Writing Black

Get To Know The Best Selling Author Candice Carty-Williams

Episode 6

Maiysha Kai sits down with best selling author Candice Carty-Williams about her new book, “People Person.” The two discuss what led Carty-Williams to start writing, her Black British musical TV show that Netflix is picking up and the genesis behind her best seller “Queenie.”

[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Maiysha Kai [00:00:05] Hello, I’m Maiysha Kai, host of theGrio’s Writing Black Podcast. In West African tradition. To be a griot is to be a storyteller, one who carries and communicates the experiences and legacies of a people. As theGrio’s lifestyle editor, I’ve always been fascinated by how we tell our stories. That’s why we launched Writing Black, to explore the myriad ways Black writers craft stories and communicate our experiences. Thank you for joining us. Here’s an excerpt from this week’s guest. 

“Queenie” [00:00:37] In the pub, people spoke excitedly and glasses clattered noisily. My last girlfriend was Black. I looked at my date and blinked. Sure, I’d misheard him. Sorry, I said, leaning across the table. My last girlfriend was Black, he repeated, not a trace of irony in his voice. That’s nice. Was she a nice person? I asked, taking a very large gulp of my wine. I was still on antibiotics and this red was not going down well. She was crazy, he said, shaking his round head as alarm bells and red flags popped into my mind. It was almost as white as he was tall, with a huge belly straining under his T-shirt, blond curls framed his big, rosy cheeks. In essence, he was a giant cherub. It didn’t look like a giant cherub in any of his OkCupid photos, obviously. 

Maiysha Kai [00:01:23] Welcome to Writing Black. We are extremely blessed this week to have a friend joining us from afar. Candice Carty-Williams is with us all the way from the UK. If you are not familiar with Candice’s work yet, you should be. Her book, Queenie, was a bestseller and for good reason. It is fantastic. It’s been billed as by some as a Black British jones. I believe it is like super relatable and I loved it. And she is the upcoming people person. Candice, how are you? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:01:56] I’m good, thank you. I’m good. Thank you. Very happy to be here. We’re happy to be on. 

Maiysha Kai [00:02:01] We are thrilled. And, you know, I use this word and I’m sure you’ve heard a lot it’s even on your book. But I do think it’s at the heart of why your work has resonated with people so heavily these past few years, which is the word relatable. You know, you are writing about Black women in a way. You know, it’s interesting. I feel like on one hand, you are part of a really refreshing wave of. You know, women writing about women’s lives that is very sometimes messy, extremely transparent. But ultimately that is what life is. Right. But it’s also the tradition of like, you know, I think about, you know, writers like Terry McMillan who gave us like these, like, you know, very imperfect Black girl characters where we were kind of leading out of respectability politics. Well, how how has that process been for you in terms of like developing this, particularly these Black heroines who are so complex, you know? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:03:08] It’s funny that you mention Terry McMillan because I have watched Waiting to Exhale 1 billion times. I found a really amazing first edition of it in In Black Market Vintage, that’s what it’s called I think. 

Maiysha Kai [00:03:23] Yes. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:03:24] And I saw it at the shop and I snatched it right away because it’s such a formative text in my life that that work. And I think that growing up and watching that and watching all of the things I watch and reading the things I read, it was like it didn’t make any sense to me to create a character who was perfect or striving to be perfect, because I’ve never found that very interesting. And actually in my work and in my life, I kind of lean towards chaos. And I think like a lot of people are and a lot of my friends are chaotic. So it kind of made sense that like any character that I would ever dream up, which is obviously based off of something would be chaotic because like all the texts that I’ve loved or the people that I love because like that is life. And I don’t think it’s ever been tidy for anyone, but definitely and maybe more common since that. But I’ve definitely got a lot of stick and I’ve come into a lot of hot water writing characters. 

Maiysha Kai [00:04:20] Really? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:04:21] Yeah. So actually I remember really early on like maybe catching a couple of good reads reviews of Queenie and people were really angry or angry with her. They were like, Why does she is protection? Why is she so stupid? Why is she? And it was like, Oh my God. And I think it was like almost flattering because I was like, really, you know, very passionate about her. But you’re kind of forgetting that, like, I’ve written a book, and if she just sort of got up and went to work and came home, then this wouldn’t be a very interesting thing to read. And so I never saw it as a bad thing, but I definitely recognize that like people were so rooting for her because I felt like she was really they wanted her to do better, but it was also like she’s not going to do it. But I really not in anyway because, you know, she’s going through it. And I think that’s more interesting than if she wasn’t. 

