Tracy Price-Thompson

Tracy Price-Thompson
Black Coffee

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
September 6, 2002

1. Who is Tracy Price-Thompson?

Wow, what a powerful question. Who is Tracy Price-Thompson? Well, she's the daughter of Frances and Eddie, the wife of Gregory, the mother of his children, and the sister of Michelle. She is also a writer who strives to create characters who are not only versatile and three-dimensional, but entertaining and memorable as well.

2. What inspired you to write the novel "Black Coffee"?

The inspiration for writing Black Coffee came as a result of African-Americans in the Armed Forces being passed over in commercial fiction. There was no one out there penning stories of those men and women of color who serve selflessly so that others may sleep well at night. I wanted to pay homage to my boot-wearing sisters and brothers by bring their voice into commercial African-American fiction.

3. How did you come about the plot for the novel "Black Coffee"?

The plot for Black Coffee is actually a potpourri of stories and adventures that were experienced by many of the women and men I had the pleasure of serving with during my military career. My main characters are composites of soldiers I encountered on and off duty, and their traits take into account the diversity of our nation's troops. It was important to me that the plot in Black Coffee not come from a bang-bang, shoot, move, and communicate from the foxhole perspective. I wanted to depict situations that were interpersonal and that illuminated some of the challenges and triumphs of minorities in the military, especially in terms of their love relationships.

4. How did you come about the title "Black Coffee"?

The title BLACK COFFEE is symbolic of my main character, Sanderella Coffee. It is meant to denote everything Black women are famous for: strength of character, resiliency, potency, and an alert and on the ready attitude towards life.

5. How did you come about Sanderella Coffee's character?

Sandie is a mixture of about 5-6 different soldiers who've blessed and enriched my life with their friendships. I took a little bit of this one, and a little bit of that one, and rolled all of these traits and experiences together to produce one large-and-in-charge sistah soldier who had it going on in every area--except with men.

6. How did you come about Romulus Caesar's character?

I think Rom's character was developed mainly by listening to women and observing what it is most of us think we want and need in a man. I attempted to create a positive and loving brother who was truly a Black prince, although he was flawed and had issues just like the rest of us. I wanted the reader to walk away from Romulus with a sense that okay, yeah, the brother had baggage, but he also had a heart and he loved him some Sandie.

7. Why did you choose the Army as the branch of service for Sandie and Romulus?

I choose the Army as my backdrop because it is the largest and most ethnically diverse branch of service, and also because I am a retired soldier and have inside knowledge of the intricacies of this type of bureaucracy.

8. Why did you choose to let Sandie be the backbone when it came to taking care of her daddy and her sister Ladelle?

Sandie epitomized the strength of this family. She was their precious commodity, both in terms of their particular family dynamics and because she was far away, but still very much connected to each of her family members. The strength they portrayed as a family lay in their love for her, and her love for them as well, and also in the willingness of each member to get down to the wire and go to the wall for the others. With her mother ill, her brother dead, and her sister Bunchie handling things on the homefront, Sandie had no choice except to step up to the plate and care for her father and sister. I intended to portray these as labors of love, something she did readily and from her heart.

9. Are there any of your personalities in Sandie?

No doubt. In an effort to write about some things that were familiar to me, I wrote Sandie as a sister from Brooklyn, and of course, I am a native Brooklynite. I made her an engineer in the Army, and I retired from the Army as an engineer officer. In the face of her storms and turmoil, I gave her a family who would be resilient and supportive enough to help her withstand her life situations, and fortunately, I was blessed with a similar type of family. The rest of Sandie and her experiences are much larger than Tracy (or any other mere mortal) could ever be. My life simply hasn't been that colorful or that interesting!

10. Are you currently working on another novel?

My next novel is CHOCOLATE SANGRIA and it is due to be released from Random House imprint Villard in hardcover in February 2003. Under the umbrella of TnT Explosions and along with my business partner TaRessa Stovall, I have also co-created and co-edited an anthology of contemporary African-American fiction called Proverbs For The People, scheduled to be released from Kensington Pub in June 2003. TnT Explosions has several other projects that will be revealed by early next year.

11. Will there be a sequel to "Black Coffee"?

I don't think there will be a sequel in the true sense of the word, however, my military novel called Sistah Soldiers will focus strongly on Sandie's bestfriend, Sparkle, and Sandie and Rom will each have minor roles in this tale of four very different, yet very connected Black women in the military.

12. Why type of atmosphere do you require to write?

This is almost laughable. When my writer buddies visit my home they are always shocked to see the conditions I write under. I have a large family and a fairly large house, but I do not have an office. I write in what I like to describe as an "alley" (remember, I'm from Brooklyn). This is a small, breezeway like area between my dining room and my living room where my desk and office equipment are compacted into a moderate-sized area. Therefore, I can monitor some of my children at the dining room table as they do their homework, and referee others in the living room as they fight over the television. As such, there is seldom any peace involved in my writing process, unless of course, I stay up very late and write throughout the night, which is something I often find myself doing. However, I am fortunate enough to be able to create characters despite external distractions.

13. How long did it take you to write "Black Coffee"?

I have to chuckle here. How long to write it, or how long to get it into a publishable condition? Like most beginning writers, I failed to study the art of writing prior to attempting this work, and as a result I was forced to go back and learn the craft and then approach my manuscript with a completely different demeanor. I ended up shaving about 300 pages from the original manuscript (you can read some of that writing in my upcoming short story collection entitled, Upwardly Mobile Ghetto Funk) and then completely rewriting and restructuring the remaining 350 pages. What could have taken a year ended up taking close to two years, but it taught me to respect this profession as an art and to approach it from an educated and skilled perspective.

14. What message would you like reader to receive from reading "Black Coffee"?

The overwhelming message in Black Coffee is one of forgiveness. Forgiveness of one's self, and of others who we feel have wronged us. The relationship between the main characters in the novel was doomed until Romulus learned to forgive himself for not being the perfect father, and Sandie learned to forgive herself for having valid needs and to forgive her man for being human. I have heard a few people say that if their man ever called them outside of their names they would pack and leave in a heartbeat. It is this type of inflexible, Huxtable-wanna-be sister or brother who contributes to the astronomical rate of single-parent headed households in our communities. Of course, somethings should not be forgiven. Abuse of any kind is intolerable. Yet, we should not expect our mates or our relationships to be that perfect portrayal of Bill and Claire we see on TV. What we should do is expect sunshine and make good use of rain. A more subtle message in the novel is one of second chances, and the fact that as humans we are sometimes given the gift of a second opportunity to do things differently, oftentimes to do them better, and this is a gift we should each seize and utilize in our quests for love and happiness.