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  • Written by E. Lynn Harris
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A Novel

Written by E. Lynn HarrisAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by E. Lynn Harris



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List Price: $11.99

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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-307-42703-8
Published by : Anchor Knopf

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On Sale: July 18, 2000
ISBN: 978-0-553-75267-0
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

John “Basil” Henderson has always played the field, both as a professional football player and as an equal opportunity lover. After retiring his jersey for a career as a sports agent, the dashing playboy is surprising everyone—including himself—by deciding to settle down and commit to his new love, Yancey Harrington Braxton. A fiercely driven Broadway star on the rise, blessed with beauty, charm, and a fondness for the finer things in life, she appears to be his ideal mate. A lavish wedding is planned, but just before the nuptials, fate and a little comeuppance threaten the happy couple’s future.

Charged with narrative exuberance and sumptuous detail, Not a Day Goes By proves that nobody spins a sexy urban love story like E. Lynn Harris.

Excerpt

September, 1999

My lady, Yancey, changed my life. Sometimes I think she saved my life. My name is John Basil Henderson and I guess I'm what you call a former bad boy. I was the kind of dude who was getting so much play, I needed to buy condoms by the barrel. About two years ago, all that changed when I met Yancey Harrington Braxton the day before Christmas at Rockefeller Center while skating with my five-year-old nephew, Cade. Yancey walked right up and started a conversation while flirting with both Cade and myself. I loved her confidence. We were both smitten at her first hello. Yancey is, as the young dudes would say, a "dime piece" ... a perfect ten.

When I met Yancey I was in the midst of a pre-midlife crisis. I had just turned thirty-three and my childhood dream of playing pro football was already over. Wasn't shit going right for me. I was actually seeing a shrink, trying to figure out why I had such disdain for both men and women while, at times, being sexually attracted to both. I was spending too much time trying to get even with this mofo, Raymond Tyler who didn't even know how strongly I felt about him. For me, Raymond stood on that thin line between love and hate. There were so many things I liked--no, loved--about him, but I also hated feeling that way toward any man. It just wasn't right.

I had gone to the doctor to face my past--a past that included my sexual molestation by a much beloved uncle. I wrote that no good mofo a letter telling him how he had screwed up my life with his sick ass, but the mofo died before I could mail it. I was surprised at how writing shit down and talking out loud about how I was feeling helped me. But the good doctor wasn't excited about my relationship with Yancey, and when I disagreed, we parted ways. It wasn't as if he said, "If you continue in the relationship I can no longer see you, Mr. Henderson." I just stopped going and he never called to see if I was okay. I guess he didn't need the money.

There have been times in my life that were so painful that I didn't think I could share them with another living soul, but then that person walks into your life, and you don't know whether to be afraid or feel relief. You don't know whether to be afraid or feel relief. You don't know whether to run or stand still, That was the way I felt about meeting Yancey. When I told her how my father had raised me to believe that my mother was dead, which I later found out was a total lie, Yancey held me tight and I felt her tears on my naked shoulder. At times I feel as though I could tell her anything, and then I remember she is a woman and wouldn't understand some of the things I have been through and done. So, despite my bone-deep love for Yancey, I've kept some secrets about myself she just wouldn't understand.

My love for Yancey hit me hard. I guess that's the way real love works. I love the way she makes me feel like I'm the only man in a roomful of thousands. I love the way other men and women look at us when we walk hand in hand into some of New York's finest restaurants and nightclubs, or during our simple walks through Central Park. I love watching her perform on the Broadway stage and in cabarets, where Yancey charms both owners and patrons. I love the sound of her singing, not only on the stage but in the bathroom, while she sits at her vanity and brushes her hair.

But one of the things I love the most about Yancey is that she reminds me of myself. I guess both of us have taken so much shit from our families that we don't too kindly to outsiders. We are each other's best friend. To the outside world we're the diva and the dawg, but not with each other. Once I took her to Athens, Georgia, for a college football game. After the game we went to a sports bar for beer and chicken wings. The redheaded waitress with colossal breasts was diggin' me. When she served us, ole girl bent down so low I could smell her deodorant. Yancey definitely took note. So when the waitress did one more dip and looked me directly in the eyes and asked, "Can I git anything else for y'all?" Yancey stood up and said, "Yes, you can git them fake titties out of my man's face." That's my Yancey. Another time, shortly after we first started dating and I was still keeping a few freaks on the side, Yancey came over to spend the night. I came out of the shower expecting to see her lying in my bed wearing something sexy but she was fully dressed. When I asked her what was up, she told me, "I don't sleep in no bed where I can smell another woman's perfume or pussy." I got the message.

I had a gig doing sportscasting for a network, and when I became fed up with the way they were treating me, Yancey convinced me that I could do better. As we talked one evening while enjoying a late supper, I realized I wanted a business that combined my love for sports and making money. A couple of weeks later a former teammate called me looking for additional capital to expand his small sports management agency. I hadn't heard from Brison Tucker since the night the two of us went out and got messed up big time after we were both chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. Brison was injured after four years in the league, and had spent several years working in Canada as a scout. A couple of long dinners and months later, I was no longer a talking head at ESPN doing second-rate college games but a partner of XJI (X Jocks Inc.) one of the fastest-growing sports agencies in the country, with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, with over thirty employees. The agency is looking to add another partner and open offices in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Joining the XJI was the right move at the right time. I had made some decent money with Internet stocks and was looking for another investment. Instead of just handing over money, I joined the firm as a partner. This year alone, XJI has six potential number-one picks in the upcoming NFL draft as well as four NBA lottery picks. I personally signed three of the players. The agency also has a couple of NBA superstars who left their white agents and signed with us, as well as a couple of WNBA players and some track and field hardheads. I love what I do and I've rekindled some old friendships with my partners and made new friends with some of the players I represent. I feel a certain power when I make big-money deals for my clients, especially since the money is coming from wealthy owners who view the players as possessions. If these rich mofos want to play with my players, then I make sure they pay major benjamins.

As for me, myself, and I? We're rollin' like a bowling ball! I recently purchased a penthouse loft on Lafayette Street with twenty-six-foot-high ceilings and wood-burning fireplaces in both the living room and the master bedroom. I got a closetful of finely tailored suits and I could go months without wearing the same pair of draws or socks. Yancey and I take vacations in places like Jamaica, Fisher Island, and Paris whenever New York becomes too much of a grind. I'm doing better than I ever did when I was playing professional football.

Still, the biggest change in my life is the way I feel about women. With the love of Yancey and my sister, Campbell, I have come to view women differently for the very first time. I didn't know I had a sister until two years ago, just before I met Yancey. Turns out my mom had remarried and on her deathbed told Campbell she had a brother. She tracked me down, and suddenly I had two new women in my life. Before, I'd never have let women get that close to me.

In Campbell I see a woman determined to give her son, Cade, and husband, Hewitt, the best she has to offer. Sometimes I just like to watch her with Cade, feeding him french fries or making sure his coat is buttoned up before he goes out into the cold. I love the way she smiles and hugs him whenever he comes into a room, even when he's only been gone for a short time.

There was a time in my life when I had a lot of anger toward women. I put them in two categories: whores and sluts. The only difference is, a whore gives up the sex because she wants something material, whereas a slut just loves the sex. I have been with both, but I didn't like the power pussy had over me. Maybe my anger toward women happened because I grew up without a mother, or because I simply hadn't met the right woman. Now, thanks to Yancey and Campbell, I no longer view them as a resting place for my manhood but a place where I can rest my heart. Now don't get me wrong, I ain't whipped and I'm not ready for the choir robe and halo, I still got my tough-guy-swagger (when needed). The only difference between two years ago and today is I realize that a tough-guy swagger looks just as


From the Paperback edition.
E. Lynn Harris|Author Q&A|Author Desktop

About E. Lynn Harris

E. Lynn Harris - Not a Day Goes By

Photo © Matthew Jordan Smith

E. Lynn Harris was a ten-time New York Times bestselling author. His work included the memoir What Becomes of the Brokenhearted and the novels, A Love of My Own, Just as I Am, Any Way the Wind Blows (all three of which were named Novel of the Year by the Blackboard African American Bestsellers), I Say a Little Prayer, If This World Were Mine (which won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence), the classic Invisible Life, Just Too Good to Be True, and Basketball Jones. He passed away at the age of 54 in 2009.

Author Q&A

Q: Your new book, Not a Day Goes By, zoomed to the top of the national bestseller lists, and most notably debuted in the #2 slot on the New York Times fiction list--a first for an African American male fiction writer. How does that feel?

A: It's very humbling, and at the same time it's very rewarding because it shows that all the hard work of my editor, publisher, staff and myself has paid off. It's also a fantastic feeling to know that the fans rushed to the stores . . . and brought friends with them.

Q: How did you decide to write a book about John Basil Henderson (a character who has appeared in all your novels--and is also a character your fans love to hate) and Yancey Harrington Braxton, the Broadway diva introduced in Abide with Me?

A: I wanted to do something different and my editor, the president of Doubleday, and I came up with the idea to do something special for the summer, a different kind of love story . . . something wicked. Basil and Yancy got together at the end of Abide with Me and I thought it would be fun to see what happened if they pursued their relationship.

Q: Did you know from the start whether there would be a happy or sad ending to this love affair?

A: Yeah, I knew what would happen when I put these two together (not that I'll divulge that here) but I didn't know how it would all come about. That was the fun part. I just had to sit back and write and let Yancy and Basil do their thing.

Q: You've been asked to write the screenplay for a remake of the classic African American movie Sparkle. Tell us about the new movie and how that opportunity came about.

A: Sparkle is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's a wonderful love story. I was approached by Deborah Martin Chase, Whitney Houston's producing partner, who asked me to pitch my ideas for the remake to Kevin McCormick at Warner Brothers. I felt honored just to be asked to present my story ideas. But then they loved it and offered me the job. I can't give any details yet, you'll just have to wait for the movie to come out!

Q: Almost a decade ago you left the computer industry to write fiction. How did you muster the courage to pursue your dream?

A: I had a story to tell and I knew I was the only one to tell it. The story played so heavy on my heart that I devoted myself to telling it. It was like I didn't have a choice. That first book was Invisible Life and it was my passion. I never thought about it becoming a bestseller . . . that would have caused fear and uncertainty. I just concentrated on telling that story the best I could.

Giving up the security of a job was tough but it was also exhilarating because I felt free to do what I needed (and still need) to do: to write. I'd do it for free, and for a long while that's just what I did. It wasn't until a few years ago that writing became lucrative as well.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

A: Write because you have a story only you can tell. Write with passion. Don't write for the money or fame because it may not come, and even if it does it's the writing which brings you joy, not all the other stuff.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I plan on resting for a while after I finish my tour. Then I'll pick up my journal, gather my thoughts, and decide what story is next.


From the Paperback edition.

Author Q&A

When E. Lynn Harris answers the phone for our scheduled interview, I’m bowled over before he says anything more than hello. He has a voice that sounds like melted chocolate tastes — the deep rich tones of a radio announcer made all the more irresistible by a faint southern accent. I’ve already decided that I could spend all day on the phone with him.

But more than the allotted 30 minutes in this bestselling author’s day is impossible. Harris is not only busy with the final touches to his latest novel Any Way the Wind Blows, due out in July, but he’s also working on a memoir, and the screenplay to the remake of the 1976 African-American cult favourite Sparkle. And Ever since Doubleday created an E. Lynn Harris website (www.elynnharris.com) on the publication of his New York Times bestselling novel, Not a Day Goes By, Harris has been deluged by a staggering number of messages from his devoted fans. “Just today, I’ve got 470 e-mails to answer,” he tells me with a chuckle, “and when I’m on tour, it can be thousands a week!” What is remarkable is not the number of e-mails he receives, rather, that he answers them all himself. “It sometimes takes me two to three weeks to answer but everyone gets a reply eventually and I always apologize if it’s late.”

It was Harris’s humble beginnings as a writer that instilled in him an abiding appreciation and respect for the people who make his success possible. In 1991 Harris completed his first novel, Invisible Life, after a particularly difficult period in his own life. He had quit his job selling computer software for a small firm and was diagnosed with clinical depression. “It was hard. I was losing a lot of friends to the AIDS epidemic and I really wanted my life to make an impact.” He started writing Invisible Life as a kind of therapy. “I was always a good letter writer but writing was not an option as a career in Little Rock [Arkansas, where Harris grew up]. Words always struck me as powerful; they could take you to a completely different place.”

When the book was completed, Harris could not get a publisher or an agent. He took to selling the book from the trunk of his car. He focused his efforts on black-owned beauty salons where he felt he might have an audience. Not daunted by the apparent lack of interest from the publishing industry, Harris was convinced that he had written something special by the overwhelming reactions of the people who read the book. After seven months, Harris landed an agent and signed a book deal with Doubleday, who had heard about this self-publishing phenomenon. With over one million copies of his books now sold, Harris knows that his success is thanks to his fans.

After six books, his fans remain just as devoted. One woman who arrived at a signing came with a Tupperware container full of “a whole southern meal,” Harris laughs, “sweet potato pie, fried chicken, the whole thing.” He was wary at first to eat it but succumbed later in his hotel room. The meal was so good that Harris returned the container with a note of thanks. Even more recently, while on a vacation in Vancouver, BC, he and a friend were walking back to their hotel from a restaurant when they stopped to ask a young man waiting at a bus stop if they were heading in the right direction. At first the man answered casually, but then he recognized Harris. “His eyes got as big as plates and he said, ‘Oh my God, you’re E. Lynn Harris.’ So we invited him to join us for drinks and we had a great time. I’ll always remember Vancouver for making me feel so good.”

From people on park benches to the likes of Toni Braxton, Harris’s fan base is so diverse that it’s hard to find a category broad enough for him. In fact, it’s so hard that “What genre does E. Lynn Harris write in?” was the $64,000 question on an episode of the hit TV game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The media have often called his work “African-American romance,” but he prefers to think of himself as an urban chronicler. Harris describes his books as having “a bit of love, a bit of conflict, family and friends.” His stories focus on real-life conflict, triumph and resolution in a funky, upper-class urban setting.

But in the end, the answer to the $64,000 question is … it doesn’t really matter. Whether you call it romance or a recipe for pea soup, Harris’s writing is intoxicating. It’s impossible not to be hooked from the first chapter to the last. The most potent element, aside from his sexy characters and oftentimes laugh-out-loud dialogue, is the glimpse you get at a life that isn’t your own. Reading his books is like looking in people’s windows at night when they have their lights on, or sneaking a peek in the medicine cabinets at a party. You have the guilty pleasure of seeing things that would normally be hidden from view. And according to Harris himself, “I guarantee you a great, great ride when you get there.”


Interview reprinted with permission. Copyright Random House Canada.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

“A book that plumbs the depths of love, loyalty and misplaced motives…. Harris is in true form.”–USA Today

“Offers sweet, guilty thrills that leave you longing for more.” –Salon

“E. Lynn Harris…tucks in enough plot twists to keep his readers turning pages late at night.”–The Washington Post Book World

“Harris scores again…. His patented knack for a wry, uproarious resolution is in full flower in this sexual War of the Roses.”–Publishers Weekly

“A love story full of suspense and anticipation.”–Detroit Free Press

“Enough punch to score a KO.”–People

“E. Lynn Harris–the chart-topping author of romance novels about black men–has got it going on…. The secret? Harris’ addictive, Soul Food meets Melrose Place plots, revolving around affluent buppies wrestling with sexual identity, monogamy, and top-flight careers.”–Entertainment Weekly
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions

About the Book

The questions, discussion topics, and the suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your reading group's discussion of Not a Day Goes By, a sassy, seductive novel by E. Lynn Harris, one of today's most popular commercial fiction writers. After making unforgettable appearances in Harris's bestselling Invisible Life trilogy, ex-football star John Basil Henderson and ambitious actress Yancey Harrington Braxton take center stage and really strut their stuff in Not a Day Goes By.

About the Guide

John Basil Henderson has moved from gridiron to a gig as a broadcaster with ESPN, to a partnership in XJI (X Jocks, Inc.), one of the fastest-growing sports management agencies in the country. He has a New York City penthouse, a closet full of finely tailored suits, and a great investment portfolio. Best of all, he has Yancey Harrington Braxton. Before Yancey came along, Basil had spent months with a shrink, facing up to a past that included childhood abuse and an unrestrained (and unsettling) attraction to both women and men. A "perfect ten" and a woman with whom he can share almost all his secrets, Yancey has transformed the former bad boy into an eager groom-to-be.

Yancey Harrington Braxton--a statuesque 5'8'' with talent to burn--is well on her way to becoming a Broadway diva. With several starring roles on her r?sum?, she enters a room with the style of a runway model--shoulders back, chest out--and a Miss America smile spread across her face. When she's not on stage, she's taking private lessons in acting, dance, and voice from the best teachers in New York and daydreaming about the Tony, Grammy, Emmy, or Oscar she knows is in her future. Success has even made it possible for Yancey to form a tentative friendship with her mother, who abandoned Yancey as a child to pursue her own acting career. And Yancey has certainly hit the jackpot in the man department. Not only does Basil understand the legacies of growing up in a dysfunctional family, he has, like Yancey, acquired a love for the finer things in life, and he has the desire--and the bank account--to give her anything she wants.

But in the weeks before the wedding--the event which Basil hopes will prove to the world exactly what kind of man he is and the magical moment Yancey has fantasized about all her life--the mistakes, mischief, and misdeeds they thought were long buried suddenly come back to haunt them. Two masters of manipulation, Basil and Yancey find themselves facing the ultimate challenge. As their schemes and strategies spin out of control, Not a Day Goes By takes the reader on a rollicking ride spiced with sex, scandal, unsettling surprises--and an inspiring dose of down-home wisdom.

