What would you do if you woke up one night from a dream and had a story to tell?
a) forget it as soon as you woke up
b) tell a friend the parts you could remember
c) Write a book and get a two book deal from the Kimani Tru line of Harlequin Books.
If you are author Cassandra Carter the answer is C. Ms. Carter is a 21 year old Michigan native (by way for Pennsylvania but Michigan is taking the credit for this talented author.) Cassandra started writing her first book at age 14 and it was published one month after she graduated high school with a 3.5 gpa. (I need to introduce her to my children.) I could expound on her many talents but I will let her tell you herself….
1. When did you first begin writing?
Looking back on it, I’ve been writing ever since I can remember – probably as soon as I learned how. Writing has just always been something I’ve loved to do. It all began with short stories for my mom. It’s so funny when I come across them now. My grammar and spelling might’ve been off but you knew what I was trying to say!
As I got older, I got a lot of praise from my teachers and peers for my papers. It wasn’t until high school that I really started to explore writing on my own. I started taking all kinds of different classes: composition, journalism, English, you name it. I even dabbled in a little poetry. In the end, I think it helped me become more versatile as a writer.
I was 14 when I had the dream that inspired me to write Fast Life and 15 when I finished it. It was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel, but I ran with it. As crazy as it might sound, something told me to.
2. Who are you inspirations?
I don’t think I can single out any one person as my inspiration, but I think the fact that my mom used to read to me as I was growing up had a lot to do with my interest in books and storytelling in general. I think once I got into school it blossomed from there. When I sit down to write, I draw inspiration from every day life; things I see or overhear, people I encounter, etc. I think as an author, you tend to be more observant. I think it’s those details, no matter how small, that make all the difference. It’s more real.
3. What are your writing habits? Do you write a certain amount of pages per day? Do you write at a certain time of day?
That is such a hard question to answer! I really can’t say. It depends. The mood strikes me differently at different times. There are days I don’t write at all and then there are nights I won’t go to sleep until I get it all out. Some days it just comes to me. It flows. But like most writer’s, I suffer from writer’s block occasionally, make no mistake about it.
When I feel like nothing is coming out the way I want it to or like nothing is working, I take a step back. I’ll leave it alone until I figure it out. And it’ll come to me out of nowhere, probably while I’m doing something completely unrelated. Whenever I’m out somewhere and I come up with a really good idea, I’ll jot down notes on just about anything; napkins, receipts, whatever I can find.
4. Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Whenever I start a novel, I start with an outline. Starting out I usually have an idea of who my characters are, how I want the story to begin, and where I want the story to go. However, I never have it planned out all the way from beginning to end. I’m constantly coming up with new ideas and making changes as I go. I like to keep an open mind.
5. Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
Well, I recently returned from BEA (Book Expo America) so I have a stack of new books on my to-read list. The first one I read was Ky-Mani Marley’s memoir Dear Dad. I found it read smooth like a conversation. It was very relatable. It was as if he was talking directly to me so I thought that was pretty cool.
6. What are your goals as a writer?
I think it’s safe to say everyone wants to be successful, but I want to do more than that. I want to make an impact. In this digital age, a lot of people, especially people in my age group, look at reading as being outdated and boring but I want to help change all that. I want to get young people reading again and I want to encourage other writers to keep writing or possibly even inspire some to start.
From here, I hope to expand upon both of my novels and build a series. I would like to do urban fiction as well. Someday I would like to do movies and things of that nature. What’s particularly interesting about me is that because I got started in this industry at such a young age my readers get to watch me grow through my writing and in a sense as a person.
7. If you had one wish for your writing career, what would it be?
Writing is my passion so I hope I’ll be able to do this for the rest of my life. I hope I can continue to find ways to improve my skills and deliver a good story.
8. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
Write for yourself first. Don’t worry about what other people might think. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s your work and no one can take that from you. Be original. Do you.
9. What do you like best about writing?
If I had to pick one thing, I’d have to say I love the freedom writing gives me. I can create my own little world where I can say and do whatever I want vicariously through my characters.
10. Your first book FAST LIFE was written while you were still in high school and published just after you graduated. How did that feel being a published author prior to attending college?
Honestly, it’s still somewhat surreal. It is truly such a blessing. Just seeing my name on the cover. . . I can’t describe how that feels. I never thought I would really get published, especially so young. I don’t really think I recognized my talent until I did. It took me two years to secure an agent and a deal. This was right around the time Harlequin formed their Kimani Tru imprint specifically for teens. So, it didn’t happen overnight but when it happened, it happened fast. The timing was right.
11. Are you majoring in creative writing in college, or pursuing another course of study?
I’m not in school at the moment, but I plan to go back for a degree in marketing. In order to improve upon what I already have I feel like knowing how to brand and market yourself as well as your product is crucial to your long-term success as an author. While I’m there, I will probably still continue to study writing because even though I am already published I feel like I can always stand to learn new techniques and do better. I am always looking for new ways to take it to the next level.
12. Do you have an agent?
I had an agent starting out, but for this next project, I’ve decided to represent myself.
13. Have you ever won any awards for your writing? If so please elaborate.
I haven’t won any awards just yet, but I have received a lot of positive feedback on both books so that’s rewarding to me. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to touch people and evoke emotion. I feel like as an author it’s my job.
14. Where can someone purchase your books?
My books are currently available online in e-book and paperback format at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com as well as eHarlequin.com for $9.99.
15. How do you promote your books?
I speak at high schools, libraries, book clubs, and youth groups. I do interviews for newspapers and online magazines, radio as well as book signings and discussion panels. I’ve even judged a short story contest and participated in a spelling bee. Lately, I’ve been branching out more to attend networking events. I’m a member on just about every social network there is: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, MySpace, Shelfari, and I have a profile on Amazon. I plan to launch my own website in the near future.
16. Do you belong to any writing associations?
I just recently signed up with the Motown Writer’s Network and I am really looking forward to working with them and attending more of their events. I’ve also been looking at the Authors Guild and Romance Writer’s Of America to name a few.
17. Please tell our readers about your books “16 ISN’T ALWAYS SWEET, and FAST LIFE”
I feel like both novels are very entertaining, easy reads. Once you pick up one of my books you won’t want to put it down. Kyra Jones and Jordan Wright are two completely different girls but they each have their own interesting story to tell and I think they are both strong in their own way.
Fast Life is about a girl named Kyra Jones – a spoiled city girl uprooted from Chicago by her mother to the Caribbean who is torn between a new start with Justin, the man she loves and Makai the bad-boy ex she just can’t seem to let go.
16 Isn’t Always Sweet is a coming-of-age story about Jordan Wright who soon after turning 16 (as well as making an appearance in a music video for her favorite rapper) finds her life full of drama both at school and at home but, in the midst of a nasty feud with her former best friend, Adrienne, Jordan finds comfort in the arms of the most popular boy at school, the ever-so charming Warren Taylor.
18. What are you working on now?
I submitted my manuscript for the Fast Life sequel to Harlequin not too long ago, so I can’t really say too much about it as I am still waiting to hear back about it. In the meantime, I’ve started book #3 in the Fast Life series and am in the middle of outlining my first street novel.