Fill in the blank: “Reading VISIONS OF A CRYPTIC MYSTERY will _______________________.”
“…make you realize the depth of your own emotions, and give your heart a voice.”
Titles are very important to books; how did you come up with the idea for your collection’s title?
I actually came up with the name during high school. Funny story: when I was creating my e-mail address I wanted something original that didn’t have any numbers on it, so I came up with “kryptic mystery” (the ‘k’ was intentional because I thought it looked cool). “Cryptic Mystery” essentially describes me, my personality, so the title for the book just fell into place. My writings are literally visions of a cryptic mystery.
When did you know that writing was something you truly wanted to do?
Hmm…wanted to do as in professionally? Honestly, I’m not seeking to be the next big writer or anything like that. I do it because I enjoy it, because I have a talent for it, and I wish for others to enjoy it. But I figured that part out gradually as I grew up. I’d read books and think to myself, “I can write like this”. After I thought that over and over, I guess it finally hit me that if I thought I could write, then maybe I should.
What are some of the topics you explore in VISIONS OF A CRYPTIC MYSTERY?
Well, it’s separated into three sections: love, loss, and life. The first two are pretty self-explanatory. In the “Love” section the stories and poems deal with deep love and attraction, as well as love that is just beginning to blossom and find itself. These are probably some of my most sincere and open pieces, simply because I’m a passionate person when it comes to loving someone deeply. In “Loss”, you have love that wasn’t true, or love that never had the chance to flourish. These are your poems of heart ache and heart break, the fruit of a relationship ended or ending. “Life”, however, is an assortment of things, because that’s what life is, a random assortment of happenings and occurrences. There are poems that are very personal to me that deal with depression and loneliness. I included these because I felt that there would be others who could relate to what is expressed. Then there are a few pieces that are exclusively from the Black perspective and experience. They aren’t based on anything specific, but the voice and tone of them speaks to what we as Black people can relate to. And of course there are the spiritual poems, for spirituality is VERY important to me. I’d considered giving these pieces their own section, but to be totally honest with you, I didn’t have as many as I’d have liked to make it a full section. But spirituality is also what makes up life, so it was an acceptable compromise.
Which came first: collection idea or material? Did you start out knowing that you were going to develop a collection of poetry and fiction, or did you – after developing several works – realize you had a possible collection on your hand? Talk to us about this.
The material definitely came first. Some of the works included were actually composed during high school, so the collection spans many years. Now, my personal collection of writings is much larger than what is included in the book, but only what I felt was the best was included. There are probably a couple of pieces I left out that I could go back and edit; if so those will end up in the second collection. But no, when it comes to poems, I write them as they come to me, however they come to me. I don’t sit and say, “Okay, I need to write a spiritual poem today”. You can’t just force it out, otherwise it is contrived and artificial. Writing is truly a birthing process, and just like you can’t decide at conception what kind of child you’ll have, neither can you decide what sort of poem it will be until it is written.
Stories are slightly different. Those I have a little more “control”; I develop the story in my head, what I want to express, how I want it to end, but even then I have to let the story develop itself.
What’s your favorite thing about VISIONS OF A CRYPTIC MYSTERY?
Truthfully, my favorite thing about it is that I DID IT! I wrote and published my own book, my first book. Everything about VISIONS, its cover, the editing, everything, I was able to do. It’s really something to hold something in your hands that you created. It is an accomplished goal, and that alone is something I take much pride in, despite whether or not anyone else enjoys it.
What are three adjectives that best describe VISIONS OF A CRYPTIC MYSTERY?
Original. Distinct. Me.
What are three adjectives that best describe YOU?
Creative. Lone. Different.
Your press release for the collection states that VISIONS OF A CRYPTIC MYSTERY reflects the Black lesbian experience of love, loss, and life. How important is it for you to reflect the Black lesbian experience in your literary works?
