Preslaysa Williams (nee, Preslaysa Edwards) is an award-winning author who writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with an Afro-Filipina twist. Proud of her heritage, she loves sharing her culture with her readers. She has a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University and an undergraduate degree in Spanish Language & Literature from Columbia University.
Preslaysa is also a professional actress (nee, Preslaysa Edwards), a planner nerd, an avid bookworm, and a homeschool mom who often wears mismatched socks. You can visit her online at www.preslaysa.com where you can sign up for her newsletter community.
What inspires you to write? Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from what deeply concerns me. If I can’t find an answer to a life dilemma, then I will sort through an answer through my writing. A Lowcountry Bride helped me figure out an answer to questions concerning identity and the human need for validation from other people.
Tell us about your book.
A Lowcountry Bride is a heartwarming romance about a Black & Filipino bridal gown designer who want to get promoted to Head Designer at Laura Whitcomb, Inc. Laura Whitcomb is the leading bridal gown designer in the industry and being Head Designer will boost Maya’s career. However, Maya has sickle cell anemia, and this gives her about 10-15 years to live. She wants to make her mark in the industry before she dies. In the story, Maya’s father fractures his hip and she has to take a leave of absence to travel to Charleston, SC to care for him.
While she’s there, she ends up working at a Black-owned bridal shop in downtown Charleston. The shop is owned by Derek Sullivan, a widowed, single father. As Maya works with Derek at the boutique, she comes into her own as a bridal gown designer, and she falls in love with the owner of the shop. She must make a decision as to whether to follow her heart or follow her original career goals. During the course of the story, Derek must also decide whether he wants to take a risk on love again after the tragic loss of his wife.
Tell us about your writing journey and how you got where you are today.
I started writing fiction in 2008. I started my career by writing inspirational romance. Like many writers, I’ve had hundreds of rejections by agents and editors.
In that long time frame, I wrote seven manuscripts, and I earned a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. I also attended writing conferences, took writing courses, and queried my work to editors and agents.
In 2018, I saw an open call from Avon Books for own voices stories, and so I pitched A Lowcountry Bride to them. I didn’t get a request to send in the manuscript the first time I pitched.
In 2019, Avon Books held a second open call for own voices manuscripts. By 2019, I had significantly revised A Lowcountry Bride, and so I pitched the book to them again. They requested the full manuscript in 2019. I sent them the manuscript, and then I got The Call in early 2020. I also signed with my wonderful agent in 2020.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write because you love to write and tell stories. Hold on to your love and passion for writing and continue working on your craft. Writing an authentic story is the most important thing, and so discover your truth and put it in a story.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers & creators from marginalized backgrounds?
It’s easy for marginalized creators to want to seek validation for their work—at least it is for me. The cost of outside validation is a theme that I write about in A Lowcountry Bride. But in the end, you must stay true to yourself.
How do you weave your culture(s) into your book(s)? How do(es) your culture(s) influence your writing?
I write own voices stories. So at least one of my main characters is Black and Filipino or Black or Filipino. I also try to focus on writing characters whose lived experiences are similar to my own. Whenever I write from my truth, my stories grow rich and layered, and so that’s what I try to do with each book that I write.
What is your writing process like?
A mess! LOL I wrote four books before I learned how to outline and write a story with a solid structure. Pantsing a story is painful! I don’t recommend it.
Today, I plan my stories before I write them. However, the plan is always subject to change while I am drafting. Whenever that happens, I tweak my outline.
As I’m drafting my story, I send out my early pages to critique partners, and I revise based on their feedback. I end up simultaneously writing, revising, and tweaking my outline in the initial stages.
Once I get to the end of my first draft, I have a relatively strong story because I spent so much time editing as I write.
I set the manuscript aside for a while. After some time has passed, I’ll read the entire story and fix continuity issues, character issues, or plot holes that I find while reading. This is just a general read through. I try to remove myself from the story as an author and experience it as a reader.
Finally, I check my scenes and overall story against a longer, more objective checklist that I created. After that, I send it off!
What are you currently reading?
Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins
What was your last binge-read?
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
What is your writing style in a few words?
Insightful. Sharp. Clear.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite part? Why?
Writing first drafts and searching for the story through brainstorming and LOTS of thinking is my least favorite part of the writing process.
Having a polished and complete manuscript that tells the story I want to tell is my favorite part of the writing process.
What superpower would you like to have?
Writing a polished novel on my first try.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It is wildly all over the place. One book took ten years to write. Another book took one year to write. Another book took four months to write. It depends on the story and my skill level at the time that I am writing.
How do you deal with critiques of your work?
My stories aren’t for everyone, and so I don’t expect them to resonate with every reader. However, if multiple readers point out the same writing craft issues with my books, I pay attention to that and work on improving.
If you went on a desert island and could only bring two things, what would you bring?
A notebook and pen.
What would you tell the younger you just embarking on their writing career?
Seek out the places where you and your art will be celebrated. Don’t silence yourself to fit someone else’s criteria.