Perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that a person by the name of Starrene Rhett Rocque has been in and around show biz for years. So it seems only fitting that her debut novel, Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted (Amazon UK | DE | FR), is about a “jaded entertainment journalist” who gets caught up in a tangle involving an actor/rapper and an obsessive blogger.
We all know traditional media has been going through some serious identity issues over the past decade or more. The internet has made it possible for a whole host of hobby writers to break and redefine the rules of the fourth estate, wreaking havoc on those of us who have learned to conform to the “system” but also creating exciting opportunities for anyone trying to grab headlines. (No longer must we wait for someone to validate our words, our story!)
Starrene is an unabashed indie author who self-published her debut book (though she would consider “going trad” for her next book). As someone who also recently self-published her own nonfiction book, I was definitely interested in hearing Starrene’s take on the process and what motivated her to take that decision for herself. Feel free to leave your comments at the end of the interview. Starrene and I would love to hear from you!
Let’s hear it for Starrene Rhett Roque!
Age…33 (34 by the time this will run in August) US
Occupation/Aspiration (related website?)… Recovering journalist and aspiring copywriter, screenwriter, novelist, pole studio owner, and generally open to what good the universe may have in store for me (that is a lot to juggle, but I believe I can and will). I can be found at www.gangstarrgirl.com, gruntsandglam.com, and thehollywoodshuffle.com.
Your debut novel, Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted, is now out and on Amazon. Congrats! Can you share a synopsis? Thank you, and yup. “Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted” (US | UK | DE | FR) follows Nyela Barnes, a jaded entertainment journalist who goes from writing the stories to becoming the story after getting involved with Olu Major, the hottest actor-turned-rapper in the game. Nyela must find out the identity of the anonymous gossip blogger, Chatty Abernathy, who is seemingly hell-bent on destroying her reputation by making up lies.
In a blog post (on www.GangStarrGirl.com – I love your blog, by the way) you mentioned that career burnout led you to writing this novel–and among lots of interesting tidbits, you noted that Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted started out as journal entries. At what point between journaling and beginning to write a novel did you know it was “time” to write a book? How long did this book take to write? It started when I couldn’t stop thinking about things that I had journaled throughout the day. A lot of the scenarios I wrote about just started to seem like they could really work as some type of script if I actually fictionalized events. Plus, the characters just started materializing and talking to me.
That’s the thing about journaling, at least for me, it’s a way to relieve stress, to write down hopes and dreams, complain without sounding like a broken record (since it’s just yourself and the universe), and to make fun of or lambast people who may have hurt me without actually having to face consequences lol, but also to meditate and to open me up to new ideas and energy, so that’s how the book just started to flow. I really believe that journaling or any kind of free writing can help with your creativity, not just with writing, but with other forms of art.
It took me about five years to write the book. At first it was hard for me to juggle working and setting schedules to write so I’d constantly start then stop, and then have to start over again because I’d forget what was happening and who the characters were. In 2014, I got more serious and began forcing myself to take at least 15 minutes a day to write something toward finishing the book.
Were you ever nervous while writing your book that, even though it was fiction and not a tell-all, the real people you have fictionalized into characters might recognize themselves? Did you have any tricks for getting past those concerns? It crossed my mind, but it doesn’t make me nervous. The reason why I’m not nervous is because even though I’m aware that people who read it may single out one specific person that a certain character may remind them of, that’s actually not the case. Most of the characters are exaggerated amalgamations of personality archetypes in the same genre. For example, there are a couple of relationship blogger/life coach types in the book, there are so many in real life that it could still be anyone.
There are some events that were inspired by actual events and my thing with that is, without the exaggerations, these are things that happened (and still happens) so if someone gets mad at me, it’s like “it happened and people experienced it so what do you want me to do?” I hate to sound cold in that regard, but that is why we should be mindful of the impressions we leave on people. Plus, none of it is slander. It’s all satire.
Can you share a little bit about your writing process? Rituals you live/write by? My favorite read about how to construct a novel is by Stephen King. He wrote a book called, “On Writing,” and I noticed that I liked his writing process a lot. A lot of times, it’s suggested that you write an outline first and then write based on the outline. I prefer to freestyle and just start with a character and let them tell me where their day will go. Don’t get me wrong, outlines are very helpful and I actually ended up needing one once I finished BCBT to put things in better chronological perspective, but there was just something about Stephen King’s style that resonated with me.
As far as rituals, setting aside 15 minutes a day is tremendously helpful (that is actually a tip I picked up from Aliya S. King). It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up. You will also have moments where 15 minutes becomes an hour and so on.
You have also mentioned on your blog that you decided to self-publish. Good for you! (And congrats again — no small feat!!) What part of self-publishing was most difficult, what will/would you do differently a second time around? Lawd…thank you lol. I decided to self-publish just because after doing some research about the publishing world, I realized that I was already super burned out, so I just didn’t want to deal with anymore industry BS and politics.
The part of self-publishing that is most difficult is not having a budget or a team. Other than hiring an editor that one time lol, I really just have myself and then friends of course, who have been helpful, but I don’t want to burden anyone, especially when it’s not their job or obligation to help me. So, the hardest part is promoting yourself and getting the word out to your target market.
For the next time around, I’m actually considering going for a traditional publishing deal. I would like to have experience with both ends of the spectrum. That idea is always subject to change, but that’s where I am right now.
If you could step into a time machine and pay a visit to Starrene, 14 y.o., what would you tell her? Why? Wow, good question. I would tell her not to major in communications. At that time, 14-year-old me wanted to be a news anchor. I’d tell that version of myself to get a degree in something else, but work toward the journalism career she wanted by way of internships. I’d also tell her to start learning to let go because she will need a whole lot of forgiveness in life.
What do you do when you’re not writing? When I’m not writing I’m teaching or taking pole classes and probably aerial hoop, or hanging out with the hubby.
Any new projects you’re working on? Brainstorming more books! A lot of people have been wanting a follow up to “Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted.” I really enjoy those characters so I’m definitely trying to figure out what’s next for Olu and Nyela especially, and then Reiko and Felani were such good characters too. I think they need spinoffs as well.
I’m also preparing for motherhood. My first child will be arriving at the end of August, maybe even September.
Coffee or Tea? Tea!
Is there a question you wished I would pose to you? (or to anyone else? Whom?) No. This was actually thorough and enjoyable. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for being here — We’d love to have you back!
Connect With Starrene Rhett Rocque!
You can connect with Starrene through the following links, or you can say Hi to her in the comments!
“Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted” is available for purchase at Amazon.com.
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If you’re a new or aspiring author — that is, you are actively working on your debut book, you plan on publishing — or you recently published your debut work, you qualify for this e-interview series! Enter a comment below or 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.
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