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25 September 2017

Attica Locke Q&A: “I want to be one of the people who names lipstick colours“

The crime writer talks The Office, working smarter not harder, and the nightmare of Donald Trump.

By New Statesman

Attica Locke is an American crime writer, author of “Black Water Rising”, “Pleasantville” and “The Cutting Season”. She is also a screenwriter and producer, and worked on the US TV series “Empire”.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being in my pyjamas and meeting my mother’s second husband for the first time. My sister and I were up past our bedtime so we could see him before they went out for the evening. I was giddy with excitement, my sister sceptical. She was right.

Who are your heroes?

My dad. I’m the biggest daddy’s girl on the planet. Today, my hero is my sister. She knows how to live her life with grace and beauty, everything done with care and love.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy. The book offers a counter-argument to our well-deserved fear of the over-policing of black life: the under-policing and under-prosecuting of crimes against black life has likely been as detrimental, if not more so, to black folks. She follows a black cop in the book; reading it is partly why I chose to write about a black law-enforcement officer in my latest novel. Maybe a badge in the right hands can make a difference; maybe not.

What political figure, past or present, do you most look up to?

Fannie Lou Hamer. She is one of the founding members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that went to the 1964 Democratic convention when their civil rights platform was being ignored by the traditional Democratic Party. She is a reminder of the power of everyday folk standing up and saying: “I’ve had enough!”

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What would be your Mastermind  specialist subject?

The Office (US version). I know this must seem blasphemous to British readers, but I can’t help myself. I re-watch it top to bottom every 18 months.

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I wouldn’t mind jumping ahead to a time when Trump is a footnote of history – but not too far in the future that we’re all on fire because of global warming. And I’ll say California, praying a good chunk of it hasn’t drifted off into the Pacific Ocean.

What’s your theme tune?

“Don’t Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down” by Eric Bibb. I play it when I need to be reminded that no one can steal my joy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

It’s OK to rest, especially when you’re trying to create. I’ve learned to heed this advice. The older I get, the more I understand the whole “work smarter, not harder” thing. Also, the older I get, the more I just feel like taking a nap.

What’s currently bugging you?

It rhymes with Ronald Drump. And “bugging” isn’t the right word for the low psychological state I’m in. I wake up every day and can’t believe this nightmare is real.

What single thing would make your life better?

Knowing my child will always be safe.

When were you happiest?

I’m happiest with a book and a glass of wine and nowhere to be.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

A lawyer or a stationery designer. Oh, no, no! I want to be one of the people who get to name lipstick colours.

Are we all doomed?

No. There are too many Fannie Lou Hamers out there, even now, too many women and men who will stand up and say: “Enough!”

Attica Locke’s latest novel “Bluebird, Bluebird” is published by Serpent’s Tail