Verde Arzu

Interviews

Hello Verde and welcome to Cup of Toast! I’m excited to share your thoughts with my readers today.

First of all, I understand that you had your novella Rainbow published last December. Congratulations! How does it feel for it to be out in the world?

It is the most amazing feeling because it really is a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to become a published writer for as long as I can remember! I am glad I didn’t give up on my dream. It is incredible and sometimes scary! But mostly incredible & surreal! I pick my book up all the time and just hold it in my hand and look at it. I flip the pages and smell it, too!

That’s wonderful! Can you give my readers a brief summary of what Rainbow is about?

I’m proud to share two quotes from two very recent reviews of Rainbow. Not just because they are complementary, but also because they sum up the story quite nicely! 

“RAINBOW tells the individual story of a woman struggling to find her place in a hostile world that also speaks to the experience of Blackness and queerness, never foregoing one for the other.” -Indie Reader

“An engaging work about the freedom that comes with self-acceptance.” -Kirkus Indie

What was the driving force behind writing it?

The driving force behind writing Rainbow was my desire to read and have more Black queer stories out in the world that I would want to go into any bookstore a pick up. Rainbow is the kind of book I wish was on the shelf when I was in high school and my early years in college. There needs to be more Black queer books mainstreamed and available just like all other genres are.

Who do you hope your story will appeal to?

I hope my story appeals to that person who is struggling with living in their own skin because the world around them tells them that they are not good enough, perfect enough, or loved. I hope my story appeals to those who think that because it’s 2020 and there is more representation of LGBTQIA+ people in the world, that it is all good now–that they realize we still have a long way to go and need more allies more than ever. Our world needs to be one where representation isn’t something we have to talk about, because it just is.

You explain that you have a desire to write about characters that you can relate to. How much of your writing comes directly from your own experience and how much is imagined?

There is a quote I recently ran across in my writing class that I said I would begin using each time I came across a question like this or similar to this. It goes, “All writers to some degree utilize material taken from their own lives and imaginations, and by other writers that have deeply influenced them at one time or another.” This quote resonated with me on such a deep level because, as a writer, I feel like I am a part of my stories, of course I am! But the joy, the love, and what makes writing so much fun to me is that I can escape into these worlds that I create all on my own! I get to stretch my imagination as far and as wide as I want. It’s beautiful.

That is a beautiful quote! Thank you for sharing it.

Thinking about your writing process, what does that look like for you? Did you write Rainbow in a few focused sessions or over a longer period of time?

I’d like to think that my writing process reflects who I am as a person. More often than not I am a go-with-the-flow kind of person. To be quite honest, I struggle with a writing schedule. It is something I am working to change but the truth is, I write when the spirit overpowers me to the point where I can’t do anything else but write. I know this isn’t the ideal writer’s life or even one that is recommended but that is where I am in my life currently. Rainbow took years to complete and over the years transformed into what is out in the world today. It is not the only story I have written over the years, though.

Do you have a favourite spot to write in?

I enjoy writing outside or as close to outside as I can. For example, near open windows or where there are open windows with a lot of natural light. Being outside and around nature is good energy and reminds me of who I am and where my power comes from.

Who inspires your creativity?

My family. My wife. My mother. The desire to put something out in the world that may positively shape it long after I am gone, that’s inspiring. I often read books or listen to music by those who are no longer here and I am in awe of how their presence will forever be with us because they shared their gifts with the world. I hope my work is able to do that.

On your website you refer to Toni Morrison as being one of your most “cherished authors”. Who else do you turn to when you’re in need of a good read?

Great question. I have been asking myself this question lately. Although I haven’t read any of his work in a while E. Lynn Harris changed my life. I didn’t know it at the time–I was so young, or maybe I did but could not express it in such a way as this. Harris showed me that I could write about my life and not be ashamed. I plan to revisit his work soon.  I also love Sistah Souljah. She writes with such a vivid rawness! Her books should have been created into movies by now. I can alway pick up a Terry McMillian book. Zora Neale Hurston’s, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” I can read that book again and again. I recently read ZZ Packer’s, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” and I definitely plan to read more from her.

Do you have a favourite book to read?

It’s not easy for me to read a book more than once so I can’t say I have a favorite book I like to read. What I can say is I have some favorite books I could read again and that I always recommend to people. They are: 1. The Coldest Winter Ever 2. The Bluest Eye, and 3. Their Eyes Were Watching God, 4. Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, 5. Coffee Will Make You Black. These aren’t ranked.

I can see I will be adding to my reading list!

You describe yourself as “pushing Black women queer stories out of the shadows”. What do you consider is the biggest obstacle to these stories being in mainstream literature?

I think one of the obstacles that prevent Black queer women stories from being in the mainstream is the powers that be who determine what stories get any real consideration. There is clearly a need for more diversity within major publishing houses, magazines, and among book reviewers. Everything can’t be White–majority of things can’t be White, and as long as that is the case within publishing, it will continue to be an obstacle for Black women, especially & specifically Black queer women.

Finally, what is your next step in the literary world – can we hope to see more fictional writing from you?

Absolutely! I have two upcoming novellas, Promise Keeper & Boomerang, soon to be released later this year in 2020. Be on the lookout for them!

I will! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. It has been a pleasure to get to know more about you, Rainbow, and your forthcoming novellas.