Photo Courtesy of Akilah Hughes
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Author: Akilah Hughes
1. Your new book Obviously is due out September 24th and is highly anticipated, what can readers expect?
If any readers came of age in the early aughts and remembers building the foundation to what the internet has become, they'll relate and feel loads of nostalgia for that time. There are also some deeply personal essays about familial drama and painful instances of racism that will hopefully make readers in similar situations feel less alone. Ideally, they'll feel like they made a new friend and are learning more about how she came to be an internet person.
2. In Obviously, you discuss the unique experiences of your upbringing in the Southern United States, what was one thing you loved about growing up in the South and what was one thing you disliked about growing up in the South?
There's a chapter on this that is exactly answering these two questions, so no spoilers...
3. What scares you most about our society today?
I think we're at a point where people are very set in their ways because too much is changing too quickly. We're all holding onto an eroding earth and are maybe more tender about being questioned or asked to explain or having to do any extra work. We're all overworked. We're all tired.
We're all feeling that stuckness. And I think when backed into a corner, animals tend to lash out. I just wish there was a way to be kinder and gentler to each other that would actually stick.
4. What inspires you most about our society today?
The teens! They're the smartest, coolest, most-tuned in, and are wielding their power now instead of being told who they are and what they want. I think they'll save the world.
5. What sparks your creativity?
Most of my ideas come from laughing over a couple of drinks with friends. If something makes you and a group of people laugh together, it's probably worth digging into why.
6. Is there anything about your personality that you are excited to unveil in Obviously?
Not to be cliché, but I think I'm a pretty open book. I do think that the tea I spill about certain comedians is pretty tasty.
7. Who are some of your comedic inspirations and why?
I love Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, and Bo Burnham. I think when they all started out (and obviously all at different times) they COMPLETELY scorched the earth and changed what's possible in comedy. To that end, I think Hasan Minhaj's stand up special is truly the future and I've rewatched it SEVERAL times.
8. What did you learn about yourself while writing Obviously?
I will find the most creative ways to put off having to look at pain. I painted my office, I painted my bathroom, I learned how to bake a few different kinds of bread.
Sitting down and writing out why something hurts and trying to express with 100% accuracy how it feels is a day-ruining feat and one that I am not so proud to say I ran from as often as I could. But there are glimmers here where I think I did right by myself and my history.
9. How long has Obviously been in the works?
A REALLY long time. I started writing this book in 2015 (can you imagine?) and it was just a different time in the world. I fell seriously ill in 2016 and decided to give myself the time and space to heal. Once I jumped back in in 2017, I realized most of the writing was no longer usable.
I encourage any writers or aspiring writers to look back at something they wrote in 2013 in the context of 2019 and realize how much different, lighter, and freer we all felt back then. It just didn't hold up, didn't feel honest.
10. How much of an inspiration was the city of New York, and more specifically the borough of Brooklyn, to you while working on Obviously?
I think it's an integral part of the book because it made me the person I am. Obviously (lol) growing up in the south for 22 years was the foundation for my dreams, but I don't think I ever lived somewhere so diverse, so open, so creative and original and free before that.
I knew I could try things, and fail, and learn not to care if someone saw it happen. And so I don't know that I could have even survived the publishing process without the thick skin Brooklyn afforded me.
11. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
No one likes this advice, but you just have to write. You have to write a bunch of bad writing and then at some point, you'll write something you believe and love and it'll come back to you. But yeah, not writing has never helped me.
12. What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
That you have to choose it. The world will give you every reason on earth not to be happy, but it is work to be happy. You have to overcome the sadness and see it as a thing worth pursuing. I hope that's not a downer, but I try to choose happiness every day.
13. What’s the best book you have read in 2019 thus far?
This is a hard question because it is truly one of the best book years in recent memory. Jacqueline Woodson has a new book called "Red at the Bone" that she signed for me at BookCon and I finally got a chance to read it on the plane to Los Angeles and she is just a master.
I wish I could absorb her talents through osmosis by putting the book under my pillow. She's just fantastic!
Places To Find More From This Author:
Youtube: Akilah Obviously
Facebook: Akilah (@smoothiefreak)
Get Your Copy of Obviously: Stories from My Timeline Today!