Today Book Club Babble is pleased to introduce and interview Wanda M. Morris, whose new, fast-paced thriller All Her Little Secrets recently debuted.
In ALL HER LITTLE SECRETS, Ellice Littlejohn seemingly has it all: an Ivy League law degree, a well-paying job as a corporate attorney in midtown Atlanta, great friends, and a “for fun” relationship with a rich, charming executive—her white boss, Michael. But everything changes one cold January morning when Ellice goes to meet Michael in his office and finds him dead with a gunshot to his head.
And then she walks away like nothing happened. Ellice has been keeping a cache of dark secrets, including a small-town past and a kid brother who has spent time on the other side of the law. She can’t be thrust into the spotlight—again. But instead of grieving this tragedy, the company moves forward without a hiccup, and Ellice, the company’s lone Black attorney, is immediately promoted to replace Michael. While the opportunity is a dream-come-true, Ellice just can’t shake the feeling that something is off, especially as the police start investigating Michael’s death.
When Ellice uncovers shady dealings inside the company, she is trapped in an impossible ethical and moral dilemma. Suddenly, Ellice’s past and present lives collide as she launches into a pulse-pounding race to protect the brother she tried to save years ago and stop a conspiracy far more sinister than she could have ever imagined…
Wanda Morris is perfectly poised to craft this novel. She previously served as President of the Georgia Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel and as the Chair of the Women’s Initiative for female lawyers. She is still a practicing lawyer and holds memberships within the American and Georgia State Bar Associations.
Inspired by her years working as an attorney for top companies and law firms, Wanda has created a brilliantly layered mystery that brings the thrills while also addressing racism, sexism, the dynamics of family and other timely issues in past and present America. This story puts a distinct spotlight on Black women, focusing on unique experiences in the workplace and beyond. By splitting the timeline between the modern day and the 1970s and 80s, Wanda puts an emphasis on the lack of meaningful progression.
Wanda Morris was chosen as one of Publisher Weekly’s Fall 2021 “Writers to Watch” and was featured on the cover of Library Journal’s August 2021 issue. With razor-sharp writing and authentic yet complex characters, ALL HER LITTLE SECRETS is a stunning and exceptional debut. Readers who enjoyed The Other Black Girl and When No One is Watching will devour this page-turner. If you are a fan of Harlan Coben, Attica Locke, Alyssa Cole, and Celeste Ng, with shades of How to Get Away with Murder and John Grisham’s The Firm, this novel is for you. But, let’s get to the interview. Wanda, thank you so much for joining Book Club Babble today! Let’s get this started.
What inspired you to write the book? There were a couple of things that inspired me to write this book. First, my own lived experiences working in toxic offices that underestimated the value that women and people of color can bring to the workplace. Also, I once worked for an organization where company management considered its employees “family.” Someone in my department died unexpectedly. There was nothing sinister about the death, but I was mortified by how quickly everyone went back to normal after the person died. That incident stayed with me for a long time and served as the motivating idea for the theme of family that I explored in the book – specifically, who do we call family and why?
Can you tell our readers what the book is about (without spoilers)? All Her Little Secrets is the story of a Black female lawyer who gets caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous conspiracy following the death of her boss. Ellice Littlejohn seemingly has it all, an ivy-league education, a well-paying job as a corporate attorney, and a great group of friends. But everything changes when she discovers her boss dead in his office, and she does the unthinkable. She walks away as if she seen nothing. That’s because Ellice has a dark cache of secrets, including a small-town past and a brother who’s spent some time on the other side of the law. Soon after she is promoted to replace him in the executive suite. When she uncovers shady dealings inside the company, Ellice is trapped in an impossible ethical and moral dilemma. Suddenly, her past and present lives collide as she launches into a pulse-pounding race to protect the brother she tried to save years ago and stop a conspiracy far more sinister than she could have ever imagined.
What did you learn when writing the book? That writing a book is hard work. And the more enjoyable the book, the harder the author had to work to make it that way! When I started writing this book, my first draft was awful. I had to learn the craft of writing. That means I had to learn about pacing and characterization and other things that go into making a story engaging to the reader.
What surprised you the most? That I could even do it! Working full-time and parenting three kids is not necessarily the easiest of conditions under which to write a full-length novel. Writing a book and getting it published is really hard work and I kept surprising myself every time I reached a milestone – figuring out the plot, polishing up the pacing, completing the book, getting an agent, getting a book deal, etc.
What does the title mean? How did you come up with it? The original title of this book was The Elephant Fighter, which was based on the African proverb, “when elephants fight, the only thing that suffers is the grass.” The proverb means when those with all the strength and power fight, the people who suffer the most are the innocent. That proverb serves as the epigraph for the book even though the title has changed. When you think about the characters in the book, Ellice is as much of an “elephant” as the villains in the story and several people suffered at the hands of both Ellice and the villains. The title was later changed to reflect the nature of protagonist’s character and to give readers a tease as to what to expect when reading about Ellice Littlejohn.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer or write this particular book? I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a young girl. But I was encouraged to pursue “a real job.” I now know that writing is a real job and writers do an important service to the cultural welfare of this world. Even though I pursued a law degree, I never lost my love for writing and creating stories.
How long does it take you to write a book? Well, this book took 13 years! Not all of that time was spent writing. I put it down for seven years or so, because I convinced myself that no one would want to read a book about a Black woman in her 40s who worked with awful people. Thankfully, I was mistaken. I am working on my second book now and it took me about six months to write the first draft. I am now revising and putting on the final polish. When it’s all done, it will have taken me about a year to write.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I have to write early in the day because my brain is “fresher.” I pick up my son from school and after he’s had dinner and I’ve helped him with homework, I go back to the desk, usually to finish up a scene or work on writing-related things like answering emails, social media, etc.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I like to travel, read, and watch old movies.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? I know it sounds like a cliché, but I would advise you to read as much as possible. By reading other people’s work you learn what makes a good book and what doesn’t. And also, I would recommend never giving up. I’m not saying you have to write 1000 words every day or arbitrary rules like that. I’m saying, stay in the game. When it gets difficult or you get a slew of rejections, keep writing.
Do you hear from your readers much? The book doesn’t come out until November 2nd. But I have heard from a few early readers, and I appreciate their kind words about the book. I’d love to hear from readers if they enjoyed the book. Feel free to reach out through my website: wandamorriswrites.com.
Author Bio: Wanda M. Morris is a corporate attorney who has worked in the legal departments for several Fortune 100 companies. An accomplished presenter and leader, Morris has previously served as President of the Georgia Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel and is the founder of its Women’s Initiative, an empowerment program for female in-house lawyers. An alumna of the Yale Writers Workshop and Robert McKee’s Story Seminar, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Crime Writers of Color. Morris is married, the mother of three, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Learn more at wandamorriswrites.com or follow Morris on social media: Instagram: @wandamowrites Twitter: @WandaMo14