My name is Leila, though I sign my stories as Katherine Joe (long story). Currently, I live in London but originally I’m from Iran.
Iran in the house ya’ll. What are some major differences between living in London and Iran?
A lot of differences, not only in how I live, but mostly how my personality changes. In Iran I mostly depend on my parents, I would stay most of my time at home and with the people who are our close family/relatives. Here though I change to a different person and I have to decide about everything myself. From the basic things such as my home decoration to how to manage my money. It’s harder but worth it. I love my personality more in London than in Iran.
Sounds like you enjoy the independence of living in London. Cool beans. Are you employed outside of writing?
I have never been a one-dimensional person. I study PhD in computer science and systems biology and work as a tutor and a teaching assistant.
That’s awesome. What job do you think you’d be really good at?
I think I am good at teaching and research. I hope to be good in writing too.
How many siblings do you have?
I have an older brother who is married and has a child.
What was your childhood dream?
I had many; I have forgotten most. The ones I remember are: I wanted to be a famous mysterious author who no one knew about her. I wanted to be a teacher and an astronaut. I had a lion pet and was living in a village.
Sounds like your dreams have come true somewhat. You’re a teacher and you write under a different name which is kinda like the mysterious author lol. What is the most annoying habit that you have?
I lose confidence in a blink. Just something comes to my head, a small thought, I think it over and over and then conclude that I’m no good.
Happens to the best of us. We all have our moments of doubt. I commend you for being courageous enough to put that out there. We just gotta stop those thoughts immediately and replace them with good ones!
What’s your favorite color?
My favorite color is White.
Beautiful. Let’s talk about writing. Who is your favorite writer?
My favorite authors are Agatha Christie and J. R. R. Tolkien.
Why is writing important to you?
I love writing my thoughts and creating my worlds and running away to them from reality. With writing them I can share them. Inviting people to my world seems exciting. Knowing I am showing them something they have never seen, as amazing.
What genre do you write in, why?
Sci-fi and fantasy, because I enjoy running away from real world. Drama and fiction to teach myself and others about the real world.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult is that a writer has a huge responsibility. It is important what we write and teach the reader. How we influence their way of thinking and their beliefs. At the same time, it is the most exciting thing. A writer is teaching something to someone which can change their lives.
I agree. Does blogging help you to write?
It does, yes. What a writer always wants is to be read and internet has made it easy. With the blog, your art is out there and people can enjoy it. It is so fun especially when someone puts a comment on your post to criticize or compliment.
Gotta love that feedback right? Are you religious Katherine?
I believe in God and I consider myself a Muslim. But I think about my religion a lot. Sometimes I’m lost. But I want to believe in something for my own heart warming.
Can you elaborate a bit on what you mean when you say that sometimes you are lost and want to believe in something for your own heart?
Well, I was born in a Muslim society but I was never like others to accept what they hear immediately or to deny all the thoughts simply because they judge the religion on the society and not itself. I always enjoy a friendly talk about religion and comparing them to each other as long as we both respect the other party’s beliefs (which sometimes it cannot happen). I look for the best way of living and I believe someone introduced religions to guide us in living a better life. Sometimes I get so confused yet I keep my faith in the things I believe. So I assume I am doing my best, to the best of my knowledge.
We definitely have to do some sidebar chatting. What do you love about yourself?
I think the thing I love about myself the most is that I am different and I can easily be a teacher to myself and comment on my own behavior, analyze them and see if I was doing the right thing. I also love the fact that I am honest, no matter the circumstances to everyone and most importantly to myself.
Beautiful. I love that you can self-examine yourself! It’s of crucial importance that we understand that. What don’t you like about yourself?
I underestimate myself and I am happy with “good enough.” Though I want to learn to be perfect at something.
The ability to understand both what you’re good at and what you think needs improvement is an important leadership skill!
Would you say that you’re political?
I’ve never liked politics. I find it boring and complicated.
Lol. I hear you. What do you wish you knew more about?
I would love to know more about Astronomy, God and humans.
What’s your favorite TV Show? Movie?
TV show: Friends. Movie: don’t have one.
Whaat? You gotta have a favorite movie! What songs have you completely memorized?
Fire on fire Sam Smith, Reflexion from Mulan.
In your own words, define racism.
Not being able to love another person, or judging them at first glance simply because of their appearance. Not only skin color, anything.
I like that. If you had one superpower that could change the world, what would it be?
Justice, which I could give everyone what they really deserve. With that I could give discipline to this world.
What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should?
