When Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever was published in 1999, it was an instant bestseller, beloved by critics and fans alike. Now, in Life After Death, our complicated protagonist, Winter Santiaga, is back and about to be released from prison after a 15-year stay. Readers can expect something a bit different this time around, as Souljah reconnects with Winter with a fluid, stream-of-consciousness style of writing.
We got the chance to talk to Souljah about Winter’s latest journey and about how she approached the character more than two decades after the first book.
What was it like writing a sequel 20 years after the introduction of Winter Santiaga?
“Writing is always a joy. The only time writing is difficult for me is when one of my main characters is experiencing a severe pain or loss or is suffering. When I write, I separate myself from myself. Once I am completely in the mindset and soul of the character, I feel what the character is feeling. Writing Life After Death took me through a myriad of emotional changes because it contains love, fear, desire, anger, illness, comedy and sex. It was quite an out-of-body experience.”
What sort of evolution were you hoping to communicate had taken place for Winter in the years that passed?
“I was not ‘communicating evolution.’ The Winter Santiaga voice, mindset and soul were 100 percent Winter Santiaga. In Life After Death, what Sister Souljah the author wanted did not matter at all. Winter told her story. Winter drove the action. Winter chose her own direction. There is absolutely no other way to write the Winter Santiaga character. She is so solidly herself that no one else matters. It’s Winter’s story.”
This sequel is eagerly anticipated by fans of The Coldest Winter Ever. What do you hope they take from it?
“A great book is an intimate relationship between the storytelling and the soul of the reader. No one should interfere with that relationship. No author can direct or dictate what occurs in the mind or soul of the reader. So each reader will take from Life After Death whatever their soul accepts. Each time the reader reads, there is more to feel, think about, imagine and learn. As an author, I am at peace with that. Once you buy the book, it is not mine to control.”
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.