an interview with Albert French   interview  
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  Bold Type: Where did the idea for this one come from?

Albert French: The title came from having problems in my life, I was very frustrated and depressed, and a friend of mine was telling me that God will take care of everything. I said I can't wait on God. My other books were born out of a very difficult time in my life, but this one was like a quick warm fire.

BT: You wrote Billy in 6 weeks; Patches of Fire came out of your personal experiences and was written in eight weeks--how different was the writing process for I Can't Wait on God compared to your other books?

AF: This took a while because my life has changed. At the same time that I started this I was reworking Patches of Fire, and this had been put aside a few times. But when I was getting back into it, I stopped looking at the time. I've gotten to a point where I'm not racing against time anymore when I write.

BT: This book has a wide array of minor characters, who play a key role in fleshing out Homewood. Are any of these secondary characters based on real people?

AF: To write about Homewood in that time period and to not recognize or talk about Dicky Bird, Bill Lovit, Gus Goins, you couldn't make the place real. A few of the people were real, a very few. But their characters are composites of the flavor of the people there. Actually Homewood has already been written about, by Cousin John [John Edgar Wideman, award-winning novelist and French's cousin], so it's a known place. He's written about some of these characters too, like Dicky Bird and Bill Lovit. Mister Allen was real. But most of these people are dead now.

I didn't realize until we got the proofs just how large the cast of characters is 114. The people just came, as I wrote about them I saw their faces. Faces not of real people but faces that make up Homewood. Is this a record for the number of characters? Is there any way to check that?

BT: I'll call the Guinness people...

AF: You do that.

BT: So who or what are your creative influences while you're writing? What did you draw on for inspiration?

AF: I'm not an avid reader, and when I'm writing I don't read at all. I think that's really a compliment to good writers, though. If their voices are strong, I'm concerned about having their voice influence my own. I don't need that.

BT: There's a lot more music in this novel than your others--were you listening to a lot of jazz as you wrote?

AF: I know nothing about music. I appreciate it. But I don't know anything about music. I had to ask a friend of mine what kind of saxophone people played. But I do know about music and people. I know and feel the need of music, the need of art, the need of expression. That is a vital part of the soul of any culture. That I do know.

With I Can't Wait on God, as in Billy and Holly, and Patches of Fire, the most important thing to me is to feel that I've been honest with the characters in that book. Respectful to their lives. My real accomplishment is that I made that contribution with my art, giving the book the chance to live, allowing these people, this time to live again. And beyond that, I can't speak. It's time for the book to go its way. I have to let it go. It's hard to let it go, but I can't keep it anymore.
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    Photo of Albert French copyright © Erin Todhunter