Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vanessa Richardson's Interview With
Author Lori Johnson

Lori Johnson has a master's degree in Urban Anthropology from the University of Memphis. Her stories and essays have appeared in Upscale Magazine, Memphis Magazine, The Commercial Appeal, The Tri-State Defender, The Emrys Journal, The Best of Memphis Anthology 2003 and Obsidian II: Black Literature in Review. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and their young son.
For additional information about Lori, visit the profile page of her blog "Lori's Old School Mix" at

V. Richardson: Hi Lori! Thank you for chatting with me today!

Lori Johnson: Thank you for extending the invitation Vanessa.

V. Richardson: You have just released your latest book, A Natural Woman. What is the synopsis of A Natural Woman?

Lori Johnson: A Natural Woman revolves around Dr. Aliesha Eaton, a young anthropology professor who seemingly has it all--a nice teaching gig, a respected role in her church and an adoring boyfriend. However, while searching for the right someone to cut and style her natural hair, she finds herself drawn to a dark, handsome, mysterious barber named Dante. Unfortunately, Dante's complete disappearance within hours of their first night together leaves Aliesha wondering if he'd been out to play her from the start, or if he's become a victim of foul play at the hands of either her spurned boyfriend, or . . . yet another man from her recent past.

V. Richardson: What do you want readers to take away from this book?

Lori Johnson: Among other things, I'd like readers to be open to questioning some of the commonly held concepts and standards of beauty, particularly as they pertain to African American women. I think it's important to point out that in A Natural Woman, the focus isn’t solely on hair, it’s also on skin tone. For the record, the female protagonist in A Natural Woman, Dr. Aliesha Eaton, is a dark-skinned woman who sports a natural hairstyle. I'd also like readers to reflect on how the past influences the present and how the actions of our ancestors quite often exert a measurable impact on the choices we make in our everyday lives.

V. Richardson: What have you discovered about yourself on your journey to publication?

Lori Johnson: I've discovered that I'm wiser, stronger and much more resilient than I would have ever imagined. Through the course of this journey, I’ve also been able to confirm what I've long suspected to be true-- that neither my integrity as an African American woman nor my vision as an artist is not something I'm interested in compromising.

V. Richardson: What strong convictions to live by Lori! I love it! There is always a story behind the glory. How do/did you handle rejection (s)?

Lori Johnson: As a writer, you soon learn that rejection awaits you at nearly every turn. During the submission process, there will always be agents and editors primed to tell you, "no." Even after you finally achieve publication, there will always be readers and critics who diss and outright pan your work. So in some respects, rejection really is an essential part of the process. It can either help you grow or else lend you an excuse to quit and/or give up. What I've learned to do is absorb the knocks and move on. I refuse to let any of it keep me down for long. I think it helps to bear in mind that not every "no" means "never." Sometimes it just means "wait" or "not now . . . but come back again when you're ready."

V. Richardson: I was delighted to be a subject of interview in your series, “Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories.” Tell us readers about this series and why you formed it?

Lori Johnson: The hair series is an on-going feature of my blog, Lori's Old School Mix. ( It's not a new concept. A number of bloggers are profiling African American women who sport natural hair styles. I think what makes my series a bit different is the focus. My interest in natural hair goes beyond the visual or the stylistic, My aim is to shine a spotlight on attitudes and emotions. How do we feel about our hair? How do we respond to negative comments about our natural hair? Those sorts of things interest me. I also wanted to illustrate that not all "natural women" think alike or define their state of "naturalness" in quite the same way.

V. Richardson: What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Lori Johnson: 1) Read--and not just anything, read and study the work of those who write better than you 2) Write--everyday, when possible.
3) Learn to take criticism and accept rejection because it comes with the territory and 4) Make a librarian your friend--they can introduce you to a number of valuable resources, networks and connections.

V. Richardson: How can readers contact you?

Lori Johnson: I love hearing from readers and they are welcome to reach me via my website ( My email address there is They can also reach me via the profile page of my blog, Lori's Old School Mix (

V. Richardson: Lori, thank you so very much for chatting with me. It is always delightful when connecting with you. As always in closing, continue to inspire as you aspire.

Lori Johnson: It was my privilege and pleasure, Vanessa. And what a truly wonderful closing statement, "continue to inspire as you aspire. I want you to know that I intend to embrace that as both a challenge and a mandate. Thank you.


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I love this interview. Thanks...and about natural hair...that's my thing though I am a guy. I love women with natural hair. why mutilate what God/infinitum/Yahweh/whoever has given you? Why add a horsetail/hair to yours? Are you a horse? Why not take pride in yourself? That is what you have and you must protect it.

It's because of our inferiority complex that's why we have not found proper ways to keep our hair. We think by chemicalising the hair and stretching it we would become more beautiful but psychologically we tell ourselves that we are not good enough: extended nose, eyelashes, blue/green eye, breast implant, jaw shaping, etc...hmmm are you proud of yourself?

Lori said...

Hi Mr. Agyeman. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. Vanessa asked all of the right questions, didn't she? :-)

I agree with much of what you said about natural hair. However, I do support a woman's right to wear her hair anyway she pleases. I only wish others would grant Black women who choose to wear their hair natural the same kind of respect.

Rhonda McKnight said...

Great interview. Ms. Agyeman shared a funny story about the book cover at a recent meeting she attended with my writer's group. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

God Bless!

Rhonda McKnight
Secrets and Lies, coming Nov 24th

Lori said...

Hi Rhonda,
Interesting how our paths keep crossing, huh? :-) I'm not so sure the two Agyemans are related (the previous poster and the one you mention in your post, but Mr. Agyeman's blog contains a look of great info and I plan to check out his review from time to time.

I believe I've already shared with you just how pleased I am with Ms. Agyeman, my agent. :-) So, just allow me to add that even though I hope you will pick up a copy of my novel, A NATURAL WOMAN, I feel obligated to warn you that it is a somewhat "provocative" read as far as language and content.

Thanks for the on-going interest. Your book is on my radar too.

vanessa richardson said...

Nana, thank you for your comment. I am happy you enjoyed our interview. I must say it is one of my favorites. :) You've an interesting blog. A wealth of info.

Lori, you provided the right answers, indeed! Thank you for your sharing.

Hi Rhonda, thanks for stopping by! And I am looking forward to reading both of your books!


Shalonda "Treasure" Williams said...

I truly enjoyed this interview. Not only the advice to author -which I receive - but the effort she Lori has put forth to shine a light on natural hair. I was encouraged. Thanks for sharing it Vanessa.