Author Cydney Rax She was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and graduated from Cass Technical High School. She also attended Eastern Michigan University where she earned an undergraduate degree in written communications. She has been in love with reading since she was in elementary school and can’t imagine a world without books and after reading Disappearing Acts by Terry McMillan in the late 1980s she had a revelation that writing novels was what she wanted to do.
More than a decade later, her dreams were realized when she received an offer for a book deal. Her debut novel My Daughter’s Boyfriend was released to lots of fanfare – and much controversy due to its racy content. Since then, she’s become an influential writer with a dedicated fan following. Her other sexy love triangles novels include My Husband’s Girlfriend, My Sister’s Ex (cited by Essence® as one of 2009’s best reads), Brothers and Wives, and the popular novella Desperate Housewife which was featured in the Reckless anthology.
Cydney is profiled in Literary Divas: The Top 100+ Most Admired African-American Women In Literature. Her novels have been featured in Ebony, Essence, Today’s Black Woman, Vibe Vixen, Black Beat, Upscale, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today.
Authors that inspire her include Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, Shay Youngblood, Danielle Steel, James Cain, Sister Souljah, John Grisham, Connie Briscoe, Bebe Moore Campbell, Margaret Johnson-Hodge, Alexs Pate, and Jennifer Weiner.
Cydney currently lives in Houston and stays busy working, reading, and writing.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
Thank you for reaching out. I happen to love author interviews (lol). Ever since I was a little girl I could be found with a book in my hand. I enjoyed being swept away and getting engrossed in a story. And the love of reading continued throughout my adult years, especially when more contemporary African-American novelists hit the scene. Once I began to discover these writers, I just about grabbed every novel I could read by folks like Terry McMillan, Bebe Moore Campbell, Connie Briscoe, Omar Tyree, Sandra Kitt, and so many more. During the late to mid-90s’, I knew without a doubt that I HAD to write fiction too. I actually became obsessed: reading, studying, learning about the publishing industry, going to book signings and probably getting on some author’s nerves because I was so hungry for info and would ask them all kinds of questions.
The thing that I enjoy most about being a writer is the creative aspect. To know that we can develop all kinds of characters and plots and subplots and write about people who don’t even exist. Man oh man, it’s one of the greatest feelings on earth. And to see the book in print and know that people can read my books and buy them all over the world, I never can get over that. I am appreciative of the opportunity to write.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
Avid readers who enjoy books about family, love triangles, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, children, and all kinds of family drama can find my novels mostly online and via digital websites. Amazon.com, iTunes, GooglePlay, Barnes and Noble, Abebooks, Alibris.com, Wal-Mart, Target, Audible, etc. My books are published in paperback format (for those who love to hold a book in their hands). They are e-books that you can read on your phone or tablet. There are audible editions for those who like to listen and drive at the same time. And there are library large print books for those who prefer hardcover books. They also can be found in some independently owned bookstores too, or grocery stores, airports. You just never know.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
I am kind of nosey in that I listen to people’s conversations. People talk about the most interesting things. And my mind instantly starts to wander and I find myself making up stories. I will grab a pen and paper or my cell phone and start writing down notes about a potential story. Honestly, when these things start to effortlessly happen, that’s when you know it’s a gift. It comes from God. Creativity and storytelling are gifts. We don’t give ourselves these gifts but we have to study and hone the talents. And so, pretty much every week I start to imagine different scenarios and all kinds of characters and ask ‘what if’? I like the juicy storylines. Stories about marriage and conflict, men and women, dating, sex, and unforgivable acts.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I don’t adhere to a strict writing schedule. But I do set a goal to write so many pages per day. As long as the work gets done, that’s what’s important. Yes, I have to outline the novel so I can have some type of idea about what’s going to happen. From start to finish novels take at least six months because I have a day job. But the entire process of getting a book to the public can take longer than a year. Right now I am steadily developing ideas for other novels, as well as screenplays and television shows. I love to develop ideas based on character-driven storylines. Sometimes if I am writing something that scares me in some way because it’s taboo, it’s going to hold my interest.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
Okay, I’m about to date myself but I’d say a Judy Blume book was one of the first to move me. She wrote for teenagers about teenaged angst. And her writing style was very down to earth and conversational. She made it easier to connect to those characters.
I have too many favorite authors, way too many to name. But in terms of genres, I love fiction, some suspense, classic novels, stories about relationships, romance, and I like some of those British novels with the quirky humor. To be honest, I am always reading five to ten books at a time. So some of them are: Finding Makeba by Alexs Pate, the new one by Terry McMillan (It’s Not All Downhill From Here, The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon).
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I don’t know what my most significant achievement is but if I had to pick something I’d say to be published at all. To have 13 novels to my name so far is a huge blessing. I always knew that there was more than one book inside of me and it feels incredible to have more than one title.
In the next five years, I am seeking to branch out. To write and develop screenplays; I’d love to see my characters come to life; to watch actors speak the dialogue or act out scenes from my books. Also, I just want to continue developing stories that I love, that make people think and feel.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is drastically changing in terms of traditional and self-publishing?
Excellent question! From time to time I think about the rejection letters that I received when I was first seeking a book deal. Long story short getting rejected stings. Writers want all editors to like what they do, but in the final analysis you want to end up with a publisher who wants you and who believes in you. Everything happens for a reason. In fact, one of the publishers who initially rejected me ended up becoming my publisher years later. How’s that for poetic justice? And back in the day, I dealt with rejection by holding onto my faith. It was hard but so worth it. You must believe in yourself, in God, and in your dreams in order to make it in this finicky business.
And yes, the industry has changed so much I don’t know where to begin. Back in the day, we’d always hear about how a new author got a book deal, a lucrative book deal. Fellow authors would be inspired and would celebrate that person’s success nowadays? Humph. I can’t recall when I last heard about someone getting a book deal, LOL. I am very blessed to have gotten into the business probably at the tail end of when those exciting things were constantly happening in the book industry. E.g. there were dedicated imprints especially for black writers and African-American storylines. Those opportunities have diminished but there are still a lot of writers out here with stories to tell.
8) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself?
Ha! You will find me reading a copy of my own book. Yes. It’s true. I don’t find anything wrong with it either but sometimes I notice people giving me the side-eye when I do it, LOL. Basically, I see it like this: I wrote the book but I read it like I am a reader. I will read something and I forget that I wrote it like that. And I will be surprised, amazed, and tickled by what the characters do and say.
9) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Great question! I believe that if you have a dream go for it. What does age have to do with it? If you have a wonderful idea that is constantly burning inside of you maybe that’s happening for a reason. Also, if you have an idea and don’t pursue it someone else will. You shouldn’t want to live with regrets so forget about ageism, racism, sexism, etc. Throw all of that nonsense out the window and live your dreams. Other people’s issues and perceptions shouldn’t matter when you have big dreams that you want to achieve in your life.
10) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
I think that for me, writing helps me to know that I can make it through all kinds of trying situations. My characters go through a lot. I know what it’s like to deal with so many horrible, awful situations that make you feel like you can’t make it. And to be a survivor and come out on the other side of pain – that’s how I relate to my stories. Dealing with realism is my authenticity.
I think finding your truth is what empowers you. Being vulnerable is what can empower you. It’s not easy at all, but it is doable.