E Lynn Harris Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

E Lynn Harris
Photo of E. Lynn Harris © Matthew Jordan Smith.

E Lynn Harris

An interview with E Lynn Harris

E. Lynn Harris discusses what it took to leave the security of a job to write full time, what it was like to be the first male African American to top the bestseller lists, and offers advice for aspiring writers.

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 feel?
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 with Me?
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 thing.

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.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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