DJGBC Interview : Author Shewanda Pugh “Crimson Footprints”

shewanda 31. Where are you from? Boston, MA, though I now live in Miami, FL.

2. Tell us your latest news? Crimson Footprints, my debut novel, will release in print on August 14, 2012. Its sequel, Crimson Footprints II: New Beginnings, will follow February 2013.

3. When and why did you begin writing? Like a lot of writers, I started pretty young, in elementary school. However, I didn’t begin to take it seriously until I decided to study it in graduate school. But I write because there’s some inner instinct to create.

4. When did you first consider yourself a writer? When I began to invest in the craft. That happened when I enrolled in a Master’s program, specifically geared towards writing.

5. What inspired you to write your first book? Interestingly enough, Crimson Footprints began with my wanting to create a contradictory character, one whose appearance proved different from the assumptions some might harbor about him. The idea came from an assignment I had in a graduate level fiction writing class, where I had to people watch in a local Barnes & Noble. While doing so, I saw the quintessential urban guy. When he headed over to the lit section and spent a little time with Poe, I was taken aback, and then annoyed with myself for being taken aback. The book began to form after that moment.

6. Do you have a specific writing style? I tend to be blunt and believe less is more.

7. How did you come up with the title? The title refers to a pivotal scene in the story, the climax.

8. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? It’s back to those assumptions and a need to grasp what it is we think we know.

9. How much of the book is realistic? All of it’s realistic.

10. Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Crimson Footprints is a work of fiction. I just happen to have an overactive imagination.

11. What books have most influenced your life most? Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan because it was my first experience with women’s fiction. There’s also an old and tattered collection of stories by Zora Neale Hurston that I swear by.

12. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? Zora, by far.

13. What book are you reading now? I’m reading a lot of YA dystopian stuff right now, spurred more than likely by The Hunger Games. I could list a book, but by the time I finish this sentence, I’d likely be done.

14. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Nothing yet. There are some great writers out there, but I feel reluctant to call anyone “new” whose book has been out longer than mine.

15. What are your current projects? My publisher and I are in the final stages of delivering Crimson Footprints II: New Beginnings to the world. That’s set for release February 2013. My current work in progress involves a well-to-do African American teenage ballerina and her next door neighbor, an Asian Indian football player with one hell of a temper. Their families are extremely close, functioning almost as a single unit, until the boy and girl fall in love. Then, of course, the world as they know it detonates.

16. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members. It’s difficult for me to name one alma mater without mentioning the other, both have helped me tremendously. My experience at Alabama A&M University as an undergraduate helped prepare me for life in any field, and the lasting support I receive from faculty and lifelong friends continues even now. My fellow bulldogs rally around me at every chance they get. My graduate school, Nova Southeastern University, transformed me from a girl who thought she knew how to write to a woman who did. I’m forever grateful for the tough love and confidence they gave me.

17. Do you see writing as a career? It’s the only career for me.

18. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? I’m always thinking of changes. Every writer worth her salt sees room for improvement.

19. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? Hard to say. I’ve always been a storyteller, and the African American tradition is rich with storytelling. It’s a part of my DNA.

21. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? There’s tons I find challenging. Creating three-dimensional major and minor characters that stand up to scrutiny, with compelling story lines that stay with the reader. It’s my sincere belief that every person in life is interesting, so characters should be the same way.

22. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? That’s a tough one. I would probably say Amy Tan, because she paints a vivid, behind the scenes picture of a minority culture, complete with complicated layers. In other words, it’s a beautiful recreation of life.

23. Do you travel much promoting your book(s)? I do some. Hoping to do more, particularly with festivals throughout the country. The Decatur Book Festival 2012, the Miami Book Fair 2012, and the Tucson Festival of Books 2013 are already on my itinerary. More will be added, I’m sure.

24. Who designed the covers? The art department at Delphine Publications handles the cover art, although they do take input from me.

25. What was the hardest part of writing your book? Making major and minor characters three dimensional. Though the reader can only sense it in some cases, each person that makes in appearance in Crimson Footprints has a painfully fleshed out back story, made to create depth.

26. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? I learned a ton. I had to do a lot of research on architecture, Japanese American culture, African American culture, and more. Even with subjects I felt familiar with, I still took the time to research for thoroughness.

27. Do you have any advice for other writers? Stick it out. Press past the doubt. Write anyway.

28. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Thank you!

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