You learn something new every day they say and in the 45-minute conversation I had with author, Taree Douglass-Templeton, I learned quite a bit. From his early start in creating stories from grade school to exchanged hush-kept stories of Black history, race in the publishing industry, Tarree spoke a word.
As he prepares to drop his latest novel, “Black Royale” June 2018, Tarree gets candid on his journey as a published author and living his life more and worrying less.
You started writing at 7-years-old. What types were you creating at such a young age?
The short story things. Anything that popped into my mind, anything that just resonated with me around me. I was really into nature and stuff when I was a kid and coming from Maryland a lot of forestry and things like that inspired it.
What was the moment or the epiphany when you knew you wanted to be an author?
I think the moment came when I looked at my closet—this is kind of funny—I looked at my closet and you just spoke of you writing anything down when they came to your mind. You never wanted to miss a moment of what you were thinking. And I had all these books and composition books and I said, you’ve gotta do something, you got like 10 books. What are you gonna do?
So I started looking online and I said, you know what this thing called self-publishing lets see what’s going on with this. So I started looking into it. Then it just took off from there; I just fell in love with it. It just became a love affair that now I just don’t want to let go for some reason. I just really love it.
When you’re coming up with ideas for your books, do you already have a narrative in mind or do you have moments when you don’t know what to write?
Three novels in I haven’t had that yet. I haven’t had writer’s block. I haven’t had that hurdle yet. I think it’s only because I leave my mind open. I don’t have specific topics I write about the way that they come to me. They just come to my brain. I’m like, oh you know that seems like a great topic I should write about this. It will be one thing and then my next novel will jump back to something else. In everything that you do, I think that you should leave the door and that way your mind never stops.
Since your journey as a published author, what is the difference between indie publishing, self-publishing, and traditional publishing?
Well traditional I would say that’s a high mark that everybody’s trying to aspire for that big meaty contract with the big publishing house, your name in lights everywhere. But I feel like with the new day and age with the internet everything is so open now. I feel like that’s not the only road that authors or artists have to go for now.
I feel like with indie it’s more of a smaller publishing company that’s more like a subsidiary of Random House or Penguin Publishing. When you’re self-publishing, you’re doing everything on your own—you’re responsible—you’re calling the shots. There’s nobody pulling your strings. There’s nobody saying you have to do this at this time or you have to have this book at a deadline. It’s a little more under your control and your thumb. I feel like with self-publishing, even though it is a little hard, I will admit it for a media-wise: you have to learn to navigate versus whereas when you deal with the publisher it’s done for you. It has its pro and cons but for a person like me, it fits into my lifestyle.
So you always knew from the jump that self-publishing was the best fit for you?
Well, I always knew that I wanted to go self or indie because bigger publishing houses, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve seen a lot of great talent out here; and unfortunately, they fade away because of all the pressures. And with self and indie it’s a little less pressure, or like I said, you’re a little more in control with what’s thrown out there with you. You’re not just thrown out in water. You kind of get to take your time and walk your way through and work with a ton of great people along the way and build your team instead of just being given one.
The Northcotts series were your first published books. I want to ask how was the journey leading up to the Northcotts? How did that happen because I know that you like to incorporate your hometown in your writing? So what was the inspiration behind “The Northcotts Season 1 and 2”?
That whole series came from a lot of self-experience, a lot of reflecting on situations that you have come across and things in life. Things that you’ve read in the papers here. Stories you’ve heard, stories from families. So I took all of these things and I incorporated them and I built this family that was running their own company and handling things but also having their own family issues behind the curtain. I said you know what, this is a story that I want to tell. So, that was how it started and that’s how I found my way into self-publishing.
Who are the Northcotts?
A family of mixed backgrounds of origin.
The father, Roland Northcott, he is a street guy who’s coming from the streets. His parents built this little mom and pop shop and they were from Washington, D.C., and they came from nothing. So they built it up and the biggest seller was their cosmetic line that his mother was tending to. So, when he gets this idea in his mind he takes the cosmetic company global. He meets his wife, Velvet, (she’s a former Miss Maryland), and that is kind of reflected off some personal family who were into those beauty pageant days. It is just a story that resonated with the area that really doesn’t get talked about, except for politics and political things.
Now with the cosmetics industry being their primary business in the book, was that just like a random thing that you decided it to be or is it symbolic?
No, I thought about it. We’re a culture that it is beautiful and multifaceted. We have so many shades, dimensions, and so many accents and dialects. I said, what can you come up with as base, a company for these people to own that will reflect that. Then, I thought about it. I said makeup is like that. Makeup and the beauty industry is like that. It goes across many genres, so many ages and so many facets that it just kinds of resonates with a lot of people.
You’re currently promoting your next project, “Black Royale”, a Black period piece. Tell me about this book that you’re working on because I love Caribbean culture.
It came one day when I was reading on the internet one of those 10 top lists of facts about so and so. I was reading a list on Listverse and it was 10 top royal scandals.
So I see one that one says “10 top royal scandals”. This is something I want to read. So read it and I came across a story. Well, a little mini article about a queen from England back in like the 1700s/1800s. I can’t really remember, but her name was Queen Sophia Charlotte. She was a Black woman of African descent. She was mixed with white of course; she was of lighter skin, but she was still of African features. And I’m like why I haven’t I heard of this. I was confused. And I’m like Listverse doesn’t pull lies.
