New Writer's Showcase
This week On The Same Page has the pleasure of interviewing, Tracy Thompson, author of debut novel, Black Coffee.
M.T.: Where did you come up with the title, "Black Coffee?"
T.T.: The title "Black Coffee" is symbolic of the strength and potency of the main character whose name is Sanderella Coffee. I wanted the reader to know right away whose story this was, and wanted her name, as well as the title, to convey the strength and stamina of her persona as in "black coffee...no sugar, no cream." No added ingredients are required in order to make her tasty and complete.
M.T.: What gave you the idea for your main characters' names, Sanderella and Romulus?
T.T. I usually laugh when asked this question, because everyone wants to know why they have such odd names! Well, shortly after these characters meet and decide they have some interest in each other, they discuss the origins of their names. Romulus explains to Sandie that he is named after a King, the mythical first ruler of the Roman Empire. Never one to be outdone, Sandie weaves a royal tale about her own name that not only shows Rom she is quick-witted, feisty, and can think on her feet, her self-confidence and wickedly high esteem also impress him to the hilt, and he sinks deeper into the love jones he has for her.
M.T.: I understand you have a book deal with Random House. How long did it take to get the book deal after you self-published Black Coffee?
T.T. Thankfully, not too long. Black Coffee went available to the public during the second week in June, and my agent began shopping it in early September. We had several nibbles from various editors by mid-October, and by the end of October, Random House and three others were ready to make offers.
M.T.: What made you decide to self-publish the first version of Black Coffee?
T.T. Well, I decided to self-publish for the same reasons most other authors do. Very early on I landed an agent at a very reputable firm in NYC. I mean, this firm handled some very high-profile clients whose names you would recognize immediately, so of course I was extremely grateful to be invited to sign with them. Unfortunately, it turned out that the agent was very sloppy and had little drive when it came down to promoting African-American authors, and as a result, she held onto my work for 7 full months without shopping it anywhere. After I fired her, I was disillusioned and hesitant about placing my newborn baby in anyone else's hands, so I decided to go it alone and put my work out there myself.
M.T.: How does your service background lend itself to your novel?
T.T. My service background lends invaluable range to my writing. As a soldier I have traveled and lived all over the world, and worked and played with folks who live very different lives than we do here in America. It has forced me to open my mind and expand my horizons, and the various experiences have given me great material to use in my stories.
M.T.: What are some marketing tips you used in promoting Black Coffee?
T.T. In the words of Timmothy McCann, "Network, network, network!" Nearly all of my promotions were accomplished by networking with other writers. Most doors I walked through were opened as a result of another writer going before me and graciously unlocking the gates. I also used the Internet to market and promote Black Coffee, and owe a lot of its success to my Internet friends, peers, and readers.
M.T.: Have you ever taken writing classes?
T.T. Other than the various writing classes I took in college, I have not had any recent creative writing instruction, although I think it is extremely important for new writers like myself to do so. In fact, I am scheduled to take a writing course at Rutgers University in January. My first attempts at Black Coffee were very amateurish, so I was forced to go out and buy every book I could find on writing and really study the craft. I also reread a lot of books by authors whose work I respect, and in those pages I was able to pick up other tips on style and structure.
M.T.: Who are some of your favorite authors?
T.T. Oh, gosh! I have lots of favorites, but my VERY BEST favorites in contemporary fiction right now are: Gloria Naylor (whom I idolize and would love to grow up and write like someday), Dianne McKinney Whetstone, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Pearl Cleage, and literary newcomer and my homegirl, Bernice McFadden.
M.T.: How has the Internet helped your writing career?
T.T. The Internet has helped my career by connecting me with thousands of literary friends and resources (like you!) who I might not have been able to reach by traditional means. I think writers should take full advantage of the Internet to network with others and keep a finger on the pulse of the literary world, as well as to promote their own work.
M.T.: What advice would you give new and aspiring writers?
T.T. The best advice I can give to a new writer is to continue to write. Stay true to your own voice and to the voice of your characters. Find an agent who believes in your work as much as you do, otherwise they will not be enthusiastic about selling it. Don't get discouraged by rejection. It is always subjective and happens to the best of writers and is not to be used as a personal barometer to measure your skills and talents. Network with other writers and lend yourself in service. You'd be surprised at how much you receive in return. Never be afraid to share information with others; there is always room at the literary table for one more great story, so when you do realize your measure of success, happily scoot over and invite another good writer to come over and pull up a chair!
M.T. You're most welcome! Thanks for this inspiring interview! I read Tracy's short stories almost 2 years
ago and was impressed with her writing style. As you see, self-publishing can be another way into
New York Publishing.