Sunday, August 29, 2010

Interview with Critically Acclaimed Author Susan Vaught

Join us as we chat with Susan Vaught, author of the critically acclaimed My Big Fat Manifesto. Please note that this interview was conducted in April so a few of the answers may be a bit dated. For more up to date information please visit Susan Vaught's website at

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1)Tell us about yourself? I’m old now, older than I ever thought I’d get, but I’m finding that’s okay. I still love football (college and professional), women’s basketball, the Olympics, and other sports. I love reading and writing and farming—and I have way too many animals (kitties, a dog, and lots and lots of birds, including a parrot). I still work in the field of psychology and truly enjoy what I do. In that, as with many things, I believe I’m fortunate.

2)How long have you been writing? What drove you to pick up that pen for the first time? I’ve been writing since I was about eight years old. I started with a novel about a horse. I believe all little girls should get to write at least one horse story. That’s what I loved reading the most, tales like Misty of Chincoteague and all the Marguerite Henry books, Black Beauty—if it had a horse in it, I was there. When I couldn’t find any more horse books, I tried to write one of my own. Next came science fiction, then short stories and poetry. I never stopped for long after that. Writing soothes me, but it’s also a bit of a compulsion.

3)My Big Fat Manifesto is about an overweight high-school senior who writes a column in her school paper about being fat. Please tell us a little more about My Big Fat Manifesto. What motivated you to write this book? What would you like readers both teens and adults to take away from this book? I spent my life as Fat Girl, until I was around 40 years old. At my heaviest, I was over 400 pounds and couldn’t get an accurate weight. When I was 40, I made changes in my life and found a computer program that helped me process food and exercise mentally in ways I hadn’t before, and across a year or so, I moved down to “normal” weight—not ideal, but no longer obese. Toward the end of this process, I was working on a story about a girl who, amongst other things, was struggling to lose a few pounds to make weight for her sport. Every time I’d try to write in that girl’s voice, another louder and more sarcastic voice in my head would make obnoxious comments. I finally had to stop writing the first story and let Jamie, the main character in Big Fat Manifesto, have her say. As I’ve told people, I wasn’t Jamie, strength and attitude-wise, when I was her age. Jamie is the girl I wished I could have been. Through Jamie, I was able to give voice to some of what I went through and how I saw the world as a very large person. I’d love for teen and adult readers to walk away from My Big Fat Manifesto with a strong taste of Jamie’s humanity, her real-ness, her individuality. I want readers to see Jamie as a whole person, no matter what size she is, and I’d like readers to have a better grasp of what Fat Girls face on a daily basis.

4)Are there plans for another young adult plus size character in the future?
I don’t have plans at this time, but I suspect I will have characters like Jamie in future books. As Jamie noted, Fat Girls really should get to play the lead, at least as much as everyone else!

5)In December 2009 the second book in your Oathbreaker series (co-authored by JB Redmond) was released. Please tell us a little about this series. The Oathbreaker series is one story in two volumes. The tale centers around Aron Brailing, a young man taken from his family against his will and forced to become an assassin’s apprentice. He lives in a dangerous, treacherous world where people once had great psychic and magical powers, but destroyed their own abilities through stupid choices. Children like Aron are being born with these abilities again, and they’re all at risk. JB, my son, has always been an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and he’s always been a storyteller. He focused on the training of the assassins and many of the battle scenes. Because he has Cerebral Palsy and doesn’t see or use his hands well, he had to record his portions, and I typed them in for him. It was a wonderful and inspiring process.

6)You have written a good number of young adult fiction novels. Is this the only genre we will find books by Susan Vaught. Yes, if you don’t count some very boring nonfiction articles I’ve written professionally. I have some essays in some BenBella collections, about topics like Edward in Twilight, Eragon, and Prince Caspian. I do write grown-up romances under a different name, but I keep that work separate from my young adult endeavors.

7)What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a writer? Deadlines. Sometimes deadlines make me anxious and I freeze up a little in my writing. I usually meet deadlines or come very close, so I don’t know why I worry about them so much, but I do. Also, for myself, I’ve learned that “writer’s block” isn’t exactly writer’s block. When I get the sensation of not moving forward, I usually realize, after a brief break, that something’s off in my plot or characters. Once I adjust that, I move forward again. But, like deadlines, I worry about this when it happens, too!

8)As a woman juggling two demanding careers (Psychologist and Writer) how do you manage to find time for your careers and then squeeze in time for self? How do you keep a balance with all the roles you play in life? This is a significant challenge. I’ve adjusted my professional and writing schedules several times, trying to find optimal balance. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I try. I also need at least an hour to two hours a day to do physical activity like walking and yoga and strength training, so that I keep off the weight I lost. It’s hard to work everything in on a regular basis, but I do fair at this.

9)Where do you see yourself a year from now? In a year, I would like to be continuing with my psychology day job, which I truly enjoy. I’d like to be working on a contemporary young adult novel, and a YA with a fantasy component (maybe with a romantic element to try something new). I’d also like to have better pens built for some of my birds, and for the number of cats in my house not to have increased past current levels (six). The last thing will probably be the hardest.

