JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Sharon G. Flake, author of You Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys
(Disney Book Group)
You Don’t Even Know Me, is a collection of thought-provoking short stories and poems about teenage boys expressed by a variety of male voices.
The book examines hard-hitting topics like HIV/AIDS and teenage suicide. The characters discuss relationships between fathers and sons, young men and older women, love and marriage. Class issues and diversity stories are included.
In one story, a young man contemplates getting even with the person who killed his grandfather. Through poetry, a young man melodically shares his love for his chocolate, cinnamon, his beige colored boo. While in another story, a young man is seduced by his older neighbor.
In this book, we meet a young boy who ambitiously talks about being president of the world and moving the White House to Harlem. This book places a much deserved spotlight on a group that is often ignored by society-at-large.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write You Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys?
Sharon G. Flake: Inner-city youth are a major inspiration to me. Their lives, like the fashion they create and the music they bring to the world, is a mirror to many other youth in the US and abroad.
When their stories get told, their music played, other youth begin to say, “Hey! That’s me! My life, my stuff!” When this happens, healing, knowledge and revelation occur, which is ultimately a good thing.
JP: What sets You Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys apart from other books in the same genre?
SGF: I capture the strengths and wisdom of youth, as well as the challenges they face. My novels are non-stop action, told in a way that makes young people seem unable to put them down and adults eager to get them in their hands.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to You Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys getting out to the public?
SGF: I am blessed that my books are produced by a major publisher. They are responsible for getting the books to the national public.
Throughout my career, I have had incredible support from educators, librarians and parents. They love and value my work. Teachers incorporate my books into their classrooms. My books are promoted at libraries, and parents buy the books for their children.
One of the great keys to my success is the phenomenal group of young women and men, exceptional students and struggling readers, that enjoy reading my books. They tell their friends about the books, discuss my work on social media sites and have created videos to support the books. It is amazing to see young people, so fully engaged and excited about reading.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish You Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys?
SGF: Usually, it takes about a year, give or take, for me to write a novel. It took two years for me to finish my first novel, The Skin I’m In. You Don’t Even Know Me, took approximately nine months to complete. I just turned in a novel to my publisher that took five years to write, which is an exception for me.
My process… Well, I never know where my novels are going to take me. I am on a journey just like the reader. I meet and follow the characters throughout the writing process. Rewriting is another large part of an author’s journey to complete a book. Some authors dislike the rewriting process. I’ve come to love it.
JP: What’s next for Sharon G. Flake?
SGF: My next novel is scheduled for release in 2012. It is a story about a high school student athlete. The athlete is the school’s top wrestler. The athlete struggles academically in reading and is in jeopardy of getting kicked off the team.
The athlete loves a brilliant disabled student. The student cannot tolerate the athlete. The athlete needs the student’s help to improve in reading. Heard it before…the athlete is a girl! Readers will love these new characters and enjoy the twists and turns along the journey.
I love what I do. I write for the best audience on the planet. I don’t take it lightly. I understand the impact a book or piece of literature can have on a young person. The right book in the right hands can change destinies.