Comedy channel where they only shows comedies.
Does Comedy Central count?
I have never heard of that channel, not sure if it in on channel list in TV in UK. But if it plays comedy all day long, then absolutely it does count.
What would your perfect writing / reading room look like?
I can write almost everywhere, and for some reason when I am surrounded by people and noise my brain has a better function. So my writing room is a small room full of books and a desk under the window and the view of the alley where people may pass every thirty minutes or so.
If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
The house has 10 bedrooms. A big master bedroom for myself, with an enormous bathroom and a huge changing room/closet. The other 9 rooms are suited for children I have adopted….
Wait, you want nine children??? Don’t answer that, go on. This getting good…
Each have specific color yet no animation characters on the wall; for I want my children to create their favorite characters in their heads. My dining room’s walls are decorated with green-blue bookshelves and while there is a 12 seater wooden dining table, there are two yellow armchairs under the window, with a round coffee table in front of them and a tall standing lamp beside each which is the reading spot. This stops anyone in the house from skipping a meal for reading.
You are so detailed I love it
Then the kitchen is just beside the dining room. It has all white wood cabinets and an island in the middle where the sink is built. I can see my children in the living room and the dining room while I’m there. The living room has a huge TV and half-circle grey sofas so everyone can sit. Big windows on each wall are the best light source and I decorate them with blue curtains. There is a wooden coffee table in the middle with a glass top and a round rug with the combination color of blue, grey, yellow and green on the ground.
On the other side there is a chimney and in front of it four armchairs, two green and two yellow, are located. A square coffee table with another rug is there as well. It is the “important discussions” spot.
On the rug, there are many cushions in different colours so it can seat everyone on the ground, if not on the armchairs. There is the hidden attic too. It is “I-need-space” spot. It is decorated with just a bed and a desk just like Anne Shirley’s room.
If you could live in a movie, which would it be?
Chronicles of Narnia. Because of Aslan.
What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
In real life? Having a backpack and going around the world, not fearing a thing. In my head? Quite the same thing, with dragons, swords and monsters.
What do you hate most about writing advice? What do you love?
Mostly, it help you get better. Even if it’s an advice which you don’t agree with, it makes you look at your work from another aspect and think twice. Though, I don’t like the ones which come from the people who think they know everything, but they know nothing.
These are facts. What skill would you like to master?
I would love to master in writing what comes to my brain, also I love to learn how to draw. My brain knows how to, step by step but my hands cannot do what I think I want to do. I love singing though I don’t have a good voice and I love playing music as well.
When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I published my first book on Amazon, in February 2019. I did it mostly for myself confidence and I got great advice from the people who read it. They helped me through it a lot with reading my work and commenting on it. I also started believing in myself and I’m working even harder for my new work now.
Thank you Katherine for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Katherine was born in Iran in 1993 and has been writing since she was ten-years-old. She always has lots of ideas and sometimes she dreams about them. She believes if she does not write, her brain will implode (:D). Other than writing, Joe does photography as a hobby, plays the piano and is a student and researcher.
Creating a character isn’t all physical description and heartbreaking backstory.
Well, a lot of it is, but it’s not just that. You need to round out that tall, dark-haired beautiful orphan with some emotional depth. The kind that will keep your readers turning the page and recommending your stories.
They’ll do this because they’re invested in your books. And they’re invested because they relate to the characters. They might not be tall, dark-haired, beautiful or an orphan, but they know how it feels to miss family, to never find the right pant length, or to be judged by their looks.
Creating a relatable connection to universal struggles is key and ensuring your characters have emotional depth is the metal that forges that key.
Five Ways To Give Your Characters Emotional Depth
Don’t Say Emotions
Emotions are something we all feel, unless you’re a serial killer.
The best way to extend the legacy of those who came before us is not to talk but to do the work as they have done. That said, what did King do that we may not already know about? Here are the facts.
1. The Poor People’s Campaign
King founded a program for the poor he called The Poor People‘s Campaign that he was just getting off the ground before his death. In December 1967, King wanted to bring together poor people from across the country to demand better jobs, better homes, better education, and better lives. The purpose behind the campaign was to, “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.” (Dr. Ralph Abernathy) King said, “If you are, let’s say, from rural Mississippi, and have never had medical attention, and your children are undernourished and unhealthy, you can take those little children into the Washington hospitals and stay with them there until the medical workers cope with their needs, and in showing it your children, you will have shown this country a sight that will make it stop in its busy tracks and think hard about what it has done.” Ultimately, King put together a plan that he thought would help solve poverty so that every American had a guaranteed income. His program was set to begin on April 22, 1968 but he was assassinated on April 4th.
