Author’s Bio: MaRita Teague has a master’s in English from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a bachelor’s from The Ohio State University. She has taught college English composition for many years. MaRita has published both fiction and non-fiction and has written the inspirational blog, Abiding in the Vine, Writing to Bear Fruit, for almost ten years. She also does freelance writing for Urban Ministries, Inc., among other organizations. She has contributed to a number of publications, most notably, A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers, All My Good Habits I Learned from Grandma, and Living the Serenity Prayer. Every Closed Eye Ain’t Sleep is her second novel (Urban Books-Kensington October 2015). Her first novel, The Taste of Good Fruit was published by Harrison House Publishing Company. MaRita speaks to women’s groups and is on the leadership team for the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Washington, DC. She resides in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and three sons.
What inspired you to write your book?
One of my inspirations for the book came from the losing my dear Aunt Gaile to inflammatory breast cancer. She was a jazz vocalist and a light in my life. I had never heard of inflammatory breast cancer, which is very aggressive. When she passed away a short time after her diagnosis, I decided that even in fiction, I could bring some level of awareness to the disease. That’s one thing that was important for me to do in the story.
On another very different note, I’ve always been intrigued by the complexity of the mother/daughter relationship. I wanted to delve into that relationship with what happens when one woman takes the road of settling in a relationship and what the fallout is for the other. Both women in the story find out what happens when they’re forced to face the very thing they’ve feared the worst.
Finally, I wanted to really show how difficult it can be for professional women, but more specifically African American women, to find love. Internet dating is still a hot topic among some, so I wanted to show the fun side and the risks of that issue as well.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Aside from the Bible, I think that it would be too difficult to pick one book. However, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker have influenced me greatly. They showed me early on that it was possible and acceptable for me to write about African American women. They also take risks and stretch me as a writer. They give me so much inspiration to work harder. I also really loved Delores Phillips’ novel, The Darkest Child, and Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow. I think of these women authors often when I’m writing, and they stretch and inspire me as a writer.
Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
This is my second novel, and it took me much longer than expected to write it because I had several relocations and a baby in the process. I really took my time to get the story where I wanted it to be.
Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I really admire writers who can use outlines. I’ve attempted and found that it’s better for me to let it flow organically. Often, when I write, the characters don’t do the things or say the things that I expect them to, and I’m okay with that. That being said, I do always have a general plot and characters mapped out early on in the process.
Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
I often listen to jazz, and I think John Coltrane’s Naima fits the mood of the story.
What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
If I only had that figured out! Aside from the normal book signing events and book club meetings, I think that using social media has been very important for me. I have also found that resting in who I am as an author and letting that be my brand instead of forcing something that isn’t has been effective. People are drawn to authenticity. I’ve also been blessed to connect with a small group of women authors who have been helping me to develop new strategies to market since so much has changed in the book industry over the years. Connecting and collaborating is smart. It’s difficult to try to do it all yourself.
What advice would you give to new authors?
My advice would be to read what you love, and write what you love. So many people tell me that they want to write, but they aren’t avid readers. It’s amazing how helpful it can be to read, especially in the genre you’d like to write.
I guess another thing would be to set aside a time to write. Writing takes a lot of discipline, and it’s a lonely process in some respects. You have to get to know your characters and develop them so that you can’t wait to spend time with them. That takes the loneliness out of the process for me. They are so many things vying for our attention, so I think actually setting aside time often to write is very important.
How about sharing an excerpt from Every Closed Eye Ain’t 'Sleep?
Backing out wasn’t an option.
For the third straight year, I didn’t say no to my secret crush, Lionel Banks, who naturally possessed a charisma rivaling President Obama’s. With aspirations to run for mayor, Lionel, the coordinator of the festival, treated every woman like the only one on earth.
Crush or not, I planned to run in the opposite direction of Lionel’s cool and easy swagger this year. That soothing baritone had done nothing to offset my third straight financial loss from participating as a vendor at the Harlem Renaissance Festival, even if the vendor fees assisted Huntsville’s inner city cultural arts program.
