Today I am interviewing Joiya Morrison-Efemini, author of a newly released YA novel, Petrified Flowers. Let’s start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
I am a Christian wife to a wonderful man, and mother of four fantastic children. I gave up my career as a child advocate attorney ten years ago, to be at home full time with my kiddos. I began writing in the spaces between mothering as a way to still feel like an individual with my own thoughts and ideas. Writing has been such a beautiful creative outlet for me.
What is your book about?
Petrified Flowers is the story of a beautiful brown girl, fighting for her life against the despair that misfortune and loss can cultivate. It’s a story about how God uses us to change others, even as He is molding us. And, how we can lose ourselves in the mission to rescue other people. It’s a saga saturated with sisterhood, racial identity, and class distinction. Mostly, it’s a story about the love of God.
What is the inspiration behind your story?
As an African American, a Christian, and a woman, I always have an agenda. I want to inspire readers to delve into stories about people that don’t look like them. I want the message of the gospel to spill out from my pages. I want to write stories that affirm my daughters, and their daughters. Petrified Flowers was conceived on the day my family watched a documentary about a private school in New York City that stands directly across from public housing. The dichotomy in that film moved us all to tears. I placed Iris and her sisters in that complex, and imagined their world.
Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?
My day job is raising four phenomenal children, and being a wife to a wonderful man. I write in the midst of the beautiful chaos that a family of six, plus a dog and a cat create. I wrote Petrified Flowers in between my childrens’ school projects and sports events, during their arguments and after their heartaches. I wrote it with their laughter all around me.
Are you a night owl or morning person?
I am a wannabe night owl who falls asleep on movies that start after 9 pm. I like to wake up early, before the rest of the house, pop in my headphones, and listen to a sermon or praise music while I run around my neighborhood.
Were there any surprises that came up as you wrote your story?
I belong to a writing group made up of bright women who challenge me on every draft of every story and poem I submit to them. In an earlier draft of Petrified Flowers, one of the main characters died. There was a unanimous decision that I needed to develop that character. I fought it, but listened to their wisdom. The development of that character caused a love for her/him that just would not let me write her/his death. I believe the story is much better for it.
Are you part of a writing group?
Yes! And, their input is invaluable. The fact that we meet once a month puts a fire under me, holding me accountable to write pages they can critique. And, their questions and suggestions about my writing always inspire me to go deeper in character development, or take risks that I may not have done on my own. They are brilliant, fun, and honest. They are dear friends.
Do you experience writer’s block? What do you do to get through it?
When I’m not taking time and space for myself to commune with God, to exercise, and to observe moments of Sabbath, I do struggle with coming up with words, even when I have ideas swimming around in my head. Knowing this, I take my time with God seriously, I exercise committedly, and I rest. I’m still learning not to feel guilty for the resting. Being locked up during the pandemic has given me an excuse to nap, and to sit quietly. Running is a catalyst for my stories, and I have written countless stories and poems in my head during my runs.
In a fractured world, Flowers bud in the deluge of God’s favor.
Tragedy uproots Iris and her sisters, all named after flowers, from the solid ground of middle-class life and plants them, unsupervised, in the rocky terrain of low-income housing. In a world where rain falls only on the privileged, Liam, a student who attends the elite private school directly across the street, proves refreshing as a summer gale, gushing joy into the sisters’ lives. Further nurtured by Ma Moore, a church elder who sprinkles the Flower sisters with spiritual wisdom, Iris embraces her Heavenly Father with steadfast urgency.
But when a student takes a hopeless leap from the school roof, Iris withers under the scorching realization that everything she thought she knew about privilege—and God—lies crippled. Petrified Flowers is the anthem of one African-American girl straddling three worlds. It is a song of hope, a triumph of faith, and a resounding refrain of the Father’s eternal love.
What’s next for you as an author?
I am currently researching and writing a novel about a Cherokee woman who marries an African slave in the 1800’s. The blended history of Natives and Africans in this country, and the parallels in their treatment, have always intrigued me. I am also journaling a series of poems and essays that has helped me to deal with the tragic and racially motivated deaths that continue to plague our society. I have been encouraged to create a collection for publication, but for right now, these stories are just for myself and my family.
Where can readers find you online?
Facebook: Joiya ME Writes