Terry McMillan is in a good place. The 61-year-old best-selling author just moved from Northern to Southern California and her son, Solomon, is now a college graduate. She’s on the road now promoting her eighth book, “Who Asked You?” the story of a Betty Jean, a beleaguered grandmother taking care of her ailing husband and two grandkids. The book is told from the varying perspectives of several characters, including the dysfunctional members of Betty Jean’s family.
McMillan’s third book “Waiting to Exhale” sold over a million copies in 1992 and spawned a movie starring Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston released in 1995. The book is credited with helping major publishers recognize an audience for Black contemporary fiction. McMillan herself became a celebrity, enjoying the perks of fame and wealth from the book and film’s success.
But literary stardom had its downside when her marriage to a decades younger Jamaican man, Jonathan Plummer, who inspired the book and movie “How Stella Got her Groove Back,” came out as a gay man. After two appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that left even Winfrey speechless, the two resolved their once acrimonious divorce and are now amicable. We talked to Terry recently about her new book and her journey thus far.
Blackamericaweb.com: Writing a book isn’t easy, but you’re on your eighth book. What helped you get to this point?
Terry McMillan: To me, writing a novel doesn’t feel like drudgery. I choose stories based on things that I find difficult to accept or tolerate. I write to understand why people do what they do and how they address their own personal demons and struggles and what they do to get over something. That is the beauty of it and I find it a good way to spend my time.