5 Minutes, 5 Questions With… Felicia S.W. Thomas, author of 80 Proof Lives

JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Felicia S.W. Thomas, author of 80 Proof Lives
(Amani Publishing, LLC)

A teenage girl, living in a small, southern town, is raised by an alcoholic, single mother. The mother forces the girl to clean house for the local madam and bootleg queen, Miss Lipstick, in order to pay off the mother’s beer tab.

While working for Miss Lipstick, the girl discovers why some people become alcoholics. She also discovers some life-changing things about herself that could either send her down to the path to alcoholism or to a great future.

Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write 80 Proof Lives?

Felicia S.W. Thomas: I got the inspiration from my own life and from others around me. 80 Proof Lives is a young adult novel set during the summer of 1976, yet the issues in the book are still prevalent among the youth today.

JP: What sets 80 Proof Lives apart from other books in the same genre?

FST: It’s written in first-person singular, set in the rural south, and has little to no profanity. It has three-dimensional characters that are common to both rural towns and big cities, with whom young adults and older adults, alike, can identify.

JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to 80 Proof Lives getting out to the public?

FST: I tell anyone with ears about the book. I plant seeds of interest with librarians, educators, administrators, etc., by giving away a number of books. I speak to students about my personal journey and my book.

JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish 80 Proof Lives?

FST: I take pen and paper, and I write down the overall theme of the story in a few short paragraphs. I go for walks and think about the story — giant chunks of the story come to me. I keep a notebook by my bed and write down the parts that come to me in my dreams.

Then, I sit down at my computer, and I construct the story like a jigsaw puzzle. It took me approximately six months writing this way to complete 80 Proof Lives.

JP: What’s next for Felicia S.W. Thomas?

FST: I’m working on a sequel to 80 Proof Lives, another young adult novel, and a murder mystery. I’m also working on a stage play and toying with the idea of making 80 Proof Lives an audio book.


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80 Proof Lives has been chosen by several schools as a teaching tool in the classroom. I was awarded a 2011 President’s Book Award by the Florida Publisher’s Association for 80 Proof Lives. I was the only African-American to receive any award this year, and I’m the first African-American to receive it in the Young Adult Fiction category.

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