About the Author

E. Lynn Harris is a former computer sales executive with IBM and a graduate of the University of Arkansas. His previous books, all bestsellers, include If This World Were Mine, which won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence, and Abide with Me, a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. He divides his time between Chicago and New York, and is currently working on his memoir.


From the Paperback edition.

Discussion Guides

1. Why does Harris reveal the climax of the romance between Basil and Yancey in the very first chapter? How do his descriptions of Basil's and Yancey's behavior set the stage for the story that follows?

2. Is Basil's explanation of why he loves Yancey [p. 8] a convincing expression of what constitutes real love? Does his need to conceal parts of his past undermine the sincerity of his feelings for Yancey? How do his secrets compare to the secrets many lovers choose to keep from one another?

3. "Yancey loved Basil in her own way" [p. 16], Harris writes. How does Yancey's approach to love differ from Basil's? Is the compromise she makes ("It's okay to love, but never too hard, or too much" [pg. 16]) an inevitable outcome of her own upbringing? In what ways are the other things Yancey does "in her own way"--for example, sending autographed pictures rather than attending her high school reunion and refusing to work ordinary jobs to earn money [p. 13]--also a legacy of her childhood?

4. Why does Harris include "Basil's Rules to Keep the Knuckleheads Away from the Family Jewels" [pp. 21-22]? Does Basil take these rules seriously, or is he indulging in a bit of self-parody?

5. Windsor's personality and the life she leads contrast sharply with Yancey's. Are Yancey's reasons for giving Windsor a room only financial, or does Windsor offer other things Yancey wants, either consciously or subconsciously? What incidents show that Yancey needs Windsor more than she admits?

6. Basil describes the evenings he spends with his sister, Campbell, and her family as "a time when I could let my guard down" [p. 62]. Why is he more comfortable in his role as loving brother and uncle than he is as Yancey's lover or as a partner in the agency? Does his behavior with Campbell and Cade represent the man he really is?

7. What are the implications of Yancey's demand for a part on Sex and the City [p. 67]? Is the media guilty of perpetuating outdated ideas about race? Yancey believes that lighter-skinned African American women have an advantage in society in general and in the theater in particular. Does the way she looks and defines herself [p. 12] play into a prejudice she herself finds offensive?

8. The debate within XJI about hiring an openly gay partner also focuses on a current controversy. Is the upcoming magazine article the only reason Zurich finds it necessary to reveal his sexual orientation? What does Basil hope to accomplish by seeing Zurich alone after the meeting at XJI?

9. Confused about their sexuality, both Milo and Zurich sought help from their ministers, and in both cases, they were advised to get married [pp. 129-30]. Given the teachings of most churches about homosexuality, could their ministers have behaved differently?

10. Beyond the initial shock, how would you characterize Yancey's reaction to Derrick's revelation about their child? After his refusal to marry her, does Derrick's decision about their child represent a further betrayal of Yancey, or was he simply "doing the right thing"? What were his motives in keeping Madison's existence a secret from Yancey for so many years? What are his motives in asking her to become involved now if he doesn't love her?

11. At the beginning of the book, Basil says, "For me, Raymond stood on that thin line between love and hate" [p. 7], yet he asks Raymond to participate in his wedding. What light does his conversation with Raymond [p. 176] shed on Basil's state of mind on the eve of his marriage?

12. Ava's negative influence on Yancey is one of the major threads in the book. Does Ava have any real maternal affection for her daughter? Has she helped Yancey develop any admirable characteristics?

13. Basil and Yancey eventually discover each other's secrets through methods most people would consider highly unethical. Is the end result justified by the method of discovery? Both of them express anger, a sense of hurt and betrayal, and a desire for revenge in response to the information they uncover. Whose reaction do you find more sympathetic and why?

14. Basil's side of the story is told in his own voice, while Yancey's is presented through a third person narrative. How does this affect your impressions of each of them? Does it, perhaps unfairly, make you more sympathetic to Basil? Do you think Yancey's point of view is adequately captured? How might her own narrative differ from the third person account? From Basil's account?

15. If you have read Abide with Me, discuss the ways in which Basil differs from the person he was in that book. Both Basil and Yancey are complicated figures, sometimes arousing the reader's anger and outrage, sometimes eliciting strong feelings of sympathy. To what extent do they create trouble for themselves, and to what extent are they victims of other people, their backgrounds, or society in general? At the end of the book, have your feelings about Basil and Yancey changed from your first impressions? What purpose does the epilogue serve?

16. Harris uses a familiar phrase as his title. What words would complete the phrase to sum up Basil's and Yancey's individual views of the world?


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