Best-Selling Author Curtis Bunn Pens New Book, ‘Homecoming Weekend’
Here, the founder of the National Book Club Conference, talks about his upcoming release of Homecoming Weekend, a provocative look at those two dynamic days at a historically black college, which will be available to readers on Sept. 4, 2012. –yvette caslin
Why did you write Homecoming Weekend?
I attend homecoming at my alma mater, Norfolk State University, as often as possible. And, it’s such a beautiful experience in a lot of ways. First and foremost, it’s like a combination of festival and family reunion. No matter how old you are, you can go back and recall vivid memories of when you were young and trying to find your way – and do that with the same people you traveled that journey with. There’s something really special about that. There is always a level of pride that comes with being back on campus. And the parties, the tailgate, the band, the football game . . . did I say parties? And, of course, there is a lot of rekindling of old relationships or building of new relationships among old classmates. There’s an element of “What happens at homecoming stays at homecoming” that adds a lot of spice to things.
Did you attend an HBCU? If so, is this book a confessional?
I’m a proud 1983 graduate of Norfolk State University in Virginia. My son, Curtis Jr., is a 2005 graduate of Norfolk State. My daughter, Gwen, would have attended Norfolk State if she had not gotten accepted at renown Berklee College of Music. Is the book confessional? No. It’s the first book that goes in depth and with substance and looks at all the dynamics of the weekend. But, it’s done through the eyes and ears of five different sets of friends who get different things out of coming back to their beloved school. So, while all the storylines are figments of my imagination, all the themes, moral dilemmas and resolutions are all very real and authentic. People who did not attended an HBCU will be able to relate and enjoy the story, too, because it’s really about relationships and how we function in them.
What do you hope the reader gains from this book?
The reader who did not attend an HBCU will get a genuine flavor of how much that experience means to those who did, and how homecoming weekend is a sacred event that never diminishes in excitement and fun. Those who did attend an HBCU will reminisce with pride and joy as they read about the various stories that take place over the weekend. A reader wrote me that she smiled the entire time she read the book. I believe that’s what everyone will get out of it: a lot of laughs, some real surprises, relatable situations, a sense of satisfaction and a feeling of time well spent.
Why do you write?
I write because it’s how I live – not make a living. Writing is like breathing to me. I have been writing as a journalist since I was 14. It’s the expression of my voice and mind and imagination. I need to do that to feel free. I really do. As a journalist, I traveled the world covering major sporting events; [it's] my dream job. As a novelist, I am able to go any place my mind desires, and there is so much freedom in that.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
My number one vice is golf. I live across the street from a golf course and find myself over there quite a bit. It’s an escape that works for me in two ways: one, it’s great exercise; two, the serenity of being out there is a great reprieve for the mind.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be doing?
My interests are so vast. I love to cook, so maybe I would go to culinary school and take that to another level. I love making cocktails, so perhaps I’d be a mixologist. Since 2008, I have been an adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College, so maybe I’d center myself more in education. I am deputy editor for www.atlantablackstar.com, and that’s a thrill because it blends old school journalism I grew up on with the new world journalism that I resisted. It’s so hard to pin down because writing is all I ever gave any serious consideration.
The Internet has changed the publishing industry, what is your take on ebooks only for writers who haven’t been able to get a book deal from a major publishing house?
Whether you have a major deal or not, you have to make your book successful and not rely on the publisher. That said, I have resisted the idea of purchasing a Kindle or Nook because I love seeing books in my home and feeling them in my hand. But I get it. I understand you can carry 200 books in a three-pound device. As an author, especially an author who does not want to spend the resources necessary to publish a book, going the ebook route makes perfect sense. In an economical way, you have your work published and read by an audience. In the end, that’s all any writer wants — someone to read his or her work.
Provide 5 tips on discipline and making deadlines.
As a journalist, making deadlines has been my life for 25 years. So, it’s sort of engrained in me. But I will go at it this way:
1.Write down your goals. Studies say you are 10 times more likely to achieve it if you write it down.
2.Write everyday. Walter Mosley told me that. Even if it’s just 300 words, it allows you to stay connected to the story and the characters.
3.Be consumed with your work. By that, I mean, eat, drink and think your book.
4.Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice conversations and scenes – anything can inspire an idea that can give your book more substance.
5.Do not give in to “writer’s block.” I don’t believe in it. When you hit a wall, go back and enhance what you’re already written. Or, write about a scene or character that will come later in the book. Claiming “writer’s block” only slows you down. Keep pushing forward.
Where do you go to write?
I write almost anywhere. I especially write in bed. I do my best work in bed, no pun intended. But, I also have taken to coffee shops and been very productive. Still haven’t done the go-to-a-cabin-in-the-woods thing and write. Not yet. But, that’s coming.
Next fall, I will release The Truth Is In The Wine (Strebor Books/Simon & Schuster), a story about a man who takes his wife, mother and mother-in-law on a long weekend to the Napa Valley wine country and, amid the constant sipping, begin to share secrets they held in for years. We know alcohol is a truth serum, so this book will be one of many revelations that threaten and tests relationships. This will be another page-turner that makes readers invest emotions in each character.