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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to "Seven Days in June" author Tia Williams about manifesting love, "Romeo and Juliet" what ifs, living with disabilities, the myth of having it all, the underappreciated skill it takes to write about sex sexily and the inappropriate shit we had no business doing as kids.
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Kenrya: Come here, get off.
Kenrya: Hey good people. Before we get started, just a quick content warning, there may be some talk of trauma and self-harm so just be prepared and take care of y'all selves. Here we go.
Kenrya: So today we are talking to Tia Williams, pronouns she and her. Tia has a 15-year career as a beauty editor for magazines including Elle, Glamor, and Essence. In 2004, she pioneered the beauty blog industry with Shake Your Beauty, yes you did. She wrote the bestselling novel, “The Accidental Diva,” and penned two YA novels, “It Chicks” and “Sixteen Candles.” Her award-winning novel “The Perfect Find” will be adapted into a Netflix film starring Gabrielle Union. Tia is currently an editorial director at The Estée Lauder Companies and lives with her daughter and husband in Brooklyn. Hey Tia!
Tia: Hi. I'm so excited to be here.
Kenrya: Yay, we're happy to have you on.
Erica: Thank you for joining us.
Tia: Of course.
Erica: I finished the book last night and it was a lot in a good way.
Kenrya: In the very best way.
Tia: I love to hear that.
Erica: It took me through all of the feels. So thank you, yeah. We're going to talk about your book, but once we hang up I'm going to talk about it with the spoilers, because I've got some questions.
Tia: Oh yeah, right.
Kenrya: Yeah, we try not to spoil too much because we want folks to pick it up.
Erica: Yeah, but a beautiful book.
Tia: Right, right, right.
Erica: Okay, so, what did little Tia want to be when she was growing up?
Tia: A writer, there was no other option ever. Write, just a little reminder. Yeah, I always, I'm one of those sort of rare people who really, really always knew what I wanted to do. There was never any wavering, there was never any, “What should I major in, in college?” it was none of that. I was writing mini novels in my mom's Steno pads when I was seven. With an about the author section, I would write, “Tia Williams, comma, seven, comma, is probably the youngest writer you've ever heard of.” Yeah, I've always known I wanted to do that and when I was in college I went to UVA and I graduated in 1997 and I knew that I wanted to move to New York to do two things, because the other thing that I've been really interested in always is beauty and fashion.
Tia: So I wanted to move to New York to become a fashion magazine editor but at the same time I wanted to be a novelist. And so two weeks after I graduated from UVA I moved to Brooklyn, and this is three months after Biggie died and I'm living on St. James between Fulton and Greene.
Erica: You got stories.
Tia: Where he's from. Yeah, I have some stories and it is a very different neighborhood now, but then I was like, wow, you know coming from the suburbs of Virginia, I was like oh, this is what we're doing, okay. And I was very green. And I started working at YM magazine and then Elle, Glamor, all these fashion magazines and I wrote my first novel two years later. So my whole career I've been a beauty writer and then also a novelist.
Erica: All right [inaudible 00:03:46].
Tia: Per plan because I'm very type A.
Erica: Well that's good, I mean you're showing, you know you ask most young people what they want to be and they're like, I want a garden and also win an Oscar, and be an astronaut.
Erica: So you have like-
Kenrya: That's literally my kid.
Erica: ... combined and showed us that it can happen. What inspires you, who or what inspires you to write?
Tia: Well in terms of the plots and story lines and characters, I'm inspired by my life. Things that happen to me, things that happen to people I know, mostly things that happen to me. All of my protagonists I've taken a hefty percentage of their life from mine. But I think in terms of media and art that inspires me to write, this is very weird but Stephen King has always been a huge inspiration of mine just because of, I'm a huge horror buff and he's one of my favorite novelists and it's just because of the structure of his books. I mean he's like a great American storyteller, they're just no matter, it happens to be in a genre, but his books are like a masterclass on how to grab an audience quick and keep them there and have a little cliff hanger at the end of every chapter. So I learned how to write fiction from reading Stephen King, which is always a thing that people think is odd because-
Kenrya: But he wrote a literal book about writing, “On Writing,” so it makes sense.
Tia: And he wrote a literal book about writing. But you would think because I write in the sort of rom-com genre that I would look up to someone in that space, but it's always been Stephen King.
Kenrya: Good writing is good writing.
Tia: It's true.
Erica: Yeah, and it's, reading your book, I listened to it on audiobook, so I'm going to say listening a lot, but listening to your book you see how it all ties together. Yes, it is rom-com, it's romantic and erotica or whatever, but that ties in so easily with horror and your book, listening to how Eva really thought about how everything works together and lay that out in the book, really shows how it's actually not that far of a jump from romance to scary shit. But most of my romances were scary, to be completely honest.
Tia: Same, yeah. It actually, yeah, is the same genre for most of us.
Kenrya: That is true, Lord have mercy. So, as someone, it's so funny, so you and I never met but I think we have a lot of the same friends.
Kenrya: Yeah, because we've also worked in a lot of the same places.
Kenrya: We'll talk about that after the show.
Kenrya: Yeah, but so, but I also in reading the book and then reading about you, and we'll talk a bit about the parallels between you and your characters, but I feel like you and I have a lot of things in common and one of them, one of the big ones is starting in magazines and then also writing books because this is your sixth book, right?
Tia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: Yeah, even though folks have been calling it your second book, and I'm like, where?
Tia: Where? How, why, when? Six, yes, six.
Kenrya: Yeah. I'm writing my sixth book right now but also worked for magazines and started in magazines, all of that stuff. And so the question I'm always interested in with folks who are, who have careers and are also writing books, is how do you balance your writing with your day job?
Tia: Not well, I have to be completely honest. I mean I feel like this is a circle of trust and I get so annoyed when I hear, you know it's like a model saying, I don't work out really either.
Kenrya: Right, I just drink water.
Tia: I just drink water and grill chicken. I just want to tell the absolute truth. The way I approach it is not the healthiest and I don't really know, I always say, you really can have it all but you'll be struggling through.
Kenrya: I was about to say, not well.
Tia: You know, you're not going to do it well. And until four months ago I was a single mother as well, I have lifelong debilitating migraines, and I have a full-time job and I'm a novelist. So finding time to write is really, it's not going to be in the morning because every morning I wake up in pain and it takes me a couple of hours of cocktailing painkillers to feel normal enough to get up and start my day. So it's not going to be in the morning. Can't be during the day because I'm working, and then I have a 12 year old, so it's after she goes to bed is when I usually will work. And then because my head is so unpredictable I might have a bad migraine day and can't work. So if I ever have a day where I feel sort of okay I feel like I have to write until three in the morning because I'm not sure when it's going to come back. You know, when I'm going to have a good day again.
Tia: So it's really like get in where you fit in and I wish I had something more functional to reveal, but I really don't. The most important thing is the discipline piece of it because there's always something more interesting to be doing than writing.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative), say that.
Tia: There's always something, I mean napping, dusting, talking on the phone, brunching, drinking, smoking, doing whatever. Reading, “Real Housewives of Potomac.” There's always something, so you really have to be hard on yourself and make yourself do it. Whatever schedule you set up, no excuses, you have to do it.
Kenrya: Yeah, okay, that might be something I need to hear.
Erica: You have just like described everything that's going on with the both of us, down to the migraines, not for me but for my lovely co-host.
Kenrya: For me.
Tia: I'm so sorry.
Kenrya: Yeah, it's not great.
Erica: There's so much that we're going to jump into. But let's first talk about sex. So we use erotica here on the show, much like Eva is kind of a jumping off point for conversations about lots of things. But we like to start with the beginning, what were the lessons you learned in your household growing up about sexuality and gender?
Tia: Well I had a very, my family is so funny. My mom was the mom that you went to, that my friends would go to, to talk about things that their own mommy wouldn't talk about. So she was very, very open, very vagina, penis, never baby talk. We knew all about sex very early. My parents had a very thriving sex life and so they would have this loud sex all the time, like we couldn't get away from it.
Kenrya: You was going to get that lesson whether you wanted it or not.
Erica: Good job mom and daddy, I like it.
Tia: Like they, I would have slumber parties and they would do it and my friends would be like, oh my God, what's that noise. And it was, oh, mommy's having a nightmare.
Kenrya: No, mommy's having an orgasm.
Tia: But I was so used to it, it was just, my mom would be topless, they were ’70s kids. They were ’60s, ’70s, hippy-ish kind of vibe. So nothing was really off limits. My father got a vasectomy when we were in elementary school and things were discussed so candidly at my house, my little sister went outside on the playground, my mom heard her through the window outside, our playground was right outside the house, and she was like, "My daddy got his dick cut off this morning."
Kenrya: Oh no.
Tia: And when she came back my mom busted her for saying dick. My dad was like, how about discussing my...
Kenrya: Right, that I was not cast...
Tia: Shit on the playground. Like dick isn't the problem. So, that's the house I grew up in. Sex was very normalized and because it was always so... It never felt like something that was taboo or weird. None of us did it until we were in college because it didn't seem, we weren't, we knew about it, it didn't seem like something, a rebellion or anything like that.
Kenrya: Yeah, like some preachers’ kids.
Erica: Yeah, it wasn't this mystery that we needed to figure out.
Tia: Yeah, no. Yeah, it was a really, really healthy introduction to sex, my family.
Kenrya: Do you think that that impacts the way that you write about sex now?
Tia: I think so, just because I'm really frank about it. I don't think, I mean everybody does it, everybody does it.
Kenrya: It's like pooping and eating.
Tia: It's the same thing. Well, not the same thing, but it just doesn't seem, like I said, it just never seemed taboo to me. And so also my mom was a big romance novel person and so my sisters and I would sneak her romance novels when we were growing up and they would always fall open to the sex scenes because obviously those were the ones that she was reading the most of.
Erica: That was most used.
Tia: Right. And so I just absorbed them and I knew how they were supposed to go. Yeah, so I couldn't wait to grow up and write my own.
Kenrya: That's what's up. Well speaking of writing your own, last week we read an excerpt from “Seven Days in June,” thanks again for that. And the book stars Eva and Shane, two writers who reconnect 15 years after they first fell in love. Where'd the idea for this book come from?
Tia: So I love a second chance romance and honestly I was watching “Romeo and Juliet” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes and I got to the end and as if this was my first time watching Romeo and Juliet or knowing anything about Romeo and Juliet. I was an English major, but for the first time ever I had this thought, “What if they hadn't died?” Like what if these lust-fueled wild-ass teenagers went their separate way, like had this moment together and then went their separate ways and then found each other again as adults. Do soul mates have an expiration date? So, that's kind of where I started with “Seven Days in June.” Does true love expire? And in Eva and Shane's case it did not.
Kenrya: Yeah, that's what's up. I always remember just thinking that they were stupid, Romeo and Juliet as a kid.
Tia: They were. They were. But our frontal lobes aren't developed when we're teenagers.
Kenrya: Right. So of course you do dumb shit.
Tia: They were 15.
Erica: Oh my gosh, I was-
Kenrya: With daggers and poison.
Erica: ... I was just on Instagram or something and there was some gossip page and they were talking about how this kid, the son of a famous person, is dating some young kid, and they're like 19, 20. And it's like, I'll love you forever, and I'm like, you won't even know her fucking middle name in three weeks. Like what are you talking about.
Kenrya: You probably don't know it now.
Tia: Sir, no, but less. Like have a good time.
Erica: Yeah, have fun. Y'all doing the rich kid shit, but don't, let's not quite say that.
Tia: Right. But don't you always think that at that age, and that's what was interesting to me is like, even Shane, they really felt like they had found each other's soulmate when they were teenagers. And so I wanted to see when they met each other as adults, I wanted them to find out whether or not it was real. Was it just like a teenage hallucination, was it just hormones and madness, or was it real? And in some cases I think it is.
Kenrya: Yeah, did you have a teenage soulmate?
Kenrya: Me neither.
Tia: No, no. I mean...
Kenrya: That was so quick.
Tia: Definitely not like any love situations. I certainly thought, I mean you know when you're a teenager you have a boyfriend for the duration of a party.
Tia: Like, I met this boy at this house party, we go together hard, like it was a whole thing, and then we never see each other again, but that was my man. I'm aging myself.
Erica: Not at all.
Tia: But no, I had like some lusty relationships that I thought was love, but I was an idiot.
Tia: I didn't know anything about myself or boys or men or anything that would lend itself to a true love situation I think.
Kenrya: So we learned fairly early in the book, I don't think this is giving anything away, that Eva and Shane are writing about each other in some really key ways. And it made us wonder about who you write about, what characters are based on folks, and I know in some ways that Eva is based on you and can we talk a bit about the folks who have crept in.
Tia: Yeah, I mean, yes, Eva, the skeleton of Eva is definitely me. I mean I got married in December, but before that I was a single mom for a long time, divorced, Creole mom with Louisiana roots, chronic migraines, Black writer in Brooklyn. So we had quite a lot, you know write sex scenes for a living. So yeah, we had a lot in common. Her sort of, her very traumatic past and her relationship with her mom and all of that is totally made up, but Shane was the first male character that truly came from my head. Because I usually with “The Accidental Diva” and “The Perfect Find,” which are my other two adult books, other than that I wrote YA, those were based on relationships I had just had that didn't work out. And so it was me as therapy rewriting it in fiction so that it did work out.
Tia: And you know, it takes its own life once you start writing it, but that, those came from the kernel of truth. The fact that I had a relationship that sort of mirrored that. But this one, Shane really came out of nowhere, he was like a composite of all of the sexy, grouchy, writer boys I've known. And then about halfway through I met my now husband, I swiped on him.
Kenrya: [inaudible 00:20:51].
Erica: So there is hope.
Kenrya: There is.
Tia: Girl. You know I don't want to say that because it sounds like, look, it took me four years. So it's like a happy ending but also, “God, why did it take so long?” It's hard. And it was like appointment dating. I was like, “Okay, I don't have my daughter on Thursday, I'll go on a date every Thursday.” It's a numbers game, keep going. I had to do that.
Kenrya: Oh my God, you and I have the same life.
Kenrya: And I met my partner online too.
Tia: See. Because if you're a single mom, like honestly, how else are you going to meet anybody. And I work in beauty and fashion, there are barely any men-
Erica: So you're not running into any men.
Tia: ... and the men that are... No, and they're gay. So it's, it's so hard. But anyway, what was I saying. Oh, so I met him and he's Danish, like he grew up an hour from Copenhagen and has lived all over the world and has like this restless spirit, speaks all these languages. Went on a surfing excursion in Vietnam and went on a motorcycle trek through Brazil. He just had, and you'll be talking to him and he'll drop these things and it's like, your life sounds made up. And I infused that into Shane a little bit. This whole idea that he's like not even from anywhere, he's a citizen of the world. He doesn't have a home, he just likes to be near water and you can't tie him down. So yeah, I put a lot of my husband into him.
Kenrya: So it tracks really well with Shane's upbringing in terms of him not really ever really feeling like he had a home from seven on, right. To then turn into this person who's like, “I don't need that, I'll make my home wherever I am” kind of a deal. It totally feels super realistic.
Tia: Yeah, I mean when you factor in what his childhood was like, yeah.
Erica: I mean the first chapter of this book I called Kenrya, I don't know if I called her laughing, but I definitely was like, “Kenrya, this is you. Tia has written you down to the snarky child that's giving therapy at school.” I was like, girl, and then she said the migraines, I was like this bitch know who, she was literally all up in Kenrya's business. So I mean it was...
Tia: Oh my God.
Kenrya: Yeah, uncanny.
Erica: It was very...
Erica: What'd you say?
Kenrya: It's uncanny.
Tia: How old is your daughter or son.
Kenrya: She just turned 10, son, I mean daughter. She just turned 10 and she's...
