Tuesday, July 05, 2005
My first interview - I just had to share!
Easier Said Than Done - Cover
Author Spotlight: April 22, 2005 with Nikki Woods
Keith Lee Johnson: Tell us about your debut novel, Easier Said Than Done.
Nikki Woods: Easier Said Than Done is a novel that is set in Chicago and Jamaica. It is about a woman, Kingston, that has experienced some terrible tragedies in life. Despite that she has become a successful entertainment executive in Chicago. But then her grandmother dies and she has to go back to Jamaica for the funeral. It is then that she is forced to deal with the issues of her past.
Keith Lee Johnson: People who don't write have said an author's first novel is autobiographical. Is this true in your case?
Nikki Woods: It is not autobiographical but I have definitely drawn upon experiences from my life. For example, I work in the entertainment industry and my mother is Jamaican. Those are probably the two biggest correlations between the book and my life.
Keith Lee Johnson: And how long did it take you to write this one?
Nikki Woods: It took me probably about four years. I started this book right before I met my husband. We got married and I had two babies so the book got placed on the back burner. My oldest son is now three and I finished the book right before his third birthday. I am just finishing up my second book that only took six months but I was on a strict writing schedule.
Keith Lee Johnson: How long have you been writing?
Nikki Woods: Ever since I could. I have books that I 'published' in fourth grade. It was about the hamster I got for Christmas. I have always written but it is just recently that I have actively decided to publish my work.
Keith Lee Johnson: What made you decide to publish now?
Nikki Woods: When I first started writing Easier Said Than Done I would share it with a friend of mine almost daily. She would always push me to publish. Then a mentor of mine from work read some of what I had written and she pushed me to publish. Both were phenomenal women and both died within a year of each other in the prime of their lives. There was no way I couldn't publish this book.
Keith Lee Johnson: Wow! So does any of the novel pertain to your to wonderful friends?
Nikki Woods: Not really. That book is in the works. This novel does speak to the strength of friendship and family. Both of these women not only were mentors and friends but they paved the way in this business. They knew about dreams and going after them no matter what others had to say. This book symbolizes that to me...going after your dream.
Keith Lee Johnson: By this business, I take it you mean the radio business of which you are a celebrity in Chicago?
Nikki Woods: Yes to the radio part. I'll get back to you on celebrity. (Laugh)
Keith Lee Johnson: Easier Said Than Done has been described as a cross between Terry McMillian and Kimberla Lawson Roby. Tell us what that means as some of the readers may not have reader their work.
Nikki Woods: That description was probably made by my mother. I hope what it means that I can relate a good story to the reader. Terry McMillan and Kimberla Lawson Roby are at the top of this game. They can tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people. It is flattering to even read my name along side theirs. But, I have a long way to go.
Keith Lee Johnson: What's your favorite reading genre?
Nikki Woods: That is a tough one. I think like most people, a lot of times it depends on my mood. I love crime/suspense and romance. I am also a big fan of historical pieces. Then you throw Tananarive Due and Octavia Butler in...I love a good story no matter the genre.
Keith Lee Johnson: Okay, well, perhaps you can tell us who some of your favorite authors are and which of their books you found particularly memorable.
Nikki Woods: My favorite authors include but are not limited to: Bernice McFadden, Terry McMillan, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Yolanda Joe, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Maya Angelou, J. California Cooper the list goes on and on and I am discovering new authors that I enjoy as well such as Tayari Jones. I am a fan of words and how words are put together. Everyone does it differently.
Keith Lee Johnson: Getting publishing is very difficult. How did you accomplish it and how long did it take?
Nikki Woods: It didn't take that long. I emailed part of the manuscript to an acquaintance of mine that I knew was involved in literary circles. I just wanted the opinion of a 'professional'. She emailed back and wanted to know who had written it and when I told her me, she was floored. She loved it and little did I know she owned a publishing company right here in Chicago.
Keith Lee Johnson: Ahh, see, now some of the readers are going to be jealous! LOL! Most of us get turned down many times before we get a break through. And here you come knowing people in the biz, which leads me to my next question. How do you like the biz so far and the politics of it?
Nikki Woods: Now comes the hard questions. Before I decided to publish, I thought writing the book was the difficult part. Little did I know! Don't get me wrong, writing anything ain't no easy thing so big props to those who have written anything be it a book, poem or song. But this publishing thing is no picnic. From edits to rewrites, it is a challenge. And then yes, there is a political aspect to this game as well. If I had to self-publish I would have said forget it a long time ago but thanks to Cheryl at EbonyEnergy for holding my hand and walking me through it. But I have met a lot of great people -- such as yourself -- that has been willing to share their knowledge with me.
Keith Lee Johnson: Can you elaborate on the politics aspect without mentioning specific names, places, and dates?
Nikki Woods: Wow! Put on the spot!
Keith Lee Johnson: Yes. I tend to do that.
Nikki Woods: Writing is a business just like any other and unfortunately there is a competitive aspect to it that I was naive enough to be unaware of. Just as I said, many people have opened their arms but there are others that don't seem quite as excited about it for whatever reason. But I think you find that in anything. Being in radio -- another aspect of the entertainment business for more than ten years has toughened my skin a bit so it doesn't bother me anymore. Well, not that much! :)
Keith Lee Johnson: Okay, let's shift gears a bit. What are your thoughts on the state of affairs in the black community? For example, Comedian Bill Cosby mentioned the seventy percent dropout rate months ago. What are your thoughts on this?
Nikki Woods: I think that we are at a critical time in black communities. I think that the dropout rate is too high for the year to be 2005. We have college graduates that can't find a job in their chosen field. People with master and doctorate degrees that are unemployed. Imagine the pressure of trying to get a decent paying job as a high school drop out. Can it be done? Sure but it just puts you ten steps behind your counterparts. But what do we do about it? It's overwhelming to think of all the work that needs to be done to turn things around and the majority of the people that I talk to are reluctant to get involved because they think that there's nothing they can do that will make a difference. The village is falling apart.
Keith Lee Johnson: The question that begs to be asked is, why? Why is the village falling apart?
Nikki Woods: That is the question, isn't it? I think there are a multitude of reasons. Lack of education, lack of role models, the prevalence of drugs in our communities, complacency. When you look at the big picture it can be overwhelming. I don't have the answer. I wish I did. For me, it has been to start at home. Make a difference in my church, in my community and hope it translates to the bigger picture.
Keith Lee Johnson: It seems as if the lack of education, role models/parenting, and drugs are tied together. Would you agree with that?
Nikki Woods: I agree. It's cliché to say but it's a vicious circle. But you gotta start somewhere. You can't be afraid to just start. How does the saying go, "A journey of one thousand miles starts with just one step?"
Keith Lee Johnson: What then is the first step?
Nikki Woods: I think it is different for everyone. And the degree of the step may be different, if you know what I mean. Education is my passion so that is where I started. Talking to young people about staying in school is what I'm good at. I can tell you to stay off drugs but it may have more of an impact from someone that has been there and experienced that.
Keith Lee Johnson: As far as drugs are concerned, how about this: Let's make parents more accountable to some higher authority, forcing them to be the role models that they ought to be without a law enforcement agency's involvement. For example, why do we have to have a government agency to make men financially support the children they sired?
Nikki Woods: Because some men don't. Just because people should do something doesn't mean they will. Just like some women don't take care of their children. It's unfortunate but it's true. Statistics show that the number one reason minorities are fired from their job is because they don't make it to work on time. Says a lot about priorities.
Keith Lee Johnson: My point is, if we're willing to create an agency to force men to pay what they owe, why not expand it further and make parents rear their children with some measure of self-respect or face jail time.
Nikki Woods: Who is going to determine the criteria for how to raise a child? It's a fine line. A fine political line. I am sure how I raise my son is a lot different than how President Bush raised his daughters. Obviously there are guidelines for gross abuse and mistreatment ...
Keith Lee Johnson: Perhaps we should adopt some of the methods that worked in the past. It worked for me and it obviously worked for you. Someone came along about 40 years ago and said those people were wrong and now look where we are. Not only is the black community in trouble, but the United States is in serious decline, much like their Roman and Greek predecessors.
Nikki Woods: Yes, we are in serious decline. But will what worked back then work now? I don't know. For example: when I was growing up, I couldn't do anything on the block and get away with it. My neighbors had full rights to spank, chastise, whatever they deemed necessary when my parents weren't around. So did I act crazy? No because I was scared of the repercussions. Not three months ago I said something to a teenage boy that lives around my house about using foul language when my three year old is outside playing. His mother had a problem with that. So now who do I go to?
Keith Lee Johnson: That's just it, Nikki! When I was growing it was the same thing. Everybody told me what to do. And I wouldn't dare tell my mom about it, knowing I would get another beating. And people call that abuse today. But, it kept me out of jail and I was reared in a Toledo Ghetto. I guess we would have to get the majority of parents to remember how things were done back then and how we didn't have to worry about the children coming to school killing one another. Well this has been nice. Is there anything else you'd like to say that I have not covered?
Nikki Woods: Keith, you're making my blood pressure go up! (Laugh)
Keith Lee Johnson: I'll leave that alone.
Nikki Woods: I think we have covered a lot and I have enjoyed it! It will take conversations like this one to get the ball moving in the right direction. Thank you for having me.
Keith Lee Johnson: So no questions for me?
Nikki Woods: Uh, just one. When are you going to satisfy your readers with a sequel to Little Black Girl Lost! You left us with Johnnie Wise still at sixteen. I want to know what happens to her...
Keith Lee Johnson: Well, funny you should ask as I have spoken with Carl Weber who publishes that line of books and we're looking at next February. However, keep in mind that Johnnie is only sixteen. She has a lot of growing up to do. But...if you gotta know how her life ended up, buy Fate's Redemption as she is in that book. The book isn't about here, but she's like 65. But know that you won't see how everything happens until I write her novels.
Nikki Woods: Alright, guess I'm gonna be hitting Border's today. Thanks for all that you do, Keith.
Keith Lee Johnson: It came out May 17. Before I let you go, tell us where we can get your book? What's the ISBN?
Nikki Woods: You can look me up on line at www.NikkiWoods.com. You can pre-order through the website and if you do that - you will get an autographed copy. Everything is posted there. The ISBN number for Easier Said Than Done is 0-9755092-6-8. I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks about it! You can order it by the ISBN at any bookstore and on-line at www.EbonyEnergyPublishing.com or www.amazon.com.
Keith Lee Johnson: Great! Thanks so much for your valuable time. My readers will enjoy you, I'm sure. Best wishes in all things good.
Nikki Woods: Same to you, Keith. Look forward to meeting you in person.
Keith Lee Johnson: Are you going to be at any of the events I'm going to be at?
Nikki Woods: I'm not sure as yet. I hope so because you've been great!
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