Our Interview with Phenomenal Writing Duo, Ashley and JaQuavis
It’s rare that you meet people who are genuine and personable in this industry, and when you do, there’s generally not enough time to sit and have a full conversation with them. It was just my luck to have an opportunity to talk to New York Times best selling author’s Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman on the heels of the release of their latest book release Murderville 2: The Epidemic, the second book of their trilogy. The husband and wife duo opened up about their relationship, their business ventures, their passion for each other and for their work and so much more in our thirty minute conversation and by the time it was all said and done it was all much bigger than a new book release. It was an experience and a story bigger than most fans can pick up. Here’s to Ashley & JaQuavis, a story of love, hustle and the pursuit of cash money.
There were a few items that I was aware of before I even started the interview that I should probably share with you before I begin: Ashley and JaQuavis began writing together at 15 years old while they were both still in high school. The two met in their neighborhood in Flint, Michigan and have been inseparable ever since, eventually marrying, now with a family of their own after giving birth to a son a couple years ago. While developing and nurturing their love for one another they’ve co-authored 17 bestselling novels, AND ghostwritten 15 bestsellers for other authors. That doesn’t even include the books they’ve released as individuals, Ashley Antoinette & JaQuavis Coleman are both popular urban fiction solo brands as well. The nail in the coffin for these other urban fiction authors in the game? These two are just 26 years old!
Now that I’ve got you updated, check out my interview with your favorite authors, Ashley & JaQuavis…
Parlé Magazine: Let’s start off with the latest book, Murderville 2: The Epidemic. It’s the second book under Cash Money Content, and the second book in the Murderville series, what should people expect this time?
JaQuavis: Murderville 2 is the sequel to part one and it’s about human trafficking and drug trafficking from Sierra Leone into the states. This one picks up where the other one ends up. The main character is shot, and it takes you through what goes on after the death. I honestly believe it’s one of our best works, we really dug deep to graphically depict what we’re trying to do. I believe it’s one of the best love stories ever told, we’re just waiting on the public to kind of confirm it.
Parlé: The two of you have said in a prior interview with Parlé that you write what you know, how was it writing about Sierra Leone? Did you take a trip to Africa?
Ashley: We took a trip to Africa prior to the first book and we plan to revisit it before we conclude the trilogy, to depict the growth of the characters. We wanted to kinda see where they came from. The hood side, we know that because we’ve lived it, but the research in human trafficking and modern day slave trade was extensive actually because it was like homework. We had to dig deep because we wanted to paint an authentic picture of these characters, where they came from and the turmoil that they go through internally. We wanted to have the readers feel that, we wanted to tug at their heart. That was the only way to do it. We made connections with people who have been in that experience—sex trafficking in L.A. and then the drug game comes natural to us. So it was a mixture of both research and personal experience that birth this book. The goal was to enlighten our readers and expand their mind, so we wanted to drop some knowledge on them while telling a gritty story as well. We kinda just mixed all the elements to create what we feel like is our next classic.
Parlé: You write so much and create so much material, how’d the concept even come about to put this story out?
JaQuavis: Obviously, we have a slew of street books, but with this one and with the new marriage with Cash Money Content we wanted to bring something new to the table. We wanted our readers to think. We wanted to enlighten them as well as entertain them. So we said, what topic hasn’t been touched, and what is a topic that we can touch and help people understand. Like a homework assignment. And instead of looking out, we looked in. These are our people and the same thing that happened 400 years ago is still happening today. Rappers and other people, they wear these diamonds around their neck, but do they really understand where these things came from. That’s what sparked the idea, and then when we started digging deep, we started understanding that it’s so much deeper than just the diamonds. People are still getting trafficked today for sex, or even just for work. You know how 400 years ago we were coming over on ships? Well we’re still coming over on ships, it’s just a little more discreet, it’s more money involved and it’s more hush-hush. Our readership, we wanted to provide something that was food for thought and kinda elevate their minds, not just mumbo jumbo, shoot ’em up, bang bang. We can do that all day, but at some point we had to mature and this was the perfect venue to do it.
Parlé: Just interested to know, when you got the deal with Cash Money Content, was the book concept already there? Did you talk to Baby and Slim about what you were going to put out?
Ashley: They wanted to know what our next project was going to be, and dealing with a Hip-Hop company you never know what to expect, but they gave us the freedom to write what we wanted to write. They gave us the creative freedom to take our projects in the direction that we feel they need to go. So they’re very supportive in that aspect. They stand behind what we do and they believe in our talent because ironically while we were listening to their music and listening to their projects they were reading our work. So they kinda have faith in the subject matters that we wanted to touch on and it’s the perfect stage because the stage is much larger, so why not write about something that matters a little bit more. It’s kinda the perfect marriage between us, Ashley & JaQuavis, and Cash Money Content.
Parlé: On the same note, it is deeper and it is different, how have fans reacted to the series with the first book already in stores for a year in terms of your change for the more serious?
JaQuavis: Honestly, just being honest, I thought we were going to get backlash, but we didn’t care. We were like, ‘we”re going to make ’em love it because it’s true.’ And if you’re speaking truth, people are going to flock to it. But, its honestly one of our best reviewed books and I think they gravitated to the story because it was something they could relate to. And even though we informed them about what was happening, we told a great, great love story about how a man loves a woman and how a woman loves a man. Everybody can relate to that. Even if you love your mother you still have that same correlation and relationship where you can understand how a man loves a woman or a mother to son or wife to husband. So we just told a great love story. Nobody can fuck with it because we lived it, cause I love my wife and my wife loves me. No other author, unless they can do that, they can’t write about love the way we write about love. We was really in the streets, we don’t glamorize it, but it’s our truth. We really can write about how much a brick costs, how long heron can stay out before it goes bad, the little stuff—how it smells, how it feels to make love on money just for fun. You understand what I’m saying? That’s why people gravitate towards our work cause we speaking from our heart, this the truth! You’ll never see us writing about something we don’t know. Maybe ten years later, we’ll write a business book or something, but for now, nobody can touch us. I’m not trying to be facetious or anything, I just know that. This what we do, it’s easy.
Parlé: Now, I gotta talk about how ya’ll met. (Authors Laugh) I know there was a package, some bushes—how did that develop into a full-fledged relationship?
Ashley: I went from admiring from a far—cause he was kind of a big deal in our city, all the little chicks knew who he was because he was getting money, and of course you want the money man—so I knew who he was, I never had a chance to cross paths with him, but he was definitely on my radar, (she said with a sly devilish grin you had to see in order to appreciate). But when he threw the package in my bushes and I delivered it to him later, I went from not knowing him at all to being his very best friend. I went from being this innocent little girl to riding shot gun in a Benz that my man whipped, pushing it to school every day. It gradually transformed into a friendship first cause we don’t have that corny love, we not flowers and roses or chocolates and holding hands—this is my nigga. We are so connected on a deeper level that I don’t think people understand. I feel like he was assigned for me, I was built for him, he was built for me. He gets me. So that’s why we feel like it’s easy for us to portray that connection in our characters. I feel like people fall in love with our characters because we put us in it, we put our relationship in it. You have no choice, we love each other so you have to love our work because we’re putting that in there. It’s a different kind of love, its unique, I feel like we have the only version of our friendship, of our relationship, of our marriage—it’s one of a kind.
Parlé: That’s deep! (Laughs). Ya’ll should write relationship guides, seriously. So, how’d the two of you get into the friendly competition of writing and writing off each other?
JaQuavis: Well fast forward a bit, we moved out when we were 16, had our own little apartment. She got pregnant and um, we lost the baby. The doctor, he informed us that she’d have to stay in bed for three to four weeks. We were always avid readers, we’d always buy two of the same books, read it together and talk about it like, ‘yo, you seen the part where my man did that, and he took the…” So I knew that I couldn’t beat her to read it, so I was like, ‘I’ma write a book, you gonna write a book, see who can write the best book.’ She’s very competitive, so I knew that would get her.
She got up like, ‘Nigga I can write a better book than you!’ I said, aight, let’s put $100 on it. We were like 40 percent in and we switched. Right hand to God, it was the best story I ever read. And I read avid—Coldest Winter Ever, True To The Game… some people my competition, I ain’t gonna say their names but it was a lot of people I read and it was [her book] killing it. And she read mine and she told me it was the best shit she ever read. So we just got talking. Right hand to God, it had to be two weeks, we just stayed in the house just writing, bouncing off each other just writing. And “Dirty Money” was done. We submitted it then went off to college. And when we went to college it was like three weeks in, we got a call from four different publishers, all of them saying they wanted to give us a deal. The crazy story is… I used to go back and forth to college moving the pack, and Carl Weber called Ashley like, ‘I wanna give ya’ll a deal, ya’ll got a check in the mail!’ This girl flushes all my stuff down the toilet! (Ashley laughs) She’s like, ‘we made it, you ain’t gotta do this no more!’
I’m like, ‘what are you doing?!’ She’s like, ‘Carl Weber called, we on! You don’t have to do this anymore.’ It’s about thirty thousand dollars worth she flushing and we got a four thousand dollar deal. (Wide eyed as he recalls, JaQuavis can still see all the money that was lost that day, luckily now he’s able to laugh about it).
So we were in a hole, but it all worked out. That four thousand was probably more special than any of the money—that Cash Money check was BIG, but that first four thousand dollar check…
Ashley: It was symbolic, symbolic of the future. I always feel like losing that first pregnancy was a sacrifice, but it birth, we birth so much more. We weren’t ready for that situation yet, that was God’s way of telling us to slow down, and he gave us a different opportunity. He birth an entire career and now we have a son and we take very, very good care of our son. At that time we weren’t ready but we’re ready for everything that’s on our plate now. The books steered us away from the streets, so it kinda saved our lives.