In what she called her most "candid interview" to date, Bestselling author Tina Brooks McKinney reveals much about herself and her inspiration in this interview you will read only with Conversations. The woman who has brought us lots of "drama" through her books (ALL THAT DRAMA and LAWD MO' DRAMA and FOOL, STOP TRIPPIN� March 2008) is not without a little bit of it herself as you will see here.
Tina, it is a pleasure to talk with you. I want to get into your two bestselling novels in a minute, but first tell our readers a little about who Tina Brooks McKinney is.I am a simple person. I love to read and I have a very active imagination. For as long as I can remember I�ve been weaving tales however, All That Drama was the first one that I ever finished.
Looking back to your childhood, was it just a given that you would become a writer? What were your interests then?
I had the acting bug! I wanted to be on stage and almost made it. I played Charlie Brown in a high school play and was asked to quit school and tour with the play. I was in the 10th grade of a private catholic high school and my parents thought I lost my damn mind! Needless to say, I left acting alone.
Tina, one of the things that impressed me about your writing is how raw it is. Were your family and friends surprised to see that come out, or were they used to it by the time the books came out?
No one was surprised about how I write because that is pretty much how I am in real life. I don�t believe in sugar coating anything. This gets me into trouble at work because they don�t know what I�m liable to say but I keep it real. The only time I censor myself if I am going to hurt someone�s feelings other than that, a duck is a duck. Two of my friends in particular worried the hell out of me to write my stories.
You address some very serious subjects in your work: abuse and sexual confidence to name a couple. Why did you choose to come out with such heavyhitters right out of the literary gate.
Oh lawd, this is probably the most candid interview I�ve ever done but you told me to be myself so I�m going to keep it real here as well. When I started All That Drama, it was about a real life friend who used to tell me stories that would weigh me down so I started writing about it. However, I also used this time to expose some of my own personal pain. The character Marie is me for the most part. I went through a very nasty and bitter divorce and I had to have some way to get rid of my pain. I didn�t experience all the things that I wrote about but a lot of them are true.
Low self-esteem and sexual repression are a part of my make up. Writing it helps me deal with these two very real problems that exists in many women today.
Tell us a little about the writing process for you: What led you to begin ALL THAT DRAMA, and did you know right from the beginning that you intended to get it published?
All That Drama started as a competition between me and a former friend. I always said I would write and she challenged me to a writing contest. At the end of the contest, I found out that she didn�t even enter and the end result was All That Drama.
I let a few people read it and they convinced me to try to get it published.
Your books are distributed through Strebor Books, the company that bestselling author Zane founded. How did your relationship with her begin?
Zane was the inspiration behind my writings in the first place. I read Addicted and I said "I can do that!" LOL I didn�t mean that I could write like the diva herself, I meant that I could tell a story that would mean something at the end of the day. So, I began writing. However, I didn�t submit the story to her right away. I was afraid. I sent it to every publishing company known to man and all of them said no but the same friend that convinced me to write in the first place said something real simple. She said "you wrote it for Zane, send it to her." Part of my problem with doing that was that if she said no, I knew I would never write again. Several painstaking weeks after that, I sent it.
I didn�t really expect to hear from her until she sent me an instant message one evening and I damn near passed out. She said she had my book on her nightstand. Zane belonged to a on-line reading group that I was in. I remember sending her an email asking her if she read books by "Joe Blow Public," and she responded, "when the book is finished send me a query letter and three chapters."
To date, nothing in my life can compare to the feeling I had when I actually spoke to Zane on the phone. I really could not breath! If she hadn�t told me to, I probably would have passed out.
Was there any pressure or hesitation, knowing what kind of writing she was known for?
Not at all, in fact Zane fit right up my alley. I didn�t write as freaky as she did but I had my moments LOL. I had one agent say to me "not no but HELL NO, the same week that Zane accepted my book. I wanted to write him back so bad and say nah nah a nah nah nah. But I didn�t. I thanked him for his response because most of them didn�t respond at all.
I am always interested, Tina, in how an author feels when they first see their name in print. Can you tell us a little about the first time you held ALL THAT DRAMA in your hands?
I took off work the day it was going to be delivered. I stayed home all that day waiting, a nervous wreck. It didn�t come and my husband had to go to the UPS office and get it. When he came home that evening, he put the box in my lap and I cried! I had rollers in my hair and he was snapping pictures, snot and all. To see you book in print is like a difficult labor. It�s your baby.
And your sophomore project: were there any fears as to how it would measure up to such a strong debut?
Although All That Drama made a strong debut, I took a lot of hits from it. A lot of people did not like the way it ended. I got death threats LOL. They wanted me to give it a happy ending. And this colored the way I wrote my 2nd novel. I regret doing that because I wasn�t being true to me. Life does not always have a happy ending. I tried to tie up all the loose ends in the first book that readers mentioned but it didn�t strike a cord in me like my first novel. I learned a valuable lesson with Lawd, Mo� Drama, always be true to me. This book also deals with some heavy social issues that I am no way discounting I just wish I was brave enough at the time to address them in my own fashion.
Tina, when you sit down to write now, is it more for yourself or your fans?
Now, I write for me. I pay attention to my readers but I won�t allow it to dictate the story line as I did with my last book. If as I am writing I feel like someone needs to die, then damn it they are dead.
What would you say is now your motivation as a storyteller?
My biggest message to all is to love yourself. Don�t allow yourself to be defined by someone else�s MO. I can�t say it enough because so many people are affected by it. Myself included but I�M A HELL OF A LOT BETTER.
Can you tell us a little about what we can expect next from you?
Expect the unexpected. I will not write inside a box. I don�t live in one and I refuse to allow my characters to exist in one. I have so many stories to tell, all with a message that I believe needs to be heard, I just have to find the time to write them.
Thank you for your time. Do you have anything you want to say to your fans?
I just want them to know that I will always try to give them a good story. If it takes a long time, don�t blame me. The process is long, very long. My next book is due in March but it was completed last year. Also, don�t put authors up on this pedestal, we want and need to hear from you. We love you as much as you love or hate us.
What about to aspiring authors? What would you say to encourage them?
This is not an easy business. You must develop a thick skin and determine why you are in the game. If it�s for fortune, you are probably in the wrong business. If you love telling stories then find your niche. Be determined and let nothing stop you in your pursuit.
One last thing: if our readers want to visit you online or write you to tell you their thoughts, how can they do so?
I answer all emails. It may take a moment and to speed up the process, put in the subject line, something that will make me open it first. My email address is email@example.com. You can visit me on the web at www.tinamckinney.com or myspace at www.myspace.com/tinamckinney. I also host an internet radio show every week on Wednesday at 7:00 EST at www.blogtalkradio.com/tinabrooksmckinney. On the show, I interview some of the authors that you are reading and some you need to know!