1. How did you come up with the character of Aaliyah?
I came up with the character of Aaliyah Anderson seeing the wonderful, ambitious young women around me at my high school. I didn't see a clear representation of them in the media. I knew their stories were intriguing, entertaining, and worth chronicling in a novel series, so I documented all the characteristics of these ladies and created Aaliyah Anderson. I also consider Aaliyah the female version of me. We share the same ideologies and dreams. We both also share one main weakness, overthinking things!
2. What inspired you to start writing novels for young adults?
There's a void in the industry to reflect what's truly going on in the lives of young adults. I got tired of seeing every other book for young and reluctant readers be about linear topics such as relationships. We're more diverse than that and The Diary of Aaliyah Anderson novel series shows that. Within the books, we tackle subjects that have never been discussed before in a commercial novels series such as the corruption that plagues many public school systems and the effect your environment has on your mental development. I wanted to prove that you could craft higher minded works of fiction for young people that are still entertaining.
3. What are some of the experiences we'll see Aaliyah face in your latest book?
The first edition in the series was the introduction to Aaliyah. Now, we get into the drama! Aaliyah is tangled up in a heated student presidential election with her enemy Latasha, who is eerily reminiscent of Donald Trump in this election. Latasha hurls non-stop insults at Aaliyah and doesn't specify what she'd do to make Clarkson a better school. Aaliyah is actually bringing up good ideas and is presenting herself as a phenomenal representation of the student body, but they're supporting Latasha because of the entertainment factor. It's amazing that I predicted the 2016 Presidential Race back in 2012!
Aaliyah also has to deal with the increasing violence that's occurring in her hometown of Willowsfield, Georgia. Willowsfield is statistically the #1 most dangerous city in America, and the novel shows that. For example, her best friend Allison is kidnapped by her significantly older ex-boyfriend, and Aaliyah has to find her before she gets hurt. The street gangs of Willowsfield are engaged in a social media war with the gangs of Worthington, Georgia, and the beef culminates at the Howard-Jones vs. Worthington High Football game. Aaliyah has to find her way to success while keeping her sanity and life intact.
4. How has Wattpad helped you as an author?
Wattpad showed me who my audience is. I used to limit myself by saying that my reader base is young women between the ages of 13-18. Looking at my numbers on Wattpad, I found that college age readers also enjoy The Diary of Aaliyah Anderson. It's also allowed me to build a platform for my novels that propelled me to get a book deal back in 2014.
5. As a college student, when do you find time to write your novels?
It's easy to find time to write in college. When in college, you have the freedom to set your own personal schedule. I currently have four classes on Mondays and Wednesdays but only one in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That means Tuesdays and Thursdays are my writing days! I try my best to write at least 500 words or complete a chapter of the latest book I'm working on. I was told by one of my author mentors back when I was in 10th grade that writing books in college would be challenging. I'll go as far as to say writing novels in high school was more challenging because of the lack of freedom. Besides, it's all about your passion for what you're doing. No matter what schedule constrictions you have, you always have time to write.