|Image credit: ashleyjaquavis.com|
Ashley & JaQuavis are the "Dynamic Duo" of the Street Lit genre, with over a dozen novels, including two New York Times Bestselling titles to their credit (The Cartel 2 (2009) and The Cartel 3 (2010)). I recently had the honor and pleasure to conduct a phone interview with this fascinating couple:
StreetLiterature.com: The StreetLiterature.com audience primarily consists of educators seeking to learn more about the Street Literature genre. In this vein, I'd like to ask you a few questions that will allow the audience to get to know you better, as premier authors within this literary genre. My first question is a typical librarian "wanna-know" question:
What did you leisurely read while growing up?
JaQuavis: I was always a big fan of Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes. What turned me on to street lit was Coldest Winter Ever. It circles around the lifestyle that I was accustomed to growing up in the hood – I could relate. In my hood, we didn’t have doctors and lawyers to look up to, we always looked up to the dope dealers because they were the ones doing things. This was the stuff we lived, the stuff we looked up to.
Ashley: I used to love to read. I was reading from an early, early age. I read Sweet Valley High, R.L. Stine, all those kinds of books from the library. I always had a love for that. It was something that took me away from everything around me but it wasn’t my life. I wasn’t a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl from
. Coldest Winter Ever blew my mind because I could relate to that. The way Winter lived, moved, and spoke. I knew girls like that. California
StreetLiterature.com: What originally motivated y'all to publish in the Street Lit genre? Why write Street Lit?
JaQuavis: We write Street Literature – we write authentic Street Literature. You will never hear us strain away from what got us out the hood – the people who read our books, who have always supported us. We want to be trailblazers and part of the staple that says that yes, this is Street Lit, this is Street Literature, this is an authentic literary genre.
Ashley: People say there’s a lot of bad Street Lit books out, but there’s a lot of bad books out – period. The content shouldn’t be judged because a novel is in a hood setting – you have to judge the book by the fact that it’s fiction, which means we’re entertaining you. Judge the genre on its value as fiction – not on characters that you may not personally relate to.
SL: What did hitting the New York times Bestsellers List, not once, but twice, say to you about your work? About Street Lit?
JaQuavis: It was like a big thank you. We work very hard. And the years we were putting in - it was like a stamp of approval. Once we got that – we knew the sky was the limit. We see it as a thank you from our readers.
Ashley: That was never even a goal of ours – we never thought that a street novel could contend with traditional novels. It transitioned us from a hustle and grind to a valid career path. It feels good to be authors to help establish the genre.
Who would you say are your readers?
JaQuavis: We have a diverse demographic – from 16 year old readers to 65 year old readers. We see our diverse readership as a testament to our writing. Because good writing is good writing and will interest various readers. It doesn’t matter the genre, if the story and the writing is good, it’s good.
Ashley: It’s us though. It’s our people that’s reading our books. People say, oh people in the hood don’t read – they don’t like to read. But I’m here to say - people in the hood do read. It’s all ages, but it’s definitely us that’s supporting us – it’s the hood.
SL: It seems like Street Lit authors are starting to get into promoting their books as eBooks. Are you finding your readers more attracted to reading the eBook format? How is the eBook market treating y'all?
Ashley: At first I was skeptical as a reader – wondering if I was going to miss seeing that cover in my and readers’ hands. I don’t think print books are going anywhere. But I do think that eBooks help authors track their sales. Helps them to know what they’re selling – it gives you more control over your brand.
JaQuavis: You have a smaller overhead with ebooks. It goes straight from your computer to your readers. No middle man. It’s like getting it straight from the plug to the streets. The writer/author has a win-win situation because they get more hits and sales and readers get the novel at a cheaper price. It’s a good thing from that angle.
SL: You finished The Cartel trilogy – it was and continues to be very popular amongst readers. What can we expect from your new work, Murderville? The first installment of this new trilogy is set for release at the end of this month (July 2011). What will this new trilogy contribute to the Street Lit genre? How will it amp the game, so to speak?
JaQuavis: This is our best work thus far for a couple reasons: 1 – we’re stepping outside the box. This story is so deep that we worried, “Are we going to scare away our readers?” This was our concern because we want our readers to grow as readers as we grow as writers. We want to tell deep, thought-provoking stories to give our readers food for thought. So we’re not going to dumb down our story. We believe it’s the best hood love story ever written. 2 - It’s not as cocaine-driven as our other stories – but the love story, spanning across continents, makes for rich content. And the CEOs of hip hop label, Cash Money Records,
“Baby” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams, are endorsing the book. It’s gonna blow people’s minds. Bryan
SL: What are you reading now?
Ashley: To be honest, we don’t have time to read aside from the projects we are working on. The only thing we do is write. I don’t think there’s a book that’s been created yet that can tear me away from my laptop right now. (laughs) We barely sleep. In order to be a writer you have to love it; you have to do it every day, unceasingly.
SL: There are still many educators (teachers and librarians) who are skeptical of Street Lit. They are still citing bad stories, editing and writing as reasons to not support the genre. What would you say to a group of educators who had this stance?
Ashley: I don’t see how any kind of educator can put down a student for reading. As long as they’re reading. No matter what they read – be it Coldest Winter Ever or Langston Hughes – it’s reading. I would challenge any educator to pick up Murderville and then tell me they didn’t like it. Start at the top of the genre – there's bad fiction in every genre – start at the top – read the best of what the genre has to offer and use that to determine its literary credibility.
SL: Thank you Ashley & JaQuavis for the honor of this interview!
Readers, visit Ashley & JaQuavis's website for a full listing of their literary collection. You can connect with Ashley & JaQuavis on social media via Facebook and Twitter: @ashleyjaquavis.