What is your process when writing a novel? Christy Starks, ROMEOVILLE, ILL.
I write almost every day. I start a novel with a question and a problem, and I look at it as if it's a photograph. I think, What's wrong with this picture? With Getting to Happy, I wanted to deal with women who had been betrayed and deceived, who had experienced loss, especially at a time when most women would like to think that their lives are going smoothly.
Your fans were shocked when your then husband revealed he was gay. What do you want us to learn from your experience? Tammy Barbour, LAWRENCEVILLE, GA.
I don't have any regrets about marrying my ex-husband. I had seven or eight of the best years of my adult life. It's a lot healthier to be able to focus on what was good, because to me, that resonates more. I have forgiven him. He's not my BFF, but we're friends. I used to hate his guts. But after a while, anger can kill you.
You create strong female characters. Are they inspired by any role models you had growing up? Riley Keaton, CHARDON, OHIO
I don't really think of them so much as being strong characters. I don't like writing about victims, and I don't like writing about passive characters. I find them boring. I write about characters who are much more proactive. These women don't accept what happens to them.
If Getting to Happy is made into a movie, will all four actresses from Waiting to Exhale return? Sam Nas, VANCOUVER
I'm pretty sure that three of them are interested: Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon. We're just hoping that Whitney Houston will be too. I don't know if the studio has spoken to Forest Whitaker [to direct again] or not. It's still a little early, because we're trying to finish the draft on the screenplay.
Will Stella also make a literary return? Lamont Pinkney, KANSAS CITY, MO.
No. I'm finished with Stella. Stella got her groove back once, and that's it.
How do you feel about the label "women's literature"? Anahi Gonzalez, SAN JUAN, P.R.
I don't like the label. It's right up there with using the term chick lit. They don't refer to books written by men as men's literature. I think it's really sad that we have to use labels for anything. I'll be glad when they stop referring to me as an African-American writer and just say I'm a writer. That would make my day.
What do you think about the bond between Michelle and Barack Obama, which has seemed to inspire so many in the black community? Tracy Gibson, BROOKLYN
I love what we see just their tenderness, their interest in each other. I love how they smile at each other, how they hold hands. It's really refreshing.
What would be your advice to a writer on how to get published? Lovell Gamble, MONTGOMERY, ALA.
One of the things you do first is find an agent. An agent knows editors at every publishing company, almost. They know who your work is best suited for. Having an agent is important. Most publishing companies now don't even read your work. And it's dangerous just to send it. I wouldn't.
How do you feel about so many African-American bookstores going out of business? Lawrence Jones, LEWISVILLE, TEXAS
I find it unsettling. There used to be about 64 black bookstores, and now I think we're down to six. It's the one place we have where our work isn't separated on the shelf. You go in, and the world of African Americans is housed there. You don't get that in the chain bookstores.
How do you feel about devices such as the Kindle or the Nook? Newman Lewis, MOORESTOWN, N.J.
I don't like them. I like holding a book in my hand, and I like turning the pages. But I think, as long as people read, I almost don't care. Whatever lifts your skirt.