Tuesday, July 8, 2014

One on One with Author Alretha Thomas of Married in the Nick of Nine

About the book

Cassandra Whitmore is facing yet another Valentine’s Day alone. Her love life is as dry as the Sharpie pen she uses to mark an even more dreadful day on her calendar—her upcoming 30th birthday. Driven by the maddening ticking of her biological clock, Cassandra is determined to meet, fall in love with, and marry “The One” within nine months. When Cassandra accompanies her cousin to a night club, her Type-A quest to meet a man is quickly rewarded by a stranger’s velvety, baritone voice asking if he might occupy the seat next to her. He’s Nicolas Harte, whose good looks leave Cassandra speechless, but not for long. 

After mustering enough courage to strike up a conversation, she learns Nicolas is everything she wants in a man—smart, successful, and available. There’s only one catch: He’s “GU” (geographically undesirable). Nonetheless, Cassandra falls in love with Nicolas and makes the uncharacteristic decision to move from Los Angeles to New York to be with him. But Cassandra gets a rude awakening when she discovers there’s something rotten in the Big Apple.

1. Introduce yourself. 

Hello, I’m Alretha Thomas. I’m the author of the novel Married in the Nick of Nine, slated to be released by Soul Mate Publishing on July 2, 2014. It’s the first book in a four-part series. It’s great to be here. I also write plays, my most recent of which, One Woman, Two Lives, starred Kellita Smith of The Bernie Mac Show. It was directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse.

Writing is my passion. I’ve been doing so since the fifth grade. My teacher assigned a short story assignment and chose mine to read aloud to the class. I was hooked! In addition to writing, I love blogging on my website, www.Alrethathomas.com. I also love going to the theater, movies, and reading great books. One interesting fact about me—I have a 100-year-old mother-in-law! And her son, my husband, is the love of my life, after God!

2.  What would you like readers to take away from your book?

Married in the Nick of Nine is about a young woman named Cassandra Whitmore who wants to get married before she turns thirty and she turns thirty in nine months. She meets a guy named Nick (thus the title, Married in the Nick of Nine) and they fall deeply in love. There’s only one caveat—Nick is from New York. After much soul-searching and hand-wringing, Cassandra decides to relocate to be with Nick. But upon her arrival, she soon learns there’s something rotten in the Big Apple.  

The biggest message I would like readers to take away from Married in the Nick of Nine, is that no matter how much planning we do in life, no matter how in control we think we are, the unexpected will invariably happen. Someone once said, ‘We make plans and God laughs!’ Cassandra is an A-type personality and has a timetable that she wants to follow. She wants what she wants when she wants it. Sometimes what we think we want is not what God knows we need. So after reading Married in the Nick of Nine, I hope readers learn to let go and let God. Let life happen. Be in the moment. Breathe!

3. What did you learn about yourself in terms of your strong points and weak points while writing this book?  

When writing Married in the Nick of Nine, I learned that when I focus and set my mind to do something, I’m indefatigable. And that’s a good thing when it comes to pursuing a writing career. The circumstances surrounding the evolution of Married in the Nick of Nine, made me keenly aware of this characteristic. I began writing Married in the Nick of Nine, in 2012. I had written about thirty-five pages. Not wanting to self-publish again, I decided to shelve the book. In September of that year I was laid off my corporate job of twelve years. That week I decided to pitch the book to agents, believing that no one would respond. Lo and behold, after sending my query letter to one agent, I got a positive response. It was a bittersweet moment because I didn’t have a finished manuscript and the agent wanted the entire manuscript. I stayed up for four days and nights completing the book. Talk about determination, lol! The agent didn’t make an offer, but gave me some very positive feedback. The greatest thing that came of my writing challenge was that I had a completed manuscript. It needed work, but I had created a story that was workable.  

I also learned when writing Married in the Nick of Nine that I was a lot like my protagonist, Cassandra. I tend to want what I want when I want it. I often forget that there are many things outside my control and that I have to let go. I wanted to land a particular agent, but I eventually learned that God had an agent already lined up for me and that I needed to be patient. I met that agent toward the end of 2012, Stacey Donaghy, and she got me a four-book deal with Soul Mate Publishing.

4. What was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?  

My greatest roadblock in getting Married in the Nick of Nine off the ground was my history of literary rejection. Over the years I had begun wearing my countless rejections like a badge of honor. I had grown accustomed to agents and publishers telling me, “No!” So that’s what I expected and I believed I received what I had expected. I had to make a paradigm shift. I decided to stop holding onto my rejected past and to embrace the possibility that there was an agent and or publisher in the world that would one day embrace my work. And I was right

5. Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

My advice for inspiring writers is to write from your heart and to never give up.

6. What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand? 

It is my hope that non-writers would come to understand that a writer puts their heart and soul into a book. They breathe life into words and that each piece of work has a very special place in a writer’s heart. With that said, when reviewing a book, please know that when you express your feelings about a particular book, it is going to be read by the author. I am always open to constructive criticism and everyone has a right to an opinion, but I believe that there’s a way to voice one’s opinion about a piece of writing without being vicious and crass. Like most writers, I have developed a thick skin when it comes to reviews, but there are times when a review is so vitriolic and mean-spirited, that it seems as if the reader is attacking the writer. These types of reviews are rare, but they do exist. I believe if the reader could embrace the idea of how much work went into the book, they might take a different approach.

7.  What was the last book to keep you up at night reading it?

I am currently reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Americanah. I know that was a mouthful, lol. It’s a story about a Nigerian blogger living in the U.S. who decides to return to her native land. This is my first time reading anything by this author and after a few chapters I completely understood why the book is a national bestseller. Her writing breaks all literary rules. Her sentences are long and winding and her story switches from present to past like a traffic light going from green to yellow to red. But the words, oh the words, and the metaphors, and the phrases. Her style is unique and takes you to other worlds. I am enthralled with her protagonists’ (Ifemelu) view of American life. The book is over six-hundred pages. I love it, because it’s going to last at least a couple of weeks. I read while I work out in the morning and sometime at night.

8. What do you do to make time for yourself?

My me time is usually in the early morning. I get up a little before five am and I medicate on my life—specifically, my future, and my career, while driving to the gym where I work out before starting my day job each morning. I also take advantage of weekends where I have no obligations. I love those. I drive three-hundred and seventy miles a week, so I relish days when I don’t have to be on the freeway.

9. How can readers get in contact with you?

I am very accessible. Readers can contact me via my website www.Alrethathomas.com. My event page also provides information regarding my whereabouts. I’m also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/alretha.thomas and twitter, https://twitter.com/AlrethaThomas.

10. What's next for you?

Once Married in the Nick of Nine is released, I will be deep into promotions, getting the book as much exposure as possible. Later this year I plan to begin penning the sequel to my latest indie novel, “Four Ladies Only.”

About the Author

An author and playwright, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. Award winning plays and wanting to help her community, Alretha’s background is as diverse as her personality. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class—that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. Continuing in high school, her numerous original oratorical conquests on the Speech Team led her to a journalism concentration at USC.

In between plays, Alretha’s first novel Daughter Denied was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country. Representing her book, Alretha has been the guest on many radio shows and television shows including San Francisco Public Affairs show Bay Sunday with Barbara Rodgers on CBS affiliate, KPIX Channel 5. In 2011, Alretha launched her second novel Dancing Her Dreams Away, and it was also well received. Her third novel, Married in the Nick of Nine, spawned a four book series that was acquired by Soul Mate Publishing in January 2014.