Today's Indie Author Spotlight is shining bright on Rod Palmer. He hails from a rural part of Charleston, SC. where his gift of storytelling was nurtured due in large part to the Gullah Geechee community's influence & through his education at the University of South Carolina. After earning a degree that honed his gift for creative writing, turning to his literary influencers i.e. Toni Morrison and Dr. Kwame Dawe, he drew on his rich background and penned books that were strong on the feminist front, witty, intelligent and cleverly crafted. I had the pleasure of gaining a bit more insight into this confident and intelligent creative who is leading to dispel the myth that "black men don't read" and "black men can't write". Sit back, put your feet up and dive into this insightful interview with one of our shining stars in the Indie arena.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A: It took me a while to realize that I wanted to be a writer. As a child, I wanted to be a professional wrestler. However, early indications in my life pointed to my future as a writer. I was a heckler. I made fun of people with ridiculous stories I made up. Teachers would show my book reports/ papers as the standard other students should follow. I also won an essay contest in the fifth grade, and a short story contest in the seventh grade, but it didn’t hit me until I was already a high school drop-out. I wrote a letter to a lawyer, a very highly esteemed Charleston lawyer who, upon reading that letter called me personally and told me that that letter was the best thing he’d ever read. Andrew Savage then said to me, “Son? Have you ever thought about becoming a writer?” Those words woke the sleeping giant. I grew up country and impoverished, so to hear a big-time lawyer say that my writing was better than anything that had come across his desk was all I needed to hear. I returned to school and then college where I later received my degree in – of course – English, with a concentration in writing.
Q: When did you write your first book and how old were you?
A: I wrote my first novel-length book at about twenty-three years old. It’s entitled How to Tame a Playa. I still have it stored on my computer. Although the plot and writing was good, it wasn’t me. It’s about preying on the vulnerabilities of men in order to turn boyfriends into husbands. I didn’t like the main character. By the end, I realized I had crafted a character whose life centered – not around personal strength – but a man, instead. Interestingly enough, that book became useful in writing Karma Wears Versace, which was previously entitled Chosen. KWV features an Atlanta it-girl who has the face, the body, and the status but can’t figure out why she isn't " chosen". What isn't she commitment worthy?
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: It takes me about four months to write a book. Almost a full two weeks of that is dedicated to brainstorming and plot analysis – to ensure that before I begin, I can see the character’s full arc and that everything that happens in the plot MUST happen in order for the story to work. This ensures that the story will be tight and that I won’t have to do like I did with my first book and throw away more pages and chapters than what I actually kept.
Q: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
A: When I’m writing, I get up at 4 am. The brain is already warmed up from creating the fiction of your dreams, but mainly, this is a time where there’s zero distraction.
Q.: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
A: For me what makes an interesting story is believable characters who must go through hell to be redeemed. As a "character check", I often act out the scenes. I recite the dialogue aloud and switch from person to person, as if rehearsing a play. This is to ensure that the characters’ interaction is as lifelike as possible, although it makes me look pretty stupid at times.
Q: How did you feel when your first book was published?
A: When I published my first book, I felt like I had gotten a big monkey off my back. It was a book edited by only me, with a book cover designed by me, on my smartphone, yet I thought somehow that A Pimp In The Pulpit was going to roll in the dough simply because it’s such a good book. Needless to say, with no investment, it didn’t. So, it also gave me a harsh reality check! It forced me to learn about the business of writing beyond typing "The End".
Q: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? What inspires you?
A: Oddly, I get my inspiration from the insult I feel when I see how black women are portrayed on television, in film, in literature – including black literature (urban lit), and even off the pen of some black female authors. I’ve been a feminist long before I had a daughter. My main characters are women I’d want my daughter to become. Right now, I’m feeling like, in the next couple years, if I don’t see a black woman on the big screen, saving the world as the lead character in a major film, I will create the most badass black female superhero and do everything I can to get her on the big screen.
Q: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
A: The most surprising thing was learning how my degree didn’t prepare me to write books that generation X and millennials would truly enjoy. Millennials, especially, are not willing to read through pages and pages gorgeous prose if nothing is happening. Today’s reader needs something of consequence to happen often. A lot of what I learned in school turned out to be very valuable. I learned from the greats, but the greats are, however, dead people. I had to unlearn the principles that died with them.
Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? Why?
A: I have completed four novels now, and I’m almost done with the fifth. My favorite is The Harvest. It’s my favorite because it’s my only novel written in the first person; the story allowed for it, so I took full advantage of the first person’s unreliability to build mystery and suspense and to embrace the raw emotions that first-person allows. Plus, the contrast of characters – a religious woman and a Chi-town kingpin – unraveling the conspiracy behind her son’s murder while entertaining an infatuation despite their otherness, was something I really enjoyed exploring.
Q: Do you hear from your readers much? What kind of feedback have you received?
A: Yes. Most often I get emails through Goodreads and DMs on my Facebook page and some through my personal email email@example.com. My most touching feedback has come from mothers who have lost a child. They read The Harvest and reach out to me thinking I must have lost a child too since the grieving aspect is so spot-on, they say. Survivors of domestic violence reach out to me after reading A Pimp In The Pulpit. Other than that, I usually hear from people who want guidance on writing or on how to become an author themselves.
Q: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
A: When I’m not writing, I’m cooking. I’m pretty creative in the kitchen. For what seems like a long time ago, I was an unlicensed chef in fine dining. I’m also a local event buff, going to local concerts at the park, cultural festivals, and always looking for a good food truck.
Q: What can we look forward to from you?
A: You can look forward to my next Christian themed novel, tentatively titled, I Am Not My Past. It’s about a church shooting, yet it’s also about two people foolishly entertaining the idea of love while dealing with past sins and trying to shed the image of who they were before they got saved
Q: Tell us about any volunteer programs or initiatives you are involved within your community?
A: I’m involved in Richland County Library’s Children In Print initiative. We find kids who have something valuable to say and unique ways of expressing it, like through poetry, essays, short stories, and even artwork and show them off in a quarterly that is published and distributed locally. These are but children, but believe me, they can dwarf you with their big imagination.
Q: Please add any additional information you would like to share with the audience?A: Remember the name Black Wren Press. The website won’t go up until around September when I do the first call for submissions. Karma Wears Versace is the first book published by this independent publishing company. I am the CEO. And my goal is to fill a void in the options available for African American authors and readers. Big companies only want black stories that are nested in our oppression. Smaller black-owned independent publishers want either romance or street lit. Our diversity in literature comes only from self-published books that have very little investment behind them. So the literary world, for the most part, says to black folk: we only want to see you having sex, being oppressed, or committing crimes. Black Wren Press is not having that. Look for the books published by this company to “show off” the full spectrum of blackness – with the most outrageously talented storytellers.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: If you read a book and you love it, please leave a review.
We live in a world now where everything can be bought – even reviews. Many independent publishers make all their authors leave positive reviews for each other. The only way to find out what really sucks and what’s really good is for actual readers to give their opinion each and every time.
Thank you so much for your time and I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little more about Rod Palmer. His books are sold everywhere books are sold online i.e. Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Amazon, and a few brook & mortar retailers. even by smaller His ebooks are sold exclusively on Amazon. Click here to read my review on his latest work, Karma Wears Versace.