So, I’m like let me go double check behind this. I come across this woman and she’s beautiful. You can tell and see that she has African features in her and she’s from somewhere or someone in her family someone from a line long ago was of African descent. So I started reading her story. It said she had ancestors that were African descent—maybe one or two generation from her own—and how during her rule they lightened up her pictures to make her look more fair skin. I said you know what that was very interesting but why is this a story that a lot of people don’t know? That just kind of got me going in this direction of this story. And I love “The Tudors” (2007-2010), which is a show that used to come on a long time ago, and I thought about the two and then this story just popped into my head.
I wanna talk a little bit about race & diversity in publishing. I know for example, say you go on Amazon and you see the top 20 best sellers of all time or the top 20 authors of 2017, it’s primarily white authors. What are your thoughts on how diversity is breaking out in publishing?
I still feel like that after a very, very, very, very long time of being shut out that we open our own doors and let ourselves in. By supporting ourselves, our businesses and keeping the community strong and building the community from within the community I think we all can achieve our dream.
Speaking of community, have you found the Black community supportive or experienced any difficulties with support within the Black community?
A lot of my readers—especially a lot of my avid readers— are majority black women, that’s the core of our community. So, I feel that support. I believe my community supports me 100%. As far as one of the other communities supporting as that has to do with the writing.
I feel like when I do, do my books I include everyone. I don’t just keep it to one race. Out of all three of my books each is multifaceted. So everyone finds their little piece of heart in there. When a story is a good story it doesn’t carry a race, it doesn’t carry ethnicity. I feel like with a good story it resonates with you and it grabs hold of you, you’re definitely gonna grab back.
Peaking into your personal life, do you ever plan on publishing a novel that is a testament to your life of being a Black gay man in the Black community, or in the world in general?
As far as writing a book on being a Black gay man in the Black community, I am and currently do have a piece in the works, just kind on my to-do list. As far as relationships about Black gay love, everybody has their love story but I feel like ours go untold sometimes. I feel being a Black gay male sometimes they can be a little difficult, a little shady sometimes, but at the same time I love my community. We are who we are, we don’t miss work and we say what we gotta say and we’re not afraid. I appreciate that as far as in in the Black gay community and being married, it’s a great feeling. I think it just shows that we have the same lives as everyone else. At the end of the day, love is love.
You speak of acceptance in the Black community but in the literary world does that support parallel? Racism is unapologetic in our country, have you experienced racism so far in the literary world?
Well to be honest with you no. Not so far only because I haven’t reached out outside of my community. And that was the way of me trying to help further my community by keeping what I’m doing into my community. So I went to a Black PR firm. I work with Black makeup artists. I work with Black cover artists. I just wanted to keep that vibe that my book had as far as being a Black period piece going and the tradition of keeping our community going and pushing forward. But I haven’t really had to work with anyone outside of my community yet; so, I haven’t had any racism so far.
But if I do I think I would handle it gracefully. Because again like I said, my community represents strength and I carry it with me daily; so things like that I don’t worry about that.
I want to go back to the start of your journey as an author and ask who inspired you? Who is YOUR favorite author?
E. Lynn Harris.
For some odd reason, you come across books and things as you grow up and I came across one of his books. I can’t remember the title but it was just something about the book the way he wrote it in the story and I was like, wow, this is good. It definitely was a book that just really helped me along the way with wanting to become an author. It just kind of pulled me in. I was like, this story has me hooked I don’t want to put this book down until I’m finished.
I know “Black Royale” is to be released this month, but you’re working on additional projects as well. When can we expect to see a release date?
I am working on three other novels. When I get the creative juices flowing in my head it kind of starts playing like a movie in my head. I don’t wanna miss a beat. So I’m just constantly writing. But yeah, I have been working on three others. One definitely is gonna be in 2018 at the end of the year. The other two will be for 2019.
Can you share a little of what they’ll be about or we just need to stay checked in?
Well, I know my next vessel is gonna be about love. It’s gonna be a love story and that’s all I’m going to say but it’s going be a love story collection. And that’s all I could say about that.
When your readers are finished reading “Black Royale”, what do you want them to take away from this book? Do you want them to go out and do more research about Black royalty? Do you want them to learn more about Black leaders in their community? What is your take away for them?
My takeaway is that we all came from somewhere and I want this book to be a compass for my readers to go and explore our culture and find your story. Find your family stories right now. Find out more about the Caribbean. Just find out about our rich culture because it’s there.
To leave us with a token of wisdom, to all the aspiring authors out there, what is a piece of advice that you can give them since you have started your career as a published author?
Never give up, keep dreaming big and push yourself. Push yourself harder than you can push yourself in anything else you’ve ever done if you really wanna do something. Because that’s where you’re gonna have your greatest work and your greatest energy and you’re gonna give the world something great.
While we excitedly wait for “Black Royale” to drop, The “Northcotts Season 1 and 2” are out. Go pick up order your copies today from Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Kindle; and look out for when he makes his way to Apple’s iBooks.
But check this, you can meet Tarree for yourself! He has an upcoming meet and greet.
Where: The National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
When: June 2, 2018 @ 2 p.m.