Some Thoughts with ... Denise Crittendon

The Author/s

Denise Crittendon

Denise Crittendon

A veteran journalist, Denise Crittendon has been writing for so long she sometimes wonders if she has ink in her blood. Her career includes two major metropolitan daily newspapers and stints as editor-in-chief of two magazines, one national and one based in her hometown, Detroit. She lives in her native city six months out of the year and spends the rest of her time near relatives in Spring Valley, Nevada.

The Interview

Welcome to another post on my favourite section of this web. Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Denise Crittendon, author of Where It Rains In Color, as a part of the Blog Tour organized by Angry Robots!

Let's dive in!

1.- When did you start writing?
I started writing as a child. When I was in elementary school, I  wrote short stories and even attempted to write my own little book. At the age of 10, I declared I would be a writer, but I intended to write novels. Instead, I went into journalism and became a newspaper reporter. I loved it because I wrote a lot of in-depth features and got a chance to expose a few social injustices. Also, it helped bring me out of my shell and allowed me to expend some of my overabundant energy. I loved the adrenaline rush that came with dashing around the city, interviewing people then racing back to the office and rushing to get a story written by the deadline. However, the desire to unleash my imagination never left me. I had a lot of ideas rumbling through my mind and couldn’t wait to finally explore them in the form of short stories and, ultimately, my first novel.

2.- From where did you draw the inspiration for the planet where all the action is situated?
I had a dream about some weird beings harassing a woman who was standing on the edge of a cliff, speaking a dialect she called “The Inekoteth.”  At the time, I wasn’t sure what it meant. I think it all came together when I happened to watch a Star Trek episode about a black planet. It was interesting but left me unfulfilled. I wanted to see the curative properties of melanin highlighted and I wanted to see black people cast as ageless, beautiful, highly-advanced leaders of the galaxy. So, I decided to make that storyline the focus of my first novel.  

3.- How did you enter in contact with the myths that are featured in this book?
In the late 1980s, the Rotary International Foundation awarded me a fellowship that allowed for a year-long visit to the country of my choice. I chose Harare, Zimbabwe (near South Africa) where I attended the University of Zimbabwe and learned a great deal about the mythology, culture, legends, and history of certain African nations.

4.- Which part of the whole writing process would you say was the most challenging for you?
Character development. If the character is eccentric and has very distinctive personality traits that set them apart in an obvious way, it’s not hard to portray them. Other characters aren’t that simple. Although they may have fairly defined roles in the novel, their personalities are not over the top.  In my head, I can feel and see them, but it’s not always easy for me to convey that in writing.

5.- How would you say the abilities you’ve developed as a journalist have helped writing When It Rains in Color?
As a journalist, I had to write fast. Sometimes that works for me; other times it works against me. On the one hand, I have to force myself to slow down. On the other hand, ideas come quickly and flow easily. Also, I learned to self-edit, be a word conservationist and not cling to phrases and passages that aren’t necessary. If they don’t advance the story, I have no problem letting them go. Lastly, as a journalist, I was used to asking a ton of questions and tapping into the emotions of the people I interviewed. This skill came in handy writing a novel because a multitude of experiences and emotions are buried within me, ready to tap into at any time. I’m pretty sure some of those emotions surfaced in my novel.

6.- Pure curiosity, but how much time passed since you started writing this novel to the moment it is published?
Believe it or not, I made my first attempt a couple of decades ago.  However, it was simply a bare-bones, almost skeletal version that I wrote in four months while I was in between jobs. I stuck it in a drawer and actually let it sit there for twenty-five years. It’s not that I had forgotten about it. I just didn’t have an ounce of free time. First, I was editing a national magazine, then I was running a brand-new magazine as the founding editor. A space fantasy was the furthest thing from my mind. When I finally left my last magazine job and began teaching and ghostwriting, I started thinking about the world I had tried to create. In 2018, I pulled it out of a desk drawer and began my first rewrite. Since, I had commitments to clients It took a year for me to revise, flush it out, polish it, then revise again. In the process, I found an agent who didn’t sell it. So, it was back to the drawing board, another rewrite, and another attempt to create a salable manuscript. This time, I landed a publisher and a new agent.  All in all, the final journey from the full writing process to actual publication took around four years.

7.- What are your plans for the future?
I’m a self-employed ghostwriter but I would love to write for myself full time. At some point, I hope to wrap up assignments for my clients and embark on a future of sci-fi/fantasy writing. It won’t happen overnight because I do have commitments. However, a lot of ideas are percolating in my head and I want to give them life. Ideally, I’d like to sell a sequel to Where It Rains In Color and eventually write a few more novels. Although I’m not sure, I expect to go in the direction of YA and/or middle-grade fantasies.