Commitments

Keeping Secrets

Wine and Roses

  The Interviews
Meet Author
Carmen Green
by Gwendolyn Osborne
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Carmen Green can make me laugh at the darnedest things. A woman who decided to color her own hair – with disastrous results – right before a major client shows up at her door . . . on Monday, the day when most salons in the universe are closed. A 28-year-old New Yorker who arrives in a sleepy North Carolina town after suffering a heart attack, only to find that she has become the local tourist attraction and that six flower-bearing suitors are vying for her attention. And then, there is the couple who meet in a cemetery on a rainy afternoon while visiting the graves of their loved ones.

Her heroines are resilient. Her heroes are resourceful guys who do very interesting things with ice cubes and Hershey Kisses.™

But my favorite Carmen Green characters are the members of the Crawford family. Judge Julian Crawford, Sr. and his wife, Vivian, a college professor have six gorgeous sons. Carmen Green fans first met them in Silken Love. They are a close-knit family. They celebrate holidays together, have a weekly family basketball game, and have a wall of fame dedicated to family accomplishments to pass on to succeeding generations.

Endless Love, Green’s latest book, is the third installment of the Crawford family saga. Dr. Harold Jackson of Atlanta was selected as the “1999 Arabesque Man” after a nationwide search. He is pictured on the cover of Endless Love. Dr. Jackson and the author have been promoting the book since the spring of this year. (I encountered them at BEA in Chicago in June and in Washington, D.C. at RWA last month.) Through the magic of cyberspace, Green paused to talk about her work . . . and to make me laugh.

How would you describe your sense of humor?

Open, honest, silly. I can go on, but why? I love to laugh and sometimes life is just funny.

Adam and Mia of Now or Never meet in a cemetery. How did you come up with the idea for that scene?

When I first started writing, published authors of GRW [Georgia Romance Writers] told everyone to always start your book with a hook that will draw readers in. What's more captivating than meeting someone in an unusual place, sharing an emotion as powerful as grief, and eventually falling in love?

What inspired your interest in romance?

I've always loved to read romance. I believe in true love and I like to see people happy.

Your first novel was Now or Never. How long did it take you to get it published?

Nine months after I started writing it, I met Monica Harris and she bought it early the following year.

Do you write full-time?

No, I have a part-time job.

How much research and writing time is spent on each book?

Research varies for each story. For Keeping Secrets I read two books on the Marine Corps and interviewed officers in Quantico, VA as well as family members who are Marine Corps veterans.

What are multicultural romances?

Multicultural romances are stories where Anglo or white characters are not the hero or heroine of the story. Multicultural is terminology used to define romance stories that feature Black-on-Black, Hispanic or love among nationalities that are nonwhite.

In "Whisper to Me," a story in the Silver Bells anthology, a character says if you want to get someone's attention, try whispering. It's an interesting concept. How did the story develop?

“Whisper to Me” was another story that I was asked to do. I didn't know much about Kwanzaa and so I went down to the Herndon Home here in Atlanta and used the home as the basis for the silent auction.

As I walked through the home of the first Black man to own an insurance company and to own property on Peachtree Street, and to see the intricate masonry work he contracted from Black professionals, I was so impressed. I whispered all my questions to the guide -- out of reverence. I was humbled by this man's accomplishments, impressed that his insurance company still exists, and open to the feelings of the story I was to create.

There, I developed Cedric. I took a man who'd had nothing. Alonzo Herndon was a slave, and when freed, cut the hair of white men and bathed them for 25 cents. I gave him [Cedric] everything, money and family, but took away the one thing Alonzo Herndon possessed – Compassion. That is “Whisper To Me.”

Visit the Herndon Home when you visit Atlanta. It's awesome.

Your books portray strong, closely-knit African-American families. Why is this important to you?

I come from a divorced, strongly knit African-American family. When I started writing, I was told to write what I know. I know family love best.

The Crawford family seems to come to life on the pages and have become so familiar to your readers. How do you develop your characters and their personalities?

I love to study people. I study body language and I draw characters from the world, give them real characteristics and write stories from the characters.

Who are the Crawfords?

They are people we can be proud of. They exemplify the best of our race. We've all met these people in our real lives. We've loved them, felt their pain and cheered for them. They are us.

When you wrote Silken Love, had you planned to create spin-offs? Were you surprised by the response to the family?

No, I hadn't planned sequels. Silken Love is full of holes where I didn't name wives and such. But the demand was so flattering and incredible, I wrote Keeping Secrets. I tried to break away with Commitments--slated to be a BET TV movie May 4, 2001. But people kept asking for the Crawfords’ story. So I wrote Endless Love.

