Recita Lanier Clemons was born in Vermillion Parish, Louisiana and spent her early years moving from place to place as the daughter of a career Air Force Sergeant. Her father’s love of books filled the family’s bookcases with volumes by James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O’Conner, and many others. In college she majored in Journalism and received a B.A. from Howard University. Several years later her love of mysteries compelled her to research the legal field and she received her B.S. in Legal Studies from the University of Maryland’s University College. One day she decided to sit down and write the kind of book she wanted to read. While admiring other female sleuths, she felt the mystery world needed a Jonelle Sweet. While writing is one passion, horseback riding is another. As a horse owner and competitor for over thirty years, she finds writing and riding very similar activities. Both require skill, perseverance and practice in order to continue to grow and excel at each craft. In addition to her Connemara/Thoroughbred gelding Ramsey, she shares a home in Maryland with her gray tabby, Lucy
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? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I wrote my first poem when I was in elementary school and kept it for an embarrassingly long time. I’ve always loved reading and dreamed of writing the kinds of stories I felt drawn to, but with characters that looked more like me.
I love the writing process–sitting down with a blank page and turning it into a story. What’s most frustrating is putting myself “out there” to gauge whether or not total strangers appreciate my work.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My Jonelle Sweet mysteries feature a 30-something black female PI. She’s braver than I am and more “in your face” but in a polite sort of way. I admire her risk-taking; something I’m still working on for myself. There are four books in the series, the latest is entitled “Five Minutes,” about a four-year-old who goes missing when her mother leaves her alone and claims she only left the child alone for five minutes. I also wrote an Amazon short read introducing readers to one of the characters in “Five Minutes” called Riley. The one-hour short read is called, “Who’s Riley?” All are available through Amazon.com. My website is: rlanierclemons.com.
3) What projects are you currently working on?
I also love history and trains so I decided to try my hand at writing a YA historical about Pullman sleeping car porters. The novel is entitled, “The Gollywobbles” and features 16yo Robbie Robinette who runs away on a cold Chicago morning in 1920, steals another’s identity, and gets involved in three bizarre passengers intent on breaking his spirit. My plan is to try and find an agent for the novel that also has a paranormal twist. My fifth Jonelle Sweet mystery is currently in the planning stages and tentatively titled, “Change Nothing.”
4) 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?
My second novel, “Gone Missing” won the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, African American division. My third novel, “The Trickster” was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence awards. In five years I’d be proud to consider myself both an Indie and traditionally published author.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
I feel sorry for myself, wondering why I’m constantly putting myself out there–all for about thirty minutes. After pouring myself a glass of red wine, I look at all that I’ve accomplished, and start writing again.
6) 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?
I write every day. Sometimes I can manage 500 words, other times a full chapter. I always like to have a road-map before I start writing (hate the word “outline”; reminds me of school). When I first started, it took me six months to complete a MS. Now it takes about a year.
7) 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?
I sometimes regret that I didn’t take writing seriously enough when I was younger since honing one’s writing skills does take time. Having said that, I don’t believe it’s ever too late. If you have stories inside waiting to come out, do it! When you start is irrelevant.
8) Are you an avid reader and have you always been? What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
Always loved reading! My father loved books and I remember going in the basement where he kept the books he couldn’t bear to give away, and picking up a novel to read. Back in the day (I’ve been around a while), there weren’t as many books for middle grade or young adults as there are today. I read James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It On The Mountain” when I was very young–that book has stayed with me always. Don’t know that I have one favorite author. I’m always looking for new authors to read and new releases by old favorites. Love Walter Mosley, Lisa Jewell, Stephen King, Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge mysteries, etc.
9) How has the current state of the world affected your writing? Because writing is an isolated practice, do you find it easier to deal with quarantine? Has it stifled your creativity or has it made you even more driven to get things done?
Once I accepted the restrictions, it didn’t change my writing habits at all. Since I’ve been writing every day for some time, it’s now a habit no matter what’s happening in the world. Frankly, I kind of like the isolation. If a person’s an avid reader, isolation is part of exploring new worlds in the pages of a book.
10) What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry as it is being represented today? Do you lean more towards traditional publishing or self-publishing as a preference? Does being a hybrid author interest you?
As stated above, I’m currently an Indie-published writer. I have a professional editor, formatter and cover designer. I’m considering the traditional path mainly because I want to see if I can do it.
11) 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?
Interesting! I’ve never really thought of writing as a coping mechanism. I write to give voice to the movies in my head–stories I want to tell to bring friends and strangers into the world I’ve created, have them stay awhile and enjoy themselves while they’re there.