Author Interview with Nzondi

Q: When did you first begin writing horror stories?
First, I’d like to thank you for having me!
When I was eight or nine years old. A friend named Johnny Bryant and I used to make
comic books back in Elementary School. At the time I made King Kong and Godzilla
stories. It didn’t get serious until after 1995, when I started playing and finishing the
Resident Evil video games in two or less hours. The exposure to that world opened up a
wellspring of imagination.

Q: What influenced you to become a writer?
I’ve always written: poetry, songs, philosophy and essays. I used to tell my students,
‘Experience+ Exposure = Appreciation’. It had to be my father, Chris Acemandese Hall,
who influenced me to write. Seeing him write poems about the Black Experience and
him writing jazz classics like ‘So What’ by Miles Davis and sung by Eddie Jefferson, and
all the books he’d written and illustrated to further the Black is Beautiful Movement with
his organization called AJASS gave me a deep desire to be expressive through writing.

Q: How does your bachelor’s in fine arts help shape your writing?
It’s funny, I’ve always heard friends and peers who didn’t finish college cite famous
people who gained success, even though they were college dropouts or never attended
a university. I always chuckle and say college doesn’t take away from a person’s
brilliance, it adds to it. Imagine had they finished and earned a degree. My degree gave
me an internal BS monitor. It allowed me to toss out crap I was writing, and focus on the
better ideas. It gave me a foundation to build ideas on, and it allowed me the
appreciation to study the greats before me.
I’ve always been a slow learner so having that kind of background where I studied
screenwriting, film and directing gave me the skills to develop characters and plots in a
much more concise and dynamic way.

Q: Did your career as an educator help influence your books?

Absolutely. Being around teenagers taught me perspectives about the adolescent
human condition I would’ve never been able to have insight about had I not been
around eight graders in the classroom for more than a decade.

Q: Tell us, readers about your new release, Lipstick Asylum.
My newest novel, Lipstick Asylum (where the dead rise), continues in the alternate
universe of my novel, Oware Mosaic. Without giving away the surprise twist, the book
is about a group of kids who call themselves the Scream Teens. It’s the classic story of
girl meets boy, boy disappears and girl nearly gets over boy and then she dies. That’s
when her life gets really interesting. See? Typical love story.
Seriously, though, one of the driving forces behind the protagonist, Cozy Coleman,
becoming a necromancer and having the power of cheating death is her own fear of
dying, so when she has to cross over to the gates of death to save humanity, to Cozy’s
surprise, her death is not the end of her existence but a transition—a rebirth—like a
butterfly breaking from a cocoon. Except this butterfly has a big chip on her shoulder.
Why? All of her life, Cozy has never fit in. As a youth, she was bullied, and adapted a
tomboyish attitude once she learned martial arts. Upon reaching adolescence, she was
regarded as a freak and a witch because of her talent for raising the dead. In Cozy’s
mind, both her parents have abandoned her, leaving her to face the travesties of life to
her own experiences. This is what gives her the biggest chip on her shoulder.

Q: How did you come up with the title for your latest release?
My publisher hated the original title Lipstick Zombies, so after doing a little reflection, I
found a title that was more tethered to the story.

Q: What is your journey like as an author when working on a new book?
I’m always fighting with my ideas and all the characters that want to star in the story and
a variety of structures. It’s like going grocery shopping when I’m hungry. I end up at the
checkout line with far more things than I needed. By the time I revised the book and
send it to an editor, I’m able to polish my ideas, the plot and the characters in a way that
best expresses my true intentions for writing the story.

Q: What themes will readers find in your latest release, Lipstick Asylum?

In my Lipstick Asylum, one of the characters says that “Life is maniacally beautiful!”
and because of this, it has been the greatest source for my inspiration as a science
fiction and horror author. My themes dance between misery and joy—those two seem
to appear under every moonlit night possible. My characters endure the pains of life as
I have and because I believe every soul on this earth can relate to misery will pick up
my book and resonate with the characters. Anything that happens to me is game for
inspiration: watching the Dallas Cowboys win, or give away a game, catching the scent
of a beautiful woman as she passes by me, driving 112 miles from O’Hare Airport to
Peoria, Chicago and seeing the red lights on the windmills at night across the horizon,
a broken heart inspires a plethora of ideas, as well as the laughter of a baby. Frankly,
living is a source for my imagination. I just like to take my experiences, twist and warp
them into some horrific piece of writing.

Q: What other books are you working on at the moment, if any?
I’m working on a science fiction, horror novel that will be the culmination of my latest life
experiences and ideas about the human condition through the eyes of a teenager and
how adults react and treat them. I don’t want to give anything away but I will say that it
involves strange new worlds and creatures.

Q: How would you describe your writing style?
Always evolving. My style is fun, fast-paced and spine-tingling. I am a very visual
person, so I try to make my scenes visceral so that no matter what age-level of the
reader, they can see in their heads exactly what I’m describing or what the characters
are experiencing. Since I am obsessed with the Twilight Zone (one year, on my
birthday, which is July 4 th , I stayed in bed and watched fifteen hours of a TZ marathon), I
love speculative fiction, as well as psychological thrillers and infused elements of each
into my stories.
I always say that I read to inhale and I write to exhale. Part of my process is reading.
Once I developed the psyche that I had to write every single day, whether I wanted to or
not, I was able to stay focused. I also had to get out of the house, where there were too
many distractions and settle into a Starbuck’s with Jimi Hendrix, or some soul-soothing
deep house music in my ears and a caramel cappuccino at arm’s length. There were
many times when I’d get to a coffee house when it opened at five a.m. and leave when
it closed at night. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried, there were always obstacles
in my life that made if difficult to stay consistent but somehow, I always found a way to
be relentlessly consistent with my daily writing. What is my writing process? Always

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers in your genre?
Study the greats of literature, take many classes and read everything you can in the
genre you want to write in so that you develop an innate sense of all the tropes. You
have to know the rules before you attempt to break them and the only way to truly know
something is to be an expert in what’s been done before. Even if a person gets
published early in their rioting career, it’s all practice until he or she has written a million words.

Q: Where can readers find you and your books online?
I’m an easy find. You simply just have to Google Nzondi or Ace Antonio-Hall. My
Instagram handle is pretty easy to find under those names.

Author Bio:

Nzondi (Ace Antonio Hall) is an American science fiction and
horror author. His novel Oware Mosaic won the Bram Stoker
Award for Superior Achievement in Young Adult fiction; the most
prestigious award given to horror writers in the world. He is the
first African American to win in a novel category, including the YA
novel category.
A former Director of Education for NYC schools and the Sylvan
Learning Center, the award-winning educator earned a BFA from
Long Island University. Hall currently lives bi-coastal in New York
and Los Angeles.

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