Gwyneth, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. My aim is to spotlight authors on my website while at the same time showing the diversity in other careers held by writers. Romance writers and readers have drawn snickers from some in the past. I want to change that in any way that I can.
Dyanne: Gwyneth, would you please tell my readers a little about yourself and your life before becoming a writer?
Gwyneth: I’m a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, friend, and university professor. I was all of these before becoming a writer and I remain all of these now. I was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey. I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. Writing is the one goal that has been a constant in my life. When I was in the eighth grade, I took part in an after school creative writing program. I literally begged my mother to let me enroll. It was just a six-week program, but taking part in it made me dream even more of one day seeing my name in print. There weren’t a lot of other creative writing opportunities where I grew up, but I continued to write out my novels on three-hole-punch paper. In 1996 I won the College Language Association Margaret Walker Creative Writing Award for Playwriting for my one-act play, “I’m Every Sister.” I have dabbled in poetry, screenwriting, and playwriting but my heart belongs to fiction.
Dyanne: When did you first decide that you wanted to be a writer and why?
Gwyneth: I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid. One of my first vocalizations of the desire to be a writer came when I was in the 7th grade. I told my teacher, Mr. Safian, that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and he said, “so what.” I’m still thinking about sending him copies of my books one of these days.
Dyanne: Why did you choose the romance genre?
Gwyneth: I love romance! I’ve read them ever since I was a preteen sneaking my mom’s books. When I think about even the early short stories and early attempts at writing from when I was a kid, there were always romantic elements in my writing. I don’t know that I chose romance. I think romance chose me.
Dyanne: Gwyneth, if you had one wish for the genre, what would it be?
Gwyneth: That’s a great question. I guess my one wish would be that white readers and writers in the genre were as open to diverse voices as Black readers and writers are to white novels. Black women who grew up reading romance and have been fans of the genre before the inclusion of diverse voices in the 90s are willing to read romance across race. We will buy and read books with white characters because we have always read them. And we know, in a way that is measurable by our purchasing history and record, that love and romance aren’t tied to any one color. If I were granted one wish for the romance genre it would be to get rid of the biases, prejudices and racism that exists in the romance community among some readers and writers.
Dyanne: Gwyneth, if you could not be a writer what other dream job would you have chosen? LOL.
Gwyneth: That’s a great question! If I couldn’t be a writer, I’d be a superstar, of course. Heck, since we’re going for dream job, I’d be a triple threat superstar. I’d be a singer, actress and businesswoman with my own franchise of clothes, perfume and shoes. I’d just have one name, “Gwyneth.” Because we all know any superstar worth her salt goes by one name. And I would probably be in all the tabloids too. Brittany and the girls would have to move over because I would handle my scandal and stay in the spotlight. I’m talking extreme break-ups and loving and leaving all the hot men in Hollywood. But I would wear underwear! You won’t catch me showing the goodies to the press. That’s where I would draw the line. Yes, that would be my dream job if I weren’t a writer. LOL.
Dyanne: Gwyneth, so many new writers still feel that they will become rich when they begin their writing career. What would you like to say to them?
Gwyneth: Do you mean before or after I’ve finished laughing? LOL. Seriously, I'd tell them that very few writers actually make it big. And by "make it big" I mean everything from being one of the lucky few who are able to quit their day job and actually support themselves through writing to those even fewer who make millions and grace the tops of all the bestsellers' lists. But keep the faith! You might be one of the few. Just know that it takes lots of hard work, talent and a bit of luck probably wouldn't be bad. No one can call it with certainty. Go for it! And if by chance you do make it big one day, remember it was your girl Gwyneth who told you to keep the faith and go for it when all those other haters were trying to through salt in your dreams. Don't forget about me... (smile)
Dyanne: Gwyneth, how many years of writing and how many manuscripts did you complete before you sold your first book?
Gwyneth: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I was an English/Writing major in undergrad. And as such, I had to take lots of writing classes across disciplines. I took everything from fiction and poetry to playwriting and screenwriting. I went on to get my Masters degree in Creative Writing and I wrote a lot. My creative writing thesis was a third of a novel and that later became the back story for my novel SWEET SENSATION.
Dyanne: Gwyneth, would you tell the readers a little about each of your works please?
Gwyneth: My first novel is titled I'M GONNA MAKE YOU LOVE ME.It won the EMMA Award from the Romance Slam Jam for book of the year, favorite hero and favorite heroine. It is the first book in my "Hip-Hop Debutantes Trilogy." This trilogy takes old romance plots and gives them a funky hip-hop remix. I'M GONNA MAKE YOU LOVE ME plays with the "arranged marriage" plot and the "rivals become lovers" plot and gives them a fresh spin.
My second novel is titled IF ONLY YOU KNEW. I have always been a fan of those Harlequin Presents novels with those over-the-top alpha males. These are the novels that I used to sneak from my mother's stash when I was a pre-teen. They were my first introduction to romance. I wrote IF ONLY YOU KNEW thinking I would submit it to Harlequin Presents and it would be that line's first book with black characters. Even though that didn't happen, I was happy to be the part of the launch for the new line of African American romance novels, Kimani Romance. This novel looks at the way our past, particularly the way we grew up, influences our present. And it also explores black on black prejudices across the African Diaspora. Of all my published books so far, this one is my favorite.
My third published novel is titled DIVINE DESTINY. It is a paranormal erotic romance set in a primitive future. Darwu the Warrior Prince has started a war against the rebel resisters to the throne. He believes that they killed his sacred mate, Kara Millan, when she was a child. After losing her parents and her entire village when she was a child, Kara Millan became a leader and freedom fighter in The Resistance. She has sworn to bring down the corrupt monarchy. When the Warrior Prince and the freedom fighter meet and find out that they are sacred mates, only divine love and a few sexually inspired lessons can bring these two sworn enemies to a true meeting of the heart, soul and mind. This one is my second favorite. But honestly, I think there may be a tie between it and IF ONLY YOU KNEW for me. (smile)
My fourth novel is title SWEET SENSATION and it is the second installment in the "Hip-Hop Debutantes Trilogy." It's the story of former deejay turned record label mogul, Fredrick "Flex" Towns, and former rap artist turned spoken word artist and community college instructor, Deidre "Sweet Dee" James. This novel provides a hip-hop remix of the "secret child" plot and the "reunited lovers" plot. And of all my books it is probably the closest to my heart because it is the one book that pulls in the two popular mediums I love the most, hip-hop and romance. (smile)
I have a novella in the anthology, CUFFED BY CANDLELIGHT with the talented authors, Beverly Jenkins and the late Katherine D. Jones. I love all of the stories in this anthology. Here's the blurb:
What do a farmer in the past and a correction and police officer in the present have in common? A desire that won’t abide by the rules of engagement. CUFFED BY CANDLELIGHT is three erotic tales of women bound to uphold the law and obey the rules. But when desire and the rules clash, love and passion ignite with some handcuffs and a little candlelight.
All three stories are HOT. My story, "Handcuffs Mean Never Having to Say You're Sorry," has some nice cuff play (wink wink). And out of all my heroes, I think Lance is the steamiest so far... although Darwu from DIVINE DESTINY might give him a run for his money...
I have a new series with Kimani Romance coming later this year about four brothers, two cops and two firemen. The first novel in that series will be out in July 2008 and it is titled PROTECT AND SERVE. The second novel is scheduled for September 2008 and it is titled MAKE IT HOT. The third novel is scheduled for December 2008 and it is titled THE LAW OF DESIRE. The fourth and final novel in the series is SIZZLING SEDUCTION and it is currently slated for October 2009. The series is billed as HIGHTOWER HONORS: Four brothers on a mission to protect, serve, and love…. The Hightower family has a legacy of public service and the men are usually either cops or firemen. These brothers have two of each, two cops and two firemen. The cop novels have a little intrigue, some drama and lots of passion. The firemen stories are hot, sexy courtship novels.
Dyanne: Gwyneth, have you done any other kinds of professional writing?
Gwyneth: I’m an academic. So, I’ve written an academic book and several articles in academic journals. Most of my academic writing deals with black women and popular culture. I've written a book, CHECK IT WHILE I WRECK IT: BLACK WOMANHOOD, HIP-HOP CULTURE AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE and co-edited another book, HOME GIRLS MAKE SOME NOISE: A HIP-HOP FEMINISM ANTHOLOGY. And I also co-edited a special edition of the academic journal FEMSPEC on black women's speculative fiction.
Dyanne: I always like to give a word of advice to aspiring writers or even writers who’ve been in the game a while. Do you have any thing you’d like to say to both the aspiring and old-timers?
Gwyneth: Keep the faith and hold on to the love. For writers new and old, these are crucial. It is so easy to become dejected and worn down, especially if things aren’t happening as quickly as you would like them to. Keep a positive attitude when you can and keep working to improve your craft. That way when you finally blow up and get all the fame and recognition you'll be ready.
Dyanne: Gwyneth, tell us please, how does it feel to be an award winning author and to be receiving all the many accolades? Does it make you feel pressured?
Gwyneth: It feels great to have been nominated and recognized for something that I truly love to do. I love romance and I love writing romance. And let's see... I wasn't feeling any pressure before you asked this question, but now I'm wondering if I should be feeling pressure. And now I'm feeling pressure about the fact that I don't feel pressure. My. God. What's wrong with me? Am I normal? LOL. Seriously, I feel the same amount of anxiety that I think all of us creative types feel. Trust me, I don't need to add any more pressure to that. You know us creative types take worrying to the next level. We worry about reviews, sales, will they like me... The worry list goes on. And I have my fair share with each new release. Winning awards didn't change that for better or worse.
Dyanne: Gwyneth, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. If there’s anything you’d like to say to the readers please do so. Also would you give a link for reader to view your work?
Gwyneth: Thanks so much for having me, Dyanne. This was so much fun and I’m glad we got a chance to chat like this. If you check out one of my novels be sure to drop me a line and let me know what you think. Reader can view excerpts of my work in the following places: