Tananarive Due's Novels:

Short Story Collections

Ghost Summer

Devil's Wake series

Devil's Wake


Domino Falls

African Immortals series

My Soul To Keep


The Living Blood


Blood Colony


My Soul To Take

Tennyson Hardwick

Casanegra


In the Night of the Heat


From Cape Town With Love


South By Southeast

Others

Joplin's Ghost


The Good House: A novel


Freedom in the Family


The Black Rose


The Between


The Ancestors

Interviews

Hear Tananarive on NPR

NPR's News & Notes with Ed Gordon, January 18, 2006
Listen to Interview - Part 1
Listen to Interview - Part 2

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See Tananarive on CNN
CNN Sunday Morning, October 30, 2005
View Video Clip

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NPR's News & Notes with Ed Gordon
A Conversation with Tananarive Due, Part 1
January 17, 2006
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NPR's News & Notes with Ed Gordon
A Conversation with Tananarive Due, Part 2
January 18, 2006
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NPR's Fresh Air
Patricia Stephens Due and Tananarive Due
January 16, 2003
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NPR's All Things Considered
MY SOUL TO KEEP
October 31, 1997
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CNN Sunday Morning
Interview with Tananarive Due

October 30,  2005

Program
CNN Sunday Morning


CNN: You probably have seen plenty of Dracula and Frankenstein movies this Halloween. So how about Blair Underwood in a supernatural romantic thriller? Wow! Underwood is teaming up with one writer that's paving her own way. One of the few African American horror writers in the United States, her latest novel eases into suspense and horror with the sweet sounds of rhythm and blues. She joins us from Los Angeles this morning. Good to talk to you!

TD: Good morning. Great to talk to you.

CNN: Well, let me ask you this. Sort of tongue in cheek here as I get into it. When you go to the African American horror writer's association convention, in whatever city, how crowded is that convention hall?

TD: You know? It's -- wouldn't call it a convention hall. It might be a little meeting room. It's more crowd than it used to be. When i first started writing novels in 1995 I didn't know of any other black horror writers. There actually is a regular horror writer's association with a handful of black members. Since I've been writing -- this is a testament to how everything is opening up -- there are others coming along. One black writer did an anthology of stories by black writers. So we are a growing group.

CNN: You consider yourself a bit of a trailblazer here?

TD: I do like to look at myself that way. But there were people who blazed a trail before me. It's ironic, don't think the publishing industry would have been knocking on my door for black horror novels if not for Terry were McMillan. Although I guess she doesn't write horror -- although if you are dating you might consider it horror -- but she opened the field for commercial black writers. That's why publishing industry was willing to take notice and say let's give this book a chance.

CNN: I was trying to think -- before we get to your latest book, I was trying to think of white horror writers. And I could only think of Stephen King and Ann Rice. I'm wondering, how big a deal is this?

TD: There are actually a lot of white horror writers. There is John Saul. A lot of people consider Dean Koontz a horror writer. You'd be surprised. What's very interesting -- and Ann Rice and Stephen King have huge followings. I think a lot of people read Stephen King who don't even consider themselves horror readers because he's captured the essence of the universal character. That's really my role model in terms of what I try to do in my own work. Yes, the characters are often black. I'm writing from my experience and sort of black culture and black middle class experience, but you are really talking about universal things of loss, immortality and love. That's really what I strive to accomplish.

CNN: How many lives have you lived? I mean I'm looking at your resume here. You've been a journalist, a columnist, you've written non-fiction. Now you're writing fiction. You're writing in the horror genre. You've always wanted to be a writer, it sounds like.

TD: I have. I was really, really lucky since the age of 4, I knew I wanted to write. My parents were very, very supportive of that dream of mine. And what's interesting -- I was raised by two civil rights activists. My mother, Patricia Stevens, spent 49 days in jail for sitting at a lunch count in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1960. And made some history herself. My father is a civil rights attorney john due. I was a little nervous about writing supernatural suspense in the beginning because I was afraid I would not be respected. And it was through a chance conversation with Ann Rice on the phone. She did not know I was an aspiring writer, but I was working for the "Miami Herald." I had a chance to talk to her and she put me at ease without knowing it, by letting me know she's not worried about people not respecting her work. She was making an impact in her own way.

CNN: You mentioned your father and your mother. I have to ask you what your thoughts are on this day about Rosa Parks.

TD: Oh, yes, absolutely. You know, such mixed feelings. Of course, its see sad when we lose anyone, especially an icon. But i have to say, I also feel a great sense of just satisfaction in seeing how she's been treated in her passing, because she will live forever. She is an immortal. I co-authored "freedom in the family, a mother daughter memoir of the fight for civil rights" with my mom. What that really taught me is that it was a series of individuals who stood up, or in the case of Mrs. Parks, sat down and changed this nation. And i hope that's the lesson people will walk away with, the understanding that it only takes one person, one person to make a difference.

CNN: I'm sorry, I sort of mismanaged the clock here. Tell us about your new book and the message of it.

TD: It is about an r&b singer, an Alicia Keys type, who discovers the ghost ragtime, Scott Joplin, is following her. It's a supernatural story. But underneath I'm really looking at the music industry then and now and the problems that have plagued it and continue to plague it.

CNN: Good to see you, thanks for taking time. Thanks for getting up early out there in Los Angeles. We appreciate it.

TD: Oh, thank you for having me on the show.

CNN: She's really dynamic. I look forward to reading that. Scary though. That's not up my alley ... You're grown up! You can handle it! ... We'll see. I may be calling you, "I'm scared!"

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INTERVIEW with
Tananarive Due , co-author

FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY:
A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights

November 2002


Q: Why did you co-author this book?

TD: This book literally feels as if it was in my blood. My parents are civil rights activists, so my sisters Johnita, Lydia and I were raised on these stories - the stories of the sit-ins, the trials, the jails, the singing, the marching, the speeches. In the Due house, Freedom songs were every bit as much of the family sing-a-long repertoire as nursery songs. In fact, we knew This Little Light of Freedom, Oh, Freedom and We Shall Overcome better than we knew most Christmas carols. Freedom songs were always the background music of long car trips and annual family celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. We were raised attending NAACP national conventions, protests and speeches. Our exposure was very deep from the beginning.
But more than that, my mother always talked about writing a book to describe her experiences as a college student and how she first got swept into civil rights. It has caused her pain to realize that so many people she knew sacrificed their education, their jobs, their families, and even their lives, but their contributions had never been known. She always called them the "foot-soldiers," because it's as if she and my father fought in a war together.
I consider this book a tribute to my parents as well as all of those other "foot-soldiers" my mother taught us about.

