Kiini Ibura Salaam invited me to join this blog tour, and before I answer the tour questions, I need to rhapsodize about her. She describes herself as: A writer, painter, and traveller from New Orleans, Louisiana. The middle child of five, she grew up in a hardscrabble neighborhood with oak and fig trees, locusts and mosquitoes, cousins and neighbors. Kiini's work delves into spheres of human liberation, human connection, and evolution. She employs speculative fiction, erotica, and creative nonfiction to take readers through mind-bending journeys into the transcendent, the sensual, the mystical, and the fantastic.
In the thirteen years since she and I met at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, she's been a steady, mentoring presence in my inbox, thanks to her KIISList emails, in which she's charted her creative and personal development and given a steady stream of encouragement to all of us working towards our own creative goals. (Send an email to kiiniiburasalaam [at] hotmail.com to join.) During this time she's earned her MFA in creative writing from Antioch, published countless short stories, articles, and essays. Painted gorgeous paintings, and won the James Tiptree Award. To hear more about her in her own words, check out this interview I did with her on The Black Gate. Her award winning collection of short stories, Ancient, Ancient, is available at all major booksale venues.
Okay, now on to answering questions for this blog tour:
1) What are you working on?
I'm currently doing the veeery final polishing on A Safe Space, which will be out July 15th. This is the story of Lizzie Warner, a child star who has aged out of her role on her hit series and now finds herself ill prepared for life as an adult. Her biggest challenge is her crush on a womanizing bad boy named Devon who is seven years her senior. He is all wrong for her, but her feelings persist regardless.
And then I've started work on The Hunt for the Big Bad Wolf, which is the third book in the Fairytale franchise. I intended to write this before A Safe Space, but Lizzie and Devon wouldn't leave me alone, so I decided to write that one while the creative juices were flowing. The nice thing about a series like Fairytale is that those characters are familiar enough to me that I know they'll be there even if I put them off for another book. (A Safe Space is also a Fairytale spinoff; Kyra Armijo is Lizzie's roommate.)
2) How does your work differ from others' work in the same genre?
It differs in a ton of little ways that ensure it's impossible to join in anyone's joint marketing efforts it seems! My work is sweet romance because I personally don't think sex scenes are the interesting part of romance. It's everything that leads up to the characters getting together that is, for me, the meat of the story. Having said that, my work doesn't preach chastity or anything like that. I'm not interested in moralizing. Given this, my work usually falls straight into the chasm between people who like steamy scenes and people who believe they have no place in literature.
So I write new adult stories that focus on all the emotional and logistical aspects of coming of age, rather than the physical and sexual. Lizzie, for example, can't fall right into bed with Devon. He'd eat her alive. There's a lot of groundwork to be laid before these two can possibly come together.
3) Why do you write what you do?
Because these are the characters who speak to me. Really, that's the only answer I can give. I once asked author, Lee K. Abbott, whether he wrote with a purpose and I'll never forget his answer. He said that the only purpose for writing is the purpose the old man at the beginning of Rime of the Ancient Mariner feels, that overwhelming urge to grab people and say, "I've seen something that I've got to tell you about!"
I do put thought into social issues and check my work for stereotyping. When JP in Castles turned out to be such a jerk, that really upset me because he's one of my only African American characters. Kyra's wild past I make sure to balance out with a broader cast of Hispanic characters who have all different kinds of backgrounds. Most importantly, I make sure the love stories play out as realistically as possible. A lot of romance plays on the "taming the bad boy" theme, but the solution just seems to be, "She is the one for him and that's it." In my books, there's always a lot more to it than that.
4) How does your writing process work?
First I need to find an idea I'm excited about, and then I write it until I can read through the draft without distraction. I figure that if it's something I'd struggle to read, I can't expect anyone else to bother. As for what my usual writing schedule is like, I no longer worry about writing every day. I've been producing stories for over twenty-five years at this point, so I know that even if I take a break now and then, it won't affect my overall output. Instead I just make sure that writing is always a part of my life. When I have a free moment, I plot books and break scenes in my head, and write as much as I can without sweating the word counts. When typing is hard, I write by hand and vice versa.
Normally in a blog tour like this, I'd name two authors I passed these questions along to, but in my years of blogging, I've always struggled to find people for chains like this, so I usually end up being a dead end. I don't mind this. It's a pretty expansive chain. For me, it was way more important to support Kiini, whom I can't recommend highly enough, and to update readers about my writing, than to have two more authors link to me next week, though if anyone else wants to pick up the chain, they are most welcome to. Just email me.