BY P. CURRY
Last year, we created of series of in-house interviews called Authors Interviewing Authors, where our roster traded conversations in an attempt to get to know one another as well as provide some intimate insights into the life of a writer. This year, we expanded on our series, aptly renaming it Writers Asking Writers Questions and turned it into a five-week series involving established authors as well as new, unpublished writers.
The previous interviews from our WAWQ series are linked below.
So, first things first, what motivated you to become a writer?
A: I've always written, but it was mostly poetry at first, thanks to my teacher introducing me to poets like Nikki Giovanni. I think the transition happened after I was just given an idea and I ran with it. That idea turned into my first novel. And I've been loving it ever since.
Who are some of your influences, literary or otherwise?
A: Obviously, Nikki Giovanni like I said earlier. I also love Rudy Francisco. But when it comes to novels, I would have to say Veronica Roth, who wrote the Divergent series. She is around my age - her success and the way she started has always been motivating for me. As well as JK Rowling and her whole process. But the first books I remember fully diving into were the Cheetah Girls series, and that was all thanks to Deborah Gregory.
How did you get on board with Vital Narrative?
A: I always tell people my journey to getting published was nothing but a God thing. When I first started writing The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad, I wasn't even necessarily looking for a publisher. I honestly thought I would just self-publish at first. That all changed when I was talked to a friend of mine about my idea for a story, and it just so happened he was starting a publishing company and the relationship blossomed into what it is now.
What was the inspiration behind your Royal Elite Squad series?
A: Originally, the Royal Elite Squad was supposed to be a coloring book. One of my first loves was drawing and arts and, around that time, people were pressuring me to create a coloring book. So one day, when I was at IHOP, I began drawing the idea for this superhero coloring book on the back of their place mats . And then I thought ‘maybe it should have a storyline to go with it.’ That night I ended up mapping out seven books! A lot of it is influenced by young women and other people I know in real life. I've been blessed to know real life superheroes, so I used this book as an avenue to tell their extraordinary stories.
You appear to be very passionate about both children and diverse representation. Are those two major factors behind your work?
A: Most definitely! I've been teaching and working with children for the past ten years and I love it. They were my biggest supporters during this whole journey when it came to writing this book. We will sit in class some days and just bounce ideas off each other - I would ask what they thought about this character or even just ask them ‘is this realistic?’ It really helped my writing process. I also learned a lot of them didn't read for the same reason I didn't as a child: because there weren't a lot of books that reminded them of themselves. I wanted to use Royal Elite Squad to show children themselves in another light.
Are you interested in having your book series hit the big screen or little screen one day?
A: Oh yes! I would love for it to become a Hulu series, which branches off into a movie. I want paraphernalia, I want dolls, T-shirts, movie soundtracks - the whole shebang! I just want it to end up being everywhere. And it will be!
What do you think the future holds for the heroes of the Royal Elite Squad?
A: Greatness! It's only going to higher - no one can tell me otherwise. This is a story that needs to be told and I am blessed to be the one who gets to tell it. I want to be a beacon of hope for young men and women - for them to know that they are super and elite in their own right. They may not necessarily have a superpower, but who they are is their power. Everyone needs to be reminded of that sometimes.
As a writer, I feel like story ideas are swirling around in my mind all the time. Do you share that experience?
A: I am a natural dreamer, so I am always dreaming of new ideas, new opportunities, new stories and new ways to make things happen. But I'm also a planner, so if I plan it in my head, it's going to happen. As soon as something pops in my head, I usually write it down and tell my core group about it to get their opinion, and go from there.
I notice that you are a very spiritual person. Does your spirituality influence your writing in any way?
A: Yes, I believe so. I truly believe my process to becoming a published author was nothing but God. And I say that, because everything happened so smoothly. I know so many authors that tell me their stories and how they went through the publishing process - and there’s so much angst and disappointment. By the grace of God, mine wasn't like that. Everything lined up so smoothly. From creating my story to finding Vital Narrative Press to finding an amazing graphic artist to do the artwork for my book - I'm just so thankful.
As a teacher, do you ever get any ideas or inspiration in the classroom?
A: Always! Kids are hilarious and they inspire me daily, from their mannerisms to how they react to certain situations to their funny nuances. My book is geared toward a younger audience, so I'm grateful to be surrounded by them all day, so I can really get an authentic representation of them.
What are some other goals you have in mind for your writing career?
A: Besides having an original series or movie on Hulu, I want to become a best-seller. I want to be able to travel the world, talking about my book. But honestly, the moments that I love and will never get tired of, are when people come to me and tell me how much my book meant to them or how they loved seeing someone who looks like them on the cover. Or Hearing that I'm telling their kind of story correctly. Or how good it made them feel to read The Royal Elite Squad. Honestly, that is thanks enough.
You can purchase The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad by D.A. Alston here.