they will have their own editors and you'll begin the process over again. If you don't write...there will be nothing to pitch/submit. DON'T get discouraged if the first line, paragraph, chapter doesn't flow. Keep going. It's like dancing or playing a video game or making love...the more you do it, the easier it gets. Don't give up, nothing beats a failure but a try.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
Your time. Family and friends pay lip service to "understanding"your time commitment to honing your craft, but for their occasion/event, they want you to make that one exception. "No" is a complete sentence. "No, thank you" even better.
Tell us something few know about you?
I love country. Music that is... It's one of the last bastions of the singer-songwriter who also plays his/her own instrument. The heartfelt lyrics/sentiments of hearth, family values, pride and the language used as they weave great stories in a few minutes is an art in and of itself. Not the old nasal twang, but the Country of the last 15 years or so...George Strait, Kenny Chesney (my fav) and Miranda "Baggage Claim" Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Zac Brown....
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time? Spend time with family and friends. Traveling for inspiration and relaxation. Gardening and eating. Not necessarily cooking but consuming. A movie and meal is still one of my most luxurious ways to spend an evening.
What do you do to interact with your readers?
Besides the Book Clubs which I love, I still personally answer all of my emails. It's a joy to read and respond to readers who get so "caught up" in my characters and call for sequels for them all.
Our theme for this month is BOOK READERS. Name your top five favorite books of all time.
Excellent question!! Wow! I tend to read authors... early on it was Maya Angelou because she wrote with such hope. Then Gloria Naylor, who took the classics and re-wrote them for our community i.e. "Bailey's Cafe" was Canterbury Tales. "Linden Hills"... Dante's Inferno. But the first book I recall embracing was "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran that my favorite uncle in California sent me for my 17th birthday. It spoke to me then and still does. Next book, "The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin. Alex Haley's "Malcolm X" and then the first non-black book I carried everywhere and couldn't put down, Mario Puzo's "The Godfather." And I can't leave out the Thesaurus... I have a pet peeve of overusing the same words...it makes for lackluster reading... and shows no imagination.
Who was the first author you ever met?
Maya Angelou. She was on a book tour really early in her career after "Caged Bird," maybe for "And Still I Rise" and the Washington Post had a reception for her at the Sheraton Hotel on Woodley Rd. in D.C. She was my first....gracious then and now.
Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?
I know it's later then we think. If there is something you want to do or say...you should do it today. This ain't no dress rehearsal. I also know that "life works out best for those who make the best of the way life works out."
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
Since my readers complain that I don't write long or fast enough, I'm working on a historical trilogy. I've also begun a screenplay for CAJUN MOON. Wish me luck!
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, web site)
My web site is www.gigigunn.net
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org I'd love to hear from you!!
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