JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Toyi Ward, author of Par for the Curse
Toyi Ward is a freelance writer, author and media host who likes to tackle the tough issues that affect contemporary women. As the host of Blog Talk Radio’s “TOYi Talk”, she does just that. Her debut novel, Par for the Curse (Naphtali Books, 2009) examines the influence of voodoo and the impact of generational secrets on family, life and love.
After ten years as a Fortune 100 sales and marketing executive, Toyi decided to pursue her passion for writing full-time by moving forward with the completion of her first novel. She is very social and says it can sometimes be a hindrance to her writing. She expresses a desire to write projects that will in some way help people to think about their own lives and make a change.
She wants to make people think and laugh, even cry. She describes herself as a happy person. It’s easy for her to be happy for others when they pursue their dreams. It’s very rewarding when she can help someone along that journey. Toyi is married with two children. She resides in Central New Jersey.
If readers want to catch the “Don’t recycle that!” Speaking Tour or host a Par for the Curse reading go to http://www.toyiward.com/events.html
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write Par for the Curse?
Toyi Ward: There are so many families dealing with generational curses. I run into so many broken women who can’t figure out why they can’t get out of the rut that their mothers and grandmothers lived. So, they end up just accepting their fate. I was raised in a matriarchal family that was very close and not without it’s drama. We loved and supported each other through a lot of tough times.
I think most families are that way so the Briggs girls are no different. The backdrop of voodoo came from my great grandmother, who was a palm reader. I knew a little about the lines, so I put it in the book.
JP: What sets Par for the Curse apart from other novels in its genre?
TW: Par for the Curse is unpredictable and not easily put into a box. All genres have their rules i.e. romances have to have happy endings, mysteries need to be solved. Breaking the rules of genre, this story is based in life’s reality…there are no rules. It will give readers lots to discuss at the conclusion because there are not right or wrong answers in Par for the Curse.
If a reader was to ask me, “Was Stormy the good girl?” I don’t have an answer for that. It’s up to the reader to decide. How you feel about the Briggs girls will be ultimately determined by who you are as a person. No different than in real life.
JP: The concept of a generational curse is a pervasive topic among African-Americans, particularly Christians. What does this book have in terms of themes that makes it more than African-American literature?
TW: One of the things I love about this story is that it is universal. The women in the story are African-American, but the story doesn’t center around their ethnicity. This story was written to shed light on how we often hurt our family members with the best of intentions. Family secrets are most often meant to protect loved ones but instead end up being painful baggage carried for generations. One of the biggest themes is that of the complexity of family love.
From a Christian point-of-view, the story is peppered with the notion that saying you are Christian is not enough to have a victorious life. It takes more than that. It takes an active pursuit of the good things God has for us. There is a line in the story where Nona says, “Honey, going to church every Sunday doesn’t make you Christian any more than standing in that driveway will make you a car.” I guess the closest scriptural context for this would be that faith without works is nothing.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish Par for the Curse?
TW: Par for the Curse took me 5 years from start to finish, but I was working full time. I started with a short story about a grandmother telling her grandchildren that they were cursed. Then I became intrigued with how and why they were cursed.
My writing process starts with an issue. I tack it up on my board and let it sit there until I get a “what if” story comes to mind. A “what if” is a list of possible stories that fit the issue. For example if I were to tackle abortion, I would stick a card that says “abortion” on my office board. So, then I go from there.
What if it were someone who was contemplating an abortion? What if it were someone who had an abortion and is pregnant again? What if it’s a baby that was aborted, lived, and now grown facing abortion? I “what if” it until something sticks with me. Once I get the premise of the story then I start taking various dramatic turns. I’m very methodical. I use story forming software, index cards, and good old fashion notebook paper before I even begin to type the first draft.
JP: What’s next for Toyi Ward?
TW: Whatever God has for Toyi Ward, I want it. I’m in a very uncomfortable place because I have no idea what is going to happen in my life from one day to the next. With the radio show, the book, my company and my civic involvement, God could take me anywhere. As far as writing, I have started my next project. Hopefully, since I write full time, I’ll finish it in 2010. It tackles the secrecy of incest in Black families.
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