Where Honesty Never Ends.
Greetings! No Labels here!
Just recently, I had the pleasure to speak with Beem Weeks, author of Jazz Baby. Here is what he had to say about the book, his love for music, and all things in between.
Welcome, Beem! Glad to have you here.
1. I see that you are from Michigan but you have lived in the Deep South. In your opinion, what ways are the North and South different?
Beem: Well, it’s been more than twenty years since I last lived in the South. I remember feeling almost as if I’d moved to a different country at the time. The weather, of course, was so much better. Eighty degrees and sunny at Christmas? That’s paradise to a guy from the cold North. The culture in the South was quite laid-back as opposed to the hustle and bustle of the North.
Unleashed Reflections (originally from Mississippi): I had that same feeling when I moved to the North back in 2003. Even now, I still feel a bit out of place, and I haven’t quite gotten used to the snow.
2. Did any part of your upbringing influence any parts of Jazz Baby?
Beem: No. Jazz Baby is purely fictional; it’s the creation of my imagination. Some of the characters are influenced by people I’ve known over the years. Emily is a mixture of a couple of young girls I knew way back when—but she’s more a created character than actual person or people. I also relied on stories my grandfather shared over the course of my early life. I didn’t use actual events, but I took what he told me and let those ideas sort of set the tone for any particular scene.
3. How were you able to refrain from using “the n word” in a work which focuses on a time period and a location where that word was used in excess?
Beem: To be totally honest, it wasn’t a conscious idea to omit that word. I just try to write in a creative sort of way, avoiding clichés and stereotypical characters and dialogue. Yes, that word would have been oft-used in 1925 Mississippi. But so would any number of other racial epithets—some of which are indeed used within this story.
4. In reading Jazz Baby, I noticed the androgynous component of Emily Ann, the main character in the book. Was this intentional, and do you think it added or subtracted away from the appeal of the book?
Beem: I don’t know that I’d call it androgynous. Emily Ann is not only a gifted singer, the girl is stunningly beautiful. But after the terrifying ordeal in the back seat of the revenue agent’s car, she doesn’t want to be seen as beautiful. Beauty equals danger. The short haircut is meant to disguise that beauty. It doesn’t work, though, as Neesie points out. I think that scene also shows Emily trying to emulate Addison Markley—the true androgynous character in this story. Emily Ann is just a very curious girl discovering new appetites. As for adding or subtracting from the appeal of the book: that’s up to the readers to determine. I just tried to present a very real character with very real emotions, appetites, and curiosities. Sexuality is a powerful human element.
5. Tell us about your upcoming project.
Beem: I’m currently working on two projects. One is another historical fiction novel set in 1910 called The Secret Collector. The other project is a collection of short stories I hope to have published by early next year. I won’t put a due date on the second novel’s release. It will arrive when it’s good and ready.
Unleashed Reflections: Ooh, can hardly wait. Perhaps The Review Board may get a chance to do a review on one of the projects. A girl can dream!
6. For you, is the writing process for a novel different than the writing process for a short story? Expand on your answer.
Beem: It’s the same. One just takes longer than the other. A lot more goes into a novel—research, plotting, outlines, character development. With a short story, I can start with little more than an idea that will become an adventure in a matter of minutes. I can finish a short story in 30 minutes or less—minus the rewrite.
A novel takes time to develop. You’re hoping to hold a reader’s attention for many more pages than with a shortie. If the novel hits a slow point in, say, chapter four, there’s no guarantee the reader will stick around for chapter five and beyond. There has to be a conscious effort to construct each and every chapter as a stand-alone story within the story. I see many comments in some of the writers’ chat rooms that implore authors to write for themselves. “Write what you, as the author, would enjoy reading.” I don’t necessarily agree with that notion. I write for the reader. Do I find chapter seven interesting? Sure. But will others find it as interesting? That has to be taken into consideration. I try to write characters that are alive and relatable. The plot has to pull the reader inside the action. But you need this with any story—long or short.
Unleashed Reflections: I definitely applaud and respect that view. It shows that you really care about the type of experience you want to deliver to your readers. I, too, have encountered writers who have the attitude, “If the writer doesn’t like it, that’s too bad.” However, it is the reader that serves as a measuring stick of how well received a work can be.
7. In developing your writings, which part comes to you first: title, overall plot, the characters, or none of the above?
Beem: The plot—or a rough idea for it—always comes first. I get a feel for the adventure, where it begins, where it finishes, and what happens along the way. Once I begin to flesh this out, the characters start to line up. I’ll play with these characters, give them quirks or habits, bringing them to life. The title for Jazz Baby came after the story was completed. I almost called it In The Time Of Jazz. With the Secret Collector, the title came around chapter four or five. It just seemed appropriate.
8. What factors made you decide to go with Fresh Ink Group as opposed to any other publisher or publishing method?
Beem: The foundation of Fresh Ink Group is quality. They won’t just take an author’s money and publish whatever is sent to them. They’ll do a manuscript evaluation to determine if it’s ready for publication. They take a personal interest in the author and the work. Their pricing is comparable with most other quality publishing. They offer a 75% author royalty rate—which is quite high for this industry. I am just thrilled with the work they’ve done.
Unleashed Reflections: I’m glad that you are pleased.
9. What are three tools you believe self-published authors should adopt but are not fully utilizing?
Leaning in for a good listen…
Beem: The rewrite is most important. This is vital to any great story. Nobody, not even Stephen King, sits down and writes a great novel in one try. The plot and the characters are always strengthened by a rewrite or two. Jazz Baby went through several rewrites. A rewrite will only make the story stronger. Just don’t rewrite the creativity out of your story.
Another tool to utilize is a website called Koobug.com. It is because of this site that I have a sizable following in the U.K. They’ve benefitted me even greater than GoodReads. This site allows authors to post short stories, info about their books, and blogs. There are many other writers and readers who will offer comments on items posted. Koobug is becoming an important player in the indie author universe.
The final tool that should be used is Twitter. But don’t just promote your own work. That gets old and boring for the tweeter and the tweetee. My Twiter account @voiceofindie is used to promote other authors, photographers, artists, musician, and special causes—like anti-bullying sites and crowdfunding projects. I promote my own stuff, sure, but in promoting the creativity of others, I’m making great friends and establishing networks. A strong indie world is beneficial to all who live and create in it.
Unleashed Reflections: Thank you so much for those tips. I definitely have to take a look at Koobug as well as continue to utilize Twitter to capacity.
10. If you could pick one song which personifies your life as a whole, what would it be and why?
Beem: Good question. I tried to pick a great metal song like “Damage Inc.” by Metallica or “Slave to the Grind” by Skid Row.
But the words to the Beatles song “In My Life” just say everything so beautifully.
Thank you so much, Beem! It has been a delight to have you as part of the Author Spotlight. Please keep The Review Board posted on when your book and short stories have come out.
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