Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Next Best Thing Blog Hop

I am pleased to be a stop on The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. This particular blog tour invites writers to answer ten questions about their current Work in Progress, or forthcoming project, then tag four to five different authors. I was tagged by Terri Kirby Erickson, author of In the Palms of Angels. I bought Palms of Angels after hearing Terri read. Her poems were filled with such vivid images that I read the book from cover to cover like a novel. Read more about In the Palms of Angels at

My answers to The Next Best Thing Blog Hop questions:

1. What is the working title of your book or project?
            Salt in the Sugar Bowl
2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project?
            A friend and I were in a pub talking about the origin of personal issues (not the news worthy issues, the psychological kind). I recalled a couple of stories I’d heard about mothers and fathers who simply walked or drove away from their families. After such an event, no matter how together a person might seem, trust, loyalty, and bonding in relationships would become major themes at some point. Such events are defining moments. Each child would process it differently—depending on age, gender, personality, etc., but I don’t think anyone would escape the trauma of it. I knew I wanted to write about what early trauma and disappointment look like years down the road.
3. What genre does it fall under, if any?
I believe it’s realistic fiction.
4. If applicable, who would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
            Salt in the Sugar Bowl features a long list of characters because it tells a story about two parents and six children. Each chapter gives a snapshot of a pivotal crisis in one of their lives—so we have eight protagonists. I can imagine the roles played by Terrance Howard—as the patriarch, Hunter Sawyer. He has charm, but he also has that sort of lowdown quality exhibited in Howard’s role in Lackawanna Blues. The matriarch could be Taraji P. Henson because her beauty and potential can be eclipsed by a certain frazzled quality—which is Sophia Douglas Sawyer all day.
Hunter and Sophia’s offspring are adults or young adults—and a cast of characters might range from Willow Smith, to Alicia Keys, Mos Def, Keri Washington, Hill Harper, to Wood Harris.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project?
When Sophia Sawyer disappears— leaving her six children to be raised by her husband, she considers everything except how her absence will color their lives as they attempt to live, love, trust and function as adults.
6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am grateful that Main Street Rag Publishing Company is releasing the novella in April 2013. It is currently available for preorder at a discount until April 6th. Visit:
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took a year and a few months. I worked on the chapters one at a time because each major character has a standalone episode. They all had to interconnect and share a common history, but their events didn’t happen simultaneously. The time-related details made me a little crazy. I’m all about the words—not the numbers.
8. What other book or stories would you compare this story to within the genre?
            Though my content and style is not the same, I would point toward Girlchild byTupelo Hassman and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz because both books are very episodic. Neither of those have long, sweeping, complex, plot-driven narratives. They are character-driven works that expose events that either cut to the quick or shave off the protective layers we try to maintain. Also, whenever I read J. California Cooper, I am pulled into her “come on in and sit down while I tell you what happened” style. I aspire to have that kind of accessibility.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story?
            I have lived a textured life. I was born in Brooklyn, NY. When I was about a year old, I began spending a large part of my time in the South with my grandparents and young aunts and uncle, and the rest of the time in Brooklyn with my mother. I was always missing whomever I had left behind. Then my grandparents died when I was still young—and grief became a huge part of my life. I acted out a lot during my adolescence, and I don’t think anybody even realized it as such, and never put two and two together. But years later, as I navigated love relationships and defined who I was within my family, emotions linked to my youth permeated my expectations, fears, and preferences.
            Once I recognized the impact of my past painful events on my adult relationships, I saw similar patterns in the lives of those around me. I noticed that most people weren’t attributing their unhappiness or chronic stress or low-grade depression to anything other than their current lack of or desire for something. They think the problem is an insensitive partner, poorly-behaved children, a cramped house, an incompatible job, etc. I believe the real culprits are the underlying “ideas” about life we learned from our experiences. Unless we are very introspective, we basically fall victim to a syndrome that I will call constructing an issue-driven life.
I decided to use Sophia’s abandonment of her children to illustrate how an event affects the choices and outlook of the adult children years later. We are on the outside looking in as they navigate their lives with a skewed psyche. I believe the characters embody guilt, fear, suspicion, martyrdom, vanity, and deception. Many readers will connect with these emotions. This is why I wrote the book—so readers see how problematic responses to situations and circumstances stem from places inside us. As we begin to see this, we connect with the level of control we actually have over our responses and well-being as life happens. We can start living more purposefully—instead of being on automatic.
10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest?
            Life is complicated and sometimes hard, but we need to learn our lessons and keep moving. The dilemmas faced by characters in Salt in the Sugar Bowl suggest lessons that can be helpful for our own journeys—including:
q       Be yourself! If you want a life that actually works for you, you have to show up for that life as yourself. Forget the media images and think about what an authentic life looks like. Be who you are, right now.
q       Make choices you can live with! When you are lucky enough to have a choice, stay conscious as you make it. There are a limited number of choices you get to make in life. There are some decisions that anchor you so deeply into what you don’t want that there is nothing but hell to pay afterwards.
q       You are as prepared to survive hardships and emergencies as you believe you are!
q       Know that there is often a difference between the truth and what you’ve been taught to believe.
q       Take off the blinders of the past, and you will find more options than you ever imagined existed.

Order Salt in the Sugar Bowl during the preorder period!

Check out the following Next Best Thing authors on Wednesday, January 30th as they answer the 10 questions.

Raina Leon writes about Boogey Man Dawn coming in April from Salmon Poetry. Her poetry collection explores the impact of manipulation of children, the brutality of stifling innocence, with moments of hope for the future.

Nadira Angail answers questions about her book Still Learning that chronicles the lives of four Muslim American, twenty-something friends as they deal with trials of love and identity.

Silas Shah answers questions about Philosophy of Time: “…not a book about prison, because we’re all doing time.”

I'm missing an author, but I will add one as soon as I find one!

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