Omar Tyree - “The Godfather of contemporary urban literature.”
New York Times bestselling author Omar Tyree is the winner of the 2001 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work—Fiction, and the 2006 Phillis Wheatley Literary Award for Body of Work in Urban Fiction. He has published more than twenty books on African-American people and culture. He is a popular national speaker, and a strong advocate of urban literacy. Now entering the world of feature films, business lectures, music, and children’s books, Tyree is a tireless creator and visionary of few limitations.
You’ve had a great deal of success in the literary business. What inspired you to start writing books?
I was a natural storyteller going back to my high school days and even before then, but we told stories vocally. College days allowed me to take it to the next level of written and published stories. And books was the biggest format out there, so I accepted that challenge and started writing books.
"Flyy Girl" and "For the Love of Money" were my introduction to your literary work. I found the free-spirited character Tracy Ellison very interesting. However, as a male writing from a females point of view, I'm curious to know how you're able to write so convincingly about the opposite gender?
I've been asked the gender question a million times, but I simply study my characters and get them right. Sometimes that means being old or young, mean or nice, boring or exciting, rich or poor, West Coast or East Coast, so male or female is just another opposite. You gotta know them all to write a good book about them.
"Flyy Girl" and "For the Love of Money" are both set in the 90s and early 2000’s, how do you think these stories would differ if they were set in this new age and time?
If my classic books were set in the present day, they would have internet, cell phones and social media like that "Black-ish" show on TV.
You’ve been a writer for over a decade and have had successes and experiences that most authors only dream about. Yet, you're still a highly acclaimed author! Besides your unique writing style, what do you think attributes to your longevity as an author?
Actually, I've been writing and publishing books for nearly three decades now; 26 years. I simply have a lot of ideas about stories. But in this era, it's much harder to get people's attention and keep it.
In your opinion, what has changed in the literary business since you started out?
Social media has really changed the game of life. So now we've lost hundreds of books stores across the country and nobody cares about authors the same way because now we have reality show stars who are crazier than our books.
Just curious, if “Flyy Girl” or “For the Love of Money” were to ever be adapted into films, who would you want to play the main character in the movies? Why?
Yara Shahidi was my personal choice for "Flyy Girl" 2-3 years ago. But now she's probably too old for the role. Yara Shahidi had the look, the age and the swagger to play "Tracy Ellison" as a young character, and Sanaa Lathan was already onboard to play the older book characters. But what often happens with complicated movie developments, if you don't have a strong and committed producer on the job, the film projects can become shelved.
I recently had the privilege of hearing you speak at the Ujamma Book Festival in Alexandria Virginia. You spoke specifically about black families. How do your novels contribute to the mainstream representation of black families?
My books have always been strong family vehicles with strong African-American morale. All folks have to do is read them and find out. I'll always be pro-black family because I was raised that way.
Is it important to you that your literary work resonate with other racial groups?
If I could get other racial groups to read my books, that would be great. But I've never whined about it. My mission has always been to tell our stories for our people. However, I don't have a problem expanding the stories to include other cultures, and I've done that.
Please tell us a little about your recent book “All Access.”
I wrote "All Access" because that's where we are now as a people. Folks are giving up way too much information on their lives. So I wanted to write a book that shows us how dangerous that could be.
Are there any writers who have influenced you?
I haven't really been influenced by other writers, but I did admonish the style of Walter Mosely as a great storyteller. I also utilized Iceberg Slim's style to create my own.
On a more personal note: Tell us a little about your “real” (non-writing) life — family, work in the community, etc.
My real life is very basic. I love my family, sports, movies and Music. And now I'm writing and producing my own style of music with a roster of young talents. You can learn more at www.HotLavaEntertainment.com.
What tips would you give to aspiring authors reading this interview?
I have actually offered a writing and publishing consultation service to aspiring writers since 2008, and I have 65 clients now.
Omar Tyree Talks About The American Disease An Original Ebook Series
With a title like that, what exactly is The American Disease?
The lack of money in a capitalistic system is an absolute poison that causes many broke and desperate people to do a lot of crazy things. That’s the disease that I’m now writing about.
What made you want to write this ebook series?
The state of the American economy right now, particular for black people is atrocious, including for me and my family. So I was inspired to be honest about the subject. A whole lot of people are struggling over money.
Not to give away the plots of the book, but you start it off with quite a dramatic opening scene.
Yeah, that’s the world we live in now. People don’t respond to regular stuff anymore.
You gotta be extreme. So that’s how the series will be.
You also have a lot of flawed characters to deal with in the series.
Yeah, I’m trying to mimic the issues of real life here, and in real life we have a lot of flawed people. Reality TV is full of them now.
What are you trying to say with this book? What’s your mission?
We’re in hard times right now, but it doesn’t feel like it because we have a lot
of rich people in the spotlight. And that get rich dream is the American drug
that keeps a lot of us blind and satisfied.
How do you think readers will respond to the book?
Well, first of all, they’ll love it. It’s very well executed, and in this book,
I can deal with all the real money issues that we hear about everyday.
But you’re only writing one episode a month? Is that right?
You know, in this new era, people get things far too fast and too easy, so I want these ideas to sit with you for awhile, so you really think about them. Then you can look forward to the next one.
For how long do you plan to write this series?
Well, a good two years would be 24 episodes, right? That sounds like a good start.
You’re also producing a television, NetFlix or video web series with this ebook too? Is that true?
Not if I’m paying for it, but if film producers want to jump on board with
some money, the rights are available. But I’m trying to sell these ideas
as a monthly ebook right now.
Now I heard through the grapevine that you were done with writing books and wanted to focus on writing music now? With The American Disease, are you back to writing books again?
Ahhhh, you know, I still have the skills and ideas to do it, but it just has to make money now for me to keep doing it. Folks don’t want to pay for quality writing anymore. So we’ll have to see how it goes over time.
Follow Omar Tyree on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube @OmarTyree. Make sure you check out. "The American Disease” and other books by Omar Tyree on Amazon.com
When a desperate and broken man decides to murder his lifelong friend, who was his high school classmate, teammate, sworn roll dog, and the best man at his wedding, more than a dozen family members, friends and business associates—who knew them both—are left behind to deal with the economic complications of their own lives.