Written by: Melody Charles
No matter what nom de plume readers may find on the cover—Niobia Bryant, Simone Bryant or Meesha Mink—fans already know that the contents are going to be a scintillating read. Ever since her 2000 debut Admission of Love, the New Jersey native has created some of the most compelling characters, searing street scenarios and erotic interludes in street lit, romance and contemporary fiction.
With the first of three new titles hitting stores soon and an exciting new adaption of a former novel in the works, the prolific Ms. Bryant took time to dish on her latest projects. what made her end a favorite fan series and why, even after incredible success in the romance field, she will always visit the urban side.
KNOWSHI- Before we start Ms. Bryant, I can’t front—Urban Fiction books were always the ones I overlooked until I discovered the works of Meesha Mink. I’m hooked now, by the way.
NIOBIA BRYANT– “Well I’m glad I got you (laughing)! Seriously though,I truly want to thank you for giving The Meesha Mink books a try, because a lot of people are put off by Urban Fiction (UF). The readers of my romances tell me that they’re just not into UF and I’m respectful of that, and that’s one of the reasons I write them under the different name, so they won’t feel as though I’ve tried to trick them into going where they don’t want to go.”
KNOWSHI- What is your response to those who say, ‘well why even ‘go there’?
NIOBIA– “I’m not uplifting a particular lifestyle, but this a story that could’ve happened anywhere, whether it took place in the hood or not. I’ve had quite a few people do reviews and tell me, ‘I wasn’t looking forward to reading this, but when I read it, I was surprised.’ It makes me proud to see reviews and comments like that because I want to grow within this genre and continue to write UF well into my 50s and 60s.”
KNOWSHI- Why do you think that there’s still such a negative connotation against the genre?
NIOBIA – “Well, in the beginning, the argument was that they were sloppy or not being edited enough, or the that the stories were unrealistic. Have there been an influx of books that may have needed more help? Maybe so, But don’t blame Street Lit as a whole for an author not being able to go back over the book before it goes to print, that’s on the editors.”
KNOWSHI- I know what your UF does for me, but in your opinion, what makes other readers so drawn to books by Meesha Mink?
NIOBIA – “My educational background comes into play for those types of books. Because of my degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences with the Psych minor, I really get into motivations and try to carry the characters doing all the crazy stuff into therapy. I want the African-American community to know that it’s okay to go and get on someone’s couch, to lay out those problems and let a professional help you through it. I put in pop references, jargon for the 18-25 group and I still take care with the messages so that people from 30-45 enjoy it as well.”
KNOWSHI- I’ve spoken to other writers who act like Urban Fiction is garbage, do you have an opinion about that mindset?
NIOBIA – ” It’s also about encouraging others to read and letting them choose what they want to have, so I’ll just say this: what has served me well is the high road, being respectful and not coming for another author or genre.”
KNOWSHI- I feel you on that one, keep it classy Ms. Bryant. But about your latest book, Kiss The Ring—-this character is off the chain! Where is the second book going to take her?
NIOBIA – “I just turned in the title to the publishers, All Hail The Queen. Not only is she hunting down who broke into the home, her estranged husband Tank gets shot and she makes it her business to find out the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys.’ I hope I’m able to continue the series into a 3rd and 4th, and with a complex and multi-layered character like Naeema Cole, I could.”
KNOWSHI- Your next book seems to be taking you away from the Strong family and into a new direction called Hot From Holtsville, why did you stop that series?
NIOBIA – “There’s good money in doing them, but if I’ve come to the end of the road, then that’s just what it is. I know my readers would love for me to continue, because the Strong series did very well, but I had just come to the end of the road with it. I began with the children of the family and ended with the love story of the parents, it went back 40 years to when they first met. I knew I would stop with the sixth book, and I have, because I don’t see anymore stories for them. I don’t write for the money to be made, I want to also love the story that I’m telling. I am okay with walking away from a character if it keeps me from loving what I’m doing.”
KNOWSHI- I was shocked that we both have a local favorite writer in common, the late Francis Ray. Her death last year was hard to take.
NIOBIA – “I know right? She’s one of the reasons I even took a step to write. It was her book Heart of the Falcon, that made me take my love of romance novels to the next level. I’m glad I was able to meet her, shake her hand… because of her, I’ve been able to go from Romance to Mainstream [Fiction] and UF, and I love all 3.”
KNOWSHI- Another one of my favorites is 2010’s Message From A Mistress, and I was glad to read on your Facebook page that it’s being made into a film. When should we expect to see it?
NIOBIA – “It’s in the early pre-production stage, I have a production credit and I just approved the script. The filmmaker is producing the film independently and off his own dime, small release or straight to DVD at first. He really did stick to the meat of the Jessa Bell narrative and doing it smaller scale allows us more control.”
KNOWSHI- Oh, maybe closer to next year then, I’ll keep tabs. Back to the Hot In Holtsville collective, can we share a bit of what that’s about? And will you continue the young adult Pacesetters books [written under Simone Bryant]?
NIOBIA – “I enjoyed writing the 2 books and had a third one on deck: as soon as I get the ‘OK’ from the publisher, I’ll pick it right back up. My other books are for adults, so I started writing them with my young cousins in mind because there’s no profanity, no sex, etc. As for Holtsville, it’s the fictitious location I created for previous novels, where the Strong family lives. I went back there as a concession to the fans and the Strongs have a presence there. The new protagonist has the power to touch a person’s hand and see a person’s soul-mate. Just a slight paranormal edge, no witches and goblins, but there’s a struggle with having the vision of one man, but having her heart and mind want another. Does she turn her back on the gift or does she turn her back on the guy she really wants to be with?”
KNOWSHI- Wow, definitely looking forward to that one and I’m so glad that we got the chance to speak Ms. Bryant.
NIOBIA – “Thank you and Knowshi.com for all of your support, because I’m doing what I enjoy. It’s amazing to be able to write—the economy is sucky for a lot of people, yet my fans still go and drop $12-15 per book. I’m amazed and blessed!”