The 27th Annual Texas Book Festival returns in person November 5 and 6 after two years of virtual & hybrid programming. Free and open to the public thanks to sponsors and volunteers, the weekend includes acclaimed authors at readings, panel discussions and book signings; exhibitor booths, food vendors and more. We caught up with a participating Austin authors Evan Griffith and May Cobb, best-selling author Janet Evanovich and actor Omar Epps, who will feature his debut young-adult novel Nubia: The Awakening, for a deeper dive into their books and process.
Nubia, The Awakening
Award-winning actor Omar Epps, who had an eight-year run on “House,” is at the book festival with his debut work of fiction, Nubia, The Awakening, which he co-wrote with Clarence A. Haynes. Omar, who previously published From Fatherless to Fatherhood, an autobiographical book, tells Austin Lifestyle, “I’d been sitting with the notion of Nubia for over a decade and its inception came to me one day by form of a simple question: What if love itself was actually illegal? The question kept bouncing around in my brain because I was so intrigued by what the world would look like if that were to be true. I kept diving deeper and deeper into the potential answers to that question, and subsequently created a universe of my own that I’m extremely proud to share with the world: Nubia The Awakening.”
After the initial idea, he says it took a village to bring it to life. “Honestly, this has been one of the most challenging projects in my entire life thus far in every way you could imagine. Overall, it’s been a learning experience that’s enriched me in more ways than one,” he says, shouting out his co-writer, who he calls an incredible writer and a great human, team at Penguin Random House (Delacorte Press, Get Underlined) and Aevitas Creative, for all helping bring his dream to fruition and believing in his vision.
This Austin-based author writes middle-grade fiction novels, which he explains are written for kids between the ages of 8 and 12 with common themes including self-discovery, navigating friendship and facing the dangers and wonders of the world. This year he released Manatee Summer and Strange Wonder of Roots is slated for 2024.
Evan says he enjoys writing for kids of all ages (his first published book was Secrets of the Sea, a nonfiction picture book for younger kids), but “middle-grade-aged readers are curious, passionate about reading and it's often during these formative years that kids develop a lifelong love of reading, and it's an honor to create content for kids at that point in their reading journeys.”
Evan also teaches online creative writing classes through The Writing Barn. We asked him for three tips aspiring writer and he says:
1. Read as much as you can. Reading makes us better writers.
2. Experiment with forms of writing you haven't tried before. If you mainly write realistic stories, try writing fantasy or science-fiction. If you mainly write prose, try writing poetry or songs. Exploring across form and genre expands our creative horizons and leads to the discovery of new passions.
3. Embrace messy first drafts. Don't be afraid to write something unpolished. Much of the work in writing happens in revision.
Speaking of drafts, he says people are always surprised to learn how long it takes for a story to make it from a first draft to a published book. “At the minimum, there are usually four or five heavy revisions to a manuscript before it's published, but sometimes it's much more. I know authors who went through 30 or 40 drafts of a novel before it was published…the whole process takes at least a couple of years.”
Although he often writes in his home office, complete with a dry erase board and sticky notes for plotting, on a nice day you can find Evan writing in local coffee shops like Radio, Cosmic, and Opa. And, you can connect with him online at www.evangriffithbooks.com or on Twitter: @Evan_Griffith
The author of over 70 books, 42 New York Times bestsellers, it’s no surprise the NYT called Janet “the most popular mystery writer alive.” She’ll be presenting Going Rogue, the latest book in her popular Stephanie Plum series, at the festival. We asked her how she manages to be so prolific and she says, “It turns out if you stop writing books, the publisher stops sending you money. Even more to the point, I love getting up in the morning and going into a world that I’ve created. I love moving forward with the story.” As far as if she’s ever stumped by the dreaded writer’s block, she says, “I’ve never believed in writer’s block. I think you show up for work and get the job done. Some days are better than others, but I make sure that I always get at least one sentence on the screen --even if the sentence sucks.”
My Summer Darlings
Lauded Austin-based suspense writer May Cobb will be at the festival talking about 2022’s My Summer Darlings, already has next thriller, A Likeable Woman, slated for released next summer and says a non-fiction book is percolating. Whether fiction or non-fiction is easier for her, she tells Austin Lifestyle, “I find it much easier to write fiction, simply because the man I’m writing about, late jazz great, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, was so utterly phenomenal that I want to do him justice.” On being a writer in Austin she says, “Austin has such a rich, vibrant literary scene and the few times I’ve moved away I’ve missed it so much I was heartsick. From the Texas Book Festival to the Writer’s League of Texas, to events like Owen Egerton’s fabulous live reading series, One Page Salon—one could never leave Austin and still be surrounded by literary riches. At the core of this community are the writers, which I have found to be the most supportive souls anywhere.”
For more information on the Texas Book Festival visit www.texasbookfestival.org and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @texasbookfest.