Maiysha Kai [00:05:11] It’s also more realistic. I mean, let’s be honest. I say this as somebody who’s had been chaotic myself. I’ve had my shit, my fair share of choas and and, you know, and there isn’t anything to celebrate about having been chaotic. If you don’t have the highs and lows of it, the ups and downs, the you know, the you know, as I say, fold, you know, seven times. Get back, get back up eight. You know, I’m so interested by that, you know, like the standards to which I mean that because that’s what we see in life too, right? Like that’s also that mirror that’s being held up in terms of like the standards by which to which we hold Black people, Black women. And yeah, she does do a lot of stupid things. That particular character, you know, a lot of really stupid decisions are made that are very much led by grief and trauma and loss and abandonment and all these like really real life feelings that we’re all navigating every single day. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:06:13] And also her age as well.

Maiysha Kai [00:06:17] Black rage. Okay. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:06:18] It’s her age. I think a lot people forget that she’s 25 years old. And so people are like, yes, you know, this. And it’s like because she’s so kind of a baby, you know, and like as you as you say, like trauma that basically stops your brain developing.  And all these things are thought of and I think it’s, you know, I think when you write, like, a stream of kind of conscious thought for someone, maybe people think like research hasn’t gone into a were like that sort of like text hasn’t gone into it. Like what would this girl be going through at this age when she’s gone through so much? But it’s like all of my characters are so heavily sort of like researched or drawn out. And I think, you know, it’s like all of these things have made her this this messy person. 

Maiysha Kai [00:07:01] Well, I do love that you talk about research, because that’s a huge part of what we like to talk about here. We talk about craft. I also think it’s really I’m just going to call up myself for a second because it’s really funny that I thought you said Black rage, which must be Freudian for me, because I also think there was this undercurrent of, you know, that that constantly feeling misunderstood or like we’re always told, you know, you’re too much, right? You’re too much. You must you must shrink yourself to fit this this thing that makes me more comfortable. What does research look like for you when you’re kind of putting something like this together? Like from a craft perspective, I’m just so intrigued. Now, you know, when you’re fleshing out these characters, how do you do this? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:07:43] So a lot of the time research is kind of like lived experience. Like lived understanding and like other people’s stories and other people’s lives. That’s really important to me because all of my characters have to be realistic, because otherwise I think people can tell a lot if they’re just like, Oh, what does this kind of person do and what does this kind of person say? And so there is that there is coming through a world of like women who, as I said, are kind of piece by piece, day by day, just figure out their lives and maybe not making the right decisions, me included, obviously still to this day at first degree, but mainly it is also just thinking like star signs, like a very big part of my work in the book, like the thing I love. The star signs and being like, what kind of framework does that give us? Like who this character is? Like, what does that mean? Like what? What they like I said, what’s that going to do? But also reading up on trauma and the psychological effects of trauma and just kind of understanding like, you know, sort of Queenie spoilers for anyone who haven’t heard it, was left to live alone when she was 11 and I was like, okay, what would that look? I went to research and talked to psychologists and therapists and be like, What would that look like for someone of that age and what would that do to them in the future? And so it is like really digging deep into like what it is to be a Black woman and what it is to be a Black child and a young Black female child who is left alone. All of these things. But star signs are kind of like the easiest one for me and the most fun for me. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:22] I love the star sign thing. I mean, I’m like, Oh, what’s your sign? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:09:26] I’m a cancer. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:27] Okay, okay. I’m a cancer man. I’m in areas with the cancer moon. Scorpio Rising. It’s just so you know, it’s complicated. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:09:38] Im a Pisces moon. I have a Pisces moon. It Really, really, really, really runs my life. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:47] I can see that. Yeah, I can see that. But it also probably explains why, like, there’s an intuitiveness that is coming through here. Anybody who’s listening this, who isn’t into astrology, I’m going to say what my mother always said to me. Just because you don’t believe in it does not mean it does not believe in you. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:10:04] I don’t believe that because so many naysayers so argue with me and they’re just like, Yeah, stupid. And I’m like, Why would you tell someone who is religious that their belief system is stupid and that shuts that conversation down very quickly? 

Maiysha Kai [00:10:17] Exactly. Sit tight for just a minute and we will be right back with more right in Black. 

[00:10:28] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture War as Janet Jackson versus Michael. Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen, today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:10:56] And we’re back with more Writing Black. You also, you know, talking about your characters being realistic. There is something that you do and even talking about the unprotected sex aspect. You know, I’m always interested when I when I interview a writer who is brave enough to write sex scenes. Right. You know, and and you I would say take it a step further in the sense that, like, you know, if in Queenie, for instance, if she is messy, the sex is even messier and really, really hits I think at the more nuanced conversation around the politics of consent that we are likely not having as much yet in terms of, you know, we talk a lot about enthusiastic consent and yeah, you know, make sure you get the like the thing that happens once you’re already in it that I think a lot of people are still navigating. I just thought was rang so true and so in such a visceral way. Why was that an important part of her story to tell? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:12:07] So I think the sex of it was important because of what she was going through in terms of the breakup that she was going through, having left behind this relationship that was very loving initially, that felt very safe for her initially, that represented all the things that she she thought that she should have initially before it kind of slipped away from her. And then there is that kind of period that you have that I think most people have after a breakup where you just have a hoe phase where your kind of like, I just need attention, I don’t really care is wrong. I just need to know that I’m not going to be going home by myself this evening. And that felt like a very true thing for someone to go through who was 25 and having a breakup. And then in terms of how men would use her body, that was the most racialized part of the book for me in the writing of it. And I have a lot of white women who are like, Oh, I absolutely like so relatable to me. I’ve been there and I’m always like, Oh, really? That’s really interesting. And I also like that to listen to to that feeling and to to kind of like, you know, engage in that. But what I understand is, like the sex that Queenie has is very specific to her race. And it is with these white men who do see her as a plaything. They will never take her seriously. The sort of relationship prospect this is a girl who they’ve understood, as everyone has from a young age, that Black women are their bodies. And so, of course, these men will be using her as that, and they barely know her name. And so, of course, it was important to me to have that be a huge part of her sexual narrative. And in terms of consent, she never says no, because in the place that she’s in, she believes that this encounter is what she deserves. 

Maiysha Kai [00:13:56] Right? Yeah. She does not feel entitled to, yeah. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:13:59] And life has taught her and society has taught her that this kind of sex is sex that you deserve. And she does really trick herself into believing that it’s fun. But she’s having a really nice time and it’s like fun stories to go and tell her friends and she’s uses that as conversational currency. But like you and I know that like, that’s not healthy and she’s not having a nice time, but she just doesn’t know it at that point yet. And so it was really interesting to explore that and to think of the generality and being like, Well, what is she really? And a lot of the time when I was writing those the the her sort of turning her friends about the sex, I would always have the only time to read, I guess. Was it like, I guess like the alternate dialog that she’d be saying to herself, which is like, Oh, it really hurt? Or she it wasn’t really fun. Oh, I didn’t really feel connected to my that either. It was maybe why did I do that. Very interesting. So yeah, that is where I felt, you know, work is one thing, housing is another thing. But sex was for me, this sort of racial crux of Queenie. 

Maiysha Kai [00:15:08] You know, I cannot disagree. And I you know, obviously, you’re an incredible writer for this reason with the way you just described that is like, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Because you can’t imagine and it you’ve encounters happening with her it’s different. I mean like it’s just that it is so specific. All right. Well, we’re going to take a beat and we will be right back with more writing Black. 

