1. Tell me a bit about yourself.
Yusuf – Husband, father, spiritually grounded man. My wife and I are originally from Pennsylvania now residing in Northern Virginia. We’re both extremely focused and passionate about our writing careers. I’m a mentor, which was one of my main goals because it’s important for me to continually share with people, especially youth, the circumstances both good and bad that have made me who I am today.
Zoe – God fearing mother and wife. My writing career has been incredible because of how much we had to overcome obstacles to be in such a great position today. We’ve worked hard and remained humble. My passion aside from writing is becoming a teacher/professor, a goal that is a matter of months away. Our daughter, who is almost 18 will also be releasing her first novel in the near future, following in our footsteps as a writer but knowing much more than we did when we entered the industry.
2. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Yusuf – I still don’t at times. My wife Zoe has to remind me because to me, I’m just Yusuf, a man with many titles and a lot on my heart and mind, who’s trying to make it in this cold world.
Zoe – I first considered myself a writer after a book signing that I did for our first novel. The realization of this new identity didn’t hit until that point. I was new in the industry, still learning so much and attended this particular signing alone. I didn’t know that the person hosting the signing had arranged for a special guest to come and meet with me. This happened to be a young girl who was maybe 13 or 14 years old. Her mother was in her words, “in love with our story,” and wanted to have her daughter speak with the author because she wanted to be a writer too. I must have talked with her for close to a half an hour as she sat next to me while I signed books. It was a great feeling and I hope that I inspired her to reach for any dream that she has of being a writer because it truly is a gift and indescribable experience.
3. What inspired you to write your first book?
Yusuf – Once urban books hit the streets, it became a phenomenon to many youth and somewhat taking the place of school books because they could relate to it more. However many of them were also trying to imitate what they read, just as they sometimes do with movies and music but they weren’t getting both sides within those stories. So my inspiration came from wanting to reveal what’s really happening and what a person’s life can truly end up like. I’ve witnessed it, been through more than I could write about and thankfully made it through eleven years in the Feds which could have been fifteen. I’ve made it back home to my family, a new career, and with a much better and wiser outlook on life.
4. What books have influenced your life most?
Yusuf – Qur’an
Zoe – Holy Bible
5. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Yusuf - Guy Johnson.
Zoe – Maya Angelou because it seems as though she carries herself so respectably in everything she does. She respects her craft and it shows in her work.
6. What book are you reading now?
Yusuf – I’m currently reading Money Hungry by Tyrone Brown.
7. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Yusuf – When I’m not writing I’m usually spending time with my family. I travel a lot in this profession whether it’s promoting or events, so that is something that is both business and pleasure depending on what city and state we’re visiting. Aside from that, I’m working out, running, studying or mentoring.
Zoe – Family first, whenever I’m not writing or doing something work related I’m with my husband and our daughter making good use of precious time. We travel, go to the beach, anything that’s fun for the family and support my husband and his mentoring.
8. Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Yusuf - The street; real events that happen in everyday life in the ghetto.
9. What new author has grasped your interest?
Yusuf – Young Author ZayDiddy.
10. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
Yusuf – Part of what I do now, which is mentor youth.
Zoe – A teacher/professor, which is also what I’ll be doing aside from being a writer.
11. What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
Zoe – I think it’s safe to say that we both enjoyed writing each chapter however the beginning and the end are always the one’s that give the most joy and I’ll explain why. When we start a novel, it’s always exciting to begin a new project, with fresh ideas and a great outlook on what’s to come. That feeling is hard to describe but as you progress through each chapter, you maintain that and once you reach that very last chapter, you’re hit with a whole new emotion. You’re proud of what you’ve accomplished, you’re excited to see how your readers will receive it and you know that you’ve done something that required a lot of skill and patience. It can be stressful as a writer, but when your novel is complete you definitely gain satisfaction from all of your hard work.
12. Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
Yusuf- It’s sad to have to admit but I was in the street life for real. So much that I received 15 years sentence for a non-violent crime and I know I have affected a lot of people’s lives but at the time I didn’t see it. I had to tell this story for the person who would believe he or she is only accountable for their own actions. Don’t get me wrong the book is what it is, hard; passionate, violent and true lessons in life itself. I have a brother who at this very moment is fighting two contract killings. Do you think I want to believe I had anything to do with molding his mind state in anyway when I never let him see me handling my street business? It’s a cold world but that doesn’t mean we as men and women need to become cold. If there is nothing else that people take from our work; know that we get just one life, and if we make one detrimental mistake, one moment in time, that can be taken away.
13. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Yusuf – We have a couple of upcoming books, one is Definition of a Man which is one of my best books to date. I think this book is needed at this time because a lot of cats were lost when I was coming up you had to be the man you said you were. So if you wanted to be anything, you had to put in the hard work to become that. If you wanted to be the best baller on the playground you had to practice, the best hustler, you had to out hustler the next man… you wanted to be the same thing. I was taught this lesson early in life by a man who was rich before he was 35. Now I’m going to be his voice in the Definition of a Man.
14. How do you market your book(s)?
Yusuf – We market through every possible way and opportunity that’s available to us. We reach out to book clubs, attend events, we advertise and connect with stores and vendors. Networking with other people in the industry who have been around for a long time has been a benefit and social networking.
15. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Zoe - If writing is genuinely your passion, do whatever it takes to make that dream come to fruition. Research, network, and if you’re spiritual or religious, pray as well. After that, research some more because you can never do enough of that in this industry. It is a tough process that requires a lot of focus, patience, and persistence. Not every publisher (large or small) is going to be good for you or provide what you need in order to become successful. Therefore you have to explore opportunities and if you cannot find what you’re looking for, the answer might just be within and that may even be self publishing. You have to work extremely hard in this industry if you want your voice (your work) to be heard. Be prepared to do book tours, network from sun up until sun down, promote heavily and if you’re in a position where you get knocked down you have to get right back up and keep it moving.