Posts Tagged With: author spotlight

MWN Author Spotlight with Eric B. Willis @EricBWillis


EBWillis
Today, the Motown Writers Network is putting author Eric B. Willis in the spotlight.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Detroit. I now live in Waterford, Michigan.

Tell us your latest news?

I’m currently involved with two family history writing book projects and a third one that’s waiting in the wings. My goal is to publish my second book towards the end of the year. Also in July, I will be attending a Willis family reunion in Hampton, Virginia and looking forward to sharing and receiving feedback about my current book.
When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as a child. However, around 1997, it was reignited shortly after I began researching my family history. It was my desire to leave a legacy–to share the information that I’ve discovered about my family history–about their triumphs and tragedies, and how their survival in America continued to exist despite their tremendous odds as a black race of people with African, European, Indian and Asian ancestry.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

After I began writing about my family history and black history.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I didn’t know much about my Mississippi paternal lineage–my heritage. Also, there was an oral family historical account that was passed down about two brothers from France who traveled to this country, but I wanted to know more.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I used all four writing styles in my book–primarily expository, narrative, descriptive, and persuasive to a smaller extent.
How did you come up with the title?

The first part of the name The Willis Handbook came about over twenty years ago during a non-related discussion at a Willis family function–which was before I became a genealogist and began writing the book. The second part of the name relates to intersecting related memoirs and historical events into a family’s genealogy or a person’s biography in order to assist with reconstructing their lives and to produce more of a connection with my readers. Also, adding photographs, historical records, pedigree charts, and maps helps me to achieve this goal as well.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I want to encourage people of all ethnicities to become family historians and writers. Afterward, they would be able to reach out and teach their current and future generations that many of their ancestors and relatives–being aware or unaware of God’s presence and guidance–did experience many successes in the midst of their sacrifices and failures.

How much of the book is realistic?

The non-fiction book not only chronicles 168 years of my family history, but it also includes related and extensive information about African American and American History–covering such events as the American Civil War, early Black communities and educational institutions, medical histories and epidemics, the Civil Rights Movement, etc. Its use is also a genealogical and scholarly reference source. It’s like a treasured heirloom meets an encyclopedia.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Yes to both. The work details many experiences in my life, my family and other black family lives, and the lives of those who have had major influences–directly or indirectly–and from a local, state or national perspective.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Besides the Bible which also includes an extensive genealogical record, books that are inspirational and history-related.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

It would be a challenge to just narrow it down to one writer. So, I would have to choose Alex Haley, John Hope Franklin, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Darlene C. Dickson–my first writer’s group instructor.

What book are you reading now?

Grace of Silence: A Memoir by the National Public Radio (NPR) journalist Michelle Norris. It’s about her family’s complex legacy and understanding those who reared us.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I’m interested in reading Allyson Hobb’s book A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life as a part of my research for my current writing project.
What are your current projects?

I have two active writing projects– a book about my maternal cousin who was involved with racial passing–living his life as a white Jewish man and a family history about my maternal lineage. I’m also assisting a client with writing and publishing his family history.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

The Detroit Public Library’s Burton Historical Collection staff was very helpful to me early on in my research.
Do you see writing as a career?

Yes, I do–in addition to being a genealogist, an artist, and an occasional actor.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

That’s a good question, but I would not change anything.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

As a child in elementary school, around the forth grade, I was given an assignment to create a hardcover children’s story book with illustrations. It was about a boy’s involvement with various sports. I remembered the covers being made of cardboard and wrapped in a vinyl sheet material with a sport-like pattern.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

My second non-fiction book begins with my genealogical quest to uncover the truth behind my maternal great grandfather’s birth in the segregated town of Huntsville, Alabama during the late-19th century. His mother is black but his father is white. However, along the way, I discovered a cousin who was involved in racial passing. As a result, my goal is to take the reader on a journey through an array of notable jazz musicians, the religion of Judaism, American union leader Jimmy Hoffa, renowned entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., and a discussion of race.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I really love the research phase of the writing process, but it can be very time consuming–reviewing documentation and artifacts, reading, interviewing and traveling.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I actually have two favorite authors–John Hope Franklin and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Being a descendant from families with deep southern roots and my interest in history, I enjoy reading the works of these noted American historians, educators, and authors of southern history and racial politics.

 

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

As a genealogist and writer, I have to travel to various locations to research and obtain non-digitized information that’s not available via the Internet. I enjoy pouring through old photo albums, records at court houses, libraries, etc. If possible, I prefer to travel and conduct face-to-face interviews for gathering information for the book.

 

Who designed the covers?

I’m an artist as well, so I designed my book’s covers.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

From a sentimental perspective, having to remove the last chapter because the size of the book had surpassed 900 pages. The chapter consists of information I’ve accumulated over the years during my genealogical research of my Willis family and during the time of the book’s completion, I was not able to establish to my satisfaction the people represented therein were related to my family. However, there is a possibility that there may be some Willis familial connections, but additional evidence is required.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Besides the wealth of information about my family history and my culture’s history, I’ve learned about the existence of so many other family members across the country–what a blessing.

 

Also, consistently dedicating some time each day towards the project kept me engaged which eventually led to its completion after ten years. Some of the days consisted of one to several hours of researching (which took on various forms), writing or both. A mixture of researching, writing and sharing contributed to my excitement level.

