Born in Toronto and cultivated in Brooklyn, 24 year old Kewalnam Christ is an author writing his way to success.
Growing up, he knew that working a mundane 9-5 job wasn’t going to be sufficient for him. Dabbling in producing, he got the chance to work with well known artists in the industry. However, he felt that he wasn’t pursuing his true artistic zeal. Influenced by hip hop, Christ didn’t exactly aim towards being the next thing close to a producer – a rapper. He was interested in words and began writing in his free time. Encouraged by others to take writing more seriously, he began to do so. At the age of 17, he published his first poetry book with a small magazine. Although it didn’t bring him major recognition, his passion for writing remained. Christ isn’t limited to being inspired solely by words. He absorbs various facets of art, as all adept artists do.
He is currently working on his contemporary romance novel, THANK GOD FOR DRUGS, which will be released in 2017. The anticipation is high and we’re all looking forward to one hell of a story.
I had the privilege of interviewing Kewalnam Christ below.
“I believe in the intersection of music and literature. Authors are the new M.C.’s. We are the mouthpiece of society, culture, race, and pop culture.”
Your upcoming novel, THANK GOD FOR DRUGS, is a contemporary romance that “explores the depths of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction.” Sounds like one hell of a story. Since you’re the mastermind behind it all, could you explain in detail what you aspire readers to apprehend from this book?
Thank you, it’s a real experience. My goal with writing this novel which in itself is a social satire, was to build a mirror. There are so many themes and layers in the book from religion, to politics, feminism, and sexuality. And then there are the darker sides like sadism and masochistic people who really have no redeemable value at times. The whole point of this story was to make sense of the world we live in today, to capture a screenshot of what’s happening in our society, like the trolls of the internet. Our obsession with violence and sex. Our inability to commit to anything outside our own addictions. Race. And our immortality. When a reader picks up this book I want them to see themselves. Yes the characters are fictionalized and carry some form of imagination, but there is a reflection that lies within each character that forms a parallel story in our collective consciousness.
What prompted you to create THANK GOD FOR DRUGS? How did you come up with the title?
I wish the answer to this was a simple one. I started this project 4 years ago and it really came out of a point of desperation. The things I create have a way of haunting my subconscious until I give them attention. Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk and Jonathan Franzen are some of my favorite authors. I wanted to write a story that was an homage to the style of writing I fell in love with as a teenager. Stories like AMERICAN PSYCHO, FIGHT CLUB, GLAMORAMA, THE TWENTY-SEVENTH CITY. These works were God-like inspirations as a young writer. The other half of the inspiration was music, Kanye’s YEEZUS & 808’s albums were major inspirations in creating the story line and title. I listened to those albums over and over again digging through every drum kick and synth for the narrative.
“I see my words as lyrics, think that chapters should be sold like tracks, that books should be packaged with a soundtrack and merch.”
Are there any cultural values or ethics implemented in the story you’d like readers to grasp?
I feel as though if I say my perspective then I’ll be controlling the readers view. I don’t want to do that. There are a lot of social messages woven into the writing. It’s really up to the reader to find them, sort of like Kubrick’s “The Shining.” There were so many messages in that film, but you needed to pay attention to every scene, every piece in the background in order to find those pieces of information. I try to work the same way.
Since the book is set in New York City and you were raised in Brooklyn, we’ll definitely be exposed to the area from a raw perspective. Would you consider the location a pivotal factor of this story?
Yeah, New York is very important to me. I’ve found pieces of myself in the back of every dive bar and alleyway. I’ve found true love and lost lives to the concrete. That city is my home. It is my grave. My next book is based in Harlem.
Many writers have different creative processes. In order to develop ideas for your work(s), do you organize your thoughts and plot or do you let your imagination take control and just write whatever flows at that moment?
Both. I normally spend months researching and jotting down notes, way before I begin plotting. Then I spend a few months plotting before I begin writing. Then several editing sessions. It’s a full process.
“I am inspired by high-quality art and I approach my art the same way.”
Have you seen yourself evolve as an author? Is there anything you find challenging in your writing?
With this book I have. I’ve been writing stories and short pieces since I was kid. With this book I found my voice, I found my tone and my preference. I have a goal to push myself with each book, so I’ll only get better. I’ve already started researching and trying new techniques for the next book I’m working on.
Have you ever assimilated a real life situation in your stories? If so, would you like to briefly tell us about it?
Yes I have, whether it’s situations from my childhood, relationships, or conversations with strangers. My work is half nonfiction, where that half lies is up to the reader.
As a writer, it’s vital for you to express things in detail. What’s your perspective on creating crude, authentic art as opposed to expressing things in a “clean” and discreet manner?
That’s a beautiful question. I’m not a fan of “clean” art. I feel as though some of our modern artist tend to create these safety net art projects that don’t really hold any real tangible depth. I love art that’s provocative and forces you to have an opinion, passive art is uninteresting.
“I began devouring words, reading and researching art with a new eye. I studied surrealist films, hip-hop, architecture, and the literary canon.”
Is there a certain genre of writing you’d shy away from? Would you like to dabble in other literary styles in the future? If so, what kind?
Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of nonfiction books (Outside of bios). Like advice books, or self-help pieces. I feel as though they seldom hold any flow of creativity, so I shy away from doing anything that’s in those fields. As far as other literary styles, I’m pretty much open to anything. I love pushing myself as a writer constantly studying new flows and techniques to implement, so I can get better and better and inspire others to do the same as well. I’m currently relearning old poetry forms, studying the Lost Generation of the 1920’s. All for the next book.
While developing the characters for your novel, were there some characteristics you realized you personally valued in people and society?
That’s a really good question. I think above all what I value most is our resiliency as human beings. In the story I’m constantly pushing and pulling my characters to their breaking points, then bringing them together and pulling them apart again. I show their addiction to life and it’s many vices. And end it in a sort of “in your face” kind of way that I think is reminiscent of where we are as a society today. But even through all of that, even through all we’ve been through as a people, as a nation, we are still here. Still standing, and sometimes that can be scary, not just what we’ve been through, but just standing. And that’s what I love about us, our fears, our insecurities, the pink matter that makes us human.
Other than your upcoming novel, are there any projects you’d like readers to be mindful of?
Well first let me say, THANK GOD FOR DRUGS will be available both physical and digital mid 2017. We have a date, we just don’t want to announce it yet. There will be merch available, we just got some designs back and they look amazing! Music. Art pieces and of course the story itself. And later in the year we move into PHASE II with my sophomore novel which will be a gritty coming of age story centered around a mother and a daughter titled “WIBATM.” I’ll tell you what it stands for privately but I want the world to guess.
“I love art that’s provocative and forces you to have an opinion, passive art is uninteresting.”
Any advice for aspiring writers out there?
Find your voice. Many of us rush to have product out there before really finding what the hell we are trying to say in the first place. Take your time, season your talents and watch it grow. And that doesn’t mean that you’ll ever be perfect, I’m far from it, but we owe it to the talents we’ve been blessed with and the future we see for ourselves to really sit down and push our capacities to their apex. There are no rules in this writing game, so don’t listen to anyone telling you what can or cannot write about. Words can change your world, it can change the world around you. As a writer you are more than a hand and a pencil. You are an architect. You are an musician. You are a designer. You are an artist. Thank you.
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