Sometimes life isn’t simply black or white, meaning can be found in THE PATCHES OF GREY, a novel by Roy Pickering @authorofpatches #interview #writing #books

 

Author Roy L. Pickering, Jr., a native of the U.S.V.I of St. Thomas was raised in the boroughs of New York and currently resides with his wife Erin in New Jersey. Roy, a former English major at NYU  writes short stories and novels that examine the human condition.  Mr. Pickering is also an  avid sports fan and writes a monthly sports column for www.Suite101.com. 

Patches of Grey is his debut novel which follows the life and struggles of high school student Tony Johnson  who dreams of a life outside of the box that his address, race,  society, and family places him in. Constantly at odds with his father, Pickerings main character wonders ” With everything the world had to offer, Tony marveled at how the golden nectar of barley and a box filled with moving pictures managed to placate his father. Why didn’t he need more, or at least comprehend why others might?”

Tony’s attempt to escape his current life through higher education is further complicated by his interracial relationship with a classmate, increasing the tension between father and son. “You think a couple of new laws and some tokens in high places makes everything fine and dandy?” Lionel asked. “You don’t actually believe that changes what they think of us, do you? Getting good grades in school don’t mean you know shit about life, boy. I could have five PHD’s, but that wouldn’t change nothing. I could click my heels and think good thoughts all day long, but they’ll still see me as a nigger. You’re my son, so how do you think they see you?”

This novel should be required reading for all students inspiring them to not be limited by their circumstances but to rise above and succeed despite the obstacles they must overcome on their life’s journey.

I had the pleasure of picking this author’s brain this past week. I enjoyed our interview and am happy to introduce you to this wonderful “new” author.

Thank you Roy for visiting Lexi’s Author Alcove we will start with the easy questions first…

 

1. When did you first begin writing?

I’ve been writing stories in one form or another since shortly after mastering the alphabet.  In high school I made my first attempt at a novel.  I abandoned the project after a few chapters, just enough to inform me that while in over my head for the time being, I’d be able to go the distance someday.  In college I discovered the short story format.  Up until taking a writing class in college I actually thought it would be more difficult to write a short story than a novel because my ideas were so large in scope.  I’ve been writing steadily ever since, alternating between short stories, a novel in progress, sports articles and editorials on my blog http://lineaday.blogspot.com

2. Who are your inspirations?

Among the writers I get the most charge from are John Irving, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cormac McCarthy, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Tom Robbins, John Updike, and Phillip Roth.  The longer I think about this question the more names I’ll come up with, so I’ll stop there and simply state that I’m a huge fan of all those who have mastered the written word, no easy task as I well know.  I’m especially drawn to works of literary fiction but try to keep my reading diverse because I know masterpieces can be found throughout the various writing genres.  Well, most of them anyway.  I’m not entirely sure about some of these new hybrid genres that have been popping up lately.  Whether reading or writing I try to avoid the formulaic.  Guidelines is one thing (e.g. – a horror novel should have horrific elements) but cookie cutter stories do nothing for me.  The writers I find inspirational are those who are neither following a trend nor even creating one, but writing one-of-a-kind tales that had to be written by them personally or else they never would have seen the light of day.

3. Congratulations on the release of your debut novel PATCHES OF GREY.  Can you tell us about it?

My novel is about members of a family struggling to deal with various issues going on in their lives throughout the course of a tumultuous year.  Lionel Johnson is out of work, a strong blow to the pride of a man accustomed to being the primary wage earner.  In his frustration he turns to the bottle, making life extra challenging for his deeply spiritual wife, Caren. Their daughter Tanya is dealing with pressure by her boyfriend to relinquish her virginity and the repercussions of her decision, and her younger brother C.J. is uncertain whether his sense of self-worth derived from membership in a gang is sufficient.  At the novel’s center is their older brother Tony, a high school senior looking forward to moving towards a future far removed from their ghetto neighborhood.  Rather than finding support for his aspirations, he is met by discouragement, in particular from his father.  This is compounded by disapproval of his relationship with Janet, who is white.  Significant tension is created by Tony and Lionel’s vastly different ways of seeing the world and those who populate it, and their attempts to resolve this form the core of the narrative.

4. PATCHES OF GREY has received wonderful reviews and has been recommended as required reading by high school students. Did you have this goal in mind when you wrote this novel?

