Author, Booker T. Mattison, penned a gritty urban tale called, Unsigned Hype (Revell – June 2009; $9.99). It is the story of Tory Tyson a teenaged music prodigy. A classically trained pianist who is more interested in making beats than playing Bach. And a victory in the Unsigned Hype demo contest will give him exactly what he wants out of life – a successful music career. But can Tory handle the fame and fortune that he seeks?
You can view the trailer for the book, HERE!
Booker T. Mattison is an author and filmmaker who wrote the screenplay for and directed the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s The Gilded Six-Bits, which aired on Showtime. His debut novel, Unsigned Hype, is in its third printing. It has been optioned, and Mattison is currently writing the film adaptation of the book.
Mattison has taught literary criticism at the College of New Rochelle, film production at Brooklyn College, and advanced directing and actor coaching at Regent University. His second novel Snitch will be published May 1, 2011. To find out more about Mattison you can visit his website, HERE!
I spoke with Mattison about his novel, and the craft of writing.
TD: What prompted you to write, Unsigned Hype?
BTM: I have a practical answer and an artistic answer to that question. The practical answer is that my agent was approached by some of her contacts in the publishing industry who wanted her to find a story with a teenaged, black male protagonist that wasn’t about violence, sex or drugs. She asked me if I could come up with a story since the other writers that she represented were women. The artistic answer is that I had befriended Frankie Cutlass of “Puerto Rico, Ho!” and “Shake What Ya Mama Gave Ya” fame. This was in the late 90s and, at the time, I was developing a non-fiction book proposal on Christian hip hop. Cutlass shared with me some of the rivalries and the ups and downs that he experienced in the rap game. That got me thinking that a story that featured the peaks and the valleys, and dangerous adventures experienced by an aspiring rapper could be interesting. However, it was only after I connected these ideas to my own attempts to make it as a rapper and a hip hop producer that I was able to construct a complete narrative. Interestingly enough, I only abandoned my pursuit of a rap career after I enrolled in the graduate film program at New York University. Because NYU film school was so demanding I wasn’t able to reasonably pursue a career in rap and in film, so I had to choose. I choose film, but my experience as an emcee and a producer greatly influenced much of what you read in Unsigned Hype.
TD: The main character, Tory Tyson, is a musical prodigy, however, the lure of Hip Hop has him abandoning his musical genius. What and why do you feel art/culture/music are important in schools and is your book a lesson on nurturing our children’s talents?
BTM: I would most certainly say that one of the themes in the book is the importance of nurturing children’s talents and, related to that, providing children with a constructive framework for the responsible use of those same gifts. As for the importance of art/culture/music instruction in schools, it is crippling to our youth when these programs are cut. Although I recognize that tough choices have to be made when many cities and states are operating on austerity budgets, I feel that sacrificing our children’s development only exacerbates the problem. You have a short term solution that will have long term consequences. And this is magnified among our youth because not only does artistic and cultural instruction provide an outlet for young people that keeps them off the street, it also helps them to broaden their perspective and that can contribute to a healthier self image for them.
TD: In writing, Unsigned Hype, did you experience any epiphanies or ‘Ah-ha’ moments that connected with your own life?
BTM: Great question! I realized that through Tory and his mentor Mr. Lord that I was debating myself throughout the book. Tory is very much how I was when I was a teenager – self-assured, precocious and musically talented. Mr. Lord is strikingly similar to how I am presently in that I place particular emphasis on character, integrity, truth and faith as essentials in the life of African-American youth and young adults. In the book Tory and Mr. Lord represent inter-generational strife and a clash of ideals.
TD: What do you want readers to take away from the novel?
BTM: A wise man once said, “What does it profit it a man to gain the whole but to lose his own soul?” Because society has become so self serving and materialistic, I think it’s important to note that you can pursue your dreams without selling your soul. And that you can use your gifts in a way that it is commercially viable, aesthetically pleasing and that uplifts your community at the same time. It’s not easy. But that’s the problem of the artist who creates art for public consumption, right? To do the work necessary to succeed on those three levels.
TD: What is next for you?
BTM: My second novel Snitch will be published May 1, 2011. Snitch is the story of a New Jersey Transit bus driver who witnesses a crime, the inner drama he experiences in whether or not to break the common code of silence not to cooperate with police, and what he must overcome to save himself and his family when he becomes a target of the perpetrators. Also, both Snitch and Unsigned Hype are at various stages of development as a TV series and a feature film, respectively. Hopefully there will be more to report on one or both of those projects in the near future.
Mattison has agreed to give away three copies of his novel, Unsigned Hype. The first three persons to email me the correct answer to the following question will receive a copy.
**What are the names of the three videos that Mattison has directed?
Submit your answers to: firstname.lastname@example.org