It’s All About Love, An interview with Author W.D. Foster-Graham

Minneapolis native W.D. Foster-Graham started writing at the age of seven. His passion for reading and writing was inspired by his father. Foster-Graham’s tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor.

Foster-Graham is an independent, self-published author of seven books in the Christopher Family Novel series, which are now part of the Quatrefoil Library Collection and the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature, one of the largest collections of its kind in the US.

PrideIndex recently enjoyed conversation and prose with this lover of romance novels, whodunits, and classic Hollywood movies. As we listened to him talk, it became clear that his writings are all about love.

Here’s what he shared

PrideIndex: Today, I am conversing with author W.D. Foster-Grant. Welcome, sir. Please introduce yourself and briefly give an overview of what has brought you to this point.

WDF-G: Thank you. My name is W.D. Foster-Graham. I am a native son of South Minneapolis. My husband, Edward, and I have been married for nearly 14 years and have an adult son. I received my B.A. in Psychology from Luther College and am an original member of the three-time Grammy Award-winning musical ensemble Sounds Of Blackness, in the bass section. The International Society of Poets has recognized me as one of its “Best New Poets of 2003.” I am a guest writer for journalist/author/entertainer Wyatt O’Brian Evans (wyattevans.com) and am currently the book review editor for Insight News, a Black community newspaper for the Twin Cities. I have published seven novels in my Christopher Family Novel series, which are now part of the Quatrefoil Library Collection and the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature, one of the largest collections in the US.

I also continue to co-host The Conversation With Al McFarlane, a live-stream show where I have the opportunity to support other authors.

PI: Please tell me more about The Conversation With Al McFarlane, and the radio station on which the show is aired. Also, tell me more about your experience as a news editor.

WDF-G: Again, Insight News is the black community newspaper in the Twin Cities. Al McFarlane is a managing editor, journalist, and wordsmith. I have my own column called Sharing Our Stories. In this column, I am the book review editor. Every week, I review books by different authors of diverse genres, from fiction to nonfiction, children’s books, and LGBT authors. Insight News has a live stream program called The Conversation With Al McFarlane, where he talks about everything related to the African diaspora and what’s going on in the African American community. We have a book chat every Thursday. I get to introduce authors or spoken word artists from every walk of the African diaspora on the show to support them through the promotion of their books and work. I also continue to write and review books for Insight News. All of that together is very exciting because it gives me the opportunity to pay it forward.

PI: You mentioned being a founding member of Sounds Of Blackness. Let’s talk about that for a moment. Are you still a member?
WDF-G: I was an original member and face of Sounds Of Blackness, in the bass section, until 1981. I was there before Ann Nesby joined the group and before the connection with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. I was there when we went from gig to gig around the Twin Cities. Sounds Of Blackness began at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1969 and was founded by Russell Knighton. We were then known as the Macalester College Black Voices, and the group name was officially changed to Sounds Of Blackness in 1971.

PI: Let’s talk about your novel series, but first, I’d like to ask at what age you knew you wanted to be a writer.

WDF-G: I was writing as soon as I got hold of a pencil, as far back as elementary school, around the age of seven. I followed in my father’s footsteps as a voracious reader. To be a good writer, you have to be a good reader, and I extended my love of reading into writing.

PI: What was your first focus in writing? Did you start with poetry or creative writing? Was it stories about your family or anything specific?

WDF-G: I wrote short stories about animals using my imagination. I just made up stories about the misadventures of various animals, such as dogs, cats, seals, or whatever.

PI: Earlier, you mentioned a series of seven novels; tell me a bit more about those.

WDF-G: They are called The Christopher Family Novel series. My novels follow the lives of the Christopher family, a huge, extended, wealthy, and powerful African American family that also consists of several LGBT family members. Each of the seven novels touches on the story of different members of the Christopher family.

PI: Who or what was your muse for this series?

WDF-G: I didn’t have to look any further than my father. This series’ cornerstone, the patriarch, is Allan Beckley Christopher, is now a self-made African American billionaire. This character is an amalgamation based on not only my father and uncles but several Black men his age who were born and raised during the Depression. I incorporated the values of many Black men that I had read about throughout history, like John H. Johnson, founder of Johnson Publishing Company, and A. G. Gaston, a miner turned communications, real estate, and insurance mogul, to name a few.

PI: Might one describe this as a series of fictional novels peppered with dashes of reality?

WDF-G: It is a fictional novel series peppered with actual historical events and places.

PI: Has your family read any of your novels, and what has their reaction and commentary been?

WDF-G: The first person to read the first three books in the series, “Mark My Words-Books 1, 2, and 3″, was my father. After he had read them, I asked, “Hey, Dad, does this character represent men of your generation?” My father replied, “Yes, it does.” That was all I needed to know. Once he put his stamp of approval on it, that’s all that counted.

PI: When he agreed that it represented men of that generation, did he solely mean the African American experience, or did he also say whether it represented the experience of any openly gay family members as well?

WDF-G: {My father passed away in 2012.} When I was speaking with my dad, who was straight, I was strictly asking about the central character of Allan Beckley Christopher. Now, when it comes to gay family members, there’s me and a few cousins, the baby boomers. Those would be the persons in my immediate and extended family.

PI: Did you incorporate any of your own or your cousin’s experiences in your novels? If so, how did you decide how far to go telling your or another family member’s story?

WDF-G: I was very intentional in not doing that. I used professions and other information as a base, but I would never intentionally use any family members in my stories. That was by choice. I prefer to use my imagination to create my characters. I show up in the series as a minor character, but you must figure out which character that is.

PI: Let’s talk about your writing process. How do you conceptualize ideas and bring them to life on paper?

WDF-G: As I mentioned earlier, I graduated with a Bachelors in Psychology, and the first thing I did when it came to my ideas came from my college experience. I create psychological profiles for each character in my novels. What makes them tick, the good, the bad, or the indifferent? Then, I decide where I want to place them. If the location is Chicago, I research areas in and around Chicago. Likewise, if it’s in Minneapolis or any other city. With my writer’s curiosity, I would also ask specific other questions. Once my character or characters are locked in, the ideas can flow from anywhere.

PI: I understand that you once resided in Chicago. Did you include any of your Chicago stories or connections in your novels?

WDF-G: I included places like Jeffrey’s Pub or New Town. I would incorporate locations in that way. If someone from Chicago were to read one of my stories, they would know those places right away and what might have been going on at a particular time. A few novels start in the 1940s and span to the present. I have learned that research and relatability are important. It may be fiction, but you need just a bit of reality to make it work.

PI: Did you intentionally set out to write a series of novels, or was it completely organic?

WDF-G: It was organic. I created a family tree for this huge extended family and could pick from any branch on that tree. I just released the seventh novel and have three more on deck. I am writing as we speak.

PI: Going back to your first novel, when and where did you publish it, and where can I find it?

WDF-G: The first novel is “Mark My Words-Book 1,” followed by “Mark My Words Book 2″ and then “Mark My Words Book 3;” you can find and purchase them on my website, wfostergrahamauthor.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

PI: What years were the three novels published?

WDF-G: All three were published and released in 2018.

PI: Are you with a publishing house, or are you self-published?

WDF-G: I am an independent author. Yes, I am self-published.

PI: Why did you decide to go that particular route?

WDF-G: Independent authorship means I have more creative control. I can build and create however I want. I look at being an independent author through the lens of three principles of Kwanzaa. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Kuumba (Creativity), and Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). Focusing on the importance of having Black books and supporting other Black authors through a sense of community. In this way, I have my own business.

PI: I love and appreciate hearing stories of independent authors doing the work, getting their hustle on, and putting their products out there. It’s important to tell, sell, and market your stories. I applaud and congratulate you on that venture.

WDF-G: Thank you.

PI: Earlier, you mentioned some awards. Please discuss some of the awards and citations you’ve won or received.

WDF-G: As I mentioned, there’s an organization called the International Society of Poets. In 2004, I attended their convention and was noted among their Best Poets of 2003. As a result, the prize for a poem I wrote about my son was a publishing contract. I published a limited-edition collection of poems called Life Seasonings. I also mentioned that my Christopher Family Novel series is now part of the Archie Givens, Sr. collection of African American literature, an extensive collection, and one of the largest collections of its kind in the US. Their collection also includes a first-edition copy of Phyllis Wheatley’s poems, first published in 1773. Phyllis Wheatley was the first African American woman published in this country. My novels are also included in the Quatrefoil Library collection, representing LGBT works.

PI: Besides writing, what is your current profession?

WDF-G: Writing is my profession. I’m 71 years old and a former teacher, retired from the Minneapolis Public Schools system. Writing is now my full-time profession and passion.

PI: What is one piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring author?

WDF-G: I don’t use the word aspiring. Once you have written, you are a writer. You should follow your passion because your gifts will make room for you. You should believe in dreams and never give up. Readers are already out there waiting for you to share your story. It’s just a matter of connecting with those readers.

PI: If you could pinpoint one thing you want readers to connect with, take away, or retain from your writing, what would it be?

WDF-G: You’re always young enough to follow your dreams.

PI: Let’s discuss some of your writing influences. Name three people who have had the most influence on your artistic style as a writer.

WDF-G: In terms of influences, I think of Sandra Govan, who was my English professor when I was in college, and she definitely encouraged me. I also think of Toni Morrison because of this quote, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” As a college student in the 1970s, I didn’t see many books with characters who looked like me, so that quote resonated with me. Number three would be a late colleague, E. Lynn Harris. So, I gave him his flowers for putting out his series when there weren’t many things being written about Black Gay men in a positive light.

PI: What’s next for you on the horizon?

WDF-G: In addition to my three new books in the Christopher Family Novel series, I have also written a children’s book and am working on getting it published.

PI: Speaking of the Christopher Family Novel series, tell me something about the latest addition; what is the new novel’s title?

WDF-G: To Thine Own Self is the title of my latest Christopher Family Novel series.

PI: Can you give us a brief synopsis?

WDF-G: My main characters in this novel are Reverend Darrell Edwards and Cesare Morelli-Montgomery. Darrell is part of the Christopher family and is a widower with three children. He is the straight associate pastor of a predominantly LGBT church of color. But the question arises: Is he as straight as he thinks? Cesare is a biracial adoption attorney from a modern family with two dads. He works to help create families for others in the LGBT community forever. He now wants to make his own. But his radar is off when finding a man who wants a family. The novel’s questions are whether Reverend Edwards will take a second chance on love or if Cesare will be able to embrace a man who already has a family and be in his congregation. Like most romance novels, there is a happily ever after.

PI: Essentially, this is a gay romantic comedy.

WDF-G: Exactly. You got it!

PI: Is this book also available at all the sites previously mentioned?

WD: Yes. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and my website is wfostergrahamauthor.com.

PI: Would you like to share anything else?

WDF-G: There is an African proverb that always resonates with me whenever I’m writing, or I have an author on the show. It goes like this: “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

PI: That is a powerful message. Thank you, sir, for taking time out of your schedule to speak with me.

WDF-G: Thank you.