Electa Rome Parks currently resides outside Atlanta, Georgia. After successfully self-publishing her debut novel, The Ties That Bind, New American Library, a division of Penguin Group, bought the rights. Electa signed a three-book deal with New American Library. All three books were immediately chosen as Black Expressions Book Club main selections and embraced as Books of the Month by book clubs across the country. Dubbed a "book club favorite," avid readers have embraced Electa's true to life characters that tackle prevalent and heavy hitting issues.
Since then Electa has become a bestselling author of several other mainstream (Loose Ends and Almost Doesn't Count) and erotic (These Are My Confessions and Ladies' Night Out) novels with Penguin Group and HarperCollins. The self-proclaimed, Queen of Real, Electa has been a frequent guest on radio shows, has been nominated for many industry awards and has been interviewed by newspapers, AOL's Black Voices, Vibe Vixen, Upscale Magazine, Today's Black Woman, Rolling Out and Booking Matters, to name just a few. With a BA degree in marketing and a minor in sociology, she is following her true passion and working on her next novel.
To find out when and where Electa will be in your area, check out her website or her MySpace page. To share your thoughts with Electa regarding her work or to schedule an event, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Never judge a book by its cover. . .
Xavier Preston is tall, dark, and handsome, and the problem is that he knows it. He's a bestselling author who is accustomed to adoring female fans, both young and old, flirting with him, throwing themselves shamelessly at him, and trying to get between more than the covers of his novels. He has always been more than willing to accommodate their needs and desires; however, his womanizing days have finally ended. He's engaged to a beautiful woman, Kendall, and he's decided to walk the straight and narrow. Or has he?
From outside appearances, the very stunning Pilar has it all: a great career, a beautiful home, and a trust fund that keeps her financially secure; however, looks can be deceiving. All that glitters isn't necessarily gold. Pilar is searching for her perfect soul mate, and she thinks she has found him in Xavier. She believes in going after what she wants with a vengeance . . . and she wants Xavier. That is not negotiable. She will have him, even if it kills him.
When Xavier meets his fanatical fan, Pilar, he gets much more than he bargained for. What starts out as an erotic one-night stand quickly spirals out of control into a dangerous game of obsession and pain with both parties playing to win.
Think you know what goes on behind the literary scene? Think again.
When did you fall in love with writing?
Wow! I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t madly and passionately in love with writing. Writing has always been an essential part of me, of who I am as a person. It defines me in many ways.
I always jokingly state that I have a passionate love affair going on with writing. Our torrid affair has consumed me for much of my life. Writing is in my blood and I can’t imagine life without it. My very spirit would probably shrivel up and die if I couldn’t write. Writing is my therapy. My Voice. My sincere expression of the world as seen through my eyes.
I've been following you since you indie-published your first book nearly seven, eight years ago. During this time, what are three important things you learned about writing and the publishing industry?
Time does fly! It doesn’t feel like it has been that long.
Shon, I know you wanted three important things I’ve learned about writing and the publishing industry, but I simply couldn’t condense it. LOL
1. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Everyone is not going to love or even like your novels. And that’s OKAY.
2. Everyone, their mother and cousins will want to point out any editorial errors they may find within the pages of your books. Everyone’s a critic.
3. You don’t necessarily have to go to college to become a successful writer. I believe there are elements of writing that comes naturally, just like breathing.
4. Everyone thinks they can write a book. However, every book in the marketplace isn’t necessarily a good book.
5. Everyone thinks their life story should be a book.
6. Talent will only get you so far. Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
7. The right “handlers”, i.e. agents, editors, pr person, make all the difference in the world.
8. Every fiction novel has some element(s) of truth. Don’t believe the hype.
9. Writing is a business. Sales are the bottom line. No matter how talented you are, if you don’t have the sales, you won’t get the next deal.
10. There is such a synergy when creative minds come together; it’s magic.
11. There is such a sense of freedom and joy in having the ability, from the very core of your soul to express yourself to the world; it’s almost like giving birth.
12. The new “renaissance” authors are making history and some are creating legacies.
13. Writing is a lonely and hard business to be successful in. Most of us can’t quit our day jobs.
14. Every author should pen at least one book that gives back to the universe in a positive, appealing manner to the masses.
15. You have to have a real love affair with the beauty and power of words in order to stick with it because the industry, like a lover, will take you through ups and down and sometimes screw you over.
You are the author of six novels; how have you grown as a writer from the first book to your latest, Diary of a Stalker?