It’s because I am Black, and I am a lesbian. These things don’t completely define who I am, but they are a part of who I am. The important thing about VISIONS is that everything expressed is by a person who is Black, a female, a lesbian, a Christian. It’s not so much that I need to reflect the Black lesbian, but for readers to understand that the Black lesbian is reflected. Love is a universal emotion, something that every human has and will experience. With most any piece, mine and others, if you change the subject from, say, a white woman to a Hispanic woman, the culture might change, but the heart ache from losing a loved one doesn’t. This is what I want non-lesbian readers to see, that although the subject is a gay woman, the emotions are the same. As for lesbian readers, specifically Black lesbian readers, I want them to realize that although we’re a minority, our experiences are common and widespread. Sometimes it’s hard trying to find other lesbians to talk with, to share your stories with. This is what VISIONS is about, sharing our stories.
How might others (outside the lesbian community) connect with your work, too?
Anyone can connect with this. Perhaps not with every single story, but with the majority of the book. Emotions are universal. Love, hate, depression…these things you don’t need to be Black or gay to know about.
Do you have a standard process to your writing? Are you an outliner or a jump-right-in writer?
For stories I develop the basics in my head first. I know how I’ll start it, and I know how it will end because there’s normally a message or tone I want to convey. Getting from beginning to finish is usually planned out, but not written in stone. As I write an idea may come to me, so I might have to back track and change a few things. But normally, with a story, I don’t sit down and write it physically until I’ve written it mentally. For example, with “Other Side of the Moon”, I was able to pump out the story itself within two hours, with very little editing done to it since I originally finished it.
Poetry, on the other hand, is a labor of love. Sometimes all I have is a title, which I jot down, and then it may sit for months until the rest of it flows out of me. Or I’ll begin with one thing in mind, but by the time I’m finished I’ve written something completely different. The poem “Historian” was like that; I began it as a lover’s loss poem, and it ended being a Black perspective piece. Poetry is much more complicated, because if it doesn’t flow right, it’s no good.
Word Association. What comes to mind when you see the following words:
Oh man, I TOTALLY suck at word association because I always associate the word with itself. So please forgive me if these are odd.
VISIONS OF A CRYPTIC MYSTERY: ….? Ha, all I can see is my book cover!
ETERNITY PHILOPS: eternal love
As a person who is creating her own publishing house, what advice would you offer to those wanting to become their own boss and publish?
RESEARCH AND SAVE!!! When I started with my publishing company, I’d actually decided not to make it a “real” business. In other words, I wasn’t going to seek my business license or anything like that. I was just going to buy the ISBN numbers, which is TECHINICALLY all you need to be a publisher, and be done with it. But I changed my mind because I decided that I’d eventually want Black Tygre Publications to grow. I’d actually suggest getting a mentor or talking to someone who has done this and has been in business for a while. But being the loner than I am, I did everything myself, which just works better for me. But definitely research business and state requirements if you want to be legitimate, get an accountant for taxes, and save at least $1,000 (the ISBN block alone is $275). While you might want to do it just to publish your own stuff, approach it with the expectation of branching out to other writers. Even if you don’t, you’ll still have a solid foundation just for yourself. Oh, and have a good marketing plan! All the work in the world doesn’t mean anything if no one knows about your books!
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since you began your company?
Hmm…honestly, I’ve learned it’s much easier than I thought. Seriously, I didn’t start all of this until November 2007! I’ve had a harder time editing my book than starting my publishing company, which leads me to believe maybe I skipped an important step and left something out! But a big reason I’ve done all this on my own is so I can have the experience of doing it and learning along the way. I personally feel that it’s easier to start your own publishing company than to seek one out to represent you. But then again, I didn’t even explore that route, so I could be wrong.
What projects are you currently working on?
In terms of Black Tygre Publications, I’m focusing on VISIONS right now and getting my name out there. While I’m creative, I’m not great at marketing; I’m not one to push anything on anybody, so I’ll need to work on being a bit more aggressive on that end. At some point I’ll work on my first novel (got it in my head!), and hopefully have that out in the next five years, at the latest. But I won’t start that until I’ve fine-tuned the publishing and marketing process. Besides publishing I have some online stores, one for gay Christians, and another for random stupid stuff I come up with. I’m also exploring photography, just for personal pleasure, and I have an online store for that. Oh, and I’d started a greeting postcard business a couple of years back that I might rejuvenate at some point. So hopefully with all this going on I’ll start making some money soon!!