Catching Up With: Omar Tyree
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from famed Author Omar Tyree, but you’d better believe the 46-year-old Philly native has been busy. Describing his absence as a much needed “wind down on a social capacity,” the urban book author says he grew tired of writing about the same things.
“I saw that African American books had been stuck on the same subjects for the last dozen years. So I didn’t want to be a part of that…”
So he took a hiatus from the book world, and put his energy into turning his bestselling novel, “Flyy Girl,” into a major motion picture. JET spoke with Mr. Tyree about his upcoming projects and what it takes to be a great writer.
JET: Omar I’m mad at you (jokingly)! Where have you been?!
Omar Tyree: I didn’t have a lot of stories that I wanted to write about for the African American community. The reason why I say that is because you guys have missed a whole lot of books that I’ve already written. Leslie. Just Say No. Sweet St. Louis. Pecking Order. A lot of people only love Flyy Girl and have only read that. But I had been writing so many other stories to the point where I had already told stories on just about every subject that we could talk about. I don’t like to repeat myself, and I could see at the time, I was competing with my good friend Zane, and a whole bunch of young writers who write this urban street stuff and I didn’t have anything to add to that. So now, I’m coming back with my film, Flyy Girl, starring Sanaa Lathan.
JET: Let’s talk about Flyy Girl. What was the inspiration behind the character?
Omar Tyree: I grew up in the 1980s, and there was a song by this rap group called the Boogie Boys called “A Fly Girl.” That was before your time. I was like 16 years old, and that song was the hottest song that summer. It was all about girls who wanted you to basically pamper them and be part of a materialistic world that was 1980s hip hop. We all wanted “fly girls,” but couldn’t afford ’em. So I said to myself, “Well, since I can’t afford to take no fly girls on no shopping sprees, I’m going to write a book about them.” I wrote the book in my sophomore year of college and I was able to publish it as soon as I finished college and that thang…it hit and it just kept on selling. It continues to sell ’til this day. So it’s a guide where people are connected to that story.
JET: Yeah. Your writing is pretty timeless. I can pick up Flyy Girl or For the Love of Money and read those books today and the lessons, interactions and experiences portrayed through the books’ main characters are still relevant. That’s a really dope quality for a writer to have. What’s your story?
Omar Tyree: I was right behind the “Baby Boomer” era where households of 15-20 people [were common]. There were stories all around me. And my uncles used to take me to the movies and we would watch these Kung Fu pictures all the time and it would be triple features. We would go in at like noon and come out at eight at night. And so I always had a knack for storytelling and by the time I got to be a teenager, I continued to go to the movies and drift in stories. From house parties to football games, to dating girls…just being able to watch what I call movie marathons where I would pay for one movie and then see three or four. Once I got to college, I started writing about the things we did in Philadelphia. That’s when I found out that I had a knack for being able to execute all the trappings and the details of telling a good story. But that all started with me being that first grandchild around so many older people. My ears were constantly being bent by adult stories all day long. It was just a gift that set me up that I just kept using. Then I became a journalism major at Howard University, so that’s what I do. I’m a guy who can translate stories and I’m going to continue doing it.
JET: In this day and age, it’s hard to keep the attention of the masses, especially with words. Any advice for aspiring authors?
Omar Tyree: Number one, you’ve got to ask a lot of questions. Be introspective and always think, Why? How? When? Where? You gotta have the details. A lot of times, people that want to be storytellers don’t ask enough questions or have enough details and so when they write a story, it’s only five pages. But if you ask questions and have more details, five pages can easily become twenty. It’s not so much about creating, it’s about re-creating what you already know. For me to be able to write 28 books means that I’ve been around a whole lot of information, I understand a whole lot of information, and I understand how to put all of that information into a cohesive story. I’m not just making it up, I know all this information. You can’t write what you don’t know.
JET: That makes sense. As creatives, the first thing we do is realize that while it is about us, it isn’t. We have to create something that the masses want, desire and are able to connect with. That does take a lot of experience and observation.
Omar Tyree: Yeah.
JET: Tell us about your new book, All Access.
Omar Tyree: The story All Access is about how much of our personal and private lives we are willing to give up to become famous. They’re hunting down celebrities for them to tell them every part of their lives. It’s fiction, but it’s really happening all around us.
JET: Anything else you’d like us to know?
Omar Tyree: Now is the time for me to come back with my own sledgehammer. O.T.I. stands for “Omar Tyree Incorporated.” You’re gonna see O.T.I. all over the place. My tour kicks off October 6, and the book will be available then. We have a tour set up in 26 cities and I can’t wait to get back out there!
Catch Flyy Girl in theaters Summer 2016.
To keep up with Omar and learn about his latest novel, All Access, visit www.omartyree.com.