Maiysha Kai [00:15:36] Hey Grio Fam, it’s Maiysha Kai host of Writing Black on the Black Podcast Network and I have a little treat for you. Not only has Writing Black been blessed to have as a guest acclaimed actor Omar Epps, but Omar and his publishers Delacorte Press have a little treat for you. That’s right. Omar is giving away signed copies of his debut Y.A. Fiction, Nubia: The Awakening, co-written with Clarence A. Haynes to some lucky subscribers. But you heard that right, subscribers. If you want to get your hands on a signed copy of Omar Epps Y.A debut you’ve got to subscribe to Writing Black. You can subscribe on the on theGrio Black Podcast Network or anywhere you find your podcast. But you got to post it. You got to take a screenshot, post it and tag us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. That’s right. All you got to do it. Subscribe to Writing Black wherever you listen to your podcast and tag theGrio Black Podcast Network. And you too can have a personally signed copy of Nubia: The Awakening by Omar Epps himself. So thit that subscibe button. You know, you want to don’t you want to spend Sundays with us? Come on, you love writing Black and we love you. 

Maiysha Kai [00:16:55] And we’re back with more writing Black. You know, I’m going to, you know, as I like to say, sometimes pull to the wide shot here. You are also in an interesting position as a writer and, you know, and you’re young, you know, and so the amount of experience that you are both packing into these characters and that professionally you already seem to have had, from what I’ve read, my my research, you know. So you come from the other side of the game as well, like having been in publishing in the publishing world. And I think so many people are always like, Well, how do I do it? How do we get in there? And What do I do? What makes an interesting story? I’ve always been told and always believed that the best writers are people who read a lot. Right? You know, so when embarking on your career, your own writing career, having already had a toehold in publishing, what what what were some of the pitfalls you were aware of? Like in terms of I mean, were there any that you were thinking of in terms of, you know, how you told the story, how how you would be perceived within the industry, even for the story that you were telling, like any of that, like, factor in? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:18:08] In a way, yes. I think that because I’d worked in the industry and I was working this year and the book came out, I was still aware what there was a lack of. And I had always understood from a young age that a lot of our Black literature we had imported from the States. And so I was like, I’m reading all of these stories. I’m watching all these films that are, you know, based on books. And I’m like, This ain’t really British. And I know that we in the UK have a completely different framework. We don’t have any networks, we don’t have a BET, we don’t have a network that is for Black television. We don’t have Tyler Perry, we don’t have any of those things that are like this space is specifically for us and other people can engage in it, but we don’t have that. We have always just had to kind of like make do with a little thing on the side of what is widely white culture. And so like, and actually like schools would teach us, like Russian culture before they teach us Black culture. That’s what we would. That’s what we were dealing with. And so growing up, all of this, all of the books I read about the Black experience were basically American, apart from maybe a handful of authors, and they really held on to those books. And when I started working in publishing, again recognized I was like, where is why was anything that I can relate to? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:19:26] And bear in mind, I was working across like poetry, cookery, I was working across nonfiction and fiction, everything literary fiction, every single thing you can think of. And the books they came across, 12 Years a Slave. That was one of the books I worked on and Americana. And so, like the whole time I was there, those were the two texts that I could work on, that I could see anyone like me. And I was like, Yeah, this is a problem. And so I created a short story prize. With underrepresented authors paired with The Guardian newspaper I thought was great. And I was like, you see, I was basically saying to my colleagues and, you know, you see all these writers are out there and all these stories are out there. We’re just not publishing them. And then after that, things were taken. So I was like, Why not try to write something? Because I’m very let’s get on with it. Because I’m very can do. I’m very self driven, I’m very tired. And it’s like I get fixated on doing doing the thing and I get really impatient. And so it’s always in the book. And I think because I’d read so much and I watched so much, I consumed so much, and I listened to people more than I talk. And so I was I’m always piecing together stories in my head. And even when I’m telling my friends stories, I never give them spotlights. So I start from that. I start from beyond the beginning and then like it’s second later and I’m like, and then we get into it now and then again. But like, and so I was like, Why don’t you try it? And then I, then I went to a writers retreat of another author who at the time she wasn’t an author, she wasn’t a writer. She wasn’t a peer at all. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:21:06] And I when I was driving, I drove there and I had this thing in my head. I was like, What do you want to talk about? What I was saying, I was like, I’m so upset about how life is. I’m so angry because like, life is not nice for Black women. It’s just not nice that they enjoy it. It’s not always very fun. And I have my friends and I have a lovely time with my friends, but then that’s because that’s a safe space. And then beyond that, it’s like, Oh gosh, there’s always something, there’s always some pain. And especially before we have like Black Lives Matter as like a social media movement, it was like this is a thing that we were almost like operating, reading and engaging in secretly because it wasn’t a hashtag, you know? I mean, that it’s kind of like these are all things that you talk about maybe with a bunch of friends or did you see that? I think that’s really horrible. And I remember being at work and seeing. On the news. And it was like for the first time ever, families were finally reporting that an unarmed Black man had been being killed in America. I’m pretty sure it was Philando Castile when I was watching on the news that time and I was in the kitchen, it was a communal kitchen and there was a TV sort of like where you could sort of walk past night, watch or, you know, whatever. And I saw that and I started to cry because it was so sad. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:22:27] And I was like, Oh, this just happened all the time. And it was so painful that like, this is one of the first times I actually seeing it be reported. And those are people like just walked past me when I was crying as we passed. And it was like, Oh, it was a boy. And that was really hard. And I was like ice cubes. And so I referenced Philando Castile in in my novel. And actually the very last it’s funny, when Black Lives Matter wasn’t a movement, there was a hashtag in the pandemic. Loads of people were like, Oh my God, I’ve just looked at the acknowledgments and the last words in the cosmos. And I was like, Yeah, I know. And they were like, It’s like, you predicted it. And I was like, It’s been happening for a very long time. And so, like, so yeah. And so like, yeah. But as I said, I’ve always been that person to like, just do something because you have the power to I’m working in marketing, working on books. When I could see what was around and I could see that this book wasn’t coming and there wasn’t space for it. But the whole Black Bridget Jones thing was me being like, I am going to make sure that when people think about this, they understand that it should be the scale of Bridget Jones, that it should be as big as and be commercial because so many publisher Black who are just tucked away. Yes. And I was like, no, not this one. This is this is not what I want going to need out there. And so, Black Bridget Jones was me because I was like, we need to pay attention. This is this is this is what I’m coming with. This is it, you know, set up. 

