Breaking New Ground: Writer Bernadette Connor

As a lifelong Philadelphian who only recently moved away from the area, I am embarrassed to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about one of the city’s finest authors and the first African-American author to have a psychological thriller published in the U.S.

Having said that, now that I know all about Connor and have read one of her books, I am hooked for life as will most readers become once they pick up one of her books.

In an exclusive interview, the 53-year-old author and screenwriter, who doubles as a mother of two, took the time out of her busy schedule to share her feelings on a variety of subjects.

EW: How long have you been writing Bernadette and did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

BC: I started writing poetry in earnest at Gillespie Junior High after being introduced to Edgar Allen Poe by phonograph. The written word had more meaning to me when delivered through an auditory device.

EW: What made you want to become a writer?

BC: I think was born a writer. I got into trouble for constantly doodling on anything, anywhere. Nothing escaped my pen . . . tables, walls, book covers, mail.

EW: Your feelings on the decline of reading nationwide, especially in the black community?

BC: There is not much variety in black literature today. Not because it’s not being written, but rather because the industry feels we become confused by choices. Hence, they only give us one dish. The real readers among us have been titillated by the latest fare and would like to indulge our other literary taste buds but that won’t happen unless independents or self-published authors, like myself, continue to go into debt trying to stay in the game. Because we don’t have access to those advertising and distribution dollars necessary to reach the real readers, we all miss out on literary fulfillment.

EW: What prior professions did you have before becoming a writer?

BC: I was a supervisor of Word Processing Departments for a law firm and an insurance company early on. Then, I went back to school for computer technology and became a communication’s technician for AT&T until I was laid off in l990.

EW: What current profession other than author do you have?

BC: None. I’m a full-time self-published novelist and screenwriter.

EW: Immediate family members:

BC: I have one son, Eros, one daughter, Erica, and six grandchildren, Johnny, Emanuel, Natasha, Ky, Kelsey and Shiloh.

EW: Who are some of your favorite authors?

BC: Langston Hughes, because of the wonderful, loving and often humorous way he presented his characters. James Baldwin, because he just told the story in a time when it wasn’t popular to tell it at all. Stephen King, because he can take me on a journey that scares the beejeezus out of me in a way that’s addictive. Taylor Caldwell, because she can create a reality in fiction that is incomparable.

EW: Tell me about the profession of writing. The Struggles, successes … etc.

BC: Writing is an art. And like all artist, writers struggle. If you are a unique writer who is not following protocol, recipes or popular convention you are in for an honestly special struggle. My first published novel, “Damaged!” was different and I did not know why. I was told that it was just another abuse story that the world would turn its back on. Well, I pressed on and published it anyway and it garnered me a spot in the 2004 Who’s Who In America for being the first psychological thriller ever written and published by an African American. It was optioned for the screen by Robert and Kevin Hooks in 2000, however, they found that the world was not quite ready for “new” in film also. Still, not making much money on my art, I press on and have published “The Parcel Express Murders” and “Inherited”. All of my novels enjoy success on a much smaller scale because of the absence of a major distribution deal. This is truly the most challenging hurdle of independent and self-published authors.

EW: What was the title of your first book and the date it was published?

BC: Damaged! Published in 1998.

EW: What was your feeling at having your first book published?

BC: The only feeling I can compare to holding my first novel in my hand is holding my first child in my arms. The sense of accomplishment, relief and pride defies description.

EW: What are some of your hobbies?

BC: Music. Before writing took center stage in my life, singing was and is still my first love. Rhythm and blues and gospel are my preferences, but I honestly love all types of music.

EW: What do like to you do when you’re not writing?

BC: Because I spend so much time alone, I like to vacation with my family and friends.

EW: What are you currently working on?

BC: I am currently working on a made for DVD movie screenplay for another Philadelphia native director, Fred Thomas, Jr.. Look for it near the end of the year.

EW: Are there any new books being released this year?

BC: I am currently putting the final touches on “Pearl and Angela”, a romantic psychological thriller that takes place in the late forties Midwest. Two women and one man take you on an interesting, yet unconventional, journey to happiness. It will be available online at www.Bee-ConBooks.com in June, 2006.

EW: Who gave you a helping hand along the way and who do you want to thank for their contributions?

BC: I would like to thank Sharon Edwards for being that one person who has taken the entire journey with me as friend and first critic. Janet Kuchler, former Director of Romance Writers of America, for telling me that, “Bernadette, I’m not black and I enjoy your work. Don’t stop.” And, most of all, the many agents, editors and publishers who turned me down and said I was an excellent writer but there was no market for my work. The one way to insure I won’t quit is to tell me, “No, it can’t be done.”

EW: What advice do you have for aspiring young writers?

BC: Write like your mother’s looking over your shoulder. Why? Because you don’t want to become famous for the one most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done. Write everything like you’re getting paid for it, one day you will. Write something everyday. On the days you feel discouraged, don’t give up, write about that. Read what you write out loud, one day you’ll have to do that too. Read what you’ve written for someone else, even if it’s your new puppy. Get accustomed to eyes watching you while you read. When you’re comfortable reading your own work, you will bring a life to it that people who have already read it won’t recognize and they will read it again. Build your confidence, you’ll need it.
Eric Williams is a columnist for the Philadelphia Sunday Sun who is syndicated by several other publications across the country. Contact Eric at eklass66@yahoo.com

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