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Saturday, August 23, 2008
Conversations talks with author Martha Tucker
Martha, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. For those who might not be familiar with you or your work, please give them a brief description.
My work is revealing the myriad of positive African American images that hardly anyone sees. I’m a firm believer that what we see is what we “be-come.”
So for future generations of all races, I work to reveal the more realistic image of African Americans, those Black people who are not the dealers, sex fiends, entertainers and sports figures you always see in the media. Yes, we are those things, but we’re a whole lot more.
I mentioned in my introduction that your life embodies the arts. Tell our readers where that love came from.
I believe that God created every human being for a purpose, to carry out an assignment He needed to be done. Now, no one in my family was artistic, so how did it happen? Well, God must have needed someone to bring the beauty, brilliance and resilience of African American people to the forefront. And that someone was me. So He gave me a love for the arts, groomed me to become a writer. He took a little nobody like me and taught me to know the difference between reality and appearances. I have sense enough to know there are fabulous African Americans in every arena you can think of, but we no one shows them to us, so to most they don’t exist. I wrote a female Barack Obama type before I knew he existed. I gave my character some of the same political issues he has, because it expanded the image of our people to be bigger than our image, give us hope, and a belief in “yes, I can.”
When you look at the book THE MAYOR'S WIFE WORE SAPPHIRES and the impact it has had over the past few years, are you at all surprised at the response?
When it first came out, someone told me that it was a classic kind of book, very unusual, and people of all races needed to meet and know my lead character Indigo Tate—the Black woman who has the good marriage, children in boarding school, and who seemingly has it all, a significant place in our society too. She faces such grave problems because she strived so hard to “make it out.” So since no one ever talks about her, many people will love her, and many will hate her. This literary icon told me to hold on because it would take a little while for people to believe she’s real. Then look, Michelle Obama comes on the scene as proof that she exists. She’s real. She is what I call a strong Black woman. She was written long before I knew Michelle was on the scene. Truth comes out. When you are true to something, you’re never surprised, just pleased. You stay the course and let her run like a wild horse.
Of all the things that you could have done with your life and abilities, why did you decide on a book?
I didn’t decide on a book. The book decided on me. Then a writing career was more important. I wanted the same for every other writer. In my head, I had always been writing a book. But the things I did in life didn’t allow the time to write consistently. I traveled all over the world, I was a good mother, who took my role of raising raised four educated, Christian children seriously. I was so filled with ideas of growing a Camelot in the early days that I was often thought to be “uncontrollable.” Those far out ideas of conquer deprivation for poor Black people caused me lots of pain. I got into all kinds of trouble. I didn’t believe any person should be poor. Children should have insurance, mothers should be able to spend time with her children, and work should be designed for that to happen. Fathers should be a force in the home. Creativity should be a part of daily life.
Your main character, Indigo Tate is what many would call a people person, but she has her own insecurities that she has to overcome in order to move forward in her life. How much of her is in you?
I think that every writer brings a part of himself or herself to the page, and I’m no exception. I mentioned earlier that no one in my family was interested in theatre, culture, travel and the world in general. In fact, my family was one dysfunctional mess, but out of all of it, I “saw” my mother’s brilliance and fortitude. I heard her always say, “You are something special.” My insecurities came from not knowing that I had insecurities. I never accepted that I should be less than anyone else.
Your book deals a lot with the world of politics, and now we find ourselves in a political season. As someone who has lived that high-profiled life in the public eye, what surprises you the most as to what people expect from their elected officials?
No matter what comes after this season, I will always be grateful that I’m alive during it. A Black man, and a White woman are the Democratic leaders, and as much as I like Hillary, she is racially unable to do for America what Barack Obama can do. He can unite and harmonize the US. He can only do that because He is Black, and brilliant, and committed to all people in this country. With that movement, there can be healing, for past injustices, proof that America is a true Democracy, forgiveness for so many injustices, a new kind of harmonious humanity.
You know, everyone says the election was wrestled and stolen from Al Gore, and Blacks always get the same kind of excuses for keeping the heights of America from minorities, or the one the top dogs believe is, “unelectable.” The biggest surprise to me was that Black people thought Obama was unelectable. That surprised me. But as the hand of inevitability took charge and thrust the man out of obsecurity, Blacks came to the forefront in great numbers.