Maiysha Kai [00:24:02] Yeah, she’s. Me, too. All right. Stay tuned. And we’ll be back with more Writing Black. 

[00:24:13] TheGrio Stars Stories with Toure coming soon on theGrio’s Black Podcast Podcast Network. 

Maiysha Kai [00:24:24] And we’re back with more Writing Black. I love that you were talking about like. I don’t think I know. I don’t think about that. I mean, as many times I’ve been to London and I’m like, wow, I have never really thought about the fact that like, you guys don’t have a BET. You don’t have that same kind of like presence. You have been writing not just novels, but you are also developing for TV. You know, these these amazing narratives I hear. Congratulations are in order, because Netflix just picked out one of your series, which is a Black British musical, I hear. Do I have that right? Which I’m a musical theater kid. So, you know, you’re hitting all the sweet spots with me. You’ve got, you know, star signs. And I’m from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. So, Philando Castille, George Floyd, these are all very intimate topics for me as well. But yeah, I, I want to hear about this Black British musical drama and I want to hear about how is that? Is writing for that medium? Has it been jarring for you? Is it different? Is it fun? Is it like, oh, I totally want to do this instead? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:25:32] Do you know what? Working in TV is very specific. I’ve been on set today and so like you wake up at six, six, and I think it’s I can sit there from eight, you finish around 7:00, then you’ve got meetings. I what happened in the day and then you go to bed at about 12, one and you wake up at six. He deal with it in per week and by the end of the week I like who am, but it’s really fun. It’s really fun. And the thing I love about TV versus books is they’re so collaborative and so books is really you in your house and then you send it over to your editor and you’re like, I’ve done this. And then some will come back and be like, Change all these things. But in TV, it really is an ever moving, ever changing process. And I think thing I really like about it is that when I’m on set and I’m hearing the actors say lines, I’m like, Actually, I think I want to change that. And so like, there is this, I mean, this may serve as my show, so I’m allowed to be like, I’m just jumping in, hold on one second. And so I think it’s really nice to know that I get to work with lots of different people versus writing by myself. And one thing I think is interesting is that like a lot of writers write for TV and they are just like, Here’s the script to the dialog. But I think because I come from books, I’ve already built the entire world in my head. And so when it comes to seeing it on in front of me, I guess like coming to life from like, well, that’s not quite right. That’s not how I saw it here. It’s really quite annoying to the to a director. I need the rest of my work because I’m like, can we do this actually? Because that’s stuff. That’s not how I saw it. But I don’t mind being annoying. That’s fine. I’m very exacting and so and so. Yeah. So that is that. But I’m also adapting Queenie for another channel. And that’s much harder because when you’re creating an original show, you can just be like, Here are the characters, here’s what I’m going to do. But when you’ve got a text already, you’re like, What am I going to use? What am I going to say? And I think one of the hardest things is being economical with what’s happening. So for example, Jessica is date one of my favorite things. 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:41] That’s when my favorite things. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:27:45] I can’t I actually can I can’t take credit for that because Jessica is based on one of my best friends. 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:51] It was so real. I kind of assumed that it was because we’ve all been on that date. Yeah. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:27:57] She went on it. I was like, Can I just mind open issues? I can’t go wrong do that. So like got on that date. And so we have to kind of like condense that into just talking about it on a car journey for like 2 minutes and you’re like, oh, gosh, like we’re losing all this stuff. And so so I find. I find that much harder than creating original drama. 

