Books2Mention was honored with a great opportunity to speak with Azarel, best-selling author and CEO of Life Changing Books. LCB is one of the most well known and successful independently owned African American publishing companies in the publishing industry.
Azarel has produced a plethora of books that have topped the charts on Essence Best Sellers' List as well as many other national bookstore chains.
Azarel shares with B2M her literary journey and also provides a few tid bits about upcoming projects.
B2M: Welcome to Books2Mention Magazine.
I want to first thank you for the opportunity to feature you at Books2Mention.
AZAREL: I thank you for the opportunity.
B2M: I have followed your career over the years and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your work. I really have. So it is a great honor.
AZAREL: That’s always good to hear. It makes you feel good inside.
B2M: When did you first discover that you possessed this unique ability to craft stories that readers would be able to relate to?
AZAREL: It was actually something that kind of happened. When I was pregnant with my second child, the doctor put me on bed rest for six months. I just kept thinking what am I going to do. So I had a family member who kept saying to me, hey you should write a book. At that time, I was thinking a book, are you serious, about what. Because I was teaching and I had another family member who was a correctional officer at an institution and she use to do a lot of counseling. She would come home and tell us about all of the different activities going on. It was a very intriguing story. So I was able to interview some of the people that she worked with. That is how I penned my first novel.
B2M: Do you believe that creative writing is a gift, or is it learned?
AZAREL: I think it could be both. For me it was learned. I never really had an interest in writing prior to that situation that I just described to you. I think my gift has always been something in the line of social work. That has been a big passion for me. I'm just a people person and so once I started the whole writing process, I enjoyed it. It gave me a lot of joy to be able to create stories. But I do think it could be a little bit of both.
B2M: You are formerly a teacher from the Prince George County Public School system in North Carolina and decided about 10 years ago that you wanted to pursue your dream of writing. Was it difficult to make that decision?
AZAREL: Absolutely, as a matter of fact when I started publishing other authors, one of my goals was to make sure that I kept teenagers around me, so that I could continue to motivate them. I thought that was one of my gifts as a teacher. So I published a few books called the Teenage Bluez Series. I actually allowed teenagers from across the country to submit their stories. I actually chose two of the teens that I taught in Maryland. That gave me a lot of joy because the girls were able to travel around the country doing speaking engagements and inspiring other youths to fulfill their dreams and to pursue interest in writing.
B2M: That was great.
Your first book, A Life To Remember launched your career and eventually you decided to form Life Changing Books. Please tell us about that move?
AZAREL: Yeah, you know what, it was actually that part of my life that was a no brainier. After I wrote that first book, I was hooked. I was like wow; I'm really good at the business side of it. I remember sending off packages to Borders at the time, trying to get my book in the store. I remember receiving all these letters saying no you got to do this; we don't take self-published authors. I'm like okay, I need to figure out how to form my own company, so that I am able to get these contracts and people will take me seriously. So once I put my mind to it, I was able to secure major distribution and the rest was history.
B2M: As CEO of LCB, how gratifying is it to be able to work with other authors and have them realize their dreams as you have been afforded?
AZAREL: Oh I love it; it makes me feel so good inside. Especially for the authors who come on board and they have the same great work ethic that I have. I really enjoy it. It is gratifying to watch them because they are able to see people love their work, hear people talk about them and see their books in stores. It makes them feel good and me too.
B2M: Please tell us about your most recent book, V.I.P.
AZAREL: V.I.P. was probably the hardest book that I have ever written. It seems like it should be easier. But V.I.P. was ruff for me because last year I had a lot of inspiration from reality TV. I felt like every time I turned around, somebody was talking about a new reality show and it just seemed like it was just so relevant. I decided to create a story that was based on the lives of women who wanted to all be V.I.P. They thought being important in life was the way to be successful. Unfortunately, a lot of times just like the reality shows that are more popular, Basketball Wives, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta, they all revolve around men.
When I penned this novel it was hard for me, because even though I am married, I am an independent woman. So when I wrote this book, I said you know what, I got to be able to send a message to women as this story is being told. That shows these women are trying to be important but doing this by way of a man. As the end result, I wanted the reader to understand that you can be important, but you have to be able to do it yourself and be independent.
B2M: Among the books you have written do you have a favorite character, If so, which one, and why?
AZAREL: I think Bruised is probably my favorite book and Carlie is my favorite character. I think she is because I had to really make sure she grew character. I think she is because I had to really make sure she grew through out the book. Carlie was a woman that was battered and abused by her boyfriend. She just really had to come to grips with the fact that she had to love herself first before anyone else could love her. So when she got that self-esteem going it made the book do a complete 360'. I think that relates to a lot of people in my life that I know of who've gone through these crazy relationships. Just making sure that they understand that you have to make sure that you have self-esteem. You are not going to be able to get out of this relationship until you love yourself. So for me, because I know a lot of people personally like that...that touched me the most.
B2M: Now, I want to say to you that I really appreciate the fact that you included in the back of the book some references for people who are dealing with some situations like that, so they can reach out for some assistance.
AZAREL: Yeah, thanks.
B2M: I really wanted to make sure that I commended you on doing that.
If you had to pen point what you enjoy most about writing, what would it be?
AZAREL: Wow, I would say the outline portion. Because sometimes I feel like, while I'm doing the outline, I am actually creating a movie. I can visualize it in my head and sometimes, I just get a kick out of myself. Sitting there laughing at myself, like how did you come up with that. That's crazy. So I really enjoy that part.
B2M: What would you say has been the most challenging in handling a successful career as an author and CEO of LCB?
AZAREL: The most challenging part has been being able to deal with personal situations that arise with family. Unfortunately, my oldest daughter got real sick last year. I really didn't even think that I would be able to work. It was just such a big toll on the family. But by the grace of God, my authors were wonderful, everyone just tried to do their part and it ended up being a great thing. But you know it was challenging...family first.
B2M: Your daughter, is she doing well now?
AZAREL: Yes. Thank God. She is sixteen, so I don't know if it was hormones or something. It just had her whole body sick and we just didn't know what was wrong.
B2M: Yeah, I'm sure that had to be a difficult time.
AZAREL: Yes, so we got through it. I think a lot of time, what does not break you down, makes you stronger.
B2M: That's right. That's it.
Is there a particular story or issue that you hope to write about someday, that you feel strongly about?
AZAREL: Yes, I do and defiantly want to write a non-fiction piece about families dealing with epilepsy. Because that's what my daughter was dealing with. Because it was such a hard time for me, I'm thinking that writing about the way to get through it, would help someone else.
B2M: What can we expect from you next?
AZAREL: Right now I am actually not writing any fiction. I'm working on a screenplay for one of our books, One Night Stand; we had an offer from a production company to make that the first LCD title to be put to film. So we are working on the script right now
B2M: That has to be exciting.
AZAREL: Yes it's exciting and I feel like I am getting a PHD. You have to learn something new all over again.
B2M: We will look forward to learning more about that project.
Azarel, it’s been great speaking with you. Thanks again for interviewing with Books2Mention Magazine. Please be sure to come back again and keep readers informed about all of your future endeavors.
AZAREL: I appreciate it...I appreciate talking to you.
B2M: Have a great day.
AZAREL: I will, you enjoy the rest of your day.
Much Success To You!
The Staff @ Books2Mention Magazine
To learn more about Azarel, please visit her website at: www.LifeChangingBooks.net.
Books by Azarel include: