Posts Tagged 'Yolanda Wallace'

Name That Tune

 

By Yolanda Wallace

 

I’ve always heard that life comes with a soundtrack, but I’m beginning to realize books do, too.

I don’t listen to music when I write. If the sun’s up, I’m serenaded by the sound of my dogs chasing each other around the house and the cat yowling for yet another snack (yes, she’s spoiled, but we love her). Once night falls, I have the TV on, but I usually leave the sound off so I can listen to Dita and the kids snoring while I type. I mean, so I can concentrate on crafting witty dialogue and a plausible plot. Yeah, that. Love you, honey.

Ahem. What was I saying?

Ah, yes. Music.

I have a full-time job so any writing I do during the week is done at night. During the day, I play tunes on my iPod while I’m sitting at my desk in my office. Just because I’m not writing during that time doesn’t mean I’m not communicating with my characters, however. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say I’m channeling them. I say that because my favorite songs tend to change depending on the book I’m writing at the moment.

Love's Bounty 300 DPIWhen I was writing Love’s Bounty, I think I listened to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” every day for two months to help me stay in the mindset of my main characters, a lobster boat captain and the greenhorn she hires for the season. Now I can’t hear the song without thinking about Jake and Shy checking their traps off the coast of Maine while their friends and family anxiously await their safe return.

When I was writing The War Within, which is partially set during the Vietnam War, I turned to songs and artists that were popular during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. As a result, I had the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, and Creedence Clearwater Revival in heavy rotation. Every time I hear the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” I picture Army nurses Meredith and Natalie dodging bullets while they try to patch up wounded soldiers.The War Within 300 DPI

Which brings me to my latest release.

Written under my Mason Dixon pen name, 21 Questions is set in Miami. I’ve always wanted to visit uber-hip South Beach, but I’ve only gotten close enough to wave at it as Dita and I skirted the heavier traffic on I-95 as we made our way to Key West. When I came up with the idea for the book, I did tons of research to get a feel for the area, but that wasn’t enough to help me capture the characters. Naturally, I turned to music to help me solve the dilemma.

21 Questions 300 DPICreating co-protagonist Kenya Davis was easy. I pictured her as a smooth, polished corporate professional with a hankering for old-fashioneds and classic soul. So I turned to my trusty iPod, found the Motown box set and allowed myself to be serenaded by Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, and the like. The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” became Kenya’s theme song. In more ways than one.

Simone, the other main character in 21 Questions, was harder to pin down. I knew I wanted her to be younger—she’s 28 and Kenya’s 36—and I knew I wanted her to be a bartender because it’s such a sexy profession (duh), but that wasn’t enough to turn her from a character into a person. Once I decided to make give her Jamaican roots, everything started to come together. Bartending is what she does, but it isn’t who she is. She has dreams of becoming a music producer but doesn’t know how to make those dreams come true—or how to convince Kenya that she’s a better catch than her multimillionaire boss. To capture Simone’s energy, I turned to the reggae and Caribbean music on my iPod and put them on repeat. In fact, I played Rihanna’s songs so much I ended up writing one of them into a scene. “Don’t Stop the Music,” indeed.

I am currently working on Tailor Made, a New York-set love story featuring a woman who makes custom suits and a female bicycle messenger who moonlights as a male model. You know that means, don’t you? Yep, you guessed it. It’s time to break out the iPod.

Peevish and Butthead

By Yolanda Wallace

I’m a writer. It’s not only who I am; it’s what I do. I write constantly. In my notebook. On my laptop. On scraps of paper I find lying around. During the week. On the weekends. In the middle of the night. At the crack of dawn. I’ve even written an entire scene while driving on the interstate. Okay, truth check on that one: I dictated the words and my wife Dita wrote them down for me while I kept my eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel. (I think she lost patience after a while, though, because each time I thought I was done “writing”, she would ask me if I was sure, I would respond in the affirmative, then another thought would occur to me less than five minutes later and she’d have to put down her e-reader and pick up her pen again).

And you thought living with a writer was all fun and games. Actually, it can be pretty fun sometimes. I have so many characters running through my head Dita never knows who she’s going to come home to at the end of the day. But she can also vouch for the ugly truth: writers aren’t very much fun when they’re not writing. In fact, I’m told we—okay, I—can be downright crabby when I go more than a few days without putting pen to paper or pecking away at my keyboard.

The best way I can explain it is writing is like an addiction for me. It has the same highs and lows and going cold turkey is a tough ask.

