Saturday, August 22, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Booker T. Mattison

There are few people who have achieved the success of Booker T. Mattison and managed to remain as humble and appreciative as he is. He is the author of the novel UNSIGNED HYPE as well as a filmmaker who wrote the screenplay for and directed the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime. His films have been screened at the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress, the Directors Guild of America , and Harvard University . Music videos that he has written and directed have aired on BET, MTV Europe, and the Gospel Music Channel.

Mattison's novel UNSIGNED HYPE has been chosen as the Book of the Month for the Hip Hop and Books Club during September 2009. ( Listen to author Booker T. Mattison's recent interview with Conversations LIVE! Radio here.)

In this discussion he talks about the parallel's between himself and the main character Tory, how he views success in his own life and what he hopes his children remember about him and the work he has created.

Thank you, Booker T., for taking out the time to talk with us today. Before we talk about your debut novel UNSIGNED HYPE I want to talk about you. How would you describe who Booker T. Mattison is?

I am an author and filmmaker, but more importantly I am a professional husband and father.

You have been busy working in music and even film. What led you to writing the book?
Believe it or not, the opportunity to write this book kind of fell in my lap. A publisher friend of my literary agent asked her if she could find a story with a teenaged black male protagonist that wasn't all about sex, violence and drugs. My agent asked me if I could write it because all of her other writers are women. Even though we didn't wind up going with that publisher, once the story was birthed it was ready to find an audience.

Is reading something that you enjoyed growing up?
I have always enjoyed reading. I'm thankful that my mother and father emphasized the importance of reading, and education in general. It's difficult to develop an appreciation for books if you're not introduced to them at a young age.

You happened to weave together a story where the characters dealt with their own personal demons as well as external forces. What led to your writing this story?
Since I'm a former rapper, producer and ex-knuckle head, the story flowed out of many of my own personal experiences. I think that's why the characters in the book resonate with so many people. Essentially, each character in the book represents an aspect of my life or a particular part of my personality.

You talk about being a proud father. When we talked on Conversations LIVE! Radio not too long ago I didn't ask you about the legacy you wanted to leave for your children. When they read the book, what do you hope they think of when it comes to who wrote it?
I want them to remember that their father was a man of integrity, a man of character and a man who embraced truth no matter what the cost. I also want them to recognize the importance of using their God given talents to promote a point of view that is consistent with how God views the world.

Tory represents so many in the world today. His story is truly universal. As discussions are had about him and the other characters, at the end of the day what should we learn from him?
The most important lesson that readers can learn from Tory is that you can work hard and accomplish your dreams without selling your soul. Our world is so materialistic that riches and fame are things that people pursue regardless of the cost. A wise man once said, "what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? Or what would a man give in exchange for his soul?" I wish that more people in our communities would seriously consider these questions.

Tory achieved a form of success through his music. How do you measure if you are a success in life?
My first measure of success is where I am in my relationship with God. Second, am I loving my wife the way I love myself and I am willing to lay down my life for her? Third, am I raising my kids to be productive and full of wisdom, integrity and a committment to truth? Last, am I impacting people for good with my art? If all of those things are happening, then I'm successful. Even if I don't have a penny in the bank.

Booker T., faith is also a subject that goes throughout the book. Your main character is a young man dealing with his own feelings about what he believes and why. Could you relate to him at his age, and how has your faith guided the life you are living today?
Tory is very much the way I was as a teenager. Throughout my life I've flirted with atheism, agnosticism, Islam, secular humanism and Christianity. As I've matured, I've determined that it takes more faith to embrace other religious philosophies that it does to embrace the teachings of Christ. When you read the arguments between Tory and Mr. Lord, essentially you're reading the teenaged me arguing with the adult me!

For aspiring writers that will read this, what would you say about the attitude they should have about their career if they hope to make a difference?
The first thing that a writer should ask his or herself is, "what is my motivation for writing?" Is it to entertain? To shock? To educate? To titillate? To get paid? To blow up? Your motivation for writing will determine the types of stories you tell and what effect they will have on readers.

Thanks again for your time. How can our readers stay in touch with Tory and you?
Thanks for the opportunity, and be on the lookout for Unsigned Hype the movie. I'm in talks with an award winning hollywood producer to do a film adaptation of the book which I will write and direct. Also, look out for books 2 and 3 of the Unsigned Hype Urban Trilogy to see where Tory ends up. I can be reached through my personal website or through Tory's personal website

No comments: