Lela Alize loves shoes, yoga, and romance. She has enjoyed writing since her Detroit grade school days where she authored short stories. In her twenties, Lela discovered romance novels and the genre became a favorite. Now, with a grown-up family, after years of writing poems and short stories, Lela finally turned her passion into pages, publishing her debut Mallory Hooker novel Left with Shoes, followed by book two of the trilogy, Barefoot.
As a travel agent for many years, Lela visited and arranged her clients’ travel to the most romantic places in the world. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and two adult children.
Lela Alize is a winner of RSJ’s (Romance slam Jam) Emma award. She is originally from Detroit, Michigan and now lived in greater Los Angeles. Lela writes humorous, passion-filled novels that are plot driven. She spends her week days as a corporate/entertainment travel agent and has enjoyed traveling extensively.
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 the invitation. My older sister and I would compete by writing poems and sort stories when I was in the third grade and she was in the fifth. I would make journals from folded lined paper stapled together with a construction paper cover. Later, marriage and raising a family became my main focus until a personal tragedy drew me back to pen and paper as a form of therapy. I enjoyed reading romance as a teenager and rediscovered it in the urban and paranormal romance genres a few years ago. I found them engaging, entertaining, and fun to read. That’s when I decided to share my own love stories. As a writer, especially as an Indie writer, I love the freedom to invent characters and let them tell a story that readers connect with. It’s frustrating when my strict upbringing wars with what my character’s voice dictates. In the end, my character wins. After all, it is their life—not mine.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My books are Contemporary Romance with sizzling love scenes, memorable characters, good family relationships, and a good dose of life’s natural comedy. I like to say that Left with Shoes, Barefoot, and With This Shoe are a woman’s second coming of age journey from a dependent wife to an independent single woman. My books can be found in eBook and print version on Amazon and Barnes and Noble by searching for Lela Alize.
3) What projects are you currently working on?
I always have the next novel in progress jotted on pieces of paper and notes in my phone. I am currently working on a fake wife novel, a plot I love, with an interesting twist, and I am having so much fun with it.
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?
Thus far, my most significant accomplishment as a writer is completing and publishing the Malory Hooker series, my first trilogy. In the beginning, I was afraid to take the leap and put myself out there. Although I loved my writing voice, I didn’t know how my babies (my books) would be received by readers. I was beyond excited when I sold my first book and received the first review.
There’s an old McFadden and Whitehead song “Ain’t no Stopping Us Now”
Which is how I feel about my writing. Giving birth to more of the stories I am incubating is thrilling. In five years, I hope to have delivered many more novels and to rank among the authors whose work, when mentioned, elicits an “oh, yeah, I read that one. I loved it.”
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Oh my gosh, rejection. It’s one of those really big, horse-sized pills I think we all have to swallow at least once in our careers. I handled my rejection by first doubting myself, and then eating close to an entire bag of miniature marshmallows, my comfort food. I read that some well-known writers work had been rejected initially which made me feel like a member of the club.
Next, I filed the rejections away under get over it and got back to the business of writing.
When the rejection included useful information, I paid attention and used it as a learning tool.
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 do not have a schedule for writing. I love writing for a couple of hours in the early mornings, while facing the window. I also give myself a couple of hours in the evening. I don’t use formal outlines; however, I make a general map of where my story is going, and some of the stops I should make along the way. I always know the ending when I begin.
My trilogy began as one, monstrously long book that took me a year and a half to write. Agents suggested I make it into a trilogy. It took an additional six months to produce book one after the spilt. Each of the other two installments took about seven months.
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 don’t feel it’s ever too late to aspire to follow your dream and become a successful writer. I think Mark Twain and Toni Morrison were in their forties when they were first published, and Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie) published her first book in her sixties. I also believe there is a market for mature protagonist that hasn’t been fully explored.
The only hindrance I see for older authors is there isn’t a lot of time to become. They have to find their audience and be successful a lot quicker.
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 book junky. If I have a free minute that I am not writing, working, or taking care of family responsibilities, I am reading. A printed book or my kindle go with me everywhere.
The first book I read that moved me was the Bible. I especially loved the book of Psalms, Corinthians, and the Song of Solomon. The Bible is one of those books I understand differently each time I read it, which means it’s always new and brings out different emotions in me according to my needs.
Additionally, Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed moved me so much that I have read it at least ten times over the years. Although I don’t claim one favorite author, Octavia Butler is definitely among the pick. And there’s a plethora of Indie romance writer’s that I read faithfully. I have recently finished readying Kennedy Ryan’s Hook Shot, and I have downloaded The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris to begin tonight.
9) The Pandemic was a challenging time for some writers and creative individuals but also for others it was time that they needed to focus on their creative passions. Which side of that spectrum do you fall on? Are there any lessons or nuggets of wisdom that you gained during the Pandemic that help you within your writing career? Did the quarantine stifle your creativity or did it make you even more driven to get things done?
Like many others, I found the Pandemic extremely challenging. While it brought about some unpleasant changes in my life, it also gave me time to breathe and find my center to deal with those changes. I find I am most creative when life elicits strong feelings. I’m not sure if this is unique to me. Feeling joyous allows me to also communicate feeling sadness. Feeling loved taps into my emotions to communicate how the absence of love feels, and so on. A litany of emotions piqued during the most restrictive months of the pandemic, and I felt very creative.
One of the lessons the Pandemic has taught me is how profoundly life can change suddenly, therefore, don’t wait to act on your dreams. Go ahead, tell that story that has been bouncing around in your head waiting to take root. I have also learned that, with some exceptions, people pull together in times of crisis. This spirit of community was encouraging to witness.
During this time, I had many new story ideas and began writing two simultaneously, I was that motivated. I am close to completing the fake bride project I mentioned earlier, and I am very productive with the research I need for the second 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?
Traditional publishing has not done much to catch up with the demands of today’s readership. This is one reason I lean toward indie publishing. There is a definite need for more representation of African American novels in all genres in traditional publishing, especially romance. I decided to write romance to show black love, friendship, and strong family ties.
When I completed my first novel (which has not been published), I tired the traditional route. I loved that novel. I loved the plot, the characters, and I felt I had put my actual DNA into it. This is where the rejection, I spoke of earlier, came about. I threw it to the side, sulked, and ate way too many sweets, before I decided to write something fun and sexy. I also decided to self-publish. I like controlling my entire project, however, it is a lot of work. I am certain I will seek traditional publishing again at some point in my writing career. I would like to experience the joys of both traditional as well as self-publishing—possibly simultaneously.
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?
While my characters are fictional, they have a bit of me in them, some more than others. They say what I cannot. I may not feel comfortable saying the F word in conversation but in my writing, I can hurl it with gusto. And since romance is currently my genre of choice, the HEA component of it soothes me emotionally. Mental issues, that present a serious challenge for everyone involved, exist in so many of our lives today. Feeling helpless, at times, to assist loved ones battle their mental health issues inspired me, in my current project, to build a life where my character can cope with theirs. This is cathartic for me.
Having a sense of humor in writing is also therapeutic. No matter how serious life gets, it’s funny. I think my sense of humor is uniquely understated in my writing, as it is in my personality, which makes it authentic and natural.
My daughter was very much into dance from the age of two and into college. When she had a difficult time with something I would tell her to ‘dance it out’. I now remind myself to ‘write it out’ when I’m stuck between that proverbial rock and hard place. The power of my pen has not failed me thus far.