By Terrance Dean
For those of you who have not read my book, Hiding In Hip Hop, in it I share my experience of working on The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show early in my career. During my time at the show I was able to meet and work with the entire Wayans family. They are the most loving, tight-knit, and hillarious group of people to work with. I had an amazing time.
When I heard Damon Wayans had penned his first novel I immediately reached out to do an interview with him to discuss his new book, Red Hats, and to also get copies for some of the loyals readers of my column.
Damon is renowned for his Hollywood films, and his run on the ground-breaking sketch comedy show, In Living Color, and later on as the executive producer and star of ABCs hit My Wife and Kids. Damon is a world-class comedian, actor, and storyteller with a powerful voice.
His new book, Red Hats (Atria – May; $19.99) is about a woman who loved nothing more than going out dancing with her husband, 64-year-old Alma now spends most of her day looking out of her apartment window—her favorite pastime. It seems as if everyone leads an exciting life but her. Married for nearly 30 years, she hates where she and Harold’s relationship has ended up. All she does is harass him and all he does is ignore her. It doesn’t help that her three grown children don’t visit much, although she knows that part of the reason is because she prides herself on her honesty, and doesn’t hold back when telling it like it is. She’s lonely, and she wishes she had the life she once dreamed of.
When Harold suddenly dies of a heart attack, a vast hole rips through Alma, one she doesn’t think she can fill. She’s guilt-ridden from the way she’s treated her husband, and thinks maybe she’d be better off joining him. So, she puts on the fabulous red dress she had bought for her upcoming 65th birthday, drinks two glasses of wine, and turns on the gas in her oven—determined to go out in, albeit lonely—style. But an eclectic, gaily dressed group of women passing in the street notice Alma faint in her window and drag her to safety.
Thus begins Alma’s induction into The Red Hats, a group of women headed by Delilah “Dee” Sampson, who make it their mission to help other women in need. Suspicious at first of their kindness, Alma has trouble letting them in. Her daughter tries to tell her that life is short and the journey would be easier if she could just open up and let people in. But how can you open up when you can’t trust anyone?
When a fire destroys Alma’s apartment, it’s Dee, however, who rescues her from the shelter she’s been forced to go to. Slowly, Alma is drawn into The Red Hats’ healing circle and her new group of friends see her for whom she really is—a woman who is caring and giving on the inside. And when she confronts the real reason she and Harold became estranged, Alma begins her journey toward rediscovering love and her ability to both give and receive it.
Damon was happy and thrilled to do the interview with me about his new book. Check it out:
TD: You’re a world-renown celebrity, and one of the world’s funniest comedians. You’ve previously written comedic/humor books, however, this new book is a fictional inspirational novel. Why have you decided to write this, more serious in tone, novel?
DW: Being a comedian makes it very easy to write drama. Most of us have a serious side. It comes from being observers of human nature and its imperfections. As a comedian we just find the funny slant on the truth. The only difficult thing for me was fighting the need to put punch lines in my character’s mouth.
TD: Red Hats is the story about the female protagonist, Alma, a woman of a certain age, who is settled into her ways, and life, however, she loses everything and has to begin life over. What inspired the story of Alma, and as a male writer, how were you able to find the voice for your main character, and the other female characters in the book?
DW: There were many things that inspired me to write Red Hats. The first was me being on a vacation in Paris to find my creative voice again and seeing a group of Red Hats in my hotel then going home to New York and finding out my mom had joined the Red Hats. I knew right away that this was a sign that I must write about them. I liked the challenge it put on me as an artist. Writing the voice of Alma was surprisingly easy for me as were the rest of the women in the book because I grew up around some very strong women all my life. I was forever seeking the affections of women as a young boy so I had all these voices in my head. I approached it like I would writing a male character, speaking out loud to myself as I typed.
TD: Many authors generally incorporate some of their own life experiences in their works. Does your novel have any elements from your life, or family’s experiences?
DW: I completely made up the experiences in this novel. It made me nervous in a good way to sit down and write this character’s journey not really knowing where I was going with her and how I would get there.
TD: Those who are familiar with you know you’re always donning some type of hat as your own signature style. Was this, perhaps, some inspiration for Red Hat?
DW: I love hats and I actually own a beautiful red fedora that I don’t wear because it is so damn cool. Hats replaced hair for me after losing mine at a very young age. What I love about hats is they give you an attitude when you put one on. I actually had a different imaginary red hat for each of my characters in the book that I wore in my mind as I was writing.
TD: What is the lesson/s you want readers to take away from Red Hat?
DW: I think the real lesson to be learned in this book is to watch how we treat the people we profess to love. Life is so precious and we are not promised another day so while we have tit we must enjoy it to the full – with no regrets. No one ever regrets having a good time. Especially with ones we love.
TD: Is the novel an introduction to your fans a way of letting everyone know you’re taking on a new hat, (no pun intended), as an author, and are there future books coming subsequently?
DW: I truly enjoyed every aspect of writing this novel from the outline to the edit it was an enormous challenge. The fact that Red Hats is being well received makes me want to write more novels. I have several ideas that I’ve already outlined and can’t wait to put pen to paper on. The joy of storytelling is a great way to make a living. You get to tell lies that people want to believe are true.
TD: Are you planning on touring with this book? If so, where can your fans find information about possible cities you will be visiting?
DW: I will be touring in May. Lots of book signings in various cities such as Atlanta, D.C., New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are just a few I know off the top of my head. I will be doing talk shows and radio interviews to promote my book and the book signings in the near future.
Guess what everyone? Damon has agreed to give-away five copies of his book, Red Hats. So, the first five persons to email me with answers to these questions will win a copy – 1.) What is Damon’s character name in the film, Blankman? 2.) What is Damon’s character name in the film, Mo’ Money? 3.) What is Damon’s character name on his hit show, My Wife and Kids, and name his wife, and children’s character names from the show? Send your answers to: firstname.lastname@example.org