Ebony Rising: Author, Trice Hickman
Trice Hickman is a popular, award-winning author with 6 novels to her credit. On top of this she is currently in the lab working on her next book. I got a chance to talk with Trice (pronounced like twice with an R) when she came up for air from writing a few days ago. Trice is a very personable lady who, I must say, knows her trade.
PBI: I’m happy to see that we can finally make this happen! I’m excited!!
TRICE: Yes, I am too! And I apologize for setting the time during football but there’s no other way to get around it.
PBI: No worries. Are you a fan? Who is your team?
TRICE: I am. I’m a big Pats fan. My whole family are all Steelers fans so I’m part of the Steelers Nation,too.
PBI: Your current book is Troublemaker, correct?
TRICE: Yes! It was released July 29th.
PBI: And, I’ve been following your Facebook posts so I know you’re already in the lab working on your next book. Tell me about that one. You have a title for that one already?
TRICE: Yes, my work in progress is my 7th novel entitled “Secret Indiscretions” and it is a book that launches a new series called the ‘Dangerous Love’ series. It will be released in the summer of 2015.
PBI: With the new series slated to launch and the ‘Unexpected Love’ series, would you say that creating series-based story lines is kind of your forte?
TRICE: It didn’t start out that way. When I was writing my first book, Unexpected Interruptions, I did not even think about doing a sequel. But by the time I finished I definitely knew there was going to be a sequel because with the story ending the characters still had so much more left to say and so many things going on. Plus, a lot of the readers wanted to continue the journey with these characters and see what was going on in their lives and what they were up to. So this all came about organically as I found that readers get invested in the book’s characters and they want more of their story. Now some readers say they don’t like sequels, but my experience in talking to book clubs is overwhelmingly positive regarding book series. Once I had signed with Kensington Books, even the publisher acknowledged that the fan base wanted a continuance of the series’ story line.
PBI: So… what was your profession before becoming an author?
TRICE: I managed law programs for an international legal association.
PBI: That sounds kinda lofty right there.
TRICE: It was a very interesting job; very rewarding and very interesting.
PBI: What was that transition like going from your corporate job to becoming an author?
TRICE: Well, having always been an avid reader, I’d loved books since I was a little girl. Once I decided I wanted to write one though, I suffered from writer’s block for many, many years. But finally I finished my first book in 2004. It was a dream come true but it wasn’t without some challenges. I tell anyone who is considering leaving their day job to become a writer to make sure you have a plan to sustain yourself. This is an industry that’s always changing and can be very competitive. Also, the monetary margins can be great or they
can be not so great. So have a plan. The transition was still shocking but I was prepared for it.
PBI: Was your book completed by then? Did you have a book deal?
TRICE: I didn’t have a deal at the time but I did have a finished manuscript. I started shopping it around. I shopped for an agent. I shopped for a publisher. I even submitted my work to acquisition editors… anyone that I thought would take a look at my book and, kind of, green light it, in a sense. I got rejection after rejection after rejection. This was through 2004, 2005 and 2006.
During this time I concluded ‘the only way I’m gonna get this book published is to do it myself.’ I did not initially want to self-publish because I’d heard of how difficult it was, but I knew it was a move I had to make. E-books were in their infancy then so it wasn’t as easy as it is now for authors to get their books published.
PBI: So was that a turning point for you?
TRICE: Yes, and there was a lot involved. What I did over the course of those years was… I planned. I developed a marketing plan. I developed a promotion plan and strategy. I developed a distribution plan. As a result, as a self-published author, one of my first book signings was in Barnes & Noble in Union Station, in Washington, D.C. I was blessed to have that opportunity and it took a lot of hard work to get there.
PBI: Well, it sounds like you did it the right way. So what was your process to getting the book published? I mean, did you do everything yourself or did you have other people working with you at this stage?
TRICE: I did have other people working with me. What’s good about research is if you don’t know how to do something you can find someone who knows how to do it. And there were quite a few things that I did not know how to do,like design the cover. I knew aesthetically how I wanted it to look but I didn’t know technically and mechanically how to do it. Through my researchI found a wonderful photographer who happened to be my neighbor and she did a photo shoot that that resulted in a fabulous cover. I used my sister and a couple of friends to be my cover models,and it turned out so well. One of the reasons I was able to get my book into stores and get national distribution was because it was packaged and marketed professionally. I wanted to ensure that if my book was sitting on the shelf right beside a book from Simon & Schuster or Grand Central Publishing a reader could not tell the difference, in terms of quality, aesthetically. We concentrate, as writers, on crafting a well-written story; and that’s very important, but no one will read that beautifully written, well-crafted story if the packaging doesn’t drive them to pick it up. So I assembled my team. I hired a typesetter, I hired a graphic designer.
PBI: How did you manage distribution in the early stages?
TRICE: Distribution was another issue. The printer that I used had a fulfillment center and they helped me with distribution in terms of getting the books out the door. And that’s very important. Nowadays distribution is very different with the advent of e-books, but physical distribution was one of my biggest challenges.
PBI: So… the first book was released 10 years ago. When did Kensington come into play?
