Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Watcha Doin' with Tiana Laveen

Tiana, what inspired you to take up writing?

I have been writing since I was a young girl and learned how to write. I was drawing and writing, making up stories in my head with colorful characters and ‘inappropriate’ love scenes for someone my age, lol. My mother had an old typewriter from when she was in college in the early 80’s, and she’d let me use it to type out my stories. I had folders and folders of poems and stories squirreled away in my bedroom.

What do you love most about being a Storyteller?

I love the ability to literally create worlds and people. I thought initially, I’d be ‘making them’ do what I want, like playing with dolls, but quickly learned that is not how it was going to work. More times than not, my characters tell ME what they are going to do. I simply ‘set them up’ and they do the rest. I also love entertaining people as well as giving information they may be able to use, simultaneously. I enjoy interacting with readers about what I’ve written. It’s just a joy to disappear inside of myself, live with ‘people’ I created and then present them to others. I never get tired of it.

What did you do before you became a writer?

I worked as a Marketing Director in corporate America. I got sick of the rat race. I was tired of meetings, etc. My creativity was being stifled, but, I had to pay the bills. Then I got an opportunity to work from home for another company. I did that for awhile and while I was taking care of my then infant son, for stress relief, I began writing late at night. I never stopped writing, I just wrote less but I found myself needing an outlet. So, I spent the nights painting, drawing and writing and the writing took over more and more of my nightly routine until I looked down and saw I had literally written two books without knowing it. I cut and pasted and excerpt one late night online, a friend of mine saw it--he was already a published author (I didn’t know it though – he and I had fallen out of contact.) and he had me call him immediately to talk to me about my writing and the rest was history.

What do you enjoy doing besides writing?

Well, as alluded to, painting and sketching. I also enjoy cooking and spending time with my family and friends.

If you could change one thing about the world what would it be? Why?

I would have people automatically have to treat people kindly until their behavior warranted otherwise. We live in a very self-absorbed, cruel world and people sometimes don’t seem to care how their words and actions negatively affect others and sometimes, they in fact know, and because they are so powerless in their own lives, they thrive off of hurting others in other to feel important and get attention. I would have that sort of behavior stop and I am certain it would stop or at least greatly minimize larger social issues and problems - such as unnecessary wars, intolerance, etc.

My biggest challenge in writing The Scarlet Omen and the rest of the trilogy was keeping all the characters in my head alive and present throughout all three books. Please tell us a little about your latest release and the challenges you faced writing it.

My latest release, “Saved and SAINTified”, is the from a series in which the main character/Hero is a sex-therapist, author and ‘in your face’ advocate of interracial relationships, particularly those involving black women and Rainbeau/non-black men. The first two books in the series, “The Naughty Sins of a Saint” and “When Saint Goes Marching In”, delve into who he is, how he met his Goddess/wife, ‘Xenia’ and the trials and tribulations they’ve had to overcome vocationally as well as their relationship. This third release focuses more on Saint’s past, and how he came to be the man he is today as well as a new problem with a wayward relative across the globe who wishes nothing short of his and his new child’s death.
One of the challenges I had while writing this, is knowing that I had to go deeper into the paranormal of Saint’s life. I have some readers/fans who do not enjoy paranormal – but it came down to an artistic choice in which I had no choice. The main character needed to address this further, and after all, he is psychic with special abilities. I would have done himself and his ‘world’ a great disservice by not addressing it. I knew I was taking a chance, but at the end of the day, I have to be true to the characters.

Another challenge was one of the scenes involving a man that he grew up with. It was very gritty, heart-wrenching scene, and it was painful to write because I was fully aware that people like ‘Bomb’, really do exist and it was emotional for me, as a writer, to paint a picture of this side character’s world. He was an intelligent, Puerto-Rican gang member from a world that was lost – yet his mind was still ‘there’ – back in a time where heroine, fighting and basic survival were a way of life in the urban scene of the south Bronx, circa 1979-1982. This was such an important part of how Saint became the man he is today, it too, had to be addressed. Even though this is essentially a romance story and about family, Saint needed to tell his story much deeper – to go inside of himself and expose to the readers the how and why of his basic being.

Finally, the other challenge was the length of the story. I did not realize I had written over 700 pages. Please do not ask me how I didn’t know, lol, I truly didn’t until I received the manuscript back from my editor. I had two choices – split the story in half and sell it as a part I and part II, or deliver it whole, causing some people either annoyance or gratitude. I went with the latter, because the story was meant to be read as a whole, so that is what I decided to move forward with.

What are the three most important things an author should possess? Why?

1. Time -  You have to make time to write. Even if you are not on a schedule, if you are not writing, even in your ‘spare’ time, you won’t be able to develop your craft better. This is one of those things where you truly have to do it a lot to get better in your chosen genre(s).

2. A willingness to grow and learn throughout their writing career – The book(s) you write right now, won’t be the same as the ones you write ten years from now. That is how it should be. This is not to say those first two-three books won’t be good, but if you have readers and fans, they will see you getting better. They may not like everything you write, matter of fact, I am sure of this – but they won’t be able to see that you have severely declined, as far as your skills, if you are open to learning and getting better.

3. Drive -  Talent, willingness and time is not enough. You have to be driven to do it. You have to think about writing when you are not currently sitting at your keyboard or gripping your notebook. The things that you love and completely enjoy, you think about a lot. It needs to be your boy or girlfriend – that you are madly in love with. If you don’t feel that way about writing, then it means you may need to reevaluate what you truly want to do career wise. It can’t be a hobby. It can start as a hobby, but it can never stay that way – it must be a full-time relationship. The drive is what will get the writer over that hump regarding the pitfalls, delays etc. and it will allow the ‘wake-up’ call to transpire, the growth to transform them so they can reach it from the start of the manuscript, until they can see it in print and hold a hard-bound copy in their hands. (or kindle/nook) etc.

What do you want readers to feel after reading your novels?

I want my readers to have truly been enveloped in the world they read about. I want them to get angry, to laugh, and sometimes cry. I want them to have been entertained and possibly even enlightened. If it is a love story, I want them to be aroused and possibly even want to be the heroine or hero. I want the gamut of human emotions to have run. I don’t always write characters that are lovable at the beginning – because not all human beings are friendly, at ease, strong and aggressive. But I do want my characters to show evolution, and sometimes it is done subtly, sometimes on a much grander scale – but that that to me, is capturing the human divinity in a character that was 2-deminensiola, and is now fleshed out, almost palpable to the touch.

Any words of wisdom:

Stay true to your vision and your craft. Appreciate and acknowledge your readers and fans, and ask them to participate in dialogue but do not write what others want you to write, if that is not what is in your heart. If you do, you no longer have written your story, you’ve written theirs. You are the writer, and not everyone will fawn over your work – but at the end of the day, if you wrote what was in your heart, and did the best you could at that time, so that within itself is golden. Peer pressure is MFer, lol, but do not become her concubine. Don’t be pimped out by public opinion – be true to YOU.

Thanks so much, Tiana. Readers, please go to the links below to see what else Tiana is up to.