Joyce V. Hansen On Writing Successfully For The African-American Children’s and Teen Market

Joyce Hansen

Name: Joyce V. Hansen

Hometown: New York

Based In: New York

Favorite Read: My favorite recent read is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. This book is a masterpiece. She recounts the history of the great migration of African Americans out of the South searching for a better life in the northern and western states. Her book is nonfiction, but reads like a novel. I also recently read The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat and I was so moved by the skillful and poetic way she told her story.

Author Crush: My author crush is Langston Hughes. I wrote a lot of awful poetry when I was in high school, trying to imitate him. Reading his work though, helped me to find my own writer’s voice and influenced me as I tried to tell an African American story.

Ideal Writing Space: I have a tiny sunroom that I enjoy writing in.

First Book-Related Memory: When I think back on my childhood the first book-related memory is my mother reading to me.

Up Next: I hope another book or two.

What did you enjoy reading as a young adult?

When I was a young adult (1960’s), I don’t think there was a young adult market. You went from reading children’s books to adult books. I remember though reading Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk and I think this was a book that came close to being what we consider now a young adult novel. I also read a lot of Daphne Du Maurier and Charles Dickens. But I longed for books about my own people and by the 1960’s the Black Arts movement was beginning to explode and I read everything I could find about African and African American history. I also read James Baldwin and other fiction and nonfiction by African American writers.


A lot has changed in the industry since your first book was published.

Because of the changes in the publishing Continue reading

Shelia Goss On How Authors Can Be More Prolific And On Expanding Brands

Shelia GossName: Shelia Goss

Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana

Education: Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Ideal Writing Space: I usually write on my desktop. One summer, I did write a book on my iPad.

Briefly: Screenwriter; Author of seventeen novels and counting: The Joneses; Writes the young adult book series The Lip Gloss Chronicles, under the name Sparkle. Ruthless, Delilah, Montana’s Way, My Invisible Husband, Roses are thorns, Violets are true, Paige’s Web, Double Platinum, His Invisible Wife, Hollywood Deception and Savannah’s Curse. Essence Magazine, Dallas Morning News, Black Expressions, bestselling author. African-American Literary Award recipient, 2013.

Favorite Read: The Bible. Too many to name; however I will list a few: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins.

What are your earliest book-related memories?

I started reading at an early age. I was about four years old. Prior to that, I remember my mom reading books to me.

What are some of the things that you’ve learned about book marketing along your publishing journey?

The best form of marketing is word of mouth. When a book resonates with a reader, they will tell someone and it can spread like wild fire. Also, when marketing, you should concentrate on your target audience. Marketing blindly is not advised.

Not only are you an author, but you’re also a screenwriter, and a publishing entrepreneur overall. What advice would you give to authors about expanding their brand?

I encourage it if it’s something they are interested in doing. The best advice I can give is to do research before taking on any endeavor.

As someone who’s also a screenwriter, and an author, which medium do you feel most comfortable in?

I’ve been a published author for ten years so I would say in that medium because I have more experience with success as an author. I’ve only recently had one of my screenplays optioned so ask me in five years after I’ve had several more optioned 🙂

Have any of your novels have its start as a movie in your head?

No, however I visualize the scenes in my head as if they were a movie because if I can visualize it, I can write it. You are also known as Sparkle. If you had to do it all over again, would you have started writing as Shelia Goss, or would you have written as Sparkle from the get-go?

Shelia Goss. Sparkle was a name I came up with for the YA books that are for a different target audience.

I think a lot of authors wish they could just think of a plot in their minds, and have everything miraculously appear on the page. What are your thoughts on getting started, and dealing with writer’s block?

Preparation helps. I suggest doing a character chart on all of your main characters. I don’t use outlines but for those having trouble getting started, I would suggest doing an outline.

I don’t get writer’s block. I might get the “I don’t want to” because “I want to do something else,” but not writer’s block. [Smiles] When I get the “I don’t want to,” depending on whether or not I have a deadline, I will allow myself a day or two off and then I’m back to writing.

How can an author get better at writing?

Write. The more you write, the better your writing will get. Part of that process includes being aware of your writing issues and working on those until it’s no longer an issue.

Do you think book tours and book signings are instrumental in selling books?
It helps with bringing awareness to the author’s books but an author can still be successful without doing either one of those things.

What are your thoughts on critique groups?
I haven’t been in a critique group in over ten years. Critique groups can help when you have a mixture of experienced and non-experience writers.

How can authors be as prolific as you?

Determination, dedication and discipline are the three things you will need in order to be prolific.
Set up your own schedule. Don’t allow other things to get in the way of the schedule and write and sometimes that means writing, even when you don’t feel like it.

Some people feel that self-publishing is evil, that it makes authors out of folks who aren’t quite ready. As a veteran author who’s seen a lot of changes in the industry, what’s your perspective on this?

Self-publishing is a business. Before you start a business, do your research. Everyone is not meant to be a business owner. If one does choose to go on that path, invest in the Self Publishing Manual by Dan Poytner and read it, not skim it. It’s a blueprint that works.

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