By: Isha “Ice” Cole
When you have the ability to put a pen to paper and express words that touch a wide range of people; that is pure talent. In many ways, authors are very similar to performing artists. They all have the power to speak to the masses, and often help people with their words.
Best selling author Nikki Turner stepped on the scene in 2002, bringing a brazen, edgy style to fiction novels. Her books offered urban culture something unique, and later she was dubbed the “Queen of Hip-Hop Literature.” Turner’s indie debut novel A Hustler’s Wife was a huge success, and has sold over 100,000 copies to date.
The active mother of two has penned four best-selling novels: A Hustler’s Wife, A Project Chick, The Glamorous Life, Riding Dirty on I-95 and Forever a Hustler’s Wife. In 2004, she signed a two-book deal with One World, an imprint of Ballantine Books, which is part of The Random House Publishing Group. She also co-wrote the 2007 novel Death Before Dishonor with 50 Cent for his G-Unit Books imprint.
Eventually, Turner decided it was time to become a boss herself. She started her own publishing company, Nikki Turner Presents, and recently released her novel Relapse, and published the 2010 Styles P novel Invincible. Additionally, Nikki just announced the September release of yet another book entitled Backstage.
UrbLife.com caught up with the famous author to discuss her writing process, being pigeonholed in her career, problems she has faced in the business, her must-read books and more!
First, talk to us about your newest book Relapse.
The Relapse is a book about a girl name Beijing Lee… She can’t control the things going on in her own life, with her own relationship, which is with a guy named Lootchee who holds her heart in his hands. He gives her the high of the highs and the low of the lows. It’s like a drug. When she’s high off him, she’s at her absolute best, and when he’s not around she hits rock bottom.
When she breaks up with him, she goes through the withdrawal, the detox, having craving from being away from him. Then something will happen in her life, and then she’ll just relapse and she’s back with him.
What type of things influence you to write your books?
I just think life experiences, and the so-called struggle of life. Interacting with people, just having to go through life. Sometimes we go through things like a fiction, sometimes real life is better than fiction.
How long does it typically take you to write an entire book from beginning to end?
If we’re talking about sitting down, it just depends on what I have a lot going on in my life. Sitting down writing it is only a quarter of the whole writing process, because a lot of times I write the book in my head before I ever sit down and write it. So I’m about to start working on Hustlers Wife 3, and I’ll probably need two or three more days before I actually sit down and start writing it, putting it all on paper. I wasn’t a trained writer, but over the years, I’ve actually learned how to outline. So what I’ll do sometimes is outline the story on paper, then go and write it.
Talk about the process you go through, from after you finish writing the book to when it hits the shelves.
That is the most stressful part of it! After I get it all down on paper, I read it a couple of times before I send it over to the publisher. After I read it over a couple of times, I try to walk away from it for about a week and a half to two weeks. Two weeks is like a blessing, but it usually like a week. So I just walk away, I don’t deal with it, I don’t talk about it and I try not to think about it. I mean I think about it of course, after you’ve been writing for 60 to 90 days it becomes a part of your life.
Even though I try to not to think about it, it’s like when I’m driving something will hit me and I’ll be like, “Oh yes she’ll do this and I’ll add this in.” I’ll read it one last time, I’m perfecting it, adding finishing touches… and after that I release it and send it to the publisher.
The editor at the publishing company reads it, she gives me her input and she sends an editorial note with suggested changes. Some of the changes you love, some of them you hate, some of them you wish you thought of yourself. Once I get it back, I’ll incorporate the changes if I like them. Then, she’ll look at it one more time, she’ll send it back to me and that’s for content. Then you do grammatical, and it’s like about seven or eight more rounds of edits that it gets. All these edits are meant to perfect it.
How long does the editing process actually take?
Too long… it’s supposed to take typically from the time that I turn it in to the time you see it on shelves like nine months to a year. So that’s usually the turnaround.
So when do you start working on the cover design ?
The cover is up way before the story. They promote the cover, and they put the cover online maybe five or six months ahead of time.
Are you satisfied with your demographic of readers thus far? Do you desire to be more mainstream?
As any artist, we always want to grow; you always want to speak to the masses.
Since you are referred to as the Queen of Hip-Hop Lit, do you worry about being pigeonholed in your writing ?
No, because you have to come to a Nikki Turner book signing. Sometimes when I have these book signings, not just Hip-Hoppers are reading my book. I’ve seen a daughter, a mother and a granddaughter. I’ve seen white women, white men, Jewish women and African women come to my book signing, so I’ve seen [diversity]. I think they were saying something like 15 to 30 [year-olds] only read my books, but when you come to my book signings, clearly, it’s not true.
Do you plan to ever write a book that caters totally to a different demographic?
I think I’ve grown as a writer, and Relapse could easily just be women’s fiction. I think that with each book you grow, and I just think that audience is growing, and I don’t really feel like I’m pigeonholed to these particular people. I think that anybody can pick up my book. They just have to give it a chance.
Some people may believe that being an author is easy and only consists of writing. What are some challenges that you’ve faced in the business?
Being a writer is hard. Of course, anything that you do that is your passion you’re going to love it. There are some things, such as the genre I write for, you have to worry about the promotion, you have to worry about getting your books in Barnes and Noble because that’s where the masses are coming too. Getting it online, getting an online presence, making sure your contract is right. Just being able to sit down, focus and write, because some people say, “I’m going to write a book” and I see them four years later, and there’s still on chapter two. It takes discipline and dedication.
Do you feel that social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn, etc.) has helped your career?
It gives us a place to talk about it, even if people don’t necessarily know about it you can go on there and talk about your book. It’s kind of like grassroots spreading the word.
How would an aspiring author go about finding a good publishing company?
I think the first thing that they have to do, is to make sure the book is in the best possible condition… and I say this like a million times, I can’t stress this enough. When you get finished writing your book, you have to make sure it’s in the best possible condition editorially, because when you submit your book to a publisher, they don’t want to see mistakes. They have stacks and stacks of manuscripts, so when they pick up yours, the minute they see a mistake or something isn’t right, they’re going to go on to the next one.
What are your must read books from authors other than yourself?
The Holy Bible – No explanation necessary.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – I just think that it has so many jewels in it; it could adapt to your everyday life.
The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah – It’s like a Hip Hop classic, I think.
The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene – I read it like three or four times along with The 48th Laws of Power.
Invincible by Styles P – because I just published it, and I love the book. I just think it’s a good read.
What have you learned so far, since starting your own publishing company?
I think it makes me better when it comes to dealing with my publisher. It opened my eyes and made me see both sides. So I can be a little bit more understanding to my authors because I’m an author, I can be understanding to my publisher because I’m a publisher as well.
Are you looking for any writers?
The submissions for Nikki Turner Presents is closed, I’m overwhelmed with submissions. So I’m not taking any, I have too many over here that I haven’t even looked at. Hopefully by the top of the year I would be able to accept more.
What advice would you give to [aspiring young writers or publishers]out there?
I’m a believer in whatever you want to get into, you should research it. You should familiarize yourself with everything about it. We have the internet so we are blessed with that, so go online and research!