Queen of Spades - Koobug Author Interview

For the latest Koobug interview we have travelled back to the USA to interview the Queen of Spades.

Why the Queen of Spades?

Starting at around age nine, there was certain information about my family dynamic that was beginning to surface. Things I once believed were truth had been exposed as lies. I was also bullied a great deal from that age until about thirteen years old. My moments of being extroverted slowly began to evaporate. I didn’t feel like I could fully express myself vocally so I turned to writing. My writings at that time were a bit darker: I classified them as “spaded”. For me, Queen symbolized respect and was very authoritative during a time period where my self-esteem was suffering. In those times, she served as my survival mechanism—my way of coping with all of the internal and external turbulence. She isn’t used as much for those purposes anymore, yet the style of writing still exudes her tremendously. For me, the pseudonym is a keeper.

 

You were born in Mississippi in 1977, how did growing up in the poorest state of the USA influence your outlook on life?

It was instilled in me to make do with what I have. There are so many things people consider a requirement that I deem as luxuries.  Let’s take computers, Internet access, and cell phones as examples. The first computer I ever owned was back in my early twenties. In those days, most kids had their parents get them one. I knew my grandparents couldn’t afford it, so I used money from my summer internship. Now some people have nervous breakdowns without a computer. Then there’s Internet access. Oh, the days of dial-up! One was exceptionally cool if she had AOL. In current times, people would shake their heads at you and tell you to get with the times since hardly anyone has an AOL account anymore. Can you even still find the CD’s with the AOL Internet access anymore? I chuckle because I’ve seen the evolution of the cell phone first hand. My very first one I did not get until my move from Mississippi to Georgia in late 2001. I thought it would be for emergency purposes only: I could not figure out what the big fuss was about.  It was blue and had this long antenna. In hindsight, it could be mistaken for a toy phone. Now another move and many cell phones later, I’ve become adjusted with the times but still have phone service at the apartment that I rarely use.




 


Hurricane Katrina devastated your home state, and many thought the rest of America didn’t care, why do you think that was?

Hurricane Katrina didn’t just affect my home state of Mississippi. The area which was hardest hit was the state of Louisiana, particularly New Orleans. By the time Hurricane Katrina hit, I was already living in New Jersey. The response time for this tragedy was extremely slow. It took many days for FEMA to spring into action, as opposed to different situations (and locations) where FEMA was quick as lightning. Leaving the tourists’ areas of Biloxi, MS and New Orleans, LA out of the equation, the population surrounding those areas were extremely poor. Being poor isn’t profitable. There were a few zealots who dared to say that the disaster was ordained to get the poor out of those particular areas and make the Mississippi Gulf Coast as well as New Orleans more presentable for tourists as well as people to live. Much of the populations was displaced and by the time both areas were getting rebuilt, some people could not come back because there was no place to return to (the Lower 9th ward of Louisiana in particular) or the rebuilt areas skyrocketed the cost of everything (from owning land to homes to tourist locations). Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” is a fitting film to depict all of the things expressed here in regards to the indifference.


You were the oldest of a big family, yet brought up by your grandparents, did that mark you out amongst your classmates?

I wasn’t raised around the rest of my siblings. My mother left Mississippi to go to California when I was three years old. I was marked out due to the fact that my family dynamic was different. The majority of my classmates had at least one parent around, and I didn’t feel different about it until I started my education. Once I got into my later years (junior high and high school), there wasn’t as much emphasis.


A relationship with grandparents is quite distinct from a relationship with parents; do you think it prompted you to create a world of your own?

In some ways I did but it wasn’t related to my grandparents raising me. My grandparents saved my life by taking care of me. The older I got, the more aware I became of situations. My mom was exhibiting behaviours that did not coincide with being a productive person or interacting well with others. Those actions did not discriminate and trickled down to her own parents—my grandparents. That disconnect, as well as the bullying, made the life of an introvert very ideal. My friends then were very few: for me, the more people, the more problems. Through my own trials I am a believer that family goes deeper than blood. A lot of my friends behave more like family than those who are living. More times than not, it was just Grandma, Grandpa, and me: doing the best we could with what we could.

