A Sacramento, California native, Niyah’s love affair with the written word began early. By the age of nine she was fully immersed in the possibilities of prose. Under the subtle urging and guidance of her literary mentors, Niyah embarked on a professional writing career.
A true contemporary artist, Niyah’s foray into the literary world began in 2007 with the social media platform Myspace, where she submitted her writing to be included in select anthologies. Niyah has since secured multiple independent and major publishing deals, as well as having been included in several anthologies such as: Outlaw Mamis, Zane’s Busy Bodies: Chocolate Flava 4, and Anna J’s Lies Told in the Bedroom.
Niyah has a special way with words, which keeps her readers anticipating new arrivals. Her noteworthy novels include: Zane Strebor’s Quickies: Pigalle Palace and Thunderstorm, Beneath the Bayou, and Major Jazz.
Niyah was an honoree for the 2013 Exceptional Women of Color Award of Northern California. She is a two-time recipient of the African American Literary Award for Best Anthology and 2015 AAMBC Literary Award nominee for Best Digital Publisher.
In 2014, Niyah signed her first major two-book publishing deal with Simon & Schuster, under New York Times Bestselling Author Zane’s imprint, Strebor Books. Niyah’s first release was Pigalle Palace, which was featured by Ebony.com.
In 2019, she signed her second major 6-book publishing deal with Kensington Publishing, under New York Times Bestselling Author Carl Weber’s imprint, Urban Renaissance. Her releases under Urban Books / Urban Renaissance include Sand Cove, Sand Cove 2, The Queen’s Diamond, and Young Gucci.
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 asking me to do the interview. I’m honored. When I was 9 years old, I started writing in a journal that my granny gave me every day. It wasn’t until my teacher told me that I had a special gift that I ran with it. I love being able to pull my laptop out and get lost in my own world. I don’t like feeling like it’s a job. It takes the fun out of it for me. I know deadlines are important to keep on schedule, but I love free writing.
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 in many genres. Pigalle Palace and Thunderstorm are paranormal erotic romance about vampires in Paris, which was released under Zane’s Strebor Books. I self-published Major Jazz, which is a historical romance about a jazz player in the 1950’s. Beneath the Bayou is a paranormal historical romance about identical twin sisters who dabble with voodoo in the 1920’s. I have a bunch of street romance, but the most recent were released by Carl Weber’s Urban Books called The Queen’s Diamond and Young Gucci. I also released a romantic thriller under Carl Weber’s Urban Renaissance called Sand Cove and Sand Cove 2. All my books can be found in major retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target, and Amazon.
3) What projects are you currently working on?
My next release is November 2021 called A Thug’s Heartbeat from Urban Books. I’m also working on a project with a new author, Isiah Spearman. It’s a fictional story based on true events that have happened in his life and family’s life. The title and release date will be coming soon. I am excited about this project because he has such a rich story to tell.
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?
In 2013, I won Norther California’s Exceptional Woman of Color Award and I also was nominated by AAMBC as best Indie Digital Publisher of the Year. I see myself maturing as an author and working on projects that push me beyond my wildest imagination. To be honest, I would love to take a vacation. I’ve been writing nonstop for over ten years now. Some place warm with a balcony and crashing waves.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
I’ve dealt with plenty of rejection in my career. I had over 40 rejection letters from agents when I first started. I cried and felt like giving up, thinking I would never be good enough. I had a mentor look over my letters and helped me to re-work them. After that, I started hearing yes. I think of rejection as opportunities to find alternate ways to get what you want. If it’s meant to be, it will be.
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 tend to write better in the middle of the night. Currently, I do not have a schedule. I write when time permits. I absolutely hate, hate, hate, outlines, but I do take notes and make character developments. It depends on how I’m feelings. I’ve finished a novella in 3 days before. Generally it takes me a couple of months. The longest it’s taken me is a few years but that was because I was working on other things in between and I wanted to let it breathe before picking it back up. Some of my more complex novels, I like to let it marinate and think about each scene, exhausting all possibilities before moving to the next chapter.
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?
Absolutely not! It’s never too late to do anything. Some of our most successful authors didn’t see great success until they were in their 50’s. Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Terry McMillan had thriving writing careers later in their lives and it takes that to be seasoned, I feel. If anything, you need time to grow, develop, and work on your craft. You want readers to get you at your best.
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’ve always loved reading. I read many genres. The first book that touched me emotionally was Anne of Greene Gables. I was about 9 or 10 years old. My all-time favorite is the late, Eric Jerome Dickey. Gloria Naylor is second. I’m currently reading Bad Men and Wicked Women by Eric Jerome Dickey.
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?
It hasn’t affected it much. If anything, I’m not writing as much as I used to because I need the break. It’s the same for me because I was a full-time writer for 8 years. Even though, I’m part time now, I still work from home remotely. My creativity level is the same as it has always been.
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?
It has changed so much but change is inevitable. Pretty much anyone can self-publish their own work on the Amazon Kindle platform, but I applaud that because the rejection of traditional publishing is a hard pill to swallow. However, I think more self-publishers should take more time with editing. There are a lot of badly edited and poorly written books out there now. I lean more towards traditional because the editing process is a great experience and the feedback is raw and honest. I am a hybrid author. I’ve published on small Indie, my own company, big Indie, and big house. I have pro’s and con’s about each aspect, but I love the distribution of a traditional house. I have reached people I would’ve never been able to reach if it wasn’t for big distribution. As far as marketing and advertising goes, I’ve had to do that on my own on every platform.
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 feel that my complex multi-dimensional characters and the webs I weave is what sets me apart. I’m very passionate about my writing. It’s about entertaining my readers and keeping it sexy. You never know what you’re going to get from me. Not one story of mine is like another I’ve ever written. That’s what I love most about what I do. I’m not predictable. I feel like I haven’t found my exact purpose. I was given this gift to do something very important, but I feel like I haven’t quite figured that out yet.