Besides writing the terrific novel Kiss The Sky, Farai Chideya is also an award-winning journalist. She is a distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She contributes to print, public radio, and cable television; and she also hosts a series of town hall meetings in both New York and San Francisco, with New York Public Radio and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, respectively. WHEW! You can see an archive of her 2010 midterm election specials — which foreshadowed some of the current political and immigration debates — at PopandPolitics.com, which she founded in 1995. She’s currently working on her second novel, among a host of other projects. Oh my gosh, how does she do it?
I was so happy and pleased when she had time for a quick interview.
R: Farai, Your novel Kiss The Sky, left me wanting more. Do you think you’ll ever return to Sophie and write a part two?
F: Thank you Renee. Alas, I doubt it. The book didn’t do well commercially. I would like to see it turned into a film — I still think it has that potential. Another option would be to turn the “sequel” into a serial that ran on a blog. So far, I have too many other plates spinning to return to this narrative.
R: How do you find time to write fiction given your busy schedule?
F: I tend to write in chunks. I’m not an every day fiction (or nonfiction) writer, but I mull things over and take notes and then devote large chunks of time all at once to my work.
R: What are the last three books you’ve read that wowed you?
F: 1) The Black Count by Tom Reiss, about the Haitian-French father of the writer Alex Dumas, who was himself a Napoleonic general. Just won the Pulitzer for biography.
2) Carl van Horn’s Working Scared (or Not At All), a brilliant and, yes, scary analysis of the labor market.
3) Martha Beck’s self-actualization book Steering By Starlight, which is about how to find your inner guide and follow your own path.
R: A young journalist wants your advice. What three things do you tell him/her?
1) Save some of your money, because at some point you will be unemployed. This field is tough but also amazing. You just have to be realistic.
2) Multimedia skills are the best way to stay employed. Know how to edit a blog; edit photos/videos; and run a social media platform and you will be employable.
3) Follow your passions within journalism and within life. Know your heart.
R: Continue the sentence. Writing fiction is like…
F: …walking on the moon, except you are drawing the moon’s surface as you walk and desperately hope you don’t fall off the edge of your world.
R: That was beautiful. Okay. Finish this sentence: Writing non-fiction is like…
F: …building a railroad that takes you from your current understanding of an issue to a new destination full of knowledge and insight.
R: What are your favorite hangouts in Brooklyn?
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Flea, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music); walking the Brooklyn Bridge; and fun indoor/outdoor bars like Franklin Park.
R: Care to tell us what you’re working on now?
F: I’m working on The Naturals, a young adult science fiction novel about bioengineering, climate change, and friendship. Friendship has to be a part of any YA novel… it’s what makes being a teen so lovely and so fraught.