Wednesday, April 25, 2007

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Bestselling author Alisha Yvonne

She has become one of the authors that everyone seems to be talking about. City to city, Bestselling author Alisha Yvonne has caused readers to eagerly anticipate each and every new release---and has not disappointed us yet. Whether through her he said/she said books (LOVIN' YOU IS WRONG & I DON'T WANNA BE RIGHT) or the sassy story of Ivy and Candy in NAUGHTY GIRLS, Ms. Yvonne is putting Memphis on the map with her storytelling and humble personality.

Conversations Magazine talked with the literary princess about her life, the success she has enjoyed and what keeps her grounded.

Your Age?
A true Naughty Girl doesn't reveal her age. (LOL) Just kidding! I'm 34, a single-mother of two, and oh by the way, I'm a Cancer. Oops, sorry--you didn't ask me all of that, did you?

Your hometown?
I'm a native Memphian, where I set all of my books. Even if I decide to buy houses elsewhere in the world, Memphis will probably always be home for me.

When did you know you were interested in writing?
To tell you the truth, I can't remember that far back. (LOL) Seriously, I've been writing since forever. Probably ever since I learned how to spell. I can remember daydreaming about how to create a different scenario for sitcoms such as One Day at a Time and All in the Family, and I was probably only about six or seven years old then.

For so many authors writing began as an escape. Did you see it this way, and if so what relief did it give you?
Writing was definitely an escape for me. Although I was raised in a somewhat hostile environment, the stories I wrote contained some of the same drama that surrounded me. The difference with reality and the stories I created was the fact that the plots were of someone else's issues, and I displayed redemption, resolution, and an outlet for rising up. My living situation didn't seem as promising as the stories I created. It felt good to escape into hope, and on top of that, my teachers, friends and family all gave me positive feedback--fuel to keep writing.

Like so many authors you began with a self-published novel, LOVIN' YOU IS WRONG. Tell us about the process of writing it, making the decision to self-publish and how you went about it.
For seven or eight years, I started and stopped Lovin' You Is Wrong because I was going through a difficult time in my life, and the motivation wasn't there. Once I got my focus, I sat down at the computer and made up my mind to start from the beginning and not quit. I completed the first draft in about seven weeks. However, it was far from perfection. I hired a professional editor, one who knows the industry and what readers are looking for in a good book, and she helped me smooth the story into what it is today. After learning that traditional publishing houses only accept about one percent of everything that comes through their doors, I decided to self-publish. I didn't want hold out for possible rejection. I wanted to show the industry how much I believed in my work and that there was a market for it so they'd all start an auction to buy my title. Well, the auction never happened, but I did capture the attention of a major publisher after having been self-published for only four months.

And your deal with Urban Books? How did that come about?
My book deal was a result of part product and part hustle. What I mean by that, I invested in myself. I took my income tax money and spent it on making sure my product would look just as good as the books released by traditional publishers. I didn't cut corners by any means. When readers held my book, the first thing they'd ask was who was Ebony Literary Grace. I'd explain I was Ebony Literary Grace. Several people told me they couldn't believe I'd put so much effort in making sure my product was well presented and that I'd invested so much into marketing, promotion, and travel. I met an executive asssistant for Urban Books during my experience at the 2004 Book Expo America in Chicago, passed her a book, and received a contract from this mega publisher only months after setting out on my mission to succeed. One of the comments told to me by Carl Weber, CEO and Founder of Urban Books, was that after hearing the positive feedback from his staff, he picked up my book and noticed it had been professionally edited by one of the best editors in the industry, which let him know my work had to be a marketable product.

You are quickly becoming a household name, Alisha. Does it ever seem surreal to you your success up until this point?
There are many days when I pinch myself. When I ask God to make a way for me, He always gives me just a little more than what I ask for. In 2004, when I first released Lovin' You Is Wrong, my aspirations were to see it in print and in the hands of a few more than just my family and friends. I had no idea a major publisher would step in only months later and distribute it on a national level, landing my first baby on the Essence Bestsellers list. Even now, all my endeavors prosper, and knowing my Father, there's more to come.

Your new project, NAUGHTY GIRLS, addresses several social issues, as do your previous work. Do you set out to tackle certain issues or does it just evolve?
I write with a purpose to entertain, but at the same time, I feel my deed as a writer would be remiss if I omitted the opportunity to reach people on positive note while I have their attention. I'm not saying there is something wrong with works that are for sole entertainment. I've read several books that aren't thought-provoking and they served whatever need for me at the time. I'm just saying as for me, I feel my talent is God-given so that I can provide a light and hope for people who live the scenarios I create. If the playas don't get played, all the bad guys win, the hookers never have a conscience, and nobody uses condoms, then my word would be remiss and that's not what I'm about.

(Yvonne seen here with a teen group that meets at the Richard Wright Library (Jackson, MS) in February 2007.)

We were privileged enough to have your tour for the new book start in Mississippi. Tell us about the response you have gotten since the book was released?
Naughty Girls is my third full-length novel to release. I knew my following would have something to say whether it be good or bad because Naughty Girls is far different than my first two novels. I can honestly say, all the response has been positive. Though I tackled a slightly different genre, I managed to deliver a story that would appeal to all ages. The street edge in Naughty Girls only proves that I am who I claim to be--a writer. I've been told readers that they don't know how to classify my style anymore. This is good news for me. The reason my stories are intertwined with drama, suspense, erotica, poetry and even inspiration is because I just want to be known as an entertainer and a motivator. So far, the readers are thanking me for sharing Ivy's story--more fuel to keep doing what I do.
What is coming up next for you this year? Up next in November 2007 is My Girl Friday. I'm very excited about this release because again it shows my ability to be diverse. If you loved I Don't Wanna Be Right, then My Girl Friday is the book for you--only this time the crazy, deranged person is a woman.

Do you have any encouraging words for aspiring authors out there?
To all aspiring authors, I would say, don't give up. Continue to hone your skills by reading and writing every day, and make sure your work is professionally edited. You can't afford to cut corners in the editor department--it can make all the difference regarding advancement.

What would you like to say to your fans?
To my fans, I'd like to say where would I be without you? I can't adequately describe enough appreciation for your dedication and support. You share in my success and I love you.

Alisha Yvonne is featured on the May 2007 issue of the Conversations Magazine that goes on sale on Friday, April 27, 2007. To get your copy ordered click here.

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