By now, if you’re into books, you’ve seen or heard the buzz about Aliya S. King’s first novel, Platinum. An award-winning journalist and author, she wrote Faith Evans’ memoir, Keep the Faith and Frank Lucas’ memoir, Original Gangster. King’s first novel was released Tuesday and she’s been on the move promoting it everywhere from readers’ living rooms to Ustream chats and her celebrity-filled launch party.
King’s heroine is Alex Sampson Maxwell, a freelance entertainment journalist who’s covered some of the era’s biggest names, currently booked solid preparing to marry a well-known rapper named Birdie–divorced, with a young daughter–while ghostwriting the memoirs of infamous home-wrecking groupie Cleo. When she’s assigned an additional story on rappers and their relationships, things get really precarious–as difficult as her relationship is already (especially in dealing with her stepdaughter-to-be) Alex’s new story teaches her the multiple ways that fame can cripple a relationship, if not kill it outright.
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Since finding her blog last year, I’ve been a faithful reader. I even made her My Mentor in my Head, as she gives awesome advice on writing and journalism. Imagine the joy when I found out she was going to be New Orleans during the Essence Music Festival for a book reading and signing. I marched into the Morial Convention Center bright and early on Sunday to catch her third and last appearance.
She was running late, and the folks at the AOL/Blackvoices booth had no idea when she’d get there. Unfortunately, I had to pick a friend up from the airport in less than an hour. I walked around aimlessly for awhile to kill time. I crossed my fingers and went by the booth again to find a petite little woman sitting behind the counter jotting notes in a notebook. There were several shiny books set up around her. Aliya S. King had arrived. Score.
I walked right up as if I’d met her before and introduced myself. She gave me a big hug. What a sweetie! There was no one else at the booth, and there was no time like the present, so I took it upon myself to do a brief interview about PLATINUM. She talked about her celebration plans for her first novel, character development and the secret to writing. Check it out:
Tell me about your experiences so far.
I’m very excited. I’m grateful that Simon & Schuster is supporting me and sending me out (for a tour) because I know it’s not always that way. New writers don’t always get the opportunity. It’s also been humbling. I’m sitting here, you know, and in my mind it’ll be this long line of people lined up waiting for my book, and it’s not that way. You have to build your audience, so I’m learning a lot, too.
How have people been receiving Platinum in your readings?
I can’t tell–it was hard to tell. I know people wer interested, walking by and stopping and listening. What was crazy was Cynthia Rowell from The Young and the Restless was going on after me, and she got there and she was in the audience. She won a copy of the book! I asked a question about one of the characters, and she totally got it right. She won a copy of the book, and made me sign it for her, and it was awesome.
What will you do when your book drops?
It’s funny, my schedule is ridiculous (opens her packed leather planner). Everything is a mess, but on the actual day the book comes out, I don’t have anything to do. No interviews scheduled, no readings–no nothing. I literally have the day to myself, so the only thing I’m gonna do is go buy my book. (See a video of Aliya purchasing PLATINUM here.)
Did writing successful memoirs allow you to get your foot in the door for writing novels?
No, they’re very different. It’s like being an opera singer and then all of sudden becoming a rapper. You deal with different people, different teams. I don’t think that writing a memoir is a foot in the door for writing fiction. I mean, I do think that the fact that I wrote the Faith book, and it did well helped me somewhat, but really they’re two different worlds. I don’t think they’re necessarily related.
And I didn’t find out until after I sold my novel–my agent told me that most writers don’t do both. They stick to one or the other. It didn’t dawn on me that I couldn’t do both.
Which do you prefer?
I love both. I look at it as writing. I can’t say I’ve ever really thought of it as one or the other. It’s like being able to be right-handed and left-handed. I don’t really see a difference. Fiction is a little bit scarier because I don’t have anyone to lean on and say, ‘This is our book together.’ But besides that…
You dole out a lot of valuable information to new and aspiring writers on your website. Most writers would keep their tricks to themselves, but you don’t. Why?
Right. I feel like that’s my job.
For new writers, a major problem is developing the characters. How did you go about developing your characters? What do you recommend?
I was at a signing yesterday with Zane and she was telling me how much character development she does before she starts writing, and I have to be honest and say I don’t do that. I think about the character for a little bit before I start writing, but I find if I just sit my butt down and write something, the characters will start to develop themselves.
It’s so easy to say ‘my characters aren’t developed, so I can’t write.’ It’s just an excuse. Sit down and write anything. They’ll start doing something. If you start writing, they’ll start doing something. You don’t have a choice. We all know people. Write a character that’s just like your mom or your auntie, or sister. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have wait until inspiration strikes you. Just write.
Do you think you’ll have this experience with PLATINUM where your characters are so close to real people?
Of course! There’s a character in my book that very, very, very similar to myself, and I knew that going in. I warned my husband ahead of time, ‘this is totally very similar to me, but noting similar to you.’ I think that’s just a part of writing. You’re going to find that some of your characters are similar to people in real life. I don’t know if you can really escape that. Most fiction writers definitely include characters that are somewhat autobiographical.
Stephen King is one of my favorite writers and just about all of his books take place in the area where he grew up. It’s called “Write what you know.”
Before I could finish, people were lining up to see what the novel was about.
She even signed a copy for me!
I’m almost done, and I can say, honestly that it’s a page-turner! Look here for to read the full first chapter of PLATINUM.