Have you always enjoyed writing?
Absolutely not. When I was younger, I was plagued with terrible handwriting and teachers who constantly criticized me for it. I hated writing because of it and limited myself and either spoke my ideas or remained silent. It wasn’t until I attended a trade school for word processing and then studied literature in college.
What motivates you to write?
I write for a variety of reasons, but my primary ones are that I want to tell the world about the experiences of people often overlooked and convey stories filled with social commentary. I want to express humanity in an often an inhumane world.
What writing are you most proud of?
Any of my work that positively affects people gives me pride. I’ve had people tell me they’ve felt empowered or learned something I wrote in a small article as well as more significant works. I’m fortunate that a lot of my work has that effect and hope to continue to create writing that does
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
I don’t want an obituary or eulogy.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
I grew up in abject poverty surrounded by pain and sexual predators. My life changed when I married. My life is a whole lot more stable now. I do draw from my experiences when I write, which is probably why quite a bit of my stories contain domestic violence and sexual abuse in the plots. Its real and a lot of people (especially women) suffer, so I want to keep giving it a voice.
How did you develop your writing?
My writing is a result of a lot of whining, moaning and temper tantrums. I do credit my skills to the phenomenal instructors I had in college who always challenged me to do better as well as an incredible writing coach who demanded it.
It’s been my experience that people who can take criticism and use it as a tool for improvement become some of the best writers. It’s really the only way to progress in the craft.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
I’m a staunch proponent for indie publishing. Historically, publishing has been an industry of gatekeeping and squelching authors’ voices, favoring a few over others based on arbitrary parameters that restrict creativity and opportunities for readers to enjoy some good authors. So, I always encourage authors to strongly consider doing the publishing themselves, the hardest part of which is by far the editing.
Editing is a torturous waiting game and a costly one. You pay three people (content editor, copy editor and proofreader) the chunk of your publishing budget to tear your stuff apart. You agonize over who to trust with your project, and then there is going through them when you get the manuscript back. It is incredibly arduous and capricious. Even publishers don’t get this part of the process right all of the time. I’ve had quite a few authors crying to me over the phone because of issues with their publisher’s selected editor. Editing is entirely the hardest part. Writing the book is a stroll in the park compared to the editing gauntlet.
What else do you do, other than write?
I teach U.S. history and homeschool my children. My work as an educator—both at the college and home—is gratifying. Shifting between collegiate and primary learning can be challenging, but the influence I have as an educator makes it worth it.
How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?
I have a tiny, cluttered corner in my bedroom equipped with a laptop and an additional monitor. The array of writing I have to create in a day (novels, journal articles, blog posts, discussion boards, lesson plans, etc.) requires a lot of back and forth between programs.
I doubt I would write even half of what I do if I had to use a pen and paper. I know plenty of writers who prefer to write by hand first, but I head straight for the keyboard.
How much sleep do you need to be your best?
Sleep? What’s that? My circadian rhythm has been off for decades. Rest is good, but the realities of my life as a writer, instructor, wife, and mother makes it continually elusive.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
My husband. He works very hard so I can do the things I love.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
For me, successful writing is when I get to write what I want and it positively-affects people. A lot of my work addresses issues that make people some people feel uncomfortable, but I do it because it’s important to use my skills to try and affect productive change. Even in my stories, I try to entertain and inform. If I get to do that and influence readers, I’m a successful writer.
A covered Muslim woman would be the last person readers would expect to write a romance. What made you want to write in the genre?
Romance is a driving force of society. Love influences so much of who we are as individuals and societies. Romance novels are more than entertainment. They demonstrate how we navigate through essential human emotions and the ethics we create to do it.
I write romance because it is at the core of the human experience.
Tell us about your new book? Why did you write it?
My Way to You is an interracial romance featuring an Asian American man and African American woman. The couple has to struggle through intolerance and bigotry to be together. I wrote it to highlight some of the challenges of interracial relationships.
People often think the existence of interracial couples is an example that our society is doing away with racism, which is a huge misconception. There is a lot to tackle in addition to the usual problems that come with being in love.
How did you determine the racial makeup of the love interests?
Well, I made the conscious decision that all my female protagonists will be brown African American women. There just aren’t enough books out there with Black women love interests. It’s growing, but I wanted to be part of centering dynamic African American womanhood.
I chose to make the male protagonist Asian American because of the expanding BWAM (Black women-Asian men) movement in the United States. I wanted to readers to have a chance to explore how love and race between members of two minority groups may be influenced by it inside and outside of the relationship.
What are some of your favorite romance tropes to read? Any guilty pleasures?
I mostly enjoy friends to lovers and second chance at love stories. There is just something hopeful in the idea that the heart can heal and love again. I’m also a sucker for a wolf shifter romance. There is something so alluring about alpha male protagonists I can rarely resist.
I hate to admit it, but I can get with well-written enemies to lovers story. I tend not to like them because authors tend to drag the “enemies” part out a little too long. If a book has a right balance in the trope, I get all squishy inside at the moment that the couple admits they are drawn to each other.
When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?
I am an unrepentant binge watcher. Some of my best downtimes are when I get to stream a series or watch a bunch of movies from a particular genre. I might decide that I’m in the mood for a horror marathon. Then my screen will be filled with slashing and gore while blood-curdling screams permeate the room.
What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?
It would be great if readers have a blast reading my stories and have something to think about after reading them. I want my words to be catalysts for conversations and change.
MY WAY TO YOU will be released 12/1/18 and is available for pre-order on Kindle. Link here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K3PZXHY
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