Words of Wisdom
What inspired you to write your book?
The inspiration for my book came from a number of things including life experiences, living in multiple places growing up as I was a military brat. I've also had the opportunity to expand my creativity thanks to my Neverending journey. Being raised in a Pentecostal household with both parents being pastors, I had the chance to see the good, the bad, and the ugly side of religion. I also had the chance to meet and speak with people from all walks of life. I am very much a friendly person, I've heard hundreds of stories and sat with many people in my life. Even homeless people. I pay attention, I learn and I grow from my engagements with all those around me. I believe this is key in my journey as an author. How can you know what people feel or want if you never take the chance to sit down and LISTEN to them?
How many hours a day do you write?
Whenever I sit down and start writing, I can write anywhere from 1 to 4 hours at a time depending on how much I'm wanting to push out. A lot of times I take my time because as I grow, my creativeness also grows. Slow and steady wins the race. Its easy to push out thousands of words a day but at the end of the day, is the story good? Has what I written come from the best part of me? That's what matters most.
What does literary success look like to you?
Being a self published author is hard, being an author period has its ups and downs. At the end of the day, I want people to read, relate, and find something in my stories which moves them. That is literary success. If someone says "Hey, I could really feel the characters emotions, I could relate to them." Then my work is done. I don't need thousands of people to enjoy my work, would that be nice? Of course. But my goal in this life is to change lives, to tell stories of those who could not tell their own, even though I write fiction, I want it to resonate with someone. I want to bridge the gap between us as human beings. Shed light on issues we don't often speak about. If I could, I would change the world through my writing. And that's what I'm going to do.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The most difficult part of writing for me is getting what I see playing out in my mind onto paper. Its so easy for me to visualize the story I want to tell. Its like watching a movie. I know what's going to happen, the characters and all, then comes the hard part, translating what I envision into words. That can take some time. I want it to feel real, I want it to be real for the reader. I want them to be able to see it as I see it. Authentic, unapologetic, honest.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing is just like any other craft, it has to be developed, and energy is needed in order to produce a good story. Sometimes I feel electrified when writing, I could just keep going. Other times I find myself engulfed in my own story and it drains me. Emotionally even because I become attached to the characters I write. I've shed tears for my characters, cheered for them, and even been disappointed in their behavior. Not a lot of people understand that. That as a writer, it isn't just sitting down and jotting down ideas, you become attached to what it is you're writing.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
If I could tell 11 year old Kenyata anything, it would be to never give up. That life is hard and will be hard for you, but you must keep the faith, you have something to say, you have a duty to make a change with the gift you have been given. Do not waste it. And never, ever apologize for who you are.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
When writing a novel, I look up the places my story is set in. The weather, the year its placed in and what was going on in real life during that time. I look up the language being used surrounding areas. What slang is used or what was popular then. That helps me to connect with my readers who live in those areas and such. How did people dress, was there a big event that shook the world? In order to connect with people you have to have the mindset and knowledge of how people were during the time you are writing. Otherwise, it's just all made up and for some, they cannot connect with that.
What advice do you have for other Black writers?
My advice to other black writers. Step outside of the box. I know there are a lot of erotic stories or stories about the hood and such but, it's time for us to step away from that. Be a little more creative, tell stories people are afraid to tell. Open up to new ideas and possibilities. There aren't many of us that make it. Unfortunately we are already at a disadvantage but we have the power to change all of that. We don't have to remain underground forever. We just have to learn to take a leap of faith and write as if our lives depended on it. Our lives do depend on it. The upcoming generation of young African American children and teens need something they can hold onto, life lessons and realistic literature they can see themselves in. It is up to us. We must do this in order to succeed. If you're going to write about life in the hood, write it in such away that the reader knows they can get OUT of the hood. If you're going to write erotica, write it in such a way that it is beautiful. If you're going to write about LGBTQ issues, write it from the realistic standpoint and not just from what you see. It al goes back to getting out and being among people. Learn about them, hear them, they will tell you what they want to read if you just listen.