Published March 16, 2020

Enjoy this Q&A with Curdella Forbes. Author of A Tall History of Sugar. She is a Jamaican writer who lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, and teaches at Howard University.

Festival: What books have you read recently that have made an impact on you?

Curdella: Kei Miller’s Augustown, a couple of weeks ago.

If you could make everyone in the world read one book, which would it be?

That’s an impossible question. There are so many incredible books. But when I imagined myself being put ashore on a desert island and given ten seconds to choose from a pile something that would keep me company until rescued, I put out my hand and grabbed The Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. Then, because I had five seconds left, I grabbed Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. I’ll probably regret the hundred and one others I didn’t choose, once the pirate boat pushes off and leaves me on that terrible island. But then it will be too late.

Do you have a routine you follow when you start writing a book?

I start before dawn, and I write every day, even when what comes out is so bad that I want to crawl under a table. Also, I stop after two hours, even when I’m on a roll, because after two hours my creative equipment goes AWOL and has to be coaxed back with a lot of refueling.

What was your favorite part about writing your latest book?

The part where Arienne (the narrator) says “I, Arriene, interrupting.” The part where she cusses out the computer for deciding her (Jamaican Creole) grammar was so bad it was beyond correction. Anywhere else where she interrupts the story she’s telling, just to make one more outrageous comment that shocks the reader (into some sort of truth).

Where do you prefer to do your writing?

In a very small room. One that feels like I’m in a cupboard and the world has disappeared.

What are you working on next?

Um, um. Sorry, I’m superstitious.

What advice would you give to beginning writers?

Hang in there. Write if it kills you, and only if it kills you. Decide that for yourself; don’t let anybody decide it for you.

Curdella Forbes was scheduled to take part in the 2020 Virginia Festival of the Book. You can learn more about her work by clicking here, and you can order her books from a local bookseller by clicking here

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