Marcus J. Guillory, Houston-born, Los Angeles-based, writer/producer has established a reputation for strange, subversive material including creating the aesthetic genre called “nigga gothic.” He has worked as a screenwriter for over 10 years and is the first American to have written a produced Bollywood film. Under the moniker “Mateo Senolia”, Guillory has recently teamed up with LA radio icon/tastemaker Garth Trinidad (89.9 KCRW) to create a fusion of spoken literature and house music called “Lit House” with the intent of introducing non-readers to literature with an EP “Postcards From Strangers” on house legend Osunlade’s Yoruba Records. His shorts stories and magazine articles can be found on the web and better newsstands. His debut novel entitled “red now and laters” was released Spring 2014 on Atria Books/Simon & Schuster Publishing. BA in Philosophy from University of Pennsylvania. JD from Tulane Law School. www.marcusguillory.com
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
I hope to give readers a wild ride through the bayou country of Louisiana and the humid streets of Houston, Texas with a young boy at the moment of discovery. In the process, I hope that readers will become more familiar with the rich and beautiful culture of my people – the Louisiana Creoles of the bayou. I hope that readers take away from this novel the idea that faith can accomplish anything, no matter the odds.
Which character did you have the most fun writing about?
Nonc Sonnier, the mysterious relative of our hero Ti’ John. I intended to present him with a certain creepy vibe then turn it around and let him be the source of the novel’s mythology. After a certain point I just let him tell me what he wanted to do and say.
What was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Trying to find a theme related to Louisiana Creoles that hadn’t been explored in previous novels. I was clear that I didn’t want the narrative thread to relate to food or music – too easy. However, treaters or spiritual healers was a great theme that other people outside of Louisiana could find accessible. Once I knew that treating would be the main thread then I was set to go.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
You must write everyday. It’s the only way to develop your machine. Never send out a first draft. Writing is rewriting. Take a few days or weeks or months away from the first draft then return to it. I promise you may see a few things you didn’t see before.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
It is not easy to be a writer. The amount of time you have to spend with yourself can be downright fatal.
What was the last book to keep you up at night reading it?
Tuff by Paul Beatty. Love Beatty’s work.
What do you do to make time for yourself?
I DJ and produce house music under the name “Mateo Senolia” for Osunlade’s Yoruba Records (my group is called “Trinidad-Senolia” along with LA radio legend, Garth Trinidad of 89.9 KCRW). But when I’m not writing, DJing or producing music, I workout regularly and play tennis about three days a week to keep the blood flowing.
How can readers get in contact with you?
Photo credit: Kawai Mathews
Cover Art: Angelbert Metoyer
In this impressive debut Marcus J. Guillory brilliantly weaves together the many obstacles of a young man growing into adulthood, the realities of urban life, the history of Louisiana Creole culture, the glory of the black cowboy, and the role of religion in shaping lives.
South Park, Houston, Texas, 1977, is where we first meet Ti’ John, a young boy under the care of his larger-than life father—a working-class rodeo star and a practitioner of vodou—and his mother—a good Catholic and cautious disciplinarian— who forbids him to play with the neighborhood “hoodlums.” Ti’ John, throughout the era of Reaganomics and the dawn of hip-hop and cassette tapes, must negotiate the world around him and a peculiar gift he’s inherited from his father and Jules Saint-Pierre “Nonc” Sonnier, a deceased ancestor who visits the boy, announcing himself with the smell of smoke on a regular basis. In many ways, Ti’ John is an ordinary kid who loses his innocence as he witnesses violence and death, as he gets his heart broken by girls and his own embittered father, as he struggles to live up to his mother’s middle-class aspirations and his father’s notion of what it is to be a man. In other ways, he is different—from his childhood buddies and from the father who is his hero. The question throughout this layered and complex coming-of-age story is will Ti’ John survive the bad side of life—and his upbringing—and learn how to recognize and keep what is good.
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