Q: How do your chapters differ from your mother's?

TD: Since I was born in 1966, I don't have any memories of the events of the 1960s, except one time I put baby powder all over myself so I would look white because my mother couldn't find a school willing to enroll a black child. But I was only three when that happened. I don't remember "White Only" or "Colored" signs or the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy.

But because my two sisters and I were part of the "integration" generation - integrated neighborhoods, integrated schools - we were exposed to different sets of issues than my parents had faced as young people. I was often called "nigger" in our new neighborhoods, which were mostly white, and I faced the double-sided pain of being called "Oreo" by other blacks. Often, I didn't feel completely accepted by either community. I'm just grateful that my parents raised my sisters and I to love ourselves and our history, because that filled a great many gaps for us socially.

Q: You are best known for writing THE BLACK ROSE, as well as your horror novels, such as MY SOUL TO KEEP. Was it difficult to make the transition to nonfiction?

TD: I was a journalist for ten years with the Miami Herald, so I spent a long time immersed in the world of nonfiction - writing much more nonfiction than fiction, especially before I published my first novel in 1995. But I'm right-handed, and I have to admit that writing nonfiction feels much like trying to write with my left hand. It's not always comfortable for me, maybe because emotions and memories run so deep that they're hard for me to express. For that reason, this was the most difficult project I've had to write. I say that about everything I'm writing at the time, but I think this one will always feel that way.

Q: Why was this book so difficult to write?

TD: First, it had a very strong research component. Unlike fiction, which is only supplemented by research, nonfiction is pretty much raw research. I had to research my own memories, because I discovered many times that I was remembering things wrong. This project has taught me a great deal about the nature of memory, how we imprint an idea of an event while we're experiencing it and then realize long afterward that our recollections are flawed. It's very difficult to sort through two or three different versions of the same story, but my mother and I often had to do that. She was also very careful about her own memories, because we're both very concerned about getting the facts right. And we tried not to name people unnecessarily if they were shown in an unfavorable light, because we're only trying to tell a story - we're not trying to hurt anyone.

The other thing is just the difficulty of revisiting the most painful moments of your family history life day after day after day. I really don't know how my mother did it. During interviews, she sometimes had to excuse herself because she literally began choking if the stories became too vivid. She was overwhelmed by her memories. My memories are different - for instance, I don't remember a time when there was no redress in court for discrimination - but all people are products of their own experiences, not the experiences of others. My memories were painful for me, too. Sometimes my mother and I would find ourselves feeling listless and unmotivated on our working days, and we had to keep reminding ourselves of the emotional price of doing what we were trying to do. We could never forget that.

Q: What are your most painful racial memories from childhood?

TD: Well, like a lot of children who grew up in the South, I became very acquainted with the word "nigger" when I was ten and our family moved into an all-white neighborhood called Point Royal in South Dade County - which is actually very diverse today. At the time, however, we were the only black family for blocks and blocks, and our neighbors let us know we were not welcome. We'd also experienced problems in our previous neighborhood, where a neighbor threatened to shoot me and my sisters if he found us in his yard, but my parents shielded us by not telling us about that.
But ultimately, the words of a few ignorant people will only hurt so much. What really devastated me at the age of 14, after the beating death of a black motorcyclist named Arthur McDuffie were acquitted. Think of Rodney King without the video cameras, except that the man died. Police officers testified against fellow police officers, the man had clearly been beaten to death, and the jury still acquitted all four officers on trial. This happened in 1980, and I think that was the first time I truly understood where the vestiges of my parents' world of the 1960s had gone to hide. And of course, the criminal justice system remains one of the most obvious examples of how the institutionalized racism my parents fought against is still deeply entrenched in some parts of our nation's fabric.

Q: What was it like for you to write a book with your mother?

TD: I dreaded this project all of my adult life. I knew I was the only one of my sisters who was a writer, so naturally I felt a strong sense of obligation to help my mother chronicle her piece of American history and help her bring it to publication. As a novelist, it was hard to imagine myself writing something that would sound much more like a history book. And frankly, the stories in this book are painful, especially if you actually know the people involved.

But this, to me, was a golden experience. I cherish the memory of the year and a half I took off from my newspaper job to travel up and down the state of Florida to interview civil rights activists. There is no end to what I learned about her and who she had been. There's no way to calculate how much closer we have become, and how much better we know each other. I now highly recommend that everyone should write a story about their family history, because we're the only ones here to preserve them. And we're the ones they mean the most to.

In 2001, my mother and I were on a research trip when we visited a cemetery behind a church my mother used to attend as a girl, where she and my father buried a baby girl who had died after only a single day of life in 1967. My mother had been so distraught to lose the baby that she couldn't attend the funeral, and she had never visited the place where her child was buried. Neither of us had hopes of finding the grave, and we weren't sure there was a headstone - but suddenly, I saw my great-grandfather's name, and a chill came over me. Beside him was my baby sister, and she'd been beside him all that time. The journey of this book was filled with moments like that one I will carry with me all my life. Every family should have those moments of precious discoveries.

Q: What do you think of your mother?

TD: My parents have always been my heroes, and my mother in particular has always fascinated me. She's so strong-willed and principled, and she lives according to the beliefs she preaches, which is becoming a rare quality. I do not know where my parents got their strength, but I try to be as strong. I can't express how proud I am of my mother for seeing this project through and subjecting herself to the onslaught of difficult memories both during the research process and again during the book's promotion. Since I live so far across the country from my parents now, all of the time we are able to spend together as we promote this book is just another gift. I'm not just doing interviews - I have the chance to hang out with my mother, who is my best friend. All I would want for my mother would be for her to survey the impact she's had on the world, give herself a pat on the back, and then find the places her heart wants to roam, without the feelings of hurt and rage that activists experience when they see the ongoing examples of how far is left to go.

To me, it's the biggest irony of all: The people who have done the most to improve the world are also often those whose long vision forces them to stare unblinkingly at how much work is left to be done. Too many activists, I think, go to their graves thinking they didn't do enough.
I want my mother and father to understand that they deserve a rest.

Q: What about your generation? Is it carrying the torch?

