This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
September 25, 1963 |
Fort Lauderdale, Florida,
|Education||Broadcast Journalism English Literature Secondary Education|
|Alma mater||University of Florida (B.S.)
Alabama State University
|Years active||1997 - present|
|Notable work||Scenes from a Sistah
Child of God
Lolita Files (born September 25, 1963) is a contemporary African-American author, screenwriter, and producer. Among her six bestselling novels are book club favorites Scenes from a Sistah and Child of God. Her sixth novel, sex.lies.murder.fame was optioned for film by Carolyn Folks for Entertainment Studios with Files adapting the screenplay. She also co-wrote the screen adaptation of award-winning novelist/playwright/essayist/poet Pearl Cleage's bestselling book, Babylon Sisters, to be directed by filmmaker, artist and educator Ayoka Chenzira.
The book Once Upon A Time In Compton (Brown Girls Publishing), by former Compton Gang Unit Detectives Timothy M. Brennan and Robert Ladd, along with Files, about Brennan and Ladd's years in the gang unit, the rise of Gangsta rap, gang wars, the L.A. riots, the investigations of the murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., and the fall of the Compton Police Department will be published in Spring 2017.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Off Broadway
- 3 Shakespeare's Hamlet vs Files' Child of God
- 4 Maternal ancestry
- 5 Bibliography
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Lolita Files was born in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on September 25, 1963 to Lillie Belle (née Brackett) (d. 2008) and Arthur James Files, Sr. (d. 1999), She was named by her mother after the Stanley Kubrick film Lolita.
Files an avid reader from an early age, read Greek mythology, Roman mythology, Norse mythology, Arthurian legend, Dante's Divine Comedy, and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Files developed a love of Shakespeare that would influence much of her writings, both comedic and dramatic. She was also heavily influenced by the works of Toni Morrison, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Zora Neale Hurston, Louise Meriwether, Vladimir Nabokov, Chinua Achebe, Claude Brown, Richard Wright, Gustav Flaubert, and Greek playwrights Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripedes, and Aristophanes.
Education and corporate career
In 1981, Files, voted "Most Likely To Succeed," graduated from Dillard High School with high honors and seven scholarships (one of them, a Presidential scholarship, fully covered her college tuition). She attended the University of Florida at Gainesville. As a freshman, she was a stringer for the student newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator and a member of the University of Florida Gospel Choir through her sophomore year. In the spring of her sophomore year, in 1983, she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Iota Lambda chapter) on the line Rare Creations, later serving as Anti-Basileus (Vice-President) of the chapter. In her senior year, Files ran for, and was elected to, the position of Senator representing the College of Journalism and Communications in UF's Student Senate.
It was also during Files' senior year that one of her professors tried to eject her from his advanced expository writing class, believing, based on the quality of her work, that she was a professional writer trying to pass herself off as a student. Upon learning that she was, in fact, just a student, he vehemently urged her to pursue writing as a career, something two of Files' English teachers - Mary Pittman and Debby Ryan - had strongly encouraged and helped foster for the better part of her four years at Dillard High. While many of Files' college friends had always viewed her as rather bookish, most had no idea that being an author was something she seriously intended to realize in the future, even though it was something she casually spoke of on occasion.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism in 1985, Files returned to Fort Lauderdale, working as a marketing manager for a pharmaceutical company, then as a regional property coordinator for Great Atlantic Property Management, a real estate management company based out of Newport News, VA with commercial and residential properties that spanned the Eastern Seaboard and parts of the Midwest. Her experience with the world of property management would later inform her first two novels, Scenes from a Sistah (1997), and its followup, Getting To The Good Part (1999). (A third book in the series, Tastes Like Chicken, was published five years later in 2004.) Because of her passion for literature, Files spent a year (from 1990 to 1991) teaching ninth grade English Lit at Henry H. Filer Middle School in Hialeah, FL.
From 1992 to 1996, Files was the National Communications Manager for the Facilities Management division of KinderCare Learning Centers, the nation's largest provider of for-profit child care and early childhood education, then based in Montgomery, AL. During her time in Montgomery, in addition to managing a large staff in KinderCare's corporate office and traveling extensively to visit centers around the country, Files took postgraduate courses in Secondary Education at Alabama State University.