 

What would you read as a child? Did your grandparents encourage you?

I actually started out reading The Enterprise Journal. It is a local newspaper that my grandmother still has delivered to her home. Once I obtained my library card, I would love to go there and check out books. I liked reading fairy tales (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and the like), mysteries (Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew), children’s novels (like Charlotte’s Web, Dr. Seuss) and then around middle school graduated to reading other genres. I began reading more poetry and that was when I first read Edgar Allan Poe, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Nikki Giovanni.  I also fell in love with the style of Stephen King, even though my grandmother expressed concerns about my reading his works at my age. Although I enjoyed reading Harlequin romance, they were hidden from my grandparents due to how they felt about that particular content. But other than horror and romance/erotica, I was encouraged to read all that I could.


How important was your local library, and how do you react to those who say the e-book and the Internet has rendered them obsolete?

The local library was a lifesaver. I would have never fully developed my love of reading or had exposure to books if it wasn’t in existence. For a long time, the city adjacent to my hometown did not have a bookstore. If you wanted to read a book, one had to go to the library or drive half an hour to get to a place that sold books. It is not just the inside of a book that is a treasure; the book itself is one. I still think the local library has its place. What if you want to read your e-book but your tablet needs charging and you’re not near your cell phone? What if a storm comes and your Internet service is down? A paperback (or hardback) book doesn’t need batteries or charging. You don’t have to worry about the glare of the computer screen. Nor does it need Internet to “sync” the material. What if you are in a town where your bookstore has shut down due to the economy or lack of business? What if you are unsure whether you will actually like a book but want to read a bit more than the “look inside”? The library serves as a “try before you buy” in a sense. If you read the book and it’s not your cup of tea, you can return it without having to go through the song and dance of getting a refund from the original purchase place. Plus, the library is quiet and you can really relax without hearing people order a “low fat macchiato with 2/3 soy milk, 1/3 skim milk and hold the foam.” The library is the backup when technology fails—it will never be obsolete in my eyes.


What did you read as a teenager? When do you think you appreciated your first adult book?

When I was a teenager I stuck to a lot of horror (Stephen King), poetry and romantic reads. My reading tastes were a bit more evolved than others around me so it’s tricky for me to even answer when I appreciated my first adult book since I have an appreciation for reading overall.


Who has been your greatest literary influence? Who supported and inspired you, and what was the best piece of advice you were given?

Well I have quite a few. I fell in love with Edgar Allan Poe’s way of writing in the 6th Grade. “The Raven” remains my favorite. Stephen King is a staple in my small office library. Other writers include Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, and Maya Angelou.

My grandparents always supported me even though they weren’t quite sure what I would do with my writing. They just knew I loved to write. Also a lot of my teachers in school, especially Mrs. Bergalowski, Mrs. Randall and Ms. Boyd. Ms. Boyd told me that “I had a special gift and no matter what to not stop writing.”


First and foremost you are a poet. Why poetry? Do you find poetry cathartic?

I hope you don’t mind that I combined these two questions. They go hand-in-hand. Poetry’s first purpose for me was cathartic so it flows a lot easier to me than any form of writing. With poetry, I don’t have to concentrate much—I can just freestyle something and be all right.

 

Which poet most influenced you?

 It depends on the tone of the write I want to convey. The darker writes are mostly driven by the works I’ve read by Poe.  The controversial ones lean more towards Nikki Giovanni.  The inspirational ones—I look towards Maya Angelou.  There’s no one answer in terms of influence.


Your writing and personality exude warmth and optimism, has that always been the case? Have you faced any darker moments?

No it hasn’t. Although by nature I am a giving and caring soul, there were quite a few who saw that as a weakness and preyed on it. It would be false if I told you those events didn’t impact me—at times, one tragedy was immediately followed by another. The downtimes achieve victory if you stay in the muck and the mire, but if you use them to learn and even teach others through sharing, then it doesn’t have the type of hold that paralyzes you. Do I have moments of backsliding? Surely I do. I’m human, and my having bouts of clinical depression definitely add to the stew of what’s temporary blues vs. what’s permanent. But I don’t beat myself up about it. I stay in my truth and remind myself, “There’s always someone out there is going through a tougher hardship.”


Is confession good for the soul? Is it sometimes easier to bare your soul to a diary rather than a friend?

Yes confession is good for the soul. It is sometimes easier to bare you soul to a diary than a friend because the diary doesn’t judge and you’re not under pressure to tidying things up for someone else.

 

What do you see as the distinction between a short story and an essay?

An essay is a piece of writing on a particular subject. In the Eclectic collection (both Skin Edition and Beyond the Skin), I have works that could fit that classification.  An example of that would be the work “Slogan Enslavement”—where the person tells about her adventures in customer service. A short story has certain components—like plot, conflict, and characters. To me, it’s like a novel but shorter. “The Other Side” (which I shared on Koobug.com) leans more toward (micro) short story. The character is the mouse. The plot—he wants to get to the other side and discover whether things are really better. The conflict: people, cats, and the maze.

 

What prompted you to categorise your work by anatomical references to the skin?

I only adopted this formula as it relates to both versions of Eclectic. In my mind: the deeper the layer of skin, the more in-depth and lengthier the content. The first segment dealt with senryus, just touching the surface (Epidermis).  The second segment reflects the length or type of poetry I usually write (Dermis). The third segment emphasized essays, monologues, and the like (Hypodermis). What distinguishes Eclectic: Skin Edition from Eclectic: Beyond the Skin is the short story “Misfortune”. “Misfortune” is classified in its own separate segment (Deep Tissue). The progression really seemed to fit so I stuck with it.

 

Who inspires you today?

There are quite a few writers who have captured my attention. I really admire Y. Correa’s style of writing, particularly MarcoAntonio & Amaryllis.  It speaks to me because it’s a medieval interracial romance with a mix of action and paranormal which makes it glide over different genres.  Beem Weeks is definitely a mainstay, not just with Jazz Baby but I love how he composes his short stories. I will be adding that short story collection right next to Jazz Baby when it surfaces.  Stevie Turner’s ability to transcend across different genres is admirable, plus in each of her writes, she places an element of comedy that makes me smile.  Nikki McDonagh is so out of the box—she is a wonderful gambit of talent. I also dig the poetic style of Andrew Boyd (he and I are a lot alike in how we construct different things and speak about different subjects), Angela “Lykebudda” White (because of her “real talk” approach to  adult situations), MJ Holman (smooth and heartfelt candor), and Steve Downes (his reflections and introspections).


Are you political? Are you religious? Does either affect the way you write?

I love spirituality but dislike religion. This viewpoint is due to the amount of hypocrisy encountered while I was brought up in the church. It bothered me how the very same people who can treat me with mendacity on Monday-Saturday could love me so much on Sunday. I am a believer that actions speak louder than words and individuals should do for others because they want to, not to get notches in their religious belts. I also don’t think religious people should browbeat others who aren’t in the same affiliation. As it pertains to politics I lean more liberal than anything. Both affect the way I write because if I feel strongly for or against a particular topic, it comes out in my writing. One book that covers that gambit is Spaded Truths: Themes and Proclamations. I cover my views on religion, politics, same sex relationships, as well as social and economic situations. I didn’t write that particular collection to have people agree or disagree with me but for the conversations to take place.

 

How did you discover Koobug.com?

I first reviewed Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks when I was a member of a review group called Y’s Read and Review. In August 2013 Y’s Read and Review decided to merge with The Review Board. Beem Weeks was selected as TRB’s Author Spotlight for the month of November. During my interview with him I learned a lot. He told me a lot about Koobug.com; it stuck with me. I decided to check it out and become a member. I have been pleased ever since.


What excites you most about it?

I love the interaction between writers and readers. Sure a person can have a blog on Blogger, Wordpress, even her own site. Yet the return on feedback through those avenues isn’t as rewarding or as consistent as it is on Koobug. Koobug is very easy to read: I like the fact that it is very simple with black and white. It reminds me of the very first typewriter I ever owned. The detailed multi genre classification system is something I have not seen anywhere else, along with the future plans of the Koobug book shop. The reviews are more about connectivity than a rating system, and the interviews are very detailed.

 

How would you describe Koobug to someone who’d never seen it?

Author to Author—Koobug is site that you should definitely add to your marketing arsenal. In addition to sharing your work on an international level, you have the opportunity to interact with fellow writers as well as readers. You will be greatly pleased with the level of interaction and feedback in regards to any content you may share. You aren’t limited to a certain classification because of the multi genre classification system that is in place. For quality, ease of functionality and true support there is truly no place like Koobug!

To a reader—Koobug is a showcase of highly talented authors.  You can learn about an author’s books and interact with them. It is like having a back stage pass without having to fight through a crowd for access. You can also share your own experiences and sound off about the quality and quantity of good vs. not-so-stellar reads to give fellow authors a taste of what a reader really wants. Have a true choice in the quality of your reading. Koobug saves you the hassle of going through the muck and mire.

 

Tell us about All Authors Magazine? What ambitions do you have for it?

All Authors Magazine is a contemporary publication whose mission is to “Advocate All Authors” and “Reach All Readers”.  This is the brainchild of fellow author, Y. Correa. She was disheartened that the literary magazines she had seen were either dedicated to a single genre or single group. She’s always been a fierce advocate of unity and wanted to design a magazine that is for everyone—all authors of all genres and all ways of life, as well as everyone that works with books: publishers, cover artists, editors, etc. I first joined as a columnist. I really liked what the magazine represented as well as its contemporary nature. It wasn’t long before I was brought on as editor-in-chief. As Y. would say, “She’s my editor-in-chief; she just doesn’t know it yet.”

All Authors Magazine is a part of All Authors Publications & Promotions (AAPP). One project that All Authors Magazine is working with in conjunction with AAPP is the All Authors Certificate of Excellence Project. Every quarter (starting in June), an author will be selected to receive the All Authors Certificate of Excellence along with an All Authors seal to be placed on the cover of the author’s book. In addition, the author will get a special spotlight the month following the presentation of the award. Our first recipient will get his award in June but will also be featured in Issue 5 of All Authors Magazine (July/August).

In the future, All Authors Magazine wants to be available via print-on-demand (paperback). The balancing act is we don’t want to sacrifice affordability so we are taking the time to be selective.

Article wise, we want to add even more interaction. Although “Ask AJ” is our advice column, All Authors Magazine would love to have readers’ chime in on what type of material they want to read, such as “What the Reader Wants” by Koobug reader Graham Hill.

Overall, I want All Authors Magazine to continue to grow, impress, inform, entertain, and inspire.

  

What ambitions do you have for yourself?

LOL. You would think this would be easy for me to answer. Yet I’m so used to being a cheerleader for others I don’t stop to think too much about me.

Ambitions:

1. Travel outside the United States

2. Write my first novel.

3. Transition out of my current job into something where I feel challenged

4. Learn to swim

5. Move back to the Southern part of the United States

6. To sell some of my designs in Ecleticsms (my emerging online store on Zazzle)

7. To resume recordings of my poetry

 

We always end our interviews with three questions. The inspiration comes from a British radio show that has been running for over 50 years,

You are on a Desert Island,

Your one book would be?  A blank journal or sketch pad.  I would get the urge to write.  Scribbling on sand would only get me so far.

Your one record would be?  This is extremely tough but I have to go with Jill Scott: Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Volume 1. Her voice has so much soul and her spirit exudes such enthusiasm and positivity. A great mixture of spoken word and song.

Your one luxury would be?  A pack of multicolored G2 writing pens—all the better to write my thoughts!

 

Thank you so much for this honor.

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