Sunday, September 30, 2018

Interview with author Kenji Jasper

Nostrand Avenue

1.      What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book?

Nostrand Avenue first began as a short story called “Thursday” that was published in an anthology called Brooklyn Noir back in the early 2000s.  A few years ago I decided to return to the character, Kango and, in a way, discovered that I’d been writing his story in bits and pieces for a number of years.  So, I decided to finish what I started.  And when I did it was an introspective journey that pushed me to take a look at not only my personal life but also decisions I’d made on a lot of different levels in my career.

2.      What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?

I would say Nostrand Avenue sits at the intersection of a Walter Mosley novel and the Harry Potter series.  It’s a story that takes place in an alternate world where human beings have energy auras that are classified by different numbers.  These auras allow people to do different things, whether it’s manipulating matter, reading minds or locating people at a moment’s notice, etc. 

Kango Watts, the main character, is a consultant for the underworld who plans crimes that go off without a hitch.  He’s a 7- aura type, which makes him very hard to harm or kill.  But as a young man he was a little too flashy with his gifts and made some enemies in the Brooklyn neighborhoods where he lived, which forced him to leave New York after only being there a few years.  15 years later, while he’s living in DC, his old friend and yoga teacher comes to see him to hire him for a job to steal an antique Bible, which takes him to London and then back to Brooklyn, where old enemies are waiting for him.

3.      What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?

The Afrofuturism movement is at its height in 2018.  I grew as a comic book and sci-fi fan in the ‘80s and ‘90s and I very rarely got to read and see people of color as main characters in the genre.  It’s a miracle to me that Black Panther is not a billion-dollar franchise or that a show like Terence Nance’s “Random Acts of Flyness” is on HBO every week.  Since I have a reputation as a crime writer, I wanted to create a world where fantasy and sci fi readers might feel just as at home in my work as traditional following.  One reader described Nostrand Avenue as Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone with a lot of sex.  It’s also been compared to The Akata Witch series.  I think there’s a lot in this book for every type of fiction reader.  There’s love and sex, crime and retribution as well as introspection on religion, African mysticism and yoga.  Nostrand Avenue is really unique.

4.      What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?

Writing is a craft.  It’s something you have to study, practice and devote yourself to like any other art.  It isn’t about image and it’s best when it doesn’t aim to copy the work that anyone else is doing.  You don’t write novels for the money.  It gets harder and hard to make a living as a creative writer, though there are many opportunities in content creation.  The true reward comes in the impact you can have on readers’ lives and the world as a whole.  The paycheck for that is priceless!

5.      What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?

I think publishing is trying to find new models to sustain itself.  In a world where there are TV shows on every platform it gets harder and harder to get people to read for fun who weren’t born with or developed a love for it.  But when the right words hit the air in front an audience they become far more than just ink on the page. 

I think what you may see more of his audiobooks moving into the virtual reality sphere and the return of the short story as a promotional medium.  Once you have people attention it’s easier to get their patronage.  So it’s all about making them see. 

6.      What great challenges did you have in writing your book?

This was the first time when I made the decision to intentionally travel very close to my personal “home”.  Maybe it was a 40-something crisis, but I needed to remind myself that I still had a lot of say to my readers. But in doing that I had to not only look back at my past, but also where I was in my present.    Sorting through your own baggage on paper in front of the whole world can be super complicated.  And as I learned the hard way, readers can internalize what you fictionalize as exact copies of realities, when that is rarely the case. Perspective is everything.  

7.      If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?

One of the things that I’m best as it as a writer is finding humor in everything.  Though it deals with violence, heartbreak and death, Nostrand Avenue is a love letter to the human experience and learning from your mistakes.  Whether it’s being on an all-night bender in the five-boroughs, to beating yourself up over a relationship gone bad, or getting your head back in the game after a long hiatus, everyone has stood somewhere on Kango’s road at least once.  They might not make the same choices that he does they’ve stood in his shoes whether old or young, gay or straight, Caucasian or of color.

About the author: Kenji Jasper’s work has appeared in Essence®, Vibe, The Source, on National Public Radio and in many other publications. The author of the memoir The House on Childress Street, and the novels Seeking Salamanca Mitchell, Dakota Grand, and Dark, he is a Morehouse College graduate. He lives in Los Angeles. For more info, please see:

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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