Frenonia Roberts leads an idyllic life, if you ask her baby sister Rhonda, her best friend Sharmayne and anyone else looking in on her glamorous, Buppie existence in Atlanta, where she high-steps it through her days as a young entrepreneur, the owner of TheWeAreFamily Bookstore and Coffeeshop.
She is the apple of her mother’s eye, a pacesetter spearheading the city’s National Black Arts Festival, hostess of the esteemed Isis Book Club and the flame in J.T.’s heart…until, that is, Free closes the bookstore one evening and bows to the whim of a supernatural breeze guiding her Mercedes towards Techwood Homes, a throwaway neighborhood off her normal route back to the suburbs. Free, glad to be, has no warning that a simple turn in the road will catapult her into a devastating, downward spiral to a place she’s never known…until now.
In turmoil, Free watches as worlds collide and hearts weep. Used to being the epitome of control, she learns to surrender to an unseen power moving for her good, even when she craves little more than an endless night. Meanwhile, the people closest to Free can’t stay her inevitable plunge; they’re too busy handling their own dilemmas: treading water, battling demons and stumbling through their own mazes. How is Free to know an aged stranger with the South in her mouth would be the saving grace she and the others (Rhonda, Sharmayne, Pinky, Pastoria and J.T.) would need to lead them back to love?
A novel about the healing power of love and redemption, about betrayal and longing, about family and its many forms, If You Love Me, Come resonates with lyrical language and reservoirs of emotion. Claudia Moss, a storyteller from a long line of Southern storytellers, plants her post in literature.
CLAUDIA MOSS is a novelist, poet, blogger, motivational speaker and talk show host. She is a former College Board consultant and a former DeKalb County English educator. The author of the adolescent novel Dolly: Memoirs of a High School Graduate, Claudia has contributed to several anthologies. She resides in Clarkston, Georgia, with her family. If You Love Me, Come is her second novel.
Get to Know Claudia
What inspires you: to live, to write, to express yourself?
“I am captivated with the notion that we were made in the Creator’s image, that we are creators and that we have the power to attract the life that we want to live. I am drunk on the thought that we can speak the colors, the brilliant and vibrant colors, like artfully splashed paint, onto the canvas of our lives, and be who we want to be!”
Who are your idols as far as writers?
“I adore so many writers, of which you are one! Idols? Hmmm. There has never been a time when I was not in love with the works of Toni Morrison, Fiona Zedde, and Alice Walker. I admire Terry McMillan, Edwidge Danticat, Pearl Cleage, August Wilson, Trisha R. Thomas and Helen Elaine Lee. I have yet to read Odessa Rose’s “Water in A Broken Glass,” but I have heard she is a wonderful stylist.”
What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
“Know who you are. Don’t write to emulate someone you admire who writes. Never bother to write to chase a dollar; it will only lead you to a job. Go within, meet your talents and passion, and if you are a writer, you will do what you cannot help but do: you will write. No matter what. That kind of passion will save you, baptize you, caress you when the rejections come and see you through when the work is done and you, holding it, realize all over again how very much you love the art.”
What can we expect from you, Ms. Moss, in the next few years?
“Creation! This year, I will introduce a new character, unique and outspoken, in a collection that I am proofing now. Her name is Wanda B. Wonders, and she is the Everywoman counterpart of Langston Hughes’ famous character, Jessie B. Simple. My first poetry collection will be published this year as well. On the drawing board are plans to delve into children and adolescent literature, as my first book was an adolescent novel, DOLLY: The Memoirs of a High School Graduate.
“In addition, in the next few years there will be a Claudia Moss calendar series and a card line. I will further explore being on both sides of the camera in sensual, interracial and multicultural views. A one-woman show is planned with burlesque and other manifestations of dance, poetry and dramatic readings. From my travels, I anticipate penning a travel log. I will write a screenplay and make my mark in film and television. And of course, there will be other novels, (lesbian, main stream, romance, and erotica) anthologies that I will edit and publish, fiction collections and stage productions. In short, I will be somewhere doing Claudia Moss as only I can! Quite frankly, I am an ambitious soul! You can expect me to shatter barriers and tap dance on whom I shouldn’t be!”
In terms of novel writing, how do you feel about quality vs. quantity? Do you believe one can effectively achieve both?
