Intimate Conversation with E. N. Joy
BLESSED selling Author E. N. Joy
is the writer behind the five book series, “New Day Divas
,” the “Still Divas
” three book series and the “Always Divas” three book series, which have been coined the “Soap Opera In Print.”The “ New Day Divas
” series includes the titles: She Who Finds A Husband, Been There Prayed That, Love Honor or Stray, Trying to Stay Saved and I Can Do Better All By Myself.
The “Still Divas
” series includes the titles: And You Call Yourself a Christian, The Perfect Christian and The Sunday Only Christian. The “Always Divas” series includes the titles I Ain’t Me No More, More Than I Can Bear and You Get What You Pray For.
Formerly writing secular works under the names Joylynn M. Jossel and JOY, this award winning author has been sharing her literary expertise on conference panels in her home town of Columbus, Ohio and cities across the country as well as instructing literary workshops.Joy writes children’s and young adult titles
under the name N. Joy. Her children’s story, The Secret Olivia Told Me
, received the American Library Association Coretta Scott King Honor. Book club rights were acquired by Scholastic Books and the book has sold almost 100,000 copies. Elementary and middle school children have fallen in love with reading and creative writing as a result of the readings and workshops Joy performs in schools nationwide.
Currently, Joy is the executive editor for Urban Christian, an imprint of Urban Books in which the titles are distributed by Kensington Publishing Corporation. In addition, Joy is the artistic developer for a young girl group named DJHK Gurls. Joy pens original songs for the group that deal with messages that affect today’s youth, such as bullying. You can visit Joy at www.enjoywrites.com.
BPM: What is the one thing you would like all of your readers to know about you?
That I live breathe, eat and sleep (well, not much sleep) this literary thing. It’s real. It’s not a hobby. It’s not something I do on the side. It’s my life. I take it serious. It’s my craft, my career, my first love and now it’s my ministry. With that being said, readers need to know that when I put something out for them, I’m truly giving them my all. And if I fall short of their expectations, I’ll do everything I can to try to do a better job next time in order to earn and keep their readership.
BPM: Does your faith or education inspire your writing?
I went to school for legal assisting and was a paralegal for thirteen years. Not many of my books deal with the legal system, but as far as my faith, my being a Christian, it inspires every word I write. Because I am a Christian who writes Christian fiction for a Christian fiction imprint (Urban Christian), my books absolutely must have Christ in them.
My walk with Christ has not been easy. I did not dedicate my life to Christ one Sunday morning and then all my problems went away. It just so happens that I was my biggest problem, and since I wasn’t going anywhere, I had to begin to deal with myself. This goes for most of my characters I write about as well. Some of them just can’t seem to get out of their own way, let go of their issues and past and let God. And just like in real life, some of the characters get it after getting it wrong so many times. Then there are those who just never seem to get it. The latter characters, like some real folks, end up going through life thinking it’s a battle of them against the world, never realizing that they are their own worse enemy…and sometimes their only enemy.
BPM: What does “growth” mean to you?
For me personally, growth is when my best book was my last (latest) book. If you ask an author what was the best book they have written, if they don’t call off the last book of theirs that was published, then, Houston, we have a problem. As a writer, you are always learning, progressing, growing and developing more within the craft. If the best book you ever wrote is three books back down the line, then you might want to consider sharpening your tools. It’s okay for your favorite book to be somewhere back down the line, but your best book should always be the one that just came off the press.BPM: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I have been writing since the days of elementary school journals and rainy day writings. I started out just writing poems, then graduate to short stories. My first self-published book, Please Tell Me If the Grass Is Greener, was a mixture of poetry and short stories. Well, actually it’s poetic short stories; short stories told in a rhythmic flow. Kind of like a Dr. Seuss book for Grown-ups-LOL. I love La La Land. Growing up, my escape from reality was the La La Land I invented with pen and paper. So, I guess that is truly what drove me to pick up the pen for the first time and begin to take a genuine interest in writing. It was an escape. Some people use drugs, some people use alcohol, some people use sex to escape while other people might use guns. I used a pen and the wonderful English vocabulary.
I’d always been a reader, as that was another escape of mine. Ramona the Pest, Nancy Drew and those Little House on the Prairie books were my favorites. But then one day I got my hands on one of my auntie’s grown up books, which was Little Girl Lost by Donald Goines. It was the first book I’d ever read with main characters that looked like me. With characters that walked, talked and thought like me. I just remember sneaking the book out at night time and reading it while laying in bed. I was so deeply enthralled that I felt like I became that little girl who was lost. I just remember closing that book upon the final chapter and saying to myself, “One day I’m going to write a book that does that to people.” I think I’ve accomplished that.BPM: How did you get your first publishing deal?
I started off in the literary industry self-publishing my first book, Please Tell Me If The Grass Is Greener. I also self-published my second book as well, which is a book of poetry titled World On My Shoulders. Eventually I grew out of my fear of thinking I was too short winded to write a full-length novel and I wrote and self-published my first novel, The Root of All Evil, under the name Joylynn M. Jossel. I wrote that manuscript with the intentions of eventually selling it to a major publishing house.
So, while it was in manuscript form I sent it off (un-agented) to a major publisher for publication consideration. But in the meantime, I eventually sent the manuscript off to a printer as well. I received a rejection letter from the publisher before the books even came off the press. But that didn’t stop me. I simply sold copies from my trunk in hopes of creating a buzz. Well, the buzz was created. I got an agent and the agent submitted the manuscript to a major publishing house that did end up giving me a three book deal.
Ironically, the same publishing house who sent me my very first rejection letter was the same major publisher who ended up giving me my very first book deal. After having sold 12,500 copies of the self-published edition in a one year, The Root of All Evil was re-released under my first publishing contract. But while it was going through the editing process, I wrote a street lit book titled Dollar Bill for Triple Crown Publications under the name JOY. It turned out to be an Essence Magazine bestseller, appeared in Newsweek and was translated to Japanese.BPM: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of your family.
Hands down-THE READERS. What I need people to understand is yes, as an author, a part of me wants to write stories that I myself want to read. But the moment an author begins to make it all about themselves and not the reader is when the author needs to rethink their purpose for doing what they do. Ultimately, when a product is created, it is created to please and satisfy the consumer. Well, if you are a writer, your product is your collection of written words and the reader is your consumer.
Readers are my literary heartbeat. When they send me their testimonies and words of encouragement, it keeps my creative blood flowing to the brain. My readers inspire me to challenge myself. Not all readers reach out to me with praises; some with constructive criticism and then there are those who maybe could have been just a tad more diplomatic in their lashing. When ever I felt as though a certain book might not have reached anyone or that my reach as an author all together just never seemed to stretch far enough, one of my readers would reach out to me and confirm that my writing is not in vain.
I don’t write for myself and I’m absolutely not one of those authors who you will hear say, “If I could just sell one book and reach one person, then I’m happy; I’ve done my job.” No ma’am and no sir. I do not put all that I put into my work-sacrifice all that I do-just to sell one book or reach one person. Did Jesus set out to reach just one person? Did Jesus go through all that He did and die on that cross just to save one person? I think you get my point…BPM: Introduce us to your latest book and the main characters. What makes each one special? Do you have any favorites?
I Ain’t Me No More
is book one of my three book “Always Divas” series. The main character, Helen, is not only the newest member of the New Day Temple of Faith Singles Ministry, but she quickly becomes the vixen with all her evil ways and tactics. Helen is not one of those church folk the members love to hate. They just out right hate her!
But is there something more to Helen than the hard, nasty exterior she puts up? Lord knows she hasn’t been saved all her life, but was she born evil? Why else would someone set out to intentionally inject turmoil into the lives around her? Well, the women at New Day don’t know and most don’t care. They believe the antidote to this snake’s venom is to throw her out the church on her behind. But when Helen decides to let these New Day divas in on her past skeletons, will that change their minds?
With the compassion and wisdom of church mother, Mother Doreen, indeed one of my favorite New Day characters, the women just might find that Helen is worth saving. Question is, though; Does Helen want to be saved? Helen is special because she is flawed to the point where you want to close your eyes and say a prayer for her your own self. That’s just how realistic this character and her life situations are. Either you know Helen or, which might be even scarier, you are Helen. More power to you if you were Helen but overcame your own self and ways and aren’t you any more (the old you ;-).
While readers are raising eyebrows and shedding tears for some of Helen’s choices in life, they are at the same time yearning for her to just get it. Readers will ultimately want Helen to win at this challenge called life. Mother Doreen is a character from my book, The Perfect Christian, who I allow to make a cameo in Helen’s story. Mother Doreen is just that, the elder-the church mother-who always seems to say the perfect thing or do the perfect thing to get and keep things in order. Of course once you read The Perfect Christian you realize that with Mother Doreen, in her older years you see all her glory, but go back a few chapters in her life and my God does she have a story!BPM: What drew you to tackle the questions or topics in I Ain’t Me No More?
When I started this book five years ago, at the time, I was so displeased with who I was. The problem was, I didn’t want to admit who I was, which was an angry, hurt and bitter person who had internalized and held onto those things, circumstances and situations that had made me that way. Doing so gave me an excuse to be mad. If I held onto what so and so did to me umpteen years ago, it justified the way I could treat so and so today. You can’t quit it if you can’t admit it.
So I had to take a for real-for real look at myself in the mirror, tell that reflection staring back at me just what I thought about her, and once I turned away from that mirror, make a conscious decision to leave her behind. I declared that I would do everything in my power to not be that person anymore…because she was disgusting and I hated her. If you go through life hating who you are, displaying love to others (heck, even like for that matter) is next to impossible. I had dealt with so much hurt and pain in my life that it ultimately became my normal. So if you wanted to fit into my normal world, you had to bring the hurt, bring the pain. When I got into church and got saved, I thought I was fixed. I was still broken though. It takes more work than just showing up at church every week and running down to the altar for someone to touch and agree with you or lay hands on you to get fixed.
The main character in I Ain’t Me No More, Helen, is mad, bitter and angry at the hand she was dealt in life. Her problem; does she want to be fixed or is she so comfortable with pain that she wouldn’t know how to live without it? Plain and simple: Helen is not that likeable. As a matter of fact, the last book I wrote, The Sunday Only Christian, the main character in that one wasn’t so likeable either. So as God kept giving me these unlikable people as main characters, I got scared. As an author there was a fear that if readers didn’t like my main character, then they wouldn’t like my book. So during prayer I expressed to God my concerns. His reply: “This book is not for people to like the main character. This book is for people like the main character.”
BPM: Why did you choose to write in a primarily faith-based genre?
I ultimately turned my pen away from writing street lit, erotica and women’s lit filled with sexual tension in order to serve God with my talent. God has always been there keeping, watching over and protecting me, but it wasn’t until I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior did I acknowledge just how much God loves me. Now I live to glorify Him in everything I do, including my writing. So I’m now not only proud to be a Christian, but proud to be a Christian who writes Christian fiction.
In writing in the Christian fiction genre, I try very hard to keep my mind clear; to make sure I’m in tune with the Holy Spirit when I’m writing. But I’m going to tell the truth and shame the devil; I’m human, so just like in every day life, when it comes to my writing, I do sometimes allow my flesh to rise up and do its own thing. I have written things that I thought the reader might want to read without consulting the true author. Do I get convicted for it? Yes, via readers’ emails and reviews…and some of them, unlike God, have no mercy. So I try my best to stick to ghostwriting…Holy Ghost writing that is.
When I dedicated my life to Christ, a great deal of things changed for me and in me. I couldn’t do some of the things I used to do. I couldn’t say some of the things I used to say and I couldn’t go some of the places I used to go. Well, I soon found that I couldn’t write some of the things I used to write. That’s what prompted the change in the genres I chose to write in. Joylynn M. Jossel the author is retired for good.
BPM: Are the Joylynn M. Jossel and JOY books still available?
Yes, they are. They can still be found and ordered in bookstores and are on pretty much every online bookstore. My die-hard fans can even still find Joylynn at www.joylynnjossel.com
. That’s part of my testimony, my history and foundation as an author.
BPM: How does your book, I Ain’t Me No More, relate to your present situation, spiritual practice or other life path?
I can honestly say that the main character, Helen’s story, is about sixty percent of who I was. Hence the title: I Ain’t Me No More. As I look back on the life of Helen, I catch myself cringing, but then rejoicing at the same time. Because just like Helen, in my present situation I might not be where I want to be in life and in my walk with Christ, but I sure ain’t where I used to be, and to God be the glory for that one!
If Jesus had not saved me from my own self, I fear what damage I could have done to those around me. In past years I was a prime example of how hurt people hurt people. I was mad at the world when all the while the only person I should have been mad at was myself-for wasting time on being mad. My misery fed off company. So if you came around me and you weren’t already miserable-give me an hour tops and you’d be right there in the valley with me. I can say this now and confess it because-you guessed it-I Ain’t Me No More
Not only that, but I can confess it because now I don’t have a choice-it’s all out there in this book…no stone unturned. Because the book mirrored my life so much (another Hence: the mirror on the cover;-) one might think it was pretty easy to write this book. I mean, after all, it was my story. It should have flowed easily. That was not the case. I started writing this book five years ago. It was very difficult because my flesh kept rearing its ugly head. My flesh wanted to get out all of its hurt, pain, guilt, shame and ‘woe is me’ crap; you know, a three hundred page pity party that would hopefully make people feel sorry for me (ooops, I mean feel sorry for Helen). All the while God was trying to pull out a testimony, not garner sympathy. The flesh versus spiritual battle was very draining, but in the end I know beyond a doubt that what was achieved was a valid, entertaining, heart wrenching, moving and real story that will become a Divas classic.BPM: Under the pen name N. Joy you wrote the children’s book The Secret Olivia Told Me which, received a Coretta Scott King Honor from the American Library Association. Tell us about The Secret Olivia Told Me. Why did you decide to venture into the world of children’s books? Is there another children’s book in the works?
The book is a little life lesson for both little people and big people. It’s about secrets and what can happen when a secret is told. I wrote The Secret Olivia Told Me
over fifteen years ago. My son, who was around seven years old back then, was my sounding board. He enjoyed the writing process just as much as I did. As a treat to him, on his birthday his teachers would allow me to read it to the class before we had birthday cake. The children would always fall in love with the book and have so many questions about it. But back then it was just something personal that I enjoyed doing for my son. I never imagined children all over the world would one day be so blessed by it.
Needless to say, I have worked on several other books that I hope to one day pull out of the time capsule and have published as well. Okay, so that is the answer I give every time I’m interviewed by someone about this book. But right now, I feel like telling the whole truth. I’ll try my best to make a long story short. And even though it still might be a little lengthy, I hope this portion of the interview makes it in its entirety:
On Monday, January 14, 2008 I received what I thought was the greatest news in the world. The American Library Association named my children’s book, “The Secret Olivia Told Me
“, as the winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustration Award. In all of my excitement, I went down to my prayer room to thank God for showing such favor to my book. But immediately, my tears of joy turned to tears of sorrow when God reminded me why he had put the book into my spirit to write in the first place. In the summer of 1986 after my freshmen year of high school, my next door neighbor (who was a couple of years younger than me) told me a secret and I promised her that I would not tell. Ironically, those are the very first lines in the children’s book I wrote. Unlike the character in the book, who eventually told the secret (although the actual secret is not revealed in the book, but left up to the child’s imagination instead) I didn’t tell the secret. I’ve never told the secret…until now…this very moment as I type these words.Anyway, my neighbor had been excited to go visit a friend from her old neighborhood. My neighbor even had a new friend that she was taking with her, so that she could spend that hot summer weekend with both her old and new friend. Well, when she came back from that summer weekend, neither her or her new friend were the same. Her new friend, in casual conversation while we were sitting on my side of the double family house we shared on Linden Avenue in Columbus , OH , told me that over that weekend, the girl of whom they had gone to visit step-father, who was a city bus driver at the time, had coaxed them into having sex with him. He convinced them that if they experienced their first sexual experience with him, then when they found a “real” boyfriend they would already know how to do it and wouldn’t be embarrassed.
Believe it or not, his line worked with both my neighbor and her friend. In a child-like whisper, which is what she was; a child, she swore me to secrecy. I never told. Not even three years later when I saw the story on the news and read the news headline on August 12, 1989 (which happened to be my birthday) that a COTA bus driver named Ronald E. Waugh had plead guilty to raping 14 children, ages 3-15. At first I thought maybe it was a coincidence, but then they began to tell the story of how he used his step daughter to lure the girls over. The step daughter gave a list of names to the investigators of girls she knew her step father to have raped. My neighbor and her friend were on that list, but when they were questioned, they denied it…they didn’t tell. I don’t know why I didn’t tell. I don’t know how many children may not have endured the rapes had I told.Eventually someone did tell though. Someone had picked up the phone and telephoned in a tip to a child abuse hot line…and told the secret. But it wasn’t me. I didn’t tell. To this day I’m baffled at my own actions. When ever I hear of a child being raped, I can never understand why they just won’t tell…never once looking back to my own situation. I can’t justify why I kept the secret. I mean, I could see if I was in elementary school, but I was in high school…and I still kept the secret.
Yes, “The Secret Olivia Told Me
” has pretty pictures, but the true story behind the book wasn’t pretty at all. But what I’m hoping is that the questions that I ask the children at the end of the book regarding keeping secrets; what’s a good secret, what’s a bad secret, etc… will provoke and give someone the courage to tell. So even though the little rhymes are cute and the pictures are lovely, it’s those nine questions in the back of the book that is going to save lives.
The Secret Olivia Told Me
true purpose is for deliverance and salvation and to teach children, and in my case, teenagers, that some secrets you just have to tell. My hope is that every parent, every teacher, every guardian will use this book as a tool, not to badger lies out of their children, but to get them, on their own free will, to tell. Something I didn’t do.
BPM: The Sinners anthology series edited by E.N. Joy includes stories by some of today’s top Urban writers. How did you become involved in the Sinners Have Souls TOO project?
It was a true blessing to be the editor of the “Sinners” series, which includes the titles Even Sinners Have Souls, Even Sinners Have Souls TOO and Even Sinners STILL Have Souls. As a former Urban lit writer, we used to get a lot of flack as far as the art of literature. Because of the type of genre that we chose to pen, we were stigmatized and rumored unable to create writings without glorifying a trigger happy, drug dealing thug, or a burgundy micro braid wearing, gum poppin’, promiscuous gold digger, or a television stealing crack head (in addition to at least two curse words per paragraph).
I know that writing (great writing) is a God given talent. I wanted to prove the nay-sayers wrong by providing these authors a platform to do just that. These authors, which include Noire, Chunichi, KaShamba Williams with introductions by Nikki Turner, K’Wan and Kiki Swinson, brought out their A game and penned stories that didn’t include explicit language or graphic sex scenes, while at the same time giving honor to the one who gave them their gift in the first place. These respected authorities have all come together for the first time ever, taking a break from penning their norm, to pen a piece of work that truly flowed from their spirits. Each gritty and profound story is told in a raw and real voice, luring the readers in by the poignant storylines, themes and the genuine talents and abilities of each of these prolific authors.
The characters face the same struggles and tragedies that any other person growing up in the hood might endure, but what makes these stories so phenomenal is the fact that although the characters might be living a dangerous, immoral and unacceptable lifestyle according to society’s standards, they are not so far gone that they can’t acknowledge the power of a higher being and a life changing moment that could alter their lives forever.BPM: Do you think book sales are the only indicator of your success as a writer?
Book sales are not the only indicator of my success as a writer. Once upon a time I used to desire to be a New York Times bestselling author. That motivated me to no end. But then I watched Spike Lee do an interview in which he stated that you can not allow an award or organization to validate who you are in your craft. Talk about a revelation! I heard his words. I got it. Plain and simple I got it. It was at that moment I knew that my success was not based on sells, awards, titles or anything else. Success is personal. Success is your own criteria and goals that you set for yourself. Have I reached the level of success I desire for myself? Absolutely not. I don’t even feel close. Can I take out a pad and pencil and write down what those indicators are. Absolutely not.
Call me crazy but success for me is going to be that feeling I get when I know “It is finished.” When I know that I have not done just the best that I can do, but that I have done ALL that I can do and feel it in the depths of my soul that God is pleased and that I am pleased with myself. I always say that the greatest “Ah Ha” moment a person can have is when their life begins to make sense. Well none of this makes sense to me yet.
I went from writing secular works where the royalty checks kept my head above water and the lights on, to writing Christian fiction to where-let’s keep it all the way one hunid- it’s a challenge to get Christian folks to even buy Christian fiction. It’s been such a challenge that on some days I entertain the thought of going back to writing my trashy novels that would allow me to at least buy a named brand hand bag every now and then. Obedience is better than sacrifice though. So I continue to trust God, which means, I continue to write what He instructs me to. Even though those royalty checks aren’t what I’d like them to be, somehow the lights are still on!BPM: What can we expect to see/read from you during the next stage of your career? Any series or new characters?
I Ain’t Me No More
is book one in the three book “Always Divas” series. Next there is More Than I Can Bear and You Get What You Pray For. My next series is the three book “Forever Divas” series. After that I will introduce my readers to a brand new set of characters in my “Husband” series. To date, book one, Operation Get Rid of Mom’s New Boyfriend, of my young adult series, is available on ebook. I plan to publish the remaining two books in that series in the near future.
BPM: Share with us your latest news.
I’m most excited about my October 2013 release, I Ain’t Me No More, which is book one of the “Always Divas” series. I’m already putting the finishing touches on book two of the series, which is titled More Than I Can Bear, and that releases May 2014.