A Conversation with Aliya S. King, Author of Platinum
1. How true to life are the characters in Platinum? Do you think the novel will “out” any of the characters’ real-world counterparts?
The characters are composites of several different celebrities. Some people will think they recognize certain people but actually, the real inspirations are different. It’s a fun guessing game. I don’t think anyone would necessarily be outed. Many of the scenarios and plot points are based on things that have been covered in news outlets. It’s like a Law and Order episode! You kind of know what the background is but not necessarily.
2. What are your views on the treatment of women in the music industry, specifically in hip-hop?
Hip-hop is primarily made by men, about men, for men. The treatment of women has always been troublesome in ways. But some women feel empowered by the roles they play in hip-hop. Is Cleo treated badly? That’s a matter of opinion. She would say no. What do you think?
3. How much is Alex’s character based on your own experiences as a journalist?
Alex is pretty much me. Full stop. If it was possible to sue one’s self for libel, I’d have an air tight case. ;)
4. What are your thoughts on the similarity between Cleo’s tell-all book and Karrine Steffans’ 2005 bestselling memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen?
I was definitely intrigued by Karrine’s book. Why would she write it? When did she decide to do it? Was she afraid of retribution? Did she go into that lifestyle with the intent of writing a book? There were many women before her who were promiscuous with rappers. But they didn’t keep mementos and take copious notes. Although Cleo is much different from Karrine in many ways, I was definitely influenced by Karrine’s book.
5. In what ways were your storylines based on recent media coverage – for example, how was Zander and Bunny’s tumultuous relationship affected by the scandal between singers Rihanna and Chris Brown?
Zander and Bunny were actually late additions to the manuscript. I knew I wanted to write a part two to PLATINUM and I wanted younger characters to have a place in this book so that they could grow in the next. Their volatile relationship, believe it or not, preceded the Chris Brown/Rihanna incident by weeks.
6. What is the biggest difference between the subjects you’ve interviewed over the years and the fictional characters in Platinum?
The biggest difference between the subjects I’ve interviewed is that they seem to mask themselves from pain. They are constantly surrounded by yes-men, use alcohol and various drugs to escape reality and are not always as confident and cocky as you imagine a rapper to be. They can be sweet and sensitive too.
7. The novel alludes to Alex’s unsavory past, but never goes into detail other than the fact that she is a recovering alcoholic. How do you envision her previous behavior?
I envision Alex’s previous life as a hell of a lot of fun—with dire consequences and a last minute chance for redemption.
8. If Alex’s article had been published as it was originally written, what do you think the fallout would have been among the characters?
I think Beth would have been devastated to see her life in print. It could have affected her relationship with Kipenzi forever. I think the story would actually have brought Josephine and Ras closer together. It would have been closure for them.
9. How has the hip-hop industry changed from the 1990s era discussed in your previous book Keep the Faith, and the present day in which Platinum is set?
Things are very similar to the 90s era in which Keep the Faith was set. The most popular artists still stick together and hang out exclusively with one another. There is still a lot of groupie action going on and marriages are tenuous at best.
10. Most of your characters have rags to riches stories. What affects do sudden wealth and fame have on their psyche?
I think many of my characters (especially the women) feel some guilt about the excess. They don’t have their own careers, except Kipenzi, and they depend on their men for everything. I think they all would rather have time with their partners than expensive homes and gifts.
11. Why did you choose to depict only the sinister side of the industry?
I like the dark side of everything. What fun is there in writing about the good stuff? ;) No, really, what I saw in the world of hip-hop wives was dark. Very dark. I had to keep the feeling true to what I felt when I was interviewing rapper’s wives back in 2006. Are there redeeming qualities? I’m not so sure. I’d have to live the life to know. For someone like Beth? I’d say no. For Kipenzi, maybe…
12. You end the novel with a cliffhanger about the origins of Josephine’s adopted baby. Are there any plans to write a sequel?
YES! Part Two, tentatively titled Diamond Life, is almost done! I took a break from writing to answer these questions so let me get back to work!