Monday, August 29, 2011
A Moment with the Author
Lorraine Elzia is an Author, Editor, Ghostwriter, Literary Artist and the 2009 African American Literary Show (AALS) Break Out Author of the year, and this year in 2011 she managed to again be nominated by AALS for an award. Awards notwithstanding, what’s all the hoopla about this author? Needless to say, literary fortitude is measured both by what you write and how you write it. She recalls what influenced her bailiwick in the industry and what propels her forward -- wanting to detail things in a manner that someone else experiencing the same angst would find a sense of serenity in what is written by her. And because of a gift in realizing that writing is much more than words, Lorraine has always had an admiration for literature and exercised her God-given talent for storytelling in various venues. I was given her latest novel, Ask Me Nicely and I Might. And it took me a long time to read it, but ultimately, curiosity overcame my sense of idleness. And as it turned out, I loved it! In additional to being beautifully written, the real story within the book is about how innate insecurities can allow murder and mayhem to trigger emotional trepidation. Here, under the auspices of The Romer Review (TRR), I was able to garner a few moments of her time long enough for her to give me an in-depth interview explaining some good points of interest on her persona, her writing, and why she’s able to deliver in different genres relative to inspiring and motivating others to see the beauty that derives from being diverse.
TRR: For those who may not know who Lorraine Elzia is, introduce yourself! Who are you...why do you do what you do, and why should the reading public buy your books?
LE: Who am I? What a great question and one that ALL of us should ask ourselves from time to time. If we don’t question who we are, we will never be able to reach the destination of where we are going. First and foremost, I’m a child of God; one that recognizes that she is blessed and highly favored. I’m also a representative of every woman who has dared to chase dreams without fear of failure. My philosophy is, “if I fail, oh well...at least I tried!” I’d much rather chase my dreams and risk failure than not to chase them and always question myself as to what I could have been.
By day, I work in the rigid legal field in a demanding, but fulfilling job; by night, I allow my creativity to be my dance instructor via words. The only thing that is as seductively fulfilling as a sensuous dance is the ability to describe it for another who has not experienced it, doing so in a manner that makes the reader’s feet ache from dancing vicariously through my words. That’s my goal in everything I write. That is why I do what I do...I want my readers to feel a connectivity to my stories that is so real to them that they feel it physically and mentally. I want them to get blisters on the toes of their imagination as we dance together through words. Ultimately, when you read a story by me, you will walk away not feeling as if you’ve read a good book, but as if you have EXPERIENCED it firsthand as well!
TRR: How did you get started writing and how have you managed to augment it with motivational speaking, editing, ghostwriting and the other extra-curricular things you’re into...are they synonymous in illustrating points of contention for you? If so, why and to what extent?
LE: Much like we’ve all learned to have crawled before we walked, and then walked before we ran, so has been the course of my writing experience. It has been a progressive series of be y steps first, that when coddled with the right amount of encouragement and focused study...it pushed me to the next level of existence. Yes, I crawled, therefore now I walk, and eventually I will run naturally. I’m a constant work in progress, striving to reach the best that I can be as serious writer that others should be paying attention to. I never sough out the path to writing, but it has always seemed to be an extremity of mine that demanded to be recognized and treated as an equal in the makeup of who I am.
A few years ago, I would have said that I was, ‘somewhat of an author.’ At that time, I wasn’t comfortable attaching such a prestigious label on something that I pursued for personal enjoyment. But as I began to take the craft of writing more to heart I became serious along with the need to help others bring their stories to life. Only then did I accept the fact that being a Writer, an Editor and a Ghostwriter were akin with being pregnant. I say this because when you’re carrying an expected pieced of you, you want it to be pronounced and proficient. There’s no middle ground; no safe line that can be walked. I had to always relieve myself of toxic thinking where writing was related -- I had to bring it! Once I allowed myself to be comfortable with labels and titles, it freed me to do what i felt I was born to do. Thus, I was able to ‘make it do what it do’, regardless of outcomes, judgment, or failure. Needless to say, everything just fell in place.
TRR: With so many books on the market how has the literary journey been for you...what have you learned, and what would you do differently if you were starting out again today?
LE: I would not change one thing about my literary journey. It was a gift to me, and as such, I have absolutely no expectations from it other than to follow where it leads me. I grateful for the journey, and to be honest, I think that the problem with most of the new, if not aspiring authors is the fact that they search for fame and fortune placing their hopes on the ‘expectation’ that the books they write will instantaneously become bestsellers and put themselves on easy street financially. They lose the real blessing behind the talent they’ve been given. It can be misleading when you fall prey to focusing all of your attention on sales numbers (or lack of same) where it would cause you to lose sight of the joy of writing. Don’t get me wrong...I have the same dreams as others of one day selling a million books or more, but it’s more important in my opinion to write with substance in an entertaining way, showing readers that there’s something to learn, and just making them feel that they have achieved an ‘ah ha’ moment! My goal has always been, and will always be associated with good storytelling. Quality over quantity is my mantra. What God has is for me, and if that equates to book sales so be it. If any of the above is realized then I’m operating in the light I’m supposed to be operating in.
You have to stay hungry to the craft of writing, and only the craft of writing in order to do well and have continuity. I admit that I’m STARVING, and there’s a place for marketing and promotions and those sort of things...but the satisfaction I get is knowing that there’s nothing that will ever supersede my need to tell a good story the way I’ve been led to tell it --this is what I measure my success as an author by! I’m nourished by my creative spirit.
TRR: Authors are always asked questions relative their beginnings as writers. Was it your goal to become a writer, or was it something else that inspired you to choose the literary arts?
LE: I didn’t choose writing, it chose me. Others may question why they were put here on earth, but this is not a question that looms in my heart. God influences me. He told me how, when and why, so I didn’t spend time pondering and questioning what came natural to me with His anointing grace. I’m secure in the fact that I’m obedient. I’m a confident writer because that is what I was created and designed to be. If I didn’t write, I honestly believe that I would wither away and just die! Writing is essential to my life as food and water is to survival. For me, writing indelibly is a necessity and a blessing.
TRR: What are some of the timeless, if not memorable occurrences that shaped you as a writer, and why would it be beneficial in sharing them with other aspiring authors?
LE: My beginnings as a writer are found in anthologies. I’m in seven of them. I put pen to paper in a manner that I thought others could relate to. I wanted to detail things in ways where someone else experiencing the same pain as I did could find solace and while relating, would be able to say “dang, I can SEE that!” Writing this way has done more to shape me as a writer than anything else. It made me keep details in the forefront of my mind in everything I wrote. From that moment on where it concerned being detailed-oriented, I didn’t just want to tell a story, I wanted to write from the heart and wanted it to be so visual that readers could close their eyes and picture the surroundings that I described. Occurrences like this while writing is not only timeless, but part of the fabric that made me wanted readers to feel what my characters felt. It is a step in the process of writing that should never be overlooked by authors of any genre. It’s important for them to remember to make readers FEEL it, see it, and experience what is being articulated. Do this, and I guarantee that audiences will walk away feeling satisfied.
TRR: Tell us about your new book, ‘Ask Nicely and I Might.’ Particularly, why did you choose to write about murder, mayhem and mystery...and how did you come about the theme for the story? Were there alternative plot twists, and perhaps a different setting that you wanted to include?
LE: I’ve written in all genres from religious to erotica, but I have a serious fascination with suspense and thrillers! I decided to write this book in appeasement of one of my alter ego’s desire to walk on the wild side if you will, for a moment or two. I admit that I’m a bit of an obsessive geek when it comes to why people kill and serial killers in general. I’ve done research and studied them for a while, long before I knew what I was doing. The idea of a female serial killer was one that I hadn’t seen written often, if at all, especially one of African-American origin. That sparked an interest and it challenged me to see if I could pull off writing about one.
There was no theme to the story for me, I just let the characters have free reign and take me to where they wanted to go. I only knew the beginning and end, everything else just fell into the ebb and flow of the story. I winged it and allowed the characters to be definitive of the direction they wanted to gravitate to. They led me! Ask Nicely and I Might was extremely enjoyable for me to write because as I finished each chapter and went to bed at night, I couldn’t wait to wake up and see what was going to happen next. Even though I knew what the final destination was to be, I had no clue of what sights would be seen along the way.
TRR: I’m sure you’ve been asked this a lot, but what significance does the title have for the story...how did you come up with it?
LE: As the story line began to speak to me, I knew that if I was going to have any success in portraying the sexy side of murder, I had to have a title that at first glance would set the mood for the rest of the book. The title had to have a pillow talk appeal -- something uttered from the lips of a lover. A sensuous serial killer deserved a sensuous marque to announce her presence. The title came from a need to express the sassy nature of a woman in control.
TRR: ‘Ask Nicely and I Might’ has contrasts that are inherent for a good balance for the story to stand on its own for good structure and perhaps something that you want readers to take in consideration...what would that be real or imagined?
LE: There are several messages layered over one another in my book. Some are quite obvious and others kind of sneak up on the reader and sucker punch them! However, the main contrasts are the two main characters who are nothing alike but whom both carry baggage of their past into their adult lives. The way they deal with their demons is something I ask readers to consider when measuring the weight they allow their own past to illustrate their lives today, Also, through a crime scene investigation, I’ve asked readers to tape into their own beliefs concerning the act of blindly following religion, or those that are self-proposed prophets and the effects that it can have on families psychologically. I deal with physical and sexual abuse...not only in the obvious ways but also in the emotional bedroom where women can mentally abuse men by their actions or lack of same.
TRR: You’re one mare in a stable of several horses of different hues and literary temperament...tell me, how do you differ from the herd?