Erica: A lot of person.
Kenrya: Yep. Gemini, she has strong opinions.
Tia: Whoa. Best of luck to you.
Tia: Wow, okay.
Kenrya: Yeah, she's lovely. She's lovely. I didn't know, I didn't know that all of this would start so early.
Erica: So, kind of off topic and I don't want to get too much into it because we have to address it, we're going to address it, we'll have addressed it in the full show. But I like how you wrote Eva and Audre's relationship and how Eva really did see it as an opportunity to get it right and do right by her baby so that her daughter had a better chance at just kind of being a little less, having to deal with less trauma growing up. That was really beautiful, and like I said, it really struck true with... I have a son, he's 12, I have a son, but I'm trying to do that with him, but girl, again, you wrote Kenrya.
Tia: No, it's like a deliberate choice to raise your kids differently. I think you can go one of two ways, you either emulate what you saw growing up and hopefully that was a good thing, or you go all the way left and rebel against what your parents did to you so you can give your kid a fair shot.
Erica: So therapy is the thing we talk about constantly on this show, and so without having some insight into who you are and what makes you tick, it's just really easy to pass on the more negative or less positive parts of that.
Tia: And no shade but you see it so, I'm going to get slammed for this, but you see if so often with men, because they don't address their emotional lives the same way that we do and they're so much less likely to get themselves in therapy.
Kenrya: Yeah, do not tell me [crosstalk 00:25:46].
Tia: And so they repeat what they saw, what their dads did and what their dad's dad did, and then here we are.
Kenrya: You're not wrong. I think that that is-
Erica: And you won't get slammed by anyone listening to this podcast because-
Tia: Okay, good.
Erica: ... you're preaching what we preach.
Kenrya: Yeah, I mean I try never to say “all or always,” but I do think that in general that tends to be true. A lot of cishet men are not necessarily open to delving into their shit because it's hard, it's hard for all of us. And when you've been socialized to think that that is a negative thing, that to feel feelings is a weakness--
Tia: Soft, yep.
Kenrya: Especially as Black men, exactly, then it can be really easy to be swept up in that socialization and to not feel like you want to push up against it, because who wants to be different?
Tia: Yep, it's true.
Kenrya: So then we get repeated patterns and intergenerational trauma.
Erica: So, you talk about invisible disability, I don't know why I did air quotes, but you talk about invisible disabilities in this book and it was notable. It was definitely something different and it was good to see in the sense of like, this is something she's dealing with but it's a part of her, it's not all that she is and this is how she manages it. Why did you opt to tackle this?
Tia: Well, I've had this since I was nine. It's an intractable migraine diagnosis which means that it's incurable and things work for me for a couple of months, maybe a year, and then they stop working and no one can figure it out. I've been everywhere and it's been like the defining issue of my life and it gets in the middle of relationships, it fucks up work, it's a life ruiner if you let it be. I mean chronic pain is no, you have to, if it's bad enough you have to choose to even stay here, kind of a thing, because how worth it is life if your every breath is a nightmare, literally.
Tia: And so because of how serious and un-sexy and un-cute and unfunny it is, I never knew how to write about it within the genre that I write. And it wasn't until I was in my forties that I felt like I was brave enough to try to do that. And so I don't know, I just kind of wanted to see specifically myself reflected in a sexy love story. Like, can this women with this horrible pain and being a single mom and being busy and being too tired or too drugged or too anything to even participate in dating, can she find love and sex and happiness? And she did, and then I did too. It was almost like I wrote it, I manifested it, I certainly was not expecting to meet my husband as I was writing this because there was nothing on the horizon. So, that was a surprise too.
Erica: That's beautiful.
Kenrya: Yes, your manifestation.
Erica: So next book we're writing is about a million-dollar lottery winner and her two million dollar podcast co-host friends that also won the lottery.
Tia: Right. Yeah. I mean who knew, that manifestation stuff works.
Kenrya: It does work.
Tia: I never really thought-
Kenrya: I really and truly believe that.
Tia: ... I mean I had never really believed it, despite the fact that I had a friend, I'm not a super spiritual person and I have a friend who super is and she was like, “Bitch just make this vision board, just do it for ‘The Perfect Find.’” Because I was having trouble finishing it, “I can't do this, fuck it, I'm not going to be a writer, I'll just go to...” I remember seeing commercials for, to learn how to operate x-ray machines and I was like, “I'll do that, I can do that. I'll just get certified and be a x-ray technician.”
Erica: That was literally you throwing some shit at a wall, being like “It'll stick.”
Tia: That's it. I can do that. So she was like, “Let's take a step back.”
Kenrya: I mean is that ripping yourself up to write so why not.
Tia: Right. She was like, okay, do this vision board, and before I'd even finished “The Perfect Find,” there was no cover, there was no nothing, I made the board, I did a physical board and I made it yellow, which is what the cover of “The Perfect Find” ended up being and for some reason I put Gabrielle Union on there. I thought maybe she looked like my character or I honestly don't even know why I put it there. And look at where we are.
Kenrya: Look at where you are.
Erica: Look at that. Look at God!
Tia: I hadn't even finished writing it.
Tia: And I'm not even a believer. So it's going to work for you whether you believe in it or not.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative), I agree. I think manifestation is incredible powerful and I'm really excited for what you manifested. So dope. So, Eva has major anxiety around doing an event with other Black writers who produce more, quote unquote “serious work.” Have you ever been in a situation where you worry that folks wouldn't take your work seriously because it centers women and if so can you tell us about it and why that is bullshit?
Tia: Yeah, I'm in that situation all the time and I actually took that scene, so it came from real life. So Eva's freaking out about being on this panel and she's talking about, the panel is about the lives of Black authors in 2019, which is the year it takes place. And she writes a vampire erotica series and she's on a panel with like the equivalent of Ta-Nehisi Coates and really sort of, people who are thought to be the spokespeople for racial relations in American. They win awards for this, they have big fancy critically acclaimed books and then there she is. And especially when you're on a panel with a lot of men that are in these fields, because they want to mansplain, like they talk in all caps, it can be very male centered, Black male centered to the exclusion of Black women. The Black male struggle. But yeah, I definitely, I've never really been included in a conversation about, let me not say that, because I don't want to sound like I'm pouting or anything.
Kenrya: You don't sound like you're pouting. I think, well anyway, go ahead.
Tia: I just think that because romance and erotica and love stories are beloved by women, they aren't taken as seriously. I mean historically any sort of media that is woman centered is thought to be silly. It's like, the Beatles were a boy band that girls loved and were a joke until guys discovered them. It's like that kind of a thing. Men don't read it so it's not serious, men don't have migraines so we don't have a cure, you know. Men don't have babies so the question of whether or not abortion is a natural right is still a question. So it has never been taken seriously and it is total bullshit and it's because like everything else, the book industry is a patriarchal system. Like we're not going to, you know, a love story will not win the National Book Award.
Tia: And it's nuts because the implication that it's harder or better or more valuable to write literary fiction versus commercial fiction is ridiculous because it's the same conversation in music. Who is a real musician, a person who writes a pop song that appeals to the entire world or someone who writes a song appealing to a very small demo in Red Hook? I feel like Nathaniel Hawthorne said it best when he was like, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” To write something that's so widely appealing, that so many people can grasp and feel good about is really, really difficult, I have to say. That's why comedies don't win Oscars, if it's not serious-
Kenrya: It feels effortless.
Tia: ... Yeah, exactly. Pretty much.
Kenrya: Yeah, which is, I always get caught up on this distinction between literary and commercial. It's all commercial, it's a literal fucking business. You won't get a book deal if they don't think that it's going to make money regardless of what it is that you're writing. So what are we even talking about. Also, those are the books that get the biggest deals, the Ta-Nehisi Coates of the world and what not.
Tia: Exactly. So what are we really talking about here. I know.
Kenrya: Yeah, wow.
Tia: And it's so easy to make, like in the wrong hands a love story is ridiculous.
Tia: In the wrong hands a sex scene is mortifying or comedy.
Erica: Ugh, yeah.
Tia: Or a cringe fest, like try it. It's tough to do correctly.
Erica: However when done correctly, it's so easy. What'd you say?
Tia: Right, right.
Kenrya: Nah, I was going to say, I mean we have a whole show that uses erotica and romance as a jumping off point for having conversations because it is so universal and also it's just so fucking good.
Erica: Yep. And, yeah, the amount of trash, I say the amount of shit we sort through to get good books, it ain't easy. It is not easy.
Tia: I can imagine.
Erica: So, in the scene that we read for the show, Eva and Shane have sex in a semi-public place. Why did you choose to have them have this, such an intimate moment in a public place, well in a semi public place? In a place that's not their personal sphere?
Kenrya: With them also being really public people too.
Tia: Right, why'd I do that? It's risky, right, what'd I do that for? I think, I love the tension of they felt safe being that flirtatious with each other because they were in public. It's like “What, we can't fuck in here?” So there was that, they started going there with each other and she's like, show me your scar, take your shirt off, get all flirty. And it felt like, okay, it can't go further than that, but then sort of their passion and their feeling and their energy took them past that, that boundary and to me that's always really sexy when all signs point to this is ridiculous but then you just can't help it. And that's what was happening there. It's also funny because if you think of it in real life, especially now that we're in COVID times, the idea of fucking in a public space, the idea of going there, touching anything.
Tia: Breathing, that whole situation, I'm just like, oh my God. It can't happen again.
Kenrya: I was going to say [crosstalk 00:39:06]. Yes.
Tia: It's truly fantasy.
Kenrya: We supposed to just trust that y'all really washed these blankets and these pillows? Y'all didn't just push and pull them back out and give them to somebody else? Spray some Febreze on that joint?
Tia: And where is your mask? Like it's just too much, but that was a real thing. I was working in, my last job I was the head of copy at Bumble and Bumble which is a haircare brand and the offices were in Meatpacking, and one of the Dream House popped, because it was a pop up that was, would happen all over the city. And so one of them was right near Meatpacking and so I'd go out and grab my lunch and see people in line for this sleepy house, and it's all purple and shit. Like these crazy lights, what is going on in there, what is really going on in there. And so that's where it came from. I bet people could really be raunchy in there, if you can close the door.
Kenrya: Listen, it is not a thing that I would not have done pre COVID, I ain't going to front, not [inaudible 00:40:13].
Kenrya: I can see myself getting caught up in that space.
Tia: Right. And all the lights and everything. If you google it and look it up, it's really trippy. I don't know, but yeah, so it was like the idea that they couldn't not do it. It didn't matter where they were.
Kenrya: So, as we were talking about a little bit earlier, “Perfect Find” is in development at Netflix which is dope and it's starting filming this month, right?
Tia: Yes, yeah. The director, Numa Perrier, was just in town doing location scouting. Of course this was all supposed to happen before, but it was held up because of the pandemic, so I'm so excited that it's all happening now. It's surreal.
Kenrya: And then, I would imagine, and then to have that on top of the fact that it was just announced that “Seven Days in June” is also being adapted, which is fucking dope. Congratulations!
Tia: Thank you.
Erica: Yes, congratulations.
Tia: It's crazy, thank you. I'm over the moon.
Kenrya: That's what's up. So reading that news of course made us think about the convo that Eva had with the director.
Kenrya: Yes. Why was it important for you to show that aspect of the business?
Tia: So what happened was, she finally, Eva finally got a director that wanted to adapt her movie, I mean her series for film and so Eva writes vampire erotica, and her two main characters, it's a vampire guy and a witch woman. And so the directors point was that they're already other, they're not like real people, it's a vampire and a witch, so why would we make them other, other, and have them be Black on top of that. And Eva's whole point is well because they are, why can't, who decides what race speculative fiction characters are? Like they're not even real, it's fantasy.
Tia: Exactly. And so the director says, "I mean that's like trying to sell a move about a Taiwanese unicorn and an African mermaid." And Eva's like, "I would watch that."
Tia: Let's make that movie. Yeah. And I wanted to kind of comment on that because as Black writers, filmmakers, whatever, we're always put in a very specific category of what we can be and what we can do. J.K. Rowling added a Black kid to Hogwarts because people were mad, but she had never thought of it. We can be magicians and unicorns and aliens and everything, why is white the default? And then she had to make a choice, how badly do I want to get this movie made, am I going to compromise everything I stand for because I feel like every Black writer is doing revolutionary work from their own chair. And Eva's brand of it was writing about a Black vampire and a Black witch, in love, in a total fantasy world. And you don't see that every day and putting us in places where we're not quote unquote allowed to be, is a revolutionary act. And so having to lose that, and whitewash that to make it a movie would've hurt her soul. So it's a big conundrum for her.
Erica: So, what does the process of developing your work for a streamer look like for you as like the author and executive producer? And, what's your dream cast?
Tia: So I don't really know what it's going to entail yet because I don't, I'm not executive producer for “The Perfect Find,” so this will be my first time in this role. For “The Perfect Find” it was very much, “I'm scared of Hollywood, I don't know how to write a script, I don't know, take it, be good to my baby.” So this is my first time doing any of this, so we shall see how it goes. I'm talking to some of my friends who have had their books developed into film or TV and they've been very involved, so I'm hoping to get some mentorship. But in terms of a cast for Shane I'm obsessed with Aldis Hodge, for years everything that I see him in, and he's always a supporting, he steals the scene for me. He just, he's so charismatic and he has that broody intensity and intelligence that I feel like Shane has, that you could also imagine him being a bad boy.
Kenrya: A tortured writer and a bad boy.
Tia: A tortured writer, like all of it. So, I love him. And for Eva I'm seeing like a quirky girl, sort of edgy that you feel might have some darkness in her. Like Zazie Beetz from Atlanta, I love her. What is the name, Teyonah Parris, did you guys watch “Wandavision”?
Tia: I think she's so good. And then for Eva's mom was that I keep coming back to Vanessa Williams because she was a pageant queen and she played evil really well.
Tia: The perfect fit.
Erica: I can see that. I totally can see that.
Tia: And she looks Creole, even though, and she looks Creole.
Kenrya: Yeah, she could pass as Creole for sure. Word, okay. What did you learn from writing this book?
Tia: I learned that I could write about what I didn't know, because it was the first time that I actually had to research something. I've never researched anything before, so both Eva and Shane have very traumatic pasts and I did not, and so I had to talk to a lot of people, I had to represent it correctly, I did not want to get into trauma porn because it's gross and ugly and disrespectful. I didn't know about alcoholism and what it's like to be in recovery and seeing the world, it's like being a newborn suddenly. Seeing the world with brand new eyes and having to adjust to things you never learned to adjust to. So I did a lot of research when it comes to that.
Tia: And then Ty which is the teenage boy that Shane mentors, it's like 10 years, a long time ago, I remember it was the first time I had ever heard the word, I mean the term “school to prison pipeline.” I think it was like a New Yorker article that I read and I was just horrified, and it's one of those things that as Black people we just know intuitively but it was the first time it was laid out for me, like how institutionalized it is and how systemic it is. And so I'd always wanted to touch on that in fiction, and so I did a lot of research on that as well.
Tia: So, I've always been nervous to write about things that I don't comfortably know, because I'd never done it before. But I think I learned that I can step outside of my bubble of stuff and with the next book I'm writing it's all brand new, like it's all researched. So I feel like “Seven Days in June” was the bridge to this next one that I'm going to do.
Kenrya: And it all rang really true.
Erica: I was about to say, it felt very, you did a good job on that.
Tia: You know what, thank you. I was being interviewed the other day and the interviewer was like, as someone who obviously sort of grew up in an impoverished, disenfranchised school system. I'm like, “Wow, I'm from Fairfax.”
Erica: My momma's going to kick my ass if she thinks that, this is how I grew up.
Kenrya: That sounds like a white reporter making an assumption.
Tia: Because, come on, of course it was.
Kenrya: Of course it was.
