ES: Perhaps the biggest inspiration for writing Lenny Gray was the genealogical research I did on my paternal grandparents. I wanted to give some sort of deeper understanding of the circumstances and situations they had to live through. Although Lenny Gray is presented as a work of historical fiction, it is deeply rooted in research.
DL: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?ES: The first book that comes to mind is Zora Neale Hurston’s book Their Eyes Were Watching God. I loved this book because I felt like I knew her characters. They felt like they were both friends and family members. They were flawed and complex but undeniably lovable.
DL: How long did it take to write your book?ES: I worked on Lenny Gray on and off for about 5 years.
DL: Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?ES: For Lenny Gray I used an outline. Since the book travels forward in time from 1918-1951 there were a number of historical events that I had to accurately time like the Spanish Flu Outbreak, the Great Flood of 1927, and boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling to name a few.
DL: Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?ES: This is an awesome question. Yes. For this work I had to listen to music for a number of reasons. 1) Listening to early 20th century music from the Mississippi Delta helped to transport me back to the era. 2) It helped me to nail dialect and how storytelling was performed during that era which was invaluable during the time I was in the booth recording the audiobook. Here is a link to some songs that I listened to during the production of the book.
DL: What are the keys to success in marketing your book(s)?ES: Perhaps the biggest key to the success of a book is leveraging social media. There are so many platforms that are available. From websites to podcasts it is much easier to get the word out about a book.
DL: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?ES: Study the craft of storytelling and create a work that will be worth a reader’s time. When someone picks up a work of literature it should have something to say to the reader that informs, enlightens, or transforms them on some level.
DL: How about sharing an excerpt from Lenny GrayES: I’ll do better than that. I’ll share a link to where you can hear a 4-minute excerpt about Lenny Gray.
Set in early 20th century Mississippi, Lenny Gray yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within. She has known from an early age that she is meant to live a better life, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women and, particularly, African American women.
Lenny Gray is set in motion when she attempts to escape from marriage to a loathsome man. Under the cloak of nightfall, Lenny rushes towards nearby train tracks to begin her walk north towards a better future. Before long, she is caught by Curly, the father of her unborn child, who gives her an ultimatum.
DL: What’s next for you?ES: I have a number of projects I'm working on. I’m currently in the process of narrating several books for other authors. At present I’m narrating a book called, When God Gives Us Spring by a Canadian writer. The book is a work of historical fiction that follows a man from slavery to freedom in Canada with the help of Quakers. The story takes place between 1805-1865. Once that’s done, I will start narrating a young adult book called, Kissing My Best Friend’s Brother. After that, I will be working on my next book tentatively titled, Someone From The Past.
DL: Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.
Listen to the S.T.A.R. Book Club discuss Lenny Gray: