|Moderator: Welcome, Mr. Harris! Thanks for
joining us tonight. Is this your first online chat?
E. Lynn Harris: No, actually it's my third. I'm glad to be here,
Collette Hughes from Atlanta, Georgia: Mr. Harris, a friend of mine introduced me to your work, and I have been extremely pleased with it. I would like to know when or if you will be appearing in person anytime soon in the Atlanta area to sign your books? I would like it very much to just spend the day in your presence.
ELH: Thank you for the support! I've
already been to Atlanta, though I will be back, at Emory University in late October, but
I'm not sure of the date.
Melody from Ann Arbor, MI: Mr. Harris, in your opinion, was Basil truly in love with Yolonda? My guess is yes, but I have had a major debate going on with my brother! He feels that he wasn't in love, but was merely trying to conquer her. I do not feel this at all. Can you please clear this up for us? We both are huge fans of yours and have read all four of your books. When will you be in the Detroit area?
ELH: First, thank you! From the
author's perspective, Basil was very much in love with her -- he had to face many of his
personal demons to get what he wanted. So you are right, Melody. I've been to Michigan as
well, and I've been invited to speak at the Flint Public Library, but I don't have a date
Kelley from Minneapolis: How did you know you were meant to write? What gave you the courage to quite your job and write full-time?
ELH: I guess a whole lot of pain in my
life. Writing was a last resort in terms of having a reason to be here. From that
perspective, I realized it was something I was destined to do, but I'd been caught up in
so many of the world's dreams that I couldn't recognize my own.
Grace Anne from Philadelphia, PA: Your books seem to reflect a deep appreciation for strong women. What is it like to write from a female perspective, and who have been your female role models?
ELH: Good question. My role models, of
course, have been my mother and sister and good female friends. For me it is relatively
easy to write from that perspective, because 80 percent of my conversations have been with
women in my day-to-day life. And I really appreciate women -- it's easy to write in the
voice of people you like.
Jane McCarthy from Paradise, CA: Did you have a group of college friends like the one in IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE ? The network among these friends is powerful and seems personally inspired.
ELH: Actually, I developed those kind
of relationships after college through a friend from college. After school we gathered
once we had our first jobs. Though some have died, most of us are still in contact and
maintain close ties.
Max from Hamilton, New York: Has it been difficult for you to remain detached from the politics of being gay? It must be difficult as such a successful writer not to become a symbol or a voice -- though I think you are successful for that reason!
ELH: Good question. I'm not interested
in politics, so it's easy for me. I would like to be considered an artist, though I know
there are politics involved in becoming an artist. What I want to do with my writing is
change not people's minds, but their hearts, and I don't think that's political.
David Foster from Manhattan: How did you confront the conflicts between homosexuality and religion in your books? Did writing about it help resolve the issue in your own life? I just bought AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS at the suggestion of a friend and am looking forward to reading more of your work. Thanks!
ELH: Thank you. JUST AS I AM helped me
to resolve my own questions of faith and sexuality. It was through writing that novel that
I learned that the God I believe in loved me no matter what, that there were no degree of
Melody from Ann Arbor: Will we hear more from Raymond in the near future?
ELH: Yes. The next book I'm working on
will be in Raymond's voice.
Rasjg@aol.com from St. Louis, MO: Is there going to be a play based on INVISIBLE LIFE and JUST AS I AM?
ELH: Yes. It's in the works, due to
premier at Florida A&M in the spring.
Ryan Fowler from Chicago: What kind of writing projects are you working on right now? Do you have a goal that you feel drawn to in your writing or life in general?
ELH: Right now I'm getting ready to
start my fifth novel, which will be the conclusion of the Invisible Life trilogy. And my
goal as far as writing goes is for each novel to be better than the previous.
Melanie from Columbia, SC: I love your works! I understand a trip to SC State University some time ago was not very pleasant. Have you noticed certain groups of people, particularly southerners, not as accepting of your subject matter?
ELH: No, that particular event was
singular in terms of what transpired.
Prya from Indiana: Who have been your literary inspirations? You have indeed inspired many a reader and a writer yourself!
