Title: “Against All Odds: in The Situation Room with Envy Red”
Here’s the situation… You are in the midst of writing your debut novel when tragedy hits and you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. You have two options, call it quits and let fate take over, or fight back and become the master of your own destiny.
Envy Red chose the latter and has not only conquered the disease, she is on her second novel and is also dedicated to giving back and helping others. The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino speaks to Envy Red about her persona, her products and her purpose.
Michelle: From what I’ve read, your just-released novel, Jaded, takes the reader on a journey through the life and mind of a mentally ill woman who has suffered various childhood traumas. Would you like to expand on the book’s storyline?
Envy Red: Jaded tells the tale of a woman who has been placed in maximum-security custody at a mental asylum for the criminally insane in ruralVirginia. On the exterior she is a beautiful woman who appears to have everything going for her in life including a great man who stuck by her through the horrific accusations thrust upon her. However, she is emotionally torn inside and having a hard time coming to grips with the reality of the murders she has committed. While incarcerated she begins having nightmares of a childhood that is nothing like the privileged lifestyle she has come to know. The novel takes the reader through these unimaginable childhood traumas and the everyday struggle of this committed woman as she tries to decipher fact from fiction. Learning to trust no one, she allows a seasoned therapist who feels a vested interest in helping her get better come into her life. There are a series of small explosions that are revealed throughout the book with the big bang coming at the end. It is sure to leave you speechless as the truths are revealed.
Michelle: Where did you come up with the idea for this story?
Envy Red: I have always had this affinity for human emotion especially as it relates to trauma. The idea for this book came out of that passion. I wanted to pen a story that created awareness of those issues and the effects they can have on individuals and their families when left unresolved. The character in this book has been through the imaginable and as I sat and meditated on what I wanted the audience to get from her story, it took on an out of the box life of its own.
Michelle: Jaded doesn’t follow the same formula of your debut novel, Touch. Why did you stray from urban erotica this time around?
Envy Red: I wanted to tell a story that was uninhibited. I did not want to create any barriers to the audience who could receive this message. Although “Touch” had a strong erotic element, there was a plot with deep-seated meaning and I believe the message was well received. However, with “Jaded” I felt the story should be told without the erotic element in order to reduce the risk of limiting the audience who may miss out on an opportunity to get an even stronger message. On top of that the entertainment value is priceless even without my signature erotic style. Don’t get it twisted though the few love scenes in the story are laced with that fire I have come to love.
Michelle: You were diagnosed with a very rare form of Cancer while writing Touch. How did the diagnosis affect your writing process and the finished product?
Envy Red: Wow it made me that much more determined to achieve my dream. I cried one single time for my ill fate but once I got it out, I picked myself up and pressed on. There was no way I was failing to complete that project. As I look back, I believe it was the spark that fueled the surprise ending in “Touch”. Life is full of surprises and you never know what hand you may be dealt but it’s how you handle it that matters.
Michelle: Was your diagnosis also the driving force behind wanting philanthropy to be an integral part of your publishing company, Red Door Books?
Envy Red: I think it gave me added drive, but helping others has always been embedded in me. Red Door Books is giving me the platform to expand that.
Michelle: If you don’t mind me asking, what is your prognosis today?
Envy Red: Cancer free baby! Early detection was key in my case because it was so rare and hid under the radar. It was so sneaky in fact that had I not followed through with the recommended surgery, for what the doctors thought was a completely different issue, they would not have found it until it was too late. The moral of the story is, when you know something is not right keep pressing your doctors and get as many opinions as you must. Shout out toYaleUniversity’s medical staff who took my case from down here inWashington,DCand provided my doctors with the tools they needed to take care of me. Today I just ensure I go for all of my regular scans, which are more frequent, but worth it.
Michelle: You have signed on to write a column for Black Literature Magazine. How did that come about?
Envy Red: I was running my mouth on Facebook as usual and Torrian Ferguson ran across one of my passionate posts on a subject they had been looking to explore at the magazine. I love striking meaningful dialogue and I guess it showed. He met with Vonda Howard who reached out to me and asked me to be a regular columnist with the magazine. The rest is history.
Michelle: Your debut article on 9.20.2011 is titled “Book Reviews: Uncovering Gems or Hiding Treasures.” What is your honest opinion on book reviews—first, from the mainstream reviewers, second, from fellow authors and finally, from the readers?
Envy Red: I have always been a believer that book reviews are a necessary right of passage in the literary world. They provide valuable feedback to assist the author in the growth process. However, I do not believe they should be the know all to end all. At the end of the day they are opinions and they may not always reflect the mass sentiments. We all differ in our tastes and preferences. Furthermore, I have always been one to want to form my own opinion with the exception of when the reviews are in complete agreement. If there are twenty reviews and all are bad, chances are the author needs to go back to the drawing board. I respect the opinions of everyone no matter their title because they can only make me grow as a writer when they are constructive. It’s a win situation. I value the opinions of mainstream reviewers, my fellow writers, and most importantly the readers because they know what they want and I plan to give it to them or keep trying.
Michelle: Tell us little about the Free Minds Project and its objective.
Envy Red: My heart. My passion. The end. Just kidding I had to lighten things up for a minute. The Free Minds Project is an initiative I am working on to assist the youth and those who are incarcerated with getting on their path to greatness. My focus is on promoting literacy but most importantly self-sufficiency especially at a young age. Often times it only takes someone believing in our youth to give them that positive push in the right direction. The project seeks to bring youth together from all facets of the industry and allow them to work on their own project that they run and which will give them hands on practical experience in the field they choose. The goal is to let them see that they don’t have to wait to live their dreams. Their future starts now. The prison outreach component is multifaceted in the fact that it is an intervention program but also a way to provide renewed hope for those who made the mistake of getting incarcerated. These individuals are now ready to be productive members of society. I am working on a resource center as well as something major that I must keep a secret but only for now (smile).
Michelle: You are also a board member of Homebound Citizens. Please tell us about the organization and your role within it.
Envy Red: Homebound Citizens is a non-profit dedicated to assisting homebound citizens and those who are homeless with things many of us take for granted. Often times these individuals do not have a simple support system in place to meet their basic needs let alone some of the added perks such as flowers on a birthday. Our biggest project right now is a food pantry and literary resource center that will be open to those who need it simple as that.
Michelle: How do you juggle all of these endeavors and still find the time to raise your two boys?
Envy Red: It’s a struggle but I am instilling hard work and dedication in my boys. They understand what I am doing and it has actually rubbed off on them. Even the five year old enjoys going to events such as visits to the retirement home and collecting donations for the pantry.
Michelle: What do you hope to achieve through your different appearances and programs?
Envy Red: My biggest accomplishment will have come if I have done my part in this life to make a broad impact on helping others realize their dreams and set my children on the right path to greatness. I hope to show them an easier route than the one I had to take by instilling in them the desire to work hard and follow their dreams not someone else’s.
Michelle: What’s next on the horizon for Envy Red?
Envy Red: This is a loaded question for me because what don’t I see on the horizon is the question (smile). Well I am an author in the Saving Lives Through Lit Anthology “Voices Behind The Tears” an anthology dealing with the subject of domestic violence. I am also working on a teen series slated for early 2012 as well as another erotic tale tentatively called “High Rollers.” The plot is simply unreal to me as I sit and think of how it came about. I’ll just give you small peek. It embodies my love of roller skating, involves human trafficking, and a very deranged Vietnam vet who leaves a legacy based on his cult like following which he passes through his lineage. I am also working on obtaining non-profit status for the youth and prison outreach program as well as a writing and publishing workshop for the county correctional facilities. There are so many great things on the horizon and opportunities to give back. I am blessed.
Michelle: Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring, upcoming and seasoned authors when it comes to philanthropy and giving back?
Envy Red: No matter where you are or what you do in life, take the opportunity to give back. You never know how far even the smallest gestures can go toward changing someone’s life. No one is too big to give back and no one is too small. It starts now and doesn’t stop because you’ve elevated in life or declined. In whatever capacity you can, stop talking and do. A fellow author and friend Felisha Bradshaw “Eyes on the Pryze” said something that stuck with me. What you put out in the universe shall be returned to you. If you do good, good will come to you. I honestly believe that.
Imagine having your life consumed with nightmares of a wildly drug addicted mother whose career in prostitution leaves no one including yourself exempt from its consequences. Visualize having an unknown father whose only mark left on your life are unexplained exotic features. Envision learning that you were marked and written off as criminally insane at the tender age of 12. Now picture the same mental illness having you torn between two extremely opposite worlds of fantasy and reality.
Journey behind the walls of St Agnes, a maximum security asylum in rural Virginia, and experience the suspenseful tale that is Jaded through the complex mind of a beautifully torn woman. Can love conquer all? This is the question posed as a love interest battles to show support through his own personal dilemma and tragedy. Will a seasoned therapist be able to provide the help needed, or will the unveiling of shocking truths cause damage beyond repair?
Come along for the ups and downs of this jaw dropping drama as Envy Red steps outside of erotica to bring you an intense read about social issues such as mental illness, childhood trauma, the sometimes tumultuous human transition from childhood to adulthood, and everything in between. The twists and turns of this true to life drama will leave you speechless when fact is ultimately separated from fiction.
About the Author:
Envy Red is a Washington DC area native by way of Birmingham, AL. A two time graduate of the University of Maryland, she resides in Southern Maryland with her two boys. She is driven by a firm desire to make a charitable mark on society. Through her weekly blogs, short stories, and appearances she promotes awareness of the sexual health issues plaguing the nation. As the founder of the “Free Minds Project,” a youth and prison outreach program, Envy Red is dedicated to promoting literacy, helping individuals realize their potential, and achieve their dreams. As a board member of Homebound Citizens Non-Profit, assisting homebound citizens and the homeless population, the journey to help others shall be realized one person at a time.