Journalist. Mentor. Friend.
I met writer and Mississippi journalist Woodrow Wilkins while I was a fresh faced reporter at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville, Miss. We would always talk about our novel writing ambitions, so I was thrilled when I was informed he had written a book! I couldn’t wait to pick his brain and let the blogosphere know about him. His book synopsis and Q &A follow.
“Race. Romance. Murder. Mississippi. Set at 400. Bake.” So begins Larry Batts’ review of “Delta Blue,” a contemporary story set in the Mississippi Delta. Ken Wilson, a black police officer in a small town, has a love/hate relationship with his community – love because it’s home, hate because it remains segregated despite changes brought about by the civil rights movement. People’s choices are their own, but when their attitudes attempt to dictate how others live, it’s not healthy. But what to do about it? Ken struggles with the answer when the murder of a young man drives him into a close, working relationship with Brietta, a young prosecutor assigned to the case. She’s smart, friendly, beautiful – and white. The two begin dating despite Ken’s reservations. But when his fears of a backlash are realized, will he go along to get along or stand up to the critics, knowing it could cost him his job and his place in the community? “Delta Blue” is seasoned with a snapshot of the Delta’s landscape and a taste of the music culture.
What is your writing routine?
It varies according to my work schedule and what outside activities I’m involved in. For example, as I type this, tonight is opening night of a musical I’ve been practicing since mid-April, so I haven’t had a lot of personal time at night or on weekends. Under normal circumstances, I spend two to four hours per night at the computer. And on my days off, that number might jump to eight. Anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of that time is spent writing something – if not fiction, then music reviews. But to me, writing isn’t just writing new material for whatever story I’m working on. It’s also looking at what I’ve written, exploring ideas for other projects and maybe reading for research.
How did your career as a journalist influence your novel writing career?
I wanted to write long before I gave any thought to being a journalist. However, being a news reporter and copy editor introduced me to many story ideas. While “Delta Blue” is built around the fictional account of a trial in which I was a juror, I have other stories in mind that are based on true crimes that I have written or edited stories about. And being a journalist also puts a person in position to meet interesting people, learn more about society and the world than might be learned otherwise, and any of these can inspire a plot, a character or a setting.
What is the one thing that you hope readers take away from this book?
“Delta Blue” became an interracial love story by accident. The main idea was to build a story around the trial. But as I built my character list, I wanted some sense of racial balance, which led to the creation of Brietta. From there, the relationship was a no-brainer. Even there, I had a different idea in mind insofar as how I would go about telling this conflict. Not to offend anyone, I was leaning toward going the route of the stereotypical “angry black woman.” For two reasons: I remember when O.J. Simpson got arrested for allegedly killing Nicole and her friend, I was having lunch with some black women, and one of them said, ‘That’s what he gets for marrying a white woman.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’ The man was accused of a murder that most Americans believe he committed or played a role in, but this woman thought his arrest was some kind of divine justice for marrying white. Ridiculous! And I recall once when a white female co-worker and I went to get lunch. She was recently married and pregnant with her first child. We went to the drive-through of a fast food place. The girl inside, black, glared at us as if to say, “How dare you?” I didn’t know this girl and I’m pretty sure we haven’t met since then. So it’s not like she was losing anything even if I had a relationship with my co-worker. But it’s the attitude. Think about it. On any given day, I can have lunch or dinner with a female friend, or several, and nobody bats an eye if they’re black. But let me have a meal, one-on-one, with a woman who’s white, and people jump to concussions (yes, that’s deliberate). So if there’s something I want people to think about, it’s racial peer pressure. Do you choose what movies to watch, what music to listen to or what books to read based on what you like? Or do other people shame you into not liking something because it’s “white folks’ music” or “that’s a black show”?
Do you have any upcoming events? When and where?
Nothing scheduled immediately. But I have requested to be included in a book festival in Nashville this fall. I’ll be contacting educational and arts organizations for possible opportunities. There are a few book sellers on my list as well. And there are several festivals coming up in the late summer and fall, where I may be an exhibitor. I did make an appearance at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, a guest of Theo Dasbach at the Rock and Blues Museum. Theo has invited me to join him for all the festivals that he’s a part of, including the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in August and the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas, in October.
Delta Blue is the debut novel of Woodrow Wilkins. Click on the book above for a direct link to his Amazon page. Also check out the book page via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Delta-Blue/428269303913853
*I participate in the “I don’t like Monday’s” blog hop. Please take the time to check out some of the other great blogs featured:)*