Get ready to learn more about the book THIS: A Simple, Complex Love Story in this discussion with sapphic author Naomi Rivers.
Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Naomi Rivers about THIS: A Simple, Complex Love Story, writing, reading, and more.
This book is part of the Black / African American Author category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.
Why did you write This?
I wrote THIS: A Simple, Complex Love Story for two reasons…it was a way to communicate with my now wife through multiple military deployments. We exchanged parts of stories that ultimately became chapters. Secondly, I wanted to write a story about characters that looked like me. I’m an avid reader of various genres and yet, searching my local library system or googling black lesbian fiction didn’t always yield stories that resonated or reflected my interests. My characters are imperfect, messy, and still want and deserve love.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
My favorites characters are John and Stephanie for similar reasons. They are hilarious, sharp, and the best friends of each main character. T and John have been friends since college – his memory is long, and he doesn’t sugarcoat her shenanigans. Jasmine and Stephanie have been friends since high school. Stephanie often holds up a mirror of truth for Jasmine – even when Jasmine doesn’t want to see it. We all need someone to tell us the truth and hold us accountable.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
It was trial and error of what I thought Jasmine and T’s love reflected. A story where love is possible even when it’s complicated.
If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?
Yes, there’s a sequel to Jasmine and T’s story coming in the spring! Although their relationship started out like many relationships — on a circuitous path — it evolved into something really wonderful. In book two, Jasmine and T have agreed to help a friend which leads to unanticipated friction to their relationship. I’ll post a request for beta and ARC readers soon.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?
I think hanging out with James Baldwin would have been both a hoot and sobering since he was a novelist and civil rights activist. I love watching videos of him on YouTube — his charm, wit, and snappy retorts are legendary. Mr. Baldwin was an out gay, Black man long before society welcomed his perspective on race or sexuality. My favorite books of his are “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “The Fire Next Time.”
What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?
I love these tasty little treats I call “Snow Puffs.” There’s a recipe in my December 2023 newsletter, on my website – https://www.naomiriversbooks.com.
Do you have a pet who helps/hinders your typing?
There have been fours dogs that I could have easily dedicated THIS to during the time it took to finish my debut novel. All have crossed the rainbow bridge and I miss them very much. Each fur child had such different personalities. Reka (16), a rescue terrier mix, didn’t know that at 40 plus pounds she wasn’t a lap dog. Steve (11), a Bichon Frise, never met a stranger. Karmello (10) would quietly go for an afternoon nap or put himself to bed if I stayed up too long. Minnie (10), PRINCESS Diva, allowed me to provide for her needs. We added two more dogs to the family last year and a few weeks ago. Noodle (10+), a rescue shih tzu mix, is a grumpy curmudgeon that wants his breakfast promptly at 9am and dinner at 5pm. The newest is Emmy (13), a Maltese/Havanese mix, who’s comical and gives side-eye glances that need no words. She also demands daily walks and sitting in my lap, both are proving to be writing challenges.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?
Best advice I ever received? “Finish the book.” I was worried about sequels, marketing, and selling other merchandise, but I hadn’t finished the book. Author friend Elizabeth Andre told me, “You can’t edit an empty page.” and I participated in a Women in Publishing conference and a speaker said, “Everyone has at least five stories; write your story, write what you know.” That was motivating.
Have you ever cried when writing an emotional scene?
I teared up when writing a church scene in book number 2. The family is doing Thanksgiving a bit differently, they’re going to church Thanksgiving morning instead of watching the Macy’s parade and dog show. T’s mother insists the family foregoes the usual plans to hear a new pastor speak. The scene is moving as I could relate to being worried about a family member and wanting to hear answers from a higher power.
What books did you grow up reading?
I remember reading “Dear God, It’s Me Margaret” by Judy Blume, “Go Ask Alice” by Beatrice Sparks, and “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. I’m stunned that two of these are on somebody’s banned book list. The act of banning books speaks to the notion of who gets to tell their story. There’s an African proverb that says something like, “Until the lion tells the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” I was also influenced by family and read everything from Zora Neale Hurston to Richard Wright to James Baldwin. Their stories and commentary on race, gender, and sexuality remain relevant decades later and inform my thoughts about where we are as a society.
What books have you read more than once in your life?
The books I’ve read again and again are “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. Both books are timeless classics. The characters express faith, optimism, and maintaining hope through very difficult circumstances.
Describe your favorite reading spot.
Anywhere! I will read on the beach, traveling by train or plane, in a coffee shop, or waiting in a long line.