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Kiki Swinson: Street Lit Lessons

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Kiki Swinson has a sweet telephone voice. Sadly, she’s a street fiction writer and most of her fans will never hear it.  Yet, before you think it’s all candy and flirts in lala land, understand that Swinson has been there done that with thug romance and a five year bid on her criminal record to prove it. In the American courting system, her charge was knowing of and/or about a criminal enterprise. In the hood, it’s known as being drug kingpin’s wifey. Wifey, Kiki’s last book, loosely based on her own experience, sold in the streets like Cajun fries behind the service glass at Popeye’s, enough to put atop bestseller lists as hood royalty. Swinson writes scenes where the female targets are just as hardened as the men, crashing cars, toting, selling, and re-uping.  It’s all enough to make you tearful, giggly, and turned on all at the same time. Now with her highly anticipated Life After Wifey, AllHipHop.com decided to shoot a few question at her, as she talks about prison, book contracts, and why the video vixen books are so bad.AllHipHop.com: What type of people read your work the most?Kiki Swinson: A lot of women, early twenties [to] late thirties, early forties.AllHipHop.com: Do a lot people come up to you and say they really appreciate your work?Kiki Swinson: Yes, let me tell you. Just recently I was at the store and I had asked the customer, “Are you buying Wifey?” She said, “I swore you look familiar. Your hair is longer.” She said, “My daughter loves your books.” She called her daughter on the phone. Her daughter started crying. I mean, literally she was crying on the phone. She’s was like, “You’re my favorite author. “AllHipHop.com: When did you start writing?Kiki Swinson: When I was incarcerated.AllHipHop.com: How long ago was that? Kiki Swinson: I caught a federal charge back in ’91 and I came home in ’96.AllHipHop.com: Before that, did you have a record at all?Kiki Swinson: No.AllHipHop.com: How was it being locked down?Kiki Swinson: It was like a college campus except we had a whole bunch of barbed wire fence around the compound. It wasn’t bad at all. It was just being isolated from your family, that’s the whole thing. Being isolated from the outside world, being confined with a whole lot of women.AllHipHop.com: Were there any other street fiction writers or writers in general that you looked up to?Kiki Swinson: No one had came out with anything when I was locked up. The only like urban lit that was in was by Donald Goines and the cat named Iceberg Slim. I was reading Terry McMillan when I was incarcerated. I love her. She inspired me to write.AllHipHop.com: What percent of the characters in your book are based on true events?Kiki Swinson: Well, Wifey is semi-[auto]biographical. The only difference is I did time and Kira didn’t do time.  The other part of it is she told on her husband. I didn’t get a chance to do that.  Right now, I don’t have any female friends who’s in that lifestyle. I draw off of past experience of stuff that I used to do, that I would have done in a situation like that. Women love that, they love my stories. I can be mean to them too with my characters. A lot of people like that, they like that drama.  Men come up to me all the time. My wife got your book, it’s starting trouble in our household all the time. I’m like, whatever, whatever!AllHipHop.com: Were you good at English in school?Kiki Swinson: I attended Vance-Granville Community College in North Carolina, but I only went there a year, so I didn’t even get an Associate’s degree.  It was English. I didn’t know that I had a knack for writing, a strength in communications. That’s what I wanted to do [Communications] but it never happened.AllHipHop.com:  So you were incarcerated and you decided that you wanted to write. What was the very first thing you wrote?Kiki Swinson: My very first book called Mad Shambles. It’s a tale about woman going through problems with their relationships with their significant others. And it’s still doing very well. I did a book signing for this guy and he was frustrated. He was like,  “Write what’s really crackin’ right now.”  Teri Woods, her book was out, Tru To The Game. He was like, “Won’t you write something along the lines of that,” and I did it and that’s how Wifey evolved.AllHipHop.com: What’s your writing routine like? Do you write pretty much everyday?Kiki Swinson: Yeah I just signed a contract. I have to write everyday.AllHipHop.com: Speaking of contracts. How much do street fiction writers get paid?Kiki Swinson: Well it all depends. If there is a demand for your book, that figures into your contract. If you’re a first time author, then you’re gonna get pennies. You gotta prove yourself.AllHipHop.com: Do you get a signing advance in addition to royalties?Kiki Swinson: Right. You get an advancement. You get money for signing the contract, but it goes against your advancement and against your royalties. I guess, it goes hypothetically, if you sign a $150, 000 contract deal. You get $25, 000 just for signing the contract, but that goes against the $150, 000 that you signed.AllHipHop.com: So you’re still making money off of the first two books?Kiki Swinson: My books been out for a couple of years now and I still make money off them.AllHipHop.com: If you couldn’t write books, what would you do?Kiki Swinson: (Laughs) If I couldn’t write, what would I do, that’s a good question? You know what, Imma say this: I just thank God that I can write because I love nice things.  And I would hate to say I would go back to the streets. I would do whatever it takes to feed my kids. I would put it like that.AllHipHop.com: Are any other writers in the market trying to get competitive with you? Do you have any haters?Kiki Swinson: Yeah, I have a lot of haters! I would say maybe about 85 percent of the writers out there hate on me. I’m talking female and male, they know who they are. They’ll get on the Essence message board and say my books are horrible. My book sales say the total opposite. They’ll say just crazy nonsense. They’ll go on Amazon.com and say my book was wack. Come on now! Write your own book and do what I do. AllHipHop.com: How would you feel if a rapper was pulling material based on something you’ve written?Kiki Swinson: I would feel flattered. I wouldn’t even be mad. I would love it.AllHipHop.com: If you could compare your writing to like a rapper’s style, whose would it be like?Kiki Swinson: My writing style is like Lil Kim. Raw and uncut (laughs). I love her. I was telling somebody earlier, she’s very innovative and that’s how I am. That’s me right there.AllHipHop.com: As you’re getting more money and experiencing the finer things, does it get harder to tap into the street life?Kiki Swinson: Yeah it does. My last book The Candy Shop, I initially had to go back to Portsmouth where I’m from and I had to interview a couple of drug addicts.  A couple of them I had to give them money, so that they could get a couple of pills of dope while they talk to me. I had to go out there and talk to people while they were high or while they were getting high so I could get my information from them. Where I live, I have to go back to the hood to write. When you in the hood, you hungry, you hungry to create something better. AllHipHop.com: You got girls who are in the mix with rappers like Karrine Steffans and they have a whole genre of “I slept with this dude, I slept with that dude.” How do you feel about these “tell all” books?Kiki Swinson: You know what—Karrine, I think she just did that to get some dough because she didn’t have no money. I thought she really made a spectacle out of herself. There’s no way in the world, I would have wrote a book and said, “I sucked Jay-Z’s d**k and then he didn’t let me drive with him and then he kicked me out the car.” That’s just blatant disrespect. How can I put that in my book? No! And she only got a hundred grand for the book. I get paid that. Okay she’s in the public eye, but who cares. I’m a behind the scenes type of chick. I don’t have to be in the limelight. Just give me the money. I think the “Tell All” books are so stupid. I really do.AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like you’re getting better as a writer with each publication?Kiki Swinson: Yes, I’m getting more mature. And a lot of people say that too, just like the more you write, the more truth there is to your writing. Let me tell you, I’m gonna take the streets by storm with this book. All you gonna hear is Kiki’s Life After Wifey (Wifey 3). That’s all you gonna hear I guarantee you. There’s Teri Woods Tru To The Game II but she and I are gonna be bumping heads with this book. For real, I love competition. I write my books. She’s a real established business woman so I can’t be mad at her. I love competition and I love when people feel me. I love it. I really feed off of that.

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