This week’s guest post is the wonderful Yecheilyah Ysrayl, author of The Nora White Story who gave up her time to answer some interview questions! Enjoy.
Q01 – Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Thank you, Ari, for having me and yes, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It’s one of those things for me that has always been constant in my life.
Sometimes as small children we dream of careers completely different than our ambitions as we age.
Maybe we start off wanting to walk on the moon to see if it’s really made of cheese and then grow up and want to be a teacher. I was not that child. I have always wanted to be a writer in some form or another before anything else.
02 – Who was your favorite author growing up?
My favorite author growing up was Mildred D. Taylor. There were others but her books are what sticks out to me the most and really got me into reading deeply and wanting to write about black southern life.
Q03 – What is your dream goal for your writing?
I dream not of fortune and fame. I dream not of being acknowledged or praised. I am a simple person so the goal for my writing would be to awaken the lost sheep, that being the so-called African American, to heal women where we’ve been broken, and to overall do my part in the restoration of lost histories.
In a sense, History has made that easy for writers. By leaving out so much information in our schools and universities, it provides ample opportunity for writers such as myself to expose those truths in our work. I for one am tired of the same ole same ole.
Tired of Black History Month coming around and learning about the same eight or ten people. There is over 4,000 years of our history that has not yet been told, not in books, not on the screen and definitely not in history class.
Q04 – What is the title (or working title) of your current manuscript and can you tell us a little bit about it?
Sure. My upcoming book title is Renaissance and it is Book One in The Nora White Story. The book is about a young woman named Nora who has ambitions of exploring the world.
Born and raised in Jackson Mississippi, Nora’s family owns their own land, grows their own food and does pretty well for themselves. But Nora is not content, nor does she realize how good she’s got it.
To her, the south still represents slavery. Nora wants to go out and see the world and the world is Harlem. And so, it begins. She drops everything, leaving without a word and heads to New York.
Meanwhile, her parents are shocked and frantic in their search for her. Where did she go? Is she alive? Will the same thing happen to Nora as it happened to Gideon’s sister? As for Nora, is the North really that place of milk and honey?
This book releases in a couple of weeks, on July 15, 2017.
Q05 – Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I write in the genre that I like to read and I love reading Literary Fiction. I am also picky about what I read. I believe reading is just as educational either consciously or subconsciously, as any organized learning experience.
For this, I do not wish to be miseducated so I am very particular about what I put into my mind as what I put into my body. That said, I have always been in love with my people, so-called African Americans, the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Our journey through time whether we are talking Abraham and Moses or the diaspora has always fascinated me. Not the way it was taught in school but the way I read it in books.
Once I got into reading Literary Fiction and Black Historical Fiction then I became passionate about learning more about how we lived and what we did in the early years of our time in the America’s.
Not because we are something called African American, but because I believe there’s nothing new under the sun. What we brought over here with us is ancient and prophesies of who we are today.
The traditions and the belief systems that we can find in the lives of many of the enslaved are the same belief systems we’ve always had. They are centuries old and if we can learn from that past we can understand where we are going as a people because what was, will be.
Everything repeats. I am awed to sit at the foot of the elderly to learn about what life was like in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. That is why I write Literary Fiction.
Q06 – What have you enjoyed most about writing this manuscript?
Everything I just said. Specifically, I have enjoyed traveling through time. Revisiting 1920s Harlem through the language, the books, movies, and research, imagining what it is like to live in that time.
This manuscript, though one of the most challenging to write, was also the most fun because I live in 2017 but my characters live in 1922. So, looking back on what the world was like back then through the eyes of the young people.
What did they wear, what did they hear, what was the food like, and what language did they speak? I learned for instance that Blacks would call getting a job “getting a slave”.
As Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography when his friend Shorty and his friends were looking for Malcolm “a slave” which meant “a job.” Also, terms like, “Ya dig?” and “Cat daddy!” Or “Daddy O!” Lol.
