I write women’s fiction. I chose this genre because I’m the poster child for women’s issues. As a child I was abused and battered. In college, I suffered from anorexia and bulimia. In my early twenties I struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. I have experienced the pain of unrequited love, more times than I care to admit. I’ve battled infertility. I’ve dealt with disillusionment and unrealized dreams. I’ve had so much drama in my life; I’ll never run out of material. Lol! I don’t regret my life experiences, because they allow me to write with depth and feeling. Moreover, knowing that I survived my past with God’s grace, and that I’m a survivor, not a victim, enables me to give other women hope.
Gosh, you have had life experience!
Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
I like to focus on one manuscript at a time. I put my heart and soul into my writing and I couldn’t imagine splitting my focus. My process involves story development, character building, outlines, and a number of other time-consuming components that require my undivided attention.
I have a trusted group of beta readers that I work with that are fearless and have no qualms critiquing my work. It’s not always easy working with them, and I have shelved and rewritten entire works based on their opinions. Invariably I find that I end up with a winning product when I take heed to their suggestions.
Can you remember your first reading book?
I think it may have been Curious George.
Do you nibble on snacks while writing? If so, what is your chosen treat?
Sometimes I nibble on Trail Mix. There’s a specific type of mixture I buy from Whole Foods. It’s delicious and fattening.
My writing area is in our dining room and my husband calls it my second home. It’s the one time I don’t mind a mess. Normally I’m a neat freak, but when my creative juices start flowing, so does everything else, onto the floor and table. I have a desktop computer, tons of paper, reference books, and my little toy and stuffed animals for inspiration.
Are you published in the traditional manner or self-published? Share your journey.
I am an indie writer, i.e., self-published author. Indie sounds more credible. Lol! It’s been a long journey. Yes, I’ve gone down that independent road that’s becoming more and more traveled! With the advent of print on demand, the market is teeming with new writers. Whew! There’s a lot of competition.
I wanted a traditional deal when I began writing in 1999, but I couldn’t land an agent or a publisher. After more than a hundred rejections, I put my debut book, “Daughter Denied,” on the shelf for several years before I got the courage to self-publish. It was a very empowering experience. However, it wasn’t until three years later that I introduced my second novel, “Dancing Her Dreams Away” to the world. In between the two books, I tried once again to land an agent and or a publisher, but came up empty.
In 2011, I began working on my third novel, “Married in the Nick of Nine.” And right after I self-published in 2012, I was contacted by an agent who had read the book and fell in love with it. Her name is Stacy Donaghy and she’s with the Corvisiero Literary Agency. I couldn’t believe my ears when she told me she wanted to represent me. It was beyond a miracle. After thirteen years, I finally had an agent.
I wrote “The Baby in the Window” last year and it debuted this past August. It’s the standalone sequel to “Married in the Nick of Nine.” I’m hoping that the series takes off and that I eventually land a traditional publishing deal. I love certain aspects of self-publishing, mainly the autonomy an author has. However, the biggest downside is lack of distribution or a machine behind you to get your book out to the world. I try to make up for this buy relentless cyber-marketing, via social media.
Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life? Alice Walker, the late, Bebe Moore Campbell, and Terry McMillian.
What advice would you like to share with other writers/authors with regard to preparing a manuscript?
Write what you know and write from the heart. Don’t write to fit within current trends. Write a first draft and then put it away for a week or two and then come back to it. It always helps to have fresh eyes when going over your work. After you’re comfortable with that first draft, let someone else read it and be open to constructive criticism. If something is nagging at you regarding, characterization, plot, etc. don’t ignore it. It’s better to fix it now rather than later. Once you have a finished product and decide which publishing route you want to take, be courageous. Go for it and don’t let rejection stop you. Sometimes it takes a lot of “no’s” before you get a “yes.”
If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?
Debut novel: Daughter Denied
Tina Rivers as a child: Quvenzhane Wallis
Tina Rivers as a teen: Keke Palmer
Tina Rivers as a young adult: Keke Palmer
James as a child: Unknown
James as a teen: Unknown
James a young adult: Unknown
Earnestine: Halle Berry
Brother Floyd: Terrence Howard (has to gain weight for the role)
2nd novel: Dancing Her Dreams Away
Shelia King – Meagan Good
Edwina – Octavia Spencer
Heinz – Clint Eastwood
Grandmother – Cicely Tyson
3rd novel: Married in the Nick of Nine (Volume I)
4th novel: The Baby in the Window (Volume II)
Cassandra Harte – Jennifer Hudson
Nicolas Harte – It would have to be an unknown, because I don’t know of any actors who have the perfect combination of good looks, charisma, and the right age.
Cassandra’s cousin Cynthia – Paula Patton
Michael – Denzel Washington
Mrs. Howard – Ruby Dee
I was on my way to the supermarket, when … Do you have a tale to tell relating to an everyday, boring event?
I was at Home Depot one Saturday afternoon picking up paint brushes. While standing at the cashier, I heard a somewhat familiar voice. The man calling out to me had a southern twang. “Reta?” My back was to the stranger and I started to turn around, but then it dawned on me that he was probably calling someone else. “Reta?” he repeated. “Reta” is my nickname and only family and close friends call me “Reta.” I spun around and my eyes locked with the man’s beady chestnut eyes. His full face lit up and I found myself smiling at “My first.”
OMG. It had been more than two decades since I had laid eyes on the very first man I made love to. I was eighteen and he was twenty-one. I chuckled when I thought about my mother telling me, “You’ll never forget ‘Your first.’” Wow, what was he doing at Home Depot in Glendora? And I just had to be looking like a hag! Dang! We approached each other and hugged. It was strange seeing him all grown up. He had a man’s body and a man’s voice. While staring at him, it dawned on me that I was looking at the life I would have had if I had gone through with the marriage. He proposed to me when I was a freshman in college. To my grandfather’s chagrin, I said “Yes,” but after careful consideration and countless icy stares from my grandfather, I backed out.
“Reta, you haven’t changed. You still look the same,” he said coming out of our embrace.
“You look the same, too,” I lied, while I gave his wide girth a gander. I couldn’t help myself. I blurted out, “You were ‘My First.’”
He grinned like a Cheshire Cat with a glimmer in his eye and nodded. “I’m married and I have two sons,” he announced.
“I’m married and I have a stepson,” I countered.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence and then we broke out in nervous giggles. After a few minutes of catching up he gave me his number. I thrust it into my purse, knowing that I would never call. The whole encounter was surreal.
As a romance writer, I love your story!
Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, Alretha soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming.
This led to plays outside of the church, including Alretha’s “One, Woman Two Lives,” starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse. The production garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences.
In between plays, Alretha’s first novel “Daughter Denied” was launched in 2008 and in 2011, Alretha launched “Dancing Her Dreams Away.” Her third novel, “Married in the Nick of Nine” was launched in 2012 and is taking readers and reviewers across the country by storm. “The Baby in the Window,” the standalone sequel to “Married in the Nick of Nine,” is Alretha’s fourth novel.