You see this silhouette and immediately you will connect it with Nia Forrester, writer of ‘women centered fiction with a relationship focus.’ She graces the Chat Chair to share some insights into who she is as an author, what she does for her day job and what fuels her writing passion. Just in case you’re not familiar with her body of work feel free to click on the covers below, they are Amazon linked. So grab a beverage and get to know Nia Forrester!
Nia, tell us something about you.
I feel like I’ve had to answer this question a lot lately, Nikki! So I’m trying to think of something original to tell you about myself. I guess one thing I haven’t talked much about is my day job other than writing. So here goes: I’m a longtime advocate and lobbyist for the rights of women and children, looking at the way both groups’ rights are addressed in law and in the legal system. When I worked on women’s rights, it was about ensuring that they had access to full reproductive health care, and now that I work on the rights of youth and children it’s from the standpoint of how they are treated when they enter the juvenile justice system, and ultimately, how we can keep them out of that system.
What makes woman-centered issues resonate with you?
Well, first it’s because I’m female! And I was a girl in a family of boys, so very early on I had a front-row seat to how differently males and females are socialized. I also went to a college where there was a definite feminist leaning, and studied Women’s Studies and History. That’s where I learned about many of the great writers that I reference in my books, among them Nella Larsen who is still one of my all-time favorites, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and others. I studied feminist theory and for a while defined myself as feminist. As I grew older, I decided that ‘womanist’ more accurately described me. I’ve always been interested in gender politics and that interest continues today. Even romance novels and television shows are like little studies in gender politics to me. I’m a little nerdy that way.
Tell us where you are from.
That’s not as straightforward a question for me as it might be for some people. I’m Canadian by birth, Jamaican by culture and have lived in the U.S. for more than a couple decades. I was raised in Jamaica, the States and Europe.
That sounds so adventurous! How was life growing up? How does it affect your writing?
I grew up in a family of boys. I was the only girl. And with a large extended family of multi-racial cousins from all over the world. We were very close and spent lots of time together as I grew up. I remember a very happy childhood. I think the ways it’s affected my writing are hard to enumerate. I saw a lot of different family dynamics play out among the various cousins, the way they related to their parents was different from the way I related to mine, the way they related to each other was different and sometimes I think I can see the effects of those relationships on their relationships today. So it was my first introduction into the influence of your parents on how you live and love later in life. I write about that a lot in my work and it helps shape my characters.
No doubt the diversity lends itself to your multi-layered writing! What motivates you to write?
Everything, Nikki! Life, people I know, conversations I overhear, places I’ve been, jobs I’ve worked. All of those things spark stories inside me and I have to write them down. I don’t need motivation, necessarily. I just need time and space and the writing happens. More so lately than in the past, I’ve needed silence.
When did you know you were a writer?
I always knew. From the time I had a word to call what I did, I knew I was a writer. It’s always been one of the most important parts of who I am. And even though I never thought it possible, my love of writing has only gotten stronger over the years.
How much of what you write is based on personal experiences?
Probably all of it to some degree. I write primarily about relationships so I would have to say that every relationship I’ve written had some element of my personal relationships. I don’t write fiction that is very fantastical, so it’s easy to integrate personal experiences into my work. And I’m sure I also do it unconsciously.
Share with us your writing process.
I like to tunnel in to write. Sometimes it’s not possible to do that in the sense of isolating myself from people —I have to go to work for instance and to do my day job effectively, I have to talk to people. But when I’m actively writing, it’s necessary for me to have a certain distance, a little bubble around myself, so I can get into my characters’ heads, or allow them to get into mine.
What genre do you read? What authors do you admire?
I read almost everything with the exception of pornography and self-help. I have long lists of authors I admire. Sue Miller, Ann Rice, Stephen King, Elinor Lipman, Danzy Senna, Alice Walker, Vikram Seth. And of course there are new indie authors I’ve come to love as well.
What advice would you give others about writing?
The advice I think I would give about writing is to never stop. Keep going, even when it’s tough. And in the unlikely event, you feel so blocked you can’t write ANYTHING, keep trying to write. The other thing I would say is to work your process. I think we all have our own formulas to produce our best work and it’s probably a mistake to try to adopt someone else’s formula. I’ve heard people advise writers to use beta readers, or to edit as they write or to not edit as they write. Honestly I think everyone’s process is as different as fingerprints and to try to adopt someone else’s is as wrongheaded as trying to steal someone else’s identity—first, it doesn’t work nine times out of ten, and second, it will get you in trouble (in this case, the ‘trouble’ is that your work will suffer)
Is there a pivotal lesson that you’ve learned in life that you would like to pass on to others?
Wow. That’s a weighty question. I wish I could say yes. I used to think I was gathering life lessons as I got older, but now I just see my life as an interesting journey of learning. So I guess I would say that we never know for sure what we think we know. And I’m in a place in my life where I’m actually okay with that.
What would you like people to know about you that they might not know already?
How much I love those emails from readers, even when it’s just a couple lines, telling me why they liked or did not like something I wrote. I have one reader who never leaves a review, but occasionally emails me to tell me about some insight, something very specific she got from my books. Sometimes she sends multiple emails about a single book, which might begin: “Y’know what I was thinking about Shawn (one of my characters) the other day?” I love that! It’s better than a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It moves me that my writing moved someone else to think about something, or to think about the world differently. This particular reader always says, “I’m sorry to bother you” or something like that, and I just want folks to know that contact like that is never a bother. It’s my pleasure.
Finally, tell us what are you working on and when can we expect a release?
I’m working on ‘The Art of Endings’ the follow-up to ‘Secret’. I expect it will be out this spring.
Well I’m sure I speak for many when I say this book is greatly anticipated! Thanks so much for dropping by! It has been an honor to have you in my Chat Chair!
Please continue to follow Nia Forrester on Twitter @NiaForrester on her blog www.niaforrester.com , her Amazon & Nook page, and of course, in the group she formed, the Writer’s Review & Support Resource.