Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Q&A with Odessa Rose




Odessa Rose is the author of the novel Kizmic's Journey. Her other books include the novel Water in a Broken Glass. She lives in Baltimore.


Q: What inspired you to write Kizmic’s Journey, and how did you create your character Kizmic?


A: What inspired me to write Kizmic’s Journey was a desire to read about a little girl like me.


A lot of the coming-of-age stories I read as a child and as an adult focused on little girls who couldn’t wait to reach puberty. They were obsessed with growing breasts, starting their periods, and having crushes on boys.


I wanted to read about a little girl who dreaded all these things happening to her. A girl who not only didn’t want to experience these things, but who didn’t want to grow up, period. A girl who viewed adolescence as a life-ending experience.


How did I create Kizmic? I created Kizmic by trying to figure out how a little girl who did not want to grow up would react to the children growing up around her.


What would a girl like Kizmic want to do instead of worrying about when her breasts were going to develop? Kizmic would worry about if her baseball, football, or basketball game would be rained out.


What would a girl like Kizmic fret about instead of counting down the days when she would begin menstruating? Kizmic would be counting down the days when the next marble or skully game would take place.


The biggest question of all that helped me create and shape Kizmic is why she didn’t want to grow up? What happened to make her view puberty as the grim reaper?


Q: The novel is set in Baltimore--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: Setting is very important in my writing. It sets the boundaries for characters so that I understand why they move the way they move, why they think a certain way, why they speak a certain way, why they exist.


I grew up in Baltimore City. When people hear that, they automatically think of crime, because of the negative way the city is portrayed in the media, films, books, and the local and national news.


Are there issues that need to be addressed in Baltimore? Of course, just like every other city, big or small. But the majority of films and books that are based in Baltimore do not focus on the wonderful folks and communities in the city.


In my writing, I want to introduce people to the Baltimore that know, in particular 1970s Baltimore. There wasn’t hardly any crime that I was aware of as a child. We stayed outside playing all day.


We rode bikes, skateboards, roller skates; we played basketball, football, baseball, skully, four square, dodge ball. We hula hooped, played jacks, bat-n-ball, hopscotch, jumped rope. We had block parties with music and games. We had cookouts, basement parties.


The older folk looked out for all the kids, which we didn’t like because they told your parents about things they caught you doing. It was a nice place to live and grow. I developed friendships with people that I’m still close with today.


Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I knew how Kizmic’s Journey was going to end. Getting there was a huge journey, though. And probably took longer because in some ways, I didn’t want it to end the way it did.


I was looking for outs along the way, but while my characters are made up from my imagination, they have minds of their own. Their lives are their lives, not mine. Their journey is their journey. So, I had to let the story play out the way it was meant to be.


Of course, a lot of things changed from the first draft to the last, but every draft ended the same. That let me know that the story was telling was genuine.  


Q: What was it like to write about a child protagonist?


A: It was so much fun to write about a child protagonist. Kizmic’s Journey is not autobiographical, but I did draw upon my childhood for certain things, like the games we played, the friends I had, the schools I attended, the teachers, the neighborhoods, and the stores in the community. I got to go back down memory lane, and that was awesome.


But there were certain challenges to writing about a child protagonist, the biggest being keeping a child’s perspective. I had to keep the innocence of a 9-year-old girl, and that’s hard to do when you’re in your late 50s.


I’m looking back on the ‘70s with an understanding of the world that Kizmic does not know. That had to stay in the forefront of my mind. And I believe I pulled it off. Kizmic is a child, and she thinks like a child, she talks like a child, feels like a child. I absolutely love her.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now I am working on my fourth novel, entitled The Subway. I hope to have the first draft by the end of January. That’s pushing it for me, because I am a very slow writer.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I just released a short horror film that I wrote and filmed with my family and friends. It’s called Stay Your Butt Out Da Woods. It’s a funny little film that I had on my mind to do. I have a few more that I hope to film soon.


I have to remind people not to expect the same quality for my short films as they experienced with the movie Water In A Broken Glass that was based on my first novel of the same title.


I did not film that movie. A filmmaker named Jamelle Thomas created that film. All I did was give her the rights and stand around on set in complete awe that someone was making a film based on my book. That being said, my little film is pretty good. LOL


Also, thank you for allowing me to share my work with you and your audience. I truly, truly appreciate this wonderful opportunity.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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