Authors Interviewing Authors | A.A. Redd & Gregory Hedgepeth
BY A.A. REDD
All art is about identity in some way, because no art can be shaped without contact with the self. No pocket of the creative world can be utterly without ego— but that isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Self-awareness can be a double-edged sword, but it’s one that’s necessary to wield if an artist is interested in growth and change. No one knows that better than Gregory Hedgepeth, who works harder than almost anyone I’ve ever met to actualize his goals and dreams.
Reading his work gives you a vivid glimpse of the prolific writer and Editor-in-Chief himself. From the pages of his telescopic, genre-defying Misconceptions about Sunrises to the evocative, incandescent wordplay of his Dirty Dozen poetry series, Hemisphere has proven himself to be a literary force to be reckoned with. Outside of his own writing, he encourages his team at Vital Narrative to realize the full potential of our ideas with relentless spirit and enthusiasm. One thing becomes clear when speaking to him: this is a person who not only knows who they are, but knows the trick of self-guided evolution. Hemisphere talks inspiration, self-expression, and the women in his life whose input matters most to him in this enlightening and uplifting interview.
AA: What's the most surprising thing you've learned as you put out more work?
GH: There's so much work involved in promotion! There's always a never-ending task list of things that you want your readers to know about so they can get excited. Also, you're only as good as your last project. If you don't engage your readers consistently, it's very easy for them to forget and move on to the next thing. And, the more you write, the more chances you're willing to take with your writing.
AA: Has your growth as a writer changed any of your plans for publishing (are you leaning toward another genre, looking to put more out, etc.)?
GH: I've been writing in multiple genres ever since I was a kid; poems, spoken word for the stage, short stories, novels, screenplays for short films, and features. The only difference are the technical aspects, but the creativity remains consistent from genre to genre—if you allow it. I've never wanted a certain genre to pigeonhole my goals. That's what stagnates your growth as a writer, in my opinion.
AA: What drives your thirst for growth as an artist?
GH: It's uncontrollable. It's completely out of my hands. My brain is constantly running with ideas and little things here and there to improve. I'm obsessed with putting out things that I feel will express how I feel about a certain topic without literally coming out and saying it. Knowing that there are people out there who will relate and enjoy what I bring to the table also drives the need for growth. Some people feel it's necessary to keep giving the same thing over and over so that the fans will always remain happy, but I think giving them something new much more appreciated—and a lot more interesting.
AA: Stephen King recommends designating a certain reader as your audience and writing to them. How do you approach thinking about your readers as you write? Do you think it's better to not think of them at all?
GH: It's impossible not to think of the reader at all. I mean, we write literally for readers. That's not to say that I worry how readers will feel about everything. At the end of the day, I just want them to get lost in my work and feel a connection to it. I think that's the most you can really expect from a reader. I certainly don't designate a certain reader as my audience because it feels too much like I'm letting someone else dictate what I should write. I always hope my girl likes it because I want her to feel like all the late nights I spend obsessing over my projects were worth it. But that's about it. I've never tried to identify a reader profile or anything. I guess if Stephen King says it works, I should probably consider it though because he's sold like a trillion books at this point.
AA: Whose work has shaped you most as an artist?
GH: Every artist I've been exposed to has shaped me in some form or fashion, but because I dabble in so many different genres and on so many different platforms, I don't think anyone is doing it better than Donald Glover right now. Atlanta was a smash-hit; Awaken My Love was such an interesting take on music when he's known for doing rap; and his stuff on Community and in other media has always been on point. It's like you always know to expect something fresh from him and even if you don't know all the details going in, you know it's going to be a dope experience from him.
Another artist is Phonte Coleman from Little Brother. We're both North Carolina natives and he also dabbles in a few different areas— comedy, rapping, singing, etc. It's so dope to see how people can just do what feels right to them and make it happen, even if it's not what they're mainly known for.
Writing-wise, Toni Morrison's quote "if there is a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it" is a mantra I've held tight to for years. It gets all the excuses out the way and makes way for something groundbreaking and the last thing I want to do is do what everyone else is doing.
AA: What are you proudest of in terms of your writing?
GH: Completing Misconceptions About Sunrises is honestly one of the most amazing things I've ever accomplished. Just knowing where I was as I was writing and all that I had gone through - getting that book done and out to the public is still amazing to me. Having my mom tell people that I'm an author and have several books for sale is definitely a proud moment for me as well. I've always wanted her to be proud of me and I finally feel like she is. And also, just having people ask for my thoughts and opinions when it comes to THEIR writing. That means a lot because it means they respect what I've accomplished thus far.
AA: How do you know when you're done with a piece of writing?
GH: It's hard to put into words, but basically when I feel like adding or subtracting a single word would take away from everything that's written. I have a tendency to over-edit and, sometimes, things are just better left alone.
AA: Do you think some ideas are too weird to execute?
GH: Not at all. Too many people have this need for their art to be understood. Sometimes an idea just needs to be presented and whoever gets it, gets it. If you don't get it, it just means you aren't the audience for it.
AA: What gets you most excited about your future projects? Anticipated reactions, the process itself, something else?
GH: Seeing the final product is honestly the most exciting part. Just seeing an idea go from something I wrote on a piece of paper to becoming a working manuscript, going through edits and all that is great. But the most exciting part is when the book is all finished and your name is on the cover and people are clamoring for it. Nothing beats that. Also seeing how people respond once it's out. Good or bad, I love it all as long as you read it and felt something.