I’m always amazed by the variety of people I encounter when I receive their e-interview responses. Sa’iyda Shabazz was an actress who has now turned her attentions to writing. Somehow, she manages to juggle childrearing, freelancing, writing and pitching agents. On that latter subject, it seems she has opted to go the traditional route, and she shares a bit about her pitch experiences in this interview.
Name/ Age/ Website… Sa’iyda Shabazz, 30
Title and synopsis of your debut novel. The title is currently in flux. It is about a teenaged brother and sister (twins) who move from England to Los Angeles. It is a fish out of water story, complete with love triangles and typical issues teens face like social hierarchies, making new friends and fitting in.
Where do you currently reside? What’s your hometown/origin? I currently live on Staten Island, NY. I also grew up here.
Can you share a little bit about what prompted you to write this book? I was inspired by the reboot of the show 90210. I liked the concept of the fish out of water story and there is no better place than Los Angeles to set it. I had recently lived there, and I was fascinated by the culture. It really is a whole new worl.
Ah–East coast, West coast. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience moving to the West Coast and some of the differences you noticed? I think the biggest difference is the people. New Yorkers are tough but there is a certain level of friendliness that goes unnoticed. People on the west coast are super laid-back but there is a certain sense of entitlement, especially in the higher end neighborhoods like the ones in my novel. But I loved living on the west coast and look forward to returning!
You’ve shared you’re getting ready to pitch your debut novel for the second time. It sounds like you’re taking the traditional route to publishing. Can you talk about the process (your process) a little? What was the first round of pitches like? Finding an agent is not for the faint of heart. It takes months of research before you begin to pitch. I looked up a lot of agencies and agents through Google and then looked up agents I liked on social media. I also looked in the acknowledgement sections of books by my favorite authors to see who their agents are. I pitched to about 5 agents. I got back a few rejection emails. Even though they said no, it was a positive because that means they took the time to really consider my work.
Did you learn any lessons from the first round of pitches? What, if anything, would you do differently this time around? I think my biggest takeaway is that I need to make my query letter a little more dynamic. I think I have a good story that needs to be a little more exciting to get an agent’s interest.
Do you remember the moment you knew you had to be a writer? I don’t think there was a moment. I had always thought I would be an actor and write for fun. Then I started putting more attention into my writing than my acting career so I just changed trajectories. It was a very organic transition.
You don’t mean you gave up acting do you? Do you still act? What was your latest appearance? I did give up acting actually! I sometimes miss performing and I’m sure I’ll go back to it one day, but right now I don’t have the energy or the time to do both.
How do you come up with your story ideas? How do they present themselves to you and how do you interact with them? Story ideas present themselves in different ways. Sometimes I’ll hear a song lyric that will inspire a scene or a short story. Or I’ll see a picture or sometimes I’ll just have random ideas pop into my head.
You also freelance. Can you give us an idea of your daily routine? How do you balance writing a book, freelance writing and your “personal life” in a day/ week? Are you really good at compartmentalising or does it just work effortlessly? I’m still very new to freelancing so I’m not doing a ton of pieces. I have a list of pitches I’m working through. It usually takes me a few hours to write a piece and then I edit sporadically. This book is in the editing phase so again I do a few hours a few times a week. I also have a two year old son and I work as a babysitter. As a result, I do a lot of my work on my phone. I have the Docs app so I can work on the go.
Coffee or Tea? Tea most of the time but occasionally I need coffee. I prefer regular black tea with milk and sugar or a Dunkin’ Donuts french vanilla iced coffee with 7 sugars and half and half. Occasionally I go to Starbucks, but that’s a treat.
WANT TO BE A PART OF LIVINGINCYN’S E-INTERVIEW SERIES FOR AUTHORS?
If you’re a writer, new author or aspiring author, send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.