IN C. D.’S OWN WORDS…I was born in Waco and raised in Dallas, Texas. An article I wrote at age 16 about corporal punishment went over the AP wire raising awareness and generating interest that ultimately restricted its use in Texas public schools. I graduated with a B.S. in communications from Texas Woman’s University, and I’m a project manager within the utility industry. As a community activist, I chaired a successful non-profit event that raised money and support for a food pantry program assisting low-income HIV patients. I also worked with the OUTTAKES Dallas Film Festival to bring The DL Chronicles to the DFW area. Currently, I just completed a documentary (The Dark Side of the Rainbow: The Price of Inequality) about same sex domestic violence that will be featured at San Diego Black Film Festival & DC Independent Film Festival. Visit me at www.cdkirven.blogspot.com or www.cdkirven.com.
How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old.
Give a brief description of your debut novel, What Goes Around Comes Back Around.
What Goes Around Comes Back Aroundis a story of self-discovery and sexual awakening. This sometimes comical but always eloquent tale is a mix of erotic fiction and avant-garde literary works that will seductively capture your imagination through its use of a multi-faceted, fast-paced storyline and a host of empathetic homespun characters. The novel is a colorful coming-of-age that chronicles the events in the life of Kingsley Ross as she comes to grips with the meaning of true friendship, love and loss during the beginning of the hip-hop music explosion. A hilarious but touching story about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals. Sex, drugs, betrayal and self-fulfillment lead her on a journey of the greatest love she’s ever known – the love she has for herself. The Dallas Morning News compares the book to Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris.
How did you come up with the concept for this novel?
I wanted to write a story that allowed my generation to reflect on our youth (high-top fades & Cross Color outfits) and also allow me to make a statement to the women of my community (Gen X). It appeared to me that every woman around me was looking for love in all the wrong places. I wanted them to know that the most important love is self-love.
How long did it take you to write What Goes Around, and how has the reception been so far?
It took about a year and the response been great! The best and most repeated compliment is that they can’t put the book down. Also, they seem to love that I created all interior artwork and book cover. The poetry is original. I admire the artist of the Harlem Renaissance; they wrote poetry, created artwork and were civil right activists. I hope to be that type of artist. You can check out some of my artwork at www.myspace.com/cdkirven.
Tell us about Kingsley Ross, the introspective heroine of What Goes Around.
I think we have all been Kingsley at one point in our life. Kingsley has a friend, Tanya, who is wild while Kinsley is more reserved. She decides one day to be more like Tanya and it back fires in her face. She is confused about at what point in her life she should start living by her own rules instead of by her parents rules. I believe she finds herself when she realizes she is a critical piece of life’s fabric. She learns this by giving to someone without wanting something in return. We all live together with a common thread connecting everyone. Like my favorite movie It’s a Wonderful Life, everyone is important and everyone impacts each others lives.
What do you feel is Kingsley’s biggest struggle as a young lady coming of age?
I think her struggle is the same struggle we all face: why am I here and what do I want my life experiences to say about me?
I love your metaphors and descriptions of the world through Kingsley’s eyes. How much of her experience was similar to yours?
I would say 50 percent of Kingsley’s experiences are mine and the other 50 percent is my former partner Melanie. It’s funny when you see your life as a sum of two parts. You begin to understand that if you don’t respect history you are doomed to repeat it.
Kingsley believes “the secret to life is living your truth.” At what point does it take for a woman to become get to this point, being honest with herself and whom she loves?
There is something amazing about being who you were meant to be and is why I believe coming out feels so unbelievable. You stop living a lie created by others and start living the truth you were born to tell.
I believe once a woman reaches the age of 30 she begins to know what she wants and how to get it. I believe the beauty lies in the journey. If you don’t love yourself, then you can’t teach someone how to love you. At that point you begin to love yourself, you will not allow anyone to hurt you because you love yourself too much to allow that kind of negativity into your life.
Do you truly believe what goes around comes back around? What significance does that expression have to your story?
Yes. It’s karma! Whether it’s positive or negative the energy in push out into the universe finds its way back to you. The only thing you have to decide is what message you want to send? (Positive or negative) If you live in the light, then you will always “shine.”
What do you see Kingsley headed next? Is she a character you will revisit?
Yes. I don’t know how soon, but definitely. I have several chapters of my life that I want to explore in a literary form. I know I want the world to see Kingsley the woman.