LE: I really don’t deliberately try to differentiate myself from the others. I just do what I do and I encourage them to do what they do. We all get along. One of the problems I’ve found among African American authors is that some of us have a ‘crab int he barrel’ mentality where we think that in order for us to rise to the top we have to push down and step on top of another trying to ascend to the next level. I don’t give in to that plan at all. I believe there’s an audience for everyone that write well. I make it a habit not to compete with my stablemates, nor do I compete with any other author out there. The only author I compete with is myself! I constantly fight myself to be unique and original. My goals always are to write something unlike anything else out there...something that readers hasn’t read before. I mean, how many African American female serial killers are out there?
I believe in diversity. That’s one of the reasons why i don’t write in one genre. I want each and every book that a reader pick up with my name on it to be of a different hue, something out of the ordinary, an unexpected twist and definitely something that they cannot get from author X, Y or Z. My only concern is to write to the best of my ability and be true to the craft!
TRR: Do you read other authors? Who would be considered your mentor in the literary world (if you have one), or perhaps who is it that you admire most?
LE: What do I read? I like to read relatively new authors, the ones that doesn’t have household names who haven’t cracked the literary scene long enough for their names to be branded. Why is this? Since I’m an Editor and a Ghostwriter, I tend to read much often their work. But due to the nature of providing the aforementioned services new writers will more often get my attention. Generally speaking though, I hate this question because I usually don’t have a stock answer with a litany of well-known authors that others can, and will judge me by. That being said, when I DO read, I enjoy Peace in the Storm authors, the likes of publisher Elissa Gabrielle, and LaToya Watkins. K. Roland Williams is another favorite of mine. Each of them has style and substance unlike any others that I’ve experienced before. They take their time in creating visual experiences worth of the title, ‘Author.’ But at the end of the day when i want to curl up and read something just for the sheer enjoyment of reading good writers never fail to deliver!
TRR: In conclusion, what would you say as parting words for the general readership of this blog and website?
LE: There is a quote that I like to use as a tagline for my life that I encourage others to use as well: “Don’t blend in, when you were born to stand out.” It’s a simple philosophy of encouragement to make life your own and give reference to style, a flair for the dramatic and flavor that only YOU can give. Too often we strive to be like someone else, mimicking their actions when what we really want and need is to walk proudly in the individual uniqueness of what we are. Whether you are a trash man, cashier, teacher, doctor, lawyer or whatever follow the path of what God has called you to be...but do it only as you can. Hold your head up and walk boldly with your individual swagger into your destiny knowing that you too, have stories to tell!
THE BOOK REVIEW: 'Ask Nicely and I Might'
The title of the sophomoric novel by Lorraine Elzia, `Ask Nicely and I Might' albeit catchy, but could have also been given an alternative appellation and it wouldn't have detracted from the excitement of a well-penned effort. `To Catch A Killer' would have been my choice, but there's more to this book than the title. First and foremost, any book written as noir extracting the exact amount of intrigue for mystery, murder, mayhem, that does wonders for a script, should be definitive of good character development among other dramatic fortitude. This one doesn't disappoint. To wit: the reading public is introduced to the antagonist, Jade, who after years of abuse from her alcoholic husband Carl, implements an ingenious plan to take herself out of misery. Yes, she murders him in a matter-of-fact way, thus defining methodology that permeates throughout the book. Reaching the limit and vowing not to be abuse any more, a murderer is born embarking on a path of whimsical destruction on men she encounters who take her body for granted.
In an unusual twist, Ms Elzia writes the antagonist as the catalyst, weaving the story around her antics and psychotic mindset allowing her sister Alex as the `trailer' giving contrast. Back to Jade for a moment. The book unfolds with her center stage portrayed as a subservient wife, but with a fragile demeanor that grew stronger and bolder with each excuse to inflict pain to each unsuspecting soul. The protagonist, a detective searching for answer herself for the father that was missing in her life, and the unexpected revelation that her sister is a murderer. Her aggressive deportment gives the storyline great contrast to Jade's trail of blood. The story is so compelling that the only secondary character, Dr. Morris, a psychoanalyst is almost inconsequential, but manages to add semblances of importance.
I like this book for many reasons, and rated it 5 of 5 stars. Seldom do you find authors of color writing murder mysteries with desires to write across the board without being stereotyped in status quo literary renderings. Lorraine Elzia manages to push the envelope creating a compelling book, with enough drama to hold her own. I especially liked too, how she played each sister off of each other for the denouement to leave much to the imagination for perhaps a sequel. Energetic with page-turning anticipation, Ask Nicely and I Might, without regret will have readers spellbound! The Jade character jumps out at you and you KNOW that there should be continuity to her story. The book resonates and vacillate from chapter to alternating chapter with Jade, Alex and Dr. Morris having their say. This is a great book, and if you want suspense and thrilling episodes I recommend you buy it where books are sold. Lorraine Elzia is poised to join the ranks of superlative written acumen if she continues to write books of this nature. I, like many others are destined to want our appetites whetted with more of this type of writing!