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Let’s Get Lit Fest: Author Interviews with Porsha Deun, Roseanne Brown, Talia Aikens-Nuñez, and Ivanna Sanders

Get ready for the next round up of interviews for the Let’s Get Lit fest! Check out these incredible authors and their encouraging answers to my interview questions. Again, it’s so amazing to be able to have these conversations with them, they’re so talented and inspiring. So let’s get right into it!

Me: Please introduce yourself and briefly explain what your book is about!

Porsha Deun: My name is Porsha Deun (pronounced like Dion). I was born and raised in Flint, MI and still live nearby. I am the author of The Love Lost Series. Books 1 & 2, Love Lost and LOVE LOST FOREVER are available now and the third book, LOVE LOST REVENGE will be out soon. The series is about a rekindled love that brings the best out of some and the worst out of others. I’m also working on a children’s book and a couple of short stories.

Roseanne Brown: My name is Roseanne A. Brown, and my debut YA Fantasy novel A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN will be out on June 2nd with Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. Set in a fantasy world inspired by West African folklore, A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN follows two protagonists, a refugee named Malik and a princess named Karina. When Malik’s sister is kidnapped by a vengeful spirit, he’s tasked to murder Karina in exchange for his sister’s freedom. But he doesn’t know that Karina is trying to murder him in order to use his heart for a spell that will bring her dead mother back to life. Or, to put it more simply, it’s basically what would happen if Aladdin and Jasmine had to kill each other. 

There’s lots of stabbing, betrayal, ancient magic, and some romance in there too. 

Talia Aikens-Nunez: Here is my bio: Talia Aikens-Nuñez wanted to be a meteorologist, a politician and a lawyer. She never thought she would be an author. It was the birth of her daughter that caused her to start writing. Raising a bilingual child inspired Talia to write multicultural children’s books. Talia’s family loves nature so much that she and her husband vowed that they will always try to live close to water. She and her family live in Connecticut with a little pond.

I write kids lit. I have two picture books in circulation now called ESCUCHA MEANS LISTEN and COLORS OF THE SUN & MOON. And….I am in the process of signing with a small publisher for another picture book that will tentatively be released in September 2020. Yay! Also, I have a chapter book series called OMG… That series is about a little girl that discovers she has witchy powers. She discovers it by accidentally turning her brother into a dog.

Ivanna Sanders: I am Ivana Sanders a Book Blogger, Book Trailer Creator, Graduate Student, host of an Author Interview Instagram LIVE Series, and Debut YA/Thriller Author. My debut Young Adult Thriller novel is titled, THE BECKWITH BROTHERS, a story of Teen Angst, Forbidden Romance, Secret Societies, and Murder all intertwining when Three (3) Mysterious Brothers return home to their small town Halloween night 1995.

Me: What inspired you to become a writer?

Porsha: I enjoy erotic fiction, however the popular books in this genre were severely lacking POC as lead characters, if there were any in the books at all. That bothered me. We’ve all heard the saying “representation matter”, but it is true. Not only do we deserve presentation in this genre but also representation as something more than people of the streets or abusers of some sort. There is one successful Black author I can thing of in the erotic fiction genre. There’s room for more.

Roseanne: I can’t remember a time when I was ever not writing. In school, I was the awkward, fat Black girl who was addicted to cartoons and comic books, so you can imagine how difficult it was to connect to the people around me. But I never had that problem when I was writing. I’ve always felt like my truest self in words, and that applies to everything I wrote, from my Avatar the Last Airbender fanficiton in 4th grade (which will never see the light of day) to my short stories in college. Even if nobody else wanted to read a word of what I wrote, I would still keep on writing because I can’t imagine myself without it. 

Talia: My kids inspired me to become a writer. It was the search for light, slice of life and universal topics featuring kids of color that caused me to start writing. When my daughter was born, I found that most of the books featuring kids of color were about differences like hair, color, and cultural things. ALL of those are needed!!! But, I wanted more books on universal topics to round out her library.

Ivanna: I just love writing. It has always been a source of my self-expression, self-exploration, and my course of escapism. I love using my creativity to create worlds, characters, unique dynamics, plot twists, and heart pounding moments. It is just one of my favorite things ever!!

Me: Who’s your favorite Black author?

Porsha: Donald Goines! He wrote the realest books I’ve ever read.

Roseanne: Oof, this is like asking which of your fingers is your favorite! It’s a three-way tie between Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, N.K. Jemisin, and Angie Thomas. Adichie wrote the first book where I saw my experience as an African immigrant truly represented (AMERICANAH), and she wrote the kind of decade-spanning epic love story that makes me feel weak in the knees. 

Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy is in a class all its own. She did things in that book that I didn’t even know fiction was capable of doing. And Angie Thomas is the queen of YA, rightfully so. I think had I read either The Hate U Give or On The Come Up as a teenager, they would have changed my life.

Talia: Ohhh, that’s too hard. I’ll answer this from the perspective of present-day, actively publishing authors. I could go on and on about Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. For current middle grade and ya, I love Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas. But for overall kids lit (picture book through middle grade), I LOVE Jacqueline Woodson.

Ivanna: Tomi Adeyemi!

Me: Alright, a fun question, if you were stranded on a desert island with one of your characters, who would you pick and why?

Porsha: I would pick Joc, hands down. Not only is he fun and the truest form of a friend, he would make sure my hair stay healthy while helping me make some fly outfits out of leaves and wine out of the local fruit!

Roseanne: Oooh, this is a tough one. For pracitcality’s sake, I’d choose Aminata. She is Karina’s maid and confidant in the book, and she always has backup plans on backup plans to get out of the sticky situations that Karina often gets them into. She’d probably have a plan to get us off the island in like a day while I’m picking up pretty seashells on the beach. But Karina would definitely be the funnest character to be trapped on a desert island with. Everywhere she goes is a party.

Talia: Eve from my OMG series. She is knowledgeable, bilingual and a sweetheart. I ❤ her!

Ivanna: Eric Beckwith. As the eldest of The Beckwith Brothers, Eric is sensitive and ruthless in all the right ways. He helped his brothers survive being abandoned in the forest in their youth and has several survivalist techniques in his mental toolbox. Being able to can alter his environment through his telekinetic capabilities would be a bonus (*wink, wink*). He values the female and desires to compliment her strength and beauty with his supportive yet animalistic nature. Eric being physically sculpted by life in the wild with high testosterone and a gentle masculinity would not be so bad to be stuck on a deserted island with! It could even be a dream.

Me: What are your favorite books?

Porsha: Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines, We Are Immeasurable by B.L. McGrew, 12 Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Mya Angelou.

Roseanne: Oooh, I love giving book recs. These are some of my all-time favorite books:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski 

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 

And because I gotta shout out my fellow debuts and new-to-the-scene writers, some recent faves I’ve devoured have been The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala and SLAY by Brittney Morris.

Talia: My favorite book of all time is a Wrinkle in Time. I greatly identified with Meg when I was younger as the kind of off-beat kid. But, I fiercely loved my family and had a bit of a stubborn streak 🙂

Ivanna: Hangman (the Timothy Blake Trilogy) by Jack Heath, #FashionVictim, Flowers for Algernon, Pretty Little Liars (the books were WAY better than the TV Show), The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.

Me: What made you want to write in your current genre?

Porsha: Erotic romance fiction because there needs to be more and better representation of Black people in it and the children’s book I’m working on was inspired by a conversation I had with my niece (I had no intentions on writing a children’s book before then).

Roseanne: I was thirteen when the first Hunger Games book came out, so I’m part of the OG, “screaming on Livejournal/DeviantArt/Tumblr” portion of the YA community. More than any other category, I feel like YA inspires so much passion and creativity from its audience, especially teenage girls who are often mocked for their interests. I’ve dipped my toe into writing both middle grade and adult before, but I always find myself coming back to YA for the community. Plus, there is a certain hopefulness in knowing that no matter how bleak the ending to a YA book may be, the protagonist still has their entire life ahead of them. All endings in YA are truly beginnings. (Unless they die at the end, but that’s a different conversation…)

As for fantasy, who doesn’t love dragons and wizards and daring sword fights? There’s just about being able to escape into a world that has all the cool things ours doesn’t. But there is also a real opportunity in fantasy to provide social commentary on real-world issues in a way that doesn’t rehash old conversations. Some of the most illuminating revelations I’ve had concerning bigotry and social justice have come from fantasy books, like the work of master N.K. Jemisin. 

Talia: Selfishly, I wanted universal topic books for my own kids so they can see themselves in books. I want them to be able to imagine themselves being witchy, being silly, and having fun in books.

Ivanna: Thrillers are 1000% my favorite genre ever! Mysteries are a close second and my book also has elements of that too. I especially like the Young Adult genre because that age group offers the ability to handle any subject with innocence, intrigue, evaluation, freshness, humor, and even light-heartedness. With that I also wanted the teens in The Beckwith Brothers to be faced with peer pressure and new found love. I found that because if there reasons, Young Adult genre fit the best to explore the story of The Beckwith Brothers the best!

Me: Another fun question, if your main character had a Twitter account, what would their bio read?

