has had an enjoyable string of best-sellers. Remember
"Getting to Happy," "Waiting to
Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove
Back"? Remember "Mama"? Well, you wonít
likely forget Terry McMillanís "Who Asked
its 383 pages, McMillan introduces us to Betty Jean
Butler, the rock of an African-American family weighed
down by race, gender issues, economic challenges and,
yes, family secrets.
she took some questions:
Itís been three years since your last book. Why did
you make us wait so long?
Nothing. I have to make this stuff up. I donít think
thatís a long time. Plus itís kind of hard to
separate characters youíve been living with for a long
time from new ones. Itís like starting a new
relationship with a new guy or girl when you havenít
got over the last one.
What was your inspiration for ĎWho Asked You?í?
I wouldnít say I was inspired to write. I was more
curious. Iíve always wondered about grandparents and
grandmothers in particular who end up raising their
grandchildren. There are at least 6 million in this
country. I just wondered how they did it and what it
might feel like to be two-thirds into your life and have
to parent again. I was also curious about people who are
always trying to tell other people how to live their
lives or offer advice without looking at their own
behavior. They can be super critical but donít turn
the lens on themselves.
You take on a lot of weighty issues: homosexuality,
interracial relationships, grandparents raising their
grandchildren, drug addiction and incarceration. Why so
I think our lives arenít as linear or singularly
focused as weíd like to think. People are faced with
different issues simultaneously. They have to come to
terms with those issues and rise above their own
insecurities, their own flaws. When they can do that,
they can begin taking baby steps to deal with them and
thereby create more opportunity for hope. In the end,
thatís pretty much all we have and thatís why I tell
They always say, write what you know. How much of this
draws from your own life experiences?
None of it, but I did my homework. I research all of my
characters. I relied on three different books on
grandparenting. I talked to people who were living this.
Describe the perfect conditions for writing.
I donít know if that really exists. Right now, Iím
in a hotel and itís very quiet and itís raining
outside. If I didnít have anything else to do, this
would work. At home, I get up at 5 a.m. I have my coffee
and itís dark outside and I love it. Thatís pretty
much it. I donít have a set number of hours I write. I
write until Iím emotionally exhausted or Iíve
written myself into a corner.
Youíve produced at least eight titles since you
launched your career. Which of them did you have the
most fun writing?
I think Iíd probably say "Waiting to
Exhale," but itís not the book Iím most proud
of. I had a good time telling the story and a lot of
women identified with it. But I would say emotionally,
that isnít the book that lifted me.