Every person who grew up in the hood knows a Jaicyn or a Rayshawn. That’s why I wrote A Hustler’s Promise. At the time, I didn’t even realize I was writing an urban fiction novel. I never considered what genre it was going to be because I had no idea what I was writing.
A Hustler’s Promise, originally titled Promise Ring, was the first and only book that I started writing without a detailed plan, plot, or outline. When I say it evolved, I mean it. In high school, my friends and I were discussing baby names. One of my friends was pregnant and about to have a baby girl. We wanted Elisa to name her something unique but she decided on Alana. I have a thing for boy’s names for girls. I don’t know where this came from considering I’m not a big fan of traditionally feminine names for boys. I don’t like Tracy or Kim for boys even though I know of quite a few. So, we’re in the computer lab and I’m doodling and I come up with this spelling of J-A-I-C-Y-N and I loved it. I claimed it so none of my friends are ever allowed to name their daughters Jaicyn. It’s such a simple and traditional name but the spelling makes it look feminine.
After that day, I thought a lot of what a girl named Jaicyn would be like. She’d have to be tough, that’s for sure and she’d always have a snappy comeback whenever someone asked why she had a boy’s name. She’d be a little stubborn and she’d be a go-getter. She’d be smart and definitely a bad ass. And she’d be mine so she’d definitely be cute. Her look would be a problem because it was for me for a very long time so she’d have to be able to fight. In my high school computer lab, this character started to form. I wasn’t thinking about having a real life Jaicyn any time soon but I wanted to give this name…this character life.
After I finished Change of Heart, I put it on the backburner and started college. At Georgia State University, I met a set of twins, Jamal and Jamal (we called them Mall and Mel because that’s how their names were pronounced). They were complete opposites. The only thing they had in common was that they played basketball. One was straight hood and the other was very preppy, almost nerdy. Right before I started college, my brother’s girlfriend gave birth to my nephews…twin boys named Rashaun and Juwan. It was in those situations that the characters in A Hustler’s Promise were born…Jaicyn, Rayshawn, and Dayshawn.
Publishing A Hustler’s Promise:
Promise Ring was the story of two young hustlers who went through it to get to the top. I originally published the book on Createspace as a stand-alone paperback novel. I sold about 20 copies and I didn’t care. I was content with having a great story. I had a Twitter friend named Jenn who bought it and she used to tweet about it as she was reading it. Then she passed it along to her friends. There’s a distinct Promise Ring fanbase in Los Angeles that all read and loved Promise Ring who still follow me on Twitter to this day. This was in 2009, I think. I can’t remember when I opened my Twitter account.
When I realized that Kindle was becoming the new thing, I wondered if I should publish an e-book. My mother, who has read every single book I’ve ever written, suggested that people who read e-books probably won’t take the time to read a 300 page novel. At the time, we had no clue what people with e-readers actually liked so I decided that I would take Promise Ring, change the title to something more urban and create a new cover then I’d divide it into two parts.
Amazing things happened when I did that. A Hustler’s Promise took off in a way that I had no idea would happen. It scared the living hell out of me. Promise Ring had no traction whatsoever. But A Hustler’s Promise began to skyrocket up the Amazon Urban Fiction and African-American Fiction charts. Before I knew it, I had the number one selling African-American fiction and number one selling Urban Fiction book on Amazon.com. People were following me on Twitter. They were sending me friend requests on Facebook. They were asking about a website.
I was unprepared.
Eventually, I got it together. A Hustler’s Promise set a record on Amazon that I’ve never seen happen until this year when Ivy Simone released Crush. It stayed Number 1 for three months. MONTHS! It was a huge book. It only dropped to number 2 when I released A Hustler’s 2 three months later.
I still can’t believe the success of those two books. But despite the readers’ embrace of A Hustler’s Promise, I’ve always felt a little slighted because I wasn’t planning on being an urban fiction author and since my repertoire consists mainly of romance novels, the series is often overlooked by the Who’s Who of Urban Fiction.
I remember thinking that I was outranking my favorite authors so we’re on the same level but the response I’d get from them when I reached out was not positive. I was still new to publishing and A Hustler’s Promise opened my eyes to the completive nature of the urban fiction genre. It exposed the harsh light of industry competition that I didn’t (and still don’t) embrace. It was then that I decided that I’m never writing another urban fiction book again. I don’t want to compete. I just want to write books that entertain and I don’t really care if another author writes a book that outranks mine.
I felt like I secured a position as an authentic author, one whose work you could trust to entertain, and as long as I kept putting out quality and entertaining books, I’d be fine. When I came to this conclusion, I found myself in a better place mentally and with my writing. It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers as one of them and/or just as good as them, but it’s not a necessity so I stopped trying.
Making A Hustler’s Promise into a Series:
A Hustler’s Promise 3 and The Takeover came about because of the fans/readers of the two A Hustler’s Promise books. I wasn’t going to make a series. A Hustler’s Promise was just one book that I divided into two parts. The beginning, middle, and end of Jaicyn and Rayshawn’s story was completed in Promise Ring and further completed in A Hustler’s 1 & 2.
There was such an interest in having another A Hustler’s Promise book that I felt obligated to give the readers what they wanted. It was years…years…after I published A Hustler’s Promise 2 that I even considered plotting a third book. I didn’t want to write a third book if I couldn’t come up with a plot that was original, interesting, and of the same caliber as the first two books. If I couldn’t think of a great story to tell, I wasn’t going to write a third book, no matter how many messages and email I got. And I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about a third book. If it was meant to be written, the ideas would come. If they didn’t, oh well.
The idea for a third book hit me like a ton of bricks. I spent a considerable amount of time working out all the kinks, going back into the first two books to see what questions remained unanswered and making sure that third book would be the FINALE. I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned.
I love A Hustler’s Promise 3. I see it as the perfect ending for my favorite couple. Jaicyn and Rayshawn had been through so much in the first two books that I knew in the third book, I needed to make it all worth it. I felt like this couple deserved a happy ending but like everything they do, that ending comes at a severe cost and it takes a minute to get there. For me, I wrote the ending of their story exactly as it should be and I am thrilled with how the series turned out.
No matter what people say, no matter how many messages I get about a possible A Hustler’s Promise 4, I’m pretty sure that I resolved that ending exactly the way it needed to be resolved. I’m not going to drag this story out any more.
As for the readers, well, let’s just say, I think I waited too long to give them what they wanted because it wasn’t received in the way that I expected. I had really high expectations for A Hustler’s Promise 3 considering the readers had been asking for it for so long so I am a little disappointed with the reception.
The Takeover was something I published because A Hustler’s Promise 2 opened a couple years after Jaicyn and Rayshawn had moved to Atlanta and it referenced that it took a couple of years for them to get on top but it never really went into detail. I didn’t want to include those chapters in the second book because I had a clear vision of how I wanted the story to go and didn’t want to crowd it with a lot of backstory. Still, their takeover of the Atlanta drug scene was important to the story and it was an interesting story itself. I combined those cut chapters, added some more, and created a novella that fits right into the space between A Hustler’s Promise and A Hustler’s Promise 2…call it A Hustler’s Promise 1.5 if you want.
A Hustler’s Promise remains my only foray into urban fiction and holds up to the critiques of the genre. I hold this series close to my heart for many reasons, mainly the lessons and realizations I learned from publishing it.