Where are you from?
I’m originally from Washington DC but l lived in New York City for most of my adult life (from 1993-2007). I also lived in Berlin (Germany) briefly in 2003. I moved to New Orleans in 2007 and plan on staying here as long as possible.
Who are your favorite writers?
Richard Wright; Tennessee Williams; Philip Roth; Pauline Kael; James Baldwin; Greil Marcus; James Howard Kunstler; Michael Pollan; Naomi Klein; Lafcadio Hearn.
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts; Mystery Train by Greil Marcus; historian Taylor Branch’s works on Martin Luther King, Jr. The biggest influence on my writing is non-literary: Robert Altman. I love how Altman weaves in multiple characters and storylines as well as the connections Altman makes between characters. Altman films like Short Cuts, Nashville, The Player and The Long Goodbye inform my work in a huge way. In fact, one of the great moments of my life was meeting Altman when he was doing press for Kansas City way back in 1996.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
I love music (I used to be a music critic) and right now I’m consumed with reading commentary on the financial crisis from Nouriel Roubini, Paul Krugman and Yves Smith.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
I can’t think of a specific piece of advice. But I’m very inspired by artists, writers, musicians, etc who cannot stop working and as a result churn out tons of work—workaholics like Timbaland and Nick Cave are big inspirations for me.
What is your favorite quote?
I don’t really have a favorite quote—but I do like reading speeches by Malcolm X and MLK. I’m also obsessed with listening to old recordings of Jim Jones (of Jonestown fame).
What is the question most commonly asked by your readers? What is the answer?
“How do you write about what you write about and remain sane?” I actually don’t have an answer to that.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Before I began working on Queens Reigns Supreme, I was very interested in magazines like Don Diva and FEDS which covered 1980s-era street figures but in a very obtuse sort of way (everything said about hustlers from that era had to be prefaced with “allegedly.”) So I set about writing the history of the crack era in Queens in a very clear, direct style that avoided both mystifying drug kingpins and the strange sort of writing that seemed unclear about what actually took place on the streets during the 1980s.
Where do you write?
I write at home, in New Orleans.