IN KIONNE’S OWN WORDS…‘Kionne Nicole’ is actually a pen name created as a child when I began writing short stories and poems. Retaining the pen name is a way for me to honor my childhood, a way to carry on something that has always been inside me. To deal with the stress of unemployment in late 2009, I began writing The Space Our Love Demands. The novel mirrors aspects of my personal relationships and explores real thoughts and emotions of young, African-American, lesbian-identified college students. I think it’s important for us to tell our own stories the way we want to. I am a native of Drummonds, TN, currently living in Kentucky as a clinical therapist.
How long have you been writing and how did you get you get started?
I feel like I’ve been writing all my life. The first document I ever wrote was an autobiography at age seven; my grandmother was the co-author. It traced my family history. I shifted to poetry from junior high to high school. I enjoyed writing because it was cathartic…a loner’s sport.
Tell us about The Space Our Love Demands.
The Space Our Love Demands is about relationships among women—loving relationships on different levels. The novel grants readers an opportunity to delve into the diversity of African American, same-gender loving women. After exiting a long-term relationship, the main character, Hadiyah, moves to a new city for graduate school, only to find herself thrust into a new domain imbued with emotional confusion and sexual adventure. The Space Our Love Demands is an honest, emotional coming-of-age story for anyone dealing with quarter-life crisis. The difficulties that all the characters cope with are common challenges. This book is unique because a.) the protagonist is a Black lesbian, graduate student, b.) she breaks with conventional thought about relationships, and c.) her coming-of-age entails a growing emotional maturity regarding love relationships.
Describe Hadiyah as a main character.
Hadiyah embodies traits, personal challenges, and weaknesses identifiable to most while contextually representing one interpretation of the Black lesbian experience. At the most basic level, she’s an intelligent young woman, but reclusive and selfish at times. She is an interesting character because she’s usually honest in what she sees, thinks, and feels, and she often does so using crass language and a lot of colloquialisms. Hadiyah is what we think we are not, but everything we end up being while venturing through relationships. Because of this, she struggles down an emotionally tumultuous path, but becomes more complex by a series of interpersonal and intimate experiences.
Is Hadiyah based on your personality?
Absolutely! There was no way I could craft a character too different from myself. To a small degree, I fictionalized who I am. Like me, Hadiyah is the textbook Type-A personality—rigid, highly organized, hardworking, and impatient. On the flip side, Hadiyah is vulnerable, pain-avoidant, and somewhat transparent.
It seems as if Hadiyah has found her soulmate more than once. Do you believe in the concept of soulmate? Do you think there’s only one person meant for you?
I wanted Hadiyah to represent imperfection and partiality. Around our twenties, most of us enter a stage of psychosocial development where we confront a love crisis known as intimacy versus isolation. A small part of Hadiyah—the part nurtured through a long-term relationship— ends and she encounters the love crisis. On one end she was challenged, but on the other she discovered that the intensity she felt from another woman was necessary and acceptable. The lesson: we may have many first loves (or soulmates) contingent on our development, growth, and differentiation.
Frankly, I choose to believe in the concept of soulmate. However, during a lifetime, I also feel that we naturally have more than one soulmate to which we may or may not pursue.
How much is The Space Our Love Demands based on a true story?
Fifty percent of this novel is true to my experiences!
What is the message you hope readers take away from reading TSOLD?
The Space Our Love Demands tests self-awareness. The way that each character is interpreted or judged is solely dependent upon the reader’s point of reference. I sought to create a multidimensional story told through characters with distinct personality and original expression. The reader is challenged to think about intimacy, loyalty, and commitment. Since the underlying themes are universal, the novel will resonate with any reader. More than sending a message, I want readers to ask questions; for example, “Does Hadiyah really cheat?” or “Is Tee right about straight women?”
Hadiyah is a very conscious, introspective young lady. Was that your purpose in creating this character?
Yes, she is a thinker who highlights authenticity. In a world inundated with broadcasts of empty reality television and obsessions with likes and retweets via social media, I wanted to offer my audience an alternative. At both an individual and community level, introspective and proactive development is deeply necessary.
Education was a priority to Hadiyah. What are your own educational endeavors, as well as your endeavors as a writer?
As of current, I’m working toward dual licensure for clinical social work and marriage and family therapy. In the next two years, I plan to re-admit to graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D. My current focuses are career and community activism. However, I’m currently working on a novella.
I loved Tee as a character. Can we get a sequel with Tee, please? 🙂
A vast majority of my feedback is supportive of Tee. She provides the book with humor, excitement, and roughness. She is embedded in the subculture of masculine-identified Black lesbian women and illustrates some of the style, expression, and behaviors of the community. I am considering a sequel and Tee definitely makes the cut!
Do you plan to revisit the characters from The Space Our Love Demands?
Over the past few months, I mulled over the possibility of a sequel. I’m still not completely sold on the idea, though the writing is underway.
What are you working on next?
My intent is to publish a novella, which puts a socially-conscious Black-lesbian spin on Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks.
What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me includes collaborating with young people and parents to problem-solve, improve communication, change dysfunctional patterns, and determine individual/family goals (i.e., therapy!). After work, I chillax and get into ‘couch potato’ mode with my partner.
What is your favorite book? Favorite author?
My favorites are continually evolving. At present, I’m alternating between bell hooks’ Sisters of the Yam and M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled and Beyond.
What piece of advice can you share with aspiring authors?
Write what you like, keep it simple and within your scope, and proofread as much as possible! I read a quote, which inspired me and I hope inspires aspiring authors. Audre Lorde once said: “What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare.”
Why do you feel it’s important for black lesbians to tell their own stories, as you did with The Space Our Love Demands?
It’s important to tell our own stories because we are the principal authority on our experiences. In addition to telling our stories, we should also offer constructive and critical feedback, which is an integral part of sharing.
Interviewed April 2013
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