TD: It's easy for me to understand how so many people believe the next generation isn't carrying the torch. The mass rallies, marches and demonstrations of the 1960s are gone, for the most part, and the battles are so widely dispersed. We're at the stage now where we're fighting the less obvious forms of racism, fighting widespread misconceptions that all of that racism is "over" now. I think some of our elders are disappointed that some of our most powerful young voices are preoccupied in other ventures. Too many young people, too, are still waiting for another figure like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If there's one thing I've learned from working on Freedom in the Family, it's that heroes and heroines are only individuals who stand up and say, "It's my turn." That doesn't necessarily mean carrying a protest sign anymore. Even in the 1960s, not everyone involved in the Movement was willing to stand in front of fire-hoses. But individuals took the responsibility to do what they could do.

So I think that's the lesson I'd like readers to carry from this book: We don't all do the same things, but we have the responsibility to do what we can, in our own way. We have been born with a debt, and we owe the people who sacrificed before us. Too many people have sacrificed for us not to exercise our vote. Too many people have sacrificed for us not to accept the responsibility for raising our families. We have an obligation to offer our unique gifts to the world and to try to guide someone else along the way.

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INTERVIEW with
Patricia Stephens Due , co-author

FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY:
A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights
November 2002


Q: What is this FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY: A Mother -Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights about?

PS D: This is a book about ordinary people who did extraordinary things during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. First, Tananarive and I have written about our own family's involvement - we are separated by a generation, but unfortunately many of the same issues have affected our lives. I also particularly wanted people to know and remember that the Movement was made up of hundreds and thousands of ordinary people who put their lives, livelihoods and families at risk. Without those sacrifices, the Movement could not have happened.

Q: You made history in the 1960s. Can you describe how?

PS D: In 1960, while I was a student at Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, I was part of the historic first "Jail-In" as part of the student sit-in movement. Five of us spent 49 days in jail rather than pay our fine because we believed segregation was morally wrong.

Q: What was your crime?

PS D: We sat at a Woolworth lunch counter and tried to order food.

Q: Is that all? What happened at Woolworth?

PS D: On February 13, 1960, as part of a civil rights organization called the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), we had our first sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter in Tallahassee. Nine of us sat for two hours after being refused service. Hecklers surrounded us, threatening us with bodily harm - one had a gun - but we continued to sit. The following Saturday- we chose Saturdays because most of us were students- on February 20, eleven of us went back to Woolworth's and sat. But this time we were arrested after much abuse from whites standing around us. The charges included disturbing the peace and inciting to riot. I guess, in their minds, our sitting there quietly was a cause for us to be charged for the misbehavior of the hecklers. The eleven included two high school students, eight Florida A&M University students and one lady, Mrs. Mary Ola Gaines, who worked as a domestic in the community.

Q: And those charges held up in court? For trying to order food to eat?

PS D: The courtroom was a circus. By this time there were eight charges against us. We were unable to get local attorneys. Our lawyers, who had traveled 500 miles to represent us, were treated with utter disrespect. The word "nigger" was used frequently to describe us in the courtroom. We were in a segregated courtroom waiting for justice when none was forthcoming. All but two of the charges were dropped -- we never knew what they were - and we were found guilty on two counts. We received 60 days in jail or a $300 fine. Our university also suspended us.

Q: What did you do?

PS D: I knew what I was going to do. I would not pay to maintain a segregated system. In addition to that, people had to know what was happening in America. I decided I would serve the 60 days. Three got out of jail to immediately begin the appeal process. Initially, eight of us went to jail, then three more got out, and five of us spent 49 days in the Leon County jail in Tallahassee, FL. We were given 5 days off each month for good behavior, and the extra day to avoid publicity. While we were in jail, we received support from Jackie Robinson, a telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and received hundreds of letters from citizens who couldn't understand why, in America, we were jail for asking for service at a Woolworth lunch counter.

Q: What happened after you got out of jail?

PS D: We went on a national speaking tour after becoming the first Jail-In in the nation during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The letters that we received had indicated that people wanted to hear our stories. The tour was sponsored by CORE. Harry Belafonte invited people, including James Baldwin, over to his apartment to hear us. Rev. Adam Clayton Powell asked us to speak at his church in Harlem; Eleanor Roosevelt called for a luncheon meeting for people to meet with me--Daisy Bates and Jackie Robinson were there as well as many who came to offer support to the students in the South. We were speaking all over the country before civic and civil rights groups, churches, labor unions, colleges, conferences and conventions.

Q: What made you decide to write this book so many years later?

PS D: It wasn't a conscious decision to write this book so many years later, but life and the process of being responsible for a family made it impossible to do so before now. I have always wanted to honor the fallen foot-soldiers I knew and worked with during the Civil Rights Movement, trying to find a way to tell their story. If we don't write our own history, no one else will write it for us.

Q: What do you mean when you talk about fallen "foot-soldiers"?

PS D: I'm talking about the everyday students, lawyers, teachers, housekeepers and citizens who stood up and said they would do their part for the Struggle, no matter what the cost. I know people who lost their jobs as a result of their activism. I knew people who committed suicide as a result of their activism. One young man in particular, Calvin Bess, was killed registering black voters in Mississippi in 1967, the ultimate sacrifice. I did not want those stories to simply fade away without anyone knowing how dear the price for freedom has been.
And it wasn't only blacks who paid the price. Many whites also suffered while contributing to the Civil Rights Movement.

Q: What was your worst experience during the Civil Rights Movement?

PS D: There were so many bad experiences, it's hard to choose one. But one incident in particular that has lingered with me today was when a police officer threw a teargas bomb directly in my face. A thousand students from my school, FAMU, were marching peacefully to protest the arrests of some FAMU students, and the police used teargas to disperse the march although we were peaceful and unarmed. One officer saw me and recognized me as a student leader, so he said, "I want you!" and threw teargas in my face. I have had a sensitivity to light indoors and outdoors ever since, which forces me to wear dark glasses even today. The condition gets worse with age.

Q: What kind of family did you come from? Where did you grow up?

PS D: There were six of us. A sister and brother, my mother, stepfather and my maternal grandmother, who lived with us most of the time I was growing up. My parents were both from Quincy, Florida, which is in northern Florida, near the state capital of Tallahassee. My early childhood was spent in Quincy and Miami, Florida. When my mother remarried when I was nine years old, we moved to Belle Glade, Florida, in Palm Beach County. Marion Hamilton, my stepfather, was hired as the band director and social studies teacher in Belle Glade in 1949.

Q: What was your first realization of what segregation meant?

