Author Interview - Tembi Locke
Author I draw inspiration from: One person. My sister and novelist, Attica Locke. She has been a consistent inspiration for me, over a lifetime. Since childhood, I have watched her shut her door and write. I have learned so much from her example of discipline, her struggles and triumphs. It takes tenacity to nurture a writing life. It also takes hope and a willingness to believe in your voice. Without her intimate example, I don’t think I would have been brave enough to write a book.
Favorite place to read a book: In my bed or on the couch. During summer, at the beach. I can’t read in a library. HA! I’m too busy people-watching and wandering through the stacks, reteaching myself the Dewey Decimal System while looking at cover art.
Book character I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with: Pasquale Tursi, from My Beautiful Ruins. He’d regale me with his dreams while I quietly panicked.
The moment I knew I wanted to become an author: It was a slow burn, years of giving my permission to write. I took classes and workshops. I thought I might write essays. Frankly, a book seemed elusive. Then there was a moment, about two years after my husband passed when the desire hit me in a way I could no longer ignore. After that moment, I spent two more years talking myself into the idea that I had what it took to write a book-length story in my own voice, in my own way.
Hardback, paperback, ebook or audiobook: I am deeply analog and obsessed with the beauty and physical experience of bound books. So definitely hardback. However, generally, I always take paperbacks when I travel.
The last book I read: Far from the Tree by Robin Benway.
Pen & paper or computer: Pen and paper for journaling, idea generating and expelling first thoughts. I use the computer for writing and rewriting. But then I go back to pen and paper for editing. I print a few pages at time and take them with me during the day and make edits in the margins. Then I go back to the computer. It’s a circular, personal and idiosyncratic process.
Book character I think I’d be best friends with: Still, all these years later, Esperanza, from The House on Mango Street. Just imagine the woman she’d be today.
If I wasn’t an author, I’d be a: Aside from my other career as an actor (which I love), I’d be an interior designer.
Favorite decade in fashion history: I love the 1940’s. An idea for my next book focused on a generation of women in my family who navigated that era in the Jim Crow South. I’ve been looking at old family photographs. I am struck by the craftsmanship and silhouette of the clothes my grandmothers and their sisters wore. Many of the garments were handmade by their own mothers or sisters because they were not allowed to shop in the white-owned stores in their towns. So it’s even more fascinating. Their clothes are simple, structured and with gorgeously flattering lines.
Place I’d most like to travel: Argentina because I think I have an inner tango waiting to be set free.
My signature drink: Keep a Pinot Noir waiting for me at the dinner table. Rustle up a Pomegranate Prosecco Smash if we are celebrating.
Favorite artist: I’m gonna riff here because art is everywhere. JAZZ: John Coltrane, PAINTER: Kerry James Marshall. PRINT MAKER: Kara Walker. SCULPTOR: Modigliani. GRAPHIC: Shepard Fairey WRITER: Louise Erdrich POET: Mary Oliver. DANCE: Alvin Ailey. PHOTOGRAPHY: Gordon Parks.
Number one on my bucket list: After my husband Saro died, I actually made a “widow’s bucket list” as a way to remind myself of my own aliveness. I was so afraid his loss would swallow me whole and I’d forget how to live, let alone dream. Among the top five was “Write.” Recently, seven years later, I made a new revised list. At the top was “accept joy without reservation.” Life has taught me that if I can’t allow in the spontaneous joy of a given moment, then the rest of the list is useless.
Any Social Media accounts you’d like me to link to/tag: