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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Your Duck Is My Duck
    Your Duck Is My Duck
    by Deborah Eisenberg
    In this collection of six short stories, Deborah Eisenberg presents characters confronting limits ...
  • Book Jacket: Unsheltered
    Unsheltered
    by Barbara Kingsolver
    Willa Knox's house is falling down. She recently inherited a Victorian residence in Vineland, ...
  • Book Jacket: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
    Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
    by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
    Ya Ta, the main character in Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's novel, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, ...
  • Book Jacket: The Boneless Mercies
    The Boneless Mercies
    by April Genevieve Tucholke
    The Mercies are assassins, part of a long tradition of killers who serve to end the suffering of the...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Winter Soldier
by Daniel Mason

A story of war and medicine, of finding love in the sweeping tides of history, and of the mistakes we make.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Gone So Long
    by Andre Dubus III

    Dubus' first novel in a decade is a masterpiece of thrilling tension and heartrending empathy.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Gone So Long

Andre Dubus III's First Novel in a Decade

A masterpiece of thrilling tension and heartrending empathy.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

G H E Rope A H Will H H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.