Name: Chicki Brown
Age: I’m legal.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Cranford, New Jersey, the town where the movie Guess Who? starring Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac was filmed. For the past twenty years, I’ve lived in suburban Atlanta, Georgia.
A little about yourself, ie your education Family life etc
After graduation from high school, I went directly into the workplace and then focused on my family. It wasn’t until my daughters were grown that I went back to school and received my certification in interior design. I began my second career as an author in 2010 when I published my first novel, HAVE YOU SEEN HER?
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Since I first published, all of my books were only in electronic format, but last month I released the first two books in my new series, The Stafford Brothers Series, in paperback on CreateSpace.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote when I was in middle school and then when I was in my early twenties. Life got in the way, and I didn’t write again until 2001. In all honesty, this time I was merely writing out of boredom at work, but something interesting happened. The short story I was writing just to pass the time morphed into a 400-page book! It was convoluted, had too many plot points and any number of other problems, but the experience taught me that I was able to complete a book from start to finish. I put that manuscript “under the mattress,” started studying the craft and began writing the next story.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Once I began the submission process and the rejections started rolling in. Rather than making me want to give up, the rejections spurred me on. I wanted to prove them wrong, so I kept learning and kept writing. That’s when I knew I was really a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
HAVE YOU SEEN HER? was my first published book. I wrote that story during my Vin Diesel infatuation stage. He was the inspiration for Taylor Villanova, the hero.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Not one that has a formal name. LOL! I write using contemporary language and references.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
All of my books have old school R&B titles. Since that’s my favorite kind of music, and I can always find a song with lyrics that reflect the story. It’s a perfect match.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The message I want the story to convey is that cultural differences don’t have to destroy a love relationship.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
One hundred percent!
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
There are several. LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott, Beverly Cleary’s FIFTEEN. ROOTS by Alex Haley, TOPAZ by Beverly Jenkins
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Without a doubt, it would be Beverly Jenkins. She has done such a marvelous job of penning historical romances based on actual events in African-American history. She even includes her research at the end of each book. Her novels are factual, historical and hot!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
LOOK INTO MY HEART by Iris Bolling, part of wonderful THE HEART series, which has recently been made into a television series.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes! My best “discovery” is author Nia Forrester, who writes contemporary romance. Her style just resonates with me.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
For the next year I’ll be concentrating on writing the rest of the Stafford brother’s books. Book Four will be the oldest brother, Vic’s story.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The members of my former critique group. We were an online group composed of women from all over the country and even one foreign country that had been together for more than five years. These ladies became my sounding board and my strong shoulder. They listened to my questions and complaints and shared in my victories. When we started out, none of us was published. Now all, except one, are published either traditionally, by a small press or independently. We stay in constant contact by social media.
Once my critique group disbanded, I flailed around alone for about two years, then a year ago, I joined a local writer’s group led by my good friend, author M.J. Kane (http://mjkanemedia.com/).
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, I’ve been writing full time since 2002
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I probably would’ve made the love scenes a little hotter.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My mother instilled a love for reading in her girls, and I’ve always been an avid reader. I have always been fascinated in story craft, but the real hunger to write didn’t come until right after my fiftieth birthday.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
TILL YOU COME BACK TO ME was released on May 31st. It’s Book Two in the series. This is the scene where Charles Stafford makes a big announcement to the family.
The family room of Charles’ parents’ Atlanta home buzzed with anticipation. The family had all been together a few weeks ago to celebrate Christmas. This time, he had called them all together for a meeting without giving them an inkling of why, but he knew they would all show up out of mere curiosity.
When he arrived, Cydney, his brother Jesse’s wife was the first to greet him as she discreetly nursed their newborn in an easy chair in the corner. “Hey, brother-in-law! You have us all on pins and needles here. We’re just waiting for Nick. He went to Cherilyn’s church this morning.” She propped the little pink bundle on her shoulder and patted her back.
“They’re still seeing each other?” Charles asked. “I’m impressed. Okay. That’ll give me time to log on to my laptop.”
“Are you giving a symposium, Dr. Stafford?” she asked with a giggle.
He gave her the side eye. “No, Cyd. I’m Skyping Marc and Greg, so they can be here with us.”
Ramona, who was married to his brother Vic, raised her perfectly-shaped eyebrows. “Wow, this must be serious.”
“Charles!” His mother, Lillian, came around the corner from the kitchen before he could answer. “I thought I heard your voice. “Do you mind telling your mother what this is all about?”
He kissed her cheek. “I want to talk to everyone at the same time, Mama. As soon as Nick gets here, I’ll get Marc and Greg on the computer. Where is everybody?”
“In the kitchen making sandwiches. If Daddy and your brothers don’t eat the second we get out of church, they think they’ll die. I sent the kids downstairs to watch a movie.”
Charles set his laptop on the cocktail table in front of the sofa, plugged it in and hit the power button. “Since Nick’s not here yet, I’m going to make a sandwich.” He left the women in the family room.
“What’s this all about, Charles?” his father, Victor Sr., asked when he entered the kitchen. “Why was it necessary to call the whole family together?”
“Did you guys leave any meat? I could use a sandwich before we get started,” he answered, scanning the counter and momentarily disregarding the older man’s interrogation. “Nick’ll be here in a few.”
His older brothers, Vic and Jesse shared a puzzled glance. Vic slid the bread, mustard, and mayonnaise in Charles’ direction. They watched him in silence as he slathered the bread with mayonnaise, and slapped together a combination of ham, turkey, and cheese.
“I have to set up this conference call on my laptop.” He poured a glass of apple juice. “If Nick isn’t here by the time I’m done, I’ll just start without him.”
The three doctors stared at him and nodded. “Who the hell is he conferencing?” Charles heard Jesse say as he left the room.
Thankfully, his baby brother walked in the door as he headed toward the computer. “It’s about time,” Charles grasped Nick’s hand, and they bumped shoulders.
“I had to take Cherilyn home. What’s up, man? Why the appearance summons?”
“You’ll know in a few minutes. Do you know how to do a Skype call?”
“Sure. Don’t you?”
“Yes, but I’ve never made a conference call.”
“And we’re conferencing with?”
“Marc and Greg.”
Nick’s cerulean gaze rested on his. “This must be major. Give me the numbers, and I’ll do it. Are they expecting the call?”
“I told them between two-thirty and three o’clock.”
Nick, the family cyber-wizard, positioned himself in front of the computer. “They’ll be on the line in five minutes.”
“Okay. Let me get the rest of the family from the kitchen.” Charles crossed the room and peered into the kitchen. “We’re almost ready. Come on.” His father bolted into the living room as though he couldn’t wait another minute to find out what this whole production was about. He took a seat next to his wife.
“Hey, Marc. It’s Nick. I’m arranging this call for Charles. Can you see me?”
“Uh huh, is everybody there?”
“Present and accounted for.”
“Hey, people!” Marc called from the screen. “Gianne is here with me. Say hi, baby.” Marc’s fiancée leaned in, waved and was met with a chorus of hellos.
“Hold on, so I can get Greg.” Nick did his thing, and the last of his five brothers appeared on the screen from his Manhattan apartment. “We’re all in the family room.” He moved aside and let Charles take his place in front of the laptop.
“I obviously have an announcement to make, but first I want to say that I’ve been considering this decision for a couple of years.” He met Vic’s gaze, and his brother smiled. “And I discussed it with Marc when he was here a few months ago.” He paused, cleared his throat and met his father’s gaze. “I’ve put my practice up for sale, and I’m moving to Las Vegas to work with Marc for half of the year.” A collective gasp traveled around the room, but Charles was determined to finish. “The other half of the year I’ll be working with Doctors Without Borders performing reconstructive surgery in a small village hospital in Nigeria. As soon as the legal details are finalized with the real estate agent and the legal guys, I’ll be leaving.”
His mother grabbed his father’s hand. Cyd and Ramona put their heads together and whispered. An uneasy silence lingered until Greg spoke from the computer screen. “That’s fantastic, man! It takes a lot of guts to make a move like that.”
“I agree,” Marc chimed in. “If that’s where your heart is, go for it.”
“Did you talk him into this, Marcus?” his father challenged, clearly shocked by the news.
“Daddy. Daddy!” Charles raised his voice. “This was my decision. When I asked Marc if I could stay with him, he asked me how I planned to make any money during the half of the year I’d be in the States. At that point, I wasn’t sure, so he made me an offer.”
“Dammit, Charles! You’re a Board-certified plastic surgeon,” the older man blustered. I already have one son whose life goal is to be a gym rat.” He leapt from his seat and headed for the bar in the corner where he poured himself two fingers of Scotch and took a long sip.
Undeterred, Charles continued. “Doctors Without Borders is a highly respected organization, and if I’m ever going to do this, it has to be now while I’m single with no kids. If I divest most of my hard assets, I can have a nice cushion. After all, nobody needs a Benz or a wardrobe of designer suits to operate in a remote third-world hospital.”
“I think it’s wonderful, Charles,” Cydney said, bouncing the sleeping baby across her lap.
Ramona just rolled her eyes. Pro-bono work of any kind ran contrary to her DNA.
His mother spoke up. “Victor, I think you’re losing sight of the real point here. We raised the boys to give back, didn’t we?”
“He doesn’t need to sell his practice and move to Las Vegas in order to give back,” his father insisted. “You can stay here in Atlanta and volunteer wherever you want, Charles. I know of colleagues who donate their time to DWB, but they only do short tours.”
“I thought about that, Daddy, but I don’t want to go that route. I’m sick and tired of catering to people’s narcissism. I want to help people, I mean, really help. If I have to enlarge any more lips, butts, or boobs, I’ll lose my mind.”
His father slammed his glass on the table. “Boy, what is wrong with you? Those lips, butts, and boobs paid off that $200,000 student loan debt!”
Charles stood his ground. “Right. So my time doing vanity surgery has served its purpose. This isn’t up for discussion. It looks as though I have a qualified buyer for my practice, and once the deal is finalized, I’ll be moving to Vegas.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing love scenes! I love reading them, but hate writing them. It’s so hard for me to strike that fine balance between writing something that reads like porn or making it so bland it puts people to sleep. It usually takes me two or three rewrites to be satisfied with what I’ve written.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I don’t travel at all. Since I publish mostly e-books, I don’t do signings. As far as traveling for research purposes, with such excellent web sites like citi-data.com and Google Earth, it’s possible to get details and street views of your story setting without ever leaving your office.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My covers have been designed by several different people. The cover artist for the Stafford Brothers series is Cover Me (https://www.facebook.com/CoverMeBookCover).
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I always learn a lot from every book I write, because I research a lot on the character’s jobs. With TILL YOU COME BACK TO ME, I discovered so much about Nigeria, plastic surgery, and foreign adoption.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Work hard and do your research into the craft and the industry. Things are changing in publishing by the day, and in order to be successful you can’t function according to 2005 rules. Network with other authors. What you can learn from them is priceless.
There is so much, but these two blog posts make it clear.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you! Words can’t express how much I appreciate your support. You’ve made it possible for me to live my dream.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I’m not sure, but I think it was probably ONE FISH, TWO FISH, RED FISH, BLUE FISH by Dr. Seuss
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I love music, movies and fine dining.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Grey’s Anatomy and The Big Bang Theory are two of my favorites along with assorted reality shows. (I can’t help it. I’m shallow.)
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Foods: anything Italian
Colors: pink, black, red
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Become an independently wealthy beach bum who reads all day!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog is http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com
Here are my online links:
Amazon Central Author Page: http://amzn.to/l2kjXQ