In 1993, Files was nominated by an executive at KinderCare for membership in Leadership Montgomery, a highly regarded civic organization made up of individuals prominent in their respective fields within the city (judges, top attorneys, lawmakers, law enforcement officers, physicians, healthcare officials, educators, financial experts, social service administrators, business owners, artistic directors, etc.). The organization focuses on developing them as leaders representing "the ethnic, age, and gender diversity" of the city, creating a dynamic where enough decision-makers know each other and can facilitate cooperation and efficiency across various sectors for the overall betterment of the community. Each year a new group is selected from applications submitted and nominations by current members. Those chosen go through an intensive nine-month leadership curriculum that provides the opportunity to "network and get to know each other on a personal level" through exposure to issues that impact the city. Files was a member of Class X and, at the time, was the youngest person selected to be a part of the organization.
Files had set a personal deadline of being actively on the path to being published by age thirty. Thirty came and went, and even though she had several writing projects in progress and had received positive responses about them from trusted friends and colleagues, she hadn't taken steps towards getting representation.
In the fall of 1994, after researching New York literary agencies, Files naïvely decided she wanted to be repped by the one that had the hottest writer at the time, John Grisham, on their roster. On Thursday, September 29, 1994 - four days after turning thirty-one - Files sent a bright yellow, prepaid DHL overnight envelope to literary agency Jay Garon-Brooke Associates, Inc. Inside the envelope was two comedic short stories written as first-person narrative in the voice of an upwardly mobile black man named Rick Hodges. Files also sent fifty pages of Child of God, a dramatic novel she'd been working on sporadically since 1989. In the accompanying query letter, she explained there were a total of ten short stories about the character Rick. There were not; not at the time, anyway. Files had read that it often took several weeks for literary agencies to respond to queries, during which time she expected to have the other eight short stories written.
An agent from Garon-Brooke called the very next morning. She called Files' home number, her office at KinderCare, her pager, and her cellphone, leaving messages on all in an urgent attempt to reach her. Files, alarmed by the immediate response, nervously returned the call. This had happened way too fast. Her fears were quickly calmed. The agent loved Files' stories. She felt the Rick Hodges character was "hilarious" and "accessible." Could Files possibly overnight the other eight short stories about Rick so she could have them by Monday to read? It was Friday, September 30, 1994. Files, not wanting to miss the opportunity, asked: "Is Tuesday okay?" Tuesday was fine, she was told. Just as Files was about to hang up, the agent said, "Congratulations. No one ever gets through to us like this."
The agent, Nancy Coffey, had seen the bright yellow DHL envelope in the break room and picked it up. It was an unusual color for an overnight package. The sender's name, "Lolita Files," piqued her curiosity even further. She took the envelope into her office, read the contents, and had to see the rest of the material.
"Her voice just leapt off the page," Coffey told the Miami Herald. "It was fresh, uplifting and funny."
After the phone call, Files hopped in her car and sped from her office, purchased a case of Pepsi, and, over the course of that Friday night, Saturday, and the first part of Sunday morning - without any sleep in between - she wrote the other eight short stories while drinking Pepsi and dancing to her catalog of music by Minneapolis artist Prince. Around 1pm on Sunday, October 2, 1994, she printed out the completed stories and overnighted them to Garon-Brooke the following day. Three days later, on Thursday, October 6, 1994, Files received a call at her office from Coffey and several others at Garon-Brooke on speakerphone asking if she would "do them the honor of being their client."
Commercial and literary styles
After signing with Garon-Brooke, Files immediately began to focus on completing Child of God, which she wanted to be her debut novel. It was dark and literary, a nod to the writers she loved who'd been such big influences for her, particularly Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Dostoyevsky, Hurston, and Flaubert, and her fascination with the fall of the House of Atreus in Greek mythology. In August 1995, taking advantage of a large amount of unused vacation time, Files went on an extended visit to her hometown of Fort Lauderdale. Her plan was to get a significant amount of the first draft of Child of God written. At one point, she wrote a particularly dark scene; so dark, it bothered her. She closed the document on her computer, deciding she needed a break from the intense material. As a way of trying to cleanse her mental palate, she thought it might be good to try to write something short and funny. She opened a new document on her laptop and stared at the blank title page. She always came up with the title before she did any further writing. She typed the words, Scenes from a Sistah on the blank page. There was no heavy thought behind it, aside from her love of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's television series, Scenes from a Marriage, which she'd watched on PBS when she was twelve. She also just liked the sound of all those "s"'s. It was a good, sibilant beginning. She started typing. Rick Hodges and some of the characters from the short stories that had gotten Files signed made an appearance, but this story was told first-person by a driven career woman named Armistice "Misty" Fine, chronicling the adventures of her and her outspoken, hyperbolic, exotic-dancing, trust fund bestie, Teresa "Reesy" Snowden.
