Friday, September 14, 2012

[Interview] Electa Rome Parks

Electa Rome Parks writes contemporary and erotic fiction.

Her books include The Stalker Chronicles (Kensington/Urban Books, 2012); True Confessions (Kensington/Urban Books, 2010); Diary of a Stalker (Kensington/Urban Books, 2009); and These Are My Confessions (HarperCollins/Avon Red, 2007).

In this interview, Electa Rome Parks talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember; writing and reading have always defined who and what I am as a person. Writing is the love affair of my life. From a professional standpoint, I started writing and penned my first novel, The Ties That Bind in 2001.

For me, becoming a published writer was a natural progression. Friends and family who knew me back in the day, they can all testify to the fact that I was always writing something (a short story, a poem, a play) or had my head buried in a book, usually mystery or supernatural. Being a quiet, shy child, writing was a means for me to express myself, non-verbally. Later, I realized I had a voice that needed to be heard (read). And reading was my escape to meeting other people and worlds that I could only imagine.

I went about accomplishing my goal by researching, networking and finding mentors in my genre. I lived and breathed the literary industry. Eventually I published via print on demand, then traditionally self-published and eventually went mainstream after being picked up by a major publishing house. I achieved this by hustling... attending every conference, literary event, signing, book club meeting, etc., that I could. I made it my mission to network with creative, like-minded people in the industry and to get the word out about my book and myself. Passion, persistence and perseverance paid off when a literary agent contacted me and within 30 days had inked a 3-book deal with a major publishing house.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

I write contemporary and erotic fiction. I’ve also been classified as a women’s fiction author.

My target audience is anyone who enjoys a good book! Primarily, African-American women and a small percentage of men tend to purchase my novels. I don’t know if I was motivated to start writing for this audience as opposed to this audience is who I am. I am an African-American woman; however my storylines tend to stem from life experiences, lessons, and situations that are universal.

Which authors influenced you most?

I absolutely adore contemporary fiction authors and my greatest influence was, hands down, author Terry McMillian. I witnessed and applauded the commercial successful she achieved with her books, from them being New Times Bestselling novels to being adapted to movies for the big screen. Her books, especially Disappearing Acts, was the first book that spoke to me as I saw myself and others in the storyline. I could relate. I laughed out loud, I cried and I didn’t want that book to end. I wanted to savor each page, digest it and breathe it in. There was such a connection that it left an impact that inspired me to reach for my dream.

How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

I’m sure in many ways that I haven’t even thought about.

I write from the heart about many topical issues prevalent in our communities. I’ve touched upon domestic abuse, molestation, friendship, dysfunctional relationships, stalking, mental illness and the list goes on. My characters aren’t perfect and my storylines don’t necessarily have happily-ever-after endings. However, they are much like real life.

I share life lessons and give readers imperfect characters they can embrace, whether they choose to love or hate them.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concern as a writer is the constantly changing literary climate. I know of many talented authors who have lost book deals and can’t appear to get another one. I hate the fact that the industry is all about sales and the bottom line. There doesn’t appear to be an appreciation for the craft or an internal mentoring process for the author anymore.

I deal with these concerns by accepting the fact that what’s going to be is going to be. What’s meant for me is for me. I simply can’t sweat the small stuff so to speak. I have to continue to write my stories and be true to myself. How the changes pan out remains to be seen.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Staying abreast of the changing industry and remaining relevant are two big challenges for me. I deal with them by doing what I love to do, which is to write. I simply can’t allow myself to worry about things which are not within my control.

Do you write every day?

When I first started my professional literary career, I did write every single day. However, with my life evolving, that has changed. I simply don’t have the time to write every single day.

My session usually starts with me writing long-hand and simply doing a free flow style. I let the characters speak and tell their story. So, you will never see me with a detailed outline that some authors utilize. Later, I transpose my notes to my computer and tighten the prose up a bit. Typically, by the end of the session, I end up with a good first draft that later will be rewritten several times and edited.

How many books have you written so far?

I have written eight books, with a 9th book, When Baldwin Loved Brenden, dropping January 2013. A brief description of each novel can be found on my website. Please stop by and check them out!
What is your latest book about?

The Stalker Chronicles - She's back, and this time it's all about revenge.

Tall, dark, and handsome bestselling male author Xavier Preston thought his nightmare—in the form of Pilar, a fanatical stalker/fan—had finally ended. Little does he know it’s only beginning. When Xavier met Pilar, he got much more than he bargained for. What started out as an erotic one-night stand quickly turned into a dangerous game of obsession and pain, with both parties playing to win. Then she simply disappeared.

Stunning Pilar hasn't gone away, though. In fact, she has been very near, watching his every move and patiently waiting for him to realize they were meant to be together forever. She still believes they’re soul mates, and the only option for her is “Until death do us part.” If she can't have Xavier, then no one can. Now no one is safe—not his friends, and definitely not him.

Revenge can be a real killer.

How long did it take you to write The Stalker Chronicles?

It took approximately 4 months to write the novel. This timeframe didn’t include rewrites and edits.

It was published in January 2012 by Kensington/Urban Books.

The novel was part of a second, two-book deal with this particular publishing house.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?

At this point in my career, I pretty much have a system or rhythm when it comes to my writing. Once I have my storyline and the characters are speaking to me, it’s on. [Laughs out loud].

As strange as it may sound, I almost see the various scenes played out in my mind like a movie. I hear my characters' voices as clear as I can hear yours.

I can’t really describe any difficulties I had with my previous project. It was a much-anticipated, much-requested sequel and the characters hadn’t left me. In fact, their voices were as strong as ever. So, it was like revisiting old friends, playing catch-up and putting it all on paper.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed revisiting old friends in The Stalker Chronicles, which is the sequel to Diary of a Stalker. I had missed my characters and it was refreshing to find out what was going on in their lives and to speak with them again.

What sets The Stalker Chronicles apart from other things you've written?

This was only my second attempt at an erotic thriller. So the genre was a little different from what I typically write.

It was familiar in that it incorporated my trademark style of writing that I have become known for: it was drama-filled, spicy, relationship-based, fast-paced with imperfect characters and with a twist to the storyline.

What will your next book be about?

My next book is titled, When Baldwin Loved Brenden.

Fair-weather friends come and go, but true friendship lasts a lifetime. Same goes for true love.

Ten years is a long time. Much can change in ten years, an entire decade. That’s how many years have passed when a former close-knit group of college friends, Baldwin, Brenden, Bria and Christopher, self-proclaimed The Group, are tragically reunited to attend the funeral of one of their own in a small North Carolina town.

The Group hasn’t seen or spoken to one another since an unfortunate set of circumstances placed their friendship in jeopardy ten years earlier. After graduation, everyone went their separate ways and never looked back, until now. The past has a way of catching up with you, sooner or later. Baldwin, the romantic, Brenden, the do-gooder, Bria, the wildchild, Christopher, the pretty boy, are all about to discover the truth in that.

Rihanna was once dubbed the peacemaker of the group. Her death reunites them for an unforgettable, poignant and life changing few days. Each friend will confront their own internal demons and leave a changed person. Secrets are revealed, hurts exposed, tears shed and laugher shared, all in the name of friendship and love.

Can anything truly tear real friendship and love apart?

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I would say my most significant achievement has been just that... the fact that I am a published author. It’s not a dream anymore, it’s a reality. I have a voice. Readers embrace my books and enjoy them. I’m doing something I love and that I’m passionate about. It doesn’t get any better than that. Priceless.

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