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Writing Fiction, with Rahsaan Ali

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With Rahsaan Ali, author of the gangster novel Carmello




From the back cover of Carmello:

When you’re in the game, nothing is ever sacred. Ever! “My word is bond” is the phrase most commonly stated amongst the hustlers. The cutthroat styling of the haters is masqueraded by hugs, pounds and love. Loyalty ain’t nothing but a word some dick made up to protect his head from the diseased, poverty-filled world of karma. And the only back niggaz got is the line they stand on before being sent back up North. This is the game where anybody can be a winner and everybody’s always a sore loser. The doe is fast and women come in abundance like ripened green bushels of plantains at the West Indian day parade. It can be all good when everybody getting it together. But if you start making even just a dollar more than the next man? Just prepare yourself to spend either time in jail or in the cemetery. Because niggaz is snitching. Keep your friends at a distance because it’s not always your enemies you need to be keeping close. The block is a microscope and you’re always under it.


A few lucky writers find their style early in life. This week’s guest cut his teeth writing poetry as a kid, and you can tell. His novels reverberate with rhythm and dazzling imagery, as you will hear.

Rahsaan Ali was born at Brooklyn Hospital in 1972 and raised in Saint Albans, Queens before moving to Suffolk, Long Island. His first novel, Nasty, originally titled Selfish Intentions, made Essence’s bestsellers list four months in a row. His second novel, Carmello, will be out this June.

Join Rahsaan and Writing Show host Paula B. as we discuss:

  • Where he got the idea for Carmello
  • How he creates such poetic dialog
  • Why he writes in the first person
  • Why he uses so many points of view in his writing
  • How he likes to surprise readers
  • Why he likes to write about lots of characters
  • Why we like flawed characters so much
  • What sex scenes should do
  • How his first experience with a publisher fizzled
  • What he thinks of the term “urban fiction”
  • Why he writes.

Rahsaan also reads several selections for us.

Interviewee: Rahsaan Ali
Host: Paula B.
Date: May 21, 2007
Running time: 01:00:35
File size: 37 megabytes

Purchase Rahsaan’s books at