An interview with urban fiction author K’wan. K’wan Foye is the author of street fiction classics like Gangsta and Hoodlum. K’wan recently entered the publishing game with Black Dawn Books.
Do you have a special routine when you write?
Not particularly. I get my sip and my cigarettes and go. The only thing I have to have to really get in a good rhythm is a window. I used to look out at the projects and use the grim sight as my motivation to get out, now its just a habit. I guess you can say I’m inspired by the world around me.
What are you working on now?
Well, Gutter will be dropping in Sept. so that project is on deck. I’m currently working on the 3rd installment of Hood Rat and some of my urban fantasy stuff.
Who are a few street fiction authors or titles that you have enjoyed reading?
Street fiction authors? Of course the classics; Goines and Slim, but from the new school I dig Treasure Blue, Erick Gray and a few others. I read all my peer’s stuff though.
Outside of street fiction, who are few authors that you enjoy?
Outside of Street fiction, Walter Mosley. I just really discovered his stuff and was instantly hooked. I’ve read just about his whole catalog over the course of a few weeks. I also like Anne Rice, been a fan of hers for years. Laurell K. Hamilton, I like her old stuff but some of the new stuff is just so-so. Jeffery Deaver can get my money any day. I real all across the board though.
I really like some of your characters that tend to be anti-heroes – Demon from Road Dawgz or Priest and Gator from Hoodlum – who’s your favorite character from your books?
My favorite anti-heros… They’d have to be Gator (Hoodlum), Cross (Gangsta) and The Hound (Street Dreams). I loved the character Gator because he was wild as hell, but there was such an innocence about him. Like, he was doing dirt, but to him there was nothing wrong with it because that was the only way he knew to be. I know a few cats like that. I picked Cross and The Hound because they are a part of my original works, before Gangsta or any of those. I started out writing vampire and demon novels before the urban thing, but I couldn’t get a break with those.
How do you think women are portrayed in street fiction? Is it positive or negative?
Both. In some stories the women are main characters of determination and strength, but in some stories you have women who are just straight sack-chasers. Its the same as in the real world. You have good girls and you have bad ones.
Recently, there has been some criticism of street fiction in the news, so in your opinion, why is street fiction important and why should people read it? Why should librarians purchase street fiction?
I’ll tell you like this, the criticism came when our sales numbers started surpassing the numbers of some of the traditional fiction. When we were peddling our wares on the street because we couldn’t get into the chain stores, it wasn’t a problem. Now that where actually considered competitors, sales wise, everybody has got their underpants in a bunch… GET OVER YOURSELVES. Honestly, I’ll be the first to admit that some of these books will have you like “Okay, I saw the guns, and I saw the drugs, where’s the moral content? Where’s the message.” I think that urban fiction is great because its reached cats who weren’t reading before. We gave them something to relate to. People are always quick to point out our graphic content, but what they seem to keep missing is the fact that we were able to reach an audience that traditional fiction couldn’t or had yet to. What, I’m supposed to be feel bad because fourteen and fifteen year old kids actually look forward to reading something outside of their school books? Don’t think so. To me, its like a trick of the mind. Sure, they’ll start out reading the Gangstas, The Hood Rats, but when they’ve devoured all those and are a bit more comfortable with reading they’ll move on to other things. All we’re really doing is introducing them to the wonderment of the written word.
Another thing with this that you have to examine is that a lot of us were criminals or struggling to make ends meet before this thing came along. It provided us with a way out other than negative and self destructive behavior. For every successful author that this game breeds that’s one less murderer, thief, dope pusher, or whore in the community. This doesn’t hold true for everybody, but in my case it does. They should be glad I found something better to do with my time than plotting and jacking. They need to thank the genre instead of condemning it.
How is street fiction evolving? How do you think this genre will change?
Street fiction is evolving because it has to, as with all things. Look at the difference between the writing in 07 compared to the writing in 01. Some of the greatest minds in this genre came out around that time, including myself, but we all had to step our games up with the influx of new talent. There are only but so many stories in the world and they all get re-told, but its our interpretations that make us unique as artist. Its also evolving because of the corporate take overs. The major weren’t interested in us a few years ago, but now they’re buying up street fiction left and right. It was used to be about a need to express ourselves, but now its a money thing. This has gone from a part time hustle to big business. I know a few people that have made their fortunes off this here. I mean, its a good thing because it forces us to think more like business men and women than just street hustlers. Everybody knows that when dealing with a big house you gotta have your business straight or you’ll always get the short end of the stick.
The genre changes every few years, people come and go, but its the ones who have staying power that go on to become great. I’ve been through at least thee changes of the genre that I can think of, and am still around to add my two cents. I think that says a little bit about my staying power and what I’m about.