PS D: Although I grew up in a totally segregated world--including separate neighborhoods, schools, churches, parks, "White" and "Colored" drinking fountains, separate everything - I was rather sheltered. I thought my father enjoyed driving when he drove for hundreds of miles without stopping to sleep, not realizing that it was dangerous for Negroes traveling throughout Florida and other Southern states. The lunch prepared by my mother when we were traveling was not a treat, as I thought, but a necessity since we would not be served in restaurants. I did realize that the local Diary Queen had a window for whites and one in the back for "Colored," where we had to go. Priscilla, my sister, and I would frequently go to the "White" window to show our feelings about the system.

Q: Do you believe your family upbringing played a role in your community involvement?

PS D: I know my family upbringing played a key role in my community involvement. I grew up in a very involved family. My mother was a Democratic Committeewoman. We were always involved in voter registration and voter education; raising money for band uniforms and money for hospital wings. My stepfather, as my civics teacher, taught me about my rights and responsibilities. My parents not only said what needed to be done, they actually lived what they preached by their community involvement. In addition to the examples cited, my mother is very prominent in my high school yearbooks, showing how she volunteered in the classroom, in the PTA and as a band parent activist.

Q: Do you think your three daughters had an easier time with discrimination?

PS D: My daughters have had many opportunities that would not have been available to me or my husband when we started out in life. But ironically, because my husband and I raised Tananarive, Johnita and Lydia in newly integrated neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County, Tananarive especially was subjected to more personal racism as a child than I was. Neighborhood children frequently called her "nigger," and our neighbors threw eggs, rocks and tomatoes against our house to protest our presence there. Once, a neighbor threatened to shoot my children if he ever caught them playing in his yard. It was very difficult - and this was in the 1970s and 1980s.

Q: What were your most difficult experiences as a mother?

PS D: Again, there were many, but there were two very painful incidents involving Tananarive. When she was only nine months old, my sister Priscilla was visiting me after she had moved to Ghana to flee racial discrimination in America. She was nine months pregnant, and we decided to stop at a diner in South Bay, Florida, because she felt sick and wanted a sandwich. This was in 1966, after the laws banning racial discrimination in public restaurants, but the waitress was very hostile and refused to serve us. She even lifted up heavy chair and threatened to hit us with it - a pregnant woman and a woman with a baby! To her, we were less than human. I believed in CORE's Gandhian principles of nonviolence, but I told that waitress, "If you make one more move, I will wipe up the floor with you."
In another incident, Tananarive was three, and I was trying to enroll her in a Montessori school in Miami. She was with me as we visited school after school, when the administrators told us only white children could enroll. I hoped she was too young to understand what was happening, but a few days later I found her covered from head to toe in baby powder. She said to me, "Mommy, will they let me go to school now?"
That is an awful moment for a parent.

Q: How could you be a civil rights activist and raise your family?

PS D: That was definitely one of the points I wanted to make in this book, because so many activists had families and were unable to spend time with them because the Movement called for so much personal sacrifice. But I was determined to be there for my children. With my extended family and the help of others, I was able to continue my involvement. For instance, in 1968, when I took part in demonstrations for black sanitation workers and risked my life by lying down in front of sanitation trucks, a babysitter came to my hotel room at 4:30 every morning. I could not have been active unless I had known my children were safe. And although that babysitter might not have been willing to risk her life as I was, she was as big a part of the Movement as the people marching in the streets. People made a difference by doing what they could do.

Q: How did your daughter, Tananarive Due, become involved in this book?

PS D: Tananarive has always heard me telling these stories, and as a writer, she felt it was her responsibility to help me write this book. She wants to share her family history and honor the people who did so much during the Movement.

Q: How would you describe the experience of writing a book with your daughter?

PS D: This book has been one of the most difficult undertakings of my life, and I think Tananarive would agree. It's so emotionally draining to keep going back to the past - especially since the past is not past. Many of the battles we fought for still remain, even if the Jim Crow signs have come down.
Tananarive has her own career, so sometimes it was difficult for us to find time to work together when she had deadlines for other projects. But she took a leave of absence from her job at the Miami Herald for a year and a half to help document the stories of the Civil Rights Movement's foot-soldiers, and we drove up and down the state with our video equipment to try to talk to people while we could. Unfortunately, many of the people we interviewed have since died.

Working on this book was a very special time for us, bringing us closer together as she began to understand the social forces that made me who I am today. I also got to see her more in light of a professional woman than simply as my daughter. It was very difficult for me when she got married and left Miami in 1997 to move all the way to Washington state, but we continued to work together, sending files back and forth across the Internet.

Q: What role do you think being a woman played in your civil rights activism?

PS D: Being a woman didn't play any role in my activism in the Civil Rights Movement, as far as I was concerned. I was discriminated against because I was a "Negro," not because I was a woman. But after having three daughters, I feel gratified that they, and other women, can look upon me as a role-model.

Q: What are you most proud of in terms of your activism?

PS D: I am most proud of the fact that I was able to continue to be involved while making certain that my family was always my first priority.

Q: What is the message you most hope will be conveyed by FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY?

PS D: I want everyone, especially young people, to understand that no one was superhuman during the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King was a very great man, but he did not create or sustain the Movement - it was ordinary people who made a difference. History happens one person at a time.

Q: What do you think of the gains that have been made?

PS D: Many gains have been made, but there are examples all around today of racism thriving. There are more black men in prison today than in college. Look at the numbers: a disproportionate number of African-Americans are trapped in the criminal justice system, unemployed or underemployed, under-served in health care, sent to alternative education and suspended from school. The erosion of affirmative action - a program put in place to make up for the hundreds of years of discrimination - is the biggest sign that the clock is turning back. There is as much to do today as in the '60s. In Florida, for example, our problems with having our votes counted reminds me of what we faced in the 1960s. However, today's racism is much more sophisticated - there are no "White" or "Colored" signs.

Q: What role do you feel you can play today to bring about change?

PS D: My major role right now is to document what has happened in America so we can be certain that history will not repeat itself. It is crucial for people to know that we have a noble history of fighting for first-class citizenship.

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INTERVIEW with
Tananarive Due
March  17, 2002

Q: You've created a world of immortals and magic blood in your books MY SOUL TO KEEP (1997) and THE LIVING BLOOD (2001). What inspired those books? Anyone who first learned about you by reading THE BLACK ROSE (2000), your historical novel about Madam C.J. Walker, was in for a big surprise when they read your newest supernatural thriller, THE LIVING BLOOD. Why would you write a historical novel when you have been most well-known as a horror writer?

