J. Keith Stewart

J. Keith Stewart
Killing Me Softly

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
January 1, 2004

Q. What inspired you to write Killing Me Softly?

A. As in my first two novels, Killing Me Softly delves into the lives of several characters. Each character has his or her array of issues to work through. Each issue was the motivation to write the novel: Domestic Violence, HIV and AIDS, Identification Theft, Child Custody and relationships gone bad. These issues inspired me to write Killing Me Softly.

Q. How did you come about the title?

A. At the inception of the novel, the title was Love Don’t Live Here No More. As I thumbed through a book review in a monthly magazine, I stumbled across an article about a “soon to be released” novel that had the same title. I immediately realized that I could not use the same title. I decided to reexamine the context of my novel and Killing Me Softly became—hands down—the title of the novel. And I’m happy about my final decision. Really, I am!

Q. How did you come about Lyric’s character?

A. I know Lyric! We all know a Lyric! I’ll stop laughing here. Actually, the character Lyric came from a person that stole my identification in the mid 90’s and made my life a living hell. Although most of the story is fiction, the details, many locales, and illegal actions actually took place. The real life Lyric was arrested and served time for his many crime and after his release, he contacted me to apologize for what he had done to me, my credit…to my livelihood. In exchange for my forgiveness, I asked him could I conduct a series of interviews for my novel. He was paraplegic at the time and agreed to the interview. Midway of the novel, he passed away of a heart attack. He had become a friend. May he rest in peace!

Q. Of all the characters, which was your favorite to write about?

A. I’m not certain I have a favorite. I had favorites in my first two novels, but I cannot think of one character that I enjoyed any more than the other. Each of their experiences seemed compelling to me. I simply had a ball writing the novel. If I had to pick a favorite character, I would pick Cat.

Q. How long did it take you to write Killing Me Softly?

A. It seems a lifetime. Actually, it took me a little over two years to write, edit, proof and self-publish the novel. And, and…I’m still working on the edits for the second printing. What a process!

Q. Are you currently working on another novel?

A. I am currently researching my fourth novel. I Can’t Make You Love Me If You Don’t should be released in 2005 and I am flirting with the idea of writing a Christmas novel. We’ll see!

Q. How did you come about the plot surrounding Kimberly?

A. Ms. Pierce, that’s a secret! Actually, I somewhat lived Kimberly’s story. The Kimberly that I know, however did not have to endure some of the horrific experiences that Kimberly Danielle Williams Parker had to endure in the novel. I don’t know where she is today; I can only hope that she has recovered from what took place in her life ten years ago. I certainly hope so.

Q. Which was your favorite novel to write: Episodes, Promise Me or Killing Me Softly?

A. I think Promise Me. I think. Let me see. Episodes was my first and I had a ball writing it but there was not enough depth to the story…in my opinion, now that I look back on it. Maybe I should reread the book. Promise Me is my baby. I was very familiar with the characters and I watched them grow from the first novel to the second novel. I thought and still think that Promise Me was amongst my best writing. Killing Me…is complicated. The story is complex and it stretched me as a writer. I spent and am still spending a lot of time pondering the text. It’s raw! It’s racy, but it is what it is. Ms. Pierce, I don’t know. What is your favorite of the three?

Q. How did you come about the idea with Kathleen revealing Kimberly’s situation to Tatum?

A. It was classic! You know women. Most situations of such occur through happenstance. This was no different. Yeah, gossiping women will always place themselves in positions as such. No pun intended.

Q. What message would you like readers to receive from reading Killing Me Softly?

A. Each of my characters had very complex issues. All of them! My message to each person that has read or will read my book is this: We are charged with being the best human beings we can possibly be. To our spouse, our children, our family, our community and even our employer or employees. Human beings are more alike than unalike and what is typically true anywhere is true everywhere. Live your best life, don’t be quick to judge others and learn to embrace what is not familiar to you or your lifestyle. If we can get that piece of the puzzle to fit in the overall picture, we will see that that is a key ingredient to living is simple and our quality of life will immediately change. This much I know is true. Ms. Pierce, again, I thank you for your time and for the opportunity to interview with Literary World. Blessings and Balance to you!