IN CHERIL’S OWN WORDS…I am an author, playwright and producer who is always striving for excellence. I write every day. I study every day. I’m a hard worker who is always open to suggestions from others. I am understanding, genuine and consistent in all that I do. I strongly believe that with skill, patience and dedication one can achieve anything in life that they want.
How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
I’ve been writing for about nine years now. I started while I was in high school. I began to take it more seriously after graduating and deciding that being a successful writer was my goal. I wrote my first book when I was 19 and published it by age 21.
Give a brief synopsis of Tainted Destiny, the sequel to Intimate Chaos.
Well, the main character, Sadira is back. She’s returned to New York, ready to begin dating again and desperately trying to forget about Jessie, her ex. She does all right at first, Sadira, but things change when Jessie reappears. There is something about Jessie she can’t resist; she feels a deep connection to her. Sadira’s problem is that the connection she feels is an illusion and she is really obsessed. It forces her to look within herself, dig up her past and get to the root of her problem. While she struggles with this internally she goes on a date with another woman to try to take her mind off Jessie, and that woman then becomes obsessed with her. Sadira is dealing with obsessive love from both positions. There is another woman in the picture, Tricia, who most readers will remember from Intimate Chaos. There is no drama around Tricia. She is the calm and innocent one in the midst of it all.
How did you know where to take the characters in this new novel, from where they left off in Intimate Chaos?
I followed Sadira’s lead. She kept coming back to me in various forms so I knew I had to continue her story. The very first scene that came to me is the one where Sadira runs into Jessie at Burger King. It was clear, coming almost like a flash and I wrote it in about 10 minutes. From there I wrote scenes that were all over the place and played connect the dots with them later to create what is now Tainted Destiny.
Sadira is such an engaging character. Where do you think her inner struggle to let go of Jessie comes from?
It comes from her childhood issues. Most problems that people face as adults are the result of unresolved issues from their childhood. Life will be chaotic for them until they find out why they are the way they are and find a way to deal with whatever is plaguing them. People have to be honest with themselves for this to happen.
Were there ever times as you were writing when you grew frustrated with Sadira and her turmoil?
Yes, quite often. She really got on my nerves with all of her whining and back and forth in regards to Jessie. Once I understood her, however, she stopped annoying me and I felt really sorry for her. Her problem was deeper than I intended it to be when I started the book.
Tell the truth: Have you ever been in Sadira’s shoes?
No, not to that extent. I’ve been stuck on someone before, but Sadira’s issues went beyond just being stuck on an ex. I read (and watched documentaries) on obsessive love and addiction to prepare for her character. I actually didn’t know there were so many other people out there like her until I began my research. It made me look at addiction with new eyes–a little more understanding I guess you could say.
Where do you see Sadira’s character going? Is she a character you will revisit?
I don’t think she’ll ever be a major character again, but I can’t say she’s gone for good. I want her to go away though. She depresses me…but I’ve learned that a character won’t leave until they are ready to.
How typical do you think Sadira’s experience is to most black lesbians? How often do you think relationships like Sadira and Tricia’s exist?
I don’t think race, gender or even sexual orientation is relevant with Sadira’s experience. It’s a common experience that doesn’t discriminate.
Any advice for getting over a love you can’t shake?
If you start to notice behavior that could be deemed obsessive, be honest with yourself and go see a therapist before your desire to be with that person takes over your life. It’s just like a drug, food addiction or even gambling, get help before you become dependent and it ruins your life. If you’re not as far gone as Sadira then just get rid of pictures, love notes and saved conversations with your ex. Get rid of the clothes that smell like them no matter how many times you wash them and for goodness sake, don’t try to be friends with someone you just broke up with. That only works if a very, very long time has passed and at that point the two of you would have grown in different ways so what’s the point? Move on.
I hear Intimate Chaos is becoming a play. Tell me about that process. Are you excited?
Yes! I’m extremely excited. This is a case where the demands of fans made the story grow beyond a book. I had no intentions of writing a play, but people kept asking for one so I ended up writing one anyway. I want to make my fans happy and it’s good for me too to branch out and grow. At this point, the script is done, I’ve teamed up with an award winning director, and Intimate Chaos will hit main stage this fall in Bordentown, NJ. There are new scenes in the stage production. Writing the story in another format allowed me to incorporate song, dance and various other techniques to really bring the characters to life. You’re going to love it! Check out the website: www.intimatechaostheplay.com
What motivates you to write?
Life. My own experiences and those of others I observe.
What are you working on next?
In addition to producing the play, I am doing research for my fifth novel, Emergency Exit, which is a political drama starring Brianna Anderson (one of the characters from Tainted Destiny) It’s picking up her life eight years later when she’s running for local office. Kenya also returns in this novel.
What is a typical day like for you?
Typically my day starts around 6:30 am. I print out priority e-mails to take with me so that I can read and write responses while I commute. I take an afternoon walk to de-stress and to look for inspiration. I’m relatively new to Philadelphia so sometimes I go exploring on my walk. Story ideas often come to me while I’m out for a stroll. When I get home it’s back to e-mail and running my businesses until my wife calls me down for dinner. After we eat, we either hang out together or I go back to work until about midnight. Though we’re a team, she and I both have individual goals. We respect each other’s time and space, but are sure to still spend a lot of quality time together. We work hard and play hard.
What do you do for fun?
My wife and I go out to eat a lot. I love to eat so fun for me is trying restaurants with top chefs! We do a variety of other things from target practice at the range to horseback riding to miniature golf. We try not to get stuck in typical movie-dinner dates so that we create new memories and life experiences. We’re also starting to travel a bit more. In a few weeks we’re heading to Bermuda for a little vacation.
What are your favorite books? Favorite authors?
I enjoy the works of Octavia Butler. I’m still saddened by her passing. I also enjoy Tananarive Due and Brandon Massey as far as fiction goes. I have a growing collection of autobiographies and stories about the rise and fall of corporations. I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction. I like to pull inspiration on how to further my career and businesses by reading about top CEOs and other very successful people. I take my inspiration from both men and women who are where I want to be.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Professionally I plan to have written at least three more books and perhaps an original play (not based on any of my books). Personally, I hope to be a mother by then.
What piece of advice can you share with aspiring writers?
To aspiring writers I would have to say study. Study classic literature and study contemporary works. Learn the craft and hone your skills. Make every new piece that you write better than your last. Be receptive to constructive criticism. Most importantly, understand that very rarely does anything come quickly in this business. Be patient, write a marketing plan before your book is published and work hard to reach your goals. Good luck.
Why do you feel it’s important for black lesbians to share their own stories, as you did with Tainted Destiny?
I feel it is important to share your stories because you never know who else may be going through the same thing and need to know that they are not alone. Your story may comfort and motivate someone else.
Interviewed August 2007
Cheril N. Clarke’s Reviews