Yes and no.  Most of the main characters are high school age and the plot covers various issues of interest to young people on the periphery of adulthood, so certainly I had them in mind as potential readers.  Yet Patches of Grey is not technically a YA novel just as while there are love stories chronicled within it, I would not call it a Romance novel.  I don’t think much about a specific audience when I write.  My prose is meant to be for anyone and everyone.  Some might find the subject matter of my novel more intriguing than will others, but I would not label it exclusively as a book for teens, or for African Americans, or for those interested in interracial love stories.  These are merely elements that it is comprised of, not the sum total.  While writing Patches of Grey I envisioned it being read by high school students and college professors and housewives and CEOs and workers on the assembly line and the random person about to board a flight who is looking for a good book to pass idle time with.  Who will relate to it most?  If you’ve ever loved or been loved, hurt someone or been hurt, had dreams realized or dealt with the disappointment of falling short, then Patches of Grey was written for you.

5. Who would you say your target audience is?

            My target audience is fans of character driven fiction with compelling storylines.  If you need your protagonist to be a vampire or wizard or whatever the latest trend is, it may not be up your alley.  If you are drawn to convincingly drawn characters who are dealing with dramatic real life issues, it may be just what you’re looking for.  I’m especially proud of the fact that there have been readers and reviewers who stated it is not the type of book they ordinarily read, but they picked it up anyway, found themselves hooked, and were glad they decided to give it a shot.  

6. You say there is a difference between being a writer and an author. You have considered yourself a writer thus far. What is the difference between the two in your opinion and have you crossed over the threshold into authorhood yet?

I see you’ve done your homework. I recently wrote on my blog that the primary role of a writer is of course to write, whereas the role of an author, most especially a modern day one, is to promote what they’ve written via any means necessary and mediums available.  Being an author, particularly a self-published one who does not have the backing of a publicist or marketing department, consists of a variety of moving parts.  There’s contacting brick and mortar as well as online booksellers to get your work into their hands, arranging readings/signings, setting up an elaborate web site, creating a book trailer, being the guest of honor at book club meetings, participating in book fairs.  The list of projects to undertake if you wish to create awareness for your book in a very crowded marketplace goes on and on.  As a writer I’d say I’ve put in a good deal of work over the years.  As an author I’m still a novice at drawing attention to my prose, although recently I got my toes wet by participating in an event along with six other authors at a charming shop in Sparta, NJ.  I must confess that I was mildly terrified at the prospect of meeting and greeting the book buying public, but it turned out to be a great experience.  I’m not sure what’s up next, but whatever it is I’m looking forward to the challenge.

7. Can you explain the difference between a self published author and an independent author? Which one do you consider yourself to be?

I’m not entirely sure of the difference in definition between those two terms, or if there even is one.  I know independent author sounds nicer.  I know self published has a negative connotation because it implies one was unable to secure a deal with a Big League publishing house, presumably because their book wasn’t good enough.  I know that “good enough” often really means “marketable enough for the publisher to feel confident they’ll make a profit” rather than having anything to do with quality of writing, and wish more readers understood this.  And I’m aware that there are authors (as opposed to writers) who know they have the time and resources to bring as much or more attention to their books on their own than any publisher would bother to allocate, so they opt to publish themselves, which obliges them to do 100% of the work and enables them to reap 100% of the profit.  My own set of circumstances is somewhat unique, and without elaborating I’ll just state that I’ve had to pay very little money to get Patches of Grey into print, unlike the majority of people who publish themselves.  A situation basically fell into my lap that I chose to take advantage of rather than letting my book sit in a drawer until I’d summoned the energy to go on another round of literary agent hunting.  Self publishing is quite affordable now thanks to advances in publish-on-demand technology, so those who go that route fortunately don’t need to take out a second mortgage or have a basement crammed full of books.  But affordable isn’t equal to cheap, and luckily for me I didn’t have to start off in a financial hole and try to sell my way out of it.  I guess you could say the publication of Patches of Grey, by self or independently or whatever you wish to call it, has been a stress free experiment to acquaint myself with the role of author while working on the writing of my second novel.  At this point my goal is have novel #2 traditionally published and give the lucky publishing house a great deal of assistance marketing it based on what I’ve learned promoting my first one.  But I have no way of knowing for certain in which direction the road will turn.

8. I found your short story Amaretto Kisses to be fascinating. I love how the more I read the deeper I was pulled into the mc madness. How do you come up with your ideas?

Thank you.  Ideas come to me in different manners.  They seem to be floating around the cosmos and if one comes close enough while I’m in receptive mode, I’m able to lasso it.  Of course the idea is simply the start, after which comes the labor of figuring out how to craft it, then the actual writing, and then the shaping into final form.  I happened to be listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill one day and the line “sweet prince of the ghetto, your kisses taste like amaretto” grabbed me.  This brought about the rather rare (for me) scenario of selecting the title first and then coming up with a story to apply it to, rather than the usual other way around. 

9. Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?

