Believe it or not Alicia Singleton was doing something completely different before surrendering to her passion: writing. Now, the Philly native is busy thinking up ideas for her upcoming suspense novel, which includes a South Carolina swamp and a graveyard. Are you feeling the anticipation yet?
Read the interview below to learn more about the author behind the electrifying debut 'Dark Side of Valor' and don't hesitate to get yourself a copy of her book. I strongly recommend:
EY: Where are you from originally and what was it like growing up?
AS: I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. Growing up in there was great. It taught me survival skills and street smarts which I can infuse into my characters. The constant fear the heroine, Lelia, experiences while living on the streets was an emotion I could relate to. Growing up in Philly during a time when gang war violence was common place, I was taught to know my surroundings at all times. I always felt a constant, underlying fear. Always on guard, always watching. I pulled from that experience to write Lelia’s fear on the streets.
EY: You studied nursing in college and even practiced it for 12 years upon graduating. So, what inspired you to become an author?
AS: My elementary school reading tutor stoked my love of reading and hence my passion to write. By the time I was well into the second grade, I could not read. Not even simple words like, ‘See Spot Run’. My teacher told my mother that if I didn’t get help, I would be functionally illiterate. When my mother hired a reading tutor, my hate for reading turned into a love of reading.
After I fell in love with reading, I believe in my spirit, I wanted to become a writer, but I went to Howard University to get my Bachelor’s in Nursing. In my sophomore year, I wanted to change my major to journalism, but I didn’t know what changing one’s major entailed. Too intimidated to go to the Registrar’s Office and too afraid to go home and tell my mom that I wanted to follow another career path, I stuck it out. A couple of years after I graduated, I began attending writing classes, reading books, attending seminars, conferences and workshops on the writing process. That education coupled with my overactive imagination for plotting storylines and my love of reading was why I became a writer.
EY: Being that you didn’t previously take any writing courses in college, how challenging was the process of developing your own style and deciding on what genre you wanted to focus on?
AS: Actually, it wasn’t challenging. Like breathing, it was the most natural thing in the world. A perfect fit. My mother is a stickler for education, so educating myself on the writing process was a must. The classes, workshops, seminars, conferences and references were the Yin to the Yang of the innate storytelling that had been with me for as long as I can remember.
As far as style and genre, I’ve always loved suspense, thrillers and mysteries. Writing within these genres is second nature.
EY: Who are some of the writers in history that have influenced you?
AS: Robert McKee for his expert knowledge and instruction on Story. Walter Mosley for being a beacon for African-American mystery writers. Aristotle for his incline and three act structure. L.A. Banks for writing awe inspiring super-naturals. Edgar Allen Poe, even though his mind was troubled, he was brilliant in his prose. Iris Johansen for her staying power and for writing suspense-rich, conflict driven thrillers. J. California Cooper for her characterization and Homer for his genius, epic journeys.
EY: Tell us about your debut novel “Dark Side of Valor.”
AS: Dark Side of Valor is about a former teen-aged runaway, turned child advocate, Lelia Freeman. When she is summoned to Washington to serve on a subcommittee that aids children of a war-torn, African nation, she stumbles onto sinister political secrets. She is kidnapped overseas and must depend on a tall, dark handsome stranger to save her life. But he has secrets of his own.
EY: In terms of background or research, how much time went into finding facts regarding elements used in the book, such as homelessness and children shelters?
AS: If I totaled the time spent researching Dark Side of Valor, I’d say about six to eight months. Years ago, during my nursing clinicals, we were required to nurse in homeless shelters. It’s an experience that stays with you. More recently, I interviewed shelter directors, researched life accounts of runaway and homeless teens and talked to directors of organizations that aid that population. I also extensively researched the Sudan, the jungles of the Congo and how to bring down a helicopter without the pilot losing total control of the aircraft.
EY: What were you hoping readers would take from such an intense storyline and these two strong main characters, Lelia and Elijah?
AS: There’s always hope. No matter what situation one may find themselves in, there’s always hope. That’s what I want readers to take away from reading Dark Side of Valor.
EY: How do you feel about your accomplishments so far for your debut novel, winning the Sistah Circle National Book Club Best Thriller Award, the National Association of Women Writers Award of Excellence from the Maryland Chapter, and appearing on several radio and television shows?
AS: It’s such an honor and a joy. I’m humbled.
EY: And the moderate success seems to have motivated you to keep writing because I’ve heard you’re already hard at work on your next book. Please give us a little info on your upcoming release, and maybe a hint on what it’s about?
AS: The research for my next suspense has taken me to a South Carolina swamp, a rice plantation where one of Mel Gibson’s movies was filmed, on a Civil War naval battle ship, and a graveyard. It was phenomenal! I hope to take readers on a thrill ride they won’t soon forget.
EY: When can we expect its release?
AS: LOL, I haven’t gotten a contract yet. After I sign, I’ll be able to answer that question.
EY: I definitely can’t wait for that one, but let’s divert our attention from writing to doing book reviews. What’s it like giving your opinion on another author’s work.
AS: Since 1995, I’ve been a member of a critique group with other authors. Giving our opinions on each other’s work is one way we strengthen each other’s skills as writers.
EY: Are you involved in any other projects?
AS: No, not presently.
EY: Thank you so much for taking the time. Please leave a message to any one aspiring to become a writer.
AS: Learn the craft of writing and learn it well. Always seek ways to educate yourself on how to become a better writer. Trauma surgeons, professional ballerinas, electrical engineers, classical pianists, Olympic gymnasts and architects don’t learn their crafts in a weekend. Neither can great writers. Again, educate yourself.
Find more info at www.aliciasingleton.com