We’re introducing another amazing writer through #InklingInterview series, in which I interview some of the amazing writers I’ve met through the #writerscommunity. This particular writer is not only great at her craft, but a real advocate within the online community. I see her CONSTANTLY uplifting other over herself and being positive and I really admire that. With further ado, the captivating...Tiffany Christina Lewis.
First question, Tiffany: where are you at in your writing journey, and how did you get there?
Oh man, that is a loaded question! (laughs) In my own opinion, I am very far behind in my journey. I was published for the first time in 2011. My first book was released in 2014. Now, 4, almost 5 years later the sequel to my release is JUST coming out. I literally lost 4 years of my journey.
I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time, but I do wish I would have known then what I know now. Write Every Day and be creative on purpose. Ideas do occasionally fall from the sky but when they don’t you still need them.
I am editing and writing at the same time now. Editing book three in a series and writing book one in another.
Congratulations on your upcoming release! Can you pitch your current project(s)? What are you working on?
Right now I am working on a new character. I’ve worked for 5 or 6 years on my male detective character, and I have 2 more of his series written, ready for editing, so now I am writing a female private investigator.
These both sound like the perfect thing to curl up with on a cool winter night! In talking about your books, what, in a word or two, is your writing style?
My writing style is direct and brief. I don’t like to drone on with crazy details. There is a thin line with this, but I do like to be concise.
I think in a detective series especially, that's a great style to keep the reader engaged. Let's talk more about your actual writing process: what are your favorite and least favorite parts of it?
My favorite part of the writing process is the writing. Getting words on paper has become the most important thing for me.
My least favorite part is the editing. It’s not because I hate hearing that my work is wrong, it’s that the process is painstaking for me. I do at least 3 drafts before sending it to my professional editor. It’s worth it but OMG it’s a long, arduous process.
Ah, here I must admit: I love editing. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
I find inspiration often in music. My characters are mostly African American, so hip-hop and R&B songs really have a lot of life for me. Frank Ocean motivated the whole 4th book in my series. Songs from numerous albums spoke directly to my theme. Jidenna’s music motivates part of my new series as well.
Ooh, all solid picks. Music hugely influence my writing as well. Okay, Tiffany, another question I alway ask: how do you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
Time management is a fight with me. Part of it is because I’m hard on myself about relaxing. I finished a masters degree in December so that freed up lots of time. I work a full time job, but on the weekends I have free range. The issue is that I have many different options for what I can do and I am motivated to do what I “like” or “want” at that moment which sometimes leaves me with some tasks over done and others under done.
I try to stay organized with alarms and planners but as I said, I flow like the water sometimes and to hell with my planner!
Hey! Congratulations on receiving your Masters! I think time management is something we've all struggled with at one point in our journey. Speaking of the journey, writer's block and criticism can be two real hurdles--how do you combat them?
For writers block, I read or watch movies. I am almost instantly revitalized with movies. Although I am a crime fiction writer, action movies usually get me motivated. Looking at movies from a writers perspective is vital. Not only is dialogue great to understand if a movie is well written, but the visuals can help authors describe scenes better. Kind of like how authors sometimes use google image searches to look at something they want to describe.
When I get a tough critique on my work, I always take a few days to mull it over. As an author, our work is perfect. It is a beacon of light in an otherwise dark world. It has saved us from misery and grief and we adore it. Our first reaction to negativity is heartbreak. My college studies have taught me that ultimately, critiquing is intended to improve your work. With that always in mind, I read the critiques and take a little while to just step back from them. Some of the comments and judgements are bullshit, others are justifiable and it’s my job to figure that out, not to get all upset.
Sage advice, friend. Now, for a fun question: would you rather have the power to be invisible or fly?
Honestly, neither. If I had to pick I think I would go with invisibility because I could hide out and avoid social situations I didn’t want to be in. #introvert. (laughs) If I could have a power, I would prefer to be freakishly intelligent. Having a strong mind would be an incredible asset to me and those around me. I’m pretty smart now, but I’m talking super genius.
Haha, invisibility would be pretty sweet, admittedly. Now, to get back writing. You're a woman and an African-American and a writer. What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
Open your eyes and NEVER box yourself in. The most successful people can interact with anyone and fall into many different social and business circles. This is why although I am an African American author who writes mostly African American characters in my published work, no one sees me as a “black author.” They see me as an Author. I want my black characters in everyone's bookshelf, not just African American readers bookshelves, and let’s be honest, when we box ourselves in by letting race define us, we can often lose people. They misunderstand us when we are defining ourselves only by our race.
I am a woman, a college graduate, a mother, a daughter, a childcare provider, a Californian, a Honda driver, a lover, and all sorts of things.
I don’t let one thing define my work cause my characters are the same as me. They are diverse and complex and they deserve a WIDE audience. Don’t box yourself in.
Also, read every genre. I made a mistake in my younger days of only reading urban fiction. I moved slowly into Stephen King but still only read that a some crime fiction. As I have learned, reading other genres can really help you grow as an author. There are some great classics and new classics in every genre. Don’t stop at your favorite author or category.
Of course, I love all of this. Thank you so much for being such an advocate through your art, Tiffany. Earlier you talked about music's influence on your work, so of course, I want to know: What’s your “anthem,” the song that would play if your life was a music video?
"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. My life has not been half bad but I have gone through some changes and challenges. Through it all, with the support of loved ones and friends, and my own perseverance, I have done pretty well for myself!
So, you know I totally went and played it a few times just now. (That song always makes we want to do a power walk across a busy city street.) Okay Tiffany, bonus question! You have an all-expenses paid trip where you want with one of your characters--where do you go and who do you bring and why, why, why?
I think I would go to Vegas with two of my female characters. They are in two different series but they are friends and they are fun! Vegas is my favorite city and we’d paint the town!
Next Up: Alechia Dow this Monday, February 11th!