On Becoming an Author
Publishing a book feels like getting tapped for some secret society. For the past seven years, anytime I was near a bookstore, I would go in, find the fiction section then have a moment of silence right at the spot where my book would be placed. I did this every time I was near a bookstore, didn’t matter where. And I’d usually did it as I was getting ready to leave the place in order to fire myself up to go home and write — until I had a damn book on that bookstore shelf. Now the book is published and it feels good– like I’ve made a contribution to culture.
On How He’s Living
I DJ pretty frequently around the country or I’m producing more music or I’m writing. Other than that, I play tennis about three days a week and go to the gym. You have to hit your target heart rate at least three days a week when you’re sitting down most of the day. Also, I cook about ninety-eight percent of my meals because I work from home so cooking is another activity that is really part of my routine.
My work brings me the most joy. It really does. And the fulfillment comes when I realize the end result is exactly what I intended. You really can’t ask more from yourself than that.
On How He Was Raised
I grew up Catholic as did everyone in my family on both sides for a few hundred years. In the early 90’s I was initiated into Ocha de Regla or Lucumi traditional African religion and served that religious community as a drummer. The concept of orishas in Lucumi resembles the concept of saints in Catholicism, each endowed with some governance over different aspects of the human experience, so it was easier for me to grasp the structure of Lucumi making it more accessible. Mostly Spanish-speaking communities of the Diaspora preserved the religion so I became more adept at Spanish to get information orally. But as a child there were no traditional religions in my orbit just Catholicism, which has an emphasis on a structured litany with discussion and symbolic ritual. If anything the idea of symbolic ritual resonated with me and I realized that ritual sometimes happens when you’re not intending for it (Karma is similar in this way.) Today, the traditional religion and Catholicism give me a lens to view my life with ideas of symbolic ritual and karmic reactions to my choices and behavior. With regards to my work, I am fascinated with the concept of faith and African Americans, maybe even obsessed.
On Men and Fiction
I’ve found that men, particularly men of color–at least the ones in my circle–don’t read much fiction. They typically read biographies or trending-social-theory-self-help-you-too-can-be-awesome-following-these-steps type of books. And I have close friends who are readers but they don’t read fiction. I think brothers want answers not imagination. I’ve noticed that black men have a tendency to read something that they believe will empower them. They read biographies to get the blueprints for some form of success. The other self-help type of books are like Cliff’s Notes for life. I think a lot of brothers who read are trying to improve themselves or gain insight to make their life better or more informed. Now crime fiction or street lit, well that plays like rap music and brothers, some brothers, will read that fare. But literary fiction? Hardly. I think some of this is based on the popular psychology of reading in general. Many view reading as a difficult task, burdensome, time consuming, etc. Many of the brothers I talk to say they don’t have time to sit up reading make believe when they have to earn money and get ahead in life. Many times intellectual pursuit isn’t deemed worthy in our community unless there is some money or prestige behind it. While in college when I told people I was a Philosophy major, I got two reactions. White people would say, “Wow, that seems difficult.” Brothers would say, “N*%a, you trippin’.” Go figure.
Having a novel go to market isn’t so much a shift but rather a complete execution of getting my work to the public. I’ve had a movie produced and an album produced – both expressions of my art, both going to market. It’s satisfying that the novel gets to the market place and readers can experience my stories. For me, the work doesn’t become art until it’s experienced by others. –Marcus Guillory
Photo by Jonathan Mannion