HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Attica Locke

Nationally Bestselling and Award-Winning Author and Screenwriter on Race, Hollywood, Politics, and Motherhood


  • Magic and Menace of Historical Tourism
  • Issues of Race in Hollywood and the Dangers of Non-Diversity
  • What Crime Fiction Has to Teach Us About Contemporary Society
  • Post-Obama & Post-Civil Rights America
  • 13 Ways to Jumpstart Your Writing Life


Los Angeles

Attica Locke is a nationally bestselling and award-winning author and screenwriter, with her focus on issues of race, Hollywood, politics, and motherhood. Locke’s first novel, Black Water Rising (Harper Perennial), was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and it was short-listed for the prestigious Orange Prize in the UK (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction).  Her second book, The Cutting Season (Harper Perennial),  published by Dennis Lehane books, is a national bestseller, and, like her debut, was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.  It was also named an Honor Book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, was long-listed for the Chautauqua Prize, and is the 2013 winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Locke is an excellent speaker for historical societies, schools and universities, corporations, women’s organizations, and libraries.

A graduate of Northwestern University, Locke was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and had planned a career as a movie director, but got derailed along the way, spending many years instead as a screenwriter-for-hire.  She wrote scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, and Dreamworks.  Highly paid, yet unproduced, Locke grew restless with the Hollywood studio system.  “There were days I felt like I was writing solely for the pleasure of a group of studio execs, all with a fifteen-mile radius of Burbank, California, that my work had no meaning beyond that.”  In 2005, she gave herself one year to change her life – during which she wrote the first draft of Black Water Rising.  “Besides motherhood, it was the single most transformative experience of my life.”

Locke is a member of the academy for the Folio Prize in the UK and is also on the board of directors for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. She is a writer and producer of the Fox drama, Empire.

A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

Praise for Attica Locke:

Attica Locke is a superb speaker and an insightful writer who asks penetrating questions about race in contemporary America and illuminates those questions through great storytelling. Each time we’ve featured Attica on our award-winning ALOUD literary series at the Los Angeles Public Library, she’s delivered. Her recent conversation with Walter Mosley was an example of her inquisitive mind and her informed and probing inquiry into how Americans deal with the paradoxes of our history and the possibilities of a multi-racial society.
— Louise Steinman, Cultural Programs Director, Library Foundation of Los Angeles

Attica Locke served as a breakout speaker at the March 15, 2014, Whittier College Bookfaire fundraiser for our Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts. She is as compelling a speaker as she is a writer--articulate, captivating, and passionate. She had her audience in the palm of her hand from her first word, and we immediately asked her back, but next time as a keynote speaker, as soon as her next book is published!"
— Ann D. Farmer, Associate Professor Emerita of English, Whittier College and Bookfaire chair

"The Amistad Center for Art & Culture had the true pleasure of presenting Attica Locke with our partners, the University of Saint Joseph for an authors@mistad event on the university’s campus last September. I am a fan of Attica’s work personally, and professionally speaking, her messages, while entertainingly crafted, could not align more with our very important mission here at The Center. Attica was a fabulous speaker. Honest, thoughtful, witty, serious, smart and fully engaged and engaging. We look forward to having her back with her next publication and wish you and her well as she shares her amazing talent with audiences across the country."
— Olivia S. White, Executive Director, The Amistad Center for Art & Culture

"Attica Locke is an actress, performer and entertainer as well as an award winning writer.  Speaking to children of all ages and adults is an effortless exercise in fun and informative interaction.  Whether discussing her work, encouraging children, or talking about the writing process, she keeps her listeners enthralled.  Attica's love of writing, people and stories are evident in every talk she gives.  Her charm and charisma pull the audience close to her as she shares her wit and wisdom."
— Lynn Greeson Mitchell, Education Coordinator, Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

"Attica Locke’s personal dynamism is a wonderful addition to her hook-you-in story-telling.  When she accepted the Ernest Gaines Literary Award and talked a bit about her career and her winning this prestigious award, she captivated the audience of Gaines-lovers as well as Ernest Gaines himself."
— Mary Ann Sternberg, Chair, Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

"Attica Locke is smart, engaging, and incredibly inspirational.  When we honored The Cutting Season on the long list for The Chautauqua Prize and then chose it as a Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle selection, she educated us about writing, race, Hollywood, crime, and social justice.  Our audience is multigenerational, and they responded to her enthusiasm and wisdom; I can also see her in a college setting because of her frank but warm personality.  She goes the extra mile to connect to her audience."
— Sherra Babcock, Vice President, Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education

Praise for The Cutting Season:

“I was first struck by Attica Locke’s prose, then by the ingenuity of her narrative and finally and most deeply by the depth of her humanity. She writes with equal amounts grace and passion. . . . I’d probably read the phone book if her name was on the spine.”
— Dennis Lehane, award winning and bestselling author

The Cutting Season is a rare murder mystery with heft, a historical novel that thrills, a page-turner that makes you think. Attica Locke is a dazzling writer with a conscience.”
— Dolen Perkins-Valdez, New York Times bestselling author of Wench

“The impressively astute Attica Locke writes . . . in much the same way that Mr. Lehane [does]. . . . Each is willing to use the murder mystery as a framework for much more ambitious, atmospheric fiction.”
— New York Times

“With this novel Locke has opened up not just her writing but also the parameters of the form. . . . It is a mystery that expands the whole idea of the mystery, reaching from the present deeply into the past. . . . The scene Locke sets is beautiful but dangerous. . . . Great writing, the kind that gives you goose bumps. . . . The most compelling aspect of the novel is the steady way Locke deepens her narrative, reminding us that, as Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Locke’s insistence on grounding her story in a deeper history pays off because it invests the book with gravitas, a sense of place and consequence, that feels profound and real.”
— Los Angeles Times

“One of the most engaging and gifted new voices in the genre. . . . The Cutting Season does more than exhume a body—it rattles the bones of slavery, race, class, and power to examine a crime that reverberates from more than a century ago.”
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Praise for Black Water Rising:

“What a ride! Black Water Rising is a superlative debut; a wonderful treatise on the Texas 1980s; the best bad town novel in some time. Attica Locke is a stand-out in every imperative-young-writer way.”
— James Ellroy, author of American Tabloid and L.A. Confidential

Black Water Rising is a stylish, involving literary thriller with a strong emphasis on human politics and character. An auspicious debut from Attica Locke.”
— George Pelecanos, author of The Turnaround

“[An] atmospheric . . . deeply nuanced story . . . with a serious, stirring moral urgency akin to that of George Pelecanos or Dennis Lehane. . . . As Scott Turow has done, Ms. Locke uses small, incremental deceptions to draw her main character into big and dangerous mistakes . . . Subtle and compelling.”
— New York Times

 “Locke deftly moves between past and present action . . . [putting] her in the company of master thriller writers such as Dennis Lehane or Scott Turow. Black Water Rising is a near-perfect balance of trenchant social commentary, rich characterizations, and an action-oriented plot that . . . moves rapidly toward some explosive revelations . . . Attica Locke [is] a writer wise beyond her years.”
— Los Angeles Times

“A strong and whip-smart debut from Attica Locke. . . . a compelling mystery . . . The good, the bad, the subtle but relentless humiliation—it’s all vividly there.”
— Seattle Times