Straight out of Memphis, Tennessee, Shajuana McDuffy is real, raw, and a little rough around the edges. She has no filter and is as blunt as they come. Her bold statements and unapologetic nature have been known to shake a few foundations. She says exactly what’s on her mind with a lot of humor. She encourages people to own their truth, live their truth, and be their authentic selves. She always says, “If a person can’t accept you for you for who you are, forget them!”
Shajuana’s delivery is raw and will pierce the very thing that you try to suppress. Her storytelling is an up close and personal, in your face kind of style. It will penetrate your soul, and have you seeking to become a better version of yourself. There is a message in everything about her. The most exciting thing about her is her smile and personality. She’s fun, witty and edgy. She’s your southern homegirl from around the way. Shajuana may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but she’s somebody’s shot of whiskey.
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?
You’re welcome. Thank you for requesting an interview with me. I’m humbled. To answer your question, I knew I was called to write in the fourth grade. As a little girl, I kept a diary of everything until my privacy was invaded. Also, I was silenced as a child. My voice or opinion didn’t matter. Everything I said was taken as me being disrespectful or getting smart. Therefore, I wrote like my life depended on it. Whatever I couldn’t or wasn’t able to say was written down. It is for this very reason why I love writing the most. What frustrates me the most about being a writer is when I think faster than I write, then lose my thoughts.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
I write fiction and nonfiction books. My nonfiction books are about spirituality, self-help and life lessons. I boldly write about things that most people ignore or don’t want to speak on. These books are to help you become a better version of yourself and to teach you how to take accountability for your actions. My fiction books have a little bit of drama in them. They have twists that will leave you speechless. Readers can find my books on Amazon. They are in eBook and paperback form.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
The inspiration for my stories are based on real life situations, which are mostly my own.
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 do not have a schedule for when I write. If something comes to mind, like a storyline or a thought, I usually go with the flow. No, I absolutely do not outline. Truthfully, because I suck at it. However, I do write ideas down the way I visualize them, and a story comes to life. There isn’t a timeframe on anything I write. As long as an idea is there, I continue with it. I try my best not to force anything due to the risk of it turning out horrible. Currently, I’m working on my second fiction book, which is based on a true story. It surrounds the death of a family member. I’m still battling with that loss. Therefore, it’s taking me longer than usual to write it.
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?
I don’t remember the first book that really moved me emotionally. I’ve been reading all of my life. So, there are thousands. Maya Angelou and Wahida Clark are my all time favorite authors to read. In modern times, there are a lot, but B. Love is at the top of that list. The book that I am currently reading is Last First Kiss by Monica Walters.
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?
My most significant achievement as an author thus far has been my ability to help people overcome things through my writing. I’ve always said that if my books can help one person I’ve done my job. My joy comes from reading satisfied reviews, and when readers tell me how much they enjoyed my books. I’m not sure where my writing career will be in the next five years, but I know for a fact I’ll still be writing.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
Rejection is a big word and kind of a downer to say the least. At this point in my career, I roll with the punches. I had that experience with my first book Hidden Treasures. I had a few people to tell me that it wasn’t their cup of tea, and some even criticized me personally. Although there were a lot of people who praised me, there was one who said, and I quote, “Who is she? Is she a blogger or an influencer? Does she have a website or anything. I can’t take advice from someone who is only a mother. She acts as if people don’t know how to live life.” It was a huge blow to me because I was just starting out, but I learned from it. I sucked it up, took it as constructive criticism, and began building my brand. The advice that I’d give to other writers, who are under a publishing company like myself, is to listen to your publisher. Consequently, they’ve had to learn by trial and error. Therefore, I would presume that they know what they’re talking about. Not every publisher will give you creative control. If you’re not into that, step out on your own. Just make sure you know what you’re doing. Learn what you can before you decide to leave. What works for you may not work for everybody else. Self-publishing is time consuming if you don’t know what you’re doing. Everything, including costs, will be on you versus you being under a publishing company. That was something I wasn’t ready for because I didn’t know the business. The blessing in this is that I’m under a publisher who teaches these things to prepare authors to self-publish. So, research and do what you need to do for you.
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
Not at all. My publisher makes it easy for me. By easy, I mean giving the tools we need to learn how to manage both. In the beginning, I didn’t understand how to promote or how to go about doing it properly. I can honestly say that I have a better understanding of it now. It may not be the best, but it works for me. I’m fairly new, so I’m still building my platform. A lot of readers really don’t take a chance on new authors. With that being said, I’m still finding my way. Promoting is the easy part because people will definitely see it. However, the building process is harder due to people not knowing you or not wanting to waste any time on you. It’s a gamble.
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
Yes. I love reading my own work. There are times when I read it and I’m like, “Dang, I wrote this!” or “I can’t believe you said that, Shajuana.”
10) 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?
It’s never too late. Write your shit! There will always be an audience for everyone. You just have to find it. It won’t be easy because you are not for everybody. In the end, I’ve learned that they will find you. I started a year and a half ago, and I’m almost 40 years old. I wanted to be a voice for others and help them through my experiences. Now, I’m here.
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?
I’m all about owning your shit and living your truth. This is what I live by. There is only one you. No one can tell your story better than you. Make that masterpiece count. Writing empowers me to do that. It forces me to tell my truth and be real with myself first. If I can’t be real and honest with myself and accept things as they are, what can I be for anyone else? This is a level of growth that a lot of people are not prepared or ready for. Believe it or not, accountability brings so much peace and a clear conscience. I don’t worry about a lot of things like I used to do. Truth is light, and it’s amazing what it brings.
My website is www.shajuanamcduffy.com. I can also be found on Amazon. Again, thank you for the opportunity.