I think I first discovered Quan Millz and his books on Facebook. I kept seeing these outrageous book titles such as, “Crack Hoe Dreams” and “Pregnant By My Mother’s Gay Husband”. I thought the titles were just memes people were making up as jokes but to my surprise, these were actual book titles being sold on Amazon — and Millz has a steadily growing fanbase.
By now, you’ve probably seen his books on various platforms being talked about and the same words are used to describe him and his books; ratchet, ghetto, women-hating, low-class etc. While there are some who can find validity in these critiques, I found it interesting that no one took the time to speak to the author themselves.
Not all black women to read these books but a lot do…Women are 99% of my fan base
Now, urban fiction is not a new genre. Street literature has been around since people were able to publish their own books. For you younger whippersnappers, back in the day, titles like Coldest Winter Ever, The Game, and Black were some of the infamous works from Triple Crown Productions; a publishing company that produced ( that are still available on Amazon) hood novels that were sold on the subways, out of the trunk of cars on the streets and if you were lucky, in black-owned bookstore that was tucked all the way in the back of the shelves. These books and novels have always existed, but with social media being so visible it’s easier for creatives to debut work and go viral off of controversial content and that’s exactly what Quan Millz is doing.
Millz fanbase and creative team are comprised of mostly black women and if you were to ‘judge a book by its cover’ you might not believe that at first which is the interesting irony from his critics. I’ve been following him on Facebook and black women are his biggest supporters. In fact, I’ve seen numerous black women contribute ideas and give him feedback on the projects he’s working on. This is why Millz doesn’t feel these critiques are fair and feels all the negative press he gets are from people who relish in respectability politics. He also thinks there are other authors that are jealous of his success; after all, he’s been mentioned on The Shade Room and other popular blogs and continues to generate sales. Are his critics overthinking his work, or is Millz pimping out black, stereotypical strife for profit?
I was able to catch up with Millz who took the time out to talk to me about his books, his failures, what inspires him, his future projects and how he views “Wokebook” ( the black social justice warrior side of Facebook).
Do you think your work is misogynistic?
Intentionally or unintentionally?
QM: Misogynistic in what way? I think that’s where I am having a hard time trying to understand how I am promoting misogynoir or whatever that means.
Misogynoir means using stereotypes that are used to demean black women in ways that are violent, sexual and or classist. Do you think your work is popular based on how you portray black women even though it’s entertainment?
QM: Ohh! I portray all spectrums of black womanhood and black manhood.
In fact, that’s one of my criticisms about contemporary urban lit; it’s too narrow in its scope of the portrayal of black people. Not everyone lives in a housing project or a ghetto, but not everyone lives in a middle class, suburban neighborhood. My stories draw from real life experiences of things that have happened in the news. Now, I will confess there are perhaps some comedic or satirical elements to my writing. But take for instance Crack Hoe Dreams, I wanted to show the pathology of how a woman goes from being normal to a full-on crackhead or drug addict [while explaining] her experiences [and] the evolution of her addiction. Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. I also deal with a lot of colorism in my books. Gutter Hoe Dreams is about an abusive, “light-skinned” aunt who terrorizes her dark-skinned, morbidly obese, supposedly mentally challenged niece. I do play on tropes and certain common storylines/characters but that’s only because these are current, identifiable issues that black people deal with on an everyday basis. I don’t understand why people like to pretend that colorism isn’t still very much rampant in the black community.
Colorism is very real
QM: Yes, also what people need to realize about the street lit/urban fiction genre is that it’s designed to be digestible by the masses. I try to weave in larger social themes, but I also try to still incorporate everyday colloquialisms that resonate with people. None of my books are overly cerebral. I write simple and direct but try to be expressive with language. I think honestly that’s why I have such a popular, growing fan base.
So many urban fiction writers love writing over-the-top thug romance stories that in reality fantasize the very pathologies that I try to erase through my characters and have them overcome them. I do not like glorifying drug trade, kingpins, etc. I hate alpha male thug romance stories. But the reality is there is a strong demand for that type of literature and I respect it. I just choose to write the stories I want to write that I feel reflect realities for a lot of black folks who live in the working class and poor neighborhoods. Sorry if I’m rambling I just…ughh. I’m kind of heated because I already have to deal with controversy within the urban fiction writers’ community for my choice of titles. I get it though. But then I don’t like it when these stay woke cultural elitists see it as an opportunity to tear down writers and the readers who write urban fiction and street lit.
What advice would you give to writer and aspiring publishers? How do you build your online community and fanbase?
QM: Write what the fuck you wanna write. If people like it, they’ll continue to read it. But also learn how to write for the market.
How do you come up with plots and storylines? What inspires you? What influences do you have or use to create characters?
QM: I don’t focus on storylines. I focus on characters and the adversities I want them to overcome. That drives the plot. From there, everything else falls into place.
How old were you when you published your first book?
QM:32. I’ve been writing since late 2014. I started after my business and co-author, N’Dia Rae, got me into writing. I started under a different pen name and failed miserably. I had no idea what I was doing. None of those books are on Amazon anymore and I will not reveal to you what the pen name was.
Where are you from? What was your childhood like? Where do you live now? What life experiences have/do you use to write your books?
QM: I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville, lived in Atlanta, then moved to Chicago. Now I spend most of my time between Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami.
How long does it take you to write a book? Depends on if the spirit of creativity.
QM: Sometimes I can write a book in less than a week. Sometimes, it takes damn near three months.
What’s the hardest thing about writing books?
QM: Being able to tell an emotionally gripping story and draw people in from the very beginning.
What’s the biggest complaint /worse feedback you get about your work? What is the best?
QM: I haven’t gotten serious, serious complaints. My readers, for the most part, enjoy my work to the fullest.
Who do you think is your audience?
QM: Describe them in 4 words. Black women. Lol, black men hardly read, unless its nonfiction 48 Laws of Power type shit.
Who are your favorite urban fiction writers? What writers and authors do you admire?
QM: Sista Souljah and K’wan right now are my tops. I tried to get into some other authors, but they primarily write urban romance. Ain’t nobody got time to read about thugs with big dicks. That shit is wack to me.
Do you have any friends and family who feel you are taking their personal lives and turning it into entertainment?
QM: Nope, not at all.
How do you choose your cover titles?
QM: Honestly, they just come to me. And a lot of them reflect common says and aphorisms in the hood.
Do you feel obligated to showcase the black and minority communities in good/positive light?
QM: No, I do not because I am a creative and I write stories that reflect the reality that people live. Only 4% of Black American households are worth more than $200,000 or more. So this whole faux Huxtable narrative that black bourgeois intellectuals and artists like to push onto people is nothing more than rehashed respectability politics.
How do you market your books online? What has worked best for you? What are some mistakes you’ve come across in marketing your books?
QM: I use a variety of methods. Social media advertising works best. I’ve actually developed a very comprehensive launch marketing strategy for my books, but I will not delve into the specifics of that because it’s too detailed and I’d be damned if I am going to give out trade secrets, lol. All I will say is, social media engagement is very important.
What are the topics you refuse to write about?
QM: I’ll write about any and everything so long as it piques my interest and readers find it interesting.
Do you want to expand your empire to tv, film or music? Do you see yourself writing in other genres?
QM: Yes, that is actually the goal to get into television. Although I see myself making films here and there, I actually prefer television. Seems more up my alley as far as being able to stretch out a plot. Don’t see myself ever getting into music. As far as other genres – honestly, no. I prefer the African American Urban Fiction market because it’s gritty and underground. Besides, I like writing for black folks.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
QM: In five years I see myself with a multi-million dollar publishing house. I would also like to get into real estate. Long term, I would like to tone down the writing a bit and focus more on African American urban young adult fiction because a lot of teenagers do read street lit novels. See for me, I love writing cautionary tales – entertaining, cautionary tales.
What’s the difference between cautionary tales and urban lit?
QM: Well, I am saying it’s my style of writing in the context of urban lit
meaning, I am writing with the intent to try to weave in some sort of larger social message. Not all of my books are like that, some honestly were just written simply for the sake of making money. I plan on eventually taking those books down.
So you work is limited time only?
QM: No, certain books like My Bad White Bitch.
So are you going to give Quan Millz a chance? What’s your favorite urban lit book?