2. Fought for Better Schools for Children in the Cabrini Green Projects
In 1966, King moved into an apartment on Chicago’s West Side as part of the Freedom Movement. At this point, he was less interested in Civil Rights and more interested in Human Rights which included fair housing in Northern cities. Chicago has always been a segregated city and was even more so in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. A system of redlining was implemented that prevented blacks from purchasing property in their own communities. Not only was the rent high but run-down apartments were divided into what was called Kitchenettes. Kitchenette’s split six-family apartments in half so they became one-room apartments.
“The Kitchenette is our prison, our death sentence without a trial, the new form of mob violence that assaults not only the lone individual but all of us in its ceaseless attacks.” – Richard Wright
The Projects were the answer to the slums but did not fare much better. People eventually abandoned public housing for the suburbs once offended that blacks were being treated as whites. Newspapers and Ads boasted Blacks and Italians living side by side, happy and positive. The public wasn’t having it. Riots broke out as whites pulled blacks out of their cars, beating them. Middle-class blacks were forced out as the screening process got more and more relaxed. Eventually, Gates were put up that made residents feel imprisoned. The once “promised land,” that was the newly established projects became just another ghetto. Black schools also suffered. One elementary school was overcrowded and King fought with residents to get a racist teacher fired. “The people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate,” he said after being stoned by angry white residents in the then all-white Marquette Park on the city‘s Southwest Side. When parents were in their third day of a planned strike, King met with them, saying, “Should you in any way be persecuted or prosecuted for attempting to seek the best education possible for your children, I can assure you that thousands of parents from all over the city will come to your aid and together we will join you in jail if necessary.”
3. Campaigned for Black Sanitation Workers in Memphis
King helped black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee in March and April 1968. He compared their struggle with the poor people‘s campaign, saying, “a fight by capable, hard workers against dehumanization, discrimination and poverty wages in the richest country in the world.” He was in Memphis for a sanitation strike when he was murdered at the Lorraine Motel. The deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker brought the issue of the sanitation workers into the public eye. On February 1, 1968, in Memphis TN, these men were crushed to death by a trash compensation mechanism on a garbage truck that malfunctioned.
Their deaths highlighted the dangerous conditions and the strike that resulted from these men’s deaths brought it to the attention of Civil Rights leaders like Dr. King. However, at this time King was less interested in Civil Rights and saw this not as another opportunity to march but a chance to further the Poor People’s Campaign. “He saw the Memphis strike and the workers’ demand for union rights as embodying the goals and values of his fledgling Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that sought to bring a multiracial coalition of religious leaders, workers, and the poor together to fight poverty in a way that intentionally centered the voices of the marginalized. “(P.R. Lockhart, 4, April 2018) Sadly, he would be shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, later dying at St. Joseph’s Hospital, leaving his campaign unfinished.
King did the work. He didn’t talk about it or stand on the sidelines. MLK was more than an “I Have a Dream,” speech. He was actually on the ground doing the work. Read his books and listen to his other speeches, the ones that aren’t being promoted by the media (The Three Evils of Society is a good one).
PBS aired an excellent documentary this week on black business ownership. Boss: The Black Experience in Business, explores the inspiring stories of trailblazing Black entrepreneurs and the significant contributions of contemporary business leaders. From the collapse of the Freedman’s Bank, the lynching of black grocery store owner of The Peoples Grocery, Thomas Moss, to Booker T. Washington’s National Negro Business League, a network of black entrepreneurs. By 1900 there were about 20,000 black owned businesses in the U.S. and I’ve got tons of ideas for future fun facts!
If you follow my social media (my personal accounts) then you know why I was excited yesterday. I am Soul got approved for stocking at Barnes and Noble at its Marietta, Georgia location, making this the fourth store to carry one or more of my books. This may not mean much to you but, briefly, here’s why these things excite me:
Poetry is not like other books, it’s hard to sell and yet I am Soul has been selling since its release in 2017. I don’t mean selling a lot. I mean consistent sales over time. (Much like consistent book reviews. They may not all come in on the day of release but if they trickle in every now and again for months or even years, that’s still good!)
I am Soul has remained relevant for two years even though I’ve published other books, something I have not been as successful with before. (No matter how long it’s been since publishing your book, it is always relevant. It can never be unwritten or go out of style. Make sure it doesn’t. Keep promoting it. Keep it fresh.)
I am not backed by a publisher. I am my own Publisher.
