The following are interview questions posed to featured author Roberta Roberts about her debut novel Black CHESS.
Roberta Roberts is a civil rights and human rights advocate living in Southern California. Her activism began as a child growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes to enlighten, inspire, and stimulate open and honest debate leading to a more tolerant world.
Why did you choose this title?
Life is like a chess game. In this country, African Americans, Indigenous People, Latinxs, the AAPI community, Muslims, women, LGBTQIA+ and other disenfranchised people are playing the game with the black chess pieces. Therefore, we move in response to the moves of the white chessmen, and therefore almost always on defense.
Is this just another book about black oppression?
That question implies the market is saturated with stories of black oppression. I believe we need plenty more perspectives by African Americans on our American experience. This novel is not about the oppression of Black folks but rather the liberation of our people.
Are all the characters black?
All of the main characters are black, however, most readers Black, white, male, female, Latinx, AAPI, LBGTQIA+ and other marginalized folks will identify with one of these characters.
Are all the characters women?
In the game of chess the king is the most important chess piece and the queen is the most powerful. The three protagonists are women but men are an important component of the storyline.
Which of the characters is most like you?
All characters have a piece of me. I created these characters by analyzing what connected me to various types of people and exaggerating those personalities.
Can this book cross over to other audiences?
Absolutely anyone feeling challenged by discrimination can identify with these characters. Those people who do not live under constant oppression can get a better understanding of the anguish African Americans experience daily.
What made you write this book?
I wanted to share the persistent anxiety and resistance African Americans endure in their daily lives, who are striving, most of the time in vain, for the American Dream.
Are you an author and/or an activist? Both
This is my first published novel. I grew up in a family concerned with civil rights and human rights issues. I’ve been an activist since childhood.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A friend picked up my journal and asked if I was writing a book.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I solve writer’s block by sleeping. When I awaken, I have my answers.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Work with animals
Where do you get your ideas?
Real life struggles and the lessons learned
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A Phoenix. I’ve arisen from the ashes of my life journey.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Two
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Absolutely. It is cathartic.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Showing male emotions more subtly
What did you edit out of this book? Sex.
I didn’t want to turn this into a romance novel.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Definitely.
Chess players and yogis may notice some patterns, but those are not the only ones!