This week (September 19, 1999), On The Same Page has the pleasure of interviewing veteran author, Omar Tyree. Although he is only in his early thirties, he is the author of seven novels. A prolific writer, he has penned contemporary urban novels such as Single Mom, A Do Right Man, and Flyy Girl.M.T.: Explain how the imagery of your opening line relates to the overall theme of Sweet St. Louis? I reread the opening line over and over. I liked how you compared St. Louis to the heart, and the Mississippi River to the artery of the country. O.T.: In Sweet St. Louis I wanted to give my reading audience a chance to feel the expertise that I have as a writer in the first sentence to create a beautiful flow that would last throughout every page of the book. Real love, or sweet love should be like a beautiful song. So that was my purpose from the first paragraph to the last, to create a beautiful song of black love.
M.T.: Tell us what (or who) inspired your story about Ant and Sharron? Do you remember any particular moment that you said to yourself, Im going to write a story about a young couple in love? O.T.: I did a book event in St. Louis, Missouri, in the spring of 1997 before A Do Right Man, and while I was on a St. Louis highway, I noticed a black couple cruising slow in an old, raggedy car with the sister leaning over on the brother, and I said to myself, Now thats old-school love, no money and no rush, just each other. At first I wanted to call the book idea Ghetto Love, because the roots of love is not in economics like many contemporary novels seem to promote. Real love is in sincerity, rich or poor. But the sister and book store owner, Jamilah Naseed, who was driving the car that I was in at the time, she said, Now brother, you know good and well that the sisters who read books dont wanna hear about no ghetto. So since I was in St. Louis, and real love is supposed to be sweet, I came up with Sweet St. Louis instead, and the title stuck.
M.T.: In what ways are you similar or different from your male protagonist Ant? O.T.: All guys who learn how to score with women will eventually pick-up some player qualities like my protagonist Anthony Ant Poole, and I - as the author of the book - am included in that. Its just in the survival of nature. In all honesty, I had to present that truth; guys with the best game have more women who know their name.
M.T.: Did you have to do a lot of research on the city of St. Louis? How did you go about doing it? O.T.: As far as research on the city of St. Louis goes, I did what I always do, I visited the city several times, bought a map to drive around and navigate it, and then asked people who I knew from St. Louis - including Sister Jamilah Naseed - everything I could ask about the history and the culture of their hometown.
M.T.: As a writer, your pacing tends to be fast, yet you develop characters that resonate with the reader. Tell us how you still manage to write character-driven fiction?
O.T.: My pacing is fast in novels because I am still young and
impatient. I really became a storyteller through my love of movies, and so my writing
style tends to have the flow of a motion camera. That means that I will never use a whole
paragraph, let alone a page, to describe a setting, Ill just do it in a quick,
expressive sentence. The people are what Im more concerned about, and all of my
books, so far, have been character-driven vehicles because I want to effect the minds of
my readers with a connection to human emotions. That is my purpose for writing, to say
something about Black American life and people that will stand forever.
M.T.: How long did it take you to write Sweet St. Louis? Time table wise, how does it compare to the writing of your other five books? O.T.: Actually, my last years novel, Single Mom, took the longest time to write, about three and a half to four months, because it was very complicated with a four-person narrative, and I was going through new contract negotiations that always tend to get in my way of thinking clearly. But with Sweet St. Louis, it was a simple third-person narrative, and I was under contract already, so I went back down to my usual furious pace of two and a half months.
M.T.: Did you use an outline or did your plot develop organically? O.T.: Im a very didactic writer in the sense that I definitely have certain themes I would like to hit, so with Sweet St. Louis, as with every other book that I will ever write, it will always begin with a loose outline of what I want in the book, and the organic part jumps out as you write. And you must always listen to that organic pulse, because its natural. Your soul is telling you what it thinks, and you have to listen. Thats a part of writing from the heart, just going with what you feel to be true. Thats why youll hear authors sometimes say that their characters speak to them. Its your human soul, and creative people have learned to shut up and listen.
M.T.: Since you are such a prolific writer, what is your writing schedule like? Do you write by longhand, computer, tape recorder? O.T.: I have been using the Macintosh Apple computer to write and save my work on floppy discs since I began serious writing in my freshman year of college back in 1987. I write outlines in longhand along with my poetry. And I never use a tape recorder unless Im interviewing someone for a journalism piece like youre doing now with me. And my memory is not as sharp as it used to be, but it has always been, and still is, much sharper than average. So if you want to be a serious writer, you better learn how to remember things.
M.T.: After all your rewrites, revisions, and changes, are you satisfied with the outcome of this book?
O.T.: Im always pretty satisfied with the outcome of my
work because Ive never been one who needs much guidance from editors. I basically
know what I want to do, from page one to infinity. However, with Sweet St. Louis, I had
another new editor, and it took me an extra week after turning in the manuscript to finish
the last chapter, and I was very embarrassed about that, but I had to take time to let my
creative soul tell me how to end it, and when it came I wrote it. However, generally, I
know exactly what Im doing every step of the way, and so I cant help but to be
M.T.: What do you hope to accomplish with your latest novel, Sweet St. Louis?
O.T.: As always, I set out to change the world as it applies to
the subject of the book. This year, with Sweet St. Louis, its black love. Last year,
with Single Mom, it was black family. Next year, For The Love of Money, my sequel to Flyy
Girl, will be about black art. But the media has gotten into a rhythm of generally
ignoring intelligent creativity right now unless you become rich somehow, and even then
the coverage is more about the money than the art. So maybe it will take until I become at
least a three-hundred-thousand-copy book seller or more, before theyll finally
understand that my work is timeless in the social frame of African-American humanity, and
humanity in general.
M.T.: Please give parting words of advice for new, aspiring, self-published or otherwise writers. O.T.: I would advise all other writers that writing is all about the art and craft of expression, and if youre driven by ulterior goals other than the joy of written expression and how that expression makes you feel as an individual writer and human, then dont come into this game. In other words, if your purpose is to get rich quick, or to write a book just because you had some thoughts on your mind, I wouldnt put too much faith in you as a writer. This thing is an art, a skill and a serious passion, and the real writers will prove their worth in time with the dedication that they have to their craft, regardless of everything else.
M.T.: Omar Tyree, On The Same Page thanks you for your revealing and honest interview.
To order Sweet St. Louis Go to www.omartyree.com
Also, check out Sweet St. Louis' book review at Sweet St. Louis