Every journalist toys with writing a book but few have the courage to do it, however Aliya S. King is a warrior. Not only has she written for every publication under the sun, from VIBE to US Weekly, Aliya shifted into celebrity memoirs in 2009 with Faith Evans’ autobiography Keep The Faith and now she’s working on the forthcoming book, Original Gangster the biography of Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas. Recently she debuted her first fiction novel Platinum that follows several hip-hop wives and a mistress through the struggle of life in the music industry. Today, Aliya chatted with Parlour about the process of writing Platinum, advice for aspiring novelists and just who were the inspiration for her characters.
PARLOUR: Platinum was inspired by VIBE story you wrote in 2006?
Aliya S. King: The story I wrote for VIBE about the lives of rappers’ wives stayed with me long after it was published. I interviewed several different wives, from Tashera Simmons, wife of DMX to Aisha Atkins, wife of Ja Rule. I also interviewed Shante Broadus, wife of Snoop and Claudinette Jean, wife of Wyclef Jean. Seeing their lives: the wealth and the opulence combined with the frustrations of being a rapper’s wife informed my novel Platinum. I saw women with all the money you could ever want who just wanted their husbands to come home for dinner. I saw women who knew their husbands were cheating while on tour but still stayed with them for reasons no one could ever understand.
We love how the Jake character is a direct mirror of Jay-Z and his relationship with girlfriend Kipenzi aka Beyoncé. Was there a specific interview with Jay and Bey that inspired these characters?
A direct mirror? Hm … I wouldn’t say that and I can’t say that Jake and Kipenzi are a direct mirror of any one couple. I’d say they were a composite of several hip-hop couples. But as for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, I’ve interviewed them both, years ago. But not since they’ve been a couple.
Why do you think they kept their relationship a secret for so long?
Because they’re smart! The minute you open up your relationship to the world, you invite in drama. Now I’m a reporter, so I want everyone to open up to me about everything. But truth be told, if you’re a celebrity couple and you really want to make it, you need to keep it under wraps for as long as you can. We’ve never even seen wedding photos from Jay-Z and Beyoncé! I think that’s awesome.
Infidelity is a theme in your book, do you think the social attitudes towards cheating are different in the entertainment industry versus couples who might work in other arenas?
I think infidelity is more expected in the entertainment industry because there is so much more access. We also put our celebrities up on a pedestal in a way we don’t do to non-industry folks.
Is infidelity more acceptable in the entertainment industry?
No, I don’t think it’s more acceptable. There are women married to entertainers who accept it and those who don’t. In the civilian world, there are people who accept this behavior and some who do not.
The Cleo character, based on Karrine “Superhead” Steffans, was evil but interesting. What do you want readers to learn from her: strength, the power of sex, that not every woman wants to be claimed?
All of the above. I’ve always been fascinated by Karrine Steffans. Why did she do the things she did? What was her motivation behind blowing up spots and writing a tell-all? Does she have regrets? I just want readers to formulate their own opinions on her actions. Are these women just evil? Or is there anything redeemable about them?
Why do you think hip-hop wives and girlfriends stay through the emotional roller coaster of drugs, touring and illegitimate kids?
Many times, they’ve been with these men since the very beginning, when they had nothing and before they were famous. It’s hard to walk away from a relationship like that, especially if you were very young at the time. Some of these women have been with their men since high school or earlier. It’s not easy to just get up and go, particularly if you don’t have money or a career of your own.
Why do you think the lives of hip-hop wives and girlfriends are so interesting to society?
Many of us addicted to the lives of celebrity, whether it’s Brad and Angelina or Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Since the dawn of the entertainment industry, we’ve been interested in the lives of the rich and famous. I think we all like to see how the other half lives.
The Bunny character, modeled after Rihanna, has a violent relationship with her boyfriend in the novel, constantly baiting him to fight. Do you think that’s what happened with Chris Brown and Rihanna that fateful Grammy eve? If so, why do you think the altercation wasn’t reported with more nuance, ie. ‘couple fights’ rather than ‘man beats woman’?
Bunny and Zander’s experiences were written to make people think about domestic violence. While most domestic violence incidents are perpetrated by men, there are women who are abusive as well. I also wanted to ask the question: if a woman hits a man, is he justified to hit her back? Some people would say not. Some would say yes. I wanted to bring that conversation to the forefront.
The journalist character Alex, modeled after you we assume, lives in a fantastic brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, is that your dream house because we want it too!
I do dream of owning a brownstone. Many years ago, I rented a beautiful brownstone very similar to the one described in the book. I love that place and yes, I’d like to live in a place just like Alex’s one day!
Describe the difference between writing a book and for a magazine. Did you find yourself going crazy separating real life and you characters’ lives?
When I’m writing fiction, I completely immerse myself in my characters and don’t think about the outside world at all. I wall myself out mentally so I can really get inside my character’s heads. It’s different when I’m writing nonfiction for magazines, it’s about facts so I’m focused in a different kind of way.
As fans of Aliyasking.com, we’re thrilled you’re coming back to the site! What advice do you have for freelance journalists in this climate?
Keep writing! Start a blog. Update it every single day. Even if you don’t get writing assignments from blogging, it will give you the discipline you need to pitch stories constantly.
What advice would you have for journalists looking to shift into books?
Write one! Sit down, outline what you want to write about and get to work!
Who swindled you out of the $18,000 you mentioned in your acknowledgments?
I don’t talk about that person by name. But I’m grateful for the lesson I learned from that individual, read your contracts!
Top five fave songs right now?
(in no particular order)
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