Thank you to CLP team member Kate for hosting this interview, and for Rolonda for stopping by!
Most people were probably introduced to you as the Emmy and Cable Ace award-winning journalist. Of course, you have also donned many other hats, but novelist is a very different style. What inspired you to write Destiny Lingers?
I spent my childhood summers on Topsail Island where my grandparents built Tranquility, our family beach house in 1950. I would later own my own beach house there and was inspired to write DESTINY LINGERS after I was one of only 11 people who survived and was stranded on the Island during Hurricane Bertha in 1996. For three days we ate at the Red Cross and the island police chief gave me a ride. We shared so many common stories about our little island, as we had both grown up there and were the same age. We couldn’t believe we had never met before, until we realized the cold realities of segregation and the Jim Crow laws that may have kept us apart. It was not so long ago. I wanted to capture this transcending moment in America’s racial history, particularly being part of the last generation of Americans who may still remember experiencing such racial and social divide, as well as the vast and positive changes that followed. I also deeply love Topsail Island and am extremely proud of the history my family established there. Through my novel, I wanted to immortalize my deep connection to my special little island forever.
The main character of the novel, Destiny, is an up and coming news reporter in NYC. Couldn’t help the similarities between the two of you. Is this book semi-autobiographical?
LOL Yes, you got me! There’s a lot in Destiny Lingers that rings true to my own life. In fact, while it’s a contemporary romance series, my novel is also classified as a creative non-fiction; based on real life events with a dash or two of creative license. For instance, I really did help negotiate a hostage situation as an investigative reporter in New York City, but my situation was nowhere near as dramatic as the one I got to create for you in my novel.
Who’s your favorite character in Destiny Lingers?
Can I tell you the truth? I am in love with Chase. LOL I know, that sounds crazy, but Chase McKenzie is the guy who’s shoulder I want to cry on! I love his Southern charm and how sexy he is and he doesn’t even know it – but Destiny and I sure do! I also love Aunt Joy, who is inspired by my real life great aunt, Florence Smith, with whom I spent my childhood summers on Topsail Island in our beach house – also named Tranquility.
The novel is categorized as Contemporary Romance. Do you think of Destiny Lingers as a romance novel?
Yes, but it’s good literature – and I would like to let the story continue, as Dr. Maya Angelou encourages me to do on my book cover. I’d like to create a movie and a dramatic series from my novel. But Destiny Lingers is also classified as a Creative Non-Fiction – a relatively new genre in literature. Much of the story was inspired by my true-life experiences and real feelings about those experiences.
Why did you choose Topsail Island, North Carolina as the southern backdrop to this story?
I chose Topsail Island, North Carolina as my backdrop because I have so much rich history on that little island and I love it so dearly. My grandparents were among ten black families who in 1948 established, Ocean City there, the first black beachfront community in North Carolina. Before that, blacks weren’t allowed on NC beaches. The racial tensions in eastern NC were extremely high during those times and the races on the island simply did not mix, it was dangerous to do so — unless there was a hurricane. “We’re all the same color in the dark,” my Grandpa would say. We lost a house to Hurricane Hazel in the ’50s … I survived Hurricane Bertha on the island in 1996 and Hurricane Fran slammed us just weeks later. When we islanders started sharing our dramatic island histories – I realized how far we had all come as a people, an island, and a nation. I wanted to capture those pivotal moments in history and in my life, surround it with romantic love and hope and see what happens. Race and social status are major characters themselves in my novel. Destiny recalls of her childhood with Chase; “He couldn’t play with me because I was black. I couldn’t play with him because he was poor.”
What was your favorite part of the process of bringing Destiny Lingers to life?
My favorite part of the process in writing Destiny Lingers was experiencing my characters coming to life and even telling me what to do. They drove most of my story themselves. When I was writing one pivotal scene, I got stuck and didn’t know which way to go with the storyline. Destiny has just revealed to her girlfriends that she suspects her husband is having an affair with her best friend, who has apparently traveled to another city to meet him. My character Hope says, “What are we going to do?’ I have no idea. Then suddenly my sassy character, Kat, perks up and says, “Get dressed to kill, ladies! We’re going to Boston.” Well, I have never been to Boston, but my characters took me there for one wild adventure that I still can’t believe – and neither will you. My characters helped me write one of the best, most exciting, gripping, and sexy scenes in the book.
Are you taking Maya Angelou’s suggestion and writing a sequel?
Absolutely!!! When the Master speaks — Grasshopper listens! LOL Stay tuned!