Monday, October 17, 2011
FEATURED AUTHOR: Jumata Emill Jones
Jumata Emill Jones is a native of Baton Rouge and a Southern University alum. When he’s not writing fiction, he divides his time working as a journalist and being a TV junkie. Never Dead is his first, published novel.
How did you start out your writing career?
When I was in the fourth grade, I wrote a little skit as part of a class assignment for my school’s “Just Say No” campaign. My teacher said she enjoyed it so much that she let me cast my friends in it and we got to act it out in front of my class. After receiving a myriad of praise from other students and faculty, I was hit by the writing bug and began crafting more little stories and skits that would begin shaping my future.
What did you learn while writing this book?
That sometimes, characters drive your story more than an outline does. When I first started Never Dead I had a precise idea about who was going to do what and what was going to happen. But once the characters made their first appearances on the page, they seemed to take over and said to me, “Yeah, that was a novel idea, but our lives aren’t that simple! This is what really happened!” Glad I listened to them, they had a far better story to tell!
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
To give aficionados of African-American fiction something familiar, yet totally different than what they might have read before. I have always loved thrillers, paranormal fiction, horror and mystery books, but hardly ever found those genres when I visited the African American section of bookstores. About two weeks before I was inspired to write this book, I read a quote from Toni Morrison that simply stated, “If there is a book that you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Those words resonated in me as I wrote this book.
Which character did you have the most fun writing about?
Tarrin! I empathized and related to his voice so much. He had such a vulnerability and realness to his story. No, he and I did not share similar lives by a long shot, but I had many friends that did. In a way, I guess I’m kind of envious of Tarrin. He said and did a lot of things I wish I had the courage to do when I was his age.
What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
That writing the book is actually the easy part! Promotions, marketing, branding yourself—those are all things I’m still stumbling through. I just want to write good stories that people love, but there’s a whole other side to all of this that takes a lot of work. Getting myself out there, convincing people they should take a chance on me—and my work—is a daunting task that has made me more outgoing and fearless.
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
The creative process; turning blank pages into page-turning entertaining books that people say they can’t walk away from. What do I hate most? Nothing.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
How much the Internet was going to complete reshape our lives today—and the job market. How to be a better salesman and how to trust myself more.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
Do write fearlessly. Craft a story that you want to read first and that will resonate to your readers. Don’t just follow the trends. Just because writing about vampires, relationships or sex may have worked for a bevy of other writers doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you too. When you write a story that doesn’t come from the heart of your creativity I think readers can tell and thereby not get invested in your work.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
That books don’t write themselves. Most times you have to give up on a social life for a few months to get the job done.
If you could be a character from any book you've read, who would you be?
I’d want to be the Vampire Lestat from Anne’s Rice’s “The Vampire Chronicles!” I love a good anti-hero.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Read and watch A LOT of television! I think it might actually be a crime how much I love television. I would say 50% of my tweets on Twitter have to do with some show I’m watching. I can literally sit on the sofa all day and watch TV for hours and be the most content man on the planet.
What do you do to interact with your readers?
I’m all about social media—Facebook and Twitter. I also try to post frequent blog updates on my website just to give fans updates on what I’m doing, where I’m going and what I’m thinking. Although my stories tend to chronicle the darker side of things in life, I’m a very witty, perky guy and I think my fans deserve to see that.
Our theme for this month is BUSINESS OF WRITING. What were you surprised by about the business side of writing?
That just when you think you’ve researched all you can reach about this industry, the rules change and you find yourself trying to catch up all over again.
Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?
That I was born to be a writer. Point, blank, period.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
It features several characters from Never Dead and its set against the backdrop of a fictional historically black college located in a fictional Louisiana town. That’s all I’m saying…for now!
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
THE PERFECT COUPLE?
Emerson McGee has spent most of his life living with a secret, and the first-year law student’s menacing struggle with his sexuality is only the half of it. His wife, Danielle, has her own scars of adolescent heartache—which she thinly veils behind her façade as an upper-middle class princess. The newlywed’s cookie-cutter marriage is abruptly interrupted when they make a reluctant move into the quaint house Emerson inherited from his deceased grandmother. Unbeknownst to them, there’s already something else living there: A malevolent entity hell-bent on exposing its connection to Emerson and the tragic secret they share.
A GHOST’S STORY
While a mysterious narrator recounts the details of his abject life, the McGees' vengeful poltergeist pulls Danielle deeper into a mystery that has haunted an impoverished ghetto in South Baton Rouge—aptly called “‘Da Bottom”—for nearly a decade, and spills into the provocative world of New Orleans hoodoo. Before its final scare, Never Dead concludes with a bloody twist the McGees never saw coming.
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