Martha, politics finds itself in so much of what we do today, including the literary arts. How have you gone about getting yourself noticed when the norm is for the "powers that be" to stick to what is proven and well-known in the publishing industry instead of looking to new authors?
Well, I was never worried about the “powers that be” not noticing me. I had to look within myself and see if I could do two things: 1) impact people who read my book in an entertaining and yet positive way. On that issue, I have people calling me at 3 o’clock in the morning telling me how they had to stay up until they finished my book. I didn’t plan to go and make a big splash and sputter. I wanted to build a solid fan base. Everyone who reads my book says, “You got to be on Oprah.” Well, what if Oprah doesn’t choose me, and I hope she will when I’m ready, or she’s ready. But if she doesn’t, I’ll still be Martha “Marti” Tucker, who wrote a breakthrough novel that won the prestigious Cush City “2007 Best New Author Award.” I will still be a woman who helped other writers become impactful new image writers, according their own talents and desires. I will still be…
Have you been in any way jaded by the attitude of some critics and even authors to your work when compared the steamier books that are flooding the African American market?
Well, I’m glad you asked about that, because that scenario has shaped my platform. I went into Border’s one day and ran into a young black girl. “What are teens reading these days?” I asked.
“I’m looking for Video Vixen,” she said while perusing the shelves. I was stunned. “Video Vixen? Isn’t that a bit hot for you?” I asked. “Naw. I’ve read all of ….” She cited another erotica queen’s titles.
I thought of all the teen mothers in my city, whose daughters got pregnant without the lifting of a brow. I thought of all the teen gang members lying in coffins, and young mothers screaming their heads off. I thought of all the Youth Corporate America classes where I familiarized youth with what employers and educators expected them to bring to to the interview with them. And they had none of it. That day, I formed a group of writers who portrayed African American characters who made progress in a real world society. We took those characters to the streets on a bus tour. KTLA spotted us for a day, and the entire event has caused a movement to write three-dimensional, even if flawed, AA characters, and let store owners know that we want to “see” them, so we can “be-come” them—people of noble purpose. Who wants to be those steamy people. I think it’s too much evocation for young guys and girls.
Many may not realize that you are not just the author, but responsible for the promoting of the book as well. For our many readers that are self-published and finding it daunting to wear all the hats involved, please tell them how you managed to keep it together.
First of all, you have to believe you can. Then find mentors, take little classes, experiment and do it. I created a name for myself by believing I could. I set up my days to write on my new book, Internet Market, offline market, set appointments, keep in touch with people. I find that people who are not authors are your best readers, because authors like to swap books. On the New Image Writer’s website, I give sweat equity for knowledgable authors to helping new authors market their books. Foremost, writers have to learn how to stand out in the crowd I worked it out and put it on my site—Anyone can learn to do it in four weeks. Just go to my site. www.newimagewriters.com.
Some people see reaching the Essence Bestsellers List or the Oprah Book Club as success for their book. What is success for you with your writing career, and what do you hope THE MAYOR'S WIFE accomplishes?
I’ve not yet set out to do the Essence Bestseller list, nor Oprah Club because I wanted to learn what my book was about to others. I wanted to make sure I had a worthy book. I wanted to learn the process of having a book that people talk about long after the reading is over. I wanted to know who this book would impact. At last, I’ve done that. Now, I talk to teachers, psychologists, nonprofits that reach teen mothers, I talk to rich folks that can donate to such nonprofits. I talk to churches and colleges, fraternities and book clubs. This book teaches people how harmony can change a nation. That’s what success is for my novel. Naturally, I want to be on Bestseller lists and be on Oprah, oh yes! But more so, I wanted to break down how Black people are affected by politics, so they can register to vote and make things better, and stop saying, “None of it’s going to help me.”
Thank you again for your time, Martha. If our readers want to find out more information about you and upcoming projects, where can they go?
Just go to www.newimagewriters.com, or blog.newimagewriters.com
In closing, is there anything you want to say to your fans and even those who might read the book after this interview?
Books are written to inform and entertain. In the Mayor’s Wife Wore Sapphires, you get both. It is an urban mystery/thriller sprinkled with social commentary, the kind of book that changes lives. And I’d love for you to buy it now: www.newimagewriters.com