I have been getting back into the reading groove with a vengeance, and this week found me tearing through two Young Adult novels by Connie Monique Wilson, author and blogger at Musings of a Manic Blond. Northern Lights and Learning the Hard Way reminded me in a very strong way of books I read when I was a young adult, and in fact, Connie informed me, the intention for NL is to be an entire series, kind of like the Sweet Valley books. Which, coincidentally, was what the series put me in mind of – only set in Michigan, with real teenagers, not the sunny abyss of California. (And which is also good, because NL ends on a giant cliffhanger!)
Connie is on the brink of Really Big Things, which I had known from some conversations online, but didn’t realize until I went online to see where I could find copies of her books. I asked her what was going on, and this was her reply:
“Right now, they’ve been taken down from Amazon because they’re being optioned by a publisher,” said Connie. “They’ll be cleaned up, repackaged (new covers) and though I don’t know specifics yet, I’ve heard that NL could be out as soon as the end of the summer … I will be sure to dance and throw confetti when it all comes to fruition.”
Before we go on to the RBT’s, though, a little bit about her writing. The two books are based in Michigan, and the teenagers in them are living through situations that are realistic, gritty, and sometimes hard to take. Her characters are never able to escape the consequences of their actions, and I asked her to share a little about how it felt to write through that.
“I found my heart absolutely breaking for Aeryn,” said Connie, referring to the teenage mom/main character of LtHW. “Not that I agreed with her choices, but I felt so bad for her. The things with Carrington’s mother [NL] hit a little close to home and the emotional turmoil that she went through when she thought she was going to see her mom was really hard to put her through.”
There are so many great characters in the book, I wanted to know which one of them was hardest for Connie to write. Surprisingly, she told me Vincent – the male main character’s older brother who keeps getting in trouble and dragging the MMC along with him.
“He was so freaking hard!” said Connie. “This is my first attempt at writing a 3-character arc and I was SO afraid that I was going to mess up the story or blur the plot or confuse people. And I’ve never written a character like him before, so he really challenged me and took me to places that I didn’t know I could go.”
As we exchanged emails back and forth, Connie said something that really struck a chord with me. I am a writer with a plan, which I am steadily working through, and when I asked Connie how she found her publisher, she explained that she, too, was a writer with a plan! Great minds think alike! I asked her to talk a little bit more about her plan, and how she made it happen.
“I’ve always known that The Wrong Side of the Mississippi was going to be the book that made things happen for me,” said Connie. “Which is why it took so long for it to come out. I was babying it, using other projects to hone my talent, because I wanted to make sure that I did the best I could with it.
“I’d done decently well with my first two self published books and that gave me the courage to try for actual publication. There’s an independent book store here that does book signing for local authors and I’ve been saying for the last few years ‘That’s going to be me.’ Well, that can ‘only be me,’ if I’m in print. So I gave myself a goal this year that if I wasn’t published, the book was at least going to be finished, edited to perfection and sent out. It was time to put myself out there and see what I could do.”
And what she could do is find a publisher who is ready to launch her work into the public eye, where I know it is going to be enjoyed by many!
Of course reading her books and finding out where she is going made me want to know more about Connie as a writer. I asked if she was a native Michiganer, given that the books I read were set there. She replied, she was born in California (ah ha! Sweet Valley! I knew it!) but moved to Flint after her mother retired from the Army (Hooah!)
She had always liked to write poetry, but describes her efforts as “very morose stuff.” A well-meaning relative attempted to get her to write something happy.
“It was raining and we were up north, so there was all sorts of inspiration for poems about flowers being strangled by rain drops (like I said, I wasn’t very good), but I just couldn’t come up with anything happy,” said Connie. “Finally the rain stopped, my friends came by, I wrote ‘happy bouncing bunnies frolic by a rainbow,’ handed it to him and ran out of the door before he could stop me.”
When Connie got older, she made the switch from poetry to prose.
“I ran into some friends from high school that were dabbling in writing as well,” said Connie. “[It] gave me the idea to put the wrestlers that I liked so much in a story with a girl that looked the way I wanted her to look and acted the way I wanted her to act and basically was the story form of myself. Thus, fan fiction and the term ‘Mary Sue’ were born.”
In her bio, Connie describes herself as a writer of interracial romance. I wondered, what brought her to the topic of interracial romance, and were there any unique aspects of writing in the genre?
“I have always been attracted to black men,” said Connie. “And when I started primarily dating them, I’d been writing for years and realized that there wasn’t a lot of interracial romance stuff out there. And what there was, it was stereotypical things that were keeping racial boundaries stuck in the 1960s and not helping the cause of bringing us together as a country. So, being my mother’s child, I decided I had to do something about that.
“Which brings me to answer your next question. Though, I deal with it in The Wrong Side of the Mississippi, I try not to write race in my books. I use it as a plot point at times but I don’t make “she’s white” and “he’s black” the focus of the story. The focus of the story is the romance and how the characters fall in love, not the color of their skin.”
In addition to writing, Connie blogs, Facebooks and works out a lot. For her, working out gets her out of the house and clears her head to think about writing. (That might not be a bad idea to try…) Additionally, she shares living quarters with Simone, her 18-year-old Calico cat. Simone was not available for comment for this piece.
I asked Connie where she saw herself in five or ten years:
“Hopefully married with a kid or two. And a hundred pounds smaller. LOL. And with a couple dozen published books.”
And, who would play her in a movie?
And, last but not least, where can people find her online?