Suzette D. Harrison, a native Californian and the middle of three daughters, grew up in a home where reading was required, not requested. Her literary “career” began in junior high school with the publishing of her poetry. While Mrs. Harrison pays homage to Alex Haley, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison as legends who inspired her creativity, it was Dr. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that unleashed her writing. The award-winning author of Taffy is a wife and mother who holds a culinary degree in Pastry & Baking. Mrs. Harrison is currently cooking up her next novel…in between batches of cookies.
BPM: What made you want to become a writer? How long have you been writing?
SH: I started writing poetry and short stories in the first grade. I didn’t try my hand at any significant length of prose until the 1990’s when Essence Magazine had a short story contest. I entered and didn’t win, but that experience unleashed the crave, and told me I could.
BPM: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
SH: One aspect of my “Author Evolution” that I’m proudest of is learning to listen to my characters. Prior to Taffy, I didn’t let my characters tell their own stories, holistically speaking. I wrote their stories for them according to whatever was trending. I can imagine someone cocking an eyebrow thinking, “Well, isn’t that what authors do? Write?” Yes, but no. What I mean by this is I’ve learned to take the role of typist and let my characters do and say what they want and will! Sometimes they get out-of-pocket and I have to reel them back in, but 99% of the storytelling belongs to them. They talk. I type. I’ve found freedom in this position and in letting my protagonists be authentic.
BPM: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
SH: That’s a fascinating question. I don’t know that I’ve considered my writing a spiritual practice, but I will say this. As a born again Christian, I always acknowledge God and welcome Him—the Master Author—into the creative mix. I want the use of my gift to be pleasing to Him. So, then, yes, in that regards writing is very spiritual for me. I know I wouldn’t have the gift without God. And His opinion is invaluable to me.
BPM: How has writing impacted your life?
SH: Writing is personally fulfilling for me. Writing wakes me up sometimes as early as 2:00 A.M., calling me! Writing is absolutely my dream career and what I pray God blesses me to leap into full-time. But one of the most rewarding and impactful dynamics of writing is meeting, connecting, and establishing relationships with readers and fellow writers. For me that’s one of the richest bonuses and blessings of writing.
BPM: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
SH: That authors aren’t in control. I figured I’d have a story, I’d write it my way. I’ve learned that inspiration is a voice that must be listened to and followed in order to create authentically. Writing is the one place I don’t mind not having control.
BPM: Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?
SH: I’ll answer that with one hyphenated word and a tag: Full-time, please! Okay, I’ll add a little to that. Being a full-time writer with recognizable works is my prayer and passion. I pray that in five years I will have tremendously grown my audience as well as my offerings. My goal is to continue publishing Historical Fiction, Urban Christian Romance, as well as launch my children’s book series.
BPM: How do you find or make time to write? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
SH: As said earlier, I don’t make time for writing. Writing snatches me! At times, writing doesn’t let me sleep. Writing pulls me up out the bed at 2:00 A.M. When that happens, I know to run with it; that that’s my divine muse calling.
I’m both a plotter and a pantster. So, I guess I’m a “Plantster.” I can plot all I want, but sometimes my characters get to cutting up and throw wrenches in my well-laid plans. I don’t mind! I actually like it when my characters or my plot jump up to take me places I didn’t anticipate. Again, I’m just the typist. Characters and their plots are boss.
BPM: How did you choose the genre you write in? Have you considered writing in another genre?
SH: I started in Contemporary Women’s Fiction, moved to Historical Fiction/Romance, and now I’ve swerved over to Urban Christian Romance. I happily go wherever the story demands.
BPM: Tell us about your most recent work, My Joy. Available on Nook and Kindle?
SH: I’m too excited about My Joy! She hits the shelves March 8, 2017. My Joy is a mix of comedy, drama, romance, and Christianity. In a nutshell, our heathen heroine connects with a sexy, saved and sanctified hero whose life is dedicated to God. Their ideologies clash. But that doesn’t stop them from wanting what they want…which happens to be each other. Will they? Won’t they? I know the answer, but readers will have to read to find out for themselves. Oh, and did I mention, our beloved heathen of a heroine works in an exclusive gentlemen’s club? What’cha say now? My Joy’s not even playing. And, yes, she’s available on both Kindle and Nook.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or the speakers. What makes each one so special?
SH: Joy Matthews, the protagonist in My Joy, is hilarious! She’s outspoken, career-oriented, and happily agnostic. She’s a culinary student by day. At night Joy is a “companion” in an exclusive gentlemen’s club catering to the “whims of men who like a woman with a little extra fine on her frame”. Joy is a sexually evolved woman who does intimacy, but not relationships and she’s absolutely fine with that. Not so our hero.
Quinton “Que” Daley is “saved, sexy, and sanctified”…as in a born-again Christian. He works as a Community Redeveloper helping restore communities bitten by urban blight. He’s a relationship-oriented man and a demonstrative romantic. He’s Joy’s opposite. Trust, this makes for some very interesting situations for Joy and Quinton.
BPM: What was your hardest scene to write, the opening or the close?
SH: Definitely the close. I realize something about myself: as a writer I do but don’t want my books to end. I get so wrapped up in my characters that it’s hard to say goodbye and shift from creating to the grueling work necessary for self-publishing. I’d rather stay with my characters and play.
BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present situation or journey.
SH: Joy is a college educated woman who left a Fortune 500 job to enroll in culinary school and professionally pursue her passion for baking. I didn’t leave anything, but I did (late in life) return to school—after already earning a B.A.—to earn a Baking & Pastry degree. Joy & I share a love of baking!
BPM: Is there a specific place/space/state that you find inspiration in?
SH: Like Joy, I love the ocean! Thankfully, the ocean is within driving distance and I am blessed to enjoy it. But on an everyday basis, I write in my home office in the dark with smooth jazz playing as my backdrop. This is my zone, but inspiration isn’t confined to a specific place/state. Inspiration can come when hearing a song, or watching something on T.V. Inspiration is fluid for me.
BPM: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a idea you’d love to work with?
SH: I would love for Taffy Bledsoe and Roam Ellis (Taffy) to hurry up and tell me the full tale of their sequel, but that hasn’t happened yet. I’ll wait. To everything there’s timing and season.
BPM: Do you want each book to stand on its own or do you prefer to write series?
SH: Both. I believe a book in a series can still stand alone on its own merits if strongly written. Both Taffy and My Joy are the first installments in “series”; but they’re singular and self-defined as well. They don’t require the book that comes after them to make them who they are.
BPM: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
SH: During the writing process I’m totally energized. But when I’m finished and have to do the grunt work of self-publishing and promoting I sometimes experience an adrenalin let-down.
BPM: Do you believe in writer’s block?
SH: Honey, I believe in God Block! God has blocked me several times when I thought I knew what I was doing and about to get it done. BAM! God just up and blocked and I couldn’t move a sentence along no matter how I tried. When that happens I know it’s time for me to step back and breathe through the block, and rest my soul and my mind. It’s often a redirect for me to focus on something else or absolutely nothing. Is it frustrating? Yes, ma’am! But I know it’s divine and the block will be lifted in God’s time.
BPM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
SH: There are genres that I won’t indulge in, but I don’t limit subjects. Even if it’s a subject I disagree with or find personally uncomfortable, if it’s a true (not fabricated) aspect of my characters’ experience, then I try not to stifle it.
BPM: Do you try to deliver to readers what they want or let the characters guide your writing?
SH: Writers want reader satisfaction. But pleasing every individual’s tastes and preferences isn’t possible. I used to deliver on demand. Now, I let my characters and their plots be what THEY want regardless if that’s popular and trending or not.
BPM: Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Anger? Erotic?
SH: I literally cry when my characters face devastation or recount that thing that meant to destroy them. Or when they experience breakthroughs and epiphanies. I’m right there with them, up in my feelings.
BPM: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
SH: the best money I ever spent was for the cover of Taffy. I was a pit bull with extra teeth fighting to get that cover the way I felt it best depicted Taffy. One, because: I wanted to celebrate Taffy’s thick, chocolate beauty. Two: because as a self-published author whatever I present reflects back on me. To this day, readers still compliment Taffy’s cover. It was the best financial and emotional investment.
BPM: Have you written any other books that are not published?
SH: yes, ma’am, and for me it’s one of my saddest “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s.” I wrote a full-length interracial romance in 1993 but never pursued publishing because at that time African American/Interracial Romance market was nonexistent. Or so I thought. Then I stumbled on an interracial romance in 1994. I was floored! I was in college at the time and focused on my studies, so I still did nothing with my manuscript then or in subsequent years because of ignorance. Like I said, shoulda…
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
SH: I’m honored to be contributing to a compilation of African American romance novellas spanning time from 1900-2010! The series will be released one novella each month starting January 2018 through December 2018. I’m working on my contribution, which covers the 1930’s, and will be released April 2018.
BPM: What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you?
SH: I absolutely love hearing from and interacting with readers and book clubs in person or via Skype and Facetime! Readers, I can be reached through email or Facebook. (See information below). I look forward to connecting with you!
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
SH: Readers, connect with me by any of the methods below. I’d love to keep in touch and share the journey with you. Keep reading! I’ll keep writing!
Thank you, Miss Ella & Black Pearls Magazine, for doing what you do to connect African American writers to readers. You’re awesome & amazing!
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