The True Gangsta Writer
by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti
Al-Saadiq Banks has been in the game since the jump. This Newark, New Jersey native writes the real. There ain't no faking in his pen game. Dudes from his city know what's up and how he gets down. The streets have always been a part of his life and his novels show that. He is a certified Original Gangster of the urban fiction genre and he has done it all independently, with True 2 Life Books. He did this interview for Urban Book Source, but he sent it out with a nod toward his core readership, all the dudes in prison across the nation. Nowadays not only is Al-Saadiq a bestselling novelist but he works as a motivational speaker as well. His hopes are not only to deter the youth from a similar life of crime, which he writes about, but to inspire adults who are living the same life to make a change. Through his writing he hopes to help them understand that there is hope and they can make something of themselves through hard work and determination. Al-Saadiq holds himself up as an example.
But let him tell it.
How did you start writing and why?
Actually writing is something that I just tried, never to publish or sell. I only wrote the first book to see if I could. While writing, I feltas if I was slowly exhaling. For once in my life I felt relieved of the pressure that I lived most of my life dealing with. After allowing friends and family to read it, they encouraged me to put some paper behind the project to see how far it could go. They believed in me more than I did. I've now vented through seven books and an anthology. Trust me, I still got more venting to do.
What books do you have out and when did they come out?
I have No Exit, which dropped May of 2003; Block Party 1, which dropped December of 2003; Sincerely Yours, June 2004; Caught ‘Em Slippin’, March of 2005; Block Party 2, January of 2006; Block Party 3, October 2007; and now I have Strapped coming soon.
Describe your books and your writing style?
The name of my company is True 2 Life. It's self explanatory. I call my style of writing Urban Faction. I write about events that not only take place in my hood but hoods all across the globe as well.
What publishers have you worked with?
One thing about me is I keep a small, tight circle and always have. Ain't nothing changed, True 2 Life Forever!
What authors do you admire and what books have you read lately?
Admire? (laughs) Hey, what you think about them Yankees? (laughs) Syke, nah, much respect to anybody out there who is going for theirs.
What do you think of the street lit genre?
When I stepped into the book game back in 2002, there were about five to seven books of that genre in circulation. Today there are hundreds. With the increase I thought the game would become oversaturated. Maybe it has, but still there's room for everyone to eat. This is a multimillion dollar business, but publishers, distributors and vendors need to respect it as that. I was here back when the money was plentiful and I'm still here when the money has decreased drastically. The decrease has nothing to do with the genre itself, but it has all to do with the people who control the game. As long as they continue to look at this industry as a game or a hustle, it will remain just that. I've seen them come and I've seen them go. I thank God to still be here over six years later.
How would you define the success of the Block Party series?
The success of the Block Party series blew my mind. I wrote part 1 with the thought that it was complete but my readers kept asking for more and more. I truly thank them for the support.
Why did you decide to do it yourself with True 2 Life?
Because I'm a boss, always been boss. I wouldn't have it any either way. No disrespect to my dudes behind the wall in a compromising position. I understand the struggle of trying to get a book out there and your reasoning for signing with publishers.
Dudes say you were getting it, how did you transform from the streets to the book game?
From crack to smack to paperback, it's all hustling. It's the same game, just legal. If you're a true hustler drugs aren't your only claim to fame. You should be able to sell shoestrings if you have to and still turn it up. If you use the same tactics, determination and dedication, you can soar in whatever field that you choose.
What's next for you?
Well my next move is taking my catalog to the next level. I'm currently in school for screenwriting. I'm going to take each book, one by one, to the screen. Be on the look out for True 2 Life Films.
Any advice to aspiring authors?
The most important advice that I can give is to my brothers and sisters behind the wall. Be careful who you sign with. It's a game to some of these publishers. They're on a hunt and you are their prey. They're capitalizing off of your situation. Don't let your desperation in wanting to get your book out there be the cause of your demise. True story, the majority of these independent publishers can barely move their own books, so how are they going to be able to move yours? They're just praying that your joint can carry their company and take them platinum. Watch out for the Jux!
Visit Al-Saadiq Banks on Myspace: myspace.com/alsaadiqbanks
Seth Ferranti is a contributing writer for The Urban Book Source and accomplished journalist having written articles for Don Diva, Slam, King, Feds and many more. View more of his articles at: www.gorillaconvict.com
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