Monday, August 06, 2007

Spotlight on Angela Henry

By day, Angela Henry is a reference specialist at a college library. But the multi-talented Henry also is the creator of the reader favorite Kendra Clayton mystery series. Kendra made her debut in 2004's The Company You Keep. Her series continues with Tangled Roots and the recently released Diva's Last Curtain Call.

Henry founded the award-winning MystNoir Web site. Launched in May 2000, the site promotes African-American mystery writers. USA named MystNoir a Hot Site. It's also been featured in Black Issues Book Review Magazine, and Art & Entertainment channel's chose it as a site of the week. Henry also is one of the original Crime Sistahs bloggers.

Angela, thank you so much for agreeing to discuss your writing and especially your successful Kendra Clayton mystery series.

Question: What is it about the mystery genre that appeals to you and why?
Angela Henry: I’ve always been drawn to the puzzle aspect of mysteries. I love following the clues and putting everything together to find the answer. It’s a challenge I look forward to every time I read or watch a mystery.

Question: You've mentioned you enjoy Barbara Neely's Blanche White series, Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins and Paris Minton series, and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. What is it about those authors and their series that inspired you?
Angela: Well, I’ve always been drawn to very character-driven mysteries. I love strong characters that come off of the page and the above-mentioned authors all have such great, memorable characters. I was inspired by their books to create a strong character of my own.

Question: How did you come up with the idea for the Kendra Clayton series? Did you always know you wanted Kendra to have her own series?
Angela: I always knew I wanted to write a mystery series. I wanted to create a series character that I’d yet to see in mystery fiction at the time I started writing my first book. A single, young, educated, African-American woman who wasn’t a member of law enforcement or a private eye, and didn’t live in a big city. Thus, Kendra Clayton was born.

Question: Do you plot your stories or do you wait to see where Kendra leads you?
Angela: I’m an avid outliner. I wasn’t with my first book. But I started with my second, and I think it really helps my plotting. But I never feel tied to my outlines. I usually stick to them about 85 percent and make changes as I see fit.

Question: What can we expect next from Kendra? How do you see her evolving over the series?
Angela: I recently turned in book four, and it involves murder and mayhem surrounding Kendra’s high school reunion. In the future, I see Kendra growing emotionally and realizing some things about herself in regard to her relationships with her family and friends. But don’t look for her to be any less nosy.

Question: You're a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. What are the benefits personally and professionally of belonging to those organizations?
Angela: Belonging to MWA and SinC offers so many opportunities to meet, network and connect with other authors. They also offer opportunities for members to attend book events and meet booksellers, librarians and readers. I even got the chance to meet and pitch my book to a Hollywood producer at a Sisters in Crime conference last year. The benefits of joining these organizations have been invaluable to me.

Question: You've received numerous credits, including honorable mention in Ebony Magazine's 10th Annual Gertrude Johnson William's Writing Contest for your short story, "Peaches of Mercy." To date, other than your writing contract, what's the best recognition you've received for your writing?
Angela: I’d have to say the best recognition I’ve received so far is when the Page Turners Book Club in Connecticut named my first book, The Company You Keep, as its 2006 Book of the Year. I was so flattered by that. It was a big honor.

Question: Can you tell us a bit about what you're working on now?
Angela: My agent is currently shopping a standalone mystery, and I’m putting together ideas for Kendra book five.

Question: What are you reading now and what are a few of the titles on your to-be-read list?
Angela: I’m currently reading Casanegra by Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. I’m really enjoying it so far.

Question: Tell us a bit about How did you come to realize a venue was needed to promote African American mystery writers?
Angela: I founded MystNoir in May of 2000 because when I started looking for info on African-American mystery writers, I discovered there was very little info out there. So, I decided to start my own site and share the info I was finding. I also started the site to help promote African-American mystery writers whose books don’t get the attention they deserve.

Question: How did the Crime Sistahs blog get started, and what goals did you, Pamela Samuels-Young and Gammy Singer set for it?
Angela: I got the idea for the Crime Sistahs blog after seeing other authors forming group blogs. I didn’t know of any other African-American mystery authors blogging, so I approached Gammy and Pamela about starting a blog. We really didn’t have any goal other than to share our experiences as authors.

Question: What can we expect next from Angela? Will you create other series in addition to Kendra Clayton?
Angela: I’d love to write a YA fantasy novel one day and a horror novel. I don’t have any plans to do another series, but I’ll never say never.

Question: How can readers contact you, and how can we learn more about you and your novels?
Angela: They can e-mail me at Angelar.Henry @, and my Web site is



Gwyneth Bolton said...

Great Interview, ladies! I had no idea you created the Mystnoir website. I used that for reseach all the time back when I was teaching my Woman Writers of Color class based on mystery novels a few years back and when I worked on an academic paper on Black women mystery writers. Cool!

I have all three of your books and I haven't read them yet. But I plan to really soon.


Angela Henry said...


Hey! I'm so flattered you found MystNoir to be a useful resource. It's why I started the site in the first place. There just isn't much info on AA mystery writers. So, I'm happy to provide whatever info I can.


patricia sargeant said...

Gwyneth! Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by, and thank you for the compliment on the interview. I think Angela is a very talented and interesting person.

Angela, thanks again for starting the MystNoir site. It's a fabulous resource.

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