10)What are you reading now? Who are your favorite authors? What I’m reading now—Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin. It’s set in 12th century England, and the heroine is investigating a politically charged murder. I just finished Fatal Grace, by Louise Penny (I love her mysteries), and also just re-read Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book (adored this, especially the audio version that he reads). Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin are amongst my favorite authors, and Marion Zimmer Bradley and Octavia Butler, and Nnedi Okorafor (her latest, Who Fears Death is just as awesome as the first two books I read of hers). I also like Orson Scott Card and wait pathetically for new Ender novels, and I think I will always be a Stephen King fan, because horror is a secret pleasure…I could make this list endless. Really.

11)Do you have any personal appearance (either online or off) currently scheduled over the next couple of months. Where can readers connect with you up close and personal? I don’t have any personal appearances scheduled, but if I schedule one, I’ll post it on my website. Readers are welcome to email me. I try to answer everybody, even if it takes me a ton of time.

12)How can readers get in contact with you? Do you have a website?, and My son has, too!

13)What is the one thing you would like all of your readers to know about you?
That I’m grateful for every single one of them, and always try to write with them in mind—to intrigue, to satisfy, to give them the rewarding experiences they’re seeking when they pick up a story and start reading.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Interview with National Best-Selling Author Naleighna Kai

Join us as we chat with National Best-Selling Author Naleighna Kai about her newest and in my opinion her best release to date The Pleasure's All Mine. Sit back relax and read more about this dynamic woman doing her best to bring us fabulous women with curves.

*****Contest Alert*****
Leave a comment on Naleighna Kai's interview by September 30, 2010 and be entered to win a copy of The Pleasure's All Mine. See side panel for contest details. For a second chance to win a copy of The Pleasure's All Mine visit the Sexy Ebony BBW African American Book Club site and enter the August 2010 Featured Author Contest.

1) How long have you been writing? I started writing in December of 1999, so that makes it 11 years for writing and this year is the 10th Anniversary of my first published novel.

2) What drove you to pick up that pen for the first time? I met someone on the internet who challenged me to write after he had sent me poetry, erotic poetry, and erotic short stories. It was a spark when I wrote him back and then my minister (also an author), Sesvalah, encouraged me to continue to write as part of my sexual abuse therapy. My second novel, She Touched My Soul, was all about that healing process. I’ve writing ever since and each book mirrors some aspect of my life or some question about my life that I’m trying to answer.

3) Why did you chose to feature plus size heroines in your novels.
Because I’m a plus-size woman. There’s already enough books that wrote about slender women as heroines and woman my size as mothers, aunties, best friends, etc. I wanted women size 14 and up to take center stage, and feel good about it.

4) We will be giving away copies of The Pleasure Is All Mine on both the BBW Reviews Author Interview blog and The Sexy Ebony BBW AA Book Club site. Tell us a little about The Pleasure Is All Mine and the fierce plus size character in your novel. Why should readers run out and get their copy of your book today.
Because it’s the best book I’ve written to date. The majority of the people who have read all of my books love this one the most. I had fun writing this novel, took my time. My national bestselling novel, Every Woman Needs a Wife, was written in four days--four Fridays in a row from 8p.m.- to 6 a.m. at a little hole in the wall on the South Side of Chicago. I took my time with The Pleasure’s All Mine. Raven is a lot like me in some ways, nothing like me in other. She’s an author, raised by two women who were together for several years, has an author son, owns her own publishing company, has traveled to Hawaii and is looking for love. Hmmmm, but some of the experiences that she has in the book are pure fiction. Pierce, the Castle, the married couple who “conditions” her for that one night as a Maid of the Castle. When a meal is good, sometimes people will say, “guuuurl, you stuck your foot in those greens…” Well, I stuck my a$$ in this book, because it feels good to me, as an avid reader. I wrote something I like to read over and over. And because of this book I understand how and why my brother and sister never felt that I was actually their sister for all these years. I finally forgave them.

5) You self-published The Pleasure’s All Mine through Macro Publishing Group. But before we get into Macro Publishing Group and the other side of the fierce woman you are, why did you decide to self-publish The Pleasure’s All Mine?
Because this novel was itching to get out. I’m in between publishing deals right now and it’s been four years since my last release. When an author is out of a reader’s eye too long…well, let’s just say it’s harder to make a comeback. I started off self-published before getting the deal with an imprint of Simon & Schuster. While waiting, I just went back to the familiar and I’m out there hitting the literary chit’lin circuit so “Naleighna Kai” stays out there; meets new people and greets old friends.

