I've wanted to be a writer since I was four--in fact, in my first "book," entitled "Baby Bobby" (Hey, write what you know!), I somehow realized that I needed to write an author bio and synopsis on the back of the book.
"Baby Bobby is a book about a babby. The auhtor is Tananarive Due."
At least I spelled my name right.
As an adult, I won an American Book Award for my supernatural thriller The Living Blood. My first novel was published in 1995, a supernatural/psychological suspense novel entitled The Between, and my long dalliance with Hollywood began. I was a feature writer and columnist for The Miami Herald when my first novel was published--and I was still pinching myself at my luck--when producers called me at my desk at work to try to option it. I sold my first option, and my journey to Hollywood was underway!
What's that, you say? You've never seen a movie called The Between? Well, join the club. Most novels optioned for film never see the light of day. But it's the journey that matters, not the destination.
My second novel, My Soul to Keep, was optioned by actor Blair Underwood in 1998 or so, and it has been set up at Fox Searchlight for several years now. Can you grow a tree in the time it takes to get a movie produced? Absolutely. But that relationship with Blair has borne unexpected fruit.
Almost three years ago, I moved to Southern California with my husband, novelist and screenwriter Steven Barnes, so that we could tackle screenwriting and have a more direct role in shepherding our work to film. While we have yet to attend any movie premieres with our names glowing from the Silver Screen, I got my WGA membership this year after we sold an adaptation of my novel The Good House to Fox Searchlight. Steve and I are currently writing the third draft.
And one day Blair Underwood asked if we wanted to write a collaboration...but a novel! Thus, Casanegra and the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series were born. Blair wanted to create a character who is an actor and former gigolo, with a knack for solving crimes. He also wanted a strong erotica element. (The audio book makes me blush! It's just...different...to hear it aloud.) My husband and I write the novels, and Blair is like a "producer" --we have long meetings, he gives us extensive notes on the manuscripts, and he has ideas for scenes.
Are the novels sexy? You bet! Do the three of us have some pretty hysterical conversations I will never discuss on these pages? Absolutely! Did we watch with great amusement last summer while Blair promoted Casanegra everywhere from "Regis" to "Ellen" to "Entertainment Tonight"? (Any author can tell you how hard it is to get TV interviews!)
Sure, we could be dismissed as a gimmick--and believe me, many wanted to--but along the way, Casanegra also got some great darned reviews, even from the oh-so-picky Entertainment Weekly, which wrote: "The pace is taut, the dialogue is snappy, and it's hard not to fall for Underwood's fallen hero." Publishers Weekly called it "seamlessly entertaining."
But the Tennyson Hardwick novels were never meant to be entertainment only. Casanegra gave us the chance to discuss violence in hip-hop and other social ills of concern to all of us. Its follow-up, In the Night of the Heat (September, 2008), has shades of both the Celebrity Murder Trial and the segregated South of the 1960s. I look at it as a spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.
I'll always write solo novels. My first love is superantural suspense, and I have a solo novel out now, Blood Colony, written about the same African immortals Blair first fell in love with when he optioned My Soul to Keep all those years ago.
But in the mean time, the Tennyson Hardwick novels give us a chance to write the "movies" Hollywood won't make--not yet, anyway--especially given the glaring lack of black male sexuality on film. (Think about it.)
This way, we get to write our own movies.
Without a decade-long wait. Cue soundtrack.