Author Louise Lennox is here to talk about her latest book!
Tell us about your new book.
Craving a King tells the story of Kofi, a young, good looking Ashanti King dedicated to leading his people and duty-bound to his kingdom, and Ella, a smart, ambitious African-American education expert and leader of a charter school network. They unexpectedly fall in love and a question about Kofi’s ability to rule with ambitious Ella as his queen comes into play. Throughout the story Kofi is presented with the decision to prioritize his woman or his crown.
The novel offers readers the characteristically descriptive lustfulness of romance novels but presents readers with something more –intelligent characters, who are each respected and capable in their own right. Rather than the tired stereotypes of a damsel in distress or the brooding hero in need of emotional coaxing, the characters come to love each other as equals, making their encounters all the more passionate and alluring.
What was your inspiration for writing it?
“Craving A King” is my heartbeat. I wanted my debut romance novel to really explore the themes of love and ambition across the African diaspora. I myself am married to a Ghanaian American man with an Ashanti heritage.
I also wanted to read about characters that I could relate to and respect. Romantic stories of women falling in love with princes and kings are appealing to almost every woman, but most stories never include Black women. That’s largely because the royalty portrayed is generally European. I wanted to change that. Craving a King’s royal is West African and Kofi and Ella are people we want to be or want to meet. Their dreams, hopes and conflicts add complexity to their characters, drawing the reader in, and letting them experience the excitement of every touch, every kiss, every moment.
What are 5 books you think everyone should read (fiction, non-fiction, or a mix)?
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Black Sexual Politics by Patricia Hill Collins
The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall
Unmerited Favor by Joseph Prince
If you could invite any famous person (in history or celebrity, living or deceased) to have dinner, who would you pick and why? Feel free to pick more than one!
Michelle Obama because she is fierce!
What was the biggest lesson you learned writing "Craving a King?'
That as long as I write what I love, there will always be a book inside me. The moment I stopped trying to write to market is the moment I started to produce books and stories worth sharing!
I know you love to travel. Where are some of your favorite places you’ve been? And which place surprised you the most?
My number one spot is Istanbul! I’ve been twice! Once as a guest on Oprah’s trip of a Lifetime in 2009 and once again with my friends in 2013. Both times were equally amazing and the food and shopping are incomparable.
To be honest Huntington, Beach California surprised me the most! I am a huge fan of southern California and the beaches. I never thought of myself as a beach person until that trip!
What is your writing process? Describe how you get to "the end."
I’m a plotter all the way! Once I have the idea, I find the stock photo of my couple. Then I write out their character profiles. Next, I plot out the story scene by scene in Scrivener. I get to the end by writing for exactly one hour every night. I can write an 80,000-word novel in 6-8 weeks.
What was the book you read that made you want to be a writer? How old were you at the time?
Cynthia Voight’s entire Tillerman saga. Homecoming changed my life when I was ten!
Best Friends…Forever? Session Two
Last week we read chapters 4-6. You can find the previous sessions here: www.krystenlindsay.com/reading-guide.html
In Chapter 4 Landry has a nice visit with her grandparents and then stops at the big department store to check out the decorations. She goes to the Little Rose Cosmetics counter and she gets taken in by the gorgeous ads. The models for that makeup company always look amazing and she looks up what colors they’re using and buys them to try and replicate the look on herself, but it doesn’t look the same on her. She looks washed out and even her mother asks if she’s feeling okay.
I stared at my washed-out complexion in the mirror. The lip gloss almost made my mouth disappear. Why couldn't I look like Talisa or the girls at school who didn't even need lipstick or gloss? Why couldn't I look like anybody but me?
Have you ever felt like Landry does and wished to look like someone else? Who did you pick and why did you pick them? Make a list of the reasons and we’ll come back to it at another time when we get more into the series.
In chapter 5, Landry goes to exchange the lip gloss, but the lady working at the cosmetics counter doesn’t make her feel very good about herself.
I started to say I wanted something natural-looking when she cut me off. "Well, not too natural, or you'll look washed out. You're so fair. You need some color to liven you up," she said. "I don't think natural is the right look for you." I felt like asking for the dead-looking lip gloss back so I could go home and not feel worse about myself.
The woman continues to make comments about Landry and she starts feeling worse and worse about herself.
I thought I was looking pretty good when I left the apartment. Suddenly I felt like a big puddle of nothing.
