She’s a writer, not a biter, for herself and others … one of the hottest line from Jay-Z is also an endorsement of journalist and author Aliya S. King. Her stories have graced the pages of Honey, Vibe and ESSENCE and King’s journalism skills have helped R&B singer Faith Evans and the Harlem heroin slinger Frank Lucas explain their stories in King-assisted memoirs like Keeping The Faith and Original Gangster. She is also the author of a saucy novel Platinum, which hit shelves in 2010, and the sequel Diamond Life is scheduled to drop next summer. Parlour put King in the hot seat to find out her favorite celebrity interviews, tips for keeps her subjects interested and just what the Diamond Life entails.
As a role model to young journalists, when did you realize that writing was your passion?
Writing is something I have loved from the moment that I could, back to first grade. It was a natural thing for me. I would pretend to create stories inside of a book that I made with a folded piece of paper.
Through your passion, you’ve meet numerous stars, is there an unforgettable interview?
Mariah Carey was more interesting and intelligent than I gave her credit for in the beginning. I thought I knew what to expect before the interview and she gave a different outlook.
Your interview with Mariah was cut short, how did you finish the second part?
Not getting the interview done the first time we talked was the worst feeling in the world. I did not have enough to write the story. During the interview, Jay Z came to her house to discuss her album dropping on Def Jam because he was going to be the president before her release date [so I left]. Luckily, Mariah called my editor to tell me I could come back to finish our conversation. I am not sure how I would have completed my assignment if she hadn’t called.
What changed your perception of Mariah during your chat?
I knew she had African American heritage in her background but Mariah sees herself as a Black girl. I did not get that connection, until I saw her room filled with framed photos of her grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. She is really smart when it comes to music and can tell you who plays on what album, every Barbra Streisand record and what her set list was in 1968. Mariah is not just a pretty girl who can sing.
I envy you for getting a look at Mariah’s shoe closet, how did you end up in her shoes, literally?
It’s not a closet, Mariah has a shoe room. I am almost positive her show room is the same size as the living room I am sitting in now. There are shoes wall to wall with a bench in the middle of the room for you and this was in 2005. It is hard for me to recall the shoe brands but the styles were different with funky heels and multiple straps. They were gorgeous! She made me promise not to tell anyone my shoe size since we both have the same one.
Did she let you take any shoes home ?
She actually offered but I turned her down. It was too weird. Leaving with a pair of shoes could have messed with my objectivity, since I was there on a magazine assignment.
Your quote “Im a writer, not a biter, for myself and others” on your website is a taken from Jay Z, when did you first interview him?
It’s a really embarrassing, I had to interview him backstage at the Apollo Theater years ago and he was one of the performers for their benefit concert. It turned out that the magazine had it as an television interview, I had never been on camera before and made a complete fool out of myself. One of the final questions I asked was “Can you tell me your most embarrassing moment?”Jay Z was like ‘I can’t think of one for myself, but I think you’re having your most embarrassing moment right now.’ He was nice about it, but I was devastated.
Do you have advice for aspiring journalists on navigating difficult interviews?
Be prepared ahead of time, that’s why my interview with Mariah went so well. I spent a long time researching her because I knew she would be bored if I asked her the same old questions. I knew I had to dig a little bit deeper by taking a trip to her home town and talking to local reporters that covered her in the beginning of her career. In my research, I found people that knew her from high school. Her town’s library had clippings of her when she was in school. When I gave Mariah over 800 pages of documents that I brought with me, her face dropped.
In your first novel Platinum there is a cliff hanger ending, did you always want to write a sequel?
No, it was not until I finished it that I felt it had a natural progression to have a part two. Also, I was not sure that I would get another book deal. Just because you write ‘to be continued’ does not mean Simon and Schuster is going to continue your series. There was no guarantee they would publish the second book, but they did and I am grateful for that.
Do you relate to any of the characters in your upcoming book Diamond Life like you did with the character Alex in Platinum?
Alex is the same person but our lives diverge, Diamond Life is a stand alone story. Platinum came out of a story that I did for Vibe, so there are a lot of ” I know who that person is” moments.
When can we read Diamond Life?
I just turned in the pages this summer and I’m still waiting for the edits to come back. I expect the book to come out in Spring 2012.