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Authors Interviewing Authors | D.A. & T.J.

BY: T.J. LOVE

 

TJ: Let's start with your origins. Where are you from originally?

DA: I hail from sunny San Diego. But now I reside in Atlanta.

TJ: Word. How'd you end up on the other side of the country?

DA: Well, my grandfather started a church in California. It grew and became very popular in the city, but then he told us that God told him to move to Georgia to start a church there. Mind you we had zero family there. But we stepped out on faith and God blessed us. Five buildings later, we're doing well and now own a movie theater also.

TJ: That's really dope. Getting y'all Wizard Kelly on. I've been there though - moving across the country on faith. It's definitely harrowing. How has that influenced your work?

DA: Well, I rely on my family a lot and my faith is such a huge part of who I am, in general. I try to stay pretty balanced and center myself in the midst of the craziness. So most of my work normally has that same underlying tone towards having faith.

TJ: I feel that. I feel like you don't see a lot of that in Black writing. How does your faith shape you as a person? Why has it been so important to you?

DA: As a person, it has gotten me through some of the hardest points in my life. It has helped me smile when I wanted to cry. It pushed me forward when I wanted to give up. It covered me when I wanted to go wild. It's just always been a positive force in my life.

TJ: I feel that. So that being said, let me ask you something - a lot of pro-black 'woke' folk are claiming that Christianity is the religion of the oppressor. Where do you think this idea comes from and does this affect you as a Christian at all?

DA: Honestly, I don't concern myself with ideologies and claims from other people. I know what God means to me and what He's personally done for me in my life. That's all I stand on. I'm not living for the approval of anyone else.


I don’t concern myself with ideologies and claims from other people... I’m not living for the approval of anyone else.
— D.A. Alston

TJ: I hear you. I love people with principles. So talk to me about The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad. What was the inspiration for that?

DA: Well, it didn't even start off as a book idea. I was sitting at IHOP with my mother. And, because I also draw, we've been talking about creating a coloring book for years. On this particular day, I was like 'Maybe I'll finally do that.' So I'm talking the idea over with her and I was like 'What if I do superheroes that are all women?' 'All with different nationalities?' Then, I was like 'What if I put a storyline to it?' And it just snowballed into the creation that it is now.

TJ: That's really unique - almost sounds like your own personal superhero origin story. Representation is a beautiful thing, especially in a world where the main protagonists have always been beefed-up white dudes. So what's next for D.A. Alston?

DA: Representation is major. For women and people of color. Currently, I'm working on the second installment of The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad. I just really started writing it and I'm really excited. I'm just trying to focus and knock this out. I also have a few speaking engagements coming soon. The ultimate goal is to get a table at DragonCon to present my book.


Representation is major.
— D.A. Alston

TJ: Things seem to be coming together for you - a theme of us at VN. What's DragonCon?

DA: That's why I love our team. DragonCon is the Atlanta version of Comic-Con. It's the epitome of a lituation.

TJ: 'Lituation' just made me feel mad old. So it's basically a gathering of my fellow geeks cosplaying as their favorite superheroes? How dope would it be one day to see Royal Elite Squad cosplayers?

DA: That's the goal though! Seeing people dressing up as characters from my book. That's the dream.

TJ: Baby steps, right? First DragonCon, then the world. I'm rooting for you.

DA: Thank you sir. I'm excited.

TJ: Of course. Keep making us proud and keep us updated.


T.J.'s first book of poetry, Speaking In Tongues: Love In Five Languages, can be purchased here. You can purchase The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad by D.A. Alston by clicking here.

 
Authors Interviewing Authors | Garvey & A.A.

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 Garvey Hemisphere, 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 CEO 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.


I’ve never wanted a certain genre to pigeonhole my goals.
— Garvey Hemisphere
 

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.


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.
— Garvey Hemisphere
 

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.


