Keri Singleton is a longtime resident of Harlem. His Keri’s Korner Radio Show currently airs live on Mondays at 8:00 pm (EST) on F.L.O. Empire Radio and is syndicated on Wednesdays at 10:00 pm (PST) on One West Radio. I sat sat with him, during his book launch party, December 9th 2016, at Aloft Hotel In Harlem.
Here is what Keri had to say:
Eartha Watts Hicks: When and where did your concept for Idol begin? Where do you get these characters from?
Keri Singleton: I wrote several manuscripts in 2006 at a point in my life where I had a lot of downtime and decided to focus on penning a few novels and poems. “The Wanderer’s Game“, my first published book, and “Idol” were among the books that I authored. When, in 2013, I decided to publish a book I actually selected “Idol” to be my literary debut because I felt it was a ‘safer’ subject (“The Wanderer’s Game” is about a young guy from southern New Jersey who moves to New York City to pursue a career in acting but falls in to the world of male prostitution). I asked a my God-sister, Nneka Hall, to review the manuscripts and pick one as she is an avid reader. She, much to my surprise, urged me to release “The Wanderer’s Game” first.
The concept for “Idol” is based on the very real lofty pedestal that our society puts on celebrities. The characters represent different personalities that are quite prevalent in the entertainment business; iconic celebrity, devoted fan, and shrewd business manager.
EWH: Domestic violence is a serious issue. The subject matter (and its impact) is rarely approached from African American males. What led you to (and through) your process of making this a core theme of Idol?
KS: Thankfully, I never experienced domestic violence firsthand however I’ve always been very much against it. In my opinion, a man who puts his hands on a woman is not a man at all. Further, domestic violence isn’t limited to physical abuse. Many African American males, myself included, were raised by devoted, strong, and loving women and so I never grasped the idea of those same men having the conscience to abuse the women that they profess to love. In “Idol” I wanted to illustrate the fact that domestic violence does not exclusively involve people with limited financial means. Being successful in your career does not necessarily equate being successful in your personal life and I wanted to shed light on that fact as well.
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EWH: How has your interest in music and/or your background in radio influenced your writing?
KS: “Idol” is an expose in to the music industry. I’ve been in the music business for most of my adult life and have worked in the area of promotions/marketing at major record labels (Arista Records, Palm Tree Records) and radio stations (Power 105 – New York City, WILD – Boston) and so I utilized those experiences in creating the authenticity for the book.
EWH: Who are your literary influences? And why?
KS: I love John Grisham’s work. His novels are mostly based on courtroom drama and his writing style enables readers to travel to the Deep South (where most of his books are based) and feel the inner workings of the criminal justice system. I decided early on that my books would all give my readers authenticity particularly where geography was concerned. Like Grisham’s works, I want my audience to travel with me as I tell a story. In “Idol“, the reader becomes familiar with Philadelphia, where the lead character and his idol, Renee Starr, both hail from.
EWH: What is your creative process? When do you find time to write?
KS: Well, for one…I still prefer to actually write my stories and poems as opposed to typing them or dictating them on to a device. I love creating storylines and multi-dimensional characters for readers to fall in love with or even loathe. I typically write during my ‘peak hours’ which tend to fall between midnight and four o’clock in the morning. Yes, I’m definitely a ‘night owl’.
EWH: What do you find to be your strong suit of the craft itself? Which aspect of the craft is your favorite—dialogue, setting, character, voice, plot, or exposition?
KS: Hmmm, very interesting question. I would have to say that plot and setting are my strong points. With “Idol“, I think I was able to build more on my characters and add dimensions to them than in my previous book. I listen to what others say about my writing and work to improve on those aspects. I am definitely focused on plots and settings because I believe that those are important aspects of any story.
EWH: Where do most of your stories take place? Do you find that setting impacts the overall theme?
KS: To date, my stories all have one common factor regarding settings and that is they take place in large American cities. Both of my books, however, involve the characters traveling quite extensively and that is certainly no accident. My debut novel was based in New York City where I’ve lived for twenty years and “Idol” takes place in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles. However, I incorporated travel in to both stories so that my readers would be able to explore other great cities like Atlanta, Miami, and Chicago as well. Settings are very important to me because, again, I like to give my readers geographic journeys as well as life journeys with each story. Also, most people have a certain measure of pride in where they are from or where they live and so I try to incorporate various locations in my novels so that my audience can feel that they have a personal connection with the story as well.
EWH: Of music and writing, which do you enjoy most?
KS: On a personal level, I enjoy writing more than anything. Writing, for me, is escapism. Poetry is my cup of coffee, drink of wine, or cigarette. Telling a story gives me an opportunity to explore someone else’s world through my characters and allows me to connect with my readers. Music, however, is a very close second. Good, old school R&B is the soundtrack to my life.
EWH: What prompted the theatrical adaptation? How did it feel as a creative artist to actually see your work played out? Would you readily encourage other writers to take the ‘dramatic’ leap?
KS: The theatrical adaptation of “The Wanderer’s Game” was written, produced, and developed by Pearline ‘Alve’ Alexander, a multi-talented person and great friend. Ms. Alexander is an actress, model, and designer, among other things and she approached me about the idea of transforming my first book in to a Broadway play in early 2015. In October of that year, the play’s opening date was a sold out success. The cast was great and I got to know them during rehearsals leading up to opening night. My client, singer Julia Robertson, was also featured in the play. Seeing my novel’s story being acted out on stage in front of a live audience was priceless! I wasn’t an actor in the play, however, I was a captive audience member though (smile).
EWH: In your dream of dreams, if you had the freedom to create one ‘impossible story’ without any hindrances of any kind, what would that story be and who would be the main character?
KS: A book based on my own life. I would call it “Live To Tell”.
EWH: In life, whose lessons have served as a powerful influence on your decision making?
KS: That would be Denise H. Singleton, my mother. My mother is the single most influential person in my life. I adore her and she keeps me in check more than the world will ever know (smile).
EWH: How can readers find your work and connect with you online?
KS: Both of my novels, “Idol” and “The Wanderer’s Game“, can be found on Amazon.com. I encourage people to reach out to me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn) as well; Keri D. Singleton.