Seven days later, Files had a first draft of a full-length book. She didn't take what she'd written seriously. She half-jokingly sent the manuscript to her agent with the note, "I don't know what this is. It just popped out."
Her agent loved the manuscript and had Files fine-tune it in the fall of 1995 in preparation to go out with it to publishers at the beginning of 1996. Files was mortified. This was a lighthearted book, something she'd pushed out with little effort. She worried that, if this voice - her comedic one - hit the market first, it would be difficult for people to take her seriously when she wanted to publish Child of God, which she'd been laboring over for years and was quite heavy in subject matter and tone. She polished the manuscript for Scenes. During the same period, in October 1995, she completed the first draft of Child of God.
On February 14, 1996, Files' agent held an auction, sending out the manuscript of Scenes from a Sistah to several publishers for them to bid on the work. On February 22, 1996, Files received a call at her office at KinderCare that Warner Books had purchased Scenes for an advance of $50,000.
"It's a Cinderella story," says Caryn Karmatz Rudy, Files' editor at Warner Books. "Most often, you hear about people writing and getting a zillion rejections. But Lolita writes this book, sends it to the agency of the most successful writer in the country, and they take it. Then, we publish it. That's not your typical story."
In April 1996, Files left Corporate America for a full-time career as a writer. Scenes from a Sistah debuted a year later in April 1997 and was an instant hit, selling out of its first printing by the second day of Files' book tour and landing on several bestseller lists.
Four years later, in September 2001 (after the release of Scenes sequel Getting to the Good Part in 1999 and Files' take on the cutthroat world of Hollywood and the television industry, Blind Ambitions, in 2000), Child of God was published to critical and popular acclaim. More than a decade later, it remains a perennial book club favorite.
Rick Hodges and HodgePodge
The ten short stories featuring the character Rick Hodges that got Files signed by the Garon-Brooke literary agency were woven together into a novel called HodgePodge. Rick Hodges, his best friend Dandre Hilliard, and several of the characters from those stories feature prominently in the Misty/Reesy trilogy (Scenes from a Sistah, Getting to the Good Part, and Tastes Like Chicken). As of 2014, however, twenty years later, Files still hasn't elected to publish HodgePodge.
Shakespeare's Hamlet vs Files' Child of God
SUNY Empire State College offers an eight-week course, "Exploring The Disciplines: Literature (EDU-232072)," centered around the examination of Shakespeare's Hamlet and Lolita Files' novel, Child of God.
Per the course description:
"Both texts include a similar story-line: a murder, an incestuous relationship, an uneasy resolution at the end. By exploring these texts written over 300 years apart, students will learn about the types of themes, questions, comparisons and insights that literature has to offer."
In December 2012, at the urging of actor and activist Isaiah Washington, Files took a genealogical DNA test through lineage tracing company African Ancestry. Results came back revealing a direct link of Files' maternal ancestry to the Brame and Balanta people of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa.
- Scenes from a Sistah - Warner Books, April 1997
- Getting to the Good Part - Warner Books, January 1999
- Blind Ambitions - Simon & Schuster, September 2000
- Child of God - Simon & Schuster, September 2001
- Tastes Like Chicken - Simon & Schuster, May 2004
- sex.lies.murder.fame. - Amistad/HarperCollins, January 2006
- "Roses, Red, Room 416" in the anthology Black Silk - Warner Books, February 2002
- "Bobby Q's Sauce" in the anthology Twilight Moods - Flowers in Bloom Publishing, September 2002
- "Standing Room Only" in the anthology Brown Sugar 3: When Opposites Attract - Washington Square Press, January 2004
- "Appropriate Measures" - The Lo Zone, November 2014
Once Upon A Time In Compton (Tim Brennan & Robert Ladd with Lolita Files) - Brown Girls Publishing, Summer 2016
- Love in the Nick of Tyme (Video, 2007) - Associate Producer
- Baggage Claim (Film, 2013) - Associate Producer
- Files, Lolita. "Lolita Files at Hachette Book Group". Hachette Book Group.
- Files, Lolita. "Lolita Files at Simon & Schuster". Simon & Schuster.
- Files, Lolita. "Lolita Files at HarperCollins Publishers". HarperCollins Publishers.
- Files, Lolita. "Lolita Files at The Internet Movie Database". The Internet Movie Database.
- Files, Lolita. "Scenes from a Sistah at Amazon.com". Amazon.com.
- Files, Lolita. "Child of God at Amazon.com". Amazon.com.
- Files, Lolita. "sex.lies.murder.fame at Amazon.com". Amazon.com.
- Anthony, Jason (2007-03-03). "Little, Brown's Big Deal". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2014-10-07.
- Cleage, Pearl. "Babylon Sisters at Amazon.com". Amazon.com.
- Chenzira, Ayoka. "Red Carnelian Films". Red Carnelian Films. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "Scholarships". University of Florida: Admissions. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "University of Florida Gospel Choir". University Gospel Choir.
- "Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.". Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "Iota Lambda Ivy Vine". The Illustrious Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Quick Facts" (PDF). Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications". University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "University of Florida Student Government: Legislative Branch". University of Florida Student Government: Legislative Branch. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Pittman-Jones, Mary. "Leadership Team". American International School In Abu Dhabi. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Hooper, Ernest. "To write was right for college cards chum". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- Files, Lolita. "Getting to the Good Part at Amazon.com". Amazon.com.
- Files, Lolita. "Tastes Like Chicken at Amazon.com". Amazon.com.
- "Henry H. Filer Middle School". Henry H. Filer Middle School. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "Leadership Montgomery". Leadership Montgomery. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "Leadership Montgomery Class X". Leadership Montgomery. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "Pinder Lane & Garon-Brooke Associates Literary & Media Representation". Pinder Lane & Garon-Brooke Associates Literary & Media Representation. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Doup, Liz. "Sistah A Dream Come True For Author". Encyclopedia.com. (Miami Herald, March 19, 1997, page D1). Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- Doup, Liz. "First novel realizes longtime dream for writer Lolita Files". Google News. (Daily News, March 28, 1997). Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- Winston, Sherri. "If It's Your Dream, Start Working For It". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- "Far-fetched Tale That's Packed With Fun". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Customer Reviews: Scenes From A Sistah". Amazon.com. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Blind Ambitions". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Child of God". Amazon.com. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Child of God". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- "Child of God: A Novel". BookFlavor. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- "Black Issues Book Review: The Best of 2002". The Free Library. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Local Library Events". The Times of Northwest Indiana. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Child of God". Goodreads.com. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "New York, New Theatre: New Homefront". www.playbill.com. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Playwright Roz Nixon Praises Black Women". Ebsco. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- Forever Sisters: Famous Writers Celebrate the Power of Sisterhood with Short Stories, Essays, and Memoirs. Google Books. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- "Exploring The Disciplines: Literature (EDU 232072)". SUNY Empire State College. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "African Ancestry". African Ancestry.com. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "African Ancestry: How It Works". African Ancestry.com. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Lolita Files' website, "The Lo Zone"
- Lolita Files at PEN America
- Lolita Files at the Internet Movie Database
- Lolita Files' Books on Amazon.com
- Lolita Files on African-American Literature Book Club.com (AALBC)
- USA Today: Online Book Videos Bring Words To Life
- The Wall Street Journal: Chick Lit Goes 'Glam'
- The Washington Post: Mysteries: Review of sex.lies.murder.fame (Under "Seminal Success")
- Publishers Weekly Review of Tastes Like Chicken
- NPR: All Things Considered: Lolita Files Discusses and Reads from Child of God
- The Washington Post: Judged by Their Back Covers
- The New York Times: Open a Book, and There's a Sister Inside
- Sun-Sentinel: Far-fetched Tale That's Packed With Fun