1. Why did you want to become a writer? 2. Has this always been your aspiration?
I really enjoyed writing when I was in high school but didn’t take seriously the possibility of doing it for a living. Later, in college, I realized it was possible to support a family even while pursuing my dreams of literary success, so I set out on the path. Writing was more joyful for me than any other form of creative or intellectual endeavor. I enjoy the process so much that it doesn’t seem like work to me. That’s probably what led me to continue with it.
3. What or whom inspires you when you’re writing?
I’m inspired by a number of people, including literary ancestors such as Langston Hughes and Ida B. Wells, as well as actual ancestors and my immediate family. I always write from my perspective as a husband and father, so it’s safe to say that my wife and children are my primary inspirations.
4. How would you categorize your books, in what genre or genres?
My books fit into a variety of genres. The nonfiction books I’ve written for adults (Not Guilty: Twelve Black Men Speak Out on the Law, Justice and Life, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t and Why, and What Obama Means: For Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Future) could be included in African-American Studies, American Culture, Current Events, History, Media and Politics, among other categories. My one book of fiction for adults, A Taste of Honey: Stories, fits into African American Fiction, American Fiction, Historical Fiction and Short Stories, among others. Likewise, my children’s books are all over the map. The Road to Freedom is a novel for middle-schoolers, I have four board books for infants and toddlers, and Daddy Goes to Work, a picture book for primary-grade readers. My next book for children, Fifty Cents and a Dream, will be an illustrated book for primary and middle readers. It will be published by Little, Brown in Winter 2012. I’m really excited to be working with Bryan Collier, one of the best illustrators in the business.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
My first suggestion is read voraciously, constantly, without end. My second suggestion is set out a time and a space to write every day, at least until the discipline of writing becomes second nature. Once it does, it’s not as critical to write every day. When I say “space” I mean mental space as opposed to a physical space. I’ve done most of my writing surrounded by my children, with at least a couple of them (we have five) literally hanging on to me. If you’re meant to write, you’ll get it done.
6. How can readers attain your books?
My books are in libraries across the country and can be purchased or ordered at any bookstore (chain or independent), as well as from Amazon.com and other online booksellers.