Maiysha Kai [00:28:21] Mm hmm. Well, first of all, I’m hoping that we we’ll be saying that over here as well, because I need to see how this on folds. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:28:29] Oh you will. Don’t you worry?

Maiysha Kai [00:28:32] I had a feel that it might be percolating because, you know, I mean, and the market is right. I mean, it is. And I’m sure you know this from having been published and I, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the last few years has been an exciting time to be a Black writer, for better or for worse. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:28:49] Yeah. 

Maiysha Kai [00:28:50] You know, like, all of a sudden, everybody wants to listen. What we have to say, their reasons are suspect, but at least they’re listening, right? It’s it’s tricky business. Sit tight for just a minute and we will be right back with more Writing Black. 

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Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:41] Subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcast and share it with everyone. 

Maiysha Kai [00:29:45] You know. And we’re back with more Writing Black. I want to talk about People Person. I want to talk about, you know, when you move on to the next big effort, this is a different kind of relatable. Talk to me about this, this particular cast of characters here. And again, we’re talking about, you know, abandonment. We’re talking about. A lot of disappointment. Still a lot of humor. But, yeah. Tell me about when you went into this. What what was kind of like leading leading the charge in terms of your inspiration for this this other sophomore novel. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:30:32] So I had written a whole nother version of People Person, which was about a friend and a strong friend in a friendship group. And I was like, yeah, this is I you know what I’m saying? It’s kind of interesting. And then I was editing in Lockdown and I was like, I’m reviving this at all. And it was natural that goes in her feelings. Person I’m quite animated, as you can imagine, imagining I’m kind of an intense and immediate person. And I was just, I want to write something else, actually. I’d spoken to my big sister and I was like, What would happen if somebody who’s in lockdown or having sort of like pointless conversations? We have nothing to talk about. I was like, What would happen if someone, like, haunt me in some way? And she was like, Well, me and all your other half siblings would just come running and would say, Oh, and I was like, Would you fight? Yeah. And I said, Oh, gosh, that’s interesting idea for a novel. And so then I was just like, Let’s try that. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:31:30] And then in that night after I spoke to her answer, writing 10,000 words of People Person. So I think like the opening is kind of and I haven’t changed it. I change it slightly, but not massively. And then after that, I was like, Yeah, this feels right. And so I just kept growing with it and really enjoying it and just reading during those people. And I think also, if it hadn’t been for lockdown, I might have written something very different because I think I needed to write five, six characters, including including Cero because I was lonely. I lived by myself and I was like, you know what is what? You know, who are these? I needed company. I was just really bored and really and really. Yeah, it felt like the right thing to do. And so obviously we have Dimple, who is the main character. She like me as a cancer because I thought that might be an important thing to finally do. Write a cancer and write what that what that is and what it feels like to be cancer. And then we have her eldest sister, Nakisha, who she kind of speaks to first, who actually is an Aries. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:45] I felt it. And I’m the eldest sister and my clan, too. So I felt her. I felt her. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:32:52] And then after that comes Danny, who’s a kind of hapless Happy-Go-Lucky, you know, just kind of does things from the ride Gemini. He’s nice. He’s fun to write. And then we have Lizzie, who is the same age as Dimple. And Lizzy is kind of, you know, she’s not different really from the rest, but she kind of surprises off because her mum is Nigerian. Danny’s mom is not British. But Lizzy feels that she really doesn’t belong with these people. She’s kind of like, I don’t know, you know, I have. I have a life. My life is going somewhere. And now you’ve kind of disrupted it. And then we have Prince, who is the youngest. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:29] What sign is Lizzy? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:33:31] She’s a Leo. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:32] Okay. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:33:32] She’s born two weeks after Denfold 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:36] Right, right, right. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:33:39] And then we have Prince, who is the same same mum as Nakisha, because Cero came back. He returned nine years later. And he’s a sort of like ladies man, Sagittarius, very young, very right. That he would be this sort of like 24 year old. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:58] Those Sagies. They’re trouble. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:34:02]  I had a lot of fun writing these people, I think quite well, first of all, that I had written the first version of People Person was kind of like quite serious in saying the things. And then I was like, you know what? If you write kind of like flip it. And I have like quite a bold conceit, like in terms of like what actually kicks this off that you can still have a lot of fun and talk about what it means to be abandoned by this person. And the person in question is Cero Pennington. He is that dad. He is Jamaican. We learn about his past. We learn about who he is. But before that, what we understand is that he’s basically just like have these kids and then just left them with their mums and going about his business. And he’s not malicious, he’s not unkind. He does what he can, I guess, and I think he just thinks he does a lot more than he actually does. And he was really fun to write because I know so many men like him. 

Maiysha Kai [00:34:55] That was the part. I was like, Wow, you know, absolutely that. Absolutely that. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:35:02] Yeah, many men like him. And I think also like realistically, I also had a lot of stuff with my dad that I kind of needed to work out, I needed to think about, I needed to get through. And, you know, create is very much a book about my. But it sort of it’s about other stuff too. And I did some stuff with my mom that I needed to work out and that kind of came out through cleaning with my dad. You know, my dad is a very different guy to zero my dad. He’s just not really he’s just is pretty boring, actually. So he really isn’t a people person. He’s like quite the opposite. And I remember saying to him when I was young, he we were friends and he was like, I do not have friends. I only have acquaintances. I mean, so, yeah, like it just kind of felt like it was the right thing to, like, think about that. And so, you know, just like, really explore these people because I’m one of those who feel like if someone night pushes me away or like cut smoking in the car or similar, I’m not. Oh, God, you’re having a bad day. This is about you. What’s going on with you? Why are you that person? And so, like, immersed in that breakups and stuff, I’m like, well, I get it. You know, you’re not quite there. Like, you’re not in yourself. And I really, you know, I’m kind of like, take I don’t know. I just don’t really I don’t know. I try to look past all the stuff and see, like, what the root causes. And it saves me a lot of time and it saves me a lot of energy and I don’t really carry because it’s like. 

Maiysha Kai [00:36:28] Sit tight for just a minute and we will be right back with more Writing Black. 

Maiysha Kai [00:36:37] Hey ya’ll. How have we met? I’m Maiysha Kai, I’m lifestyle editor at theGrio. I’m also the host of our brand new podcast Writing Black. This is all about Black wordsmiths. We’re talking playwrights, authors, poets, comics, songwriters, anybody you can think of who works with words. That’s what we’re talking about, and we’re talking about how identity and craft intersect. J. Ivy, thank you for joining us for this first episode of Writing Black. 

J. Ivy [00:37:05] Thank you for having me. Yeah, bless. Good to be here. Feel fantastic, you know? Thank you so much as an honor to be here. Thank you for doing the work that you do and keep shining bright. And we and like you said, we gone keep writing Black. We gone keep writing Black. Chi-Town.

Maiysha Kai [00:37:24] So I am very excited to have Sam Jay with us. 

Sam Jay [00:37:28] Honestly, we were just like, it needs to feel like a party at my house. And I work in comedy and I work in comedy writing. So typically at my house there’s a lot of comics and writers and people like that if I if I throw a function. 

Maiysha Kai [00:37:42] Omar Epps is with us this week. Omar, thank you so much for being on Writing Black Man. So exciting to me. How are you?

Omar Epps [00:37:49] Thank you for having me. I’m good. I’m good. Thank you for having me. It’s so it’s so cliche, but it’s that cliche is just the truth kids are the future. 

Maiysha Kai [00:37:57] Gosh, I hope not. 

Omar Epps [00:38:01] The world is going to be fine. This the world is going to be fine. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:04] You’re right. 

Robert Jones, Jr [00:38:06] You know, one of the quintessential things I remember about the nineties is Janet Jackson’s That’s the Way Love Goes video and how that kind of and that that was us. 

[00:38:16] You are now listening to theGrio Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:25] Yeah. You know, it’s so funny. I’m sitting here and the whole time you’re talking. You know, being, you know, over a decade older than you. I was sitting here, I was like, Wow, man, I wish I had this presence about myself when I when I was, you know, you’re the age of my younger siblings. And it’s like, man, none of us have that presence at that age. And that that that last that right there not only made a lot of sense, but I think it’s tremendous advice for anybody of any age. So thank you for that. I was like, Yeah, I need more of that energy in my life. You know, it’s very rare that you meet someone who exceed your expectations, but you definitely exceeded mine. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:39:04] Thank you. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:04] You know, relatable is the word. I will say that relatable is that is a word for you, Candice. So, thank you so, so, so much for coming and sharing some of your time and your insight and, and your process with us on writing Black Because I know I personally got a lot out of this conversation, so I hope our listeners will as well. You were fantastic and I cannot wait to see what comes next, especially stuff on my TV screen because like you, I’m a big consumer. Thank you so much. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:39:33] Thank you for having me. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:34] Oh, wait. I forgot one thing I did want to ask you, though. I did forget one question. I did, because I do like to ask this of all of mine. We talked a little bit about some people that you have liked in the past, but who who do you read? Who do you what writers of any genre do you gravitate towards? You know, whether it’s screen or page or what have you? 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:39:55] I love poetry. And I think because my mind is maybe imagining a fast moving brain and sticking with the novel these days is quite hard. So I love a lot of poetry. I’m reading a really amazing poem, Yomi Sode, he’s got Manorism. Morgan Parker. Any time I can get my hands on anything Morgam Parker, I’m so elated. I’m a very classic like Toni Morrison love of, you know, like that’s that’s always Zadie Smith, of course, a fellow Londoner, Diana Evans and her Londoner. Caleb Azumah Nelson wrote this really gorgeous novel called Open Water, which came out in America last year. So I read all Black authors and when my mind is really fast, it’s poetry. That’s a really spectrum of books and take me. 

Maiysha Kai [00:40:53] Well, I can’t think of anything better to end on because these are really special novels to me. So again, thank you so much for joining us on Writing Black. You know this the conversation may be just feel warm all over and you know, I don’t know how to thank you so much Candice and have a good night over there in the UK. 

Candice Carty-Williams [00:41:18] I’m going straight to sleep. 

Maiysha Kai [00:41:22] I hope so. All right. We’re going to take a beat and we will be right back with more Writing Black. 

[00:41:25] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael. Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:41:59] Welcome back to Writing Black. Now, this is the part where I tell you what I’m reading these days. And I got to say, you know, we were just talking to Candice about her newest release, People Person. But I would be remiss if I did not tell you all to check out Queenie her debut. It’s such a talent to be able to speak so frankly and candidly when you’re writing fiction. You know, I think that there’s always this urge to make things more flowery, perhaps, than they are in real life. And what’s so great about the characters that Candice writes is that they are so flawed, they are so relatable, you know? And there is this temptation, I think, to compare her work to, like, you know, Bridget Jones or something like that. But this is a distinctly Black perspective. This is a distinctly millennial perspective. And I just you know, I really enjoyed this book. I think check out everything you can buy her because she’s really a phenomenal talent. And I think we’re going to be seeing much more of her in years to come. So check out Queenie and People person. You heard it from me. Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts. 

[00:43:30] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here, and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. News, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard.