It is with great pleasure that we welcome back former Deb Aya De Leon to The Debutante Ball for our Saturday interview! Aya, author of UPTOWN THIEF, has a brand new book that came out last week – Congratulations, Aya!!! Want to know more about Aya and THE BOSS? Here’s the scoop!
Justice Hustlers Book #2 THE BOSS (2017):
Tyesha Couvillier seems to have escaped her disastrous past on Chicago’s South Side. She’s finished graduate school and stopped working as an escort. Now she’s director of a Manhattan women’s health clinic, and as the new boss, she’s called to lead in labor crisis. The dancers at the One-Eyed-King want to unionize, but the chain of strip clubs is controlled by Ukrainian mobsters with no regard for any laws, least of all labor codes. Meanwhile, Tyesha’s high drama relatives from Chicago have moved to Brooklyn, including Tyesha’s teenage niece who’s trying to break into the rap game. She begs Tyesha to rekindle her romance with a rap star she used to date. Tyesha initially encountered him as a rude client too drunk for sex. He became a promising suitor until he expected an easy lay because of her profession. According to his latest album he’s changed. But can she trust him? She needs a clear head to deal with her more dangerous relatives and the deadly anti-union thugs who threaten her, the strippers, and the clinic.
If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of THE BOSS today! You can also enter to win a copy by retweeting on twitter:
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) June 3, 2017
You can also enter by sharing the post on Facebook. We will select and contact the very lucky winner on Friday, June 9th at noon (US Only).
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
Colson Whitehead’s THE INTUITIONIST had a huge impact on me when I read it in my 20s. He created this fictional sort of futuristic world in literary fiction, where elevator inspectors were these really powerful people in city government. And then he created this whole massive public debate between two schools of thought: the empiricists and the intuitionists. And he’d start the chapters with these little snippets of their textbooks from the different schools of thought. I loved that. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to replicate that in a book for the last two decades. The first novel I tried that in was in a fictional women’s college with a colorful fictional history. And I kept trying to use snippets from the college brochure and a fictional history of the college, but it didn’t work. In my debut novel, UPTOWN THIEF, I tried to open the chapters with snippets of the New York penal code about prostitution and pimping, because it gave me that same feeling. But my freelance editor cut all that. I guess it was too wonky or geeky. I have a spy book I’ve been working on that has a fictional positive thinking guru, and that one might see the light of day. I think it would work because it drives the character. The other ones I used didn’t resonate because they drove the context or the setting. But I loved them. Those were a couple of my darlings that I had to kill.
What’s your secret or not-so-secret superpower?
Apparently, my new superpower is to write books very quickly. My debut novel was sold in a two-book deal, and I had ten months between the two publication dates. My publisher does genre series books and doesn’t like them to come out more than a year apart. I didn’t know if I could handle the pressure, but I was able to rise to the occasion. Now that the second book is out, it feels insanely fast. The only way that it’s possible is for me to write novels that follow the structure of the original book in the series, UPTOWN THIEF. That took me eight years to write. But as much as it’s insane to be writing so fast, it’s also a great to be on a faster genre clock, because I get to do four books in four years, which is great in terms of payment, productivity, and building my body of work. I have decided to make NaNoWriMo [LINK: http://nanowrimo.org/] a way of life. For anyone who doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month which takes place every year in November, and it’s a time when people all over the world write a novel in a month. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be 50,000 words. It’s a quantity over quality project, and I love it. And not only in November, I did the draft of book three with the hashtag #FebMarNaNo, and speed-wrote it over two months. I submitted that VERY rough version to my editor at Kensington, so they can know enough of the content to start developing the materials for it: cover, jacket copy. I’m having some challenges getting from first to second draft with book three, which is due….basically yesterday. But I have a little time because the final book will go in sometime in the fall and be copyedited in the winter. By then I’ll already be working on book four.
What time of day do you love best?
If I’m awake at 5AM, it’s the best. Sometimes I fall asleep with my daughter at (or before) 9PM. Those mornings when I wake up at 5 and have had a full eight hours sleep, it feels like a holiday present. Time. No one is awake. No one is calling on the phone. I can’t cook or clean because it will wake everyone up. Nothing to do but hit the computer and write quietly. If my kid sleeps in, I might get almost 2 hours…heaven.
Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.
I know this sounds crazy, but I’d have to say sexism. Not that I find sexism funny or that I like sexist humor, but I love jokes that are about the absurdity of sexism. Starting when I was a teenager, my friends and I have been creating the humor we needed to laugh about things from street harassment to sexist portrayals of women in media. As an adult, I discovered foul-mouthed female comedians who perfected this kind of humor and I love it. It’s a sort of laugh to keep from crying type thing, but more than that, the ability to laugh at something takes some of its power.
Have you ever tried writing in a different genre? How did that turn out?
The very first novel I ever wrote my whole way through in my 20s was a mystery (which will never see the light of day). I don’t know that it couldn’t be salvaged, but rather, I just lost interest in the characters. A short story with those same characters was published in the anthology, SPOOKS, SPIES, & PRIVATE EYES: Black Mystery, Crime, & Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century [LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Spooks-Spies-Private-Eyes-Suspense/dp/0385480822] I like the mystery genre—I’ve read a zillion mysteries in my life, starting with Nancy Drew as a kid and Agatha Christie in middle school. But I haven’t created a sleuth character that can hold my attention for the length of a book. I had that same experience in a recent NaNoWriMo I tried to write a mystery novel, but I just lost interest in the main character, a guy who was a homicide cop but wanted to be an artist. For whatever reason, my characters seem to be interested in stealing things and spying than solving mysteries.
More about Aya: Aya de Leon teaches creative writing at UC Berkeley. Kensington Books published her debut feminist heist novel UPTOWN THIEF in 2016, which won a first place Independent Publisher Award. The Justice Hustlers series continues with THE BOSS in 2017 and THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS in 2018. Her work has also appeared in Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Bitch Magazine, Essence, Huffington Post and on Def Poetry. She is also at work on a children’s picture book about talking to children about racism and just finished a YA black girl spy novel called GOING DARK.
Want to keep up with Aya? Follow her here –