TD: Actually, I like to think of myself as a writer, which means that I like to express ideas in many different ways. I was a newspaper reporter and columnist for The Miami Herald for more than 10 years, I've written science fiction short stories, I like to write novels about the supernatural, and I wrote a historical novel.

But I have to admit, THE BLACK ROSE was a surprise even to me. I was approached by the Alex Haley Estate, since Mr. Haley had planned to write a novel about Madam Walker before his death in 1992. I had never considered writing a historical novel, but of course I was incredibly flattered just to be asked – and then Madam Walker's life is such a testament to vision and endurance, I found that it inspired me. I couldn't say no.

Q: How did you finally get published?

TD: The year 1992 changed me. It jolted me closer to my core, and I produced my best work. I lived in North Miami, and Hurricane Andrew swept through South Florida that year, leaving devastation that is still hard for me to comprehend. My grandmother, parents and aunt all sustained damage to their homes. Then, soon afterward, my grandmother in Indianapolis died. Within days, my mother's perfectly healthy Great Dane got a stomach torsion and died suddenly. My college love dumped me. I thought life had suddenly turned mean, and I was petrified this was only the beginning.

Then, in the course of a newspaper story, I had the opportunity to do a telephone interview with Anne Rice, who was promoting her novel Tale of the Body Thief. I didn't tell her I was an aspiring novelist, but I did try to ask her questions I thought would benefit me as a writer. (Now I notice other reporters doing the same thing to me!) I asked her how she responded to criticism that was she was “wasting her talents” writing about vampires, because I needed to address my fear that I would not be respected if I wrote about the supernatural.

She scoffed. “That used to bother me, but not anymore,” she said. She told me that her books are taught in university courses, and that writing about the supernatural freed her from worry about being labeled as a “commercial” versus a “literary” writer.

That was all I needed. Within weeks, I began writing THE BETWEEN, as if it had been somewhere in the wings, waiting for me to shine a flashlight on it. I decided to bare myself in that story – which is about a man who believes the Unknown is chasing him in his sleep, and he doesn't know which world he will find when he wakes up one morning to the next. That was the way I felt that year, when nothing was solid beneath my feet. I felt as if I could no longer take anything for granted, so I created a character, Hilton, who was literally being chased by the Unknown. My character had to face my fears and conquer them.

Q: Are your characters really different versions of you?

TD: I'm sure there's a little of me in nearly all of my characters, but only a few are directly like me: Hilton was living through my fears of mortality, and the protagonist in MY SOUL TO KEEP, Jessica, was a lot like me. I tried to recreate my naivete, I gave her my job (although, I have to admit, she was much further along in her journalism career than I ever got!), and I gave her my tendency to overlook flaws in my romantic partners that I didn't want to see. Jessica was the way I'd seen myself as a woman in my mid-twenties.

Q: I heard there's a movie version of MY SOUL TO KEEP in the works, directed by Blair Underwood. Is he going to star in it, too?

TD: Absolutely! I tend to imagine actors playing parts when I'm writing. I'm writing a novel now where Angela Bassett is the lead character, at least in my imagination. In MY SOUL TO KEEP, I imagined David as Blair Underwood. That's actually how our film deal came about. Blair worked on a video with a former co-worker of mine, and I asked my friend if he would be willing to send Blair a copy of MY SOUL TO KEEP. Only weeks later, Blair himself was on the phone trying to option it for film. I couldn't believe it.

Q: Was that the first time you'd had a film option?

TD: Actually, no – THE BETWEEN was optioned when it first came out, and then MY SOUL TO KEEP had an option with Samuel Goldwyn Productions before Blair optioned it. I thought I was dreaming when the film folks first started calling.

Q: Have your feelings about Hollywood changed?

TD: Well, I had to shake myself out of that dreamlike state. Blair has done much more than anyone else because he's actually already shot some of his footage, so I'm very optimistic about MY SOUL TO KEEP. Mostly, Hollywood has taught me the value of patience. You have to think of it as a tree you've planted, and trees take a long time to grow, if they grow at all.

Q: When will the MY SOUL TO KEEP movie come out?

TD: Look for it sometime later this year. In the mean time, Blair will be co-starring opposite Julia Roberts in the Steven Soderbergh film FULL FRONTAL, which will open in August. Soderbergh is the director of TRAFFIC and OCEAN'S ELEVEN, incidentally, so I expect that movie to do well and bring Blair attention that will help MY SOUL TO KEEP.

Q: What are you working on now?

TD: I'm just finishing another book that's very different from my previous ones – it's a family civil rights memoir entitled FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY, and I co-authored it with my mother, Patricia Stephens Due. One World/Ballantine will publish it in January of 2003. Honestly, I don't think I've ever been more excited to be writing a book. This is the book I've known I would write my entire life.

Q: What is FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY about?

TD: My mother is writing about her experiences as a young person in college and getting swept into the civil rights movement of the 1960s, what that was like. All my life, she's wanted to tell the stories of the people she knew who sacrificed so much during that time. There were so many people who had emotional problems as a result, post-traumatic stress problems and family problems, and they ended up in institutions, committed suicide, and lost friends – both blacks and whites. They bore a great burden for all of us.

My chapters are about what it was like growing up in the “integration” generation, in mostly-white neighborhoods and schools, and how events like Miami's 1980 riots affected my own views about race as the child of civil rights activists. My sisters and I went to NAACP conventions every year, and we knew the lyrics to freedom songs better than the lyrics to Christmas carols.

Q: What did your mother do in the 1960s?

TD: My mother and her sister, Priscilla Stephens Kruize, were among five students who spent 49 days in jail in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1960 for sitting-in at a Woolworth lunch counter. They served their sentence rather than paying a fine, and they became the first “jail-in” as part of the student sit-in movement. Their courage in remaining in jail helped galvanize the other students throughout the South, and throughout the country, who were working toward civil rights in the 1960s. They got a telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Q: What's it like to write a book with your mother?

TD: It's fascinating. More than anything, I know that the years my mother and I have spent researching FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY will always stand out in my memory as some of the finest times we've ever had. I'm blessed to have this opportunity to learn about myself, my history and my family. I've decided everyone needs to write a book about their family, even if they never publish it. It's a fascinating, healing journey. There's so much to learn!

Q: What will you write after FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY?

