Intimate Conversation with William Ashanti Hobbs

Intimate Conversation with William Ashanti Hobbs

William Hobbs (aka William Ashanti Hobbs, III)
is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida by way of Atlanta, GA. While attending Florida A&M University (FAMU), the college junior was inspired to publish Pseudonymous, a collection of short stories and poems and the novel "The Chosen People: Africa's Lost Tale of Meroe", all in the same year. Sales allowed Hobbs to publish " Unconditionally " in 1996 as he graduated from FAMU. Hobbs' passion for writing and won him a McKnight Fellowship, which allowed him to pursue a masters and doctorate degree in creative writing from Florida State University (FSU). 
He graduated from FSU in 2004 and now teaches Creative Writing at Florida Memorial University. Hobbs has published an essay and poem in Journey into a Brother's Soul by Kimani Press. Hobbs is married to Dr. Tameka Hobbs and has two sons, Ashanti and Amiri. The martial arts lover enjoys his foray into blogging, is forever noodling with a guitar and exploring filmmaking with his first film short, "North of the Grove." His goal for filmmaking: "to help bring the visions and dreams of others to film and video."

BPM: Introduce us to your current work. What genre do you consider your book?
My novel, North of the Grove, is tough, gritty little book that is packed with surprises. Not gritty as in sex scenes and excessive violence or even a lot of cursing, but deep, dark, soulful moments men and boys keep to themselves. This book is contemporary urban fiction suitable for audiences ages 14 and up.

BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters. What makes each one so special? 
Howard Capelton, from a distance, is a successful insurance agent and avid jogger who knows he can no longer run from the turmoil of his past. His experiences violent panic attacks at the idea of being a father.

David Troy is an angry third grader and talented artist who has survived living in cars for weeks and an assault on his family. He does what he can to watch over his beautiful and damaged mother, Sharia, who has a weakness for alcohol, drama and thuggish men.

Tiffany Capelton is Howard’s educated and successful wife. She orchestrates David to partake in a mentoring program to ease him into sharing her pregnancy with him, but grows uneasy of the attachment Howard develops toward David and Sharia.

BPM: What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book? Why now?
It is loosely based off of my experience at being an in-home counselor in Virginia. My family and I moved afterwards to Miami but that family I had worked with, and all we had been through, just stayed with me and I could better understand domestic abuse, why men abandon families and how young boys are affected in single-parent homes because of it. Statistics started becoming faces and names. I wrote North of the Grove as an acknowledgment to how important an experience my time as a counselor was for me.

BPM: Does your upbringing, prior relationships or life experiences inspire your writing?
Yes indeed! I was raised in a time where children seen and not heard. Couple that with a genuinely expressive child walking the line between middle class and ‘hood sensibilities and it had to come out somehow. I noticed not many people around me had the time or the interest read a kid’s musings. I suppose the idea was as long as it kept me out of trouble or asking for anything, it was enough as it was. I wrote with the idea that whatever I said would be safe from reproach.

BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot driven or character driven? Why?
They come from life! It could be something a friend’s posts on facebook, a piece of some haunting story on NPR’s Snap Judgment, a line from a passing conversation between students on campus (I’m a creative writing professor at Florida Memorial University). Life is too bizarre today to have to create aliens and oncoming asteroids for a story.

BPM: What topics are primarily discussed? Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
North of the Grove explores the importance of knowing what it means for someone to call themselves a man (especially a black man), mentorship (and that even the mentor needs a mentor), the power of redemption and the importance of healthy, non-violent relationships between men and women.

Did I learn anything personal? Well, I’d say I learned that we all have the same problems, that one’s socio-economic status has a major influence on how society judges you and your issues. One’s abortion is another’s D&C, a drug problem in the ‘hood leads to jail time, for others, rehab. A kid from the ‘hood acting a fool behind the wheel, hitting someone and driving off is doing time. A kid, especially a white one, from some well-off family is looking to get off because of affluenza. Only arrogance makes us think otherwise.

BPM: Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
My students were key in fine-tuning the story. A student would read the rough draft of a chapter and tell me about being in a fist-fight with their mother’s boyfriend over his knocking her around. Another would talk of raising a little brother so completely that their mother, strung out on drugs or simply in the streets, would go for weeks and not know about teeth that had come out or new shoe sizes. Reading drafts of this would just peel the veneer of some of my toughest students and they would reveal molestation, suicidal moments. David and Howard became their hope and vindication.

BPM: What defines success for you, as a published author? What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I define success as being able to achieve a substantial impact on the community by way of my writing. This is why I am looking to get the book into high schools, boot camps and mentoring programs. I want to sit and talk with the kids that read it and get that sense of them being able to purge from reading the story. I want to hear about their dreams for the future, how they will do better than situations they’ve come from.

I am excited about the process of making this into a film as well. As an artist, I am always up for exploring new avenues of expression. Screenwriting is so much more economical than prose. We’re still in the early phase of putting things together in order to get it shot and all. I have only made a trailer of how I want it to go on thus far.  From a business standpoint, I want my publishing company, Meroen Press, to continue to grow. I want to publish other people’s books. Of course I want it to be a financial success. You need that for more freedom to create and say what needs to be addressed to get our communities moving towards recovery.

BPM: What are your expectations for this book? What would you like for readers to do after reading this book? 

Stylistically, I wanted to created emotional whiplash… I wanted readers to gasp, scream, laugh and well up within several pages. Over all, I want them to look into mentoring, especially the brothers. I have recently began mentoring with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. We have to do it – in some form or fashion. We have to get to know neighbors again. It helps us get to know ourselves in a way that going from the car to the office and back will never provide. I get the hesitation, the fear. The news has you thinking anything done with good intentions will go wrong but the news is drawn to negativity and violence. For every car-jacking, somebody talked a kid out of doing something stupid. The media has made murder and madness sexy so you get to thinking that that is all that exists. We have to reach out in spite of our fear.

BPM: Do you feel as if you are a role model for women and other authors period?

I have my flaws. I can be a bit blunt I’m told. I’ve taught my students to not idolize anyone. Any figure in history that seems like they have it going on to the fullest will ultimately disappoint you if you get too deep into their business. The key is learning what you can take from their philosophy, their brilliance, and keep it moving afterwards. If I inspire writers to write where full steam into they hurt inside, where truth is hard to look at and form words to express, that’s enough for me.

BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?

The movie and push to have a book tour (of sorts) is first and foremost. I’m writing movie and music reviews for Empower Magazine. I’m also creating an online class for people wanting to learn how to write and self-publish a novel made for social impact as opposed to merely entertainment. There’s always writing bits and pieces of what could be my next novel as well.

BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?

My site is  To get the inside scoop on my journey into make North of the Grove a film, check out: My Twitter:  My Facebook page: 
Purchase North of the Grove by William Hobbs