Welcome to day two of the Launch Week edition of Soapbox Spotlight! Today, I’m pleased to introduce Chicki Brown, an award-winning romance novelist. Forging a name for herself in the contemporary romance genre, Chicki has published five astounding e-book novels in just two years. I am both honored by her presence today and eager to learn all her secrets so I can follow in her footsteps.
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Cranford, New Jersey. The oldest of four children, my passion for reading began in elementary school. I made bi-weekly trips to the public library and left each time with a stack of books I could barely carry. Inevitably that stack would include something by Beverly Cleary and Carolyn Keene, my favorite childhood authors. My love of relationship stories began with Cleary’s book, Fifteen. I began writing in junior high school. My best friend and I spent our summers sitting under a shade tree putting our fantasies on paper. When I wasn’t writing, I could be found reading on the back porch of my parents’ house.
Reaching fifty was a turning point in my life, and I returned to writing in response to an inner urge to record the stories that had been accumulating in my head. A job layoff helped to nudge me into the decision to write full time. Since then I’ve written nine full-length novels, five of which I have self-published on Kindle and Nook.
How, if at all, has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I have to thank my mother for developing my love of the written word. She was an avid reader, who read to her children every night and, when we were old enough, she bought us books for every occasion and encouraged us to read.
What made you want to be a writer?
I started writing a short story back in 2001 just to have something to do on a very boring job. As the story began to unfold, I was amazed at how immersed I became with the story. Gradually the story grew into a 400-page novel. One of my coworkers read it and encouraged me to submit it to publishers. Thank God, nothing came of that first manuscript, but completing it showed me that I had what it took to put a story together and see it through to the end.
Tell us about your latest work.
Two different readers contacted me saying they loved Vaughn Breland, a secondary character in Hollywood Swinging. Vaughn is a gorgeous, fast living, wisecracking actor who has sworn to remain eternally single. He is never at a loss for female companionship and his love life is so extreme, even his best friend wonders if Vaughn is a sex addict.
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, my current work in progress, is his story. When starting the story, I knew I would have to knock Mr. Breland down a few pegs in order for him to begin to see women as more than conquests. I also didn’t want this to be another Hollywood story. With that in mind, I decided to have the sexy Mr. Breland demolish his custom-made Lamborghini on the way to a meeting at the Telluride, Colorado vacation home of a movie industry bigwig. When the story opens, Vaughn has lost his beloved car, his latest movie role, the use of his legs and possibly his fabulous good looks. He is depressed and mad at the world then he meets his new physical therapist. Trenyce, a single mother of a beautiful three-year-old, gives him a new outlook on life.
I expect Ain’t Too Proud to Beg to be released in late summer.
How did you come up with the title?
All of my books have old school R&B song titles. Since one of Vaughn’s favorite sayings is, “I’ll never beg a woman for anything,” I thought the title of the old Temptations song was perfect.
I love oldies but goodies, and what a clever way to title your books! Is there anything in particular you love about independent publishing?
The most wonderful aspect of being an indie author is the freedom to write what I like, have the cover I want and be able to market the book wherever I choose. As an African-American author, if I published traditionally, my books would be shelved in the African-American section of bookstores rather than simply located in the romance section. That kind of limited marketing restricts the exposure the books receive. Not so in the e-pub world. I can categorize my novels however I choose and promote them anywhere I want.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Definitely! The moral of the story is “quality always beat quantity.” Vaughn has had lots of women but never had real love. It takes a near death experience to make him see what’s really important in life.
What are your goals as a writer?
All I want to do is write myself into eternity creating books that my readers love.
Have you considered anyone a mentor?
Joe Konrath has definitely been my indie publishing mentor. Beverly Jenkins and Eric Jerome Dickey have influenced me more than any other authors, even though they don’t know it. I so appreciate their creativity, style and example of how to carry yourself as an African-American author.
What do you believe contributes to making a writer successful?
1. The most important thing is an unshakeable belief in yourself. Being a writer is hard. There is so much rejection, no matter which route you take. If you don’t receive it from editors and agents during the submission process, you will inevitably get it from book critics, Amazon reviewers, and random people on discussion boards and forums. Authors need to develop rhinoceros skin.
2. Studying the craft to the best of your ability. That doesn’t mean you have to enroll in a university MFA program. I’m talking about learning on a regular basis from any reputable source you can find. When I first started writing, I didn’t have a clue about point of view or scene and sequel or any of those good things, but I found many excellent writing websites that helped me to understand the necessary aspects of writing fiction.
3. The ability to organize yourself and prioritize your tasks. The amount of work it takes to write, edit, upload, promote and market a book is incredible. If you don’t have your office files, computer files, printed materials, online posts, etc. in order, you will drown.
4. Be friendly, approachable, and helpful to readers and other writers. It goes a long, long way.
Those are remarkable points, and so true! Have any dreams been realized as a result of your writing?
Wow, that’s a great question. I think the biggest one is not having to punch a clock every day. After working in an office for thirty-five years, working at home by myself is a joy. People always ask if I miss having coworkers, and the answer is a big, huge NO! If I want to see my friends, I can just call them and ask them to meet me for lunch.
The other is making different Amazon bestseller lists. I have only been published for less than two years, so this is major for me. In 2012 SORMAG (Shades of Romance Magazine) voted me Author of the Year. Have You Seen Her?, my contemporary romance, also received their Fiction Book of the Year award.
Congratulations on all your success! And thank you so much for joining me today in mine.
It was a pleasure, Ray, and thanks for having me!Chicki is giving away a free e-book copy of her latest release Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
! Winner will be chosen at midnight on May 3 from the giveaway entries received May 1-2. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to correspondence and claim their prize. Good luck!
You can find Chicki at these locations:
You can rejoin the party here.