Dr. Maxine Thompson is a novelist, poet, columnist, short story writer, book reviewer, an editor, ghostwriter, Internet Radio Show Host, and a Literary Agent. She is the author of The Ebony Tree, No Pockets in a Shroud, A Place Called Home (A Short Story Collection), The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell, a contributor to bestselling anthologies Secret Lovers, All in The Family, and Never Knew Love Like This Before, (Also a Kindle Bestseller). Hostage of Lies, LA Blues, and latest novel, LA Blues II. (Slipping Into Darkness.) She is also an ebook author of The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell, The Hush Hush Secrets of Making Money as a Writer, The Hush Hush Secrets of Creating a Life You Love, a contributor to bestselling anthologies Secret Lovers, All in The Family, and Never Knew Love Like This Before, (Also a Kindle Bestseller). Proverbs for the People, and Editor/Contributor to anthology, Saturday Morning. Her novels, The Ebony Tree, (Won a Pen Award in 1997), Hostage of Lies, (Voted a Best Book of 2009), LA Blues, (2011), and LA Blues II, (2012), which were featured in Black Expressions’ Catalogue in August 2012
How did you start out your writing career?
I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. However, I began to write professionally after I won $1,000 honorable mention in Ebony’s first writing contest in 1989. In 1990, I had three short stories published in Obsidian Magazine, A North Carolina University quarterly magazine. I self-published my first novel, The Ebony Tree, in 1995 and my novel, No Pockets in a Shroud, in 1997. From there I got into the publishing industry side of the business and became an editor and a literary agent. I have since had 14 books published. I have negotiated over 70 book deals. I am working on an independent film, Hollywood Blues based on my novel, LA Blues.
What did you learn while writing this book?
LA Blues was my first mystery and thriller, and I came to it with a women’s, historical fiction background. Although I read a lot of mysteries, I had to do an extensive rewrite after the first content edit. I had to learn how to ratchet up the tension. I also had to learn how to set high stakes, solve the puzzle, and end with some kind of natural order being restored.
LA Blues II was a little easier to write because I knew the characters and because I used a variation of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.”
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
I hope to expose the plight of foster children in the system in L.A, the long-reaching effects of having an incarcerated parent, the negative effects of alcoholism, the inordinate amount of African American male youths, murdered (which ironically the murder victim’s name was Trayvon, which I wrote 2 years before the Trayvon Martin case,) bereavement help for grieving persons, and family of origin therapy. I also looked at the LA riots, the rival gang situation in Los Angeles.
In LA Blues Book II, I examined the international scope of the war on drugs and the drug trade.
What came first with this story, the characters or the plot? Why?
The character of Z came first. I kept seeing this character tiptoeing down a hall where a mother had been murdered by her husband. I started out with a social worker. Later, she became a police officer who was a former foster child. Talking about baggage and back story. I am seeing that Z can easily carry a series. I love her spunk.
What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
My biggest surprise is that this isn’t about fame. It’s about passion. That you have to constantly keep learning the craft and keep growing as a writer.
I’ve gotten better as both a writer and an editor as a result of studying the craft. I also found you can make a living as a writer when you use your talents in more than one area. I have content edited many New York Times Best Selling Authors such as Wahida Clark, and Carl Weber, and many Essence bestselling authors, such as EnJoy.
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I love the revision process. All writing is rewriting as you search for story. I also like the craft of knowing how stories are structured. It has really helped make my writing and editing process easier.
What I hate the most is the collection of money. I am an artist, but I’ve had to become a business person when it comes to collecting money for my freelance jobs and for the writers I represent as an agent.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
This has definitely been a learning curve.
1. I wish I had evaluated writers whom I became the agent for, who were not into being career novelists. Now I evaluate writers to see how many books they have in them. If they will keep growing, and promote their books.
2. I wish I had known my worth and how much to charge.
3. I wish I had known how to separate the “wannabe writers” and the true story tellers. Over the years, I’ve mentored many writers and now I know the difference.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
Do read, read, read. Study the craft. Take writing classes. Join writing critique groups.
Don’t approach an agent before your manuscript has been edited and rewritten.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
That this is a craft and it takes time and study. Any endeavor from art, to sports, to music will take practice to develop your expertise and skill set, so writing is no different. Writing deals with knowing how to get reader engagement, how to develop dramatic tension, build hero empathy, and a vicarious experience for the reader.
Tell us something few know about you?
I like to do line dancing with my Seniors on the Move group. I worked as a social worker 23 years; 7 years in Detroit, then 16 years Los Angeles.
I’ve been in the literary industry since 1998. I am a mentor for many writers.
I currently book coach authors to help content edit and upload their books up on Kindle. My latest client, Sandi Webb, author of Out of Ignorance, hit the Amazon best seller’s list after one day on November 21, 2012.
I am the mother of 4 adult children; I have 13 grandchildren. I am currently working on my first independent film, Hollywood Blues, based on my novel, LA Blues.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to read. I love movies. Now that I’ve become a producer, I like evaluating films, and listening to the director’s cut on the Netflix films I order.
I pitch books and films to publishers and movie producers. I edit or ghostwrite other writers’ books.
What do you do to interact with your readers?
I am in a senior book club at Faithful Central Baptist in Inglewood, where I have had my books read. I also promote the writers I’m the agent for.
I teach writing classes where I meet readers.
I use Facebook, twitter, linked in, and pinterest to reach out to readers. I’ve been interviewing writers in order to promote their works since 1999 on my website, then from 2002, on Internet Radio Show. I currently still interview writers on Artistfirst.com, which reaches a growing number of Internet readers. I talk about my books every week.
Our theme for this month is BUSINESS OF WRITING. What were you surprised by about the business side of writing?
When I first went into writing, I was just about writing my own books. Since I’ve been on the business side of writing, I’ve found that this is a business where a writer can make money in more ways than just writing their own books. Someone has to write back covers, format books, eBooks, write synopses, ghostwrite, and negotiate book and film deals. You can make a lucrative living in the industry. I’ve edited and ghostwritten numerous books over the years.
Who was the first author you ever met?
In 1968, I met the now famous Joyce Carol Oates at a writer’s conference in Oakland, MI, when she was still a relatively new author. This happenstance came about after I organized a walk-out for Black students while I was in the twelfth grade. I was always an activist. As a result of the walk out, we were given a Black history class and a black lit class.
It was my English Lit teacher who took me to the conference when she saw my first manuscript, about being the first black student to attend St. Francis high in Traverse City, MI. the year before when I was in the eleventh grade.
Oprah always asks, what do you know for sure?
I do know when you have a passion for writing, you will take the classes, study the craft, and read writers in the field or genre you’re interested in. You will attend writers’ conferences. You will do whatever it takes to be successful.
This is a marathon you can participate in as long as you live. Since 1998, I’ve met writers who dropped out the field, and I think they only wanted the status. A true story teller will weather the slow times, the ups and downs of the industry, and the lack of recognition. They will keep sharpening their craft and building an audience for their work.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
LA Blues III (5 Smooth Stones), is due out in August 2013. It is the follow-up to book 1 and in the LA Blues series.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website) twitter, face book, LinkedIn.
I can be reached at email@example.com, http://www.maxinethompson.com , and http://www.maxinethompsonbooks.com. I’m on twitter at @MaxineEThompson, Facebook at Maxine-Thompson, and Linked in/Maxine Thompson.
SORMAG celebrates 12 years this year, Can you tell us what SORMAG has meant to you as a reader and writer?
Congratulations on celebrating 12 years. Your magazine was a pioneer for emags.
I have enjoyed reading Sormag over the years. The magazine has always been very professional. I love how the magazine has given a platform to both African American and multi-cultural writers, plus self-published and traditionally published writers.
Kudos to you, LaShaunda Hoffman. Continued success!
LA Blues by Maxine Thompson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Gc5VxiiFrY
LA Blues Reading by Dr. Michelle McGriff http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kA061t6OBE
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