Hostile Questions: G. Neri

Greg Neri

     Photographic proof of multiple G. Neris.

G. whiz! HQ finally g.ets around to g.rilling that g.normous g.enerator of g.lorious books, G. Neri. As I’ve admitted in the past, I’m very suspicious of authors who use abbreviations. “G” would have us believe his name is “Greg,” but that’s so clearly a g.immick. We’re supposed to swallow that this one single “Greg” is behind g.raphic novels (Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty), novels (Ghetto Cowboy), and picture books (Hello, I’m Johnny Cash) alike? He must think we’re pretty g.ullible.

Cleary, G. Neri is a pseudonym of a factory full of typewriter-clackers bent on the horizontal integ.ration of all facets of publishing. You think that scares HQ? The whole lot of them are about to slug.g.ed.

Just who do you think you are?                   

I’m just a guy minding his own business. I’m an outsider and a rule breaker, but I try to smile while I’m at it. I’m a guy who’ll give you a fair shake no matter where you come from or what race, class, or gender you reside in. At heart, I’m a storyteller who keeps bumping into amazing and untold stories from real life and has to write about them or his brain will explode. I’m the guy who’s lucky enough to then tell those stories to young’uns in hopes of expanding their heads and their hearts. But I’m also the guy behind the guy behind the guy. And if you don’t know what that means, I guess you’re not half the Swinger I thought you were.

tru and nelleWhere do you get off?

The next stop, wherever that is. I make it a rule to try to say YES to everything. I get asked to visit a lot of places or do a lot of things that most normal folks would consider crazy. But I have to do them because experiencing life leads directly to places and peoples you’d never get to meet, which is how stories are born. And I’m a sucker for a great story. So I visited prisons, jumped out of planes, chilled with gangbangers, swam with Manatees, tried to go to Gaza during the war and ended up going to Siberia in the middle of winter with a book about black cowboys. I’m setting my sights on Antarctica next.

What’s the big idea?

The big idea is this: who needs fantasy when you have real life all around you? All my books are inspired by life. When you live in Florida, you begin to understand that no matter how outrageous and unbelievable your story is, Florida has somehow topped it. So I just gave in and now I start with something unbelievable that just happens to be true and I grow it into fiction. Black urban cowboys in Philly. An 11-year-old gangster who makes the cover of TIME magazine. Or how about Harper Lee and Truman Capote as kids solving small-town crime together in the Jim Crow Deep South? (BTW, if you like that last one, it’s called Tru & Nelle and its coming out March 1, 2016! Just sayin’.)

What is your problem, man?

Oh I got a lot of beefs, bruh. Many of the kids I visit are the unwanted, the unloved. At-risk they call them. I call ‘em kids. Kids who don’t read or are incarcerated, who have no chance in life because the color of their skin, the neighborhood they come from or the family they were born into. Some are wards of the states, some disabled, poor, hungry or abused. I got a problem with the world these kids are growing up in, especially in the inner city. Me, my problems don’t mean squat compared to theirs. They keep me real though, and I try to show them a glimmer of hope and possibility. Even with all they have to deal with though, they inspire me more than I do them.

Haven’t you done enough?

No, I will never live long enough to do enough! Even if I already have three finished projects in the pipeline, I have three more projects waiting for me to tackle them next. Plus there’s a whole world out there to explore: places to visit, things to try, people to meet. There’s no rest for the weary; I’ll sleep when I’m dead.



About the Author:

Dan Kraus is Booklist's Editor of Books for Youth. He is also the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielDKraus.

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