Author Interview with Tisha Starr
Tisha Starr unleashes wicked truths of society that many choose to dust under the sofa just because it’s easier. However, in her first novel, The Fear of Knowing, the author splatters uncomfortable realities of how secrets, deceit, and irresponsible sexual behavior can clip the threads of family bonds in an emotionally charged story that immediately rips at the heart. Book reviews are stellar and the message is universal, crossing all races, and socio-economic statuses. In other words, “it can happen to you too.”
How Long Have You Been Writing
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I never took it seriously, though. This meant, I never entered any contest or had a desire to be published in high school or college but not once did I stop writing. It was more of a hobby for me, I relaxed and released all my fears, emotions, and thoughts onto paper only to rip or burn them all up later. It was the fear of being found-out that caused me to destroy my work. Life is funny like that.
I write for the love of writing. When I realized, only last year, I had a slight talent, I began to believe in my own words. Publishing my first book has awakened a newfound love inside of me. I will never destroy my work again; even if no one ever reads it or I never sell one copy.
What Inspired You to Write, The Fear of Knowing
The Fear of Knowing started as a concept from the horrific fear I felt of taking my first HIV test. After expressing that fear to a close relative and finding out she, too, suffered the same gut crushing anxiety after taking the test, I realized we couldn’t be the only people in the universe to feel that way. Further research revealed the same outcomes from people of all ages, races, and cultures. But how? Why? Isn’t it necessary to take care of our bodies? Shouldn’t we all practice safe sex in a world where Super Gonorrhea has evolved, and a cure for Herpes or HIV not found? Yes, we should. Nevertheless, the negative stigma surrounding the disease was the main reported reason people were afraid of testing in the first place; yet, unknown statuses are the leading cause the disease continues to thrive and spread. It was an oxymoron to me. Knowing ones status and not succumbing to fear, is the only way to reduce spreading the disease. Moreover, this is where the title, The Fear of Knowing, derived. I wanted to chip away at the stigma by creating characters relatable to anyone. This could be your daughter, son, niece, nephew, mother or father. My goal was to send a message people could read in private but, in turn, face their fears with courage and get tested.
In What Ways do the Events in the Book Reveal Evidence of the Author’s World View?
A worldview embodied in the storyline is the danger of stigmatization and negative stereotypes. I tried to break away from as many stigmas as possible without turning the novel into a preaching session of finger pointing and condemnation. Let’s look at the image black fathers hold in media outlets.
Not to give any spoilers but in the novel, John Davis, was a loving, humble, dedicated father not the average street-thug we often see portrayed in the media. I wanted my readers to see a black man worthy of his place in parenthood, a father who stood up against all odds, even if he failed at times because these types of men do exist.
In other instances, some view minority girls as hypersexual, so I created a virgin as the main character – quite the reversal. One of the main visibilities black men have in public arenas is as absentee fathers but John Davis was not only present, he was also an integral part of his daughter’s life. Gays are perceived as the “others,” thus, I created them equal – no pun intended. And of course, HIV is stigmatized therefore; by constructing a pure, untouched, main character, it leaves to question how or why would we marginalize and shun people due to their conditions? And, what are some possible consequences of stigmas and stereotypes?”
Do People often Assume you are HIV positive since you Wrote a Book on the Topic?
I’ve been asked that question many times. It is sad when Denzel Washington can play a crooked cop on the big screen and no one asks him is he packing a pistol in his pocket. Or, Leonardo DiCaprio can act as a blood diamond dealer and not be accused of selling diamonds on the black market. The book is fiction, written solely for entertainment purposes, while grappling a serious issue. I think this question answers directly to the stigma I’m trying to help break. No, I am not HIV positive but does that change the way people will view me now as opposed to if I were? Unfortunately, it does and this is exactly where the groundwork begins. When a person says, “I am HIV-positive” negativity should not instantly rush into one’s thoughts. It doesn’t happen when people say, “I have Cancer or I have Lupus.” Again, as I stated before and presented carefully in my book, although HIV is a sexually transmitted disease (outside of blood transfusions and needle sharing) there are some people with the disease who never engaged in sex, nor shared a dirty needle. The result should not be more stigma but instead, more testing.
What was the Hardest Part About Writing Your Book?
The hardest part for me was overcoming the fear of the public rejecting my work. It was such a scary experience that I couldn’t move past the prologue, which delayed the finish product. I read over it hundreds of times, not allowing moments to let the words flow and scenes evolve. Once I accepted the fact that everything isn’t for everyone and focused on my target audience, the words grew from ten to fifty to over fifty-thousand. I concerned myself less with minor mechanics because I understood the importance of an editor and dedicated more of my time to content.
How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
I’ve found when it’s something I’m passionate about, I don’t have to dig very hard for words. In addition, when one write one’s passion, it becomes easier to by-pass many of the blocks writers suffer from. The internet takes back seat when deeply engaged in my storyline and characters. But to help me along, I use an old computer that only has Microsoft office on it, no Wi-Fi connectivity or capability. That’s a way to cure the Facebook itch or Twitter bug. In others instances where I can’t come up with something, I simply take a break. Often times after hanging at the mall or any public place where I can watch and observe people, a newfound idea usually sparks. Clearing your mind is central to overcoming writer’s block.
Will you Write About Other Social Issues or try Another Fictional Angle in Future Books?
I must stick to what I believe in. Good stories come from all different points-of-views. I grew up in inner city Chicago, one of the most violent places in our nation to date. I think it’s best I stick to what I know. My writing will be powerful and passionate if I write about things I’ve seen, endured and overcame. Yes, I will continue to write about social issues but I promise to never make them boring or too fact driven. Fiction should be fun and I intend to keep my readers engaged and entertained even though the underlying message will be clear.
Tell People How You Can be Reached and Where to Purchase Your Book
Where to purchase The Fear of Knowing
If hyperlinks fail, please use websites actual links below: