Urban Reviews: Tell our
readers about Eastside.
Eastside is a coming of age
story set amidst the backdrop of inner-city violence during
the early nineties. It's a story about a young man named
Travon, who is sent to live with his aunt, after getting
jumped by some of his friends after school. His mother,
Elmira, has already lost one son to inner-city violence, so
she sends him to live with her sister. Unbeknownst to her,
the neighborhood that he is sent to live in, is even worst
than the one he left. Travon finds himself caught in a
inescapable whirlwind of violence and drug dealing,
desperately trying to survive.
Urban Reviews: What
inspired you to create this particular storyline?
I am from the inner-city. I lost
numerous friends to senseless gang violence during that time
period. I think that my writing Eastside was part
therapy, and maybe even a little bit of the historian in me
wanting to chronicle an important part of that generation's
They say, the victor gets to write
the history. But in this particular war, there were no
victors. We, as a people, lost. We donned red bandannas and
blue ones, and we actually fought a civil war with one
another for absolutely nothing. I was compelled to chronicle
what happened. I was compelled to tell the story for those
who lost their lives in that mess. If I could change the
life of one kid involved in this type of activity, then
maybe those senseless deaths (while still unacceptable) have
at least come to serve a purpose. They have helped to warn
kids away from the same destructive path.
Urban Reviews: Is there
a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Definitely! There are many messages in
the book. I believe the most prevalent message is the
senselessness of violence, the fruitlessness of gang
involvement. I have talked to young African American males
from that generation, who have read the book. More than just
a few have professed to not knowing how destructive their
activities were to our people, to our communities. I've
talked to mothers, who have told me that they passed the
book on to their sons and daughters, who were engaged in the
early stages of gang activity. I've talked to principals and
school administrators, who are desperate to get me into
their schools to talk to their students about gang violence.
I guess in the end, I want the readers to walk away with a
better understanding of that time period and with the
understanding that the danger has not passed. In most
instances, inner city violence is cyclical. Gangs are on a
resurgence now. A better understanding of how young men fall
into gangs, the inner workings of these gangs, and their
collective psyche are all things that the reader can take
away from Eastside. A commitment to make a difference
and the knowledge that each individual can make a difference
is another message that one could take from the novel. The
idea that we can, and must, do better is another message.
Urban Reviews: Can you
give us a sneak peek at your next novel Two Thin Dimes and
when we can expect this to be released?
Definitely! The first chapter is in
the back of Eastside, and I'll give you another sneak
peak here. Two Thin Dimes is a totally different
animal from Eastside. I felt that I went so violent
in Eastside that I wanted to just have fun and tell a
lighthearted story in Two Thin Dimes. Two Thin
Dimes is a hip hop love story that will have the readers
laughing all the way through. It is a warm, funny, urban
love story that the readers will absolutely love. Our
heroine, Jamaica, is an R&B superstar, while our hero,
Tameer, is a young college student from the projects. Tameer
only listens to rap, and he doesn't know who Jamaica really
is. The two of them are thrust together by Jamaica's best
friend, and must endure Jamaica's wealthy, socialite mother,
Tameer's drunken father, and Tameer's ex-girlfriend and her
band of plotting, gossiping, friends. Two Thin Dimes
is going to take the readers on a hilarious rollercoaster
ride of love, friendship, and sisterhood.
Urban Reviews: You're
presently signed with Strebor Books. Please tell us
about your literary journey and what led to your current
First, I have to let the readers know
that I absolutely love Strebor Books, Atria, and Simon &
Schuster. There is absolutely no place else to be. Zane and
Charmaine are wonderful! They are my sistas, and I love them
dearly. I love all of my Strebor family. Dwayne, Lee, Tina,
Che, Stacy, Rodney, Allison, ReShonda, JL, Naleighna, Sonya,
Marsha, Suzetta, David, D.V., J. Marie, William, Rique,
Jonathan, Nane, Harold, Laurinda...I don't know why I
started naming people, because you always forget someone on
accident! Family, if I forgot you, it was definitely not on
purpose! You all know how my mind works!
About my literary journey, well,
let me just say that the road has been rough. It has been
long and winding. I did a LOT of ghost writing before I
sought my own deal...again. I say again, because I initially
sought a deal with a publisher, who ended up publishing my
book under another author's name. Things happened, they are
water under the bridge now. But I did learn some valuable
lessons about the publishing industry. I eventually went on
to ghost write four Essence Best Selling novels, a couple of
screen plays, and even two television pilots. I also write
for a local urban newspaper and a really hot urban business
magazine. It was with these credentials that I approached
Zane. We talked, I sent her a package, and she contacted me.
I remember her telling me that I reminded her of her, in
that I could write in different genres and different voices.
I had sent her a really diverse sampling of material. I
remember asking her which manuscript she was interested in,
and her reply was that she wanted all of them! LOL
That was when I joined the Strebor
family. I didn't know it then, but Zane had even bigger
plans for Eastside than I had anticipated. She
intended to use it to launch her new imprint, Strebor On The
Streetz. Well, it's been a match made in Heaven. My long
literary journey has made me appreciate Strebor Books and my
Strebor family very much.
Urban Reviews: Is there
anything that you know now that you wish you would have
known before the release of your debut novel?
Difficult question to approach.
As far as the first novel that I had published, yes, I wish
I would have stayed away from that publisher! ~LOL~ I wish I
would have went straight to Strebor Books with it! As far as
Eastside goes, I wish I would have did more ground
work before the novel was released. I should have advertised
more before the book dropped.
Urban Reviews: What
books or authors would you say have most influenced your
Superman To Man by J. A.
Rogers. The Destruction of Black Civilization by
Chancellor Williams. Nile Valley Civilizations by
Anthony T. Browder. Of course, Chiekh Anta Diop. John
Allegro, Michael Biagent, John Henry Clarke. I think J. A.
Rogers and Chancellor Williams influenced me the most in the
beginning. They opened up my mind and gave me a foundation
to move forward and do good things. Through their works, and
that of Dr. Diop's, I learned that I was a part of something
infinitely greater then myself. And of course Dr. Williams'
book helped to answer the question: what happened to us as a
people? How could an Eastside become possible? The
Destruction of Black Civilization answered many of those
questions. I guess, by extension, Eastside reveals a
continuation of that destruction. John Allegro and Michael
Biagent opened up my mind spiritually. They helped me to
understand that there is so much more to commonly held
doctrine. Hazrat Kahn helped me to develop a deeper sense of
spirituality and tolerance for all beliefs. There are so
many books and authors out there that I could go on and on.
Urban Reviews: What
advice would you give to the aspiring authors out there?
Tell your story in your own
unique voice. Be true to yourself and to your work. Don't
just jump into the first deal that comes your way. Don't
enter into a deal with a person who has a bad reputation,
thinking that your relationship with that person is going to
be different. Get an agent! Get a reputable agent! Get a
good agent! A good agent is invaluable. Understand that
there is writing, and then there is the BUSINESS of writing.
Be passionate about your craft. Practice it as often as
possible. Don't overlook the business side of things. After
you've poured your heart and soul into your writing, put
your business hat on, and get yourself the best deal
possible, for you. (Somebody else's deal isn't necessarily
the best deal for you!) And after the deal making, put your
marketing cap on. Get with a good, reputable publishing
house. Keep your day job after you've signed your deal. For
most of us, success doesn't happen over night. Like any
other profession, you will have to pay your dues.
Urban Reviews: What do
you want people to know most about you?
I want them to know
that I love writing, and I have some beautiful and diverse
works in the pipeline. Come and laugh with me in Two Thin
Dimes, and then enjoy the scandalous ladies and gents in
The Reading Tree. And after that, I have a novel
titled Big Black Boots that is very important. It
speaks of humanity, it speaks to race relations, and it
speaks to our relationship with one another, with ourselves,
and with God. Look out for Big Black Boots. And then
look out for the HUGE novel When Lions Dance. I have
been working on When Lions Dance for years. It's the
story of an African-American woman's life, beginning in her
youth in pre-civil rights Birmingham. The story spans six
decades and eloquently covers her tumultuous life. This
novel is my lullaby, my thank you, and my love note to my
sistas. It is for my mother, my grandmother, for their
friends, and for women of color all over this country. It is
a salute to their strength, determination, and perseverance.
I look forward to doing novels that tell our stories, expand
the genre, and add to the richness of African-American
literature. Beginning with those two novels, you have my
commitment to do novels that matter in content. I will still
do an occasional street lit novel for fun. But for the most
part, novels like Eastside, Big Black Boots,
and When Lions Dance that speak to the important
issues within our community will be my literary staple.
James Baldwin said, "The responsibility of a writer is to
excavate the experiences of the people who produced him." I
will endeavor to bring those experiences to the forefront,
wrapped in exciting, thought-provoking storylines.