In preparation for our September, 2013 release of our joint book “Seduction: An Interracial Romance Anthology,” fellow Interracial Romance Author Pepper Pace is doing an interview with me today to talk about her life, her writing and what it takes to succeed as a writer.
1. CM: How did you get started as a writer?
PP: I feel as if I’ve been writing all of my life. I began with art. I would draw scenes from the books that I read as a child: “The Littles,” “The Borrowers,” etc. But soon coming up with the stories was much more fun than doing the drawings. So I was probably writing stories starting when I was seven or eight years old.
2. CM: I can appreciate the gritty, gripping realism in your work and how each of your characters seems to be uniquely flawed, and unabashedly demonstrate both their strengths and weaknesses throughout your writing. What inspires you to write about the kind of characters your work deals with?
PP: I bet there are people who think I sit around trying to think of the most unlikeliest characters possible. But the truth is that I write about things that intrigue me. So when thinking of a romance scenario I am more intrigued with the idea of a homeless white man and an angry black woman than I am by two drop dead gorgeous billionaires.
3. CM: So do you ever incorporate anything from your own real life experiences into your work? If so, like what, for example?
PP: I do. Each story that I’ve ever told draws from some aspect of my life. That is not to say that my stories are true; they are fiction but if the characters feel true to life it is because they are no different than you and me. In Wheels of Steel, the character of Belinda had a tragic upbringing which was taken from a dear friend of mine. In The Urban Vampire Series, Kim is a lot like myself—if I drank blood and had super human abilities. Juicy was a lot like my Mother as well as many other women that I’ve known including myself.
4. CM: What are your influences, such as who are your favorite writers and what are your favorite books?
PP: I love books and stories and some of my favorite writers are The Brothers Grimm, Stephen King, Octavia Butler, Donald Goines, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, S.E. Hinton, Gregory Maguire, Dean Koontz, Mary Monroe and many, many more. Books and stories that really impacted me are “Kindred,” “The Talisman,” “Black Girl Lost,” “Lamb,” “The Color Purple,” “The Outsiders,” “Sookie Stackhouse” series, and “The Hollows” series. But by naming just those few there are tons more that I feel as if I’m neglecting like Tabitha King’s “Mutant” and “Pearl” series. I’ve read some amazing books and heard some amazing stories. I’m happy that I can’t name them all because that means there are many more yet to be discovered.
5. CM: What’s a typical day like for you?
PP: Typically I begin my day at 6am and go to my first job as a Customer Service Specialist. I work a 9 hour day and come home at 5pm. Anything that needs to be accomplished has to be done between 5:30 and 9:00 at night because by that time I am exhausted and ready for bed. Unless I quit my first job it will be very difficult to devote much time to writing.
6. CM: Describe your workspace.
PP: My favorite workspace is my bed! I love blankets and expensive sheets and mounds of pillows. I have stereo speakers and a flat panel T.V. in my bedroom. I’ll hook up my laptop to some soothing writing music and let the T.V. drone on in the background. Usually tuned to The Food Network, HGTV, or Anthony Bourdain and that is when I write at my best. Currently my workspace has been my dining room table. I dragged my leather desk chair from the spare room and set up my workspace right here in my dining room. I like it though, because I just remodeled it, got new furniture and even painted so it is relaxing here, too.
7. CM: Describe your work process. How do you get a whole novel or short story done, from start to finish?
PP: I don’t always know that I’m going to write a novel. I start with a spark of interest. If that spark is strong enough then I begin to write whatever comes to mind. After I get a grip on the story (some point within the first chapter) I begin to form an idea of how it should end as well as points of continuity. But what I don’t do is plan out the entire story. I keep to the ‘bones’ and let the story write itself. I will surprise myself when the story takes me in a direction that I did not expect but somehow it always works its way out. This happened when I wrote Juicy. I had no idea that the scene in the hospital with Troy holding his child would turn out the way it did. But I sure did cry while I was writing it.
After I write the bones I go back and fill in the missing spaces. One of the differences between a good writer and an awesome one is this one simple thing. By going back and finding the empty spaces I add more description and this is the difference between hearing a story and feeling as if you are a part of it.
Next comes the worst part; editing. Editing is not just one step. Editing is done two or three times—even more. Try reading a 250K word novel ten times if you don’t think it can get old real fast. A good Beta Reader will keep it fresh for you and tell you about the ‘holes’ in the story. Then it is time for the final edit. Ugh…It is hard but rewarding work.
8. CM: Tell us three interesting things about you (personally and/or as an author):
a. I’ve always been in interracial relationships. I don’t believe that everybody is the same. I like the differences in cultures. I like exploring those differences.
b. I’ve been battling with depression for most of my life. I write in cycles based on the depression and medication that I take to control it. There are long periods of time when I cannot write and once it ends I write in an almost manic form until the cycle begins again.
c. I have a morbid sense of humor and the best way to my heart is through laughter. I always root for the underdog. I’m shy and would rather snuggle in front of the television with my boyfriend than hit a club or meet a roomful of people.
9. CM: Favorite quote: PP: “Don’t frown. Someone might be falling in love with your smile.”
10. CM: Best and worst parts about being a writer?
PP: The best is when people are impacted by the words that you have thought, strung together and shared with the world. When people want you to write more, when they listen to what you have to say through your writing, when it touches them as it has touched you. The worst thing about being a writer is having someone disregard all that you’ve said because you dangled a participle.
11. CM: What’s your advice to writers, especially for those who are just getting started? And specifically, what are the tips you would suggest for authors who are juggling their family lives along with trying to live their dreams?
PP: My advice to a new writer is that if you want to be a good writer then write things that you as a reader would consider good. Do you know what you are looking for in a good book? What kind of characters do you like to read about? What do you hate to see in books? By asking yourself these questions and applying them to what you write you should get over the first hurdle which is to write something that interests others.
Most authors have multi-faceted lives. But if you want to write for more than just pleasure you have to treat it as a job. Set timeframes in which you can write productively. There was a point in my life when I wrote at 4am nearly every morning because I suffered from insomnia and that is when I would wake up! I wrote some of my best stuff at 4am. People think that just because you are writing at your laptop that you aren’t busy. Let them know that this is the time that you are writing and put up the proverbial “Do Not Disturb” sign. When it comes to your kids this isn’t so easy. You have to work around them. By the way, if it was easy than everybody would be a successful writer.
If this is your dream then take risks and put yourself out there. Learn from your mistakes and never go off on your critics. Listen and learn and be grateful because someone has taken their hard-earned money to purchase your words and they have a right to their opinions.
12. CM: Share an interesting or funny story about your writing experiences with us:
PP: Well I find it interesting that I am a popular author to people who don’t know me, but my own friends and family don’t read my stories. I don’t press it and I don’t talk about my writing to those people. Recently my mother began reading Juicy. At one point she looked at me and said, “What’s wrong with you? Why did you make that poor lady get beat up like that?!” Then when reading about Juicy’s mother she says, “Hey…this sounds like me. I remember when I did this…” I got really quiet then I just hollered, ‘Yeah Mama Juicy is about you! And about me and about this lady I work with, and a whole lot of other people. We’re all Juicy!’ She just grinned. I think she likes being Juicy’s mama…
PP: Thank you CeCe for the interview and inviting me to your blog. Your questions were great and fun to answer.