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Candice Dow ,author of AIN'T NO SUNSHINE and now A HIRE LOVE,talks with Conversation's C. A. Webb about her formula for success. She will be visiting Mississippi and the Conversations Book Club in December 2007.
Candice, we appreciate your taking out the time to talk with us. I want to start our discussion by asking how you feel about the release of your second book. Have you been surprised at how people were expecting it or have responded to it?
After the overwhelming response for me to write a sequel to Caught in the Mix, I was petrified how people would receive Ain’t No Sunshine, because it is such an entirely different story. So, yes and I am surprised, honored, and finally breathing again.
The characters are definitely memorable, the story line compelling. Do you feel as though you dodged the "sophomore jinx" with AIN'T NO SUNSHINE?
I hope so.
Tell us about when your love for writing initially surfaced?
My love for writing first surfaced early in life, but I can pinpoint when I started writing everyday to the ninth grade. I wanted to be a rapper. So, I would write rhymes daily and somewhere along the way my rhymes became short stories. That’s when I deemed myself a writer, not a rapper.
Have you always been attracted to the types of stories you now tell? What do you use for inspiration?
Always. I love to hear stories about all types of relationships. When I listen to other people’s stories, I find myself creating an ending or a twist to real life. My inspiration comes from connecting with all types of people.
I know from talking with some authors that they are usually leery about turning over their work to someone else to edit and consider for publication. Was this a concern for you?
I wasn’t leery at all. I just wanted some feedback and was open for constructive criticism from industry professionals. I wanted to be published and if that meant rewrites and changes that still allowed me to be true to myself, I was down for it.
How much input do you find you have in cover design, the editing and other details dealing with the book before publication?
I don’t have much input on the covers aside from the description of the characters, but I must say that I have been extremely pleased. As for the editing portion, I get a lot of leeway. Usually if there is a suggestion or question about a particular scene, I get the opportunity to rewrite without a lot of pressure about how to write it.
Let's get into the book AIN'T NO SUNSHINE, Candice. The narrator is Laila, a young woman who has had a life filled with disappointment, pain and heartache. Was it hard for you to get into her head? Can you tell us about some of the research that went into just her character?
I think Laila ended up getting into my head and forcing me to tell her story. My initial plan for this book was for two poets to fall in love with a few twist and turns along the way. During the time that I began working on Ain’t No Sunshine, I was mentoring a thirteen-year-old girl in the foster care system that hadn’t seen her mother or siblings since she was three. Despite all the things this young lady had witnessed and the lack of love she received, she seemed unfazed and her escape was poetry. Somehow, I correlated her with Laila and the character came full circle. Often I felt like I wasn’t getting through to her, so I guess Ain’t No Sunshine became like a prayer for her that someday she would find peace through poetry. My conversations with her were my primary research.
One of the things that struck me about your book was that it was sexy without being smutty. Through a colorful use of words you were able to paint erotic scenes that were both beautiful and tasteful. Why did you decide to take this unique route?
I enjoy reading colorful erotic scenes, so it seems only natural for me to write that way.
Reading about Laila's journey, you almost got the feeling that everyone she loved betrayed her. Do you think her story is unlike many young women today?
Unconsciously Laila didn’t feel worthy of being loved since she was abandoned at birth and sometimes your thoughts can generate your reality. I believe that there are many young women today going through or have gone through what Laila experienced.
To me the turning point of the whole book was Laila coming full circle with the family she had never known, and the shocking discovery about the man that caused her to leave her life. As the author, what do you hope we glean from the time Laila had with her mother and sister?
Laila is finally at peace and she no longer has to question her existence. In addition, I would like the reader to understand the importance of closure and to have compassion for people in search of that closure.
Do you think we will revisit Laila again in the future?
I think I’m done with Laila. Lord knows she doesn’t need any more drama in her life.
Candice, I am always happy to see more African-American authors entering the literary arena, but I am even more excited about books, like yours, that are being published that have some substance. Does it bother you that a great deal of books focus on sex, drugs and violence?
No, it doesn’t bother me. I think everyone has a story to tell and an audience willing to read it.
How do you manage to stay true to yourself in your work, in spite of what might be getting more attention elsewhere?
I can only write what I’m passionate about. I try to direct less energy on what is getting attention and more energy on writing from my heart.
Do you have any advice for those reading this who might be interested in a writing career?
Educate yourself on the publishing process, pick up a few books on writing, set goals and a schedule, and start writing.
At the end of the day, how do you want your writing career to be remembered?
As the author who created memorable characters with voices and experiences that all people can relate to.
Thanks again, Candice, for your time. Any last words you want to share?
Thanks for the interview and I’m glad you enjoyed Ain’t No Sunshine.