Publisher/Date: CreateSpace, Feb. 2013
Genre(s): Romance, Friendship
Friendship and love go hand and hand…or does it? Photographer Mahogany Williams and head museum educator Cheryl James are testing this theory after being childhood best friends, then later lovers — and watching their connection crumble over the years. Can they get it back together? I had to find out from Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas, author of LOVE RELIVED. So read on to see what she thinks about love and friendship in this Interview & Review Chat. The transcript follows below:
Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, Miss Monique?!
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am here.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Lol
Sistahs on the Shelf: Hey, how are you?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am wonderful and antsy
Sistahs on the Shelf: Don’t be. It’ll be painless, I promise.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay, so…let’s start with how long have you been writing?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been writing poetry since I was five years old and short stories from seven years of age.
Sistahs on the Shelf: So basically most of your life. What were you writing about at five years old?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes, I have been writing since I could put together words. My mother encouraged creativity and she always pushed me to read and write as much as I could. I used to sit at her desk and fill up yellow legal sized notepads with lines about my best friend at the time and my love of anything that had to do with basketball.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, so this could have been the basis for Love Relived? Maybe?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Hmmm (inserts smile) I shall never tell.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Lol!
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: To be truthful my first girlfriend was at the age of seven and she was not my bff.
Sistahs on the Shelf: 7, huh? I was still dreaming of girls instead of kissing them at that age.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I had already had my first and second kiss that year.
Sistahs on the Shelf: *smh* *but impressed*
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: lol
Sistahs on the Shelf: Now about Love Relived, bffs in love. Tell us about your book.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Love Relived is a story that came to me as I was working on another book idea. The main characters are Cheryl and Mahogany, two women who were best friends throughout adolescence. My focus for the storyline was the aftermath of friends becoming lovers. Most people think that it can be an easy move to just get into a long lasting relationship, especially if the friendship had been so strong. That I believe is a myth that starts the relationship of wrong. Once Cheryl and Mahogany crossed the line the conflict began and there are really no answers for years leaving both with questions.
Sistahs on the Shelf: All very true.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Especially when one partner is struggling with her sexuality, like Mahogany, while the other knows who she is, like Cheryl.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Exactly! Mahogany is dealing with her own personal struggles. As close as she is to her friends not even they know that she was dealing with her sexuality. She feels as if she has an obligation to her family to be someone that she is not. She is strong but like so many of the strong she has a weakness. In Mahogany’s case it is her grandmother Mama Hanna. She knows her grandmother to be a God fearing woman and being gay is something that Mahogany doesn’t think she will accept.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Acceptance is something a lot of us have struggled with as black lesbians. I think you wrote Mahogany’s struggle realistically.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I tried my best to make sure that Mahogany came across real. We may not care if society accepts us as black lesbians but there are people who are close to us that we wish would love us no matter who we love or what we do.
Sistahs on the Shelf: But the crazy thing is where we think we’re hiding ourselves, some of our family members knew our tea before we poured it.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes! I have found that the only people in the “closet” are the ones that claim not to be in one.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Yep!
Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of realistic, is Cheryl and Mahogany’s relationship based on your or anyone else’s relationship?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: No one has asked me this question so kudos to you. (smile) When I first set out to write this book I had no particular thought process. I just let the words flow. It was not until I read the first draft back to myself that I realized that this was subconsciously personal.
Sistahs on the Shelf: How so?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: For one thing I have been in a situation where a friend and I have crossed an emotional line that was way beyond friendship. Although I explained my reluctance I did not shut down the feelings that I knew were growing. I tried to act as if I could use my charm and full blown cocky arrogance to move past the feelings and continue our friendship as if nothing had changed between us. That proved to be unrealistic and problematic. The line had been crossed and the friendship became difficult. When someone tells you they want to move forward with you romantically and you don’t it is a difficult thing. When said person is a very good friend the stakes are high. You have to deal with feelings of rejection, hurt, and anger. It is a dangerous game.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: So like Mahogany, I decided to run.
Sistahs on the Shelf: So what happened?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: We have both moved on. The friendship is done. We have not talked in years. We have mutual friends and it is crazy because we respond to their posts on Facebook without talking to one another. Life is something.
Sistahs on the Shelf: It sure is.
Sistahs on the Shelf: But crossing that friendship line…do you think it can be worth it?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is the billion dollar question isn’t it? The friends and lovers debate has been going on for years. For some it works and for others it is a disaster. I believe that it can work but when before a dating relationship can begin a conversation has to be had. You can’t bring up everything that pertained to our friendship. As I used to say all the time, once the line is crossed it is a different ballgame. The” me” you knew as your friend may not be the “me” you want as your mate. You really have to think about it.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: If I was a jerk to all my girlfriends, don’t assume that I will treat you different because we have a history as friends.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Huh, ain’t that the truth.
