Nakia R. Laushaul is the award winning-author of, Running from Solace, Chasity Rules and Estranged. She resides in Los Angeles, California and is an inspirational poet, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur. Nakia is also the co-host of TF?, a social and cultural podcast where she discusses current events, pop culture and surviving America as a Black woman.
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?
Thank you for having me! I have always had a tremendous love for reading. As a young child I was a storyteller. My uncle encouraged my storytelling by paying me to create alternate endings to popular children’s stories. I was 9 years old when I absolutely knew that writing would be a big part of my future. I read, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and that was all she wrote. I wanted to be just like Maya Angelou.
Writing is my escape from the real world. I can live inside of my head and create a world that belongs exclusively to me, for a time. On the flipside, it can be frustrating when I don’t have as much time as I would like to play with my imaginary friends in my head, which is often, I mean with having a day gig and a small business to run.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
You can find out more about me, the lady who writes emotional roller coasters that read true on my website and social media. I’m always ready to chat it up with new friends so pop on by for entertaining conversations. I must warn you though, I write tear-jerkers, but in my day life I am the life of the party. See you around!
TF? Podcast: https://anchor.fm/podcast-tf
3) What projects are you currently working on?
At the moment, I am trying my hand at a holiday screenplay. It’s a completely different beast from novels. When writing a novel, I am expected to create the entire world and that takes pages and a ton of words. Not so in the world of film, the writer is expected to create the world through dialogue. I’m learning my way through it though, so we shall see.
Also, during this pandemic, I’ve found time to start a podcast (TF?) with a longtime friend—Portia Cosby. It is currently one of the joys of my life. It’s the raw and real social commentary that we all need at this time. I like to say that TF? is similar to having your homegirls in your ear talking about what matters most to you. We are relatable and real. And I think we’re funny. If you’re a podcast listener…I mean even if you’re not, most of our listeners have never listened to a podcast before TF? but are finding themselves hooked. TF? is a solid, quality worthwhile listen.
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?
I’ve won national awards. I’ve been a bestselling novelist. I’ve been a featured author on large platforms. But those accolades do not even come close to being found by a reader that really needed to read my book. I write the truth in fiction. I not only write to entertain, but I write to help others. And when that one person finds one of my books, sees themselves, and discovers resolution or healing or feels understood—that is the only achievement that really matters to me.
I actually don’t know. The industry is so unpredictable that I can’t call it. Especially with social media you can go from unknown to the highest highs of success almost overnight. For the next five years, I’ll continue to write and we’ll see where it takes me.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Of course, rejection can get to you. No one likes the feeling of not being wanted or accepted. However, rejection is inevitable and there is one thing that I know for sure—someone is not going to like my work. And that is okay. I mean, understanding that everything is not for everyone makes it easy to ignore it. If not, it could cripple my creative process and I hate being stagnant.
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 am a binge writer. I’m a binge-y type person overall, I mean I’m eating the entire bag of chips at one time. I can’t stick to a schedule to save my life. Not to mention, I have a very busy life with competing deadlines. Most times, a story simmers in my head for years before the characters starts knocking, start banging to come out. And when I can’t stand the knocking for one second longer, I sit down and write the story—beginning to end. No outline, I just freestyle it. I’ve written a 30K novella in four days and a full 90K novel in 30 days. I’m just binge-y like that.
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?
Oh no, it’s never too late. Too late is when you’re dead. I was in my thirties when I published my first novel. And here I am in my forties breathing new life into my writing career for the second time. The passion for writing will never die on its on own. I like to think that with age come life experiences and a wisdom that could be beneficial to readers. I would say to anyone, do what your heart tells you when it tells you and don’t worry about the ticking clock in the background.
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?
I am a reading fanatic! I have always had a love for the written word. I discovered my school’s library when I was in the first grade, and instantly it became a safe haven for me. I started off with Doctor Seuss, then moved to Aesop’s Fables. At nine, I discovered Maya Angelou—and was hooked. I then began to devour the literary works of notable Black authors. We’re talking the classics here: Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and so many more. But I must mention that I did read some Judy Blume and The Baby-Sitter’s Club…I was still a kid. Lol.
I don’t quite have a favorite author, besides Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston who are at the top of my list. I just love good books. I am also a huge fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanah? I mean, amazing book. But right now, I’m reading, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
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?
I spent the first few months of quarantine in absolute shock. I mean, I was just trying to find orange juice and eggs at the grocery store with no thoughts of writing. I was also dealing with a shoulder injury, so the stress of those early months of quarantine was insurmountable. I think around May, I began to think that this thing was going to be here for a while so I might as well stop worrying and figure out my new normal.
I was working on my new book, Estranged, at the time, going through final edits and cover design. I was having a hard time making up my mind. The cover mock-ups weren’t living up to my expectations. I knew what I wanted, but had a hard time conveying it. Once I changed my focus, and found my inner peace, well everything just fell into place. I finally found a graphic artist with a can-do attitude. I shut off everything around me and I was able to push Estranged over the finish line. And I started a podcast, TF?. And made headway writing my script. As always, it’s just mind over matter. I am now more productive and creative than ever and the only thing that changed…was me. Fourth quarter 2020 has been great!
10) Does your family support your career as a writer?
If I must answer truthfully, I have to say: not really. There are a few folks in the fam that support and for them I am appreciative. Now this is something that used to bother me. Today, I just accept it for what it is and focus on the many wonderful people that are consistently there for me. I’ll tell you a little story…
I once attended a friend’s book signing. She pulled me aside and expressed sadness that her real friends and family were not there to support her. I pointed out that the room was packed with people. I was like, sis…look around. Don’t worry about the people that aren’t here. Put your focus on what you have in front of you. Your story resonates with all of these strangers, so much so that they came out in droves to support you. Bask in this moment and enjoy support wherever it comes from.
My advice is not just for writers, but for the sister hustling candles, hand-made jewelry, or tea cakes—focus on the customer in front of you. Your family knows you; they are having a hard time seeing you as a successful author when they used to know you as Lil’ Kiki.
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?
Okay so writing is my superpower. I didn’t come into my full purpose until I realized that. I was just stumbling through life, looking for myself, unhappy and afraid. The dreams of that little girl, sitting in the library reading the best of fiction by Black authors to one day see her own name running down the spine would come true. Everything I’ve always wanted to say, my characters, my stories were so pent up inside of me. And when I decided that yeah, whose gonna stop me from publishing a book. It was like putting on the cape. Some teach. Some heal. Some make beautiful music, and some, like me—write.