Tia: None of us would be like, “Okay, I peg you as someone [crosstalk 00:50:03].”
Kenrya: “Tell me about your hood life. Tell me more.”
Erica: “What was it like growing up in the projects of Fairfax?”
Tia: So funny.
Erica: So, do you have a favorite line or passage in this book?
Tia: Yes, when Eva says, "Stop writing about me." And Shane says, "You first."
Kenrya: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I read that in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep and I was like, “Fuck it, let's read,” and I was like, “Oh, okay, yep!”
Tia: I love that and it just shows that they're combative and that they've also secretly been one upping each other this whole time without ever actually communicating. I love it.
Kenrya: And then like, how you reveal the little bits of things. I don't want to say too much because I don't want folks, but like, yeah, you did that.
Erica: It was, yeah, snap, snap, snaps.
Tia: Aww, thanks guys.
Erica: Okay, so, one of the things that I noticed the most, one of the things that stand out about this book is that both Shane and Eva were in very adult situations as young people. So, we're going to lighten this up and we're going to play a little game called “I Ain't Have No Business Doing That.” It's a short game. So, I'm going to throw out a category and you're going to tell me what you had no business doing. For example, as a six year old I had no business singing Karen White “Superwoman,” like my husband said that the juice used to be so sweet but it's now sour.
Tia: Listen, I am not your super woman.
Kenrya: We used to sing that song with our whole souls. All of it.
Erica: So, Tia.
Kenrya: You put breakfast on the table.
Erica: What did you have no business watching?
Tia: I was so inappropriate. I had no business watching “Body and Soul,” which is a deep cut. It is a movie with Jane Kennedy and her husband, and he was a boxer in the movie or something and Jane Kennedy for the millennials in the house was a pageant queen and a model, and she was one of the first sportscasters on TV, Black woman, but there were all sorts of, there was all sorts of sex and nudity in that movie. And we were one of the first houses in the neighborhood to have HBO and so it would come on all the time and I would just be like, staring. And speaking of like early cable, this is like ’81, ’82, if you could get your, like your TV, what do you call this, a TV...
Kenrya: A dial.
Erica: Yeah, yeah, back when you had to turn that joint.
Tia: Yeah, when you had to turn it and you would get it in between two channels you could pick up porn. And it would be like super grainy.
Erica: Static and wavy. But you could see it.
Tia: Yeah, it'd be wavy, it'd be super weird, but you could see some titties. You could see something. You'd have to squint, this is why my eyes are bad today.
Kenrya: I love it. I too used to watch the TV when I wasn't supposed to.
Tia: Yes. And then there was Skinemax, Cinemax after midnight would show soft core porn.
Kenrya: After dark, yep.
Tia: They don't do that anymore.
Erica: Yeah, I was definitely a-
Kenrya: Sure did, then we got “Real Sex.”
Erica: Yeah, I was definitely watching it.
Tia: “Real Sex.” “Real Sex”. Important.
Kenrya: It was great. Groundbreaking cultural touchstone there.
Erica: I too was watching-
Erica: ... Soft porn as a child, okay. I had no business reading...
Tia: There was a book called “Slow Heat in Heaven.” Let me run that back to you, “Slow Heat in Heaven” by Sandra Brown. I have to say again, my mom was a major romance lady and this one was on top of her pile in the bathroom. It was about, I say was like it's past tense, it's right here on my bookshelf, I'm looking at it. It's about a white woman in Louisiana who lives in the big house and there's this po' Cajun family who lives on these, I say po' like with an apostrophe, po'. Because, that's how they're described in the book. Cajuns, and they live like on the property and the mom is the maid and stuff, and she has a son who works in the fields or something. So the girl and the son grow up together and they have all this friction when they're kids because she's rich and fancy and he's just like the po' Cajun that's working. But they grow up, fucks the shit out of her.
Erica: I literally, I googled “Slow Heat in Heaven,” it autocorrect, it auto completed.
Tia: [inaudible 00:56:06] in Heaven.
Tia: And this is why. If you both don't order this book the second this podcast is over.
Kenrya: Ok I'm going to get it.
Tia: Listen, it's some of the best sex scenes ever written. So good.
Erica: Don't worry, I got it up, I already got it up. Don't you, don't you worry. I'm going to get the Kindle, the Kindle edition so it's just right there.
Kenrya: It's like have that shit now.
Erica: Exactly. Okay, last one. I had no business singing...
Tia: “Nasty Girl,” Vanity 6. Seven years old.
Kenrya: Yeah, wholly inappropriate.
Tia: You couldn't tell me I wasn't nasty. I actually had purple lace fingerless gloves and I really did think I was [crosstalk 00:56:58].
Erica: You were a bad bitch, I love it. I was singing nasty girl like literally this weekend.
Tia: I was.
Erica: So, yeah, it's a song for the ages. Okay.
Tia: It truly is, it's a timeless banger. Yes.
Erica: Because we all a little nasty. Okay, so, in the story Eva has lots of tattoos and you showed us your “write” tattoo. How many tattoos do you have in total and what is your favorite one?
Tia: I have one, two, three, four, five, six. I have six tattoos. I don't have a favorite but I have a funniest. So when I got, so obviously I'm a massive Prince fan and when I first got my divorce I went out and I got drunk with my girlfriends and we were walking around [inaudible 00:58:00] and there was a 24-hour tattoo parlor.
Erica: That just sounds like bad decisions.
Tia: And I was like, you know what, I need to... Bad, bad, I regret this. So since 1984 I'd been carrying in every wallet I ever had this Rolling Stone illustration of a purple dove wearing Prince's purple rain jacket with his hair, because Prince, curly hair. It's a dove with hair and a jacket on, okay. I tore it out of a Rolling Stone when I was in third grade. And it was just like my good luck thing and I was like, you know what, I think I need to commit, this has to be on my body. New woman, new life, new tattoo. So I take it to the place, the guy's like, it's too small, you won't get any of the detail, we need to blow it up. I was like, great. So it's like this big, it's on my hip, it is indeed a dove with a hairstyle and a jacket. My sister looked at it and she was like, that looks like Thomas Jefferson but a chicken. She was like that looks like, so my sister called it my colonial chicken. So I have a colonial chicken on my hip. And that's why you shouldn't get a tattoo after you've been drinking.
Erica: That's a complete set up.
Kenrya: [inaudible 00:59:26] enjoy your shit.
Erica: Like who needs a tattoo at 3:00 a.m.? Why are y'all open 24/7?
Erica: That ain't right.
Tia: Exactly. It's a racket, it's a racket, it's a racket.
Kenrya: And then she picked like the worst founding father, she could at least, I don't know, [crosstalk 00:59:43] terrible but he's a shit.
Tia: I went to UVA, I know.
Erica: Ugh, yeah.
Kenrya: What are you reading right now?
Tia: Right now I am reading “The Other Black Girl.”
Kenrya: I am too! I always read three books at a time, but that's one of the ones I'm reading.
Tia: And it's funny because we had the same pub date on June 1st and we were on a panel recently and we're both like halfway through each other's books because your pub week is so insane you don't have time to, but I am just loving it. And the other thing is, bookstores are merchandising our books together because they're both blue, they look like they're dating. They look really good together.
Kenrya: That's what's up.
Tia: I'm really enjoying it, it is such a, it's so original.
Kenrya: It is, and it also, as someone who works in publishing...
Tia: On the nose.
Kenrya: Yep, little triggering.
Tia: Oh gosh, yeah.
Kenrya: Yeah, but really, really good.
Erica: So what's turning you on today?
Tia: Today, today? Like in this moment?
Erica: Or in these days? Yes, whatever comes to mind, what's turning you on?
Tia: Can it be a fragrance, a perfume?
Erica: It can be whatever's turning you, whatever. Put us onto some new shit.
Tia: Okay, because I've, I put on this perfume to go to bed, I'm obsessed with it. It's Tom Ford Soleil Neige, N-E-I-G-E, which means sun snow. So it's supposed to like emulate the way, like if you're on a snowy mountain and the sun reflects off of the snow, that incandescence. It smells so good. I have it on right now for you guys and you're not here. I mean, I wish there was a candle, and there's also a shimmering body oil, so I put that on sometimes and it's just, I don't really have enough time to do, that's a cop out, like to do self care.
Kenrya: It's hard.
Tia: I really haven't been able to find the time. It's hard to find the time. But just that one sort of indulgence does it for me. It's so good. So yeah, that is turning me on. And my husband over here as well.
Kenrya: He's probably like, “What about me?”
Tia: He's so cute, oh my God.
Kenrya: Oh, yay, I'm so happy you found someone.
Tia: Thank God, I was tired of looking.
Kenrya: It's exhausting.
Erica: Now you both can turn your attention to me and put some energy into...
Tia: Keep swiping, you have to just keep those appointments.
Kenrya: Yeah, it really does. Like you said, it's a numbers game and we talk a lot about being super intentional with it. Like I had a very specific things that I was looking for and I didn't waste time.
Kenrya: As soon as I saw a red flag I moved the fuck on.
Tia: Get off the app as soon as you can. Like some of these guys want you to be pen pals forever because they have 15 other girls they're talking to. They're weighing their options, whatever. If a guy doesn't want to get off the app and meet you ASAP, it’s not him.
Kenrya: Got to keep them moving. Yeah.
Tia: It's not him.
Kenrya: Good advice. Y'all pay attention. And if you want to follow Tia to find more advice, find out more about her books, what she's got going on, find out about the projects that are in development for TV and Netflix, girl, y'all can find her at TiaWilliams.net, and on Twitter you are @TiaW_Writes, and on Instagram you're @TiaWilliamsWrites. That it?
Kenrya: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on today.
Tia: Thank you, it was my pleasure.
Erica: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Tia: You girls are fantastic. I wish we all lived in the same place so we could have coffee.
Erica: Next time you're down here holla at us.
Tia: Yes, I would love that.
Kenrya: Well thank you for coming on and thank all of you for joining us this week and we'll see y'all next week, take care.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us, Kenrya and Erica, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. Hit subscribe right now on your favorite podcast app and at YouTube.com/TheTurnOnPodcast so you'll never miss an episode.
Erica: Then follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast. And you can find links to books, transcripts, guest info, what's turning us on, and other fun stuff at the turn on podcast.com.
Kenrya: And don't forget to email us at TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com with your book recommendations and your pressing sex and related questions.
Erica: And you can support the show by leaving us a five-star review, buying some merch, or becoming a patron of the show. Just head to TheTurnOnPodcast.com to make that happen.
Kenrya: Thanks for listening and we'll see you soon. Holla.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.