TRICE: Well, I completed the book in 2004 but it wasn’t released until November of 2007. Because it took me that long to research and form my publishing company and feel comfortable enough to quit my job and head out on my own. In 2010, I woke up one morning to an email from an editor at Kensington Publishing, saying they were interested in my work and asked if I would give them a call. It was good timing because by then I was ready to relinquish some of the day to day rigors of publishing and get my work into a larger, broader market.
Interestingly, I asked the editor at Kensington what prompted her to contact me. She said she had been aware of me for some time. This is something that all self-published authors need to know. .. publishing houses stay on top of what’s out there in the marketplace and what’s trending. My editor had seen my name, she’d seen my work and seen my book covers but for the longest time she did not believe that I was self-published. She thought that I was published by a small publishing house. And that speaks to the power of how when you present your work it has to be professional. So that’s how my relationship with Kensington came about. It took several months to negotiate a contract but we got it down. Interestingly, the agent who brokered the deal for me with Kensington was one of the agents that initially turned me down.
PBI: That’s bananas!! Really?
TRICE: Yes, Janell Walden Agyeman with Marie Brown Associates. She initially turned me down. She was the only agent out of all -the agents I’d submitted to who actually offered to speak with me . She gave me very good advice and feedback on my work. She said the book was very well written but that it was too long. She told me that it wasn’t necessary to explore every scene in such great detail. Also, at that time she couldn’t accept additional clients. There are only so many clients an agent can work with effectively.
Even though overall I got rejected, I took our interaction as a positive. I felt that she had great integrity and I wanted to keep in touch with her. I believed that something would come of my quest to get published and I knew that there was going to be an opportunity in the future. She’s been my agent since 2010.
PBI: Did you have any formal training in writing or is yours an innate talent?
TRICE: A little bit of both. In college I took writing courses. I’ve always been a good writer; very strong in English. After college, and in recent years, I have taken some writing courses.
PBI: Family-wise, are you from a literary family; a family of readers?
TRICE: My mom read a lot and my parents always encouraged us to read. Once a month, I remember they use to take my brother ,sister, and me to the Half Price Bookstore and let us pick out books. Whatever we wanted to read.. comic books, novels, different genres. They encouraged my love of reading and books. I think it’s important that kids are encouraged to read and to choose what they like.
PBI: So your inspiration to write came from your lifelong love of reading? Were there others in your life that inspired you or motivated you to be an author?
TRICE: I didn’t think about becoming a writer until my sophomore year in college. I had been an avid reader but I had never read literary fiction. Growing up, of course, it was all kid’s books and young adult novels. With that I had never read books written by people who looked like me, books by African Americans.
I enrolled in an Advanced Literature course in college that focused on African American female writers and poets. It was taught by Dr. Elwanda Ingram. I credit Dr. Ingram for opening my interest. She introduced me to Alice Walker , Toni Morrison, and Zora Neal Hurston, and poets like Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez. Those writers opened up a new world for me. Those women, looked like me and they were telling stories that really resonated with me. That inspired me and I decided, ‘I want to be a writer.’
PBI: How much emphasis do you put on promotion personally, for your work?
TRICE: It’s very important. I dedicate as much time to promoting and marketing as I do to writing. Maybe more at times. It’s essential. You have to define yourself and your work. To be competitive you have to ensure you stay relevant in the midst of a lot of great talent out there. It’s critical for authors to develop a voice and presence that will help us find and grow our audience. Social media plays a big part and takes a lot of time as well. I’m the type of person that, if I get a message from a reader, I want to respond to them. There’s only one of me and thousands of them, so that can be a challenge. Also, I travel quite a bit for events, book tours, and speaking engagements.
That said, I love meeting my readers. The book signings and book clubs. There’s nothing like getting out and meeting your readers. I go to book events and network and hand out bookmarks and meet and greet.
PBI: Now I have to pose a fan type question for you. If you could make a movie from one of your books which book would you choose and what movie actors would be your lead characters?
TRICE: Wow, that’s a good question. (Looooooooooong pause). I think out of the books I’ve written I’d have to say, Looking For Trouble I think it would make a great movie because it’s a saga in itself.
For this particular book, I would say that the person who could play the lead character, Alexandria, would be Tracy Ellis Ross. Because she looks just like the character I envisioned. Now Victoria, the older Victoria could be played by Janet Hubert, the actress who played Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The first Aunt Viv. The male leads, I’d say PJ would be… Michael Ealy.
When I think of them as these characters it’s not necessarily because they look exactly like the characters in the book, but, rather,the way they carry themselves.
PBI: Well this interview could go on but I guess we’d better wrap up. I have to ask, what comment would you like to leave your readers with?
TRICE: I’d have to say that I love meeting my readers. I have had so much positivity! They give me feedback that I’d never thought of. I have very LOYAL readers that support book after book after book. They are key to my reaching my goals and I appreciate them all.
I have to admit that I learned a few things in talking to Trice. It's great to see anyone take the independent route and make it work for themselves. In Trice's case, her talent, hard work and planning put her on the path to making her dream a reality. Continued success to you Trice!!!
TRICE'S UPCOMING APPEARANCES:
October 11 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Baltimore African American Book Festival Enoch Pratt Central Library 400 Cathedral Street Baltimore, MD
Book Signing at Winston Salem State University
12 noon – 2:00 pm
Online @ tricehickman.com