Wahida Clark Explains Her Journey From Prison to Publishing

By// Raven Craig

Author Wahida Clark knows how to execute business and make the most of a situation. Although life has thrown hurdles her way, she has never tripped. She is tough, smart and resilient. The definition of real. She is down-to-earth and simply a joy to converse with.

Clark tells JET about the 9 1/2 years she spent in jail, her proactive pursuit in writing novels, and the start of her own publishing company.

How did you begin writing novels?

I started writing while I was incarcerated. I was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in a federal prison, and I had to do something to take care of myself while in prison. I had two teenage daughters, my husband was incarcerated, and I needed to set up a foundation for us to have when I got home. So, that’s how that went.

Why did you go to prison?

I went to prison for mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

What were you doing before you went to prison?

I was an entrepreneur. I had a print shop, I had marketing telecommunication products, I was also into sales. I always had my own business.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Not at all. I hadn’t written before in my life. I had no clue. I didn’t even know I could write.

Why did you choose to become an author?

One day I called home, and I said “guys send me some money,” and they said “We’ll see what we can do.” They said, “Wahida they are foreclosing your house, you’re losing everything, all your businesses are shutting down – you’re not here to run it. We’re going to shut everything down and move back to up to Jersey.” My family was living in Georgia at the time.

I got off the phone and started praying and thinking, “what can I do?”

I was working in the library at the time, and one morning I was looking through a magazine and saw an article about Shannon Holmes. It said that he wrote a book while he was in prison, the book was called B-More Careful.

So I’m sitting there, staring at the bookshelves, and I start to visualize my name on the spines of the books: Wahida Clark. Wahida Clark.

And I had my light bulb moment. I said, I’m going to write me a book.

How did you get your first publishing deal?

I have a habit of reading the acknowledgements in books, and I would always see Carl Weber’s name. So after I finished reading one of his books, I said I’m going to write this brother and see what happens.

Right after I closed his book, I wrote him a letter saying:

Hey Carl, I’m a big fan of yours. Right now, I’m locked up, but I just finished writing my first book. I don’t even have a title yet but, I’m investigating print-on-demand companies, do you have any suggestions?

I mailed the letter. I actually didn’t expect him to write back, but he did. He said he had just started his own publishing company and for me to send him my manuscript.

The first person I sent a manuscript to, I got a publishing deal.

What is your writing process?

I just write. I get the pen and the paper and start writing. I hand write everything and it takes anywhere from three-to-five months. Once I start writing, the characters really take on a life of their own.

How were you able come out of prison successful? How did you stay mentally strong?

My husband gave me words to live by, he said, “don’t waste time, stay busy.”

Tell Me about your break-through in the novel world.

When I left the prison in 2007, I already had seven books published, I had made the Essence Magazine best sellers list, USA today best sellers list, and the New York Times best sellers list. I had 2 publishing deals with major companies, I had an agent, and I already had my business plan for my publishing company.

What does it take to become a New York Times Bestseller?

Building a fan base, connecting with your readers, and hustling. Gone are the days where you can write a book and sit back and think its just is going to sell itself. You have to be in hustle mode, especially in our genre, you have to be creative.

For writers the creativity is the product. In order to move that product, you have to hustle. I had to brand myself, brand my product and brand my book.

What inspires you?

The characters motivate me tell their story, to get their words on paper.

How many more books for the “Thug Series” do you plan to write?

You know there are 5 books in the series:

Thugs and the Women Who Love Them

Every Thug Needs a Lady

Thug Matrimony

Thug Lovin’

Justify My Thug

Part six of the thug series is coming out soon. I have a lot of readers for the thug series. My character now have books out, that’s how much my readers like the characters.

Tasha Macklin’s book just came out titled Baller Dreams. Trae’s book is coming out in a couple weeks titled Flippin the Hustle. My readers love the characters, they support them. My characters have Twitter pages and Facebook fan pages.

What are your future plans?

Actually, I’m just getting started. I’m working on a play, people are looking over the books for movies. I have my own publishing company with  fifteen authors and 25 books in stores throughout the country… I’m just getting started.