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Friday, May 25, 2007

CONVERSATIONS EXCLUSIVE: Bestselling author Thomas Long interview

On April 10, 2007 Conversations Book Club conducted a live interview/discussion with Bestselling author Thomas Long. Published through Urban Books, Long has released three full-length novels (A THUG’S LIFE, CASH RULES and PAPA DON’T PREACH) as well as appeared in the anthology AROUND THE WAY GIRLS 3. During our conversations, he came across as a man full of determination and purpose: someone that was not going to allow anything to stop him from achieving his goals. He talked about how he broke into the publishing industry, the storyline for the bestselling novel A THUG’S LIFE (which has been turned into a motion picture called 4 LIFE that will be released in July 2007) and how his portrait of a thug should cause all of us to give them a second look.

Thomas, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. Let’s start at the beginning: Where are you from?
I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, having graduated from Morgan State University in 1996, with a B.A. degree in Sociology.

How long have you been writing, and what prompted it?
I actually started writing in 2002, but I have always been an avid reader. From as long as I can remember, I always loved to write poetry and rap. Creativity has never been a problem for me. I have always been creative.

The book that I was introduced to you through was A THUG’S LIFE. Was that your first published work?
Actually the first thing I got into print was REFLECTION OF MY SOUL, a collection of urban poetry that was released in 2003. The novel actually came afterwards.

Let’s talk about the full-length novels you have written for a moment, A THUG’S LIFE and CASH RULES. Talk to us about the writing process for you?
For me the book is pretty much the end product of a story line that I have already seen. Before I write, I visualize the scenes I am going to depict.

Were you at all frustrated by the politics of the printing and publishing industry?
There are going to be compromises when it comes to someone else helping to develop your vision. The business side of the publishing industry is what you make it to be. You just have to stay true to yourself during the process.

You have your own publishing company, XSL Publishing. How is it that you ended up with Urban Books when it came to your novels?
I had met Carl Weber, and told him about the book I had just finished writing (A Thug’s Life). He asked me to email him the story. It all just went from there. Carl liked what he read and signed me to a book deal. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to go the route of self-publishing like some authors who are just breaking into the business, but I believed in what I had written.

Let’s talk a bit about the book A THUG’S LIFE. We are introduced to some strong characters there. For those who haven’t read the book, we are introduced to close friends Ty and Dayvon, who have a strong hold on the drug game and are the ringleaders in a powerful street team. Things seem to spiral out of control, however, when Ty is arrested and he begins to suspect that Dayvon may have had something to do with it. Dayvon, who has been loyal to Dayvon and the game, seems to be tiring of the lifestyle and begins to plan his exit strategy—but this move only fuels Ty’s suspicions and lead to a chain of events that will hold the reader until the end of the book.

When it comes to the relationship between Ty and Dayvon, they were essentially good guys, who chose criminal pathways to get the success they thought they needed and deserved. Where did this storyline come from?

You’re exactly right. Ty and Dayvon, who came from different sides of the track, were united in a common cause: getting money. What I really wanted to do with A THUG’S LIFE was show some depth and personality to people who others look at and dismiss: the drug dealers and thugs. I wanted to give them substance and some thought, and show that even though they live the life that they chose they still had a conscience.

Two other issues that you bring up in A THUG’S LIFE were the realities of HIV/AIDS and how the choices youth make estrange them from those close to them. What made you bring these into the story, issues that some people seem to ignore.
Cyrus, I wanted to pretty much discuss everything that was affecting the black community in this book. HIV is part of that. It’s my hope this will be a wakeup call for someone and open up much needed dialogue.

You have some big news to share with us about the book as well, Thomas. Tell us about how movie lovers can get into the story of A THUG’S LIFE this summer.

Tony Austin (a native of Baltimore) of Watch Me Now Films approached me about adapting A THUG’S LIFE into a movie. He has made quite a reputation for himself and currently works with Russell Simmons. The star cast was assembled, and you will be able to get the dvd in stores by July 2007.

With all the success you have had thus far, what’s next for you?
I am releasing my next full-length novel PAPA DON’T PREACH (May 2007) and promoting that along with by other work.

Thank you again for this opportunity, Thomas. For those who want to know more about this author and his books, they can visit www.urbanbooks.net and click on Thomas Long. They can also visit www.thebestbookclub.info for updates.

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