Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Romer Review's LITERARY SHOWCASE Presents Author, J.D. Mason

Anyone who is familiar with good storytelling and have read a lot of it should know author, J.D. Mason. Her books are all the rage and I make no apologies relative to the fact that she's one of my favorite writers. Moreover, I'm proud to announce the first presentation that THE ROMER REVIEW is offering under a subsidiary production called, 'The Romer Review's Literary Showcase Presents...' series. J.D. Mason is the author of several bestselling novels including, And On The Eighth Day She Rested, This Fire Down In My Soul, and You Gotta Sin To Get Saved, which has been selected as one of the best books of 2008 by Black Expressions and the RAWSISTAZ Online Bookclub, and has been nominated for The Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award in the African American Fiction category. She is the recipient of the Atlanta Choice Award for her novel One Day I Saw A Black King, and her novel Don’t Want No Sugar was also nominated The Romantic Times Magazine award for Best Contemporary Fiction. Her novels have consistently been selected by The Black Expressions Book Club as main selections, and her work has appeared on bestseller lists in the Dallas Morning News, Black Expressions Book Club, and on Without further ado, we've decided to allow this author to be our first presentation and hope that you embrace her as we have! I had a chance to secure this one-on-one discussion and would like to share it with our reading audience:

Over the years you’ve written well enough to elicit an outstanding fan base with 6 books under your belt, not including contributions to two more anthologies...what has contributed to the longevity of your writing acumen, and what has been your experience from idea to bookshelves?

"Knowing that there is always another perspective to circumstances and being willing to consider other points of view is key to seeing the bigger picture. When I start new projects, it’s not about being overwhelmed with buckets of inspiration raining down on my head. It’s about choosing a subject matter that I think readers might find interesting and then asking myself the question, “What’s the best way to tell this story?”. That’s the motivation for me. The questions, “What’s the best story to tell” or “What’s the most unique story,” don’t necessarily come into play all the time for me, because I believe that just about any story can be made better if you are willing to tell it in an original way. People are absolutely fascinating, even when we don’t mean to be. We’re especially unique in our subtleness, when we think no one is paying attention, or when we’re being our most honest selves. I’ve always been pretty intuitive and observant, and those are the strengths in me, I feel, that keep me focused and driven as a writer.

The experience from idea to bookshelf is always a challenging one, and one that never unfolds the same way twice. Just when I think I’ve found that magic formula of how to put a book together, it never seems to work the same way again. I always struggle a lot in the beginning. Usually, it’s a process of starting and stopping and starting over again, before I finally find the “flow” I’m looking for. When I find the feeling I’m seeking, then I can usually finish the book, but until I do, it’s like driving a car that sputters along because you somehow got water in the gas tank."

Why is writing so important to how you can express putting it all down on there a method to this madness? When and where is the best time for you to write?

"There’s no method, but plenty of madness. I actually hate the process of writing. I love storytelling, making up stories, but writing is hard work. It’s not something I consider fun. It’s boring, tedious, frustrating, and did I say tedious? I know that once I get started, and find that vibe or rhythm, then it’s off to the races, and I try and write as quickly as I can to get as much done as I can before I lose it. But there is no best time to write. Some books I’ve written in the early hours of the day. Other books, I may have written in the afternoon hours, and some may be written late at night. I used to think that I’d have a formula figured out by now, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen."

You may not remember me, but I was formally introduced to you via Marlive Harris’ G.R.I.T.S. online reading and book club about 4 years ago and have never stop admiring your afinity to great important are book clubs to all things literary pertaining to you as an author and the books you write?

"Book clubs are the pulse of the literary world. It’s the book clubs, I believe, that have kept most of us in print, and without them, I don’t know if I’d still be here after all these years. Individually, I don’t think they realize the power of their influence in this business, but collectively, they are as important as publishers, writers, bookstores… And it’s always wonderful to see people gather together to break bread to discuss a good book. Honestly, I think that’s the best way to truly enjoy reading."

From the first book you wrote -- And the Eight Day She Rested’ to the current ‘Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It’ how have you matured as a writer?

"I’ve become more comfortable with the sound of my literary voice. With my earlier books, 8th Day, and Black King, I honestly had no idea that I even had a literary voice. When you’re a new writer, you write mostly from passion, and the desire to finish a book and to hopefully see it on the shelves someday. But as time goes on, and you write more books, the passion is still there, but it’s different. I am still a nervous wreck before a book comes out, worrying over whether or not people will like it. But I write with purpose, now. I write with a specific direction in mind, and with my earlier books, I don’t think I did that, intentionally. Now I’m passionate about being more creative and exploring new directions with my books. As a writer, I feel that I’m brave enough to do that now—on purpose!"

I’ve always feel that your stories are character-driven with great plot twists, compelling settings with story lines that give drama a favorable flair...are there formulas you use to weave a fabric to tell your stories?