A.A.'s first book of poetry, A Body Held Still By Fear & Loathing, can be purchased here. You can purchase Garvey Hemisphere's entire backlog (Misconceptions About Sunrises, The Year That Answered and A Collection Of Echoes) by clicking here.

 
Authors Interviewing Authors | Tony & T.J.

BY: TONY BOWERS

 

The Habitual Wordsmith T.J. Love knows how to create words that evoke real emotion. I consider this to be a superpower. This amazing ability is what the world has always needed, so I was excited to spend time chopping it up with my literary brother. I have been a fan of T.J’s even before his provocative poetry collection (Speaking in Tongues: Love in Five Languages from Vital Narrative Press). From his bombastic Sound Cloud recordings to his impromptu Facebook musings, this brother knows how to move the needle.

 

TB: How long have you been writing and performing poetry?

TJ: I've been writing pretty much all my life but started performing when I was 17.

TB: So you got years in the game. I started writing back when I was 9. My first love was Langston Hughes. He inspired me to write. Who was your first love of poetry?

TJ: Word, Langston was there. Paul Laurence Dunbar, too. If I had to pick a first love though, man... as a kid, probably Maya Angelou. She was always so evocative and had such depth in simple lines. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was such an intimate read and gave so much insight into her life, it deepened my appreciation for her and her work. As I got older, I definitely dug Ainsley Burrows as my first spoken word love.

 

TB: We need that inspiration to guide us. Who are your current poetry/literary crushes?

TJ: I've really been digging on Lin-Manuel Miranda. He wrote Hamilton and the songs from Moana, but he's so damn lyrical and his wordplay is heads and shoulders beyond anything I've ever seen before. Like I'm obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack, how effortlessly he spins these lyrical tales through hip-hop and musical theatre. It's so dope. Warsan Shire is another one. I'm trying to familiarize myself with her work more. She echoes of that simplistic beauty I found in Maya all those years ago.

TB: That's interesting your connection to Miranda and musicals - are there any non-literary art forms that inspire you? Abstract art does it for me.

TJ: I love abstract art. I've always been a fan of art that doesn't have a set particular message, open interpretation stuff. I usually try to say something in my work, yet I want my readers/listeners to extrapolate from it what they will and it always inspires me to have conversations of their reasoning and rationale. I also dig still life photography. Like I've walked the Brooklyn Bridge a million times, but the perfectly captured image of it will get me emotional because it reminds me of home.

 

TB: Amen. Spoken like a true artist. What's your next challenge?

TJ: Right now I'm in a rotation of hosts for an open mic session out here in Phoenix called Cultiv8n Culture and that's been really dope, something new and exciting. I was just on a radio show out here called 'Off The Cuff' on RadioSupa.com where I spoke about Speaking In Tongues and my upbringing in life and in poetry. I also was just featured on Indiana hip-hop artist Con Rome's mixtape. Individually, my next project is to finish my ninth spoken word album. I have the pieces written, I just have to record them. Outside of that, just visualizing my next book. But that won't be till next year and with the Womens' Initiative coming up in 2019, I've got a little time.

TB: Wow. You got a full plate. That's what's up. Last question.... which do you prefer spoken or written poetry and why?

TJ: Damn, that's a great question. I gotta take both honestly. I know, I suck for that but they are both equally important to me. Some people are audio intensive. Some are visual. One without the other is deprivation. Spoken word has an attraction because delivery and cadence are fifty percent of the entertainment value, while written poetry has to have a certain visual aesthetic, whether in word choice or placement or structure, in order to be universally appealing. There are certain niches for both so they are both powerful in their own rights.

TB: No, that's great. Both is a great answer. Great break down of the why. I appreciate your time. Great and thoughtful answers. Thanks Brother. Keep slanging them words.

TJ: No doubt man thanks for the time. Will do, most def.


You can purchase Tony's first book, On The Nine, by clicking here. You can order Speaking in Tongues: Love in Five Languages by The Habitual Wordsmith TJ Love by clicking here.