6) Tell us a little about Macro Publishing and its various activities both in and outside the literary community. When I wrote my first novel, More Than Enough, I was so excited about the writing process and starting my own company, that I wanted everyone in my life to write. I started my best friend to writing, my minister to writing, my son to writing, my dog to writing (mind you, I didn’t have a dog), but I was elated that I could do something I never imagined doing. I published a few other people before realizing that babysitting other people’s children can be more costly and time-consuming than nurturing your own, and it put the thing that I finally found a connection to on the back burner. I wasn’t writing as much. Through it all, I found out that I love doing something else just as much as writing--marketing and promotion. So I shifted my focus away from publishing others, helped the current wave of authors with Macro to start their own houses and publish their own books, then moved into the realm of publicity and event planning--all literary related. I’m loving it. I’ve connected with major sponsors such as Loreal, Kama Sutra, Harley Davidson and all of the major publishing house who have been crucial to the success of The Cavalcade of Authors and my other signature events.

7) Writing wise what is next for Naleighna Kai. Is there another plus size heroine in your future? My next novels are: Slaves of Heaven and Rich Woman’s Fetish. I think all of my lead characters will have some “weight on them” with a “close to slender side kick.” There are enough authors who write about size 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 already. Not so much on 14 and up. And truthfully, when I find that someone writes that a character is voluptuous or curvy, my mind does not go to 0-12, I picture someone like me.

8) And what is next for Lissa Woodson, the mother, writer, and entrepreneur behind Naleighna Kai?
Right now, I’m working on my next novel, Slaves of Heaven, which is totally different than what I normally write. My son is home from Nashville, so it’s been a bit of a challenge to find the mother-son dynamic now that he’s a “grown ass man.” I’m currently the publicist for L.A. Banks and for Sea Lion Book and it’s forcing me to get a handle on the young adult novel world--which is different than what I’m used to. I’m also still doing publicity work and touring to promote, The Pleasure’s All Mine and the rest of my books, along with my son and my minister, Sesvalah, with whom I co-wrote, Speak it into Existence--an inspirational book.

9) What is a typical day like in Lissa Woodson's world. How do you manage time for self along with everything else? I work a 9 to 5 at an international law firm, I’m the publicist to New York Times bestselling author, L.A. Banks, myself as Naleighna Kai, my son, NAACP Image Award Nominee, and my minister, Rev. Renee Sesvalah Cobb-Dishman.

10)What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a writer? Settling down and finishing one novel at a time. I have several “nearly finished” projects that haven’t made it to finish status because the next idea comes in so strong and takes over. I finally made a commitment to myself not to start the next book or work on one of the back burner projects until I finish what’s on my plate right this minute. It’s a challenge, but I’m making it work.

11) What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your entire career? Learning the difference between someone who considers you an associate and one who considers you a friend. Learning the difference between giving your time and sacrificing yourself. Learning that saying Yes to yourself might mean saying No to someone else. Compartmentalizing my time so that I’m more effective at my day job, being an author, event planner, publicist, and balancing my dreams and goals and checking them off one by one.

12) Where do you see yourself a year from now? Releasing my next novel, traveling to promote the book and having a whole lot of fun, writing, doing marketing and promotion work for some wonderful people, about 100 pounds lighter (I’ll still be plus size, though!)

13) What are you reading now? As I type, I’m just finishing up, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted by E. Lynn Harris. A wonderful memoir, up there with the memoir of Diane Carroll (The Legs are the Last to Go) and Susan D. Peters’ Sweet Liberia: Lessons from the Coalpot.

14) Who are your favorite authors? Octavia Butler, L.A. Banks, Leslie Esdaile Banks, Iris Johansen, Sandra Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Harrold Robbins, E. Lynn Harris, Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson, Rochelle Alers, there’s so many that I could take a whole page!

15) How can readers get in contact with you? Do you have a website?
They can reach me at or

16) What is the one thing you would like all of your readers to know about you?
I’m enjoying the journey. If someone told me that twelve years ago I would be a national best-selling author, I would have choked on my drink. But since I started, I’ve learned a lot about me, what I’m made of, what I’m willing to put up with, and to send folks who don’t mean me any good--packing. I’ve met so many wonderful people, my favorite authors, people who love my books, people who still have an eyebrow raised trying to understand where I’m coming from. I’ve become a better person for the experience, and feel that in some way, I’m living my life’s purpose.

17) If you could tell one thing to every aspiring writer what would it be?
It wouldn’t be just one thing, aspiring writers can visit and see everything I have to say to them (I’ve put up resources, told of my journey and give advice under the resources for aspiring writers section).

About Naleighna Kai: Naleighna Kai, a Chicago native is a motivational speaker, the national bestselling author of Every Woman Needs a Wife, author of The Pleasure’s All Mine, and co-author of Speak it into Existence with Sesvalah. She started writing in December of 1999, self-publishing her first novel and landing a book deal with an imprint of Simon & Schuster. She works for a major international law firm and is the CEO of Macro Marketing & Promotions Group, and consultant to several national bestselling and aspiring writers. Naleighna is the mother of J. L. Woodson, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature for his book, Superwoman’s Child: Son of a Single Mother. She is currently working on her next novels, Slaves of Heaven and Rich Woman’s Fetish.

*****Contest Alert*****
Leave a comment on Naleighna Kai's interview by September 30, 2010 and be entered to win a copy of The Pleasure's All Mine. See side panel for contest details