Friday, August 17, 2012

#AuthorInterview Shewanda Pugh and #CharacterInterview from Crimson Footprints

Crimson Footprints was your debut novel. How did you get inspired to write it? What did you start with? The character Deena or the plot?
Interesting enough, Crimson Footprints began with Tak. I wanted to flesh out a contradictory character, one whose appearance proved different from the assumptions some might harbor about him. The idea came from an assignment I had in a graduate level fiction writing class, where I had to people watch in a local Barnes & Noble. While doing so, I saw the quintessential urban guy—dark skin, baggy jeans, tattoos, and he made me sit up a little straighter. When he headed over to the lit section and spent a little time with Poe, I was taken aback, and then annoyed with myself for being taken aback. Nonetheless, Tak was born in that moment. It was only when I considered the sort of girl he'd want, one as far from assumptions as possible, was I able to come up with Deena Hammond. 

At what point did you decide to make her boyfriend Japanese?
I confess to already having an interest in Japanese culture, born first from J-Horror, then other foreign movies from Japanese producers and the like. Making him Japanese seemed natural, given my interests at the time. 

Your portrayal of Deena's family was realistic and unapologetic. Do you worry that some may be offended? And others view the family as typical?
Early on, when Crimson Footprints went through intense scrutiny and saw the monitors of various beta readers, some did criticize certain aspects of Deena's family. However, I think it's fair to say that I treated both families with a similar stroke, showing that dysfunction is just as likely to strike the well off as the poor, and virtually any race. I find it interesting that the one or two who have expressed concerns did so in one case and not the other. Any who, in creating Deena's family, I sought only realism in painting the larger picture, showing family members infected with an impoverished mindset and others who were solidly middle class. But no, I don't worry about offending with my art. In life as in art, if you seek to piss no one off, you'll likely piss everyone off. 

When did you decide to make Deena an architect? Were you interested in architecture as a field of study?
Deena's career came from a careful analysis of her personality. I sought a career that reflected her rigidness and orderly personality. From there, I fanned out and created an orderly world around her. But no, I haven't the faintest inclination to be an architect.

How long did it take you to write Crimson Footprints? How much of it was research?
Two years from first word to last and a ton of research to boot. The story began as a Master's Thesis at Nova Southeastern University, a short story of about 50 pages, and filled out to a full length novel. I knew nothing of architecture, so I spent a lot of time researching that. I also spent a lot of time researching Japanese American culture, which was a great deal harder, as there is actually very little in print to rely on. I also researched the cities featured in the book, not trusting memory to help me despite already having a familiarity in some cases. 

How did you come up with Tak's character? Did you know someone like him? Date someone like him?
I've never known anyone like Tak. My Barnes & Noble guy was but the first step. Once I decided that Tak would be different from virtually any stereotype, assumption, or widely held belief within his culture, I had to figure out how he got that way. So I fleshed out a pretty thorough back story.

What are you working on next?
My publisher and I are in the final stages of delivering Crimson Footprints II: New Beginnings to the world. That's set for release February 2013. My current work in progress involves a well-to-do African American teenage ballerina and her next door neighbor, an Asian Indian football player with one hell of a temper. Their families are extremely close, functioning almost as a single unit, until the boy and girl fall in love. Then, of course, the world as they know it detonates.  

Thanks Shewanda for the insights. I enjoyed reading Crimson Footprints and have some questions for Deena and Granma Emma. Deena's up first? Okay, here goes.

What is the one characteristic about Tak that attracted you the most and got you to let your guard down?
His ability to make me laugh. Even during the toughest time in my life, he had the uncanny ability, not just to make me smile, but to place a downright grin on my face. And have you seen his arms? Goodness, yes. 

Okay, I know this is a painful subject and you won't even talk to Tak about it, but do you ever miss your mother? Have you any fond memories of her when you were a child?
My mother. Of course you'd bring her up. It's like those moments when there's a wreck on the highway and everyone slows to gasp and gawk. Talk about Deena's mother, everyone says. That'll her get riled up. Well, it won't. You know why? Because she's nothing to me. Nothing worth remembering. So I don't remember. 

What about your father? It was his dream to be an architect. Did you get more attention from him than Anthony and Lizzie?
Of course, I did. When I was kid, we'd hang out in my room for hours, building these towering things. Lizzie or Anthony would fuss, but daddy wouldn't move a muscle. He'd say, 'let your mom handle it. We're doing important work, here.' It was our time and no one could interrupt.

Why do you think Tak allowed you to treat him like a doormat? Did you ever disrespect him for not standing up for himself?
I resent that question. Tak was never a doormat to me and no, I would never disrespect him. He understood that life had been difficult for me and what he wanted more than anything was to ease that burden. I would never hurt him and he would never hurt me. 

Thank you Deena, but in my opinion, you didn't treat him too well. You didn't even grovel in the hospital room and instead, he proposes??? None of my heroes would have put up with it, not even my new beta guy, Lucas Knight. Just be glad you ain't in my book.

Here's Granma Emma.

Okay, how in the world did you let Deena get away with having a man in her life and you never finding out anything about him? If I know Black folk, it's that their family knows EVERYTHING! Emma, your creds are seriously jeopardized. Girl gone sneaking around with a guy with a fancy ass car and you got no clue? Can't even tell she's strutting around with that special glow? Where's your radar detector?
Look, I knew the girl had a man. Who can't tell when a girl got a man? Point is, I ain't know he was that kind of man. Man like that, drive that kinda car, don't come trekking up this way to meet no girls, no how. So it aint nothing I coulda predicted. 

I'm with you about Jesus Christ died for everyone, and I sure hope Deena can get Tak and his family saved. So... how can you be more tactful about it?
Tact aint for me. Tact Tanala, or whatever the hell is name is, well, he's for Deena Hammond. Ain't you been listening? 

I'm really touched by that scene when you asked Deena's forgiveness. What did you learn from Deena's experience, her secrecy and her finding love with a man of another race?
I ain't so sure I learned new things. More, the way I figure it, I was be reminded of some old ones. But what it's like to love someone, and how we really all just children of God, learning till he calls us all home. Love makes us do crazy thangs, whether it's through loving a man or loving your grandmama.

Thank you Granma Emma! You're so right about love. And on that note, I think we'll call it. Thank you Shewanda for being on my blog. I wish you lots of luck with your new book and hope to see you back chatting about it.


  1. Thank you for asking the questions readers have wondered about! Great interviews.

    1. Thanks for letting me talk to Deena and Granma Emma. Your characterizations are so real. Good luck on your next book.