Intimate Conversation with Susan Fales-Hill

23 Jul

Susan Fales-Hill, a recovering television writer, was the Executive Producer of the beloved 90’s sitcom, “A Different World.” She also co-created the critically acclaimed “Linc’s” which starred Pam Grier (Showtime, 1998-2000.) “One Flight Up,” is Susan’s debut novel and second book. Her first, “Always Wear Joy,” a memoir about her late mother, groundbreaking performer, Josephine Premice, was a finalist for both the Image Award and the Hurston Wright Award for non-fiction. A graduate of Harvard, she lives in New York with her husband, her daughter and a thousand handbags.

“One Flight Up” is a romantic comedy which follows a multicultural cast of four women who’ve been friends since kindergarten through the boardrooms, ballrooms and bedrooms of Manhattan and Paris. Every woman over the age of twenty has at least fantasized about dallying with someone other than her husband or boyfriend. India, a sensuous but emotionally repressed bi-racial divorce lawyer, Abby, a gallery owner, Esme, a spoiled Colombian heiress, and Monique, a gynecologist and card carrying member of Harlem’s thriving Buppie-ocracy actually dare to “cross the line” with delicious, scandalous and surprising results. To find out who lives to regret her indiscretion, and who ends up finding the love or lust of her life, enter the world of “One Flight Up.”

BPM: What makes you powerful as a person and a writer?
The fact that I survived my loving but crazy family and am able to tell the tale. As the saying goes, “Good sailors don’t calm from calm seas.” I have been “tossed” on the squalls and dashed against “rocks” and it’s only made me more determined to find joy and share it with others. Writing grounds and centers me. My mother had to perform or she would die. I have to write, or they’ll cart me off in a straight jacket.

BPM: Who are your mentors?
My greatest mentors were my mother’s friends, whom I was blessed to grow up around, the OD’s “Original Divas,” : Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Carmen De Lavallade, Diahann Carrol and of course, the lady herself, my mother, the late, great Josephine Premice. These women combined brilliance, style, beauty and wit as effortlessly as they applied their false eyelashes every morning (and most of them really did wear false eyelashes EVERY morning.) They never let the racist America of their eras beat them down. They’d laugh in the face of red necks, and find a way around all the doors that slammed shut in their faces. When you grow up around “First Blacks” (the first to have a film contract, the first to have her own sitcom and on and on,) you can’t make excuses for yourself. You owe them every ounce of effort you can muster to take advantage of all the opportunities they created for you. As my seven year old daughter (my other muse) says “You know what a woman can’t do? Absolutely nothing!!! There’s nothing a woman can’t do!!”

I also have to thank Mr. and Mrs. Bill Cosby. They gave me my television career. And I’m still living off the residuals of “A Different World,” in the “house the sitcom built!!!”

BPM: Finish this sentence – My writing offers the following legacy to future readers…
My writing offers future readers the legacy of the diversity of the African-American experience. I was brought up in the belief that “black” was not a shade, a way of speaking or a socio-economic class but could be anything from a scientist (Charles Drew) to some of the greatest voices of the European literary tradition (Pushkin, Dumas anyone?) My writing celebrates the richness of the people of the African diaspora. We truly are the world.

BPM: What genre is your book, One Flight Up?
“One Flight Up,” my second book, is a novel. My first, “Always Wear Joy” was a memoir.

BPM: Introduce us to your main characters in One Flight Up.
For a full biography of each of my main four women, readers should visit my website, and click on the books section. They can also click on the maps to see all the glamorous and gorgeous “destinations” “One flight up” will help them tour. Has anyone dreamed of going to Paris lately?

Not described on the website are the men with whom my characters dally. There’s Keith Wentworth, aka “prince charming noir,” he combines the physical splendor of a Wentworth Miller or Daniel Sunyata (scrumptious) with the brains and net worth of a mogul, and the sex appeal of Denzel at his steamiest. The Harvard Law School educated heir to a black corporate dynasty, he can have any woman he wants, and he wants….Read and find out!!!