Porsha: Alise (Rogers) Williams – Owner and Head of Design at Timeless Elegance, proud wife and mother of six, Flint native, BIG RED!

Roseanne: I LOVE THIS QUESTION! 

Karina: If you can’t handle me at my worst, then screw off. She/Her. Real-life princess, so don’t waste my time with anything less than royalty. 💋👑 🎶

Malik: Malik |17 | Eshra | DMs are always open!| Sometimes slow to reply| Choose kindness 🌱 | He/Him. 

Ivanna: Seraphim “Sierr” Blake is the Young Adult female with whom Eric Beckwith falls in love with. She is an ingenue and odd-beauty who rather unintentionally wears her heart on her sleeve and dreams of advancing to her life towards a career in writing, filmmaking, and true love. Her Twitter Bio would say: “Fallen Angel | Everyone’s Baby Girl | Writing Queen Only Seventeen | Hanukkah 3:19 | XOXO

Location: In Eric Beckwith’s Dreams”

Me: Do you feel like your book is the kind you wanted to read when you were younger?

Porsha: If by younger you mean in my 20s, yes. When I was a kid, I enjoyed Goosebumps books and the American Girl Annie books.

Roseanne: 100%. I’m a true believer that before you can write for anyone else, you need to be able to write for yourself, because you are the first reader you’re ever going to have. If what I’m writing doesn’t speak to me, why am I even writing it? (Though of course, this applies differently to projects that are freelance, work for hire, etc.)  I feel like everything I write is in conversation to the person I was and the person I want to be. I hope a future version of myself is out there somewhere writing the kind of book I need right now. 

Ivanna: Oh YES! Innocence. Mystery. Sex. Death. Irony. Conspiracy. Quirkiness. Plot Twist. Yes! Yes! And YES!

Me: What do you hope readers, especially from your community, take away from your book or your experiences as an author?

Porsha: A take away from my book…Black people are not romantic or sexual savages. We can be sensual, loving, and sexy in a non-fetishized way. A female, Black or otherwise, does not have to be less than economically, mentally, emotionally, or career wise in order to submit to the man of her choosing.

Roseanne: One of the big themes of A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN is that confronting that past trauma that shaped you is often painful but always worth it. I hope readers come from the book questioning why society has taught them to hate the parts of themselves that are their greatest strength. 

For my community, I want every awkward, nerdy Black kid who feels that they don’t get to be royalty, that they don’t deserve to slay a dragon or have an epic romance, to read my book and know there is space for them in fantasy and in every genre. 

Ivanna: What do you hope readers, especially from your community, take away from your book or your experiences as an author?

There are several major themes in The Beckwith Brothers:

• Staying true to yourself.

• Living in your truth.

• Speaking the truth.

• Finding the truth.

• Believing the truth.

One of the main characters in The Beckwith Brothers is a young black male likable loner who the King of Skepticism. He only goes by the initials of his name, JSF. Truth is his main focus which is why the lies of the world always stand out to him.

Me: Do you have any advice for any aspiring authors out there?

Porsha: Write, write, write, and don’t edit until you are done writing that first draft even if things change in the book. You won’t be able to see what actually works and doesn’t work until you can see the full picture in word format. Also, whether you are afraid or confident in your writing, write your story. Someone needs it.

Roseanne: My biggest advice to aspiring authors is to follow your bliss. The things that excite you, that move you, that lead you to question yourself and the way you see the world, those things are the core of who you are, and putting those emotions in your work will make it shine even more brightly. And those inspirations don’t always have to be books! Something as mundane as watching some flowers turn for the sun while others turn away from it has sparked story ideas in me before. Stories are all around you, all you have to do is look and be willing to see what they show you.

Talia: I have two pieces of advice. One: KEEP GOING. I receive rejection on almost a daily basis. Work through that rejection. And, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. A ‘no’ from one agent or publisher does not mean that the world does not need to see or hear your words. All that ‘no’ means is that that person cannot envision it. Keep writing. Keep querying. Keep submitting. Your story WILL find a home eventually.
Two: Find a critique group or partners. Peers are so helpful to polishing and editing your work. And, during this crisis, you can find critique groups and partners online. KEEP GOING.

Ivanna: Write and keep writing having completed drafts is essential to having polished manuscripts. Find your inspiration for when you may have Writer’s Block (mine is music and reading). Be at peace with wherever it is that you are at in your publishing goals, find writing groups to get involved with (they can be fun and encouraging),  write short stories to get more experience writing and publish them for free to help grow your audience, come & chat with me on my Instagram LIVE Series about your book! I would love to hear about it!! 😁

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