SLS Journey to Publication-Monique D. Mensah

Sankofa Literary Society Authors Spotlight
Monique D. Mensah Journey to Publication

Ella: Monique, tell us those Intimate Details about your book and the people within, Who Is He to You.
MDM: As the shattered lives of Simone, Ryan and Jessica collide, they find that they have one thing in common: they are all in a desperate fight to hang on to love that doesn’t love them back.

Simone, a beautiful 14-year-old girl, lies in her bed begging God to take her life. She says the same prayer every night, but mercilessly, He ignores her pleas. She believes that God left her on this earth to cope with incestuous rape the best way she knows how—through self-mutilation. Simone’s father loves her; he always has. But realizing that Simone processes something that no other woman has, he allows himself to fall in love with his own daughter. Simone’s family is one of affluence and prestige and she couldn’t live with herself if she tarnished that reputation and disappointed her mother’s high expectations. She doesn’t want her father to go to prison and she can’t tell her mother. Her father just needs help. Once he gets the help he needs, they can return to the happy and normal family they once were.

Ryan is falling fast into the cold and isolated world of depression. The only thing that keeps her dangling on to hope is her boyfriend, Anthony’s, empty promises of marriage. After two years, their relationship suddenly begins to unravel at an alarming rate. Ryan is clueless as to why their relationship has taken such a dramatic change for the worst, but refusing to be single and childless at mid-life, she is determined to make it work.

Jessica is a polished and refined wife of a high-powered attorney, but she has a hardcore interior. She grew up in a dilapidated trailer with an alcoholic and abusive mother who hated her because she was half-black. When she met her husband, Ross Anthony Pembroke, while dancing as a stripper at a bachelor party, she was convinced that he was her savior. He trained and molded her into a well-groomed trophy wife. But Jessica will never be good enough for him. Ross will never accept her as long as she doesn’t accept herself.

You and the readers will have to read the book to see how these storylines turn out!

Ella: What inspired you to write this novel?
MDM: I constantly have story ideas and characters flowing through my mind. A conversation I’ve overheard, a television show, or a news story may spark some ideas. Sometimes I pull from my own experiences or those of my friends. However, the concept of Who Is He To You emerged purely from my imagination.

I was prompted by a close friend to get started on my first novel and shortly after I came up with a broad, general idea. I knew that I wanted to defuse some stereotypes and keep the readers shocked and guessing. I wanted to write about things, other authors have yet to explore. The rest unfolded throughout the writing process.

Ella: What message(s) are you trying to convey to the readers?
MDM: When I started writing Who Is He To You, I did it with the sole intention to entertain. It wasn’t until after I completed the manuscript and read the story in its entirety did I recognize the underlying messages weaved throughout the plot. Women too often count on the men in their lives to validate or complete them. For Simone it was her father, Ryan’s boyfriend, and Jessica’s husband. Women have to learn to love themselves, recognize their self-worth and learn to be happy instead of expecting a man to fill the gaps in their lives.

Ella: What do you want the readers to feel when reading about the struggles of the three main characters?
MDM: It is my responsibility as the author to create a unique experience for my readers. When reading Who Is He To You, my readers should feel as if they are in the room with these characters, experiencing their stories first hand. I want the readers to feel Simone’s pain, desperation and uncertainty. They should empathize with Ryan’s frustration, and root for Jessica’s emergence into her identity. My goal is to have my readers identify a piece of themselves in one of the three main characters. That makes the story realistic and relatable.

Ella: Do you identify with any of the main characters? How so?
MDM: I definitely identify with Ryan the most. I have never had a drug-addiction, but I have experienced depression and the frustrations of dealing with an emotionally unhealthy relationship. Some of the situations Ryan endures in the novel were inspired by my own experiences. I tried to exert feelings I had at those times into Ryan’s character in order to make her more real and relatable.

Ella: How would you describe your writing style?
MDM: My writing style is very descriptive. I like to set the scene and vividly illustrate the emotions and feelings of the characters as they experience each situation. I am also a bold writer; writing about real situations and making my characters come to life with thoughts and actions that depict real life. I am not afraid to write about the ugly truths of reality like the mixed emotions Simone had about her relationship with her father. I stay away from the simplicity of stating the obvious in my writing. I want to broaden my readers’ minds and give them insight into some things they have not otherwise thought about.

Ella: What differentiates you and your novel from other novels in your genre?
MDM: Who Is He To You is edgy and unpredictable. The characters are flawed, complicated, and multi-dimensional. Each chapter is filled with dramatic, descriptive scenes that pull the reader right into the story. Who Is He To You is an intense experience with real depictions of character reactions, emotions, and life situations. The novel gives an intelligent exploration of the infrequently discussed issues of incest, self-injury, and depression in the African-American community. It also breaks down and dispels some stereotypes and opens the readers eyes to fresh, new perspectives.

Ella: What is your writing process?
MDM: I have a freestyle method of writing. I don’t create outlines for the story or characters. I start with a general idea, and then I begin to type. I allow the characters to take on lives of their own and guide me through to the end. Although I find it difficult to stick to structure, I try to commit to writing at least an hour a day. If during that time, I am unable to come up with actual material, I will spend that time thinking of how to further the story or alter what I’ve already written. I need complete silence when writing because I tend to be distracted easily. I usually write at home, in the evenings after my daughter has fallen asleep. I completed Who Is He To You in nine months by committing to that schedule.

Ella: What can readers expect from you in the future?
MDM: My readers can expect more dramatic, intense novels filled with literary adrenaline. I will always provide original plots, real dialogue, and believable characters. I like to read the kind of books that make me want to flip back to the beginning after reaching the end. I hope to provide that same type of experience for my readers. My novels will evoke strong emotion and audible reactions. Overall, my readers can expect a unique experience.

Ella: What advice would you give aspiring authors following in your footsteps?
MDM: I would advise aspiring authors to find your own writing style, perfect it, and stick to it. Don’t compare yourself to other established authors. Don’t try to write like your favorite author. Write in a way that identifies you as an individual and differentiates you from everyone else. In addition to writing, I read a lot of novels. Often after reading a book by one of my favorite authors, I would immediately begin to feel insecure about my own writing because I did not write like him or her. I had to learn to be confident in my writing and secure in my talent. You don’t want to be just like someone else. You want to stand out and be different.

Ella: What are your long-term writing plans and goals?
MDM: Just about every writer wants to make it to the bestseller list and I am no different. I want to be able to reach a wide range of readers and make my mark on the literary world. I am currently working on my second novel and I plan to keep going from there, making a successful career for myself as an author. My ultimate goal is to earn the privilege of being a full-time author. I look forward to the days when I will make a living from my passion.

Book: Who Is He To You by Monique Mensah
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