On weekends, I sit in a lounge chair on my balcony. I love to be outside when the weather's right. I can stay there pretty much all day.
I got my Bachelor's degree in nursing and worked nine years - even taught nursing in a college - before I stopped and said to myself, 'This is not who I am. I am not really a nurse inside. I'm a writer.'
I came to believe that my true identity goes beyond the outer roles I play. It transcends the ego. I came to understand that there is an Authentic 'I' within - an 'I Am,' or divine spark within the soul.
In the early 1800s, religion was often used as a way to keep slavery in place. Slaves were forced to attend the church of their owners, listen to selective dogma that kept them obedient and subservient.
Novels attempt to render human experience; that's really all they are. They are meant to convey empathy for the character.
Gradually it occurred to me that we spend a great deal of life asleep and that dreams are little narratives, little stories. I thought, 'Who's choreographing this stuff?'
We have to learn not to feel guilty about letting our imagination browse around, and you know, in writing fiction particularly. But I think, in any kind of writing, we have to learn to allow ourselves to approach it in a contemplative way.
I grew up in the American South and came of age in the 1960s, an incredibly turbulent time. It was as if the seams of American life were being ripped apart with riots and protests.
Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it's accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another's eyes or heart.
Stories are amazing and powerful because they can resonate with people depending on their needs and experiences and speak truths we need to hear in that moment in time.
My stories have a deep spiritual core because I have a deep desire to understand things of the spirit, but yet I don't think I've written these stories from any kind of specific religious agenda because I don't think that would work.
I never know how to give advice to a writer because there's so much you could say, and it's hard to translate your own experience. But of course, I always try. The main thing that I usually end up saying is to read a lot. To read a great deal and to learn from that.
I have an affinity for writing in the first person. I love the intimacy of being dropped inside the character.
As an adolescent, I went to charm school, where I learned to pour tea and relate to boys, which, as I recall, meant giving them the pickle jar to unscrew, whether it was too hard for me or not.
Gender and race got very entwined in the 19th century, as abolition broke out, and then women wanted the right to speak about it.