Turn Off Your Hellavision: Interview With Author Shannon Holmes

Shannon Holmes

Just as African Americans come in an array of hues so do our stories, and alas, we have the forum to tell them. Best selling author Shannon Holmes is challenging the notion that

wild sexual escapades within middle class Black America are the only stories that should be told/sold to the reading African American demographic. Stories like BMore Careful and Bad Girlz tell the story of life in the ghetto and environments that produce sex, drugs, murder and malice. Holmes, a New York native and former drug dealer, takes the life experiences of the haves and have-nots and pens life as he knows it. “Every time I travel I go straight to the hood to see what their lives are like. Each time I discover that I’m not that far removed from a life on the streets. I’m not just another writer writing about things I’ve heard about; seven years of successful writing can’t take you away from a lifetime.”

A lover of books prior to becoming an author, Holmes not only read books during his bids in prison, he used books to accompany his hoodstincts securing his safety while locked down. “I have always liked to read, so while I was locked up I would read what books they had. But I would use the books for more than reading. I would look over the top of the book to see how niggas got down in there. I’m looking over my book and say oh this nigga uses a shank or these niggas will jump you.” Using his time in prison wisely, Shannon Holmes discovered a knack for breathing life into signature characters like Tender Morris, Kat Carter and exposing the underbelly of the city of Baltimore. With the other inmates as editors, Shannon Holmes answered his calling to write. Not just writing stories some say glorify or exploit the down trodden but he pens novels that are not only intriguing but informative.

Laying the foundation for authors like Nikki Turner and Blake Karrington, Shannon Holmes humbly admits to having to take losses and overcome his own betrayals since finding success. From lawsuits of false claim and having to stake his claim Shannon Holmes says the code of the streets is something he misses when dealing with the publishing world. “In the streets I knew the game and its repercussions but some of these publishers are just snakes and there are no real consequences for their actions.”

TOYHV: What prompted you to write your first book?

Shannon Holmes: There was this dude in jail that spent a lot of time in the library like me, I was really influenced by the writing he was doing. I was inspired by him, but I didn’t want to be like him. I wanted to be the best me. I start putting my thoughts down and called my dad, I told him “I think I’m on to something in here.” He sent me the money and it was probably the best hundred dollars he’s spent in his life.

TOYHV: Your first book was published with a small urban publisher, how did that come about?

Shannon Holmes: I read up in jail about not being able to just send out your manuscript to publishers without representation, but when I came in contact with Teri Woods she was interested in my work. After some correspondence I was on my way. When I came out of jail, I had a career. Like I said, I was born to do this.

TOYHV: You’ve since moved on, what is your current relationship with Teri Woods?

Shannon Holmes: There is no relationship, I won’t say anything bad about her because she did put me on. Let’s just say this, I had to go to court and I won.

TOYHV: What do you feel when people say your books are not real literature?

Shannon Holmes: I hear all kinds of things, but I know I am writing the books my readers enjoy. I have influenced a lot of people so I don’t pay attention to the critics. I used to read what they said and sometimes get discouraged but for every hundred people that enjoy my books there are 30 who don’t, I can deal with that.

TOYHV: How do you think street literature has changed the publishing industry on a whole?

Shannon Holmes: It has most definitely changed the publishing world financially and unfortunately has produced authors who just think they can write for the sake of writing. I wish more people wrote for the passion of writing and not for the money.

TOYHV: When it comes to urban authors you are a trailblazer, what do you think about the explosion of the street literature market?

Shannon Holmes: I have paved the way for a lot of the new authors and not since Omar Tyree has an author had such an influence on the telling of life on the streets. I’m glad these stories can be told and people are reading them.

Shannon Holmes: I’ll say this, some people just want the fame. There is a reason why they say 50 Cent is cocky and Jay-Z is arrogant. 50 Cent is a very shred businessman and he is the only one who made the best move. They approached me, but after I had my lawyer look at the paperwork, it was in my best interest to go with my current publisher.

TOYHV: What were your initial obstacles?

Shannon Holmes: (Laughing) I was in jail. I can’t really say I had any other obstacles other than the ones I faced signing a contract that was making someone else financially established.

TOYHV: What is your writing process like?

Shannon Holmes: I’ve been working hard to stop writing my first drafts on paper, before typing them out. Most of the time I get a thought and put in down on different pieces of paper and then organize them. My mom tells me all the time I need to throw away all these little pieces of paper, but I can’t.

TOYHV: Who are some of your influences?

Shannon Holmes: I read all types of books; I’m influenced by writers like Donald Goines to Sidney Sheldon.

TOYHV: How were your projects marketed to the public when you first started?

Shannon Holmes: The first thing you are asked when you meet with a publisher is who do you think you write like? When your book comes out your books are marketed to the readers of the other authors demographic until you establish your own readership.

TOYHV: Was it a hard sell?

Shannon Holmes: No, not at all.

TOYHV: What is your current publishing situation; do you have your own imprint?

Shannon Holmes: After making things happen at both Meowand Triple Crown, I took the time to learn the publishing game. These publishers are cashing in on the profit margin. I am working on my own imprint, but I currently have a deal with St. Martin’s Press.

TOYHV: What was your financial situation like when you first started?

Shannon Holmes: When I first got out I had to work a job for a little while, but my first contract put me in a nice financial position.

TOYHV: With seven years of writing success, how many times have you touched a million, if at all?

Shannon Holmes: My current contract is affording me that opportunity right now.

TOYHV: What’s next for you?

Shannon Holmes: I have a new novel, Dirty Game. I just released that and I am touring with right now. I am writing BMore Careful 2 and the sequel to Bad Girlz titled Good Girlz.

For more information about Shannon Holmes, visit MySpace.com/Shannon_Holmes.

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