Sojurn: A Conversation with Zhana Books
This month, we’re interviewing talented women authors from all over the world and asking them about their writing process. We had the privilege of speaking with Zhana Books about her novel Sojurn. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation.
Have you written a book? What is it about?
My first book, Sojourn, is an anthology of Black women’s writing, published by a major publisher (Methuen) in 1988. I have produced many books and eBooks since then, including Write Your Book in Two Days. Success Strategies for Black People was the first book I wrote on my own.
What gave you the courage/motivation to start?
I wanted to be a writer since I was a child, probably because of a need and desire to communicate while growing up in a family in which I was not listened to. I had been writing professionally for several years and had several short stories published,along with articles in magazines including the prestigious New Statesman. Also, the success of writers such as Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, and Toni Morrison, author of The Bluest Eye and Sula, encouraged me and inspired other Black women writers.
Did you encounter any problems such as writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome them?
I had a lot of problems with Sojourn. My problem with writers’ block came later, when I was doing a full-time writing course at university. I was producing 5,000 words per week but they were not very good, and I knew it. This was very difficult for me and very painful. I have written about several solutions to problems such as writer’s block and procrastination in Write Your Book in Two Days. One thing I suggest is that it’s important to have support – join an evening class in creative writing or a writers’ meetup on Meetup.com. I still find this helpful now. The main thing that kept me going with Sojourn was knowing that I had something important to say that could benefit others. Talking about personal issues is challenging, but it can be so helpful when your readers realize they are not alone.
How did you go about finding a publisher/getting the book self-published?
In those days, it was easier to find a publisher than it is now. I had attended a short writing course and the course tutor had told me that her publisher was looking for “radical” writers, so I approached the publisher directly and they took me on. I suggest networking is probably still important in terms of finding a publisher. It helps if you already have some sort of track record, such as having been published in magazines or online, for example.
Did anything surprise you about the whole process?
With Sojourn, I was surprised that the process was so difficult. I expected to gain confidence as I went along, but that did not happen. With other books including Success Strategies, I was surprised that it was so easy.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book, or starting to write one?
Writing a book is scary, especially when it is your first book. Remember, you will make mistakes. That’s part of the process. You are still learning. Make sure you learn your craft and, as I said above, get support.
Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes