Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lori Bryant-Woolridge: An Interview

Lori Bryant-Woolridge is the author of Weapons of Mass Seduction, her latest novel and folks are eating it up as more copies hit the bookstores starting last week. Lori spoke to me from her girl-palace in one of New Jersey's posh 'burbs. First, welcome and congratulations on the spread in Essence, and as a man I dare say the photos were "tastefully provocative!" How does your public persona match the real you? In other words, do you practice what you (and your protagonist, "Pia Jamison") preach?

Thank you. And the term "tastefully provocative" is exactly what a true Weapon of Mass Seduction strives to be, so I appreciate the compliment.

Most things about my public persona match the real me. I am a woman who strives to be honest and authentic so I don't really switch on one personality in public and switch it off in private. You can tell by reading my blog and website that I'm straight up and open. I've always been a "what you see is what you get" kind of girl and dare I say, without sounding totally full of myself, that it's the key to my charming personality!

I definitely practice what Pia preaches...come on, I'm the wizard behind the curtain calling the shots!. I enjoy life, am grateful for the amazing journey I am on and I love being a woman and all the perks that come with it! That includes, but is certainly not limited to, beautiful lingerie, sexy scents, jewelry, and high heels! And like Pia, I'm also interested in love, politics, motherhood, learning and growing as an individual, and knowing and appreciating good men
.

Now, regardless of your publisher's plans, there are bookstores and websites who market you with authors like Kayla Perrin, Eric Jerome Dickey, etc. who are well-known for certain "relationship" themes. So do you bristle at the term "chick lit" or better still "black chick lit," or do welcome it?

I bristle at all labels placed on me, whether personal or literary. While I'm thrilled to be thought of in same company of many wonderful A-A and genre specific writers, my works is so much more inclusive and broad than the narrow scope they try to force me and so many other wonderful writers into. It's embarrassing sometimes when I walk into the store and over to 'our' section. Based on what they chose to spotlight, there appears to be no balance to the writing being offered our readers. Every book prominently displayed under "African American Literature" is sexually driven, often sexually explicit, work that make us look like the ho's and heifers the Don Imuses of the world think us to be. And looking at the bulk of our literary/artistic offerings, why would they think differently? And this is so not to say that great work doesn't exist out there. Just that there is no balance and won't be until publishers stop picking books based on trends and more on merit.

And speaking of chick lit, tell a little about the future of the Femme Fatale tours on military bases. Any poignant or interesting stories from our sistas in uniform during the past tour? I had a blast as an honorary male author at Ft. Belvoir, by the way--you adopting any brothas for similar events?

Brotha, we may be killer writers and killer women who stand for literary justice for all, but we are not fatal! It's the Femme Fantastik Tour! Nina Foxx, Carmen Green and I have invited four other guest authors, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Trisha Thomas, Wendy Coakley-Thompson and Berta Platas, for a little Latina flair, to join us this year. We're really excited because it's a fabulous and dynamic group. And though we loved having you as our guest Homme--you were amazing in that G-string--we've decided to do away with the male authors and concentrate on entertaining and empowering women through good literature--not good looking men!

The responses from the bases and the military families has been phenomenal. At every installation they have made us feel welcomed and supported and they are so appreciative that we haven't forgotten them during this ridiculous war and that we are helping to expand the offerings they get from their PX book section.

We will be officially kicking off the tour September 15 in San Antonio, Texas and will tour ten bases before we're done in March 2008. The word is getting out and we're steadily being booked at different events across the country. This summer we've been booked as the featured authors at the Salute to African American Writers in Austin, Texas on June 15 and we've been booked for an event in Las Vegas on August 11. You can follow our travels at
http://www.femmefantastik.blogspot.com/

Well I was happy to dust off the ole "banana and coconuts hammock" and dance you ladies! But getting back to Weapons...this new novel..what do think seems to resonate for real women, real-life readers, regarding someone like Pia Jamison, or other characters like Florence and Becca?

What resonates for them is the feelings of being stuck (voluntarily or not) living a life of details and knowing that the vibrant, sexy woman you once were is suffocating under all the hats. Women have not been taught to embrace and understand their sensuality and sexuality in any real and healthy way eventually they become confused by who and what they are supposed to be. As teenagers and young women, we're taught to be good girls and given a list of all the things good girls DON'T do and then we get out in the world and see that a) men want something different and b) as we grow and mature into ourselves WE want something different. But we're so disconnected and confused by then we don't know which way to turn. Weapons of Mass Seduction gives women a direction, a plan and an understanding that being yourself can never be wrong and that's ultimately the sexiest thing they can do (being themselves) to get and keep the men they want.

Do you think you'll become a full-fledged lecturer on flirting, on getting one's "sexy" back and self-esteem? Any related non-fiction projects down the pike?

It's beginning to shape up that way. I am now getting requests to come speak at various venues--College campuses, cruise ships, etc. I just did an XM radio interview on how women can take their flirt game international! As you know I just did a workshop for moms trying to get their sexy back. I love the workshops and the interaction with my readers that comes from doing them. And I have always believed that fiction is a huge self-help vehicle for women. This is a topic that the book and lectures seem to go hand in hand.

I've also begun a blog
http://www.weapons-of-mass-seduction.blogspot.com/ to continue this important discussion. Women want to be sexy. They want to be flirtatious and charming but many don't know where to start and the book, the blog and the workshops are all designed to help.

I'm considering a nonfiction book for married women on how to get their flirt on with their spouses to keep the marriage alive. I've also got a few other projects in the works that I'll tell you about as they come to fruition
.

Was writing Weapons of Mass Seduction more difficult than writing Hitts & Mrs?

Yes, in a couple of ways. I had to write WMS very fast, five months, which is a record for me. And because I wanted to make it a true flirt-manual within a novel it took time to craft it in a way that was informative like a nonfiction book but still had the pacing and story/character elements of a good novel. It was a challenge but I enjoyed it. I had fun with my male focus group, who really opened up and were very honest about what attracts them to a woman and once they all got past the "great breasts and a slamming ass" they were all in agreement that it was a woman's confidence, energy and friendliness that universally caught their eye.

Hitts & Mrs. was slightly more controversial because I was talking about emotional infidelity without making it a bad thing. Instead I wanted readers to think about how they loved and why they felt love had such strict boundaries. To recognize that love comes in all kinds of forms, fashions and regaedless of whether a person is married, because love comes in many forms from many different people in our lives.

Both are thought-provoking and my goal is always not for readers to necessarily agree with me, but to look at their own ideas on the subject matter and decided for themselves based on their own individual truths and not 'truths' handed down to them from some moral authority.

By the way, Hitts & Mrs. is now available in mass paperback from Avon.

On another note: I love your blog! It's witty and informed and a true WMS is sexy and smart and appreciates a man who is the same!

Thanks for the love!


No, thank you Lori. You're a marriage of craft and commerce, sex and brains--so I suppose yes, you practice what you preach. Bravo and we expect big things over the next few months. And fans should check your website for details of the Flirting Seminar at Sea/Cruise to Jamaica and the Caymans.

9 comments:

Lisa said...

I am denying any cheesing when I say you are a good interviewer and your subject is a very sharp sistah! This kind of fiction isn't usually on my list but I will certainly check it out now.

Thank you for the blog link to Lori and I'll see if sh's coming to Boston/Jamaica Plain area.

nabila J said...

Great interview. I, too, am not usually buying "relationship" fiction but this looks much different and apparently more tongue-in-cheek.

Alice-jean Morton said...

Ditto for the Third Sunday Reading Club here in Cleveland, Ohio. Weapons of Mass Seduction is our July selection. We wish it could be sooner but we have a backlog from this terrible winter when we had to cancel three meetings!

Snowman said...

I am not a fan but I happened on the interview from the previous posts following the book on Associate Justice Clarence Thomas and it was quite interesting.

The author is a doppleganger for Maryanne Ka'puana, who is Hawaiian and an old neighbor of ours when I was in the U.S. Coast Guard. Is the author Hawaiian if I may ask?

Anonymous said...

Is Eric Jerome Dickey still writing "relationship" books? I thought he was into "Thrillers" like the ones you see on Lifetime or those old BET made for cable movies with the $2000 budgets? Don't bring Kayla Perrin down his level.

millie said...

University of Maryland University College is where I teach! Glad to have you on board.

Anonymous said...

GREAT INTERVIEW Great blog! Chris you should have your own Television show,
Trish Thomas

Pebbles Flintstone said...

I loved Lori's first book, and I am a huge fan. In Hitts and Misses, the story was compex and intense, but Lori managed to weave together all the threads and create a wonderful story.

I look forward to reading Weapons of Mass Seduction.

Chris, you are a great interviewer! I have always said you should have your own show on TV or radio. Keep up the good work!

field said...

Nice job Chris!