Curtis Bunn is the Essence No. 1 bestselling author noted for crafting revealing, one-of-a-kind, authentic insight into the minds of men in his literary works. His latest novel, The Truth Is In The Wine, is another example of his crafty and engaging storytelling. His sixth novel, The Old Man in The Club, will be released on June 17th.
He is a 25-year, national award-winning sports journalist, who covered all major sports for The Washington Times, NY Newsday, NY Daily News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Bunn is the author of four other novels, including Homecoming Weekend, A Cold Piece of Work, That Was Then, This Is Now and Baggage Check.
He is a 1983 graduate of Norfolk State University who taught journalism for four years at Morehouse College. Bunn also is the founder of the National Book Club Conference, considered the premier annual literary event for African-American readers and authors, and deputy editor of AtlantaBlackStar.com.
Hannah Spivey: For those who aren’t familiar with Curtis Bunn, please enlighten our readers about who your are and your work.
Curtis Bunn: I’d rather others speak on who I am, as their perspective is far more focused and impartial than mine. But I will say I’m a journalist of more than 30 years (D.C., NY and Atlanta) who ventured off into writing novels about 14 years ago and I have loved crafting stories about people and love and conflict and triumph. I love writing and reading and playing golf and my family and travel and food and wine. I could go on, but I’ll end it there. . . for now.
Hannah Spivey: How long have you been writing and what inspired you to become an author?
Curtis Bunn: I’ve been writing as a journalist since was 14 growing up in Washington, D.C. I graduated from Norfolk State University with a degree in Journalism and as a sports journalist I have covered pretty much ever major sporting event and traveled the world to do so. I was always a big reader and one day decided I’d write a book. After seven whole years of contemplation, I started a novel that would become Baggage Check, which ended up becoming No. 1 on the then-Essence magazine bestsellers list in 2001. That was the beginning. I have been writing novels pretty consistently since then.
Hannah Spivey: How does it feel to be recognized for what you enjoy doing?
Curtis Bunn: It’s rewarding, first of all, to complete a book that you are proud of. Crafting a book is not an easy achievement. So, to finish one is a real accomplishment. But it is taken to another level when people support your book by purchasing it and reading it. And then there is a really, REALLY satisfying level when people read your book and express how much they enjoyed it. We all know you just cannot please everyone, so when you hear from readers who liked the book and–and this is important–got something out of the book. . . well, that’s nirvana!!!
Hannah Spivey: What else do you do besides write books?
Curtis Bunn: Play golf as much as possible. 🙂 Oh, you mean work? OK. I taught sports journalism for four years at Morehouse College. I’m the Deputy Editor of www.AtlantaBlackStar.com, a news website that focuses on news and information about the African-American community. Occasionally I edit other people’s projects. But mostly I run the National Book Club Conference, a 501(c)3 nonprofit I created in 2003 that hosts an annual literary event that has become an amazing literary experience. Our 12th-annual NBCC is Aug. 8-10 in Atlanta (www.nationalbookclubconference.com). We feature about two dozen amazingly talented authors who host book club meetings for up to 500 avid readers from across the country over 2 1/2 days. That’s a full-time commitment for me that is very rewarding.
Hannah Spivey: When you desired to become an author, was it hard to secure a publishing deal and literary agent? What has that process been like for you?
Curtis Bunn: I had an agent, Clifford Benton, who brokered the deal for my first novel, Baggage Check and another book. He was the second agent I had dealt with and I have not had one since. That’s one of the more difficult and frustrating parts of this business. Agents seem to believe they are doing the author a favor, and so their arrogance shows in how they many times rudely dismiss potential talent. My advice for any new author is to grow a thick skin when it comes to acquiring an agent or a deal with a publisher. I guess it’s easy to see that I’m not in love with that part of this business.
Hannah Spivey: How often do you write?
Curtis Bunn: I write almost everyday, some days more than others. I write so much that I feel guilty about reading because it is time that I should be using to write. But writing many times is therapy for me. I need it like I need to breathe. It’s air for me, nourishment. My mind is so active and I have so many ideas, perspectives, creations, musings that I love to share that it’s important for me to get them in my laptop. So my laptop gets as much work as anyone’s in the country, I would guess. 🙂
Hannah Spivey: Do you experience writer’s block? If so, how do you manage it?
Curtis Bunn: Cannot say I’ve ever experienced writer’s block. I know from my training as a journalist the importance of making sure your characters have layers and depth, and so if there comes a point where I feel a little stumped, I go back to a character or a situation and make sure it thoroughly conveys what I need it to express. That’s a method I use to help ignite me if I feel like I have reached a crossroad. But that usually does not happen. My mind is so active (all day I’m thinking about what I’m going to write before I get to the computer) that I always seem to be able to advance the story.
Hannah Spivey: What is the toughest thing about being in the publishing business and why?
Curtis Bunn: The publishing game has changed so much. It’s a broken model to send an author to a bookstore for two hours and hope people come in purchase your book. Social media has become king in sharing the word about books, which is fine because it’s immediate and its reach is limitless. Problem is, you have to continually create ways to share information about your book to keep it fresh in the minds of readers. That’s not tough; it’s a challenge. There are so many options now for readers and you have to, as an author, find creative ways to create a word-of-mouth buzz about your work. Publishing houses are not going to do it for you, for the most part. You have to do it for yourself. I have an affinity for book clubs. I will travel near and far to meet with readers about my work. The discussion is learning and fun and worthwhile and enhances the reading experiences for the groups and my writing experience.
Hannah Spivey: Tell us about the projects you’re involved in and what we can expect from you in the future.
Curtis Bunn: I completed my sixth novel, The Old Man In The Club, which will be released on June 17th. This book is powerful and addresses many important social issues that demand serious conversations. It’s also fun and will make you change your perception of the proverbial “old man in the club.” Meanwhile, I’m writing “Seize The Day,” which will drop in 2015. I have a few other projects up for consideration now that I hope to receive good new on in coming weeks. And I have two or three other books in my head that I have to create proposals. So, it’s perpetual with me, which is good, which is healthy.
Hannah Spivey: Who and what inspire you the most and why?
Curtis Bunn: I’m inspired by my family in general, my kids in particular. My son, Curt, is an accomplished, wonderful young man who has carved out a great career and is a wonderful big brother to his sister. My daughter, Gwen, is a talented singer, songwriter and producer who is making her way in a big way in that industry. As parents, we live for our kids, no matter how old they are. My brother, Billy, has overcome some things in his life and makes us all proud. My sister, Tammy, is a civil servant–a D.C. police officer, the ultimate sacrifice. My nephew, Gordon, just took a job in Boston, moving away from his family, a sign of growth in him that I’m proud of. His sister, Maya, is a year from going to college, which I’m excited about. My brother, Eddie, is as hard-working as they come, soft-spoken and reliable. Great guy. My mom, Julia Bunn, makes it all go. She has inspired me all my life and continues to do so with her giving and support and love and wisdom. My fiance, Felita, is as sweet and caring a person I have ever met and keeps my heart fluttering. Also, the memory and legacy of my late father, Edward Bunn Sr., who showed me what leadership and hard work were about at a young age, inspires me. So, I have a LOT of inspirations, and I’m so grateful.
Hannah Spivey: Which strategies do you possess in order to achieve your goals and what kind of advice would you offer to one who is trying to achieve their goal(s)?
Curtis Bunn: Anything you do you have to have put excellence into it in every fashion. There is no room for mediocrity. So, my ultimate strategy in anything I do–professionally or personally– is to put my all into it. No exceptions. Once you exert all your mind and heart and soul into your work, then you have to extend that same effort into getting it in front of your target audience. Simply, it comes down to hard work. That’s how I function and that’s what I would advise anyone.
Hannah Spivey: What is your advice to authors who are looking to break into the publisher industry?
Curtis Bunn: You’d better be able to write and tell a story. Readers are less tolerant now of reading work that is less than the best effort. Many put a book out before having it edited, which just cannot happen. Your friends are not editors, and, no matter how straightforward they are in other areas, they are not inclined to tell you that your book needs more work. Find an independent voice who will be tough and force you to go back and strengthen it. It all starts with having a great product. Nothing can come from having an inferior manuscript.
Hannah Spivey: Where and how can people find you and connect with you to learn more about you?
Curtis Bunn: I’m a faithful Facebook poster on my personal page, my author page and the National Book Club Conference page. I’m on Twitter @curtisbunn and my website is www.curtisbunn.com. I hope someone contacts me. I truly enjoy the interaction with readers/book lovers. THANK YOU!!!