Full Name - Tayari Jones
Date of Birth - 1970
Location - Jersey City, NJ
Website/Blog - Tayari Jones
Most recently published work - Silver Sparrow
How frequently to you update your site? - 3 times a week
Is your site designed for interaction? -Yes
Can you tell us a little about Silver Sparrow?
Silver Sparrow is the story of two sisters- Dana and Chaurisse. Dana has known all her life that their father is a bigamist and that her existence is his biggest secret. Chaurisse, on the other hand, is under the impression that she lives a normal life. I just had to tell the story from the point of view of both the sisters because both are victims and both are heroes. It's a coming of age story, a study of personal history and mythology, and it's an exploration of the family, love, and betrayal.
I love your opening paragraph. It's lyrical, telling and one of the best of the year. How many drafts did you go through before you got it just right?
I really can't say. I worked on this novel for five years-- it went through so many drafts and even so many titles. I don't keep count. If I had to guess, I would estimate about twenty times. But I love to write. Each new draft was an adventure. I am happiest when I am working on a story. I always want it to go on forever.
That first line, My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. I remember that for a long time, it was on page two or three. At some point, decided to stop being coy and just come out with it, right on the first line.
Much of the stories beauty and strength lies in your three dimensional characters and their relationships. Which character came to you first, James Witherspoon or his wives and daughters? And how does Raleigh fit into this two family dynamic?
When I write a novel, I imagne a world. The characters don't really show up one by one. Instead, they tend to come to me as sort of ghostly figures and their features become more clearly as a write-- like a polaroid developing.
I firmly belive that James could not keep such a complicated web of secrets straight without a lot of help; I knew he had to have an enabler and this was Raliegh. Then, I had to ask myself why would one man dedicate his entire life to assisting another man in a lie. The answer, of course is love.
That's pretty much the motivation for all the characters. They do what they do because of love, love of their kids, love of each other.
Laverne, the first wife, is a hairdresser. One night she gets an infamous female client. I loved this surprise, the true tragedy weaved into the story line perfectly. When did you decide to incorporate it into your novel?
I won't go into too much detail because I don't want to be a spoiler. But this woman has been a symbol of black female rage, for as long as I could remember. I did a little research and found out tha tit was more than just a humorous annecdote. And even before I decided to make her into a character, she was sort of swimming under the boat for the whole story. Whenever men behave badly, people allude to her. I wanted to imagine her as a real flesh and blood woman, and you can't get much realer than when you're getting your hair done.
The publishing industry has changed a lot since your first novel was published in 2003. It's even harder for authors to make a semi living. One of the saddest things as a reader is to read a great novel by an author and never hear from them again.
Yes, it is a sad thing. It's even sadder when you discover that your favorite long-lost writer is still working, but she can't get her book published. I have read many lovely manuscripts by proven writers, yet they are unable to publish. It's sobering. I don't take anything for granted.
What can fans do to make sure the latest book they're reading by an author they love won't be the last?
Well, I guess the obvious answer is to buy books by your favorite author. But also, it matter where you buy them from. With Silver Sparrow, the independent bookstores have been so supportive. They are struggling because they can't give the 30% that the bog chains do, but I still shop indie whenever I can because these are the bookstores that support real literature, not just what they think they can make a quick buck with.
I hate to think of us all at the mercy of the big box stores.At the same time, many people, particularly working class people and people of color, do not have an independent nearby. So people have to get their books however they can. But when ordering on line, go to indiebound Support non-corporate reading
And support your favorite author by sending her a note, or posting a review on goodreads or other websites. You may not be able to directly affect her bottom line, but you can give her encouragement that could get her over the hump. Letters from readers strengthen my spirit every time.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with Color Online?
I know that there are many readers of this blog that are beginning writers. After talking about all the gloom and doom of the publishing industry, I would also like to say that people should not give up if writing is what they want to do. It's a hard business, but a beautiful life
Tayari, thank you so much for your time and writing one of my favorite novels of the year. I wish you much well deserved success and recognition for Silver Sparrow.
Read the first chapter
Full Tour Schedule - This is one autographed 1st edition you'll want to have in your collection.