There’s Julien, the dishy French chef/restaurateur who doesn’t see color, only beauty. He’s got green eyes, a beautiful body and a heart of gold. Will it be broken by our main character, India, whom he longs to marry?

For those who like a “rough neck,” there’s hottie Hector, the ambulance driver. He’s built like Sugar Ray and has the stamina of…who was your best lover ever?

BPM: What specific situation or revelation prompted you to write One Flight Up?
I grew up around infidelity, and was cheated upon, over, and over, and over again by my first boyfriend, a beautiful, straight male model (I know, “staight AND a male model,” I really should have seen it coming, but I was only seventeen, so please forgive me my naivete, also known as stupidity.) The issue of “straying” always fascinated me, all the more so once I got married, and the universe, with its infinite sense of humor, started sending hotties my way to tempt me. Where were all these pretty men when I was terminally single, home alone of a Saturday night, chowing down on the Haagen Dazs? No, they couldn’t have come around then because I was actually available!!! No matter how much one loves one’s husband, fidelity is tested in the course of a marriage. And why doesn’t anyone warn us? Consider this book a warning, or perhaps an alternative to actually cheating. The reader can be an “armchair hoochie.”

BPM: Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from the book?
My hope is that “One Flight Up” will offer the reader the chance to think about how they choose their partners. Are they seeking security, passion, a co-parent? Love between two people in a sexual relationship can take a thousand different forms, and it’s never as simple as the movies have led us to believe. One of the greatest compliments I’ve received about the book is from a recently divorced friend who told me the book gave her courage, particularly one line in which I wrote “Ideals are for Gods and Saints. Things don’t have to be perfect to be absolutely wonderful.” If I can help the reader find the courage to make a few mistakes, to take a risk, or to find joy in what they already have, I will count myself successful. It’s also important that they have a good laugh along the way…Oh, another reader told me this book made her “tingle in parts that hadn’t tingled in years.”  Here’s to tingling!!!

BPM: What makes your book different from other books on the same subject?
First of all, I’m not sure many books (other than the obvious classics) tackle the subject of female transgression as frankly and without judgment. In the classics, the cheating woman always ends up dead (kind of like the black people in horror movies.) And not just dead, she always meets a horrible, untimely, calamitous death: run over by a train (Anna Karenina,) overdosed and in debt (Emma Bovary,) stabbed in the gut outside the corrida (Carmen.) No one dies in “One Flight Up.” The other difference is “One Flight Up,” unlike a lot of contemporary literature for women, is multicultural. My four main protagonists are all from different backgrounds, and my heroine is bi-racial (the child of a white actress mother and a black father.) This is the contemporary reality of New York, and for many people who attended college after 1968. Though I deal with the nuances of each woman’s particular culture or cultures, at the end of the day, they’re all women and human beings: they love, they lust, they laugh, they cry, they over eat.

BPM: Share with us your latest news or upcoming book releases.
Latest news: I’m Susan, and I’m a recovering shop-aholic and I have successfully avoided retail excesses of any kind for over two years. This is my 735th day of retail sobriety (applause please.) Okay, in seriousness, I’m pleased to say I’m delving into my third book and second novel right away. It will also be published by Atria and I couldn’t be more pleased. Awards? If nominated, I will accept…

BPM: How can our readers reach you online?
Readers can visit my website, and click on “contact.” My yahoo address is right there, as well as my Face Book page and the Face Book page for “One Flight Up.”

Readers might also enjoy my blogs (about Lena Horne, or the one comparing Tiger Woods to Jack Johnson, the heavy weight champion, or my fashion tips.) I welcome comments, questions, invitations to book clubs. I want to hear from readers about everything, and I’m anxious to share my virtual world with them. It’s full of music, beauty, quotations from great thinkers and light. Come visit me at!!!  I can’t wait to meet you!!!

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