Since the introduction of my first book, The Ties That Bind, I sincerely hope that I’ve shown growth as a writer; I think I have. Even though I have no formal training in creative writing, I have always attempted to improve my craft by studying books and literary magazines on writing techniques and such, reading other bestselling authors to gage what has made them successful and taking an occasional creative writing class. As with any profession, I feel it is imperative that authors are constantly striving to improve their craft so that they may send an even stronger, eloquent and more powerful message to the reading public.
What themes do you find yourself connecting to more often in your works? Why do you think they resonate with you so?
I have been termed a women’s fiction writer and I gladly accept that title. I tend to write about topical issues that are prevalent in our communities and that affect women in general. My backlist titles have addressed such controversial issues ranging from domestic abuse, molestation, dysfunctional families, low self-esteem issues to powerful friendships amongst women.
These themes resonate with me because they pull on my heartstrings, call out to my spirit, affect our lives in some form or fashion and I feel if I can make a difference, no matter how small, by being a voice for someone who may be going through similar situations, well, that makes it all worthwhile; it’s an added bonus.
Which book has been your most favorite to write, and why?
Wow! No, you can’t take it there. Shon, that is definitely not a fair question. I simply cannot choose between my “babies”; I refuse (LOL). They are all my favorites and I love them equally for different reasons. They each have different personalities (storylines) and qualities that define who and what they are and that makes them unique. I could never choose. . . (smile). The Ties That Bind, Loose Ends, Almost Doesn’t Count, Ladies' Night Out, These Are My Confessions and now, Diary of a Stalker, all, hold a special place in my heart and spirit. I birthed these “babies.”
Think about the books you have written. Which one has the best first line? What's the line? What do you like it the best?
The Ties That Bind has the best first line.
The line is: “They say there comes a time in every man’s life when he has to stand up and be a man.”
I like that line the best because it is absolutely true and that one sentence sets the tone for the entire book. That one sentence is like the moral to the storyline.
Your latest novel is Diary of a Stalker; how did the premise for the story come about?
Since it has been a couple of years since my last novel, Ladies’ Night Out, dropped, I wanted this new release to be something a little different from my previous novels. Yet, I wanted to maintain the core elements that my books are known for. So the drama, the fast-paced nature, the steamy relationship-based elements are still alive and well.
I attend, or used to, a lot of literary events such as conferences, signings, workshops, etc. After awhile, I started to notice a pattern no matter what city or state I was in. Even though the avid readers, mostly female, poured much love my way, I noticed the male authors received an extra dose (smile). Maybe because there aren’t as many male authors?? And I noticed, if I attended a large event, I would see some of the same female readers around the same male authors. Hmmmm. Could groupies really exist in the literary arena? So then, I started thinking about how groupies follow rock banks, rappers, professional athletics and entertainers. Why wouldn’t this exist in the literary arena as well? Throw a few over the top “what if questions” into the mix and Diary of a Stalker was born.
How was the writing process? Did you take time to outline and plot before writing, or did you start with the idea and run with the words?
Outline and plot. . . what’s that? Just kidding!
Seriously, I have never outlined and plotted a single book I have ever written. As you stated, I simply start with an idea and run with the words. Magic seems to happen when I use that writing process; I find it to be more honest, raw and real.
For instance, completing Diary of a Stalker wasn’t difficult at all. I find that once I’ve defined my characters and have a general storyline, my stories typically flow with little effort. I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve never experienced writer’s block. Once my characters become one with me, and I’m living and breathing them, dreaming about them, feeling as if they are actual people, then it is simply writing the story down.
What are three adjectives you would use to describe Diary of a Stalker?
Haunting (stays with you long after you’ve read the last page; makes you say, “Damn!”), erotic, thriller
Social Media - blogs, micro-blogging, social networking sites - is the place to be these days to help with promoting and marketing literary works. What are three things you are doing to promote/market your novels?
I made the decision to try a different marketing strategy this time around. The industry has drastically changed and what worked in the past no longer works in today’s volatile environment. I chose to deter from the traditional brick and mortar route.
I intend to:
- Maintain a strong online presence via social networking sites
- Connect with book clubs across the nation
- Advertise on various online sites
From Diary of a Stalker...
Darkness surrounded her with a thick cloak of protection; shadows bounced and ricocheted off the walls. She embraced it with open arms, like welcoming a long-lost friend back into the fold.
Silence. She felt safe now. While most people gravitated towards the light, she embraced the night, the cover of darkness. From experience she knew that deeds not meant to be seen or heard were best carried out in the deep, secretive confines of the night.
Quietly and painfully slow, she crept out of the shadows, cautiously pushed clothes aside, opened the closed closet door and existed with precision. Her footsteps were deliberate and calculated. She knew every creak and crevice from memory. She walked with the confident stride of someone who was comfortable with her surroundings.
