*In part 1, Sister Souljah – author of No Disrespect, The Coldest Winter Ever, Midnight: A Gangster Love Story and now, her latest book, Midnight And The Meaning Of Love told us that she works to please God; that she really doesn’t have a “process” that she goes through when developing her stories, and that she relies on a more organic approach.
We learned that she is a historian, which she says made writing this novel easier; and a graduate of Rutgers University. Though she has yet to visit the Sudan, she travelled to the Asian continent soon after writing the book Midnight: A Gangster Love Story, which debuted at #7 on the New York Times Bestseller List.
Now, 2 years later, she has released MIDNIGHT AND THE MEANING OF LOVE – already a New York Times Bestseller which debuted at #15. In the conclusion of Part I, Sister Souljah began to describe her first meeting with the young man whose face is etched in the minds of females all over the world as the embodiment of the character: Midnight.
Sister Souljah: …I turned around to my husband and I said, ‘That’s it! That’s what I’m looking for, and …I asked him, do you mind if I approach him …and I just went up to the guy and introduced myself and said I had written a book and that he looked like the image of the character and would he model for the character…He said, “Uh, let me ask my mother.” (Laughs)
DeBorah B. Pryor: That’s what he said, “Let me ask my mother? How cute is that.
SS: (Continues) I think he was just turning 18 right then and there. He was like sure, but let me check with my mother.
DBP: OMG. Have you had any contact with him since? Does he know the impact that, I mean, because he IS Midnight in our eyes?
SS: Yeah, I mean, he’s a model, he’s a visual depiction. It has nothing to do with him embodying the most important aspects of the character; the man who the character is…If it were for a film that would be something else. For example with the audio book, the audio version, finding the right Midnight voice I find has nothing to do with the visual depiction because the young man who is in the visual depiction, in my opinion, does not have the Midnight voice. So I’ll select someone else to do the voice.
DBP: Well let me ask you this way then: Do you think the young man that modeled for this book – because really, we saw his face, so that attracted many people to open the book; so do you think that this model has read the book…? Also, you said he was just turning 18, to know that your face is on the cover of a book that sold over a million copies, that has got to make an 18-year-old quite proud!
SS: Oh yeah, I don’t think its possible to not be overwhelmed whenever you’re affiliated with something successful or powerful. I think you will be overwhelmed and hopefully you will also be very grateful, you know, and try to keep it all in perspective in spite of being overwhelmed.
But the young man who I chose for the visual depiction, I gave him the book so that he would read it, and he did read it. And the reason for doing that is because, since he is not actually Midnight, he has to project a certain kind of energy and so it takes him being familiar with the man Midnight is …n order to capture that energy…Even my husband said for the Akemi character…‘Wow, you really transformed this girl!’ He saw her from the beginning and then he saw the final product…When I want to work with somebody, I tell anybody I want to work with you have to match the beauty of the writing. If you can’t match it then we’re not working together.
DBP: As a writer, how do you know when you’re finished with a story? Because there is always, ‘Oh I should’ve said this, I should’ve said that.
SS: You’re finished when the theme is accomplished. When the main idea is accomplished, you’re finished. For example, in Midnight: A Gangster Love Story there was readers who were like, ‘Oh that wasn’t a gangster love story. And I said, ‘The love was the gangster. That this was a character who would do anything for love; to protect the women that he loved, you know, to secure love. It wasn’t that he was a gangster as in running a criminal enterprise, it was that his love was gangster and so by the time the end of the novel happened; when his wife was taken away from him, he said…OK, so I’m going to Japan and get my wife…And so the theme had been achieved then. So what people had described as…‘Oh this is a cliff hanger.’ But the theme was accomplished so that was the end of that story.
DBP: There are a lot of book clubs out there and many discussions have surrounded this book. What would you say to those women who have problems with the fact that Midnight did not secure a loving relationship with a Black woman; those who may have issues about his relationship with Akemi?
SS: If you ask those same women about there own personal relationships, what happened? They would also not know. If you ask those same women why the men who they loved in the past didn’t choose them; didn’t stay; didn’t be a real father to their children; they still would not know the answer. So that means that here is a group of people who are caught in a cycle of unfortunate social and cultural events that they don’t understand; won’t understand; refuse to understand because of the inability to engage in a self-critique.
DBP: What makes some writers more successful than others?
SS: I look at writing as a gift you have…same as singing. When I look at a powerful singer I say, ‘Wow, that’s just a gift. I believe it’s a gift from God. And I don’t look at it the way that somebody goes to school for a thing and then just does it well. I think that the best writing is always going to be from those people who just were given a gift, and are using it properly. I think that in order to be a great writer you have to be able to be quiet a lot. And be very observant. You have to be willing to travel off of your block and into the world. You have to be somebody who is able to be honest and confident enough in what it is that you’re saying…[People have said] ‘Oh you shouldn’t write this way, this style, this forcefully; oh, people are going to be upset if you do this or do that’ and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I just write what I want to write…I’m not trying to please the critics, and even the readers…If I please God, I’m good.
DBP: Has “”Hollywood” come calling with any film interest yet?
SS: Well, a lot of people have expressed their interest in making a film. I think really in making a film it’s what happens after you express your interest. It’s the business of it; the packaging – that kind of thing so, I haven’t gotten far enough into the process of it with any of the people – no matter how major their celebrity is…where the details of the deal are what they should be.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you, Sister Souljah.
MIDNIGHT AND THE MEANING OF LOVE retails at $26.99 and is available everywhere books are sold. To learn more about Sister Souljah, her book signings, or if you would like to secure her for a lecture at a high school in your area visit her official website at http://www.sistersouljah.com
DeBorah B. Pryor is the author of “Public Speaking for the Private Person” a communications and leadership training workshop designed for ‘everyday people’ who aim to become better communicators. The 1-day course will be offered on Saturday, July 30 at UCLA Extension. For more information on the class content or to schedule a private consult visit http://www.dpryorpresents.com or email [email protected]