I was recently granted the opportunity to inverview Atalanta based author, Claudia Moss. I have had the pleasure of knowing and exchanging with Ms. Moss for nearly two years now, and she continues to be a source of positivity and inspiration. I am very excited about her upcoming projects and I’m sure you will be, too.
Please do enjoy reading the interview as much as I did performing the task… and of course, feedback is most welcome!!!
You chose to self publish your debut novel. Had you exhausted all other possibilities or was this originally the avenue you chose for your novel? What are your thoughts on self publishing vs. traditional publishing through a publishing house?
As a woman who has known all her life that she was a writer, even writing as a middle-school girl, pencil madly scribbling across a notebook, shaping stories for my mother, siblings and girlfriends, I have always nurtured a persistent dream to be a published author. A successful one, of course. (soft laughter)
Actually, If You Love Me, Come is not my debut novel. It is my second. My debut novel was Dolly: Memoirs of a High School Graduate. I published it with Holloway House in 1987. So naturally, as a direct result of this experience, I automatically assumed another publishing house would sign me on to bring If You Love Me, Come to the shelves, though that was not to be.
I feared self publishing. Somehow, years back, it screamed unacceptable, not good enough. So I feared and put the manuscript in a drawer between shopping it around, but each time it was returned with a rejected letter, with a note praising how well written it was. Something whispered to me that it was being rejected because lesbian and straight lovemaking existed between its covers. I wondered if publishers wanted one slant or the other, but I decided they definitely did not want both. Note: all of this was neatly nestled in a novel about family and relationships.
As it turned out, everything was blessed in the end. I met E. Lynn Harris and interviewed him for Black Romance magazines. He’d recently self published Invisible Life and walked out on a stellar writing career, so, although it took years for me to self publish after our brief encounter, I finally embarked on that empowering decision to self publish and liberated myself.
Perhaps traditional publishing exists in my future, but I’m no longer merely dreaming about it. I’m living in the Present, loving my current journey.
The title of your novel, If You Love Me, Come, implies a simple solution to a problem/question, ie., “If you feel this way, then you will do this.” I have a feeling it’s a bit more complicated than that. Am I right? Care to elaborate?
Yes, the title can be examined from several vantage points. When lovers realize they are attracted to one another, one may be apprehensive about the changing reality of her world, the other may be energized and open to a knowing of what love means, for herself, for her lover, for their future. Now this realization can be mind-blowing, so much so that one or both may flee their feelings, and, sometimes, become so paralyzed by fear, they’d rather disappear back into the familiar, knowing they felt the fire that encourages us to fall in love.
Only the brave can answer the summons to love. Each character in the story (from Free Roberts to her good girlfriend Sharmayne Cooper-Naylor to her English schoolteacher sister Rhonda Butler to her mother Pastoria Roberts and the others) is faced with the decision to bow to or flee Love’s call.
I like to consider the spiritual aspect of the story as well. The Bible says the disciples were presented with the decision to leave their worldly pastimes and pick up their cross and follow the Messiah, if they loved Him and could abide His teachings to spread the glad tidings of the Gospel.
My characters find themselves facing, in their own unique situations, a spiritual warfare that demands they make certain choices. Their moral situations require present-moment face-offs, no room for walking the fence.
Finally, there is sensual surrender. When we love, we must trust our beloved with not only our hearts and minds but also our bodies.
I read a sample chapter of If You Love Me, Come in which the male character, Victor, comes home to a house void of his female companion, Sharmayne. He had very specific theories on where she was, who she was with, and what she was doing. How difficult was it to write the character Victor? Was it important for him to be as adamant as he was about his feelings toward lesbianism? Do you feel he was the way he was because he was personally affected by the situation, or was he simply a homophobe?
Victor was, surprisingly, an easy character to write. I have known a number of Victors, men who staunchly believe women are here to please them sexually, no reciprocation; men who verbally abuse their wives and accuse them of lesbianism, even when it isn’t true, just to have another something to psychologically demean the woman.
Sharmayne is his wife. She has had more than one woman should bear of this man, so the day eventually arrives when she gets the nerve to do precisely what he fears she will do. Leave. It is imperative for Victor to be Victor so that his transformation can be what it is. Victor, a mean and angry-at-the-world man, who cannot take his anger out on the outer world, feels short-changed because of how he came to be with Sharmayne. Readers will need to read the novel to learn more!
Even from the sample chapter, I was very impressed with the quality of your writing and your attention to detail, and from reading over your blog, it seems you’ve put a lot of time and energy into producing your novel. Then I go inside a bookstore or browse online and am in awe of authors who can continuously pump out book after book, year after year. In terms of novel writing, how do you feel about quality vs. quantity? Do you believe one can effectively achieve both?
You are a factory of awesome questions, Ms. Brown! Thank you for the quality and the content of your questions. Gracias! I would like to be a bestselling author with the capacity to publish a yearly blockbuster like the next author, who makes her living this way.
But realistically, I know that to produce the literature that spotlights quality, attention to detail, and provocative subjects and themes, one must slip outside of time and wade the River Styx, going deaf and dumb to chasing the dollar, and marinate and stew and write and ponder and rewrite and bake and baste the details and pray and cry and write and then and only then, walk towards a printer or publisher. Whichever, I will always cast my lot for quality vs. quantity, for I want my work to speak for me, for itself, when I am no longer here and my footsteps have been effaced in the sand.
Yes, I believe one can effectively achieve both, if one has been writing and rewriting and placing the manuscripts in a safe, waiting for the magic moment when the works can be published yearly, much like J. K. Rawlings did. Remember? She had written, what, four or five Harry Potter novels and had them boxed away, when she released the first book in her infamous series. Great timing I’m sure she didn’t plan!