I don’t have a lot of money. Everything I make goes right back into the work. (In the beginning, you will have to invest in yourself. Although I’ve been publishing awhile, this is still the beginning for me).
I don’t have a lot of social media followers (if that’s important).
I gave a short testimony on my socials on being prepared but I will go in more detail here since we have the space (no worries, I’ll keep this short).
When I walked into Barnes and Noble yesterday and spoke with the manager, a few things she said stuck out.
“Oh, you have books.”
She seemed surprised.
When I shop my books around I carry the container you see here. It’s just something I got from Walmart many years ago. It only looks new because I cleaned it off. Don’t wanna embarrass my mama by going outside with something that looks like who did it and why did they do it. In this plastic container box are books, bookmarks, business cards, a PayPal Here card reader (because you never know if you meet someone on the street who might wanna buy a book. No cash? No problem! I can scan you right here lol), my author seal stickers, and a writing pen.
Eventually, after some convo, the woman asked to see one of my books so she could look me up.
“Most Self-Publishers come in here and they’re not in the system,” she said.
We’ll go into detail about what this means and how to get in the system later (I am putting something together to help Indies with that). For now, just picture walking into a B&N and picking up a book. You carry it over to the counter. Well, when the ISBN is scanned, what happens? If the book is in the B&N computer the information about pricing and everything comes up. This makes things easier on the store. How so? Because they can easily scan the book when someone picks it up, just as they would with any other book. (You can Self-Publish books with no ISBN but then you can’t sell it at stores.)
After going over the details and her agreeing to stock my book, I signed the copies we would leave there.
Me: “I’m gonna go ahead and sign these.”
“Yes, please do. We sell a lot of poetry. It’s making a comeback.”
“You have stickers?”
(she meant something that lets the reader know the book is signed….Queue my author seal!)
Me: “I do.”
“Got a pen?”
Me: “I do.”
Everything she asked me for, I had on my person. I am not saying I am always this prepared. I am not perfect or special. And it’s not like she wouldn’t have given me a pen if I didn’t have one. But by already having one I presented myself as an organized professional serious about her work because…
…and I am not just talking about physical preparation. I am also talking about mental preparation, spiritual preparation (faith), and time.
Time is part of the preparation. Time to research. Time to learn and understand. Time to ask questions. Time to write, publish, revise, improve, write and publish again. Time to make mistakes and learn from them. Time to put things in position so that when the time comes, you are ready.
At the recent signing, I had to recite a poem on the spot. I prepared for this. I knew one day it would come so when it happened I was ready. I was nervous, but I had a couple of poems in my head I knew by memory just in case. I was only prepared this time because I’ve dealt with not being prepared. Years ago, at a conference, I was asked to recite a poem. It was one of my audience favorite poems. I stood up there, said a few lines and forgot the rest! It was an old poem. A poem I should have never forgotten the words to. I was so embarrassed. I wanted to run out of the room. Instead, I quietly returned to my seat, ashamed. Prepare!
I’ve been publishing my books since 2008 but it took six years before I really got my books seen by people outside of my immediate circle. Six years to realize how much I didn’t know. Many of you are already way passed where I was when I started. You are much further along than you think. I’m just catching up.
Prepare for where you want to be. Get in position because if you are not ready when it comes it will make no difference. If the universe wants to pour into your cup but you are not even holding a cup, it will make no difference how long you’ve been standing there. You weren’t ready when what you said you wanted, arrived.
It’s time for another post on lessons from a book signing. I try to learn something new from every event I do. I also enjoy seeing if what we learn online applies when in direct, real life, person-to-person contact. Here’s what I learned from Friday‘s Book Signing.
Practice Makes Perfect
While I am not perfect by any means, consistency and practice really do help us to get better. Cliche as it is now, the saying is true. The more book signings and events I do, the better I get at pitching my books. I am a naturally shy person but author events help me to be more open. It is the chance for me to learn how to communicate what my book is about without being scripted (which is easy to do when you’re behind a computer), but that you only have seconds to do in person. For example, I had the chance to sit and think about what I wanted to say here, how to say it and the words that would best sum up this experience. In person, the time is much, much faster. There is no time to sit and think about what to say. There is nothing but your knowledge of your product and why you think it‘s worth the time and money investment. They even asked me to recite a poem on the spot! I am thankful to Yah I was ready.
