Welcome to the #NoContact Book Tour! Today I’m thrilled to host Lisa Braxton. This Emmy-nominated TV writer’s first novel, The Talking Drum deals with issues of race and discrimination in a fictional Massachusetts, all in the context of a great read. Thanks to pandemic-related release rescheduling, the book officially goes on sale June 15. But on June 9, she’ll be having a virtual book launch, courtesy of Belmont Books, with Haley Ephron.
Tell us about your book!
The Talking Drum is about three young couples in the 1970s and how they’re affected when an urban redevelopment project takes over an immigrant neighborhood for gentrification. Malachi and Sydney are opening a bookstore in a neighborhood adjacent to the community being targeted to be taken by eminent domain. Kwame and Della live across the street from Malachi and Sydney. Kwame is a mover and shaker, has the ear of the mayor, runs a record store, is a community activist, but seems to be shady. Della has an emotionally troubled daughter. Omar and Natalie live in the neighborhood slated for the development project. Omar doesn’t believe their apartment building will be taken. Natalie wants to move. Their marriage is complicated and filled with tension. Added to all that, an arsonist is burning down properties.
Are you working on anything now? Is your process or routine different?
I’m working on a second novel, going further back in history, taking place in the mid-1850s in Boston. My writing routine isn’t different but I’m writing with more precision. When I was writing The Talking Drum my first draft was close to 800 pages, more than double the number of pages I needed to tell the story. I was going off on different tangents before I honed the story. In writing the draft of my second novel I’m able finding the direction of the plot more easily.
Do you think your writing will be changed by this crisis?
I don’t think my writing will be changed by the crisis. I think the crisis has underscored that having information is essential and important on many levels. I feel more committed than ever to completing my second novel, because like The Talking Drum, my themes contain important messages that people need to hear.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when we’re free to be social again?
Ask my husband to take me out to dinner in Rockport, Massachusetts, a seaside village, so that I can enjoy a glass of wine and plate of scallops while watching the sailboats bobbing on the water.
Oh, the sounds idyllic! Hope to see you there soon!
From the publisher: The Talking Drum is inspired by the author’s personal story, which Lisa shares here. Lisa grew up in the throes of an urban redevelopment crisis. Her parents owned and operated a clothing store in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the 1960s into the 2000s. Their livelihood and community were affected by the gentrification that threatens to upend the lives of the characters within The Talking Drum.