I'm happy to have her here today to talk about the book and give us a preview of it.
Nigeria Lockley possesses two Master's degrees, one in English Secondary Education, which she utilizes as an educator with the New York City Department of Education. Her second Master's degree is in Creative Writing. Born at Dawn is Nigeria’s first published novel. Nigeria serves as the Vice President of Bridges Family Services, a not-for-profit organization that assists student parents interested in pursuing a degree in higher education. She is also the deaconess and clerk for her spiritual home King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Church of God. Nigeria is a New York native who resides in Harlem with her husband and two daughters.
Welcome, Nigeria. Please tell us about your current release.
Born at Dawn chronicles what happens to the members of the Barclay family when their matriarch, Cynthia Barclay decides she cannot wait on God to deliver her and disappears. Leaving behind a husband and two kids Cynthia steps out to reclaim her life.
What inspired you to write this book?
After watching a PBS documentary about the life of James Brown I discovered that his mother had abandoned him. That served as the catalyst of the concept behind Born at Dawn. The more I toiled with the idea and sought God the family grew and their story became clear to me.
“Thanks, Barbara, for letting Keith and James come over,” Cynthia said as soon as Barbara Dillinger opened the front door of her brownstone. “Marvin got tied up at work.” Lying, Cynthia fidgeted nervously on the stoop while waiting for the boys to come out.
“Looks like he’s not the only one that got tied up,” Barbara said her hazel eyes filled with horror. She pointed at the welts Marvin’s hands had left around Cynthia’s neck. “Why don’t you come in and relax for a moment?” Barbara opened the door wide enough for Cynthia to slide through. “The boys are upstairs playing—karate chopping and body slamming each other. A few more minutes of play isn’t going to hurt them.”
Barbara took Cynthia’s black, leather jacket from her and escorted her from the steps of her brownstone into the living room.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to get over here—I walked,” Cynthia said, soaking up the place. In the two years that the boys had taken karate with Sean, Barbara’s son, the two women had never actually been inside of each other’s homes. Pickups and dropoffs were usually relegated to a switch at the doorstep of the parent supervising the play date or a meeting at the subway station.
“Please have a seat.” Barbara swept her arm around the room inviting Cynthia to take a seat.
Cynthia looked to her left and then her right, trying to decide whether she wanted to take a seat on the mustard quilted leather sofa or the spoon-shaped zebra-print chair that faced the picture window.
“Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?” Barbara offered.
“Barbara, there’s really no need in going through all of that trouble,” Cynthia said settling herself into the spoon shaped chair.
“And there’s no need for you to go through all of that trouble either,” Barbara chirped pointing at Cynthia’s neck.
“Barbara, I’d rather not discuss this.” Cynthia craned her neck toward the spiral staircase and called for her sons. “Keith…James,” she shouted into the air
“But I want to discuss it. Come here.” Barbara grabbed Cynthia’s hand and dragged her over to the full-length mirror that rested against an exposed brick wall near the window. “Look at yourself.” Barbara gathered Cynthia’s burgundy shoulder-length hair back as if she was about to put it into a ponytail. “This isn’t right, Cynthia,” she said, tracing the welts on Cynthia’s neck with her French-manicured fingernails.
“Marvin is just going through something right now. He’s trying to open his own business; he has me and the boys. It’s a lot for him to handle.” Cynthia fingered the welts herself wishing she’d tied a scarf around her neck.
“I don’t think he’s dealing with more than you are. You don’t have to go home if you don’t want to. You and the boys can stay here,” Barbara offered, releasing Cynthia’s hair.
Cynthia massaged her face with her hands. “We can’t…I mean, I can’t.”
“You can’t stay there either,” Barbara interjected. “I know we don’t know each other well, so this might seem strange or feel a wee bit uncomfortable, but if you won’t stay here, at least let me take you to a shelter,” Barbara begged Cynthia earnestly.
“And this might seem strange to you because we don’t know each other well but I took a vow, for better or worse. Now there’s a reason those vows say for better or for worse—some days are going to be better and some days are going to worse. It just so happens that today was one of the worst.” Recalling the days when Marvin was sweeter, gentler, romantic even, Cynthia massaged the welts around her throat. “Marvin isn’t all bad, and I’m not all good, so it would be wrong of me to turn my back on my husband. I’m going to fight for this marriage until we get back to better days when we held hands and slow danced to Marvin’s old records.” Cynthia’s high cheekbones rose as she smiled, lost in the memories of the days when the phrase I love you did not come after a bloody lip or bruised eye. “He wasn’t always like this.”