It’s also not just about selling books but genuine interaction with the people. There were many people who bought books but did not take pictures because they didn’t want to and I did not force them. Some people didn’t buy books at all, but they sat and talked with me and laughed and we shared some interesting conversation. I met a new poet who told me about some open mic spots to hit up and a young man who referred me to a Barnes and Noble in the area that accepts Self-Published Authors. The best way to get started making change is to begin where you are.
Competing Against Cell Phone Attention Spans
In person, you get to see the distractions we compete with up close and personal. People‘s attention spans are short already but add to it the mobile device and it’s easy to get discouraged. Many of the people who walked past my table were glued to their mobile device or already talking on it. This makes me much more conscious of this when doing business online. Knowing that the interest in the smartphone is a big deal is one thing but seeing it empowers me with so many new ideas and thoughts on how I, as an author can keep this in mind when interacting with readers.
Don’t Try to Sell to Everyone (Don’t Sell At All, Connect)
The same thing about finding your target audience online applies to offline as well. While the time is faster and you do have to pull people away from their phones, discernment is important as well. I am starting to pick up on who to reach out to (literally) and who to let walk by. This may sound funny but it’s not just about getting a sale. Some people purposely crossed the street to avoid my table (lol), some people purposely focused on the ground and avoided eye contact, and some people were not on the phone. They just pretended to be to avoid me. These are examples that “I don‘t want to be bothered.” Just like not everyone will want to buy your book online, not everyone wants to buy your book in person. Some things I picked up on from people who wanted to buy my book or was interested in learning more:
They hesitated and stared at the book cover while walking by
They stopped by
They spoke to me
They asked questions
They stopped when hearing what the book was about
There are ways of knowing if you should reach out to people and if you should not. I hope to use the experience from Friday to help me at the Atlanta book signing in July.
Some Writing Advice Does Not Apply Offline
Every time I meet with people face to face it‘s a different experience than being online. What may surprise you is that I find writing advice (not all, but some) we use online does not apply to offline. There’s no screen, no script, no hashtag, nothing but good ole fashioned communication between two people who may share a genuine interest. In real life people do want your business card to learn more about you, they do ask about your website, and they want to know if they can follow you online. This means that while some advise against business cards, author websites and social media, this is not true when you are face to face with the people. In my experience, no one asks to follow your blog or if they can sign up to your email list (unless there’s already a sign-up form present and you ask them). While I think both are important and are necessary for Indie Authors to have (and both have helped me tremendously), in my experience when talking to the people in person who don‘t already know me, the basics they want to know is:
Do you have a card?
Do you have a website?
Can I follow you online?
Can I pay with my card?
Applying this means:
Having business cards with me
Having a website for people to go to
Being present on social media
Having a card reader on hand
If you did not get to stop by or you are not in the area, remember that I am Soul, my latest collection of poetry is 99cents in ebook through the month of April in honor of National Poetry Month. Also, if you are in the Atlanta area this summer, I’ll be at the Atlanta African American Book Festival in July. I’ll be premiering my first Non-Fiction release, Keep Yourself Full (of course I’ll still have my other books present as well) and other author swag. Don’t miss the chance to connect. See you soon ✒📚📸
This picture is a couple of weeks old. I’m just using it because it fits nicely with today’s topic. My real attire is dirt smeared sweat pants, yesterdays shirt, and pink garden gloves. No sense in being cute when there are weeds to pluck. But you didn’t stop by this blog to hear me talking about my clothes or gardening for that matter.
It was while walking my dog and tending to the garden when I started thinking about the many layers of myself and how I notice that people pick the parts of me they like. Some people love the silly me. They like when I post funny memes and do silly things. Some people like intellectual me. They love when I talk about history and little-known facts. Some people love the lover in me. They like to see me and my husband together, loving on one another and having a good time. Some people like the spiritual me. They like to hear me quote scriptures and talk about the bible. They like prophetic me. Some people like fiction me. They enjoy my novels and short stories. Others like the poet me.
I’ve learned from life that you’ll meet so many different people over the course of a lifetime and they will pick the parts of you they like best. But you know, as I know, every part of you helps to build you into the person you are. What I realized today was the importance of accepting your whole self. People may pick the parts of me they like but it is my responsibility (not theirs) to pick my whole self. I am all of the things people love (and don’t love) rolled up into one. I am not a scattered puzzle. I am a body and each of my body parts helps me to be the full and whole person that I am. When we start to favor one part of ourselves over another because we see it is what people like most, we lose the other parts of ourselves. And since we need every body part to make up a full body, in a sense, we lose ourselves.
Remember that there are layers of you and though people will choose the layer they like best, it is your job to choose your whole self.