Last year, Joya Goffney chatted with us on list making while writing her debut novel, Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry. This time, we are honoured to chat with her on Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl. A powerful story about loving yourself, and body and sex positivity, the book follows Monique who lives a perfect life being a preacher’s daughter and the girlfriend of the town’s golden boy. But when her boyfriend, Dom, breaks up with her as he is tired of waiting for sex, Monique must the help of her frenemy, Sasha, the overly zealous church girl, and Reggie, the town’s bad boy. In doing so, she must face some truths: maybe she shouldn’t be fixing her body to please a boy, maybe Sasha is the friend she needed all along and maybe Reggie isn’t so bad at all.
Absolutely loved this book! There are moments that are hard to read, and moments that made us laugh out loud in public. Thank you for writing such a relatable book. First of all, did you need a lot of courage to tell this story?
Surprisingly enough, I didn’t. I was more than ready to tell this story. I was excited. After spending three years in the dark, never having heard of vaginismus, absolutely nothing was going to stop me from spreading the word. And the amount of feedback that I’ve gotten from readers who felt seen and who could relate to Monique’s situation was well worth any morsel of fear I had about writing this book. Which again, I wasn’t scared. I was determined.
Many readers described this as very healing. Is that what drove you to write this story?
Yes, that’s it exactly! I got clarity and healing from writing this book. Despite the fact that I was able to “cure myself” of the physical aspect of vaginismus, I never took the time to tackle the mental/emotional aspect. Writing from Monique’s point of view helped me to look at the disorder objectively and to recognize my own trauma responses, which is not something I was even aware of before writing this book. I can only hope my readers are able to do the same.
The exercise of listing what makes us a catch is so important. Was it always easy for you to answer this?
Absolutely not. It’s still difficult for me to do. I have trouble with using my accomplishments and talents as a way to prove my worth, which is a very unhealthy slippery slope. Because when you find out that you’re not even close to being the best–cue identity crisis. It’s important to know what personality traits and characteristics make us a catch–things you don’t necessarily have to work for, but just are true about you.
Any advice for young girls who might be struggling to answer this?
When answering the question, what makes you a catch, don’t focus on appearance. Looks can change. Good looking people can be terrible people. Ask yourself why someone would be lucky to have you in their life. What about you makes you you? And if that’s difficult to answer, just look at how you make people smile and laugh–and just as importantly, how do people make you smile and laugh? Sometimes just being a good audience is an invaluable quality to have.
Reggie and Sasha are both such fun characters! Reggie always does unpredictable things and makes snarky comments. What was the creative process like?
Writing Reggie was fun. I literally had to think of how to make every scene he was involved in fun. He’s never serious, doesn’t hold his tongue, and can find humor in every situation. The reality of vaginismus can be disheartening and seemingly hopeless. I did not want this story to feel that way. I needed it to be light-hearted and fun and relatable, and that’s where Reggie came in.
There is so much depth in Sasha’s character, especially in terms of her relationship with the church. How did you decide upon how she viewed the church?
This is a hard question. Here’s the thing: I grew up in church. And I grew up around other Black kids who went to church. However, if you were around them at school, you wouldn’t know they had a religious bone in their body. They didn’t act like “church kids.” That dichotomy has always been interesting and confusing to me. How did they compartmentalize their religion? Why didn’t their beliefs affect their behavior? While I, like Monique, may have taken the teachings to heart a little too much, Sasha was like those dichotomous Black kids I grew up around–she was able to maintain a healthy distance with her religion, while at the same time, holding close the parts she liked.
Similar to Sasha, there are many readers who have a complicated relationship with church. Did it make it difficult for you to “judge” the church?
I admittedly was a bit resentful of my religion when I wrote this book. My religion and my anxiety had come together seemingly to ensure that I develop vaginismus… But at the same time, I recognize the value of church in the Black community. Church is the seed of Black culture, one of our safe spaces, where we see our family. I know and respect the cultural happenings and the sacred traditions of Southern Black Baptist churches. But at the same time, I’m not afraid to “judge” the church.
(Mild spoiler alert) Flawed or not, why was it ultimately important to present the parents’ reasoning behind their strict acts?
Parents should present their reasoning when they behave strictly with their child, but this doesn’t always happen in the home. When I presented Monique’s parents’ reasoning, it was an attempt to humanize them. A way to sympathize with them. Because just like they handed down their religion to Monique and Myracle, their parents had handed it down to them.
Get your copy of Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl here.