Cynthia touched the princess-cut diamond of her engagement ring, which rested over a simple gold band. She could still hear Marvin say in his rich baritone as he presented her the ring while they were seated by the waterfall in Harlem’s historic Morningside Park, “A simple ring for the woman I simply want to spend my life with.”
Cynthia held onto that memory as Barbara presented her with reality of her situation.
“So how long do you plan on suffering through this? What about you? What about Cynthia? What do you want for your life? Forget your marriage. I mean you. What do you want?” Barbara cocked her head to the side and stared at Cynthia’s reflection in the mirror. Her hazel eyes felt like acid searing right through her skin. It seemed like she could see Cynthia’s thoughts.
“Do you think all I have is all I want? Anyone who knows me will tell you I love to cook. That’s the one moment of peace I get throughout the day. I wouldn’t mind doing it professionally, but if I have no one to share my success with, what good would that do me? You know, when I first came to sign up at the dojo, Sensei Kelly told me it was full for the semester and there was a waitlist for the next semester, but I came at least twice a week to check if anyone had dropped out until one day sensei just said, ‘Mrs. Barclay I have room for your boys.’ If I didn’t give up on a karate class, how can I give up on a marriage?”
“What good would being in a graveyard do you or your sons? What does your pastor have to say about this?” Barbara retorted without hesitation.
Barbara spun Cynthia around so that they were face-to-face. “You haven’t told your pastor about what’s going on?” Barbara said, wagging her finger. “That’s a big no-no. You can’t try and fight this battle on your own when you’ve got Satan right up in your house trying to kill you.”
“Barbara, I don’t have a pastor. I don’t even go to church,” Cynthia mumbled her cheeks aglow from embarrassment.
“Huh?” Barbara inhaled and clutched her chest as if she was about to have a heart attack.
“No, I don’t go to church. We can’t all be the picture of perfection that you are,” Cynthia sneered.
Barbara grabbed Cynthia by both wrists and pulled her to the nook in front of the picture window. Both women took a seat in the nook.
“‘Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it.’ I am not perfect but I rely on the one who is to keep everything afloat for me. How is your marriage supposed to stand without the Lord’s divine protection? Why don’t you spend the night with the boys and come join me tomorrow at Cornerstone Baptist Church?”
“Thank you, Barbara, but no thank you,” Cynthia said, rising from her seat in the nook. “Marvin is expecting me back this evening. I could never stay out overnight, especially with you. He already thinks you’re a bad influence with all your makeup and fancy clothes.”
“There’s a church on every other block in Harlem. Just promise me you’ll find one to attend tomorrow.” Barbara clutched Cynthia’s hands and pleaded with her eyes.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am currently working my second novel, Seasoned with Grace. In this novel Grace King, a volatile model, is sentenced to do community service at a church after being placed on probation for assault. While there she is forced to confront the demons of her past in order to obtain the future that she desires.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
There was never a time that I did not consider myself a writer. Now, I can officially call myself an author, but I have been engaged in the act of writing my entire life. I began by writing short stories, which then turned into an extended love affair with poetry. Now here I am sharing my first novel with the world.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am not yet able to write full-time, however I’m always making mental notes or post-it notes of what I want to write. I write during my commute to and from work. The A train is my writing cave. I whip my laptop out and let my fingers fly. I also binge write. When I have time off from work I just write and write to supplement the days I’ve missed.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Before I started writing fiction I used to write poetry, so I love the way certain words sound. Whenever I encounter a word that I have an affinity for I jot it down and try to get as many of the words on my list that day into the chapter I’m working on.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The truth be told I spent a long time believing that I was destined to be the black Madonna (I grew up in the 80s). Eventually, my mother broke the news to me that I really wasn’t going to make it in the music biz since I can’t sing. That’s when I turned to writing.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Regardless of where you are in your walk in life Jesus can turn your situation around and breathe life into it. Don’t accept defeat and don’t give up or give in just because you didn’t win today. I gave up on my writing, but the Lord never gave up on me. As soon as I poured myself into in Him He poured out a blessing for me.
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Thank you, Nigeria!