Fantastic interview with renowned actress/author Karyn Parsons
28th Jan, 2022
I had the pleasure of interviewing actress/author Karyn Parsons, best known for her role as Hilary Banks on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1990 to 1996. Parsons also starred in the 1995 film Major Payne opposite Damon Wayans. Enjoy this very insightful and honest interview:
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
After Fresh Prince had ended, a friend encouraged me to study writing with an incredible teacher and author named Jim Krusoe. It was during that time that I realized it was something I wanted to spend my time doing.
- How long does it take you to write a book?
I’m sure it varies. How High the Moon was probably about 3 years from start to finish. That’s with all the ticky-tack copyediting and everything. I know some folks that can churn them out in a year. A friend of mine got a good first draft out in a month. The book I’ve been working on now has changed a lot along the way and I think it’ll exceed the three years of HHTM. And these are novels, mind you. The hardcover picture books are a whole other animal.
- What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
When I was doing HHTM, I’d drop my son off at school and go straight to my workspace. I’d stay there until he was out of school. Not always writing – sometimes eating or tending to business phone calls – but declaring it my writing time. I got a lot done. No interruptions. Few distractions. Since COVID, I’ve been working from home and that’s SO much more distracting. I haven’t found a regular schedule that works for me. Something always seems to be pulling me away from my planned time.
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Oh, I don’t know if I have a quirk, or if I’d recognize one as such. I find comfort in holding on to crystals throughout my time writing, but that probably wouldn’t qualify as a quirk, would it?
- How do books get published?
I’m lucky enough to have an agent and he approached publishers about my work. The ones that were interested leaned in.
- Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Everywhere. All around. I don’t think anything is too outrageous or too mundane. It’s in how you tell the story. Going in there and being truthful.
- When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was a big girl. I’d written short stories and the scripts for the Sweet Blackberry children’s short film (some of which have since become books), but my first novel was published in 2019.
- What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to spend leisure time with family. We’re big film people. I love watching movies with them or binging on good tv with them. And I love sharing meals with friends.
- What does your family think of your writing?
About the actual content? Not sure. They support me. They’re there for me to bounce things off of and to cheer me on.
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I think I’m currently grappling with the lesson of putting a strong idea aside when it’s not working as opposed to twisting and turning it about too much to meet other people’s criteria. Too much of that in anything can be lethal, I guess.
- How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I’ve PUBLISHED three. I am completing one right now that should be published later this year.
- Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Be truthful. Be specific. Read a lot. Write every day. Play in life and on the page. Really engage in life, with people and your experiences and surroundings. Be porous. Let that life fill you up. It’ll show up on the page.
- Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Mostly kind words and words of encouragement. I appreciate that. I need that. I can take care of the critical part myself.
- Do you like to create books for adults or only for children. How do you come up with the best topics for children’s books?
I started off writing short story fiction aimed at an adult audience. I think it’s where I’m most comfortable. I just write more for myself and don’t have to think of or consider my reader as I go.
The Sweet Blackberry series aims to bring little-known stories of Black achievement to kids. So, there I seek out stories of real people we seldom, if ever, hear about.
As for the novels, I don’t have a formula for choosing. Something sparks my interest and… well, I try to go with it.
- What do you think makes a good story?
I’m no expert. I like to get hooked. Some kind of problem or mystery that has me longing for the resolve. I love complex characters with plenty of faults. And I love a good payoff.
- As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Be an actress.
- How can people get in touch with you and where can your books be found?
They can visit my website, karyn-parsons.com to see what I’m up to. Or, sweetblackberry.org to see what we’re doing there and to purchase our books, films, and other items. And they can write me at email@example.com.