22 Questions About My Current Book & Future Projects

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Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

Most of the major characters have secrets to hide and there is more to them than meets the eye—-especially that Milan Rose.

Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers?

One secret is: that there are tongue-in-cheek little messages and a kind of "Where's Waldo?" game except it's "Where's Joli?" In my first novel, I make an appearance but you have to look for me.

Also, Diamond’s relationship with her mother will evolve and more revelations are being shared in Book 1 and then in Book 2 which I expect to come out soon.

Can you share a snippet that isn’t in the blurb or excerpt?

There are many excerpts of my novel featured on my Instagram and Facebook author pages. Also, you can find them on my website.

Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

Diamond and Milan hold a special place in my heart.

I think it’s pretty obvious why Diamond is so special. We’re both native Harlemites, ambitious and upwardly mobile. Her family ancestry and history mirrors mine (part of my family is Creole coming from Louisiana and Mississippi), my family is Baptist and serious about education and our faith in God.

Some of our differences are that I didn’t grow up in a fabulous townhouse owned by my grandparents; my mother and I lived together in our apartment in Harlem and she was very much present and involved in my life.

Milan is special because she is completely fictitious. She lives my dream New York City life—the loft in SoHo, the chauffeured Rolls Royce and the luxurious Jaguar, the homes in Paris and the Hamptons. Milan is the “it-girl” and she knows it. But she’s also very down-to-earth and relatable—-which is rare for people like her.

What was the inspiration for the story?

I started writing this book series in college. I wasn’t rich and I was lonely and bored out of my mind whenever I wasn’t attending classes or working. I was not living the life that I wanted to live. I started out my first year in a school in Upstate New York but I left and transferred because I felt isolated and homesick.

Once I came back to the city, I transferred to the City College of New York. It was great academically but socially, it was difficult because it was a commuter school. Almost no one lived on campus and most of my classmates were adults and returning students.

This book and this series came about because I imagined what life would be like if I had more money, more options, a group of fabulous friends and a lot more drama in my life.

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

There is more to life, people and situations than meets the eye. And it’s important to be true to yourself no matter what the world thinks or how it looks to other people.

What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

I hope that readers take away my love for Harlem, the history and the beauty of my hometown and all of New York City. Also I want readers to appreciate my storytelling and the characters that I’ve created because I really put my heart and soul into my writing.

What is the significance of the title?

It is inspired by the show tune, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, from the musical, Roberta in 1933. The song has been re-recorded by many singers including Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan, Eartha Kitt and of course, the Platters. I had heard a jazz rendition of the song by Michael Carvin from a 32 Jazz compilation. And I remember feeling the vibe of the song and thinking that my book should have the same feeling. I didn’t even know the name of the song that was playing at that moment ! But when I saw the title of the song on the back of my CD, I knew it was the perfect title for my book.

Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.

I collaborated with a graphic designer, Jewel, through an online company (Fiverr). He nailed the cover design perfectly and really worked with me to create the perfect cover.

What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is the beginning of the Diamond La Rue series. There are more books to come. I can’t wait to share more of Diamond’s story, but also the stories of Diamond’s family members and friends. I have big plans to expand this series as well.

Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?

Yes, I write to music. I will write to one of my favorite musical playlists usually. But if I am trying to capture a particular mood or time period, then I will chose to listen to music that is more reflective of that.

If you had to describe Diamond La Rue in three words, what would those three words be?

Pure. Natural Beauty. Harlem Jewel.

Your story is set in 2000. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?

I wanted to show Harlem and its culture before gentrification began and also to show Harlem’s evolution throughout the series.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?

There are too many to name. Besides, I don’t want to jinx anything. I am currently writing an adaption for television right now.

Was the writing process different and what challenges did you face writing this novel?

I think that I established my writing process with this novel. It was a lot of trial and error and learning what methods worked for me. I expect that it will get easier as I continue writing. I think the biggest challenge I had to overcome was belief and confidence in my writing voice. Once, I got over that, I was able to stop procrastinating and to stop trying to be the perfect writer. That really freed me up to do the work and to get it out to the public.

Can you give us some insight into what makes Diamond La Rue tick?

Love and ambition makes Diamond tick. She is an ambitious young woman but she also believes deeply in love.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?

Confidence, Time Management and Commitment.

As much as I love writing, I struggled with having the confidence in my writing voice and teh story that I was telling. I knew that not everyone would know about my community before it became trendy. I wanted to represent us well. At the same time, I wanted to show the diversity of the black community in New York City as a whole. Something that isn’t always shown in novels.

Secondly, find the time to write between work and school was difficult. I had to really learn that my love for writing wasn’t going to be enough. I had to really commit and get disciplined to my writing. Which meant that I had to give up a lot of extra-curricular activities to make time for my writing when I was not working. So, that meant cutting down on my television watching and even reading other people’s books. When I did that, I found that I made the progress I had been looking for! And it prepared me for the publishing process—which was exponentially harder and a more daunting process.

What was the highlight of writing this book?

The highlight of writing this books was writing all of the scenes that had been rolling around in my head all of this time. The second highlight was finalizing the copy of my book and receiving the correct edition in print. After so many trials and errors, getting it right felt priceless!!

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

I am currently working on a few different projects. But the main project I am focusing on is completing Book 2 of the Diamond La Rue series.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I can find inspiration anywhere. I am fascinated by life, the human experience and perspectives, but especially telling a good story.

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

There are too many to tell. You’ll have to wait and see.

Do you have any new series planned?

Yes, I am also working on a new mystery-thriller written from a male lead perspective. I’m really excited about that and plan to release it sometime in 2020.

Looking forward to more writing,

Naj