The urban lit duo talk about Cash Money Content, going into film, and working with your spouse.
Husband-and-wife urban lit writing team Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman are at it again with the release of their second installment to the Murderville series, The Epidemic. The duo, which have co-authored more than 31 books including two New York Times bestsellers, sat down for a chat about their work with Cash Money's publishing team, branching out into film, and what it's like to collaborate with your spouse.
First off, congratulations on this week's release of Murderville: The Epidemic! How has the promotional tour been coming along?
Ashley: Cash Money has really been supporting us through this release. We have a big tour coming up, about a 20 city tour that we're just now starting so promotion has been great. It's always the fun part of dropping a book.
Now how did the idea for the Murderville series come about?
JaQuavis: We're known for our great tales, but with Murderville we wanted to kick it up a notch so we touched on the diamond crisis in Sierra Leone, drug trafficking, and sex slave trade to talk about something different. We wanted to think outside the box while entertaining and enlightening our readers.
Ashley: The readers get to read a story that's kind of serendipitous. No matter what the main characters go through or what life struggles tear them apart, they always find their way back together. We sort of broke our readers' hearts by killing off one our characters at the end of part one so in part two you read about Liberty's struggles and her rebound and you get to know a little about who she is without leaning on the support of the man she loves.
Could you tell us a bit about the bet that sparked your collaborative writing career?
JaQuavis: We had a tragic situation when we were 17 years old. Ashley got pregnant and she eventually lost the baby and the doctor told her that she would have to be bedridden for three to four weeks. So I issued a bet to get her mind off her current dilemma and the bet was that I could write a better book than she could. She started to write her book, I started to write mine, and we just got engrossed in each other's characters. She suggested that we merge the book because the theme that she was writing was one of the best that I'd ever read and vice versa. We've been rolling ever since.
We both had a passion for a writing in high school. Since before we even met each other we both had a passion for writing and also started stories of our own. We were drawn to each other because of our love of English so it was natural. We both wanted to be writers and it happened.
How do you handle collaborating professionally with someone you're in a relationship with?
Ashley: Actually JaQuavis and I are so much alike we don't really encounter the frustrating times. I feel like that happens when you work with someone you don't know, but our history is so on point that our writing and our efforts flow without conflict. I know him and he knows me. He's my very best friend so it's so easy for us to collaborate on any project together and be on the same page about it. So I feel we're fortunate in that we get to go to work and love what we do every single day with the person that we're going there with because we have so much love for one another. So we just flow and vibe very well.
So who handles what aspects of the writing and how do you merge both of your ideas into the story?
JaQuavis: We totally tackle every book 50-50. She has her line, I have my line. I start at the end and she starts at the beginning and we meet in the middle. We always believe that a male can tell the best male character and vice versa, that's what makes it flow organically. She takes care of the female characters and I do the male characters.
Now how did you come to join the Cash Money Content team? Who approached whom?
JaQuavis: Baby and Slim noticed our work from afar and they reached out to our agent. They told us what they responded to and if we were willing, eventually wanted to turn our novel into a movie. We were sold.
We created the whole Murderville concept after the deal. They trusted in our creativity and just let us flow with it and we thought this would be a great debut with the platform they provided for us.
Baby and Slim also bought the rights to turn The Cartel trilogy into a feature film. What stage is the movie in right now?
Jaquavis: We just signed the movie deal and they're actually just starting to put the pieces together, but we're very, very excited about that because they want to make it very big. They want to make a big bang. The Cartel is like a modern day Godfather and I think people are really going to love it.
You're also working on your own film Hard 6ix based on your bestselling novel, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. How's that coming along?
JaQuavis: Ashley starred in it, I directed it, and we paid for our own film. It's a wonderful, wonderful film. That should be out next summer.
Me and Ashley wanted to expand our horizons and enter a new platform. We knew that with the books and glass ceiling there's only so much you can achieve as a book writer, but we wanted to open our minds to the world. And needless to say we loved it. So we're definitely looking into getting behind the camera.
What other projects do you have in the works?
Ashley: We write 365 days of the year so we drop an average of five to six books a year. Our next release is Cartel 4 which comes out on Halloween, we have a Christmas release which is The Day the Streets Stood Still, and then we have The Prada Plan 3 coming out in January. So we drop consistently. We never like to leave our fans hanging for an extended amount of time so we're always working.
Many of your books are inspired by life in your hometown of Flint, Michigan, but where else do you get your ideas from?
Ashley: We write about what we know. We pride ourselves on being authentic and being real with our readers so we don't write about anything that we haven't lived or experienced. So the things that you're getting in our stories are original. They're things that we've lived, that we know, that we breathe and see every day. So we pay that homage to Flint because that's where we're from, that's where we're bred. It's not the best city in the world, but it's our hometown and without Flint and without the experience, negative and positive, we wouldn't be where we are.
Are you ever trying to convey any messages through your work?
Ashley: We're just trying to make history with our work. We just want to write classic novels that transcend all genres. We feel like anybody can read our work especially with The Murderville project. It can be read in a college classroom or it can be read by the hood. Anybody can relate to our work and we pride ourselves on doing that. We write with intelligence, we're not just shoot 'em up bang bang authors. We keep it gritty, we keep it hood, we keep it street, but we also drop gems and jewels. We're not trying to send any messages or preach to anyone, but we're definitely trying to bring the form of entertainment through reading back to the black culture.
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(Photo: Cash Money Content Publishing)