"All I know is that if I’m bored writing the book, then readers are going to be bored reading it. When that happens, I usually hit the delete button on my computer and start over from scratch. There’s not a formula, but I believe that reading should be more than two-dimensional. You have to do more than just see the words and hold the book in your hand. Reading should stir emotions, and physical feelings in the reader, and in the writer. I can’t just go through the motions and put words on paper just to fill a word count for my publisher. When I hit that last keystroke, I need to feel satisfied."

Let’s talk about Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It’...tell us how you came about writing the gist of the story, and why was it so poignant for you to illustrate it in a narrative?

"The original premise of this book was to show the mature woman (40plus) in a different light. The three main characters, Renetta, Phyllis, and Freddie, are all about forty-eight, and thirty years out of high school, and I wanted readers to see that women of this age could be funny, daring, sexy, flawed, and still stumbling along trying to find themselves. The idea to add Tasha, the long lost daughter of one of these women, came later to add an element of tension to the group. This is a great book for book club discussions and for women to maybe see that getting older means getting more out of life in a way that you were too clueless to do when you were younger. It’s also about coming to terms with a decision these women made years ago, and realizing that each one of them, in her own way, has been mourning that decision for too long on her own."

People whose lives are connected seem to be one of the mantras you use to fuel dramatic interludes, are any of the characters in the books you’ve written related, or have issues that would justify fodder to be used in subsequent books?

"The only characters that I have carried over into other books so far are the characters from One Day I Saw A Black King, which I call my “unintentional series”. It was never meant to be a series, but I loved the characters, and they all had such a rich story line component, that it was hard not to do. And readers kept asking for more of these characters, which was surprising. I’ve been asked if I plan on writing sequels to other books, like That Devil’s No Friend of Mine and And On The Eighth Day She Rested, but I don’t think it’ll happen—necessarily. There are some characters from other books that I’d like to keep on the back burner, though…just in case."

‘On the Eighth Day She Rested’ and ‘One Day I Saw A Black King’ are two of my favorite J.D. Mason books...and I like them for many reasons, but mainly because of human values are interwoven with how relationships are won and lost on how decisions are made... What can you tell the reading public about how issues between people may be staples for you writing a good story?

"People and their relationships are the best and most plentiful inspiration. I mean, it’s endless. An individual has a ton of different relationships going on all at once, and in each of those relationships, that person can represent someone different to each person; a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife…and in each role, we behave differently depending on who we’re with. We think differently, we speak differently. That’s the beauty of being human, and that’s why the inspiration for exploring relationships in books is so bountiful. It’s about stepping outside of my skin and pretending to be someone else. And when I do that, I have to try and think and act like they would. I get to play pretend when I’m writing, just like I used to play when I was a kid. That’s why this is such a great job."

What is your favorite book you've written...the one that you feel best exemplify how you nailed your concept for reader appeal. Explain why.

"I honestly can’t say which one is my favorite. I’ve loved them all for different reasons, and I don’t know if I’ve ever completely nailed any concept for any particular reader. I think that if you ask different readers, you’ll get different answers as to which book they liked best. Personally, I like them all."

If someone were to ask you, “Who is J.D. Mason, why you write as you do, and why they should buy your books, what would you tell them?

"I’m probably one of the most unassuming people you’ll ever meet, and I can be a bit shy too sometimes. I communicate so much better as a writer than I do in face to face conversation. But still waters run deep, and I am more confident on paper than anywhere else. Sometimes, I don’t even know how deep I can be until I go back and read something I’ve written, then look at it, like “where did that come from?” Being a creative writer is what I do best, and when you read my books, I think you’ll be carried away by good stories that offer new and different perspectives that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. I write to get you thinking and talking, and maybe even arguing and disagreeing. I write to stir feelings in you that maybe you didn’t even know were there, but are surprised and happy to discover."

Are there any suggestions, tidbits of information or good advice that you could give my granddaughter about becoming an accomplished writer?

"Have an open mind and spirit. Be receptive to your thoughts and characters voices, no matter how much they conflict with your own. And be brave enough to try new things, to explore new and unique concepts. Be diligent, because this business is tough. It’s tough to get into, and even after you’ve signed a contract for your first book, it’s still tough. I won’t tell you to get a thick skin because the criticism will come. All criticism hurts, but you should learn to separate constructive criticism from insults, and grow from it."

What’s next for J.D. Mason on the horizon?

"I’m finishing up the very last book featuring the characters from Black King. The new book is called Somebody Pick Up My Pieces, and should be out later this year. I’ve just turned in my first science fiction novel to my editor, and I’m waiting to hear from her on how I well I did, or didn’t do, with it. It’s the first book in a three book series. I have just started a new novel called 'Beautiful, Dirty, Rich' and it centers around a rich and powerful black family from the south called the Gatewoods, and I’m toying around with the idea of writing a YA sci/fi novel or series, if it works out."