Nick Crawford's story, Keeping Secrets, was your first attempt at an action-adventure romance. How different was the process for you? What did you learn about yourself as a result of the experience?

Romantic suspense is far different from writing a straight romance. I had no idea what red herrings were. At one point in Keeping Secrets I had a bail jumper turn himself in. I thought my fans were going to gather at a liars’ convention with me as the grand marshall. Fortunately, people do turn themselves in. I was relieved.

What is your latest book, Endless Love, about?

Endless Love is the story about renewal. That you can find love after heartbreak.

Endless Love is Michael's story. Who is he? How does he differ from his five other brothers?

Michael is an attorney who believes in sticking to his woman. When she divorces him, he must learn to live as a single man again.

How did you come up with the title?

I love the song! Who wouldn't want what it's offering? This novel has its own theme song!

Promotion for this book includes the winner of Arabesque's cover model search. Who is he?

Dr. Harold Jackson is a pulmonary/critical care specialist here in Atlanta. He's also active in the community and an all-around great guy.

How would you describe him?

He's smart and has a zany sense of humor. We've had a great time.

Are there any similarities between Dr. Jackson and Michael Crawford?

No, Harold is real and Michael is made up.

Did you have to modify the novel after Dr. Jackson was selected?

Yes. Harold has a beard and didn't want to cut it off and my character didn't. We made a deal. He'd take me and my husband out to dinner and baby-sit New Year's Eve and I'd modify the character. (Ha!) Do you want to know if he's a welsher . . .

We got a glimpse of an incident involving Vivian and Julian Crawford before they were married in Endless Love. Are there plans to tell their story?

No, they are perfect.

What's next for the family?

I don't know. Aren't y'all ready for the Stallones?

My dream collection is a family anthology with the Crawford family, Brenda Jackson's Madaris family and Francis Ray's Taggart family. Think it could happen?

Sure. Anything for you, Gwen. (I say this with a big smile)

What's your next book about?

I am in an anthology called Midnight Clear. Leslie Esdaile, Gwynne Forster and Monica Jackson comprise the authors of this anthology. Donna Hill was our editor. She links the stories together. It's an awesome project!

My story, “Angel's Legacy,” is the story about how three queens -- Nefertiti, Dahia and Sheba – must instill the legacy of love, leadership and honor into Angela Snowden to pass on to Black people or we will never know unity again. This book is coming out in October. It's by Genesis Press. Everybody go get it!

Fox Giovanni is a 28-year-old woman who suffers a heart attack before slowing down long enough to find love. What was the message in her story?

Love your life, not your job. When you interview for a job ask how many sick days you get and take them.

Commitments was the first story not set in Atlanta. Why did you make the change?

At the time many stories were being set in Atlanta. I thought readers were burning out.

Neesie Claiborne's bad hair day in "Sweet Sensations" was too real. How did the idea for the scene and the story come about?

A local Black newscaster on Atlanta TV showed up one day with blonde hair. I couldn't hear the news for staring at her head. This was before Black-blondes were popular. I thought that must be a mistake. I was wrong. She looks great and just celebrated her 25th year in broadcasting.

As I mentioned before, you have a flair for comedy. How do you approach writing romantic comedy?

I don't try to be funny. It’s natural. You should come to my house when my brothers and sisters are here. I'm by no means the funniest. In writing, I've learned you can't push too much. If you do, it's not going to be right.

Why do you think more African-American romance authors don't attempt romantic comedy?

They can't get the timing down. Stories have rhythm. Comedy has a different rhythm and if you can't master it, it falls flat. To this day I still love Bill Cosby's Fatherhood. He has superb timing.

Which authors have influenced your work?

There are too many to list. I read books, magazines, newspapers, editorials, periodicals, classics, children's books and textbooks. (I have three kids. I feel like I'm in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades again.) I read lots of nonfiction too. I just finished Investing for Dummies. Doesn't that make you feel warm and fuzzy?

Which authors do you read when you're not writing?

When I'm not writing, I read four or five books a week. There is no book off limits. I also tend to read outside of the genre. That's when I go for a mystery or something.

What advice would you give to writers who are trying to get started?

Write! Join a writer's group. Join a critique group and submit your work.

Can you tell us anything else about your life outside of writing, about your other interests?

I love to read, travel and garden. I'm bad at the latter. My azaleas and junipers are all dead. Good thing Pike Nurseries has a return policy.

How can readers contact you?

The URL for my website is
My e-mail address is Carmengreen@1.com.
Stay tuned for my upcoming on-line novel!

October 5, 2000


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