ELH: Thanks. Actually, I'm inspired by
anyone who is able to get a novel published, because I realize how hard it is. Among my
favorite writers are James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Tina Ansa, Terry McMillan, Bebe Moore
Campbell. In addition, new writers like Dawn Turner Trice, Tananarive Due, Shenska
Jackson, and Brian Keith Jackson.
Amelia from Charlotte: Mr. Harris, you said that a lot of pain in your life caused you to become a writer. Is there any one event that played a bigger role than another that sent you to the typewriter?
ELH: No, it was a series of events.
Kerry Battiston from Wilmington, DE: Did you have a articular audience in mind when you wrote IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE? You seem to cover so many types of people from all over. Thanks for such a wonderful book.
ELH: I want anyone who reads to enjoy
my novels, so no, I've no particular audience in mind.
Melody from Ann Arbor: My brother wants to know if any movies will come of your books.
ELH: I'm in discussions right now about
all of the books.
Katherine Brown from NYC: Do you think there is a different reaction to homosexuality in the black community? Is their response unique?
ELH: I think it's different in the
sense that for many of us, we haven't talked about it, so it's new, but I don't think
that's necessarily a negative reaction.
Wendy from Oklahoma City: What do you say to those people, and there seem to be a lot of them, who believe homosexuality and Christianity are mutually exclusive?
ELH: That I would take my chances with
Jesus Christ rather than people's opinion. I, as an individual and as a Christian, have to
follow my heart, which I know Christ respects.
Heather Blaire from Great Barrington, VT: Your writing strikes me as somewhere between commercial and literary. Which did you intend? I'm looking forward to reading IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE.
ELH: Good point! When I started
writing, I didn't know there was a distinction but have come to realize there is. As a
Gemini, I want to offer readers a little bit of both.
Melody from Ann Arbor: Mr. Harris, you also live in one of my favorite cities, if I'm correct: Chicago. What does your schedule look like there? I would make a special trip to get my books signed! Just missed ya in Southfield, MI!
ELH: Right now I'm in hibernation.
Email the appropriate people at the publishing house, and they will tell you where to send
the books so they can be signed.
Rory from Florida: Hey, E. Lynn, I have
two questions for you:
ELH: You should just write -- write
where your heart and mind directs. In terms of writer's block, just wait it out -- it
Benita R. Dale from Washington, D.C.: I have truly enjoyed reading your books. They have been most enjoyable and entertaining. I am developing a black book review newsletter and would like to know if I could use any of your responses tonight, especially on your upcoming projects, in my newsletter. I will also send you a copy of my first issue whenever it hits the press. God bless, and good luck on future endeavors.
ELH: Good luck! I would be happy to be
included and think it's wonderful that you're striking out to do something like that!
Kayepea from NYC: What is the writing process like for you? Are you strictly a 9-to-5-er, or do you work beyond those parameters?
ELH: Midday for me. I'm more of an 11
to 3 person. In the evening I do research and editing.
ThunderCloud from aol.com: What's the most surprising thing you learned about either yourself or one of your characters in your latest book, IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE?
ELH: Good question. About myself, some
of the subtle anger I have about racism and homophobia in terms of gay relationships not
being recognized as real relationships; and with my character Basil, that he endures so
much pain as a little boy.
Sean from California: Mr. Harris, do you have any advice for those dealing with their own homosexuality? Anything to help them deal with other people's negative reaction to it?
ELH: Realize that in the scheme of
things, what other people think doesn't really count. What matters most is what you know
to be true about yourself and how you feel about yourself when you're alone.
Amy from NYC: Mr. Harris, what did transpire on your trip to South Carolina?
ELH: It's one of those lessons learned
where I learned to treat the negative greetings in my life like I treat the positive ones.
It was a positive lesson that I needed to learn because I started to go through life
thinking everyone was happy about everything I was doing.
Seth Dermott from Hinsdale, IL: Did you learn anything unexpected when you wrote this last book of yours? Or was it all pretty planned out?
ELH: I realize the difference between
associates and true friends. True friends are people you would trust with anything,
including your life.
