Q&A: Teri Woods (Library Journal)

Teri WoodsBy Vanessa Morris — Library Journal, 7/15/2009 (posted with permission from LJ)

In 1992 Teri Woods, then a Philadelphia legal secretary and mother, finished her first novel and spent the next six years submitting True to the Game to more than 20 publishers. Undeterred by their rejections, she self-published the novel in 1998 and sold thousands of copies out of the trunk of her car. The rest is literary history. Now a major pioneer of street fiction comes of age this August with her hardcover debut, Alibi (reviewed online in BookSmack!’s The Word on Street Lit No. 13, a gritty tale of a robbery gone wrong.

Who do you feel you are writing for? Who is your audience?

I seek people who get me, who get the characters, who get the lifestyle, and are cognizant about my subject matter. I don’t do color, I don’t do age, I don’t do gender. My readers are little girls 12 years old, grandmothers sixtysomething, just as many men as women, white and black. I just don’t know who my audience is anymore. I guess I just try to write for everybody nowadays.

What do you say to librarians and teachers who are concerned about teen readership of street fiction? And what do you think is the genre’s literary value?

I would ask these librarians and teachers not to be concerned with the outer layer like books, television, rap videos, the Internet, and movies. If teens have no foundation, no structure, no understanding of life and how to live, and no one has taught them the basics like integrity, honor, and self-worth, then what difference does it make if they read these books? Help one child find self-worth, then these things are nothing more than entertainment.

I do think that the urban fiction movement has given a voice to the struggle of inner-city black folks. To come from everything that’s broken—broken homes, broken families, broken neighborhoods—and to feel that no one cares and, even worse, to be born into a systematic structure that’s not built on the principles of even allowing a people to stand a chance, then it’s valuable. At least it’s valuable to me.

Are you excited about making your hardcover debut with Alibi?

This is a big step in my career, and I’m excited that my fans have embraced me so much that we’re ready for this level. And it’s my hope that my readership will continue to grow in this new format.

You are also bringing your novels to the audiobook market.

Alibi will be available as an audiobook. Also, I’m working on a new joint venture with Grand Central Publishing to produce the True and Dutch series. But, most importantly, my company, Teri Woods Publishing, is working on a deal to produce audiobooks based on a concept that I created. Hopefully, this concept will be more appealing to the urban audience and jumpstart a new market.

In Alibi, you revisit North Philadelphia, which was also the setting for True to the Game. What inspired you to return to the City of Brotherly Love?

Well, I’m from Philadelpha, with a lot of ties to the city. Former Mayor John Street named Broad Street at Susquehanna Avenue, Georgie Woods Boulevard after my uncle Georgie [a legendary Philadelphia radio personality], and I still have my family there. So between New York and Philadelphia, you can pretty much bet that’s my favorite base for a story.

You are considered one of the pioneering founders of this genre? What do you feel has been your lasting contribution to street fiction?

I hope I have inspired others to follow my innovative blueprint: write a book, sell it independently, and make a lot of money.

Source: Library Journal

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