Happy Three Kings’ Day!
Welcome to The Writing Life and our first author interview of 2016!
Today I am very pleased to welcome the lovely and talented Kristen “KJ” Dixon, author of the newly released novel, ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’.
Originally from Atlanta, Kristen “KJ” Dixon-Barnes was born the youngest daughter of a school teacher and a social worker. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, she began working in the field of one of her many passions-women’s health. Her experiences while taking care of others during their most fragile and vulnerable moments taught her to respect and appreciate the many different paths and perspectives that help to grow, shape and sharpen women.
It wasn’t until she completed her Master’s program in Public Administration from Troy University and began writing policies and procedures for health care agencies and facilities that she started to write fiction.
To family and close friends, it’s no surprise that KJ Dixon began writing The Trouble With Red Lipstick after being inspired by several discussions with women through book clubs, women’s groups and personal friendships. Although it is a work of fiction, its themes surrounding self-love, mother-daughter relationships and self-actualization in the black community are familiar to many.
In her spare time, KJ Dixon actively participates in outreach events sponsored by her beloved sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated; hosts Tiny Tales (a book club for children developed to promote and improve children’s literacy rates); conducts events for underserved health care populations; and tries anything else she finds fun and rewarding. She lives in Atlanta with her family and is busy at work on her next novel.
What genre/category does ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’ fall under?
I know this is supposed to be an easy question but I still struggle with it! By most folks’ standards, ‘The Trouble With Red Lipstick’ is probably best considered Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The main characters in this story are black women but their issues, challenges and struggles are universal. It definitely has some elements of both humor and chick-lit too.
Please describe what your story/book is about.
It’s about a mother and her three adult daughters—so four women in total—and all of them are attempting to fix their brokenness. They’ve always done everything they believed they were supposed to do, and they’re now trying to figure out what’s still missing and why happiness continues to elude them. Then throw in a family secret that rocks everybody’s world and voila! The drama unfolds!
Oh, those family secrets! Love it. How did you come up with the intriguing title?
That’s a funny question. I wrote the whole book without even having one. Then I sat down and read it one day and I realized how much a particular line—one including the book’s title—was central to the entire book’s theme. I tried it and it just worked immediately. Besides, I love red lipstick. And maybe I like a little trouble, too.
Your catchy title makes me wonder what the trouble with red lipstick is! What inspired you to write this book?
Both everything and nothing. I started writing a scene one day with Karen—one of the book’s main characters—where she was falling in love with Tim, the truck driver. I wondered what would happen once Karen realized that she wasn’t feeling love at all—but that she was really just in need of a good orgasm and was confusing the two! Then I realized that Karen had a mother and a couple sisters and before I knew it, they were begging me to write their stories too.
I love when a character leads me into their inner world. It’s exciting to become a voyeur to their secrets and inner struggles. What is your favorite part of writing?
All of it. It’s thrilling for me to explore issues that I don’t fully understand by writing about them. It reminds me of solving a math problem. It might not make sense in my head at first, but as I start to work it out on paper the answers begin to slowly unfold. Real life is tricky like that sometimes. These characters have problems that they’re trying to solve just like everyone else.
What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?
Editing. Enough said. But wait. Let me erase that period and replace it with an exclamation point.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Maya Angelou may be my absolute favorite. I’m also obsessed with James Patterson and John Grisham. Michael Connelly, Terry McMillan, Steven King and Amy Tan are pretty high up on my list as well. I’ll read anything by Mary B. Morrison, Lee Child, Dan Brown and Dr. Suess. And then Eleanor Parker Sapia stole my heart with A Decent Woman…
Great list and thank you for the mention, Kristen! I’m so pleased you enjoyed Ana and Serafina’s journeys.
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
As a writer? That’s easy. Angelou. Patterson. Maybe even Beverly Cleary from my childhood days of reading Ramona books for all those hours at a time. As a person? There really are too many to name. Let’s say my family, my friends, and a dash of everyone else on planet Earth.
I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence. Do you have a favorite place to write?
My kitchen table. Don’t you dare laugh.
No laughing here! The kitchen is the most important place in the home; it’s where a lot of living and sharing happens. Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I had four or five moles as a child and now I’m up to nine, plus a new set of freckles across my cheeks. I’m terrified of spiders. And I never thought I’d end up a writer. I loved writing stories as a child, but I took several detours on my way here. Before going to college, I sold shoes and perfume, did make-up, was an actor in local plays, and tried several other things that seemed really exciting. At least they did at the time.
Our paths to the writing life are always so interesting to me. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
Prayed really hard.
For real, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get this book published because I did everything right. I just tried my best to listen in the characters’ voices in my head and to write their stories down in a way that most women could identify with. I’m surprised each time someone tells me that they’ve purchased and read the book. It’s hard to believe that anyone can take a story from their head and place it in the mind of someone else who they’ve never even met. It’s an amazing gift for which I’m very thankful.
Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?
Keep writing until you get good at it. Stay true to yourself and to your characters. And as much as this part is always much easier said than done, try not to get discouraged when people tell you ‘no’. You persevere, you get better, and eventually you get matched with the person or group that you’re supposed to have your book baby with. It works out better for you in the end.
Great advice. Website?
Of course. Please hit me up at www.thekjdixonexperience.com. I love interacting with readers and other writers.
Facebook: K.J. Dixon
Where can we find ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’, Kristen?
Amazon, Barnes and Noble’s online website, iTunes and a few local bookstores. If you don’t see it, please ask for it!
What’s next for you?
Another book. It’s untitled right now too, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun so far. Stay tuned.
Thanks for visiting with us at The Writing Life, Kristen. I wish you a world of happiness and happy writing in 2016!
Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.
‘A Decent Woman‘, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.