I was so excited to hear that Lori Tharps, author of Hair Story and Kinky Gazpacho, had a novel, Substitute Me, and we featured her during one of our #blacklitchat discussions. The novel is a page turner that deals with motherhood and caregiving head on, turning some of our ideas about mothers and mothering on their heads.
What I didn’t know was just how creative Lori Tharps had to be to carve our writing time. (Read what she did below – could you do that? Sacrifice to create a few weeks of writing time?)
Tell us about your family.
I am married to a Spaniard, which makes us a very interesting biracial, bicultural and bilingual family. We have two sons, ages 7 & 10 and a brand new baby girl. She’s 9 months old.
What is the most creative thing you’ve done to create writing time?
Took a waitressing job to cobble together enough money for the whole family to go to Spain for six weeks. Spent the entire six weeks, mooching off my in-laws so I could have built in babysitters, entertainment, food and lodging, while I cranked out my first novel, Substitute Me. It was awesome.
How has being a parent informed your writing?
My first novel, Substitute Me, is actually inspired by my own experiences as a first-time mom trying to figure out how to arrange my life so I could work and be a great mommy. The character in my novel figures it out but I never did. I quit my 9-to-5 so I could stay home with my kids. I never gave up writing though. Trying to be a full-time mom and a writer simply meant I had to learn how to write during nap time and bed time and school time. I think my children have made me a very efficient writer.
Do you write specifically for your children? In other words do/did you write stories, poems for them?
Yes and no. Actually, I’d say no and yes. All of my writing definitely has an adult audience in mind, however, the subject matter that I usually write about — race, identity, culture and Black people’s hair — is inspired by my desire to make this world a more welcoming place for my children. I figure if people read my work and it makes them think twice about racism or identity politics, for example, then I’ve done something for my children.
And in a completely non-serious way, I used to make up bedtime stories for my boys every night. They thought I was hilarious. Now that they’re older, not so much.
What stories or books about mothers ( or featuring mothers) are amo
This is going to sound crazy, but I love this one picture book about the Easter bunny. The book tells the story of a young girl bunny who wants to be chosen to be an Easter bunny when she grows up, but instead, she ends up having 21 children. And somehow, she doesn’t have a husband bunny. So essentially she’s a single mom who raises 21 kids who are all super well-behaved and help around the house. Long story short, she’s chosen after all to be the next Easter bunny because the big bunny in charge recognizes how much talent, speed, leadership capabilities, and all around good qualities she must have to raise such great bunny kids. I think it’s the ultimate ‘mom’s rule’ message. And the pictures are lovely too.
What are you looking forward to this year as a mother and as a writer?
My baby girl was an unexpected blessing and I am in awe. I am trying to enjoy every moment of her babyhood as I didn’t think I’d have this experience again. I am also enjoying how her older brothers are just now beginning to think of her as a real person and are working at including her into their daily lives. I spent a nice moment the other day watching my rough and tumble seven-year-old playing peek-a-boo with his baby sister and I couldn’t stop smiling.
As far as writing, I’m so excited to get started on my next book, which will be another work of non-fiction. I’m not ready to go public with the subject matter yet, but I’ll be working on it all summer and I can’t wait.