Make sure you check out the Youtube link at the end....I really love the book trailer and I know you will love it too.
1. Before we start talking about your book, why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Queens, New York and grew up in the suburbs on Long Island. I grew up being a very creative kid but I tried to convince myself that I could be a medical doctor. Went to college as a Biology Major and ended up becoming and English Major with a concentration in theatre and film at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, a liberal arts institution. My full-length play “The Life and Death of the Existential Black Man” was produced in undergrad. I worked for almost two years on the play with guidance from my theatre professor. I gave up an opportunity to go to film school. So I graduated from college and became a teacher for almost four years before going to law school at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Some folks think it’s interesting that a Black woman from Long Island would go to a law school affiliated with a Jewish institution. I think it’s cool because it adds to my diverse view of the world. I’ve been involved in politics, worked at a major law firm, and represented union members. I’ll always be a member of the bar but I made a decision to return to writing because I felt a void in my spirit without it.
2. Besides writing, what other things do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Ha! I don’t have spare time…or money these days. But if I did, I would be going to Broadway shows, the beach, concerts, museums, and dining out. New York City is such a cosmopolitan metropolis. It is a fantastic cultural playground.
3. What is your daily routine as far as when you have an idea for your story?
If I’m writing a piece for The Huffington Post or another blog, my routine is based on whether I have the time write about a hot social, cultural, or political matter. I don’t have a daily routine for writing fiction. Even in high school and college, I would get my assignments and spend days (or weeks if I had the time) formulating the story and dialogue in my head. When my characters “present” themselves to me, they are pretty fleshed out. There is a lot of background I know about them that never makes it into the book because it is too detailed. So after replaying scenes and dialogue in my mind and sometimes out loud, I start writing. I can write non-linear. So if a scene or what will become a chapter in the middle or end of the book is worked out well in my head, I just start working on it. I could work for four or twelve hours in one day. I don’t think this would work for everyone but it has worked for me.
4. Where do you get your ideas from?
Honestly, I feel funny saying it. Like I spoke in the cinematic book trailer for the novel, “I don’t find the stories, the stories find me.” I’ve written stories based on assignments or topics I wanted to explore but the most organic stories I write come from out of nowhere and I just follow the muse.
5. Out of all of the stories you’ve written so far, what would be your favorite and why?
Because you said the word “story” instead of book, you saved me! I don’t like to choose favorites. It’s like a mother having to choose one child over another. As for a story, I can’t remember the name but I wrote it in English class during my senior year. It was about a Latino, teenage, male prostitute who lowered himself into turning tricks with adult men to survive in the streets of New York. My peers could not believe I could go all in. It was the late 1980’s and to a certain extent, folks still held that kind of subject matter as taboo. I allowed myself to feel what he would feel as a kid in the street and getting picked up by a ‘John.’ It’s my favorite because I started to learn the process of surrendering to a character and their point of view. Some friends thought I was kinda messed up in the head to write like that instead of love stories or very teenage subjects. I was learning that not everyone is going to understand the difference in your personal identity and your craftsmanship as a writer. I’m not my characters.
6. Tell us something funny about yourself that not a lot of people know about?
I like imitating accents.
7. Does any of the stories you’ve written based on real life experiences or basically just from imagination?
Both. Like I said, when the stories show up I see my characters as presenting their real life stories. If I allow myself to insert my own life or thoughts into their stories, I run the risk of ruining their journey. In To Whom Much Is Given – A Novel, the main female character, Avery Benjamin, is an attorney, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and she grew up in the suburbs of Long Island like me. We have similar personal and professional goals. However, her family history, lifestyle, love life, and experiences are completely her story.
I think good writers know how to balance real life experiences and imagination. Real life experiences give stories an authentic feel. Imagination gives writers the ability to formulate the story so fiction and reality can work together in the universe a writer is permitted to create.
8. Does your ‘muse’ have a name and if so what is his/her name?
I have a muse but she does not have a name. She never told me.
9. What other genre besides the one you are writing about now would you like to venture into writing?
Thrillers and comedies.
10. Who are your favorite authors that are out now?
I want to answer the question but I must pay homage to the writers who paved the way for me, especially as an African American author. Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Gloria Naylor, Terry McMillan, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison, and August Wilson, the playwright. I read all of them in my teens. They were extremely concerned about form and structure…serving up stories like a grandmother sets a table for a robust Sunday dinner. I’m so happy Terry McMillan is back with a new novel. I like Claire Cook, Yvette Edwards, Candace Shaw, Jennifer Weiner, Nora Roberts, Pearl Cleage, and Kimberla Lawson Roby. All of them are fantastic for different reasons. Ha! Looking at this list, I need to read more male writers.
11. Who is your favorite female and male characters from your books and why?
I rather not say. I prefer to hear it from my readers. But I will say I like characters who allow themselves to display their strengths and weaknesses as well as their sensuality and intellect.
12. What do you think is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Wow! I think it’s allowing the creative process to be what it needs to be.
13. What advice would you give someone who wants to start off being a writer?
Be absolutely clear about your goals. Do you want to be famous or are you writing because you have a burning passion? Are you ready to make an investment in time and resources? Make sure you ask yourself if you are ready to take on another job or are you just doing this for fun. You will have distractions and detractors. Be ready to deal with both.
14. If you hadn’t become a writer, what do you think you would be doing right now?
I’ve done so many things in my life. I’ve been a teacher, lawyer, lobbyist, political consultant, and new car sales associate to name a few. I guess…maybe living somewhere in California, France or England doing something creative, entrepreneurial, or academic.
15. What would be the perfect Romantic getaway?
Well now that we got the question and answer out of the way…..why don’t you tell us about your latest story you have out now?
Set in New York City, Avery Benjamin is a talented, intelligent, and beautiful '30-something' attorney of Jamaican and African American heritage. She has all the trappings of success as a member of the modern, African American “Talented Tenth.” She has the love and support of a multicultural mosaic of dynamic women friends who augment her life.
Avery is in a serious relationship with Antonio Dawson, a professional football player four years her junior whose family is part of Atlanta’s wealthy and influential ‘African American elite.’
However, like so many contemporary women, she longs for the days when she pursued big, passionate dreams. During this introspective period, her former lover from law school, Dean Everard Swithin, a British aristocrat, re-enters her world making her an offer she cannot possibly refuse. That is when Avery's own drama begins. Scandal and deception change her heart as well as her perspective. Ultimately, Avery must take steps to confront her past, mend the wounds of her present, and find the strength to fulfill her destiny with the man she loves by her side.
To Whom Much Is Given – A Novel, published by Red Ibis, is contemporary women’s fiction addressing issues of class and race among matters of generational wealth, immigrant ambition, and family conflicts. At its core, To Whom Much Is Given presents the question: What are the social, spiritual, and emotional responsibilities people owe themselves and the loved-ones who are part of their journey? As the story progresses, readers quickly learn: Success has a price, and sometimes loved-ones become collateral damage.
As Avery walked back to the kitchen, the doorbell rang. Having Ellison upstairs was a comforting thought. She trusted herself and to a certain extent, she trusted Dean would maintain his respect for her. Just like the counsel that she imparted to clients, she told herself that it was good to have insurance to protect her interests. Ellison’s presence minimized her risk and maximized her deniability if anyone would raise a question about Dean’s presence in her house. She checked her reflection in the hallway mirror and adjusted her bra to hide her bosom that was peeking out of her v-neck sweater. Dean always found a way to play with her hair so she took an elastic band from her pocket and pulled her hair into a ponytail. She reached for the doorknob and sighed as he rang the bell one more time.
“Avery.” Dean’s words cascaded out of his mouth and swept over Avery’s body like a tropical waterfall.
“Hi Dean. Come in.”
Avery could not believe how good the man looked. It was as if they were filming a corny, contrived romantic comedy on her front stoop. The afternoon sun reflected off his designer sunglasses as he flashed some of the best Beverly Hills veneers money could buy. He was slightly under 6’3’’ and a few months shy of his 37th birthday. He had a mellow, tropical tan balanced by a five-o’clock shadow. The $400 high-end salon dye job and cut to his thick, dirty blond hair was almost irresistible not to touch. He was wearing ol’ school hip-hop sneakers, an antique pair of jeans, a funky maroon blazer and a stark white dress shirt with French cuffs. He walked into the hallway and his cologne awakened her senses. When he removed the sunglasses, his eyes told her a thousand things in just one momentary glance. That was the look Avery did not want to see!
“So this is your palace. Very posh, love. I would never expect less from you,” Dean said strolling into the sumptuous living room. “Either you paid an interior decorator a small fortune or you drove yourself mad.”
Avery sat in a large, plush chair. “Raquel and Nancy helped me but I did most of it myself.”
“It’s good to know that the orgasmic trio is still together,” Dean chuckled.
“Please don’t bring that up. The dirty old man that lived in my apartment building used to call us that,” Avery frowned. “I always had my can of mace ready for that guy.”
“That’s what I always liked about you. You’re beautiful and delicate but you are no shrinking violet,” Dean said. He eyed a picture of Antonio and Avery on a bookshelf. “I was shocked when
Nancy told me you’ve been dating Antonio Dawson. A real class act. He’s one of the best running backs in the league. Yes, you’ve done well for yourself.”
“I forgot that you like sports,” Avery said trying to figure out his game. “Are you still a free agent or are you in retirement?”
Dean realized this was an opportunity to make Avery squirm a bit. “Still a player… but the team I want to join won’t give me a contract.”
“Cousin Avery. I heard the bell ring,” Ellison said sliding into the living room, breaking the sexual tension.
“Is this Raquel’s boy? My God, he’s a handsome guy,” Dean said with a wide grin.
“Hi,” Ellison said giving Avery the ‘who is this white man’ look.
“Last time I saw you, you must have been five or six years old.” Dean shook Ellison’s hand. “My name is Dean.”
Ellison’s eyes widened. “You know my mom?”
“Yes. We’ve been friends for a long time.”
“Cool. Please let me know when dinner is ready. I’m starving,” Ellison said running upstairs.
“It’s bloody amazing how time flies. We’ve been out of law school for almost ten years,” Dean said. “If you think about it, we spent so many of the critical years of early adulthood together.”
A few memories created a montage in Avery’s mind. “We have a lot of history together.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Dean said sitting on the edge of a chair. “But it would be nice if you offered me a drink while we talk business.”
Avery left the man she knew for more than twelve years sitting in the living room and wondered why he came into her life. They met during their third day in law school. She was late to her Contracts law class due to a clumsy girl at the corner deli who accidentally spilled a banana smoothie all over her right leg. Avery’s jeans were wet and her high-heeled sandals were sticking to her feet as she ran from the ladies room to her class. She was ten minutes late and she knew she was in trouble. The world always expected black people to be late. Her first week at NYU Law was not the time to reinforce the stereotype.
The notorious Professor Jacob Rathman was writing something on the board when she slipped into the classroom scanning the lecture hall for an available seat. She spied an empty seat in the second row and she cursed under her breath. “Why me?” in a thought process that only drama
queens and B-list actors use. All of her friends who attended law school cautioned her to avoid the front rows of her lecture classes at all costs. It was bad enough that her last name was Benjamin. She was destined to be at the mercy of some sadistic professor utilizing the Socratic Method as a way of getting a defenseless first-year law student to talk in class. Alphabetical order worked against her throughout her academic career. Now a banana smoothie became her nemesis. She walked as softly as possible down to the second row; thanking God that there was carpet on the floor to mute her footsteps. Avery eased herself into the chair and opened her laptop never noticing Dean but he completely noticed her as well as the eau de banana smoothie scent she was wearing. She kept looking at her laptop screen but she knew the professor was looking at her.
“Would the young lady in the second row who showed up fashionably late like to tell the class the holding in the case I have written on the board?” Professor Rathman asked.
At that moment, every cell in her body felt a level of primal fear that caused her to realize she could do nothing except fight back. She read the case three times the night before. The professor was a jerk. Three of her friends and a sorority sister gave her the scoop that Professor Rathman was a demon in the classroom but you could learn a lot from him if you weren’t busy plotting his murder.
As Avery maintained her poise, Dean became increasingly fascinated with her. He examined her face out of the corner of his eye knowing he was in view of the professor they would later name ‘Professor Rat Man.’ Dean listened to her voice. It was deep, yet feminine. Avery’s voice filled the room. She spoke with the confidence of a young woman who really did not know the intricacies of the case but was prepared to show the professor that he could not intimidate her. Dean sat through their intellectual sparring match in anticipation that class would end and he would speak to her… but who was she?
“So Miss, in this case, who is the master of the offer?” The tall, imposing professor looked like the stereotypical ivory tower legal academic who gained more enjoyment buried in books than having a conversation with a human being.
“In all due respect Professor Rathman, my name is Ms. Benjamin and the offeror is the master of the offer.” Avery struck a blow to the professor while Dean was trying to figure out how and when he could bed the beauty whose brain seemed sharper than his.
“So I am led to believe you must have read one of those awful cheat sheet legal summaries. Hmmm. Maybe you actually came up with that answer yourself.” Professor Rathman’s sarcastic words came out of his mouth like tiny daggers.
“I read the case several days ago and I did my research,” Avery said realizing the professor would antagonize her for the rest of the year just because of her answer.
“Reading ahead of the syllabus, Ms. Benjamin, can be dangerous.” The class could hear the heels Professor Rathman’s wingtips on the hardwood floor where the carpeting stopped. “That could lead to a false sense of confidence.”
“I took the risk of running ahead so that I would be ready,” Avery said as her mind told her to shut up.
At that moment, Dean realized Avery was a woman he had to have. As a gorgeous man of Scottish and English decent, getting women was never a problem for Dean. At an early age he learned to use his intelligence and good looks. While other boys could not wait to play football or rugby after school, Dean mingled with his father’s students at Oxford University, especially the young women who could not resist chatting with such a precocious youngster. Dean’s mother embraced the jet set life and showed him how to make the world his playground. His mother’s parents were an English aristocrat and a wealthy substance abusing, womanizing Englishman who showered his mistresses with lavish gifts but made up for his sins and shortcomings by leaving his wife and daughter a sizeable fortune. Living in the world of academia and occasionally skipping off with his mother to Milan or Manhattan was Dean’s reality.
Dean had modeling and acting offers but was more interested in creating art than being the instrument of someone else’s creativity. With a family lineage dating to the 16th Century, he confidently moved within influential social circles. He grew up among the English legal elite, members of Parliament, artists, and academics. He used his father’s brain to get into the best schools in England and the U.S., his mother’s money to indulge his desires, and the charm he inherited from his grandfather to get almost any woman he wanted in an effort to fill an indescribable void in his being. Now Avery piqued more than just his interest
The cinematic book trailer featuring Lawrence Saint-Victor, who appears on CBS Daytime’s “The Bold and The Beautiful,” Toni Robison-May, and John J. Thomassen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eRM2CpqPHs. Distinguishing the production of this novel’s cover and accompanying cinematic book trailer from other fiction works, the characters on the cover feature the same actors who appear in the cinematic book trailer.
Readers can read an excerpt and purchase an e-book on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1c094gL
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On Twitter: @TWMIG_Novel
On the web: www.CeciliaCapers.com