A Discussion with E. Lynn Harris
Not a Day Goes By, zoomed to the top of the national bestseller
lists, and most notably debuted in the #2 slot on the New York Times
fiction list--a first for an African American male fiction writer. How does that
It's very humbling, and at the same time it's very rewarding because
it shows that all the hard work of my editor, publisher, staff and myself has
paid off. It's also a fantastic feeling to know that the fans rushed to the
stores . . . and brought friends with them.
How did you decide to write a book about John Basil Henderson (a character
who has appeared in all your novels--and is also a character your fans love to
hate) and Yancey Harrington Braxton, the Broadway diva introduced in Abide
I wanted to do something different and my editor, the president of
Doubleday, and I came up with the idea to do something special for the summer, a
different kind of love story . . . something wicked. Basil and Yancy got
together at the end of Abide with Me and I thought it would be fun to see
what happened if they pursued their relationship.
Did you know from the start whether there would be a happy or sad ending
to this love affair?
Yeah, I knew what would happen when I put these two together (not that
I'll divulge that here) but I didn't know how it would all come about. That was
the fun part. I just had to sit back and write and let Yancy and Basil do their
You've been asked to write the screenplay for a remake of the classic African
American movie Sparkle. Tell us about the new movie and how that
opportunity came about.
Sparkle is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's a wonderful
love story. I was approached by Deborah Martin Chase, Whitney Houston's
producing partner, who asked me to pitch my ideas for the remake to Kevin
McCormick at Warner Brothers. I felt honored just to be asked to present my
story ideas. But then they loved it and offered me the job. I can't give any
details yet, you'll just have to wait for the movie to come out!
Almost a decade ago you left the computer industry to write
fiction. How did you muster the courage to pursue your dream?
had a story to tell and I knew I was the only one to tell
it. The story played so heavy on my heart that I devoted myself to telling it.
It was like I didn't have a choice. That first book was Invisible Life
and it was my passion. I never thought about it becoming a bestseller . . . that
would have caused fear and uncertainty. I just concentrated on telling that
story the best I could.
Giving up the security of a job was tough but it was also exhilarating because I
felt free to do what I needed (and still need) to do: to write. I'd do it for
free, and for a long while that's just what I did. It wasn't until a few years
ago that writing became lucrative as well.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write because you have a story only you can tell. Write with passion.
Don't write for the money or fame because it may not come, and even if it does
it's the writing which brings you joy, not all the other stuff.
What's next for you?
I plan on resting for a while after I finish my tour. Then I'll pick
up my journal, gather my thoughts, and decide what story is next.