I have been following Antoine ‘Inch’ Thomas for quite some time now and I think he is an exceptional man. I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time last month. It was a real treat, because I got to spend time with him and the rest of the 848 Web Series team. Inch is one of the most down to earth and humblest men I know. Besides being incredibly talented as a writer, actor and filmmaker. If you haven’t read any his books, or watched the 848 Web Series, I highly recommend it.
1) Where did you grow up? How was your childhood?
I grew up in the Northeast Bronx, New York City, a housing development called Edenwald Houses. My childhood was fair…my mother was a single mom raising six children on her own. My older siblings were dipping and dabbing in drugs. Mom was on welfare, no real male role model around…just my mother, mostly.
2) What was your dream or aspiration?
My dream was always to own my own business. Nothing in particular..a store perhaps, but something that I could call my own and run it how I wanted to run it.
3) Who did you look up to or admire? Who was your greatest influence?
I had no one that I wanted to be like except the neighborhood drug dealer. There were a few, but one or two stood out to me for various reasons. For those reasons, primarily materialistic reasons, and me growing up poor, I wanted what they had. I wanted to be them.
4) What has gotten you through hard times in life?
My faith in the almighty Creator has gotten me through the times when most people were expected to crack or break. I am a practicing Muslim and I have been so for 23 years. Islam the religion, is perfect. People ruin it!
5) What kind of music do you like or listen to?
I listen to hip hop and R&B music.
6) What is your favorite movie and why?
One of my favorite movies of all time has to be “Scarface”. The story of a Cuban immigrant who made something out of nothing. According to him, all he had was his balls (courage) and his word (honor). Sometimes that’s all that we need.
7) Who are your favorite authors and books?
My favorite authors are different from my favorite books because an author can write an awesome story, but once you get big headed and appear as if your shit doesn’t stink, Fuck You! But a few of my favorite stories are: The Coldest Winter Ever, True To The Game, Dutch, B More Careful, Block Party, Do or Die, Standing At The Scratch Line (My all time favorite), Gangsta, Kiss The Girls, and Flower’s Bed.
Some of my favorite authors are: Treasure Blue, Al-Saadiq Banks, James Patterson, John Grisham, Thomas Long, T. Benson Glover, and Michael Whitby.
8) Tell us a little bit about the books you’ve written? How did you come up with the ideas for them?
No Regrets, the first book that I’ve ever written was inspired by my own childhood. Flower’s Bed, the novel that set off my company is a story about a young lady and domestic molestation. I wrote that book to grab the attention of the readers. Unwilling To Suffer is a hood love story inspired by a personal experience and That Gangsta Shit, an anthology was created to introduce my authors on a level smaller than debuting a full length novel.
9) How long does it take you to write a book?
I wrote my first book in eight days, it’s first draft. Flower’s Bed took me three weeks. Black Rose’s took sixteen days and Unwilling To Suffer took me six months to complete.
10) What are some of the things you learned from writing books?
From writing stories, I’ve learned how to read and write better, I’ve enhanced my vocabulary and I’ve also learned how to improve on story line.
11) What inspires or motivates you?
My will to succeed and win motivates me to reach for the stars. I feel like I have so much potential that I almost wasted running around in those streets that now I try to be an example for the ones headed down that same route.
12) What would you do differently if you had a second chance?
If I had a second chance, I wouldn’t do anything different because everything today for me is the way it is because life was the way that it was.
13) How did you come up with the concept for the 848 web series?
I am a huge fan of “The Wire”. I enjoy the tv show “Power”. I was intrigued by how so many people were so excited about, the following week’s episode of “Empire”. I absolutely admired the show, “Money & Violence”. So I grouped all of those elements together along with incorporating my preparation for writing a novel and boom, 848 was born. I always say, nothing too ratchet, something easy on the tongue, something familiar, easy to remember and something unordinary.
14) What do you want people to take from your books and 848?
I want people to know that the man behind my books and 848 had one time given up on society and life. There was a time when I thought that I would never be shit, so why even try. And here I am today, with maybe not much financially but I am so happy that I made it this far and how other people can see me as a source of encouragement. Hope, for lack of a better term.
15) Do you enjoy acting or writing more?
I enjoy acting and writing equally. I really enjoy coming up with the ideas of how a scene should be played out, camera angles etc.
16) What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for a loving family. I love my children with all of my dear heart.
17) Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now?
In five or ten years, with enough hard work, determination, sacrifice and consistency, I see myself on the big screen.
18) What advice would you give the youth today?
To the youth of 2015, although it may sound cliché, never give up. Never give up hope because God is real. We cannot enjoy the rainbow without first enduring the storm. We must experience hardship in order to truly appreciate success.
19) Are you currently working on a new book or project?
Right now, I am still in the production stages of rounding out the end of Season 1 of 848.
20) Lastly, what advice would you give a novice writer?
When it comes to being an author, the READERS, MAKE you, or they break you, figuratively, of course. NEVER, release material that you aren’t 100 with, from its title, the cover, down to every page, every chapter, every paragraph & every sentence. Begin EVERY story with some action, or over the top drama. Be descriptive in your sex scenes, & graphic when there’s action or violence. Exaggerate, but make everything believable & imaginable. Be unpredictable with your story & lead folks to believe one thing, then give them something they wouldn’t expect. Make your readers sympathize with your characters, show compassion… many will empathize automatically with them (when one actually went through it as well). Make them connect with your character, the best way that you can, then bring your character to a low point. Once you’re there, your readers will begin to have hope of a rise. Once YOU feel that way, drop your character into some deeper shit, where the only way out, IS, up…then you give him or her a triumphant rise.
Give your character issues (health, education, family, financial & morals), within the story itself. Make folks LOVE your character and write your narration, and most of your dialogue in correct English. Proper English. Everyone speaks different, but we understand what we read, and interpret it, the way that we talk. So a country nigga and a bitch from Boston can read the same story, & identify exactly the same understanding as the writer, from their experiences, but will actually be hearing it, in their own lingo.
Most importantly, appear to be tangible. Many authors are arrogant and seem surreal so readers look at them as fake & don’t want anything personally to do with them. That creates a barrier, a gap, or a form of distance, between reader & writer, yet the idea is to be on one accord, so the overall understanding of a story and the author behind it, is fundamental and very simple to connect. Be as friendly & sociable, literary wise, as possible. You never know what a simple smile, a wave, handshake or response to an email or inbox, can accomplish.
Be available & WILLING, to do signings. Every signing may not be advantageous, financially, but it can be filed as a learning experience, it can be deemed a rehearsal for future events, and it’s also a form of promotion. Folks may not have the money at that time but they’ll remember your presence and when they return and you aren’t there, they’ll purchase your material because you were kind. Be open minded and patient. Stay hopeful. Believe in yourself and your work. Forget anything negative that anyone has to say, be thankful for the compliments you receive, and be appreciative for any constructive criticism. Without it, we’ll never know where to improve!
Wow! What an incredible and generous interview. Thank you so much, Antoine ‘Inch’ Thomas.