 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice is to devote at least a half an hour to the writing process even if it’s involving researching for material. Research other successful authors within your genre to determine what contributed to their success while also maintaining your own sense of writing style. Connect (in person or online) with informative writer workshops in your region. In reference to researching and writing your family history, begin with interviewing your older relatives first because once they make that transition–that valuable information may be forever lost.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? I truly appreciate your support. Also, I believe it’s important for us to know and share our family histories–to maintain that connection with our past, present, and future generations–and to learn from the past, live in the present, and build for the future. To know our heritage is like a tree with roots.
 

whbfrontcover

  • Name of Author: Eric B. Willis
  • Name of Book: The Willis Handbook: An Intersection of Genealogy, Memoirs and History of a Black American Family – 1835-2003

 

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MWN Author Spotlight ~ Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson @JFF0628

JenniferThis week’s MWN author spotlight is on Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson!

Jennifer Fisch- Ferguson has been writing and publishing fantasy stories since 2003. Publishing credits include short fiction, writing contests and novels.
She attended the Eastern Michigan University and graduated with a B.A in African American History and promptly went to work with AmeriCorps on a literary initiative.

She went to the University of Michigan and got her Master’s degree in Public Administration in 2008 and while she finished writing her thesis, also got a Masters in English – Composition and Rhetoric in 2009. She recently is working on her PhD at Michigan State University in the field of Writing and Rhetoric. She has been teaching collegiate and community writing classes since 2003 and loves the variety and inspiration her students bring.

She currently is finishing her trilogy and dutiful writes on her blog space about her journey.

She lives in the Midwest with two amazing sons, one coffee supplying mate and acts as staff-in-residence to one cranky cat.

Where are you from?

Born in Detroit, but currently just south of Flint, MI
Tell us your latest news?

Book 3 will launch in November of 2015 and complete the story.
When and why did you begin writing?

I have always loved writing.  In fact I used to sell short stories in high school to my friends- with them starring in romantic escapades.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I always been a writer- an author… the moment I hit publish in 2013.
What inspired you to write your first book?

I love werewolves but I think they have been misrepresented- so I strove to tell my view.
Do you have a specific writing style?

I think it depends on the project- my urban fantasy tends to be much more packed and cerebral. My paranormal romances tend to be lighter.
How did you come up with the title?

laboriously – I hate coming up with titles. However it is an urban fantasy about werewolves- so I figured something with moon would be good.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There is no such thing as normal… life is what you make of it.
How much of the book is realistic?

The locations are very accurate and some of the situations have been formed from experiences.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not really and I certainly do not sing opera
What books have most influenced your life most?

Octavia Butler for sure.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Nisi Shawl- I had the fortune of speaking to her and interviewing her and she is just amazing.
What book are you reading now?

The Psychology of Batman 😀
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I am a part of an indie group online, so I have read many of them.
What are your current projects?

Book 3 in the series and my new paranormal romance series – oh yea finishing this dissertation too.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

My editor Artie is amazing! Despite the middle of the night texts when we are working on a project questioning why I do such things to my characters – he is more supportive than I could have hoped for.
Do you see writing as a career?

Yes! Between teaching and writing and book coaching- writing is my life.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

No, but in the first book I had a two week time frame right in the beginning that I would shorten.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I always had stories to tell. They just all happened to be fantasy in nature.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?

In Follow the Moon (book 3) Kama has some choices to make.  She learns new truths about herself and the people she knows.  And as she finally feels secure with herself- an old encounter comes back to haunt her.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Finding the time to get it all down. I have so many stories in my head that I want to tell.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Octavia Butler, not only did she buck convention and wrote in a genre that didn’t really want her. Her stories sucked me in at age 8 and even still I find new and great things when I reread them.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

I try to do book signings and shows when possible. I would love to do more, but what I have now is good.
Who designed the covers?

I did the layout. Bryan Syme did the art.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Not so much in the writing- I brainstorm all my works with my husband exhaustively.  The hard part is introducing people to urban fantasy that have no idea what is it.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Get on a schedule! I write every day for good or bad, but knowing that I have to write each day gets the work done.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t worry about word count- get into the habit of writing daily for a specific amount of time. Also- treat it like a job not a hobby. And invest in a good editor- a good developmental editor.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Authors love feedback and interaction.  I am active with my blog and facebook/twitter and yes- I do answer.

Howl at the MoonEnter The Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting to know Kai Mann @kaiology #Motownlit #mwn

kaiWhere are you from? I am from Fort Myers, Florida and currently I reside in the Detroit metro area.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? I didn’t consider myself a writer until I published a few articles on examiner.com although I had been writing for years.

Do you have a specific writing style?  No, I’m not sure that I can admit to a particular writing style. I am a non-traditional writer/author so I have my own style of writing.

How did you come up with the title?  Abandoned Property came to me shortly after I finished writing 30 Day Notice. I was coming home from the Post Office sending out copies of 30 Day Notice when the title and the concept of the book and Darius’ character came rushing into my mind in an overwhelming way. I felt like the Creator wanted me to talk about abandonment issues a subject known all too well by many of us.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Yes, always! There are a number of messages that I want readers to grasp. I won’t name them all, just the main message about how our issues of abandonment can not only affect our lives, but the lives of everyone around us if we don’t deal with them. There are also key issues I strategically placed in the book that I won’t give away. My prayer is that the reader will see these messages and it will bring about a change of some sort, whether it’s how they look at themselves or how they look at others.

What books have most influenced your life most?  The Bible. As crazy as it may sound it has been a major influence on my life. Other books such as The Color Purple, Yesterday, I cried, and Invisible lives were also influences on my life and my writing.

What are your current projects? Currently I am working on a book of poems called In My Mother’s House.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members. The Motown Writer’s Network has been a major support system during my career as a writer.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? No. Not a thing. I believe that all things happen as they should so after I haven’t completed the work, I am satisfied with the outcome.

Do you have any advice for other writers? Yes, surround yourself with other writers. Let them motivate you to get that book completed. Learn from them so that you can one day share your gift of knowledge with others.

Keep in touch with this author by going to the following:

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