Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Interview with author Julius Thompson
My guest author interview today is with Julius Thompson, whose latest novel, Ghost of Atlanta, will release in January.
Julius Thompson grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York and attended Bushwick High School. The sixties in Brooklyn was an era that had a personality, a feel, and a life-force that changed a generation. Mr. Thompson felt this energy and experienced these fires of social change.
After high school, Mr. Thompson spent the next four years riding the "A" train to Harlem, in upper Manhattan, to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the City College of New York. At CCNY, which was located just a few blocks from the famous Apollo Theater, Wednesday afternoons were hard on the undergraduates. The matinee performances of the major R&B groups of the times were more tempting than attending a college lecture. Most of the time, Mr. Thompson succumbed to the temptation, but still earned a college degree from one of the best universities in the country.
At CCNY, literature instructors like Prof. Thomas Tashiro, fueled the fire in him to become a writer.
Mr. Thompson’s journey to compose a trilogy began in 1995. The fourteen-year fictional journey of Andy Michael Pilgrim from Brooklyn (A Brownstone in Brooklyn), to Philadelphia (Philly Style and Philly Profile), and finally Atlanta (Ghost of Atlanta) is now complete. In this pilgrimage, readers experience places that are filled with hopes, dreams, challenges and fears that make us human.
Mr. Thompson received the Georgia Author of the Year nomination for Philly Style and Philly Profile, from the Georgia Writers Association, in 2007.
Mr. Thompson is currently a Creative Writing/Publishing Instructor at Atlanta’s Evening at Emory’s Writers Studio.
Please tell us about your current release, Ghost of Atlanta.
In this novel, the reader follows Andy Pilgrim as he faces past issues that have haunted his life as he returns to Atlanta, Georgia. The setting is Atlanta in the 1980s.
What inspired you to write this book?
The reader follows Andy as he matured in the turbulent sixties in Brooklyn with the Civil Rights movement, his working career as a sportswriter in the seventies in Philadelphia watching the influence of drugs and gangs destroy young people’s lives, and in the eighties in Atlanta where he faces demons from his youth and sees the effects of reverse migration of African-Americans from the northern cities back to the new south.
Andy’s thirty-year odyssey from Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Atlanta showcase new life-altering situations and problems that faced African-Americans in the last half of the twentieth century.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Purple Phantoms: The story of the haunting of a high school basketball team.
I was a basketball coach for over twenty years. In that time, I had some players that were killed and I always wondered what would happen if they could come back and finish that season.
This book is totally different from the trilogy and a chance to explore the use of second person point of view in a novel.
Please tell us about your writing life:
I love traveling to book fairs and different book events. This year, 2010, I was a speaker at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Roxborough Library in Philadelphia, the Buffalo Book Fair in Buffalo, New York and at the Eastern Parkway Library in Brooklyn, New York.
I've also signed copies of my novels at the prestigious New York Is Book Country Festival in New York City, the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, the AJC-Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Georgia, the Gwinnett Reading Festival in Lawrenceville, Georgia and at the Miami Book Fair International in Miami, Florida.
I've had book signings in the following book stores: Barnes & Nobles, Borders, Chapter 11, Books-A-Million, Nubian bookstore, the African Spectrum bookstore, Philadelphia's Robins Bookstore, and I've been one of the featured speakers at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Creative Arts Fair in Brooklyn, and I've been part of a panel of authors at the Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta, Georgia and the Gwinnett County Library System.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In 1965, I started writing at Bushwick High School in Brooklyn, New York. I was afraid and very insecure about becoming a writer. I asked my English teacher, Ms. Egan, "Can I be a writer?" She looked at me and said, “Do it!” I’ve never looked back.
I’ve been a copy boy with the New York Times, and a full-time sportswriter with the Philadelphia Bulletin.
I started writing my first novel in 1995 and I’ve enjoyed every moment.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
That is my goal: Become a full-time writer!
Currently, I’m a high school language arts teacher at Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia and a Creative Writing Instructor at Evening at Emory University.
I write late at night usually around 10:00 PM and during the evenings on weekends.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m a night writer! My creativity is in full swing after 10:00 PM.
This is good and this is bad. I have to get up for work at 5:45 AM. Sometimes when I’m writing good I want finish writing until the wee hours of the morning. When that happens, I suffer through a long day of feeling tired.
When I was writing A Brownstone in Brooklyn, one night I wrote over 2,000 words and finished around 4:00 AM. That meant I just didn’t go to work the next day.
That’s the reason the trilogy was completed in twelve years. A Brownstone in Brooklyn was released in 2001, Philly Style and Philly Profile in 2007 and Ghost of Atlanta in 2011.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I wrote short stories and thought I was writing novels. This was a way I could to express my emotions. This was an important emotional outlet for me.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
This is my motto for writing:
In my novels, I want the reader to experience places that are filled with hopes, dreams, challenges and fears that make us human!
My Web site is: http://www.jtwrites.com
Ghost of Atlanta can be pre-ordered at the publisher's site.
Thanks for answering my questions, Julius. Best of luck with your writing and teaching.