Al from Charleston, WV: Love your work! As a gay minority myself, I often feel alienated from the homosexual world of white men, and being from an area where the homosexual community is predominately white, I'm curious as to what advice you would give in helping other homosexual men in the minority deal with the issues of double prejudice, especially where there isn't much support for people like myself in non-urban areas.
ELH: I sympathize with what it must be
like to live without an urban influence, but I would use the time to become comfortable
and confident with myself, so when the situation comes, whether you're a member of the
minority or the majority, you are prepared, because you have a sense of self.
Rick Blalock from Atlanta, Georgia: Hello, E. Lynn. Sorry I missed you in Atlanta. How has the rest of the tour been for you? What do you suggest upcoming authors do to prepare for national book tours?
ELH: Hi, Rick. The tour has been
exhausting, and what I would recommend is exercise, water, vitamins, and a great support
Johnston from 125th St.: Do you ever think about exploring other genres? If so, which ones and why?
ELH: I always want to write about
what's happening in the world now. While I feel like my books are concerned with breaking
down the barriers for homosexuality, I would like to show readers the power of one in
changing the world, in ridding the world of all the isms: sexism, racism....
Crystal Carter from Lake Charles, LA: First, I would like to say that you are a very talented writer, and I love your books. I did not deny that people of the same sex can love one another, but through your books I find it very real. You write with such passion and true love for the art (because I feel like writing is an art), that I have been inspired to start writing poetry again. Thanks, and I look forward to reading the new novel.
ELH: Thanks! Writing poetry, I think,
is a very difficult thing. I admire you and wish you the best of luck.
Amelia from North Carolina: Of the literary achievements you have earned, which is most precious to you?
ELH: Well, JUST AS I AM winning Book of
the Year by the African American Booksellers, and the fact that my new novel made every
bestseller list in the country, reaching number two in several cities!
Josie from Carnegie: What's been the most rewarding part of your success in writing?
ELH: On one side, it's been the letters
and responses from everyday people. From a material standpoint, being able to fulfill a
little boy's dream of buying a home for his mother.
Emily from Andover: What was your initial reaction when you read Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN? What prompted you to refer to it with your own book INVISIBLE LIFE?
ELH: How powerful it was. And how the
plight of being a minority and being invisible for so many people extended beyond the
level of race.
Beth from Greenwich Village: Which authors in the gay and lesbian genre do you think offer the most inspiration?
ELH: Patricia Nell Warren, James Earl
Hardy, Scott Hine -- that's really all I've read.
Wanda Banks from Huntsville, TX: Was there any special influence in writing this book?
ELH: My relationship with my best
friend, who is a black, heterosexual female. Our relationship, which is 20 years old, has
only gotten better with every day.
Terry Fisher from Brooklyn: Have you been approached about turning any of your books into films? I think they would be groundbreaking on the screen just as they are on the shelves!
ELH: Yes, I'm trying to make sure I
deliver my babies to the right caretaker.
Naomi Woodford from Hartford, CT: Did your time in sales contribute anything to the writing of your book?
ELH: It helps once the book is written
in terms of marketing and in realizing that the public is the boss.
Wanda Banks from Huntsville, TX: Where is your most favorite place to write?
ELH: Good question. Right now I have to
say it is NYC -- whenever I am in a rush to get the story written, the city provides the
energy. Also, my home in Chicago, which overlooks Lake Michigan.
Derrick from Detroit, MI: Mr. Harris, I am interested to know about your opinion of current race relations in the U.S. Do you think things are improving or getting worse?
ELH: I think they are at a standstill.
I think we went through a period when they were getting worse, but now people are
realizing we need each other to thrive as a country, but we don't know how to come
Timothy from Philly: Mr. Harris, what advice do you have for novice writers? Any tips on how to get published?
ELH: To write because you absolutely
love it, to write because you would do it for free, to write because it brings you joy. In
terms of getting published, remember that "no" doesn't always mean
Moderator: Thanks for taking time to join us this evening, Mr. Harris. Goodnight.
ELH: Thank you and thank all those people who have supported me and continue to spread the word about my work -- it means the world to me.