Ever so cautiously, she pushed the closet door open, just an inch. Stopped and listened. Then another inch. Then another. Silence, except for the even sound of breathing. She knew he was a deep sleeper, but she still didn't want to take any chance of him waking up. Tonight wouldn't be the night when she became careless. Even though she had been here before, numerous times, this was the first time with him being inside the house.
With the slinkiness and sneakiness of a feline stalking her prey, she moved from inside the closet to the master bedroom. Stopped just short of the massive bed and simply watched. Watched and reveled in the closeness they shared. Being in the same space with him thrilled her.
She had to force herself to breath because he took her breath away. Every time. He did it for her. If only he would love her back. Even if it were only with a quarter of the love she felt for him. . . she'd still be satisfied. He slept on his back, breathing evenly, legs sprawled wide, with a thin sheet pulled up to his waist. She knew that underneath he was completely nude.
It took all she had not to reach out and touch him. She was so close, yet so far away. In her mind, he was absolutely perfect. Perfect for her. Her eyes eagerly and greedily took him in. Ravished him with her deep carnal yearning.
Why couldn't he simply love her back? This question played out in her mind over and over again, each and every day. Crippling her. Crushing her confidence. Making her crazy. Crazy like a loon. Sometimes she hated him. Hated him with a devastating passion. Those were the days she wanted to do something bad to him. Wanted to hurt him. Make him pay for not loving her.
Tonight, she simply watched. She stood there for hours and watched him peacefully sleep. If he had awakened and looked a few feet in front of him, he would have easily spotted her. Her desire to be near him overrode her fear of being caught.
Once she had her fill of him, she silently crept down the stairwell and out the front door, quietly closing it behind her. The next morning he would be none the wiser. Only the faint smell of her perfume would remain. He'd imagine he dreamt of a dark figure towering over him. Watching. And waiting. Waiting until it was time.
I'm your #1 fan.
It's funny how one's life can forever be changed with the utterance of four simple words: I'm your #1 fan. Well, actually, they weren't spoken, but sent to my favorite male author, Xavier Preston, by way of e-mail. Man, I love the World Wide Web.
I couldn't believe it; I had recently finished reading his latest national bestseller, Secret Desires, and to put it mildly, I was simply blown away. I felt like the main character was speaking directly to me, like she was inside my brain, picking it apart, piece-by-piece. I could relate to the storyline . . . totally . . . and the ending was spectacular, took my breath away. Secret Desires stayed with me, languishing inside my soul, like a sweet kiss that lingers into the early morning hours as dawn approaches.
Even though I am an avid reader, I should be since I'm a freelance writer; I typically do not contact authors about their books. I don't get caught up in the entire groupie side of the literary industry. Yes, it exists! Surprise, surprise! There is an entire circle of women all across the country, sometimes entire book clubs, who follow the lives and movement of African-American male writers the same way groupies chase after rappers, rock stars, athletes and actors.
In the book industry, it is just a bit more subtle. For example, the book club president might fly the handsome, fine, articulate male author into her city for the weekend, to discuss his most recent hot release at the monthly book club meeting and to perhaps get the added bonus of getting up close and personal between the sheets. It happens.
For me, however, this was different; Xavier Preston made a lasting impression. And generally it took a lot to impress me because I wasn't into the ordinary and I was determined to tell him, how impressed I was. That is, after I went out and purchased all his previous novels. I had a bit of catching up to do.
A week later, after devouring his other six novels from cover to cover like a delicious gourmet meal, savoring every word, I knew I had to make contact. I simply had an unrelenting urge to speak with him. I couldn't get his lyrical, rhythmic, flowing words out of my head. This man moved me. Moved me like I had never been moved before. I felt a connection. A deep connection.
Early one morning, before I began writing an article for one of the local magazines I frequently wrote for, I sent Xavier Preston my sincere, honest thoughts.
"Mr. Preston, I'm your #1 fan. I know you hear that all the time from readers, but I really, truly am. Your characters stay with me long after I've consumed the last page of your books. I never want your stories to end; they move me. You are super-talented, put these other authors to shame, and I'd love for you to autograph my books. By the way, I have all your novels. When will you be in Atlanta? A true, die-heart fan, Pilar.”
Much to my surprise and pleasure, a couple of days later, I received a simple response.
“Pilar, what a lovely name. Thank you, for the sweet e-mail. I'm so pleased you've enjoyed my books over the years. I'd love to meet you as well. I enjoy meeting and greeting my readers. I will be signing at Medu Bookstore, at 5:00 PM next Saturday at Greenbriar Mall. Please, stop by if you get the opportunity. I would love to see you there. Xavier.”
