What made you decide to write mysteries?
I love mysteries of all kinds books, movies, even real life mysteries. Since there aren't many black mystery writers on a whole, and even fewer with a single black woman as the protagonist, I decided I would make my contribution to the mystery genre by writing the kind of book I would enjoy reading myself.
Is Kendra anything like you?
Kendra and I share the same taste in music. We both love old school R & B. Like Kendra, I used to work for a GED program, and we both grew up in Ohio. But, beyond that, we're quite different. I'm not quite as cheap as she is and she's a lot braver than me. I could never do some of the things she does to get the answers she needs. Plus, she's had more boyfriends than me.
What was the inspiration for your first book, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP?
There was a story in the news several years ago about women who had been romanced by a man who broke their hearts and ran off with their money. I got to thinking about what would happen if a man like that ended up dead with all the women he hurt as the suspects. It kind of took off from there.
Is Willow a real town in Ohio?
No. Willow is actually a combination of two places: Athens, Ohio, where I went to college, and my hometown of Springfield, Ohio.
What mystery writers have inspired you?
I'm a huge fan of Barbara Neely's Blanche White series, and I adore Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins and Paris Minton series. I also love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. There are so many other writers who've inspired me that I don't have room to name them all.
What is your writing schedule like?
I work full-time so I try and write at least a few hours or 1,000 words a day. Having deadlines that have to be met has helped me be more productive but I'm still not as disciplined as I should be when it comes to my writing.
Why do you think there are more mysteries by African-Americans being published in recent years?
The bottom line is money. Publishers finally realized that black people read and saw that there was a huge untapped market.
How hard was it for you to get a book deal?
Very! I started writing THE COMPANY YOU KEEP in October of 1995. I finished it in early 1999. I went through two literary agents and finally was offered a book deal in January of 2004 By BET Books. Altogether that's nine years of writing, submissions, and rejections before finally
getting an offer.
What made you hang in there and not give up?
I truly believed in my first book. I knew there was a market for it. I got a lot of positive feedback from the people who read it. I figured maybe the timing wasn't right when it didn't sell right away.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Expect rejection and criticism and try not to take it personally, study your market and the publishing business in general, read other books in your genre, write often, join some writers groups, and don't give up.
Are there more Kendra books in the works?
Yes. I signed a new three book deal last year. So, there will be at least 6 books in the series.