Enough was enough, I decided while putting the finishing touches on my booth area. This would be the last year. People wanted to buy ribs, grilled corn, and bootleg DVDs and CDs, not the handmade upscale jewelry I sold.
After hanging the final set of earrings up, I was struck by the massive chocolate-covered body headed directly for my booth. I held my sigh on the inside, and asked, “May I help you with something?”
“I believe you can, sweet sister.” He cocked his head to the side, scanning my curves.
I placed my hand on my hip. “What exactly do you need?”
His squinty eyes hid when he smiled, the twinkle of mischief narrowly escaped. In spite of his dirty sneakers, a definite turnoff, his amber-scented cologne wafted through the air just enough to send a quick tingle down my spine. The muscle man clouded my good sense, and overlooking his shoes became easier as I reflected on my lonely days and nights. In mere minutes, as I had done too many times before, I threw my graduate degree–toting, upper class–reared and etiquette-trained self out the window, relinquishing my power to the inviting smile.
The dark stranger pretended to admire my jewelry and casually picked up a pair of iridescent purple and gold chandelier earrings, my personal favorite. “These are some nice earrings. You make these, girl?”
The jewels sparkled, gleaming in the blazing August sunlight. He dangled them and grinned, obviously feeling my gaze. Nothing irritated me more than a brother who talked like a caveman. As a college English instructor at an HBCU, I loved when men used correct English; yet, I couldn’t deny that the man’s charisma held me in a trance.
“Girl?” I asked, looking behind me as if the mysterious “girl” would appear. “I’m nobody’s girl, but I did make them,” I said with enough attitude to run any sane man off.
He turned away grinning, holding his hands up. “My bad, my bad. Missus?”
I ignored his question and in a much too high pitch remarked, “Those took me the longest to make. Good taste.”
Muscle man scratched his gleaming bald head. “People do always tell me that I got good taste.”
I winced. Subject verb agreement is always a plus in a man but again I reminded myself that education wasn’t everything.
His grin widened as he rhythmically moved his head to the calypso jazz resounding through the park, flashing his too white teeth. I couldn’t help noticing that his top teeth were shades whiter and perfectly straight. The bottom row, the color of dirty snow, peeped through every now and then when he spoke. Had he whitened the top and not the bottom?
He flipped the earrings over to check the price and then gripped his chest as if he were having a heart attack. “Whew! You proud of these, ain’t you, girl?”
I looked away and folded my arms. “If you don’t stop calling me girl, we’re going to have a serious problem. My name is Desiree.”
He stepped back to examine the sign on the front of the table skirt. “Yeah, okay, Desi’s Designs, I get it,” he sang, mimicking my business name to the rhythm of the music. “Desi, nice to meet ’cha. I’m Taye, and I guess I’m gonna risk starvin’ next week ’cause I just have to buy these earrings. See, it’s my li’l sis’s birthday. She just loves this kinda stuff.”
Maybe he wasn’t so bad, I thought, trying to grasp at words that wouldn’t come while slowly wrapping his earrings in tissue paper and a customized box. He couldn’t be half bad if he’d buy his sister a relatively expensive gift. I reasoned that even with his raggedy tennis shoes and poor grammar, he did have good taste. The earrings were the best I had on display. “Forty-four dollars and ninety-five cents,” I said, handing the box to him. I made a point to brush his hand as he took the box.
He pulled out his weathered wallet and gave me two twenties and a five. “Keep the change.”
What’s next for you?
I’m near completion on a story that I’m really excited about. It’s set in New Orleans and is about a former attorney turned pastor and his attorney wife who lose their small church and several members after the flooding in Hurricane Katrina. The couple gets a windfall and builds a very successful megachurch. They agree to be featured on a reality television show and get entangled in much more than they bargained for. Overall, the story is about what can happen when we allow others to steer us off course of our God-given purpose.
I plan to continue writing stories that I hope provoke conversation and thought and of course, to inspire and connect.
Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
• Website: www.MaRitaTeague.net
• Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/MaRita-Teague/e/B002ZH3VPM
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marita.teague
• Twitter: @MaRitaTeague
• Blog: MaRitaTeague.wordpress.com
• Book buy Links: http://amzn.com/1622868161
It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.