TD: Well, I have a two-book contract with Pocket Books, which published THE LIVING BLOOD. The first, THE GOOD HOUSE, will be a supernatural suspense novel set in a woodsy area of the Pacific Northwest. It's a haunted house novel, of sorts, and I'm having great fun writing it. After that, I'll probably revisit the world of my immortals.

Q: MY SOUL TO KEEP was published in 1997, and THE LIVING BLOOD didn't come out until 2001. Why do you wait so long between books about the immortals?

TD: Some of that is accident – THE LIVING BLOOD was delayed a bit because I had to finish THE BLACK ROSE first. But the primary reason is that I feel an obligation to write good books, and my imagination doesn't work as an assembly-line. There are early drafts of THE LIVING BLOOD I wouldn't dare show to anyone. I think there's a myth about writers that what we do is somehow easy, that either you “have it” or you don't – and the truth is that writing is just plain hard work. Yes, it's fun to get sucked into my own world, and it's definitely fun to play “pretend” with all these figments of my imagination, but the writing process itself is trial and error, writing and rewriting. Each book I write feels harder than the last, which I consider a good thing. I would never want it to feel like it was easy. And if I had to rush, I really believe I'd stand in the way of the part of me that is trying to grow and learn. I can't revisit my immortals until I know where they are and what they're doing, and that will take some time. When Fana, David and Jessica are ready, they'll show me something marvelous. My hope, of course, is that readers believe it's worth the wait.

Q: You're married to another writer, novelist Steven Barnes. How did you meet, and what's it like being married to another writer?

TD: Steve and I have a great story: We met in 1997, at a writers' conference at Clark Atlanta University entitled “The African-American Fantastic Imagination: Explorations in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.” It was a remarkable event – Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Jewelle Gomez and Steve were all there. I was so honored just to be invited. I knew Octavia's work, and I'd seen an episode of “The Outer Limits” television series Steve had written, “A Stitch in Time.” It stars Amanda Plummer, she won an Emmy for it, and it's amazing. I felt dazzled that weekend. Then, it turned out that Steve was the most remarkable man I'd ever met. He was thinking much the same thing about me. We were doomed from the start.

It's hard to describe how wonderful it is to share my life with another writer. We understand each other in some very core ways that make life a lot easier. We often throw story ideas around just for fun, second-guessing the screenwriters in the movies we're watching. And we read each other's work, of course. He was a tremendous help to me in organizing my thoughts when I was writing THE LIVING BLOOD, and I know I was a tremendous help to him while he was writing what I consider his masterpiece, a book called LION'S BLOOD, which Warner/Aspect published in February.


Q:
What is LION'S BLOOD about?

TD: It's an adventure and coming-of-age-story between a slave and young master, set in the South of the 1860s, but with one twist: In the world of LION'S BLOOD, the Americas were colonized by Islamic Africans bringing European slaves. It's a great book! It has already been mentioned in The New York Times, and he got a blurb from Charles Johnson, who wrote MIDDLE PASSAGE.

Q: Do you two ever feel like you're competing?

TD: Absolutely not. We knew the pitfalls of this kind of relationship when we began – we could be two actors or two singers trying to create a relationship, and there are examples of those failures everywhere. We knew we had to keep our egos out of the relationship, to cheer each other on. If something good happens to me, Steve is thrilled; and if something good happens to him, I'm thrilled. We have a joint checking account, so it's all good.

Q: You're from Miami, but you live in a tiny town called Longview, Washington. Why?

TD: My husband's daughter, Nicki, lives in Longview with her mother. Steve is committed to being an Everyday Dad until she graduates from high school in a couple more years, and Nicki has embraced me as her stepmother. One of the very beautiful things about writing is that it can be done anywhere. I do miss my parents terribly, and I miss the diversity of Miami, but my life feels very full and good right now. I know I'm where I'm supposed to be .

©2011 Tananarive Due



e especially was subjected to more personal racism as a child than I was. Neighborhood children frequently called her "nigger," and our neighbors threw eggs, rocks and tomatoes against our house to protest our presence there. Once, a neighbor threatened to shoot my children if he ever caught them playing in his yard. It was very difficult - and this was in the 1970s and 1980s.

Q: What were your most difficult experiences as a mother?

PSD: Again, there were many, but there were two very painful incidents involving Tananarive. When she was only nine months old, my sister Priscilla was visiting me after she had moved to Ghana to flee racial discrimination in America. She was nine months pregnant, and we decided to stop at a diner in South Bay, Florida, because she felt sick and wanted a sandwich. This was in 1966, after the laws banning racial discrimination in public restaurants, but the waitress was very hostile and refused to serve us. She even lifted up heavy chair and threatened to hit us with it - a pregnant woman and a woman with a baby! To her, we were less than human. I believed in CORE's Gandhian principles of nonviolence, but I told that waitress, "If you make one more move, I will wipe up the floor with you."
In another incident, Tananarive was three, and I was trying to enroll her in a Montessori school in Miami. She was with me as we visited school after school, when the administrators told us only white children could enroll. I hoped she was too young to understand what was happening, but a few days later I found her covered from head to toe in baby powder. She said to me, "Mommy, will they let me go to school now?"
That is an awful moment for a parent.

Q: How could you be a civil rights activist and raise your family?

PSD: That was definitely one of the points I wanted to make in this book, because so many activists had families and were unable to spend time with them because the Movement called for so much personal sacrifice. But I was determined to be there for my children. With my extended family and the help of others, I was able to continue my involvement. For instance, in 1968, when I took part in demonstrations for black sanitation workers and risked my life by lying down in front of sanitation trucks, a babysitter came to my hotel room at 4:30 every morning. I could not have been active unless I had known my children were safe. And although that babysitter might not have been willing to risk her life as I was, she was as big a part of the Movement as the people marching in the streets. People made a difference by doing what they could do.

Q: How did your daughter, Tananarive Due, become involved in this book?

PSD: Tananarive has always heard me telling these stories, and as a writer, she felt it was her responsibility to help me write this book. She wants to share her family history and honor the people who did so much during the Movement.

Q: How would you describe the experience of writing a book with your daughter?

PSD: This book has been one of the most difficult undertakings of my life, and I think Tananarive would agree. It's so emotionally draining to keep going back to the past - especially since the past is not past. Many of the battles we fought for still remain, even if the Jim Crow signs have come down.
Tananarive has her own career, so sometimes it was difficult for us to find time to work together when she had deadlines for other projects. But she took a leave of absence from her job at the Miami Herald for a year and a half to help document the stories of the Civil Rights Movement's foot-soldiers, and we drove up and down the state with our video equipment to try to talk to people while we could. Unfortunately, many of the people we interviewed have since died.

Working on this book was a very special time for us, bringing us closer together as she began to understand the social forces that made me who I am today. I also got to see her more in light of a professional woman than simply as my daughter. It was very difficult for me when she got married and left Miami in 1997 to move all the way to Washington state, but we continued to work together, sending files back and forth across the Internet.

Q: What role do you think being a woman played in your civil rights activism?

PSD: Being a woman didn't play any role in my activism in the Civil Rights Movement, as far as I was concerned. I was discriminated against because I was a "Negro," not because I was a woman. But after having three daughters, I feel gratified that they, and other women, can look upon me as a role-model.

Q: What are you most proud of in terms of your activism?

PSD: I am most proud of the fact that I was able to continue to be involved while making certain that my family was always my first priority.

Q: What is the message you most hope will be conveyed by FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY?

PSD: I want everyone, especially young people, to understand that no one was superhuman during the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King was a very great man, but he did not create or sustain the Movement - it was ordinary people who made a difference. History happens one person at a time.

Q: What do you think of the gains that have been made?

PSD: Many gains have been made, but there are examples all around today of racism thriving. There are more black men in prison today than in college. Look at the numbers: a disproportionate number of African-Americans are trapped in the criminal justice system, unemployed or underemployed, under-served in health care, sent to alternative education and suspended from school. The erosion of affirmative action - a program put in place to make up for the hundreds of years of discrimination - is the biggest sign that the clock is turning back. There is as much to do today as in the '60s. In Florida, for example, our problems with having our votes counted reminds me of what we faced in the 1960s. However, today's racism is much more sophisticated - there are no "White" or "Colored" signs.

Q: What role do you feel you can play today to bring about change?

PSD: My major role right now is to document what has happened in America so we can be certain that history will not repeat itself. It is crucial for people to know that we have a noble history of fighting for first-class citizenship.

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INTERVIEW with
Tananarive Due
March  17, 2002

 

Q: You’ve created a world of immortals and magic blood in your books MY SOUL TO KEEP (1997) and THE LIVING BLOOD (2001).  What inspired those books? Anyone who first learned about you by reading THE BLACK ROSE (2000), your historical novel about Madam C.J. Walker, was in for a big surprise when they read your newest supernatural thriller, THE LIVING BLOOD.  Why would you write a historical novel when you have been most well-known as a horror writer?

TD: Actually, I like to think of myself as a writer, which means that I like to express ideas in many different ways.  I was a newspaper reporter and columnist for The Miami Herald for more than 10 years, I’ve written science fiction short stories, I like to write novels about the supernatural, and I wrote a historical novel. 

But I have to admit, THE BLACK ROSE was a surprise even to me.  I was approached by the Alex Haley Estate, since Mr. Haley had planned to write a novel about Madam Walker before his death in 1992.  I had never considered writing a historical novel, but of course I was incredibly flattered just to be asked – and then Madam Walker’s life is such a testament to vision  and endurance, I found that it inspired me. I couldn’t say no.

Q: How did you finally get published?

TD: The year 1992 changed me.  It jolted me closer to my core, and I produced my best work.  I lived in North Miami, and Hurricane Andrew swept through South Florida that year, leaving devastation that is still hard for me to comprehend.  My grandmother, parents and aunt all sustained damage to their homes.  Then, soon afterward, my grandmother in Indianapolis died.  Within days, my mother’s perfectly healthy Great Dane got a stomach torsion and died suddenly.  My college love dumped me. I thought life had suddenly turned mean, and I was petrified this was only the beginning.

Then, in the course of a newspaper story, I had the opportunity to do a telephone interview with Anne Rice, who was promoting her novel Tale of the Body Thief.  I didn’t tell her I was an aspiring novelist, but I did try to ask her questions I thought would benefit me as a writer.  (Now I notice other reporters doing the same thing to me!)  I asked her how she responded to criticism that was she was “wasting her talents” writing about vampires, because I needed to address my fear that I would not be respected if I wrote about the supernatural.

She scoffed.  “That used to bother me, but not anymore,” she said.  She told me that her books are taught in university courses, and that writing about the supernatural freed her from worry about being labeled as a “commercial” versus a “literary” writer.

That was all I needed. Within weeks, I began writing THE BETWEEN, as if it had been somewhere in the wings, waiting for me to shine a flashlight on it.  I decided to bare myself in that story – which is about a man who believes the Unknown is chasing him in his sleep, and he doesn’t know which world he will find when he wakes up one morning to the next.  That was the way I felt that year, when nothing was solid beneath my feet.  I felt as if I could no longer take anything for granted, so I created a character, Hilton, who was literally being chased by the Unknown.  My character had to face my fears and conquer them.

Q: Are your characters really different versions of you?

TD: I’m sure there’s a little of me in nearly all of my characters, but only a few are directly like me: Hilton was living through my fears of mortality, and the protagonist in MY SOUL TO KEEP, Jessica, was a lot like me.  I tried to recreate my naivete, I gave her my job (although, I have to admit, she was much further along in her journalism career than I ever got!), and I gave her my tendency to overlook flaws in my romantic partners that I didn’t want to see.  Jessica was the way I’d seen myself as a woman in my mid-twenties.

Q: I heard there’s a movie version of MY SOUL TO KEEP in the works, directed by Blair Underwood.  Is he going to star in it, too?

TD: Absolutely!  I tend to imagine actors playing parts when I’m writing.  I’m writing a novel now where Angela Bassett is the lead character, at least in my imagination.  In MY SOUL TO KEEP, I imagined David as Blair Underwood.  That’s actually how our film deal came about.  Blair worked on a video with a former co-worker of mine, and I asked my friend if he would be willing to send Blair a copy of MY SOUL TO KEEP.  Only weeks later, Blair himself was on the phone trying to option it for film.  I couldn’t believe it.

Q: Was that the first time you’d had a film option?

TD: Actually, no – THE BETWEEN was optioned when it first came out, and then MY SOUL TO KEEP had an option with Samuel Goldwyn Productions before Blair optioned it.  I thought I was dreaming when the film folks first started calling.

Q: Have your feelings about Hollywood changed?

TD: Well, I had to shake myself out of that dreamlike state.  Blair has done much more than anyone else because he’s actually already shot some of his footage, so I’m very optimistic about MY SOUL TO KEEP.  Mostly, Hollywood has taught me the value of patience.  You have to think of it as a tree you’ve planted, and trees take a long time to grow, if they grow at all. 

Q: When will the MY SOUL TO KEEP movie come out?

TD: Look for it sometime later this year.  In the mean time, Blair will be co-starring opposite Julia Roberts in the Steven Soderbergh film FULL FRONTAL, which will open in August. Soderbergh is the director of TRAFFIC and OCEAN’S ELEVEN, incidentally, so I expect that movie to do well and bring Blair attention that will help MY SOUL TO KEEP.

Q: What are you working on now?

TD: I’m just finishing another book that’s very different from my previous ones – it’s a family civil rights memoir entitled FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY, and I co-authored it with my mother, Patricia Stephens Due.  One World/Ballantine will publish it in January of 2003.  Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to be writing a book. This is the book I’ve known I would write my entire life. 

Q: What is FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY about?

TD: My mother is writing about her experiences as a young person in college and getting swept into the civil rights movement of the 1960s, what that was like.  All my life, she’s wanted to tell the stories of the people she knew who sacrificed so much during that time.   There were so many people who had emotional problems as a result, post-traumatic stress problems and family problems, and they ended up in institutions, committed suicide, and lost friends – both blacks and whites. They bore a great burden for all of us. 

My chapters are about what it was like growing up in the “integration” generation, in mostly-white neighborhoods and schools, and how events like Miami’s 1980 riots affected my own views about race as the child of civil rights activists.  My sisters and I went to NAACP conventions every year, and we knew the lyrics to freedom songs better than the lyrics to Christmas carols.

Q: What did your mother do in the 1960s?

TD: My mother and her sister, Priscilla Stephens Kruize, were among five students who spent 49 days in jail in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1960 for sitting-in at a Woolworth lunch counter.  They served their sentence rather than paying a fine, and they became the first “jail-in” as part of the student sit-in movement.  Their courage in remaining in jail helped galvanize the other students throughout the South, and throughout the country, who were working toward civil rights in the 1960s.  They got a telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Q: What’s it like to write a book with your mother?

TD: It’s fascinating.  More than anything, I know that the years my mother and I have spent researching FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY will always stand out in my memory as some of the finest times we’ve ever had.  I’m blessed to have this opportunity to learn about myself, my history and my family.  I’ve decided everyone needs to write a book about their family, even if they never publish it.  It’s a fascinating, healing journey.  There’s so much to learn!

Q: What will you write after FREEDOM IN THE FAMILY?

TD: Well, I have a two-book contract with Pocket Books, which published THE LIVING BLOOD.  The first, THE GOOD HOUSE, will be a supernatural suspense novel set in a woodsy area of the Pacific Northwest.  It’s a haunted house novel, of sorts, and I’m having great fun writing it.  After that, I’ll probably revisit the world of my immortals.

Q: MY SOUL TO KEEP was published in 1997, and THE LIVING BLOOD didn’t come out until 2001.  Why do you wait so long between books about the immortals?

TD: Some of that is accident – THE LIVING BLOOD was delayed a bit because I had to finish THE BLACK ROSE first.  But the primary reason is that I feel an obligation to write good books, and my imagination doesn’t work as an assembly-line.  There are early drafts of THE LIVING BLOOD I wouldn’t dare show to anyone.  I think there’s a myth about writers that what we do is somehow easy, that either you “have it” or you don’t – and the truth is that writing is just plain hard work.  Yes, it’s fun to get sucked into my own world, and it’s definitely fun to play “pretend” with all these figments of my imagination, but the writing process itself is trial and error, writing and rewriting.  Each book I write feels harder than the last, which I consider a good thing.  I would never want it to feel like it was easy.  And if I had to rush, I really believe I’d stand in the way of the part of me that is trying to grow and learn.  I can’t revisit my immortals until I know where they are and what they’re doing, and that will take some time. When Fana, David and Jessica are ready, they’ll show me something marvelous. My hope, of course, is that readers believe it’s worth the wait.

Q: You’re married to another writer, novelist Steven Barnes.  How did you meet, and what’s it like being married to another writer?

TD: Steve and I have a great story: We met in 1997, at a writers’ conference at Clark Atlanta University entitled “The African-American Fantastic Imagination: Explorations in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.”  It was a remarkable event – Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Jewelle Gomez and Steve were all there.  I was so honored just to be invited.  I knew Octavia’s work, and I’d seen an episode of “The Outer Limits” television series Steve had written, “A Stitch in Time.”  It stars Amanda Plummer, she won an Emmy for it, and it’s amazing.  I felt dazzled that weekend.  Then, it turned out that Steve was the most remarkable man I’d ever met.  He was thinking much the same thing about me.  We were doomed from the start.

It’s hard to describe how wonderful it is to share my life with another writer.  We understand each other in some very core ways that make life a lot easier.  We often throw story ideas around just for fun, second-guessing the screenwriters in the movies we’re watching.  And we read each other’s work, of course.  He was a tremendous help to me in organizing my thoughts when I was writing THE LIVING BLOOD, and I know I was a tremendous help to him while he was writing what I consider his masterpiece, a book called LION’S BLOOD, which Warner/Aspect published in February.  

 
Q:
What is LION’S BLOOD about?

TD: It’s an adventure and coming-of-age-story between a slave and young master, set in the South of the 1860s, but with one twist: In the world of LION’S BLOOD, the Americas were  colonized by Islamic Africans bringing European slaves.  It’s a great book!  It has already been mentioned in The New York Times, and he got a blurb from Charles Johnson, who wrote MIDDLE PASSAGE. 

Q: Do you two ever feel like you’re competing?

TD: Absolutely not.  We knew the pitfalls of this kind of relationship when we began – we could be two actors or two singers trying to create a relationship, and there are examples of those failures everywhere.  We knew we had to keep our egos out of the relationship, to cheer each other on.  If something good happens to me, Steve is thrilled; and if something good happens to him, I’m thrilled.  We have a joint checking account, so it’s all good.  

Q: You’re from Miami, but you live in a tiny town called Longview, Washington.  Why?

TD: My husband’s daughter, Nicki, lives in Longview with her mother.  Steve is committed to being an Everyday Dad until she graduates from high school in a couple more years, and Nicki has embraced me as her stepmother.  One of the very beautiful things about writing is that it can be done anywhere.  I do miss my parents terribly, and I miss the diversity of Miami, but my life feels very full and good right now.  I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.

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