Maxine Thompson

Maxine Thompson
A Place Called Home

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
September 7, 2003

Q. Who is Maxine E. Thompson?

A. I am a work in progress. My new life is a second career for me. I spent the first part of my life as a wife, mother, and social worker. Now I'm a grandmother, and I feel more creative than when I was a young woman. Being an author, an Internet radio host, a freelance writer, a columnist, an e-book publisher, a literary service provider and a literary agent have given me a new lease on life ( I am teaching myself new things, including how to write a screen play and how to make an independent film. I have recently applied for my 501 C nonprofit status to begin Maxine Thompson's Literary and Education Services, with the end in mind, of training editors, writers, and young people to work in the publishing industry. Now, I understand what the delays in my writing career was that is, my life is part of a larger plan than the one I saw for myself.

Q. What inspired you to write A PLACE CALLED HOME?

A. I wrote these short stories while I worked 60-70 hours a week as a social worker. At the time, what I thought was a curse, was a blessing. I had a chance to work with people from many different walks of life, who gave me insights into the human heart.

Q. How did you come about the title, A Place Called Home?

A. I have to give credit where it is due. An agent, Sara Camilli, suggested the title during the time she represented me in 1998.

Q. How did you come up with so many stories centered around characters with different backgrounds searching for a sense of security or as you put it, a place they can call home?

A. These stories were inspired from life experiences between 1988 and 1999. Valley of the Shadow, which was a runner up in Ebony's first contest in 1989, was inspired when a friend had open heart surgery. While waiting for her to come out of surgery, I watched a black family and a white family waiting in the waiting room. I came up with the premise, "What if 2 sisters, one dark-skinned and one light-skinned, were raised in the same family, with a different agenda for each sister, based on her skin color? What happens when the mother died? Would the darker sister rebel?"

"Somebody in Your Corner," the story about the homeless man, was inspired by seeing a group of homeless men at the Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles when I returned from a trip. Later, on a rainy day, I heard a mother holler at her child at a bus stop. "What did you say to that man? You don't know him. You a child, and you better stay in a child's place." Another time, in this same area, I overheard 3 street corner philosophers, as I call them, at the coffee house around from my house, conversating.. "You're not always going to find someone to be in your corner." Thus, this story was born.

So as you see the genesis of different stories can come from a mixture of real life, imagination, and different lines I overhear. Writers are notorious eavesdroppers. I'm also a mimic and have an ear for good dialogue.

Q. How long did it take to write A PLACE CALLED HOME?

A. A PLACE CALLED HOME was written over a period of 11 years, but pulled together in several months when I decided to publish them as a collection of short stories.

Q. How many books have you written?

A. I have written, The Ebony Tree, No Pockets in a Shroud, A Place Called Home, an ebook, How to Write, Market, and Sell Your Book Via Ebook Publishing, and The Hush-Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction that Sell. I have just completed my sixth book, a novel..

Q. What genres do you write?

A. I write fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. I call poetry the shorthand form of art, which escaped out of me when my children were babies. I didn't have time to string together many cohesive thoughts while I was in LaLa land with my babies :), but I learned to work with visual images and write around them. Poems capture life like a snapshot in as few words as possible.

In terms of fiction, I have worked on other writers' medical thrillers, psychological thrillers, mysteries, romance, historical and mainstream manuscripts. All of this has been serendipity, and I have to give the credit to God, that I was blessed with the ability to work in different genres. This also comes from being an avid reader.

Q. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

A. I like silence when I'm creating. I cut off the phone. I like to burn incense and listen to meditation tapes. I like live flowers in my home and I use a little feng-shieu in my writing area. I also like to think of Zen Buddhism and just write and see where the writing takes me.

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. Since the age of eight, I wrote stories that my friends performed as plays.

Q. Are you currently working on another novel?

A. I am currently doing a revision of my sixth book, a novel. I have worked with over 100 writers in the past four years, which has slowed up this novel, but I learned a lot about the techniques of writing through editing other writers' novels/memoirs, so I think this will be my best work.

Q. Of all the stories in A PLACE CALLED HOME, which is your favorite?

A. "The Little Black Bird", written and first published in Obsidian North Carolina Quarterly, in 1990, is my favorite, since it represents all the talent in Black children, which can soar when there is a teacher who encourages it. The main character, Ruebonnay, is a 12 year old girl in Watts in 1990, whose mother is hooked on crack. She wants to win a spelling bee and has no one in the audience to encourage her, while her nemesis, Ashley, has her mother mouthing out the words for her. I cry each time I read the ending of the story. This might seem like a cliche now, but at that time, crack was a new drug, impacting the Black community.

Q. What message would you like readers to receive from reading A PLACE CALLED HOME?

A. I like readers to come back and read the same stories years later and take away different meanings as they age. Even in my darkest stories, I hope they find something positive about life.