Each time I finish a book, I always say I’m going to take a break to clear my head before I start thinking about the next project. Two things invariably happen. 1) I start reading a good book and get inspired to start writing again well before my self-imposed deadline ends or 2) I start acting out my own version of a Snickers commercial. You know the ones I’m talking about. The various ads that urge you to binge on chocolatey peanutty nougatty goodness because “you’re not you when you’re hungry.” In my case, I’m not me when I’m not writing. Dita has never used the B word to describe me or my behavior when I’m suffering through withdrawal so I’ll do it for her. I can be a total butthead when I’m off my favorite narcotic.

Of the many witty bon mots attributed to quote machine Dorothy Parker, this one has always resonated with me: “I hate writing. I love having written.”

The process of writing can be laborious at times—choosing a setting, creating characters, deciding on point of view, crafting a plot you hope readers will find as appealing as you did when the idea came to you while you were taking a shower or walking the dog or sitting on the beach or—Well, you get the picture. And don’t get me started on writer’s block because that’s a story in itself.

But, despite the hard work (or, perhaps, because of it), there’s nothing like the feeling I get when the story elements start coming together and the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be the finish line instead of a freight train rushing in my direction.

247I say all this because I didn’t truly know what it was like to live with a writer until I wrote about one. Finn Chamberlain, one of the main protagonists in my March release 24/7, is a travel writer. Like me, Finn initially turned to writing because it was more fun to visualize her fantasies than live her reality. My circumstances have changed—as Finn’s certainly do during the course of the book, thanks to the sexy Federal policewoman she falls for and the pesky drug cartel threatening both their lives—but one thing has remained constant for both of us: writing.

Writing makes me happy when I’m sad, occasionally moves me to tears, and has taken me to so many places I never thought I would go.

Thank you for taking the journey with me. I hope you enjoy the trip(s) as much as I do!

Around the World

Join me as I catch up with Bold Strokes Book author Yolanda Wallace at Atlanta Pride. Despite the rain and crowd noise, you’ll hear about her recent and most excellent release, The War Within, her upcoming novel 24/7, and there might be an outing of sorts.

Ashes to Ashes

BY YOLANDA WALLACE

My grandmother, one of my earliest muses, died when she was ninety-five. She slipped away in her sleep late one December night in 2013.

My family doesn’t believe in cremation, so, long before she passed, my grandmother had made it known she wanted to be buried next to her brothers and sisters in the family plot behind her church. (One of two family plots, I might add. Since my father’s side of the family belongs to a different church than my mother’s, all my relatives on his side of the family are interred in a different cemetery. But that’s a story in itself).

Years ago, my grandmother helped instill in me my inveterate love of travel.

When I finished college, my high school English teacher gave me a graduation gift: a plane ticket to the destination of my choice. I was young and (secretly) gay, so I naturally picked San Francisco, a magical city that was worlds away from my tiny hometown of Sardis, Georgia.

When the plane ticket to San Francisco arrived in the mail, I immediately booked a room at a B&B in the Castro and counted down the days until I would be able to walk the streets of a town I had seen only in the movies and a neighborhood I had visualized only in my dreams.

The very idea of the trip nearly scared my parents to death because 1) I was their only child, 2) I had never been on a plane before, and 3) I had never ventured so far from home. (I was also the first person in my family to attend college, let alone graduate, but that’s also a story in itself). Despite my parents’ misgivings, my grandmother was elated.

“Go while you’re young and able,” she said. “See everything you can. And if your mother and father ever have a problem with you wanting to venture somewhere, just go. You can tell them about it when you get back.”

Like they say, it’s always easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

San Francisco was my first vacation destination. But thanks to my grandmother’s advice, it hasn’t been the last. I’ve visited fifteen states and five countries since my first wide-eyed trip to California twenty-three years ago. Hopefully, I’m not done yet. There’s a book called 1,001 Places to See Before You Die and my wish list of places to see might be even longer than that.

When she was younger, my grandmother moved more times than I can count, shuttling between rural towns in south Georgia and larger ones in central Florida as she tried to find the best place to settle her family of six kids. If given her druthers, however, she would have chosen New York. She moved there for several months when she was in her early twenties and would have loved to stay there permanently, but she was the oldest of her nine siblings and her mother had begged her to come home and help take care of the household. My grandmother followed her head and dutifully made the return trip down south, but she always regretted not following her heart, which gave me added incentive to follow mine.

When we shuffle off this mortal coil, my partner and I want to be cremated and have our ashes spread in the cities we considered our favorite vacation destinations. Dita has chosen Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. We’ve been twice and have had an incredibly relaxing time on both occasions.

As for my final resting place, I’m still undecided. Probably because I have yet to see Paris, a city that, thanks to my minor in French, has always been my dream destination. Until I lay eyes on the Eiffel Tower or stand beneath the Arc de Triomphe, Key West will have to do.

A road trip to Key West was the first vacation Dita and I took as a couple. We’ve returned to the tropical paradise several times in the thirteen years since then and I’m getting the itch to go again. To have a drink at Sloppy Joe’s, pet a descendant of one of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats, and take part in the Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square. Perhaps next year Dita and I will pick a long weekend, hit the open road, and make the twelve-hour drive from Savannah to Margaritaville.

I would love to take my grandmother with me on my travels—to sprinkle her ashes in some of the many cities she never got to see when she was alive. Instead, she’ll have to see them through my eyes. Because, no matter where I go, she’ll always be in my heart.

The War Within 300 DPI  Charm City 300 DPI

I’ve Got a Secret

By Yolanda Wallace

I have a confession to make. For the past year, I have been living a double life. But I think it’s time for me to come clean.

Deep breath in. Let it out slowly. Okay, here goes.

I am Mason Dixon.

If you’re saying, “Who?”, you must not have read “Mason’s” book Date with Destiny,Date with Destiny 300 DPI which was recently nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in the Lesbian Romance category.

If you’re saying, “Really?”, I have two responses for you: 1) Thank you and 2) surprise!!!!

I didn’t set out to become Mason. I set out to write a book about an African-American woman who works at a bank in Savannah. Since I am an African-American woman who works at a bank in Savannah, I didn’t want anyone who might read the book to think it was autobiographical. (With the bank robbery element thrown in, I definitely didn’t want my employers to think that way, either). Thus the idea for Mason was born.

A funny thing happened along the way, though. Writing as Mason instead of Yolanda felt liberating. It gave me permission to explore different characters and themes and play with language in a way I had never done before.

Now—in my mind, at least—Mason has become her own brand. A writer who tells stories featuring a predominantly African-American cast of characters, which you don’t often see in lesfic.

I chose Mason Dixon as a pen name because if Date with Destiny didn’t turn out to be a one-book lark, I intended to set all of Mason’s subsequent novels in the South. But you know me. The motto for my writing is “Go between the covers and take a trip around the world.” I like to move around the globe too much to stick to one region of the country. Accordingly, Mason’s next book won’t be set in the South but in Baltimore.

Charm City, Charm City 300 DPIwhich will be released in August, features Raquel Overstreet and Bathsheba Morris—a bare-knuckles boxer who works for a drug dealer and an undercover cop determined to bring Raquel’s employer and everyone for works for him to justice. Doesn’t sound anything like Month of Sundays, does it? I liked the characters so much when I completed the first draft of Charm City, I’m actually contemplating a first for me, a (gasp!) sequel.

I shouldn’t say that too loud, though. I haven’t received the notes from my editor on Charm City yet. Depending on what she says, I might have to adjust my rosy outlook. Right now, though, I’m flying high.

The Lammy nomination for Date with Destiny came as a complete surprise. I’m in with some really heavy hitters—Lynn Ames, Gerri Hill, D. Jordan Redhawk, Ann McMan and Salem West, Tracey Richardson, Karin Kallmaker, and Bold Strokes’ own Andrea Bramhall, D. Jackson Leigh, and Nell Stark—so I sincerely doubt I’ll win, but it feels wonderful to have something that began as a fun experiment receive the honor of being judged one of the ten best lesbian romances that was published last year. I’ve been gobsmacked and incredibly humbled by that notion ever since I received the e-mail containing the list of finalists. Never in a million years did I expect Mason’s name to be included. Then again, I didn’t expect my name to be included last year for Month of Sundays, either. Talk about your pleasant surprises.

The only bad part of this whole thing? Deciding which of my personas should tackle a story idea once it comes to me. Should I write this one as Mason or myself? It’s a good problem to have, I suppose, though my poor partner may be a trifle confused by all the costume changes. But it keeps things interesting, which I hope can be said for any book I write, no matter which name appears on the cover.

Love – Love

Prolific BSB Author Yolanda Wallace offers insight into her romance novel set in the world of professional tennis, Lucky Loser, AND gives us a glimpse of her two upcoming releases.


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