With a pounding heartbeat, I couldn't believe what I was reading and I re-read it a few more times for clarity. Wanted to make sure I was reading correctly that Xavier Preston asked to meet me. Me. Next weekend couldn't arrive soon enough.
It was Friday afternoon, a week after I had received Xavier's e-mail, and I was lying across my bed, admiring the author photo of Xavier on the back cover of his debut title. Outlining his features with my index finger. He had such soulful, penetrating brown eyes and the sexiest pair of dimples I had ever seen. Such a handsome man. I was so caught up in looking at the picture that I almost forgot I had Leeda on the phone. Leeda and I had been friends since my days in Baltimore. I moved to Atlanta almost four years ago. Had to get out of Baltimore. Held too many memories, most of them bad.
“Pilar, for the life of me, I can't understand why you are so excited about meeting this author. My God, he's only an author. It's not like he's Jay-Z or Denzel,” she exclaimed in her usual authoritative sounding voice, with a bit of amusement.
I sighed inwardly because Leeda didn't understand, or maybe couldn't understand, no matter how many times or how hard I tried to explain it to her.
“Xavier gets me. Period. He gets me. Read Secret Desires and you'll understand. It's as if he patterned the main character after me. Like he peeked inside my bedroom window and started writing. It's almost eerie. I have never met this man a day in my life, but it's like he reached inside my mind and penned my thoughts on paper.”
"Pilar, there are many women who think exactly as you do. They are looking for a handsome soulmate and think there is only one true love for them. You aren't the only woman in the world who is a hopeless romantic. Your thoughts are not unique in that aspect."
Leeda could never understand, so I simply gave up trying to convince her that this was different. Xavier was different; I could feel it deep in my bones.
"Well, it won't hurt anything for me to attend the signing, after all, he did invite me. I can at least get my books autographed. Years from now, who knows, they might be very valuable."
"True. Just don't go there with expectations that are only in your mind," Leeda said.
"Whatever," I stated with an exasperated sigh.
"Pilar, don't get so defensive. You know how you are. We've discussed it before. Every man you meet who is kind to you is not the one. I don't want to see you hurt again."
"Please, lets not even go there," I said.
"Okay, if you say so. Just remember, life is what you make it. You don't need a man to make you whole."
"I know that but I have a feeling that Xavier Preston is going to change my life for the better," I stated with a huge smile. I was on a natural high. A Xavier high.
Never trust a big butt and a smile.
I've been in the literary game for several years now, with seven best-selling novels to my name. I figured out a long time ago that I have the gift of gab, of storytelling. . . and I love women. All shapes, sizes, colors and ethnicities. I don't discriminate; I believe in equal opportunity. Becoming a novelist was a natural progression seeing as how I've been telling tall tales my entire life. Women purchase most books, which is a good thing since my target market is definitely women, especially African American. If I depended on men for my livelihood, I would literally be a starving artist.
At this stage of the game, I have pretty much seen it all and done it all. If I must say so myself, I've led an exciting life. The stories I could tell. However, my "psycho bitch" radar must have been malfunctioning when this chick named Pilar first approached me. Damn, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth just to spit that bitch's name off of my tongue.
Never in a million years could anyone have told me that sweet face and banging body would spell trouble with a capital T. Never in a million years. I guess it's true. . . never judge a book by it's cover. If I knew then what I know now, I would have pressed delete real quick when I received her very first e-mail.
"I'm your #1 fan!" Pilar didn't send an e-mail; she sent a virus, in the form of her very presence.
So sweet and accommodating---a boost to my already over-inflated ego, at least that's what I've been told. I received e-mails like that all the time from adoring female fans, so it never crossed by mind that inviting Pilar to my book signing would set my nightmare into motion, with my life quickly spiraling out of control and Pilar as the driver.
Even if I wrote the events that transpired into one of my novels, no one would believe them. They'd think Pilar was just a fabricated, figment of my vivid imagination. Sometimes I think she is. Wake up hoping and praying that she is. However, I'm not that lucky.
I wish. . . I wish I could go back and rewrite the storyline, which is my life. Do some line editing and write that crazy ass bitch out of the major scenes, hell the entire book. No, I'd kill her off in the first couple of chapters. Have her die a slow and torturous death. Yeah, that would make me happy. Very happy indeed.
Now, it's much too late for that. I have to deal with the consequences of my actions---or lack of. It's true---that line from an old BBD song---never trust a big butt and a smile.
I'm hardheaded; I had to learn the hard way.