Candace Habte is the author all sugar ain’t sweet, a short story collection I enjoyed a few months ago. If you want to read something short, I suggest this collection.
1. What do you think is the best in the process of writing? Just going through with it, slamming keys, getting everything down, or reading and editing?
The best for me is the natural high of a new idea, character, story, etc. But I would say even better is when that “high” is gone, and I start to think “What have I gotten myself into?” Instead of giving up (which I know that feeling too and it stinks), I push through it. Getting over the brink when the words aren’t flowing easily,but sitting down and writing anyway is one of the best feelings for me. I get into the groove of writing even more when I keep at it.
2. Who is your writer crush?
My first writer crushes were probably Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni. Their work was way before my time, and I don’t remember how I got into them, but I’m grateful to have read and absorbed their work at such a young age. They’ve graduated from crushes to first loves.
Right now, there’s probably several, but I’d say Pearl Cleage (What Crazy Looks Like on an Ordinary Day) and my friend W.K. Tucker whose writer’s voice is so distinct and her imagination is amazing. She definitely inspires me. When it comes to YA, it’s Ned Vizzini all the way.
3. Do you have a soundtrack when you write? if so, what albums or artists? If silence, where’s your comfy writing spot?
No particular soundtrack, but sometimes I listen to music. It just depends on my mood or what I’m writing. If I’m already distracted, then I try to write in silence (on my couch, kitchen table, or the floor). One of the stories I’m working on now has a heavy hip-hop influence, so I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop lately (“90’s Golden Era” or sometimes the Kendrick Lamar station on Pandora).
4. What is that one book you read over and over, or read portions of? That one book you will save from a fire?
For some reason, I tend to read picture books over and over again. One of my favorite is The Growing Tree by Shel Silverstein.
5. Who’s that one writer(s) you wish everyone would shut up about?
Well, no one at the moment because I’m not always “in the loop” to know who everyone is talking about.
At one point, I thought that the hype for John Green was a bit much. Although I’m a fan of his work and own most of his books. But I remember thinking, he didn’t create young adult fiction (or stories with kids dying from cancer). I don’t have any personal resentment towards him or any other uber popular writer for that matter. It just made me think of some of the authors I grew up loving that didn’t get a modicum of that shine. Even other well-known YA authors, such as Walter Dean Myers, are not celebrities. And maybe they wouldn’t want to be (maybe John Green didn’t either—who knows).
Anyway,I remember reading these One Last Wish books when I was a kid, and the series was about terminally ill kids. I cried a few times even, and though the author may have had some success back then, I had to Google her name just now (Lurlane McDaniels). On the flip side, a name like John Green will forever be etched in my mind because I’ve heard it so many times. He’s pretty much everywhere. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make me think about different levels of success and popularity, what’s “fair”, etc. I suppose, that’s life…
There will always be someone that’s more hyped than others. It’s not a big deal to me. I just try to stay in my lane—read, write, learn my craft—
and maybe one day my books will impact someone. That’s all I can hope for.
6. What book to movie adaptation disappointed you greatly?
Strangely, I can’t think of any right now but I’m sure there have been some. One film that I was impressed by was Bridge to Terabithia. I went in thinking the filmmakers would mess it up, but they did a pretty great job all around.
7. What book(s) is on your current reading list? (It could be on or in your Goodreads, on your night table, book bag, purse, etc.)
There are way too many to name. My to-be-read list is getting ridiculous, especially since I moved close to this used bookstore. Right now, I’m regrettably behind on reading and critiquing a friend’s work, so that’s at the top of the list.
8. What was the worst thing you have ever written?
Probably something I wrote this week. I’m constantly writing something sucky. But every once in a while something good comes of it, and that’s the point. One of the stories that stick out though was something I wrote in middle school–there were ghosts, hospital conspiracies, evil nurses, stereotypes galore, and I threw some Black Panthers in the mix too. It was awesomely bad.
9. When working on whatever writing project you’re on, do you focus on a schedule of words counts, pages, or just finishing that one chapter? For example, I’ve read that most writers would just write 1,000 words a day.
I try to stick to tracking my word count using Scrivener just to have some type of structure, but I do focus on drafting scenes too. I don’t have enough foresight to figure out chapters until I’m much further along.
10. What’s that one book you wish you wrote? There was a guy, I don’t remember his name, but I heard somebody talking about him, who rewrote F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, every word. Just so he could feel what it is to write a hit novel.
It would have to be 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. Some may blow it off as a beach read, but I thought it was pretty genius the way she intersected growing up Black and poor, perceptions of beauty, bullying, adultery, betrayal, 80’s pop culture,and her main character’s“crush” that bordered on obsession. On top of that, each character felt so real, and the plot was multi-layered, but easy to follow…it was a pretty amazing read.
11. How long have you been writing?
Since I was little kid I wrote poetry and made up stories. I just kept writing (from freelance journalism to short stories, and eventually longer fiction). I have been writing with different levels of consistency and focus (from casual to near obsession) throughout the years.
12. What do you prefer in reading and writing? A character driven or plot driven story?
Depends on my mood, but I think character will always win this fight at the end of the day. I’ve read stories without clear plots with strong characters that I enjoyed. But I’ve never read a story with all plot and no characterization that I could finish without a struggle.
13. Do you write during the day or night?
Mostly during the day (morning), but sometimes late at night if I can’t sleep.
14. Have you self-published or traditionally published a book (small press or Big Four publishers) or are you in the process of doing that? If so what’s it about? If you haven’t published anything, but was published in a literary magazine or anthology, talk about that.
I self-published a book of poetry and co-wrote a book of stories and poems years ago. One was under my maiden name, and one was under a pen name. I was proud of publishing at the time, but in a way both of those projects were practice. I made some mistakes, and editing could have been tighter with both. I’ve had short stories published in Blackberry and The Liberator magazines, and a lot of rejections. I would love to be published in an anthology one day.
Recently, I published a small collection of short stories called all sugar ain’t sweet. It’s a collection of short stories dealing with the complexities of love. I didn’t do much promotion, but I learned a lot from publishing it. I plan to apply what I’ve learned as I make the leap into publishing longer works of fiction this year and beyond. Right now, I’m just taking the sage advice (as the authors of Write.Publish.Repeat suggested) to keep writing and publishing. So my goals are to publish more consistently, and make sure my work is well edited before I do so. I plan to publish my first full-length book of fiction this summer. It’s called & The Brain Said. It’s a collection of three sci-fi(ish) novellas.
15. And finally, what’s your quote or motto? It could be one by a favorite writer or your own.
Besides reading, I’m a music junkie (and Bob Marley is one of my favs). One of my favorite quotes of his is:
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”