Beem Weeks completed High school diploma. He graduated in 1986. While in school, he wrote an entertainment column for the school newspaper. He is currently working for Fresh Ink Group publishing as social media director. He also works as a reviews coordinator for a Book Club. He also hosts a Blog Talk Radio. He also writes a bi-monthly column for a magazine. He received the All Authors Magazine Certificate of Excellence in 2014 for his novel Jazz Baby. Let us know more about his writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
What inspired me to start writing is the need to create. In my younger days I imagined being a rock star. I wanted to write music and play guitar in a rock band. But reality tells me I’m not a talented musician. However, just because I can’t play guitar like Eddie Van Halen doesn’t mean I cannot be creative. In high school I wrote record and concert reviews for the school paper. Fun as that is it’s not very creative. About fifteen years ago I wrote a short story that caught the eye of a fellow writer. He encouraged me to follow that path. A few years later, I had a short story published in an anthology. That short story became the basis for my first novel.
What did you like to read when you were a boy?
I read everything I could get my hands on. My appetite for the written word began as soon as I learned to read. The first book I ever checked out of the library was Where The Wild Things Are. I must have read it thirty times. Then came The Chronicles of Narnia series. In my teen years I devoured S. E. Hinton’s books The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Tex, and That Was Then, This Is Now. By my late teens, I was all about biographies and autobiographies. Everybody has a story to tell.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Writing a book is the easy part. In today’s world, indie publishing has made the entire process quite simple. The difficult part is the marketing of our work. Letting the world know you have a book is a tough job—regardless of the opportunities social media offers. Twitter and Facebook allow us to advertise our work. But we’re competing with a million others who are in the exact same position. On Twitter, I get direct messages from half a dozen authors each day asking me to read and review their books. Then there are those who send me emails seeking support for their latest novel. I won’t complain, though. I’ve bought some of those books and have been impressed with the quality of the writing.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
I spent a great deal of time doing research for Jazz Baby. Even as I began writing the story, I’d come to a scene and there be something I’d need to look up. Two of the characters are driving to New Orleans. They are singing along to songs on the radio. But this is 1925. Did they really have radios in cars in 1925? A little research shows car radios didn’t become standard until the early 1930s. Sure, there were a few companies marketing radios for automobiles earlier than that. But these characters and their circumstances would not have allowed for such a luxury. So what to do? This opened an opportunity to insert some serious dialogue that gives readers a better picture of these people. If they can’t sing along to the radio, make them talk. Make them give up those pieces of self that might have been overlooked or left out.
What motivated you to write the book “Jazz Baby”?
The girl inside my head was the main motivation. She began life in a short story that saw publication in an anthology. After that, I couldn’t evict her. She had a deeper story to tell and I needed to tell it. My grandparents on my father’s side had loads of stories to tell from that era. They grew up in the 1920s and 1930s. These stories used to capture my imagination. My grandmother grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It’s her dialect I hear when the Emily Ann, the POV character, speaks. There’s a particular way words are bent and twisted. Her usage of certain words may not always be accurate but those listening will understand her intentions. Those stories my grandparents told set the bar for this tale. Would these characters be at home in the world of which my grandparents spoke? That authenticity is what kept me working on it for the better part of eight years.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “Jazz Baby”?
As mentioned earlier, the story is set in 1925. Emily Ann Teegarten is a young white girl with a big voice and a knack for singing jazz songs usually performed by black singers. Her dream is to sing on the biggest stages in New York City. But this girl is living in stark poverty in Mississippi. Her nickname is Baby, because she’s still pretty much just a child. But this girl is determined to reach New York by any means necessary. After the deaths of both parents, Baby is sent to live with her well-to-do aunt. But Aunt Frannie is a Bible-believing woman who will have nothing to do with this jazz nonsense. With the notion of doing what’s best for the girl, Frannie arranges a marriage between Emily and Jobie Pritchett, the preacher’s son—a boy with artistic dreams of his own. Just across the Mississippi River lies New Orleans, offering a short cut to New York for any good jazz singer. With the assistance of her father’s best friend, Emily begins sneaking across the river to sing in the speakeasies and clubs that appear to hold the ticket to a greater life in a place not Mississippi. However, there are all sorts of dark and nefarious characters working their own agendas on the girl. Some want to use her vocal talent for greedy gain. Others desire to exploit her budding sexuality. Knowing the wrong people costs her more than she can truly afford.
How did you come up with the idea of writing fiction genre book?
I started out with the idea of becoming a journalist. I enjoyed writing music and concert reviews when in school. However, journalism is reporting on events. Writing fiction give me the opportunity to create characters and worlds that would not exist without me. It’s like telling somebody about a painting you saw versus actually creating the painting. I wanted to be the painter.
Who are your favourite authors?
Stephen Geez is certainly my mentor. He’s been such an encouragement during this journey. Without him, I probably wouldn’t have bothered publishing a novel. I am a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver. Her novel The Poisonwood Bible is my favorite. I also admire Daniel Woodrell’s incredible talent with the written word. A.M. Homes has a knack for writing dark but brilliant works. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a wonderful example in writing vivid descriptions of people, places, and lives in turmoil. There are others that have really made an impression on me as a writer and as a person: Nonnie Jules, Tawni O’Dell, Janet Fitch. And let’s not forget S.E. Hinton.
How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
Unfortunately I don’t get to write every day. This is where marketing what’s already been written comes into play. I spend a good deal of the day on various social media outlets hoping to convince readers to take a chance with my book. I work as reviews coordinator for Rave Reviews Book Club, I write a column for All Authors Magazine, I host a monthly Blog Talk Radio program called Beyond The Cover, and I do social media work for Fresh Ink Group publishing. I’ve got many irons in the fire. I do have my second novel in the works, which will hopefully be finished sometime this year. I’ve also released a collection of short stories entitled Slivers of Life.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Just write it. Then write it again and again. Rewrites are so important. With each rewrite, you’ll find ways of strengthening your story and characters. Rewrites just make you a better writer, a better storyteller. Never edit your own work. A second set of eyes will always find that which we may not see ourselves. None of the big names in the literary world edit their own work, neither should we indie authors. Use beta readers before submitting for publication. Beta readers who are honest will let the author know whether or not the story is worth reading. Beta readers find plot holes, bad punctuation, misspellings, and other flaws within the work. The main thing is to just have fun with the process. If writing stories is no longer fun, why bother with it?
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