IN CLAUDIA’S OWN WORDS…CLAUDIA MOSS is the author of two novels, Dolly: The Memoirs of a High School Graduate (her Holloway House debut, adolescent novel) and If You Love Me, Come (her latest, self-published novel). Her short fiction has appeared in a host of anthologies including Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories (Nghosi Books), Gietic: Erotic Poems/Kinky Short Stories (Gia Bella & The Siren), The Lust Chronicles (e-book), The Hoot & Holler of the Owls (Hurston/Wright Publications), Purple Panties (Strebor Books), SWING!: Adventures in Swinging By Today’s Top Erotica Writers (Logical-Lust Publications), Life, Love & Lust and Her Voice: poetry (Lesbian Memoirs). Her poetry has also appeared in Venus Magazine. She is also the author of the independently published Wanda B. Wonders series, which introduces the enigmatic Everywoman, Ms. Wanda B., who is a humorous social commentary, unafraid to voice her opinions on contemporary life in shades of black and white.
When and how did your passion for writing get started?
My passion for writing began early. It surfaced when I was in elementary school, but on a Spiritual level, it began because I had a reading mother, at whose feet I learned to cherish the voice and the power of words in a sacred place. Thus, I can to love reading and writing. Her story time after school or before dinner was one of the highlights of my childhood.
My mother bought me a spiral-bound notebook singly for my writing. In a sense, it was my first published work. In it, I wrote a story about a teenage girl, who traveled to Europe as an exchange student. I took the time to research the details of my setting, and when I finally finished and my mother read the piece, she praised me and the story and had me to share it with the family. From the start, she recognized my gift; she knew who I was, and she encouraged my writing. I was always verbal, meaning I relished words and their power to relay meaning, and I excelled at anything language based at school (even though in the house my father welded the philosophy, “A child must be seen and not heard.” As it turned out, I tried never to practice that philosophy with my son…but his story, I know, is another testimony. 🙂
Tell us about Soft Tsunami.
Soft Tsunami is a collection of poems that had been waiting for me to gather them from the coils of my locs over the course of several years. I’m uncertain, but I believe I began writing the poems in 2004. I wrote those poems for so many reasons: to flap my poetic wings, to roar at life, to sweet talk my muse, to fight, to kick the closet door off its hinges, to love me and others, to give honor to the Goddess for this journey and all of its stages on which I sang and yet sing. Through all of the above, water baptized me. It soothes me in foamy revelry. It dripped from my eyes. Cleansed my soul. And took me high and higher. Until I learned to swim figuratively.
Soft Tsunami hits on a myriad of emotions, but in reading, I could envision Tsunami being about one specific type of woman. Who is this woman?
Hands up. I love your questions. I am writing about the type of woman who is unafraid, even as she walks through what she perceives as fear. She carries on anyway…since she has an unwavering faith in herself. And in this, she bows to the Divine. She is a woman who speaks her mind, yet is mindful of the weight and power of words to hurt or harm, to lift and love. And she is a woman who is ever longing, something she realizes must cease with her…in the water…shed it like pride and bikini…so that she can bare herself, her soul to love who is probably right under her smile.
I also know this woman has confidence for days. Are you as cool as a fan these poems would have us to believe?
Yes, I am cooler. I am unabashed, on most days, and nutty enough to be freely me on any street corner, in any face, behind any mic, on any stage, to say what I say, laugh as loud as I want to laugh, write what I write (which many times is about a woman taking up the reigns of her sexuality and defining what she desires for herself) and walking like I have oil wells pumping between my thighs.
There’s also an element of grown woman swagger in these poems. Does age play a part in how you write? In your sexuality?
I love that…”grown-woman swagger.” Thank you. Indeed it does. Hmmm. I gather age does play at part behind the scenes of my poetry, because the girl and younger woman in me are screaming, “We’ve had our share of coy, cute, playing it safe, don’t say that in public, be good! Hell, say what you wanna say!” Answering this question makes me think of WHY I love the song “Say What You Wanna Say” in The Karate Kid movie! Now I must spend the rest of my time here living my dream, doing things my way, saying it my way. As Adina Howard said in the Unsung episode chronicling her life, “That’s right. I’m a bad bitch.”
Yes, again. If Age is a lady, this is what she says in my script, “Hey, Babe, Don’t waste time.” Come out whenever you can, every day if you want to. Come out each time the opportunity presents itself. When you accept and lovingly embrace all parts of who you are, the world will accept and lovingly embrace you, too! And if it can’t in some instances, accept its respect.
How did the inspiration for these poems come to you?
The inspiration of the poems came to me from where I was at that particular place in my life. If I was being touched by another person, I’d craft a poem. If I were in a trying relationship moment, I captured it in poetry. When they came up and presented themselves in my locs, I germinated on them and sat with journal in hand or at the computer and opened to their arrival.
I’ve noticed of late that inspiration arrives these days in the morning. Usually, I meditate for a few minutes, still and present before the Divine, in gratitude. And as I go about the business of preparing for the day, manna downloads: what I need to proceed in a story, a poem starter, a motivational note for me or a Facebook post! It’s simply amazing!
What’s your writing process?
My writing process involved me deciding what I’m going to focus on in the way of poem, story or novel. Once I determine it’s going to be, for example, my new collection of stories, and then I sit and ponder how I will begin. I make notes in an outline form, aiming to include all that I want the story to say. If need be, I engage in research. Then I decide what musical atmosphere in which I want to write, and I sit down or go into an enclosed place and get it in. Some years back, I’d write one day and revise what I’d written the day before, which made for a long process toward finishing a piece. I’d gleaned this from E. Lynn Harris, one of my fav authors, when I interviewed him for Black Romance magazine. Today, I set about the drafting process without editing in mind, and when I’d birthed my literary creation, I begin the editing process only then. I realize it is a whole new world in itself, a world in which I can include subplots and different twists and combine characters and other such creation delights once you can view a work in its entirety.
Are you planning to write any more novels?
Yes, and thank you so much for the question. I am at work on finishing the ending of my manuscript, Not Without Passion, a piece for which I’ve fleshed out a Scene Card Outline that makes me sing and dance inside. Now if it does that for me, I’m walking out on faith that it will do that and more for my readers. It is like nothing I’ve ever written. Funny, grown-up lesbians, drama-filled, contemporary, fresh, serious with easy moments, passionate —Not Without Passion’s cover is already under my cover artist, Lincoln Jude’s awe-inspiring hand.
Another novel has made itself known on my laptop’s computer. It beckoned. I followed. And now I am well into being wooed by it as well. So it is correct for me to say that I have two more novel manuscripts in the cue. Praise the Goddess.
I need a sequel to If You Love Me, Come. Will you revisit these characters again?
Thank you for saying that. I so appreciate you for saying this, as my sister’s running mantra is “Please revisit If You Love Me. You left it open. I love the characters and want to know what they are doing. I want to know how they fared in their new scenarios/situations at the end of the novel.” She isn’t the only one who has voiced this sentiment, like you. So I have spoken it to her. I will indeed write a sequel to If You Love Me, Come. I will admit that I, too, love and miss Miz Too-Sweet, Mr. Will, Free, Sharmayne, Nzinga, Rhonda, and Pinky…and the cast of characters they love! I receive your much-appreciated praise as a confirmation from the Divine to get it poppin’!
Next week brings National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Any suggestions to those planning to share their lives with loved ones?
Oh my yes! I say, Come out on all virtual stages, proudly and lovingly, again. Inform family who already that you are gay that you are celebrating National Coming Out Day on October 11th. Wear your rainbow regalia and come out to family and friends who may not know that you are gay. Ask people if they have gay friends, if they know suspect they are in the closet. Show your love by helping them come out by being your loving self. Suggest friends read a novel by a gay author, and discuss it. Highlight a gay friend, and take her or him to lunch to show your solidarity. Watch a gay movie with family and enjoy a discussion with family and friends.
What are you working on next?
Right now I am working on what began as a long short story or a novelette. It is now presenting itself as a novel. At present, I have named it “Wrong Number.” It reveals the beauty of fate and its unexpected twists and turns. It even speaks to what you think you know about yourself and what the Now is presenting you! Hmmm. I love it, and I know readers will also!
I’m also writing a collection of secret stories much like Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. I’m learning to be like Amy Tan and holding a few details secret. When I publish a bit of the coming collection on two sites to announce the coming work, I will return to pull the curtain off the goddess, Sistah! That is a promise.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Loving these questions! A typical day for me entails rising between 9 and 10 AM, depending on what time I fell asleep after a night of reading or writing. Meditating before rising, I grab a banana-blueberry smoothie with one tablespoon of Chia seeds. I take care of little Foxy, a sassy Pomeranian, and sit to make love on my laptop. I read and write until a family member returns and engages me with their warm and beautiful presence. I work a bit more and then pause for a long walk before relishing a raw dinner. I enjoy a bit of TV with the family, not much, and after a show or two I return to my laptop to edit or read or write, until I faint with fatigue! In short, I honestly love my days, and the only person I await is my girlfriend, partner and wife.
What piece of advice can you share with aspiring authors?
My advice to aspiring authors is Learn to work constructively with your Inner Critic. Operatively adverb: constructively. If you let it, your Inner Critic can silence you, make you afraid to put a word to paper for whatever you dealing with in your life. Walk out on the field of your creativity and dare that critical voice to roar. Call it the Lion of Fear. Stand there in its roar, your knees knocking, bones shaking and bid it mete its best performance. Then you write what you want to write any way, even if your pen trembles. Your silence that Miss Critic in action, writing, and the more you trust yourself to write the words of your heart, Miss Mama will pack up her bags and set up shop elsewhere. Make certain she isn’t likely to return by being open to her stealthily return. Oh yeah!
Why do you feel it’s important for black lesbians to tell their words and stories as you did with Soft Tsunami?
I feel it is important for black lesbians to paint our own verbal portraits, because no one else can cull our experiences quite like us. The Goddess gave us this phenomenal walk, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to tell me what it means to be me. I define me. Our portraits are diverse and beautiful, simply breathtaking in all of our joy and pain. The world requires our voices, our paintings, unedited and unveiled. We trust no one to leave our sacred stories in galleries, on the wind, on e-readers and shelves, in hearts and in mouths…for fear our unique translations will be lost in the telling. We must paint with our colors, proudly, uniquely, nakedly nude, to do the Divine justice.
On a final note, where do you get your energy?
I get my energy from so many places! (Smiling again) I am energized by the realization that I have another day to stand on the stage of my life and be. My passion and enthusiasm charge me. Almost anything makes me grateful, even things others might find debatable inspire me, and this creates its own energy! My raw lifestyle inspires and delights me. I’m serious…but the simple act of choosing to smile rewires me! And loving my family and friends energizes me!
Interviewed October 2013