When I was first starting out with makeup, my friends and I would go to this one makeup counter and ask for help picking out colors and every once in a while we’d get a salesperson like this one who made you feel worse about how you looked and then we’d buy more and more makeup to cover up the spots they pointed out we had, the blotchiness, the oiliness, etc. What I didn’t pick up on at the time was that there was no money to be made in telling us we looked fine just the way we were. But there was a lot of money to be made in feeling like we had to cover up our skin with thick foundation because it looked too awful for anyone to see our huge pores, acne, and redness. But at the time we didn’t see that.
Even now I have friends who go to buy one thing and come out with a whole bag full because the lighting in the store made them look bad and the salesperson made them feel worse about how they looked. And notice what Landry’s mom says:
"They always make you feel bad about yourself so you'll buy more of their products."
"Yeah, why else do you think they critique you so much when you're just trying to buy gloss? You walk up feeling okay about yourself and slink away feeling like a hideous troll who can only be saved by eighty dollars or more of products," she said.
Have you ever had an experience like that? Write about how it made you feel. Then pretend you’re the person working behind the makeup counter and someone who looks just like you comes to the store to buy something. What would you tell them? How would you treat them?
We saw how Landry felt ignored by her cousin Lucy and that her modeling jobs weren’t exciting enough as Lucy didn’t seem interested. However, Landry’s dad tells her that Lucy actually was very interested in it.
What did you learn from this and what Mrs. Albright has to say about it? Write about how you feel about what Landry’s mom tells her about being supportive. Have you had any experiences like that?
Mrs. Albright points out the competition thing about the one model being the, “new Talisa.” Landry’s dad points out they do the same competition thing with guys. He tells her, “Just do your best and be yourself.” Adults always give advice like that and I’m sure you rolled your eyes when your read it just like I did back when I heard it. But now I can see the wisdom in it. Back when I was Landry’s age I definitely could not though because I didn’t appreciate what I had to offer.
Have you ever felt that way? Take a minute to list things about yourself that you do like. Then ask a trusted friend if they’d share five things they admire or like about you and then do that for them. And really listen to what they say and why. It’s very easy to blow it off and say, “oh it’s not big deal,” but write it down to reflect on the next time you feel bad about yourself.
In chapter 6, Landry invites Thalia over for a sleepover. Thalia gets picked on a bit and she is someone who doesn’t care what other people think about her. Sometimes her openness about that makes Landry uncomfortable. Why do you think that is? Does is make you uncomfortable?
Behind the scenes: By the way, did you notice the sweater scene back at school? That’s also based on something that happened to me at my old school. So if you’re keeping track, I got in trouble for bright colored socks and a sweater that wasn’t one of the “acceptable” shades of blue in my school uniform. What a rebel I was, right? Ha ha! And yes, my eyes filled up with tears, too, because my grandma bought me that sweater for me to wear to school.
In this section there’s a lot with being made to feel bad about your appearance so you buy more stuff, comparing yourself to impossible beauty standards, and having someone be themselves and that makes you uncomfortable when they get picked on for it.
Yes, I went through all of it and I bet if you asked some other adults who have bought makeup, they would have similar experiences. Once I got to high school, I used to get up so early to do my makeup. I never went to class without full makeup on because I had been told I had such oily skin that I should always wear foundation and powder. For years I spent my allowance on this fancy foundation that’s meant to be used to conceal any blemishes for photo shoots. It was thick and it would break me out if I left it on too long. Sure, I had some breakouts and I will admit I had the oiliest skin on the planet, but did I need to slather on foundation to cover up my skin? Probably not.
Interestingly, when I was in grad school, I got sick right before spring break and during that time I was at home and not putting on makeup or moisturizer, or using skin care treatments. Just plain old face wash and water. Guess whose skin completely cleared up during that? Yup, all that time of not wearing makeup and being too exhausted to do any masks or skin care treatments and my skin looked better than ever. I had basically been clogging my pores with the very products I thought were going to make me pretty. Whoops.
And guess who told me that I was putting too much on my face and I didn’t need all of those products? My grandmother. The same woman who only wore a touch of powder, blush, and lipstick and had beautiful skin in her eighties. You’d think I would have listened, but for some reason it was easier for me to listen to someone at a makeup counter who poked at all my little insecurities and convinced me how flawless I’d look if I just bought this…and this…and that…
So take some time to write about how those scenes made you feel and see if you’ve noticed anyone in your life making you feel less than pretty.
Read chapters 7-9 for next time. The previous sessions can be found here: www.krystenlindsay.com/reading-guide.html
Young adult author Mindy McGinnis interviewed me on her blog today. You can find the interview over on her website at:
Check it out and let me know what you think.
1. As a preteen I internalized a lot that I was going through and went to books to help me cope with stuff at school. I think I spent the years from fourth grade to eighth reading when I got home. That’s why I put in advice on handling friend issues and frenemies (etc.) in the books for readers who are like I was at that age. I went to a life coaching training to get tips to help my readers deal with anxiety and stress, too!
2. I participated in modeling and fashion shows at Landry’s age and wanted to show the real side of being backstage which was not nearly as glamorous as I thought it would be. I got sprayed in the face with hair spray all of the time. I can’t stand that stuff now. I also can't stand having anyone do my eye makeup now. Do not come near my eyes with a mascara wand or I'll flinch.
3. There is such a focus on hair color and style/texture because I was taking a class in college about how women are marketed to by what they don’t have. We studied ads and commercials and I realized if you had curly hair, they were promoting hair straighteners and yet if you had straight hair, they were promoting every styling product to get curly hair. I wanted to show how sometimes we want what someone else has instead of appreciating what we have. In the books, the girls who have hair Landry likes often tell her that they’d like to have hair like her. A case of the grass isn’t always greener on the other side sort of thing.
4. The grade school/middle school I went to was very much like Hillcrest Academy and I had to wear a school uniform like Landry. Even though Landry and I have very different coloring, the school colors (navy and white) also made me look like a dead goldfish.
5. Landry attends a retro roller-skating party for Thalia’s birthday just as she’s trying to fit in with a new group because I had the same thing happen when I was in school. I remember going to a skating party in 5th grade and praying I’d have someone to hang out with and sit with because of some friend drama. I can still remember who I sat with and I even remember what I wore to that party! Guess jeans and a red Coca Cola sweatshirt. Don't judge me!
Best Friends…Forever? Reading Guide: Session One
This week we’re starting book two in the Landry's True Colors Series: Best Friends…Forever? If you missed the first book in the series, you can find all the info on the books and the reading guide here: www.krystenlindsay.com/reading-guide.html
However, you can also read this book as a standalone if you’d like. This week we’re going to read chapters 1-3. Below are questions and activities you can do by yourself by writing and journaling, or talk about it online with a friend, or discuss with a parent or guardian at home. Maybe you'll find out your friends and family have had similar experiences!
In chapter one, Landry and her mom are back with her dad at their old apartment in Chicago for winter break. Landry’s enjoying seeing the city decorated and going shopping for Christmas gifts, but when she goes online and sees her friends having fun together without her. She does from having fun to she feeling left out. Have you ever felt that way? Write or share a time when you felt left out.
In chapter two, Landry gets an email from Vladi—the boy she has a crush on and she has no idea what to write back to him. She gets her friend Ashanti to help her compose an email. She’s excited with the email, but again, she sees her friends back home posting pics together online and she feels lonely. Read this section again and write about (or discuss) how it makes you feel.
I got ready for bed and then stopped to check my social media page one more time and that’s when I saw it — another picture of Peyton, India, and Devon hanging out. They were sitting on the couch with their heads scrunched close together and laughing. It was a cute picture, but then I saw the caption: So glad we could all be together for the holidays. Love these guys soooo much! Best friends forever. #Alltogether #Threemusketeers #BestFriendsForever #ThreeBestFriends #ThreesCompany.
My heart sank. It was India’s caption and anyone who read it would think what a close‑knit group of friends and not realize anyone was missing from that photo. Sure, I was in another state, so naturally I couldn’t be there for it, but the way India wrote that made me feel so left out. I mean, what did she mean by the ʺThree’s Companyʺ hashtag? And sometimes people tagged friends who weren’t there in pictures and added, ʺWish you were here,” but there was no mention of a fourth member of the group.
“Ready for bed, hon?” Mom asked coming into my room.
“Yeah, just signing off.”
“Okay, sleep well.”
I got into bed and hoped I was reading into things, but the knot in my stomach wouldn’t go away.
In chapter 3, Landry goes to her grandmother’s and you see she deals with being compared to her super smart amazing cousin, Lucy. Landry should be feeling confident because she placed in a writing contest, did well in a modeling competition and has begun doing some small jobs, and school is going well for her, but she let’s herself feel small compared to Lucy’s accomplishments. Have you ever been in that situation where what you’ve done feels less important than someone else’s accomplishments? Has it ever been in your own family? How does that make you feel?
Share some experiences or write about times you’ve gotten conflicting messages about the way you’re supposed to act.
Behind the scenes: Comparison. It’s never fun and it can hurt your feelings when you’re made to feel less than someone else. One of the things I try to do with the Landry’s True Colors Series is focus on the things that make someone unique that they don’t always realize are special. We spend so much time looking at what other people have going for them that sometimes it can feel like what we do well doesn’t measure up. It’s also very easy for people to label you.
I remember my mom was talking to someone about the high school I’d be going to the following year. I overheard the other moms tell her, “Freshman get labeled on their first day and it’s impossible to get out from under that.” I remember being terrified of that and wondering, what would my label be? It never occurred to me that I had any control over that whatsoever.
When Landry sees Lucy being considered the smart, pretty one in the family who has it all together, she puts herself in the category of, “not good enough.” She immediately starts to focus on how her math grade isn’t good enough and even though she does think about how she likes to write and is good in English and history, she slides back into thinking about what other people have going for them.
Is that something you do? Make a list of all the things you’re good at as well as the things you like. Take a look at the things you’re interested in and good at and see if there are talents that go along with those. Maybe you like art and don’t consider the fact drawing comes easily to you or that you always know how to decorate your room in an amazing way. Creativity isn’t always counted as being important when you’re growing up.
I remember I went to the art museum to take a class with a friend. I was around Landry’s age and we were making kites and my friend was one of those people who was instantly good at whatever she did whether it was academic, artistic, athletic or whatever—she excelled in everything. Then there was me who would avoid running unless something was chasing me. We always wore school uniforms, but that day we could wear our regular clothes and I put on a fun sweater and a stack of my favorite colorful bracelets.
When it came time to paint our kites, the art instructor went over to me and took my paints away. She said, “you’re obviously a very creative type and your project should match that, so I’m going to get you some special paints for your project.” I had never been singled out like that before—especially not in an art class. I was usually told I wasn’t staying in the lines, was getting too messy, and the number one thing I heard was that mine didn’t look like the other students. ALWAYS. But this time I was being told that was a good thing.
However, being as this was my first time being singled out like this, I was uncomfortable with this kind of attention. She brought me some bright colored paints and at first, I cringed slightly because I often got teased for wearing bright colored accessories at school and this was just making a bigger deal of it. (Not so fun fact: once a nun stopped me in the hall at school and told me my socks were too colorful! A classmate overheard and made fun of me until another boy shut him up by saying he thought my colorful socks were, “cool.” Thank you, Matt! And yes, I DO remember who defended my socks in the 7th grade.)
Anyway, I went to work on painting my project. When we were finished, she made a big deal out of mine and for the first time I wasn’t hearing, “Look at (insert other person’s name here)—it should look like their project does—try again.” Or the very common experience I had of looking up from my art project only to see I went a different way…from my entire class. Because I was always the only one doing things slightly different, I took that to mean I was doing it wrong. It never once occurred to me that I was just seeing the world (or art) in a slightly different way.
However, looking back all these years later, I realize that I did have a different way of seeing things and that’s probably why I’m a writer today. What I thought was a negative thing back then actually turned out to be the path I was supposed to be on. That art teacher gave me a spot of confidence that day that I’ve held with me all these years. Now I look back and see how I used to line myself up to other people and compare myself like Landry does. However, that day I was encouraged to show my creativity and it brought out the real me.
Take some time to write about the things that make you different that maybe make you a little uncomfortable. Then take some time to express yourself today whether it’s drawing a picture, making a meme, creating something else, or wearing some fun socks! Feel free to share it online and hashtag it: #LandrysTrueColorsProject
Read chapters 4-6 for next time where I’ll have a new session up on Wednesday. The previous sessions can be found here: www.krystenlindsay.com/reading-guide.html
Author of the Landry's True Colors Series, the Cecily Taylor Series, the Star Series, and Dating the It Guy.