Tell us a little about your writing process. How long did it take to complete your novel? Do you have a certain place or need a certain ambiance in order to feel creative? Do you set aside “X” amount of time to write each day or do you wait until inspiration strikes?
I once wrote every morning, when I left the English classroom. There was usually no preordained stopping time. I wrote until my body moaned and locked up and down, threatening to topple me to the carpet. Music regaled me from my desktop speakers, the house was still and I felt too blessed not to be doing what I’d prayed to do…write all day long. My writing process involved reading what I’d written the day before, rereading my novel’s outline, meditating momentarily on the day’s work, a prayer here and there, and I’d begin writing.
One way that I proofread is to consistently read aloud what I’ve written, fine-tuning my ears to a tight, natural phrasing.
Today I know that fear of failure was at the root of driving myself so doggedly back then. Now, I determine which hat the day calls for and I wear that hat as well as I possibly can, be it promoting, proofing, or writing, not necessarily in that order. I yet write with music filling my office, setting moods and creating atmosphere. I write and get it all out, read and reread, and write some more. Then the next day, I revise and proofread what I’ve worked on, before continuing with the new chapter. And if the writing doesn’t want to come, I bow to that and either continue proofing and rereading the manuscript or I rise and do something else, my mind free to embrace the hiatus, my subconscious quietly filling in what the story needs, while I exercise, bake, chat or journal.
I am confident that I am where I should be. I know that the Divine directs and orders my steps, and I will receive all that I am supposed to have. I focus on the image that I have of myself, not on what others think I should be or have what they think I should possess. I am comfortable in my skin, and I adore Miss Claudia.
It took me a little over ten years to complete If You Love Me, Come. Por que? Life washed in on me and flooded my writing time. For many years I didn’t write, but I always knew on a visceral level that everything was all right. That what I longed to do would be my reality one day. I had to trust the Unknown within me.
I love to write in my office. If I had to write elsewhere, I would, but I doubt I’d feel as creative as I do right here where I am currently sitting at 4:13 AM. (laughing)
Every day I write something. It may not be writing on a novel or short story. It could be a poem or a blog entry, either for my blog at http://www.theGolden-Goddess.blogspot.com or on a private site by invitation only. I don’t wait for inspiration, yet when I am writing, as I say above, I do not force those times when the writing comes in spurts. I trust that it will come, so I rise to do other things, although my subconscious mind is forever writing and creating.
What writing goals have you established for yourself over the years? Which have you achieved? Which are still high on the list?
I have met many of the writing goals I set years ago. I’d wanted my work to be widely anthologized, and today my work can be found in several anthologies. I wanted to write an adolescent novel and an adult novel. I have accomplished that.
Currently, I want to write more novels and publish a collection of short fiction centered on my character, Ms. Wanda B. Wonders, an Everywoman much like Langston Hughes’ Jesse B. Simple. Wanda wonders about everything under the sun. Fearless, she voices her opinions on the Black President, Octo-Mom, the Bail-out Plan, Facebook, September 11th and Pretty Pills. Like Simple, Wanda is a Race Woman. You can mention whatever subject you like, and Wanda will articulate its importance humorously in terms of black and white. I love her, and I know readers will also!
I have set writing goals to publish a poetry collection and record a poetry CD. I have plans of writing and publishing erotic short fiction, a screenplay and a travelogue. Not only that, I have children’s books on the blackboard and a collection of motivational essays. All of the aforementioned are high on my list, and I love walking them down, day after day, for it is the attention to small details of our passion that we bow to an undeniable love that animates our lives!
Recall your breakthrough moment, when you knew that writing was your calling.
I knew that writing was my calling when I wrote my first novel at the tender age of fifteen. I illustrated it and placed it between red covers. Fiercely proud, I remember reading it to anyone who could sit still longer than 15 minutes.
Let’s see…it was the tale of a sixteen-year-old artist, who won a trip to Europe, where she discovers love and the beauty of another culture. Even then, I researched the encyclopedias my parents purchased yearly to make certain my details authenticated the tale.
What do you spend your time doing when you’re not writing?
Mmmm. I love this question! When I’m not in my office writing, I exercise at home on my mini trampoline, jumping while watching a Netflix movie, or I enjoy the gym. I love spending time with my grandchildren, Nazir, who will be two this April, and his five-month-old baby sister, Laila Amor! I have a joy for traveling and relish planning small trips a year, into cities in which I have family or friends. I adore cruises and look forward to pleasurable forays into Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.
In addition, I absolutely love speaking and dancing also. Motivational speaking and open mics fill me with an instant unspeakable bliss, same as dancing of any sort but, in particular, burlesque.
Not only that, I relish giving back to those less fortunate than myself. I find pleasure in working in soup kitchens and sharing the meals I help prepare with Atlanta’s homeless. Moreover, I love attending film festivals and cultural celebrations and women’s festivals.
This year I will return to enjoying the camaraderie of women at women-centered galas.
CLAUDIA MOSS is the Atlanta author of two novels, the adolescent novel, The Memoirs of a High School Graduate and her current adult novel, If You Love Me, Come. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies, Longing, Lust and Love: Black Lesbian Stories, The Lust Chronicles, The Hoot & Holler of the Owls, Purple Panties, and SWING: Adventures in Swinging By Today’s Top Erotica Writers. Her poetry has been featured in Venus Magazine Volume 11, #4.
Claudia can be found on the web in various places, including:
http://www.theGolden-Goddess.blogspot.com, http://www.Twitter.com/theLadySiren, http://www.Facebook.com/claudiamoss, http://www.Blogtalkradio.com/theSiren, and http://www.YouTube.com/theLadyBestseller.