In addition to the authors I listed as inspirations there are many others I’m deeply fond of.  Stephen King and Tim Sandlin are fantastic writers I’ve come back to repeatedly.  Richard Wright and Alice Walker and Nora Zeale Hurston and Charles Dickens are literary heroes of mine.  I’m leaving out my favorite playwrights and poets for the sake of brevity.  I look forward to reading more books by Chuck Palahniuk (loved Rant) and for Junot Diaz to write a follow up to his masterpiece, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  At the moment I’m reading Pat Conroy’s South of Broad.  Immediately before it I devoured Richard Russo’s That Old Cape Magic and Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist. What will I pick up from the bookstore or library next?  Perhaps Kindred by Octavia Butler, a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for a good while now.

10. If you had one wish for your writing career what would it be?

For it to be lengthy.  Lucrative would be a wonderful bonus, certainly if it was at least lucrative enough to quit the day job.

Lexi’s note: Me too!

11. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?

Marry well.  Someone rich would be convenient, allowing you to devote full time to your craft.  Failing that, in all seriousness now, find someone who understands you’ll require time to dedicate attention to the worlds within your head that you’re attempting to put down on paper.  If you can’t find such a spouse, a loyal dog will suffice.  Read, read, read plenty of excellent writing of which there is no shortage.  Embrace diversity of material because there is a great deal to learn from a wide range of stylists.  Don’t take rejection or unkind words personally, for not everyone is capable of hearing what it is you’re trying to say.  Travel.  Spend less time talking and more of it listening.  Always have a pen and paper on hand.  Pay attention to the world around you and those who inhabit it.  Screw imitation as your form of flattery.  Instead dare to be great or die trying. 

12. Do you have an agent?

Not at this time, but a fantastic one is on my “to acquire” list once I have a final draft of my latest novel Matters of Convenience in hand.  Perfectly written query letter, here I come.

13. Have you ever won any awards for your writing? If so please elaborate.

I rarely enter my prose in competitions, consequently I tend not to win many awards.  Primarily I’ve sought publication, ideally with accompanying compensation, and I have considered each check I’ve earned an award of sorts.  My short story One Manhattan Evening received honorable mention in a contest I entered a while back, and my story Dangerous Habits took third place in a competition.  But as a rule I tend to stay away from writing contests, focusing on crafting my tales and then finding the most appropriate venue to have them each placed.

14. Where can someone purchase your books?

Patches of Grey is available for purchase at Amazon in print and electronic format, and my novella Feeding the Squirrels which was published by SynergEbooks exclusively in electronic format and can be downloaded to a Kindle.  Besides Amazon and at my web site RoyPickering.net plus a couple small bookstores in New Jersey, Patches of Grey is sold online by {Indie}pendent Books and Mahogany Books.  Short stories of mine also appear in a number of anthologies.

15. How do you promote your books?

My promotional efforts to date have been primarily on the internet, with GoodReads.com being the main place outside of my own web site where readers can learn about my books.  I make the occasional marketing tweet on Twitter http://twitter.com/AuthorofPatches and maintain a Facebook page for Patches of Grey.  But mostly I’ve been reliant on word of mouth from interviews such as this one and the reviews I’ve gotten.  Fortunately reviewers have been generous with their praise.  I’m not quite outselling Stephenie Meyer or Suzanne Collins or Steig Larrson yet, but I’m working on it.

16. Do you belong to any writing associations?

I do not.  I’ve been taking the lone wolf approach to writing.  In the past I’ve participated in writing workshops but eventually grew weary of them.  I prefer to obtain opinions from the reading public rather than fellow writers.

17. What are you working on now?

I just completed the first draft of my second novel, Matters of Convenience.  By year’s end or early 2011 I hope to have it in final edited form, after which I’ll begin querying literary agents to gauge interest.  Wish me luck.

 roy pickering book www.RoyPickering.net

  patches of grey               FeedingTheSquirrelsCover

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6 Comments

Filed under African American Authors, Author Interviews, writing

6 responses to “Sometimes life isn’t simply black or white, meaning can be found in THE PATCHES OF GREY, a novel by Roy Pickering @authorofpatches #interview #writing #books

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Sometimes life isn’t simply black or white, meaning can be found in THE PATCHES OF GREY, a novel by Roy Pickering @authorofpatches #interview #writing #books « Lexi Flint's Author Alcove -- Topsy.com

  2. great share, great article, very usefull for me

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  4. Loved the interview! Mr. Pickering seems like a great guy and I loved the advice on question 11! Looks like I’m doing a good job being a good spouse to my Writer! 🙂

  5. Great writing! You should definitely follow up on this topic.

    Roosevelt

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