JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Holliday Vann, author of When Sexy Came Black to Cleveland
When Sexy Came Black to Cleveland is a fast-paced tale of sinsuality committed in the backyards of C-Town (Cleveland, OH). Odessah Johnson, the heroine of the story is a young and sometimes dumb 23-year-old mother of three. She is mostly bored with living an impoverished lifestyle. When the unexpected happens, Odessah finds that she has all the backing she needs to lure excitement into her life-and the city of Cleveland.
With the problems that plague Clevelanders in the background, the book will surprise the typical john who is expecting just sex. The true entree may be the dinner, arts & culture, or the wickedly good social commentary.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write When Sexy Came Back to Cleveland?
Holliday Vann: “Sexy Black” was initially written as a short story of erotica called Applesauce. Odessah comes home from her cleaning job at one of the ho’ & mo’tels in Big Dirty Cleveland. After not being able to reach her boyfriend Nougat, she arrives to a dark apartment and romantic candles glowing from room to room. She believes the gesture is for her.
With mouth agape and fingers pressed lightly against her chest, she turns to mush-like applesauce. I submitted Applesauce to Zane to be included in an anthology. So . . . if . . . they don’t write . . . or call? Yeah, that means it was rejected. First, I felt sorry for me. Then I felt sorry for Odessah-and others like her-not living, but merely existing in “da Land.” That’s when I decided to tell her whole story. The reader who likes food as much as sex will enjoy sampling my descriptions.
JP: Why did you choose to write this novel in diary style?
HV: Diary format? What diary format? That’s a misconception. It’s written in the third-person, and the omniscient narrator often speaks directly to the reader. So hardly… The date stamp is there to add to the setting. I wanted to conjure up atmospherics-the sounds that add to the reality of a scene-and to further enhance a sense of urgency to a story that’s already written in a style that makes it consumable within a matter of hours.
Won’t you always remember where you were on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008? Same thing but conversely. Odessah’s story is a colorful illustration of how it takes no time at all to ruin a life.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that lead to When Sexy Came Back to Cleveland getting out to the public?
HV: I am uncomfortable calling my efforts in getting When Sexy Came Black to Cleveland out to the public a success. I’m not there yet. There is so much more to do. Perseverance will be key. But as far as getting it published? If it hadn’t been this book, it would have been another. Probably should have been another book. I was very angry when I wrote Sexy Black.
But all anyone needs to know is that I love to write. I was meant to write. This is not a hobby… I love struggling with the words and their positioning to express a thing in just the right way and sometimes in a way that is uniquely my own. I always aspire to write lines and unveil revelations that give people chills-in a good way-like a singer’s voice when truly blessed. LOL. Whether I am successful at that is for others to say.
JP: Many people would like to clump this novel into the Urban Lit genre. How would you classify this book?
HV: I classify this book as “comical erotica with a social conscience.” What’s that? Well, the sex provides much of the levity in this story. But the novel deals with serious issues: poverty; racism; narcissism and self-hate; inequality in healthcare; government decisions ruining livelihoods; motherless and fatherless children-with parents; how no life should be in vain; and can love really conquer all?
The novel is funny, providing a cultural adventure when the Blackberries clash and “interact” with businessmen from China, Ghana, France, Russia, and Italy. Readers might be shocked to learn that the artists, writers, cultural events, and charitable projects mentioned in the book are real. Just Google them.
I tried to incorporate literary technique, which is mostly missing from most Urban Lit. I like using personification. I believe that every object, human or not, has life: “The day was several shades of gray depending upon where the eye wandered, and the streets were wet. But in a lower part of the sky, where the sun was yawning, the clouds were pink, lavender, and slow in moving into darkness.” I am so glad that I didn’t give up after the first chapter of Wuthering Heights.
Metaphors are fun, too: “Nougat’s car was a garbage bag short of being a rolling trash can.” I use similes, repetition, foreshadowing, fragments, vary sentence length, etc., not by accident, but with intention-just as the great Maya Angelou does. Her mind is amazing.
JP: What’s next for Holliday Vann?
HV: I’m working on the anti- or non-sequel to When Sexy Came Black to Cleveland, which is still available on Amazon.com. Buy it today! I keep some of the elements from Sexy Black. But with a new heroine, I take the storyline into some strange, new, but appealing directions. It’s half-finished. Thanks, Joey!
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