“I would like to be a bestselling author with the capacity to publish a yearly blockbuster like the next author, who makes her living this way. “But realistically, I know that to produce the literature that spotlights quality, attention to detail, and provocative subjects and themes, one must slip outside of time and wade the River Styx, going deaf and dumb to chasing the dollar, and marinate and stew and write and ponder and rewrite and bake and baste the details and pray and cry and write and then and only then, walk towards a printer or publisher. Whichever, I will always cast my lot for quality vs. quantity, for I want my work to speak for me, for itself, when I am no longer here and my footsteps have been effaced in the sand.
“Yes, I believe one can effectively achieve both, if one has been writing and rewriting and placing the manuscripts in a safe, waiting for the magic moment when the works can be published yearly, much like J. K. Rawlings. Remember? She had written, what, four or five Harry Potter novels and had them boxed away, when she released the first book in her infamous series. Great timing I’m sure she didn’t plan!”
Tell us a little about your writing process. How long did it take to complete your novel? Do you have a certain place or need a certain ambiance in order to feel creative? Do you set aside “X” amount of time to write each day or do you wait until inspiration strikes?
“I once wrote every morning, when I left the English classroom. There was usually no preordained stopping time. I wrote until my body moaned and locked up and down, threatening to topple me to the carpet. Music regaled me from my desktop speakers, the house was still and I felt too blessed not to be doing what I’d prayed to do…write all day long. My writing process involved reading what I’d written the day before, rereading my novel’s outline, meditating momentarily on the day’s work, a prayer here and there, and I’d begin writing.
“One way that I proofread is to consistently read aloud what I’ve written, fine-tuning my ears to a tight, natural phrasing. “Today I know that fear of failure was at the root of driving myself so doggedly back then. Now, I determine which hat the day calls for and I wear that hat as well as I possibly can, be it promoting, proofing, or writing, not necessarily in that order. I yet write with music filling my office, setting moods and creating atmosphere. I write and get it all out, read and reread, and write some more. Then the next day, I revise and proofread what I’ve worked on, before continuing with the new chapter. And if the writing doesn’t want to come, I bow to that and either continue proofing and rereading the manuscript or I rise and do something else, my mind free to embrace the hiatus, my subconscious quietly filling in what the story needs, while I exercise, bake, chat or journal.
“I am confident that I am where I should be. I know that the Divine directs and orders my steps, and I will receive all that I am supposed to have. I focus on the image that I have of myself, not on what others think I should be or have what they think I should possess. I am comfortable in my skin, and I adore Miss Claudia.
“It took me a little over ten years to complete If You Love Me, Come. Por que? Life washed in on me and flooded my writing time. For many years I didn’t write, but I always knew on a visceral level that everything was all right. That what I longed to do would be my reality one day. I had to trust the Unknown within me.
“I love to write in my office. If I had to write elsewhere, I would, but I doubt I’d feel as creative as I do right here where I am currently sitting at 4:13 AM. (laughing) “Every day I write something. It may not be writing on a novel or short story. It could be a poem or a blog entry, either for my blog at www.theGolden-Goddess.blogspot.com or on a private site by invitation only. I don’t wait for inspiration, yet when I am writing, as I say above, I do not force those times when the writing comes in spurts. I trust that it will come, so I rise to do other things, although my subconscious mind is forever writing and creating.”
Parts of the novel have a feel similar to that of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God with the use of dialect and the strong connection of the characters to the natural world? Were you conscious of that while writing?
“Although I adore the work of Zora Neale Hurston, I was conscious only of my grandmothers’ voices, especially my paternal grandmother, Sophie Mae Moss. She and my maternal grandmother, Pearlie Mae Young, made my family’s trips to the South delightful every summer we visited from Waterbury, CT. My mother passed away when I was in the ninth grade, ans my grandmothers stepped in to take my siblings and me by the hand and guide us into young adulthood. Both women were amazing, enterprising, Southern matriarchs, loved and respected by many in the small towns of Tuskegee, Roba and Little Texas, Alabama.
Both lived close to the natural world, closer than I’d ever witnessed coming from my inner-city neighborhood in Waterbury. Actually, in my grandparents’ presence, along with my father, I learned to plant and pick everything from corn, peas, cotton and cucumbers. I slopped hogs, swept yards, walked long country roads and listened to ghost stories with my siblings at my grandparents and father’s knee. Relocating to the South at such an early age in my childhood had everything to do with what is evident in my interior writing world.