No, it’s not THAT Olivia Black… this is the AUTHOR Olivia Black. This one has nothing to do with the pawn circuit. And this one keeps her clothing ON. We emailed Ms. Black — that’s MRS. Black, gentlemen (gold diggers need not apply) — yesterday and she was gracious enough to reply to our request for an interview! Here’s what she said.
Q: Where did the inspiration for the Falling Forward book come from?
A: My husband, Kalani, has had some interesting experiences. We would be at parties and Kalani would tell stories to our friends. I’d step out for a couple minutes, and when I returned, everyone would be gathered around him, listening to his stories for hours, laughing, sometimes crying. They were completely captivated. I was amazed at what he’s lived through. Kalani had been married three times before he met me, so he’s had such a complex and rich life. I keep peeling away the layers and there’s still so much to discover.
Q: So, would you say your stories are true?
A: A lot of the experiences I write about are true, either from my life or Kalani’s. Much of what I’ve written actually did happen. But the stories themselves are entirely fictional. I guess you could say they were built on a framework of true stories, but then we’ve embellished events, created all new ones, and of course, changed the names to protect the innocent.
Q: It’s interesting that you used your names in Falling Forward. Would you consider that book to be a reflection of your relationships?
A: To an extent, i suppose. It’s a hybrid between Kalani and I, which is why we used our names as the main characters. Falling Forward is a story about coming into yourself. You’re falling into this hopeless chasm of despair, but it ends up you’re actually serendipitously moving forward into a new and better situation. It takes some of us a little longer to figure out who you want to be.
Q: A lot of married professional women can identify with Olivia, the character. You mention in Falling Forward that she realizes she’s been “sleepwalking” for years. Tell us about that.
A: I think “sleepwalking” is the perfect word for many of us. Society engineers us to be these perfect worker bees. From the earliest moments in school, we’re placed inside a small box, and taught the box is all there is. And that it’s always bad to be outside of that box — you should never ask what’s outside the box, or even why the box is there. So we learn that’s all there is, just the box. It’s almost like some people I know are mindless. They’re drones. They go to work, come home and do whatever it is they do there, and repeat the cycle every day, every week, year after year. And they waste their lives waiting for weekends and a two week annual vacation at Disney World. They’re missing the point. They’re missing life. They’re almost sleepwalking. I did it for years. Kalani snapped me out of if six years ago. Life seems so much more grand, worthwhile, and exciting now.
Q: It sounds like Kalani plays a pretty big part in your writing. Does he write with you?
A: Oh yeah. I couldn’t do what I do without him. He’s my partner in crime. It all started when Kalani took me to see my first beach sunrise. I have lived near the beach for more than 20 years yet had not taken the time to witness such beauty. It was amazing. We started brainstorming book ideas as we walked the beach. Our ideas are usually based on Kalani’s crazy experiences and things he’s seen. We then take that framework and build wonderful characters and stories around them. Regular early morning walks on the beach are now a part of our normal routine. I think the sea air clears our minds and allows the creativity to flow a little easier.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I’ve always toyed around with it. Usually short stories. I never had the time, or the spark to come up with a novel until recently. I’ve been raising kids the past 19 years and working a full-time job, so there wasn’t much time for anything else. Fortunately, the kids are teens now, and they can sort of take care of themselves for the most part.
Q: You mentioned you work full-time. Are you still doing that? What do you do?
A: Yes, I’m still there. Writers don’t make a whole lot of money, I’m hearing, and I’ve still got bills to pay. Kalani works too, owns his own business. But I work for a government contractor, and with all the cutbacks, there’s always talk of layoffs. And Kalani owns his own technology repair business. But with people replacing rather than repairing things, his sales have been low. We’re worried that if either of us loses our job, we would have to sell our house and move. Things are pretty tight. We’re hoping we can write full-time. That would be a dream come true.
Q: There’s a new book coming out, Big Girl Down. Tell us about that.
A: Big Girl Down is a completely different direction than Falling Forward. It’s actually another reflection based on an unusual combination of personal experiences, some of which were mine and others that were Kalani’s. And of course, a healthy dose of imagination. Jackie is the main character. She’s your average, all-American girl who has a bit of a weight problem. She’s not happy with herself, but she’s working on it. Chance takes over, and someone moves into her neighborhood who takes an interest in her. Out of desperation, she ultimately falls into a bad situation with the wrong man. A series of bad things happen and she is forced to leave. While she’s away, she meets some good friends, gets in shape, and finds herself. Without giving the twist away, someone comes to her rescue, and she lives happily ever after.
Q: It sounds more like an adventure than a romance.
A: It’s actually a combination of all those elements. There’s an unhealthy romance, a bit of an adventure, and then a better romance. It’s quite a ride.
Q: Most novels are two to three times bigger in word count than yours. Is there a reason you’ve decided to cap your stories into shorter novels?
A: I used to read a lot. Mostly fiction. I was finding it took me several weeks to finish a book in between work and my other responsibilities. But I wanted to finish the books – I wanted to see how they ended. I found myself skipping entire chapters, and sometimes that didn’t seem to matter. I always thought it would be better to trim some of the inconsequential details so the read is quicker. Instead of saying “I tossed the overly fluffy, silk-covered, light pink goose down pillow decorated with subtle petunias adorning a fall-inspired collection of northern leaves at my sister,” why not just simplify the things that really don’t matter? It’s done with screenplays all the time. There’s so much filler in some of these books with details that aren’t critical to the plot. I guess I’m allergic to unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.
Q: What else is in the works?
A: I’ve just finished another story that I haven’t got a title for just yet. Kalani and I are still working out the inconsistencies and kinks in the first edit. It’s a rather complicated story about a woman who’s very sick, but she doesn’t realize it. Things change quickly for her, and she realizes she has much to do before she succumbs to her illness. There are questions of second chances to seize missed opportunities, and the overall irony of the choices we make in life. It too has an interesting twist. It touches on religion, a bit. I don’t like to do that because i feel it alienates people, but it’s something that touches us all as human beings. I’ve also been going through my short stories. Kalani has a bunch also. Between us, we’ve got almost thirty stories, almost all which could be expanded into novels.
Q: I read something about your books avoiding cheaters. That seems to be a touchy subject in fiction. But the catalyst in Falling Forward is a cheating situation.
A: That was tough. Olivia needed something to remove herself from her sleepwalking. It was her wake up call. I didn’t want to write details about the cheating, but I thought it was important to make the situation as real as possible. It had to be strong enough to convince Olivia to completely fall out of her tidy little box. Ironically, you could say she technically cheated too… although she and Richard were already separated. It is a touchy subject. Kalani and I wrestled with several other ways to write that story, but this way seemed so much more real. The cheating scenario was loosely based on one of Kalani’s relationships – in reverse, obviously. There are so many people who end relationships because of cheating. Many of our friends have experienced a similar fate. It’s unfortunately so common today, and it probably has been throughout history. I’m not really sure why it’s still so taboo.
Q: I noticed Kalani has some music based on the Falling Forward book.
A: Kalani is so wonderfully talented. He’s been writing music for years as a hobby. He always toyed with the idea of writing an island or Hawaiian CD. Kalani created two songs for Falling Forward: A Song for Liv, and Miracle. They’re simply amazing. We have a bundle where you can buy Falling Forward and the CD together. It really brings life to the story.
Q: Thank you for talking with us and sharing your stories. We look forward to your next books!
A: Thank you so much for your interest and for your support!