I am excited to kick-off a new segment of She is Terri Linton called ‘Feature Friday.’ In this series, I interview some amazing women whom I have been blessed to meet and get to know.

And I want to share them with you!

They are mothers, wives, career women, entrepreneurs, creatives, and all around bad-ass chicks. But what I most love about all of the women you will see featured is their testimony of triumph. It is our personal journeys that makes us so remarkable–our unique stories of tough times weathered, lessons learned, and victories won. These women will inspire you to keep on keeping on whether it be in your family, your career, your physical and emotional wellness, or simply the day-to-day. I always say that we, as women, are more alike than different.

In the words of Ella Baker, “Give light and people will find the way.”

Our stories are to be shared. Our voices are to be heard.

I bring you author and self-publisher LaToya Chandler.

Q: LaToya, please share your journey to becoming an author. Did you always have aspirations of becoming a writer?

A: I have always journaled, and I’m an avid reader. People used to talk to me, and I would hear what they were saying in a totally different way in my head. It was like characters were talking to me. That led me to researching the writing and self-publishing industries, and I fell in love with the process. Finally, my boyfriend told me that I need to start writing. So I did.

Q: Who are the authors that you most admire?

A: John Grisham, Terry McMillian, Stephen King, Zane, and LaTonya West.

Q: What genre would you categorize your writing? Urban Fiction?

A: Actually, no. I don’t glorify drug-dealing or violence in my books. I focus more on drama and romance. My books are romance novels.

Q: How long did it take you to write your first book, Torn: I Don’t Need You, But I Want You?

A: It took me about six months to write.

Q: What was your inspiration for the story?

A: A few of the characters were inspired by people I know in real life, but the events are fictional.

Q: Tell me about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals?

A: I must write in a purple or pink composition notebook. I handwrite about five pages at a time, and then I type those pages. I must have a glass of wine and music. Music is my muse. It takes me where I need to go, especially if I am writing an erotic scene.

Q: What were some of the challenges you encountered while writing your first book?

A: There was the fear of not doing the writing process right. Also, being a writer puts me in the public eye. I learned that you must have self-confidence, and a tough skin for the critics. Mostly, I did not want to let myself down if I failed. And then there was the distraction called ‘life.’ When your life is bogged down, you can’t create. So during those times, I had to push myself past the distractions and write.

Q: What cautionary advice would you give to aspiring authors?

A: Take your time. Writing is a marathon, not a race. Also, review your editor’s work. Do not be afraid to ask questions throughout the publishing process whether you are published or self-publish. Be a sponge. Learn the industry and process. Also remember that your success as writer is 20% writing and 80% branding.

Q: How did you come to start your own publishing company? Did you already have experience in the publishing industry? Did you have a mentor?

A: I started my company in 2015. I spoke to a self-publisher, whom I know personally, about some aspects of the industry, but I essentially started the company with no help. I did a lot of research and read as much as I could to become knowledgeable.

Q: How did you come up with the name Passion Publications for your company?

A: It was actually my boyfriend’s idea. He told me that I have so much passion for writing. So I thought why not call my company Passion Publications?

Q: How many authors do you currently have signed to your publishing company? How do you transition from author to boss? What advice do you give to your authors?

A: Including myself, there are 13 of us. Thankfully, we are all a group of talented writers. I conduct monthly Skype dates so that we can discuss things like the importance of branding. I tell them that branding and marketing are very important to their success. I also encourage them to create that Scandal (as in the television series) moment in their writing to keep the readers captivated by the drama.

Q: What are your thoughts on book reviews by readers such as on Amazon? Do you place a great deal of stock in what they say about your work?

A: When my first book came out, I was a reviews maniac. I read every single one. When I came across a negative review, I thought it was the end of the world. Then I realized that everyone is not going to like my books and that there is something that I can learn from a negative review. So now when I read a negative review, I take the meat and throw away the bones.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a self-publishing company but maintains that they do not have the money for the start-up?

A: Start small and work your way up. It can be done.

Q: How do you balance your work and family life?

A: My children are 25, 20, 17, and 15 year-old twins.  I had my oldest child when I was 15. They are my top priority no matter what. As for balance, I believe there is no true balance. Something will be neglected. Because my children are older, that made it easier for me to start my business in 2015. Had they been younger, I would not have been able to do it. Even though my kids are older, I still have to make sacrifices in order to run my business. I get up early and stay up late to make sure that the work and writing gets done.

Q: Any last words of advice for aspiring authors?

A: It’s your dream. Pursue it until it becomes other people’s reality.

Q: I love that.  What can we expect from Latoya Chandler and Passion Publications this year?

A: This year, Passion Publications will go hard and hit the streets as we continue to make a name for ourselves.

Q: Are you currently accepting submissions from authors?

A: Yes I am. Manuscripts can be emailed to me at authorlatoyachandler@gmail.com.

Q: Where can people find you on social media?

A: On Facebook, Latoya Chandler; Twitter @latoya_chandler; and on Instagram @Passionbosslady

*Meet LaToya Chandler at Maryland Sistahs on Lit Book Festival on April 23, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

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