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In recent readings, I read Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever, and chose to answer the questions she offerered at the close of her novel. Over the coming weeks, I will offer my answers to her questions (some tailored to address my manuscript) in respect to work, Blue Lines. These questions were answered some time ago, earlier this year. I am providing them in that form.

1. Why did you choose to focus on your book subject?
2. Is Blue Lines a true story?
3. How did you write the story so authentically?
4. Did you, and if so, why did you decide to include yourself as a character?
5. Where we’re you when you first started writing Blue Lines?
6. Which character did you create first?
7. How did you write the manuscript, what method?
8. Why aren’t all of your characters Black?
9. What were you trying to achieve with the novel Blue Lines?
10. Will there be a sequel novel?

1. Why did you choose to focus on your book subject?

Around 1995-96 I had wanted to write a work that centered on Hip-Hop music, a love for Hip-Hop and wanted to build that as the backdrop with a love story between a young aspiring artist and the woman he sought and loved, using them as the metaphor of the larger underlying story. With the time periods music ranging from the current Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas and Common, and echoing back to the Golden Age of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and post artists like Wu-Tang Clan, I wanted to you h the 90’s elements in relation to the story’s timeframe. Over the next few years, I developed only five pages of sparse content with space to fill in a story. Honestly, I did not “feel” or have a connection that compelled me to write. Though I wanted to write a book and loved Hip-Hop culture. I wanted to create a valid and quality narrative that would speak to readers beyond a specific genre and target audience. I wanted a well written project that conveyed a universal story.

In late 1998, the piece had not made any progress, however with the events of my life from the late winter of 1996 through 1997, and the resulting experiences of that time, led to a drastic change in thought and direction of my work Blue Lines. I wanted to complete a dynamic and universal love story. At this new date, I had real experiences that would shape and mold a totally new fictional narrative that I felt was both a more viable story, and a definite foundation on which to begin. The original piece was not used in the new Blue Lines work and inspired by Arthur Golden’s recently published Memoirs of a Geisha, I decided to write my manuscript from the perspective of the female protagonist, Keypsiia Yemaya Walker, after watching a book interview by Mr. Golden while eating breakfast at my aunt’s house in New York.
Withe these new tools in hand, I began to formulate the transformation of Blue Lines with the story being told through Keypsiia’s eyes. Using her youth, views, and ideology the story has the slant of her mind, a freshman student on the East Coast, in the South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from Sacramento, California. The story was very real to me and drawing for experiences, I tried to recreate a story that using true events as the basis, crafted this fictional exploration into love, maturation, education, and young college life in the late 1990’s.

2. Is Blue Lines a true story?

No, Blue Lines is a fictional narrative that draws from thoughts, events, and the general era of the years of 1997 and 1998. A love story, growth, and education are all aspects of ones life that occur in any time period and era, and are open to all to experience. The aim of the work is to convey a story that can speak to all readers regardless of age, race, sex, or religion.
To elaborate, the narrative draws from real experiences though tailored to the locale of UNC Chapel Hill. However, the aspects of the story are universally spoken through Keypsiia’s young, accurately naive eyes.

4. Did you, and if so, why did you decide to include yourself as a character?

Did I include myself as a character? In some ways I did, yet it takes a bit of explanation. There were some character similarities between the inspiration of the story and myself, this there are parts of me in both the characters Blue Hurt and Keypaiia Walker. With the two, moreso than in any of the other characters.

5. Where we’re you when you first started writing Blue Lines?

After the events and experiences that led me to find a new direction for Blue Lines, Nd give the substantive material on which to truly begin, the first opportunity that I had to work on the changes was while completing an assignment in a Creative Writing course tat I was taking as I returned to school in fall. Not having computer at that time, I took my traveling floppy discs and spent the night at a friends dorm at Georgia Tech. Over the event, fueled by pizza and fighting sleep, the new Blue Lines grew from a barely written idea over 5 pages to a twenty-one page short story which introduced the new characters, protagonist Keypsiia Yemaya Walker (formerly “L” in the original draft), Blue Hurt, Renee Turner, Azul Lewis, and Gerald Milson, among others. The location of the story was set at UNC Chapel Hill and the story took place in North Carolina and subsequently ending in California.With little to no sleep, I stopped home to prepare for school and headed to. Lass and wearily presented the robust work which I was eager to share, and likely gave breathe room to students who may not have completed their work for class that day. I was also markedly surprised at my effort, and proud that this idea and goal had blossomed overnight I to a work that exceeded the class requirement. It also signaled that I had only scratch the tip and had more work to do. Having shared my work with the class, and a professor that. Ewing the subject of my work, I quickly researched copyrighting the work the next day. I sent the work in two days after I presented it using the few dollars that I had.
Initially, I wondered how to tap into that creativity again, yet I soon realized that whatever I had found, the story was far from completion, and everything came naturally as the story continued to evolve. Over the next year and a half I would travel from home to school to work, to the coffee shop or wherever and write. At the slow desk of Gate E at the Georgia Dome. At my evening job, sitting in the park with pen and pad, or hidden away at Starbucks, Keypsiia’s story grew before my eyes as my fingers mechanically guided her through these this coming of age period of her life . Her voice was hard to keep quiet as the once twenty-one page short story expanded to a work over 300 pages. By the year 2000, the crux of the narrative was complete.
My next task was to research my character’s background to add authenticity. Yes, many new experiences began to filter into Keypsiia’s makeup and shaping continued, things a simple as her round head shape, auburn naturally highlighted hair, affinity for the sun, Black and Pinoy heritage, and some of her California dialect and colloquialisms, however it was time to build by visiting and studying her Sacramento home. On a broke college student road trip, I visited and researched Sacramento in 1999, observing the dress, activities, neighborhoods, Starbucks, parks, etc. I was able to create a foundation and understanding of who Keypsiia was which allowed me to make change to support her character and provide a window a window of her youth to support the you g woman she was growing into the pages of Blue Lines. I later visited the University of North Carolina to research and create the landscape that Blue Lines inhabited, removing any ties to the universities and colleges I visited or attended to make the location authentic.

Part II, next week.

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The manuscript Blue Lines is the fictional coming of age narrative of a young California woman Key Yemaya Walker, and her 2 year growing journey through school, love, and life period piece, written by Kenneth Suffern, Jr., taking place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.

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