Sistahs on the Shelf: But having that history is “supposed” to make the relationship easier, let some people tell it.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is foolishness. Maybe for some that was the case and I applaud them. Most however don’t remember the way they watched you treat your other mates until something happens. By then you can’t bring it up because you were warned way in advance. As a matter of fact you as the friend had the clearest crystal ball of them all but for whatever reason you chose not to see. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that everyone can change. I know that personally. I am just speaking truth.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of being true, throughout Love Relived, Cheryl is stayed true to herself regardless of the changes Mahogany put her through. I loved that about her.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you so much. Cheryl’s weakness is Mahogany. Though that is the case she refuses to let Mahogany’s confusion cloud her decisions and break her heart further.
Sistahs on the Shelf: I remember a line from your book that said, “It’s the crime of stealing hearts.” I loved that.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That line is from a poem I wrote when I was around 18 years old called, ‘Robbing the broken’. It was really me boasting that I could say whatever, do whatever and still like a boomerang I knew the girls would come back. I used to be arrogant beyond. When I was writing that particular scene in Love Relived the line came to me again. Now that I am older it has a completely different meaning.
Sistahs on the Shelf: What meaning does it have for you [now]?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Now that I am older and have lived through a few trials in my life the line is a symbol of knowing that I didn’t want the love I was receiving but instead of saying that I took it anyway. That is a crime. Those girls could have spent time with someone who was worthy of their admiration.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Wow. That is some truth right there.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you. I have learned lessons and through the teaching that my wrongs have showed me I am better.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Writing has helped tremendously. I can see certain characters clearly because of my experiences both personal and through friends.
Sistahs on the Shelf: I agree. Writing and reading especially have always opened my eyes.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes indeed!
Sistahs on the Shelf: Now Mama Hanna. I want her to adopt me, since I have no living grandparents. She is a hoot and a great sounding board for both her granddaughter Mahogany and by extension, Cheryl.
Sistahs on the Shelf: I love when she tells Mahogany: “Girl a pot unstirred never made good stew. It just sat and burned.”
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I adore Mama Hanna. She is lively, blunt and doesn’t miss a thing. She is the true meaning of unconditional love. The lines that she says in the book are me all day. I can make up a saying in a second.
Sistahs on the Shelf: I know that’s right! I follow you on Facebook.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Ha! Ha!! Yes I like to think I am a wise clown.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Yes, you are. Mission accomplished.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: LOL! Thank you.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay so one last question (I think). What new projects are in the works?
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: First let me just say that Lisa, a character from Loved Relived has her own story, In its Rawest Form, which is currently out. I began 2014 by putting out my latest Feeling for the Wall. This one is for those who have been in real love. I mean that kind of love that makes you smile but question. It also deals with what happens when after years of being together how life can get in the way with the day to day love. What happens when routine overwhelms us. I have two other books that I am working on now that I will be putting out sometime this year. One will be released this spring and the other in the fall.
Sistahs on the Shelf: You work hard, Monique.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been blessed with a partner who has made it so that I can live my dream.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I also have a short story collection and a few novelettes available as well.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I would like to add something if that is okay.
Sistahs on the Shelf: Sure, go ahead.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: The end of 2012 was one of the hardest years that I think I have ever been through. I was holding it together for the masses but inside I was scared and falling apart. I had a serious health scare and I lost my job. I was nervous to the point that I wrote out a will. I didn’t know if I would be here for 2014. Having already had one stroke due to stress I was told that I was on the verge of having another. That is why I dedicated every moment of 2013 to writing and family. I opened my eyes wide and really looked. I realized a lot of things about myself and I also learned how much my babe truly loves the heck out of me. I have gotten healthier and have learned to clear my mind and return to the “me” that I am. For that I will forever be thankful and I will not give up this chance to share my love of writing with the world.
Sistahs on the Shelf: That is heartbreaking and beautiful and inspiring. Your hard work is paying off.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I hope that it does. I didn’t want to leave this world without more of my work published.
Sistahs on the Shelf: You’ll have plenty of time to share more, I’m sure. I truly believe that.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you! I am in much better health and have moved back into my positive space.
Sistahs on the Shelf: I’m glad.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: As am I. I have more time to clown *lol*
Sistahs on the Shelf: *lol* You slay me, Mo.
Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I try.
Reviewed/Interviewed January 2014