Q07 – What have you least enjoyed about writing this manuscript?
I have least enjoyed revising this novel. The first draft is fun. You’re kinda like on cloud nine. At least I was.
But taking everything, I love about the time period and putting it together in a way that makes sense within the structure of the work was challenging, more so than I had anticipated.
I have had to cut a lot out. I am talking about huge chunks. It got to the point where I thought I was pretty much rewriting the book and in a way, I did. In the beginning, Nora was not going to be a series.
I first set out to make it one full novel. But then, as it happens, the story took on a life of its own and took me down different paths. Now it is this big project with so much more to explore than what I’d envisioned in the beginning.
My original thoughts on what this book would be have changed dramatically the deeper I got into writing it.
Q08 – Who was the first person to read something you wrote and what was their reaction?
The first person was probably my twin sister but other than her would probably be my stepmother, Marie. I started writing poetry and she was the first to read some of my poems outside my sister who was always with me and would have liked what I liked.
Marie’s reaction at first, I would say she was lukewarm about. it She didn’t hate it but I do not get that she was excited about it either. That is because at the time, I was still an angry child and so most of my poetry was dark.
When she read something more upbeat she would say, “This is what I want to read,” or something to that effect, I can’t remember exactly. That is when I started to think more about what I was writing and realized that I was not writing, I was venting on paper.
When I started to put some real meaning behind the words, then I believe I started to write for real. So, though not overly excited about it, Marie helped me to understand a critical part of writing, that is, what are you trying to say and how are you going to say it? What are you trying to achieve?
If it’s anger and frustration on a page you are doing nothing for others but throwing up on them.
If it’s a whole bunch of big words and fancy talk then it’s like sex, you are just trying to make us feel good. It is literary masturbation to quote Terry McMillian. None of this is, I won’t say real writing, but it’s not mature writing.
Mature writing is thinking about what you want to say, how you will say it and how it will be of any value to those reading it.
Q09 – What is the single best piece of advice you could give to new writers?
Usually, this is the part where I would say to read. Read everything, not just books in your genre but books on writing as well. However, reading itself is not enough. Another one that maybe even more important is new writers should take their time.
Just because you just finished a book does not mean you should release that version. Instead of editing first drafts and releasing them, new writers should instead take the time to revise the manuscript.
They’ll see that a lot of changes will have to be made for the vision to come through in a way that is understandable to readers. The only way to catch these things is the discipline and willingness to put the release off for a chance to take another look. Don’t rush the process. Take your time.
Q10 – How do you find or make time to write?
I write best either early mornings or late nights, though I do write in the middle of the day if I am inclined to do so. I also find time in-between projects, so let’s say if I have some time where I don’t really have anything to do, I write then.
Weekends are also a great time for me to write because things are a bit more relaxed. While resting from other things, I often find the time to write.
Q11 – Does anyone inspire you?
There’s a lot that inspires me and a lot of people who do but one I must highlight here is Moshe, my husband of ten years. He’s always pushing me to go beyond my limits. I’m shy but he’s more extroverted and he sees things in me that I don’t see in myself.
For this, he’s always pushing me to strive for greater. “Don’t limit yourself. Don’t underestimate yourself” are examples of teachings I learn from him. My Thunderclap Campaign is the perfect example.
When I started it up he said that I would exceed my goal. I had not had one supporter yet but he said I would go above and beyond the 100 I needed.
That’s what I’m talking about. Not only is he super intelligent, but his faith is also strong and is just what I need when I am feeling uninspired.
Renaissance: The Nora White Story
Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One) follows a young woman to New York in hopes of fulfilling her dreams of being a writer in The Harlem Renaissance Movement.
Back home, her parents battle their own demons in the search for their missing daughter.
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Big thanks to Yecheilyah for participating in this interview. Do please check out all her links and as always live your questions and comments below 🙂
I am currently on hiatus from this blog for the next two months. You can read about it in this post A Bold Move.