JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Booker Mattison, author of Unsigned Hype
(Baker Publishing Group)
Iâ€™m Tory Tyson, but you can call me Terror Tory because I bring terror to all producers and DJs. Iâ€™m from the hood side of Mount Vernon, which is right next to the Bronx. Iâ€™m fifteen, and I already met my future wife. I just have to get her to see it that way. Did I mention that my beats and turntable skills are sick?
This summer Iâ€™ll be spinning at a block party in my neighborhood on Friday nights. You should come through. Itâ€™s going to be hot (pun intended). Me and my partner Fat Mike are going to enter the Unsigned Hype demo contest on New Yorkâ€™s Power 97, â€œthe nationâ€™s number one station.â€
If we win, my whole life will change. But thereâ€™s always somebody hatinâ€™. Iâ€™m trying to stay focused, but every day itâ€™s different drama.
Man, I just want to make it . . .
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write Unsigned Hype?
Booker Mattison: A publisher contacted my agent and asked her if she could find a book with a black male protagonist that wasnâ€™t about violence, vice and hyper sexuality. My agent approached me about it because all of her other writers are female.
As a former rapper, producer and DJ, this story flowed out of my experience as an African-American male and a former wayward youth. As a result of my experiences, I have developed a heart for the hood in general, but specifically for young African-American males.
JP: What sets Unsigned Hype apart from other novels that mixes Hip Hop and Urban Literature?
BM: What sets Unsigned Hype apart from other novels that mix Hip Hop and Urban Literature is its realistic portrayal of the African-American community, complete with a diversity of voices and characters. It grapples with class differences, generational relationships to hip-hop and secular and Christian debates in the black community. All of this is set against a back drop of African American music history as seen through the lens of hip hop.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that lead to Unsigned Hype getting out to the public?
BM: The key to my success is knowing my purpose. This allows me to easily determine if a relationship or an option is an obstacle or an opportunity to me fulfilling my God given purpose. I firmly believe that this story was divinely inspired as an instrument of uplift for African-Americans.
Too much of our literature today is designed to shock or titillate. There is still a place for African-American stories that empower; like those written by Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and other African-American literary legends.
As for the work getting out to the public, I just so happened to know the right people at the right time. In my opinion, the market is ripe for this kind of story.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish Unsigned Hype?
BM: My process is to seek God on what story he wants to channel through me. I then have to have the courage to write what I am given. I work at it daily and the end result is something for the reading public to respond to.
It took me six weeks to write Unsigned Hype, a rare feat for completing a novel. Right now Iâ€™m working on my second novel Snitch, and Iâ€™ve been working on that for a lot longer than six weeks and Iâ€™m not even close to being finished!
JP: What’s next for Booker T. Mattison?
BM: My novel Snitch will be released in the spring of 2011. It is the story of a bus driver who witnesses a crime, the inner drama he experiences in whether or not to break the common code of silence not to cooperate with the police, and what he must overcome to save himself and his family when he becomes a target of the perpetrators.
I am also a filmmaker, so I just started writing the screenplay for Snitch last week. My last film, The Gilded Six Bits (adapted from the Zora Neale Hurston story of the same name) which I wrote and directed aired on Showtime. It starred Chad Coleman (The Wire), Tâ€™keyah Keymah (That’s So Raven, Cosby, In Living Color), Wendell Pierce (Treme’, The Wire, Ray) and Novella Nelson (The Antwon Fisher Story).
Accomplishments for Booker T. Mattison and Unsigned Hype: Unsigned Hype has been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and featured in The Source and Black Beat magazines. It won the “New African American Voice” award at the 2010 Afr’Am Festival. It was voted one of the Best Novels of 2009 by Black Pearls Magazine and one of the Top 50 Fiction Novels of 2009 by Conversations Book Club.
The book trailer was voted the Best Book Trailer of 2009 by African American Literature Book Club. Unsigned Hype has been optioned for development into a television series by the producers of Boyz N Da Hood, Hustle & Flow, Run’s House and Def Comedy Jam.
This past semester it was required reading in Dr. Nicole Hodges-Persley’s Hip Hop and Popular Culture class at the University of Kansas and Dr. C. Vernon Mason’s Theology and Urban Ministry class at New York Theological Seminary.
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