How honored are you that What Goes Around was recently nominated for the Lambda Literary Awards in the Lesbian Debut Fiction category?
I’m very honored! African-American women, especially lesbians, are not often celebrated in their own lifetime as artists. I think about my favorite author Zora Neale Hurston. She died poor and her work was not celebrated until much later. I have some growing to do as an artist but the people who recognize the beauty in the process are special so I’m very proud.
You have recently completed a documentary about same-sex domestic violence titled The Dark Side of the Rainbow: The Price of Inequality. How did this come about?
I was giving a speech at UNT Diversity program about the food pantry program I helped save, which feeds 3,000 homeless HIV patients. Heidi from the Resource Center Dallas gave a speech about the rise in same-sex domestic violence. I was unaware that it was a serious problem in the GLBT community so I went to talk to her about it. Thousands of GLBT people die each year from same-sex violence and they die silent deaths. That is when I decided I needed to do something. Also, I was very surprised to learn that “INEQUALITY” plays as big a role in silently killing same-sex violence victims as the abuser. NO RELATIONSHIP! NO ABUSE! I began to understand why equality is so important.
Which do you enjoy more, writing books or making films?
I’m a filmmaker. I’ve dreamed about that since I was 11 years old but both are a form of story telling.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on my second novel. The Glass Closetis about a group of friends from an art magnet school that move to California to pursue their individual dreams within the entertainment industry. They are privately gay and publicly straight; that is why they all live in the glass closet. I’m in search of an agent. I have written a television treatment (I have copyrights and I’m registered with Writer’s Guild) I would like to pitch to LOGO or Showtime about a group of Black lesbian friends that volunteer at a GLBT community center in Atlanta, GA. It would allow me a venue to address serious issues in the GLBT community like domestic violence and the Black community’s non-acceptance of masculine female images. The Black community is more accepting of feminine male images such as Tyler Perry, RuPaul or Eddie Murphy (Norbit). The GLBT center and show would be called Triage. I would like my show to project that BUTCH is SEXY! We have no Butch sex symbols in the GLBT community. I would love to be a part of changing public perception of masculine female images. So, please pray and keep your fingers crossed for me I think it is time Black lesbians get a show so our stories can be told.
What is a typical day like for you?
I get up in the morning and exercise for 45 minutes. Then I spend 30 minutes writing or drawing. I go to work. Sometimes I work from home (I’m a Project manager in the utility industry reporting to a Sr. Vice President, so it’s crazy). After work, I drink a glass of Sangria and spend an hour writing. I would devote the rest of my time to my partner but I’ve been single for about two months. My relationship ended a couple of months ago. So I give most of my free time to volunteer work.
What do you do for fun?
I know this sounds crazy but writing and filmmaking is fun for me. I also write poetry. Sometimes my best bud Amber drags me out to go dancing…
What are your favorite books? Favorite authors?
Zora Neale Hurston is my favorite writer. One of my favorite books is the Tipping the Velvet and Affinityby Sarah Waters. I love all of Zora Hurston’s books.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope I’m writing full-time. I’ve directed a film about the Harlem Renaissance. I’ve started a non-profit organization that focuses on adequate healthcare for prisoners. President Bush significantly reduced healthcare services in prisons. I think that has caused an increase in health problems in the Black community. I want to also help reduce HIV and educate Black women on post-infection care. If you have HIV, it’s not the end of your life. I do not haveanyone in my life who is positive but it’s a huge problem in the Black community. I would love to be the female Tyler Perry.
What motivates you to write?
I believe that my people (Black GLBT) have always used story telling as a form of education. We have several media outlets and I want to explore all of them as an artist, but I believe if you understand me then you are less likely to hate me.
What piece of advice can you share with aspiring writers?
Never give up on your dreams. You would be surprised how many people do not have dreams. We live in a world of haters. They do not want to be anything so they try to keep you down. My advice is do not shrink so someone can feel better about themselves “SHINE”…Lead the way!
Why do you feel it’s important for black lesbians to tell their own stories, as you did with What Goes Around Comes Back Around?
I believe we (Black Lesbians) have important stories that need to be told. I’ve read so many stories in school and college but those of lesbians have been neglected by history because of religious conflicts. I say be proud of who you are because God made you that way. If you have a chance, allow the world to look upon the beauty inside of you because understanding leads to tolerance. Our stories are just as important as any other and are the missing pieces of fabric of that need to be sewn.
Interviewed February 2009
C.D. Kirven’s Reviews