Q&A with Marvin Mason Author of Cherry Punch

Will Sherry Rose and Benny Freeman survive when the bad guys close in on them and finally find the love they always wanted? — Cherry Punch by Marvin Mason @SED54891

Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?  

I became an author because it was far easier to get a novel in front of readers than it was to get Franklin Leonard and Lena Waithe to read a screenplay. I have been writing since college, but never took my teachers seriously regarding the craft. I hated editing and would challenge my professors to edit material for me if they saw something they wanted me to submit for publishing purposes. They weren’t to keen on that idea. I became serious about writing after coming thisclose to talking Marc Forrester(Quantum of Solace, World War Z) into working on a screenplay for a movie I had a license for remake purposes in 2001. His rejection led me to work with a variety of independent filmmakers, but I never shared my passion to write with them. I was always brought in from a sales and marketing perspective and I left it there. Megan Joseph and B. Love provided me with my first opportunity, and I have been off to the races ever since.

Where were you born/grew up at? 

 I was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Maywood, Illinois. During my childhood and teen years I grew up around the likes of Doc Rivers, Michael Woodard, and Isiaih ‘Zeke’ Thomas ( except we never called him Zeke at school). Doc Rivers’ brother brought me into my current profession when he was president of the Maywood School Board.

What kind of world ruler would you be? 

I would get everybody killed if I were leader. I would want a battle every day. Ask former employees of mine. It was a badge of honor to sit in a meeting with high end executives and say something foul knowing full well I was representing a team. I would fight for my team, mind you, but sometimes I started the fight.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? 

I considered myself a writer the first time I put pen to paper. I don’t know if I consider myself an author as of this writing, but I am diligently trying to get there.

Do you have a favorite movie? 

Chinatown written by Robert Towne. The most remarkable screenplay ever, especially when you realize the entire story is from a limited perspective as every scene features Jake Gittes, but he is not narrating the tale as many noirs would have that character do.

Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie? 

I can imagine Interstate and The Expert Witness transitioned into movies. The Magnificent Mile coming soon would translate as well.

What inspired you to write this book?

 I enjoyed my time writing the first episodes of Claim Me and Desire Me Only. I decided to write a series all in one book instead of trying to rush a novella out that felt incomplete from the standpoint it only gave one perspective. I also wanted something noirish for today’s reader.

What can we expect from you in the future? 

After Cherry Punch, I tackle The Magnificent Mile which is the name of the more high-brow area off Downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue.

Do you have any “side stories” about the characters? 

Unfortunately, an incident featured in the book, as with many of my books, did happen. Poor Brother Muhhamad, is all I can say. I wound up take over his class and that student was still in the classroom.

How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book? 

Many of the characters in Cherry Punch exist in one capacity or another. Ray Ray, Sherry, and Benny are all based off living breathing humans still in the area. Oddly, we are all about a decade off in age from each other with me being the oldest. And yes, Big Nat also still exists. We are all Maywoodians.

Where did you come up with the names in the story? 

Cherry Punch is named after a medicinal strain that can be bought in most weed shops. I was looking to create an urban Pineapple Express and this idea came up. Cornell, and especially Harold Jasper both fixtures in the area. Neither ended well.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? 

My act two was by far the most adventurous endeavor I have ever partaken. It didn’t take me long to work it out and I wanted that portion to go on forever. I easily could have written another chapter on that arc.

Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick? 

Sherry Rose and Benny Freeman are two nose to the grindstone characters tied to the town they were raised in, but not each other. Then fate officially brings them and their ambitions together. They are like most of the people I grew up with who never stopped working even when social security told them the signpost ahead is where they get off. Cherry has some serious issues about the people she falls in with and Benny is put into the fold by relation.

How did you come up with the title of your first novel? 

The Curse of Black Hawk’s Treasure is named after an actual event that took place in Illinois. I found the legend which is also where our hockey team got its name in a Constitution book my district uses every year for our eighth graders.

Who designed your book covers? 

Recently, I have worked with three people: Iesha Bree, Moon Bey, and Markayla Blake. Prior to that, I left it to B. Love.

Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book? 

I discovered I am developing the legs to tell longer cohesive stories.

Anything specific you want to tell your readers? 

Yes, I would like my readers to allow me to change up on the genres. I will not let them down, plus you will always recognize the voice, the tale will just come from a different angle.

Convince us why you feel your book is a must read. 

At this time, the readers I have know I do not create comic book characters. My characters and their story arcs are very real, may be too real. I don’t include the fantastic in my novels, but am leaning toward that, but this novel I believe no matter where you grew up, you know these people and their motives. You know what drives them about as much as you know what drives you. You aren’t afraid to see yourself and your story written by someone who cares about those people especially since they look and act like you. Even Ted Sarandos knows some of these people.

Have you written any other books that are not published? 

Plenty of screenplays, but most if not all my novels have been published. B. Love has been very generous in allowing her writers to find their voice and their audience.

If your book had a candle, what scent would it be? 

Cherry Punch, of course. Beware of the contact.

What did you edit out of this book? 

There are numerous back stories I had between Sherry and Benny first meetings. Colonel Parker had me remove them. I wanted to move them, but maybe I will revisit.

Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why? 

I would love to have had an opportunity to sit down with Elmore Leonard and pick his brain. His transition from Westerns to gritty urban novels where the good guy and the bad guy can be hard to discern and harder to root for whether it be Out of Sight or Hombre. Get Shorty or Last Stand at Saber River, his protagonists and antagonists stand out and could easily switch sides.

What book do you think everyone should read? 

Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a book I can honestly say has taught me a lot about believing in my own voice.

Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?

 My characters come to me depending on which arc I write first. I can start in the third act and have to have a clue who’s in the book, but when I start at the beginning, I just let the characters introduce themselves as they see fit.


What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book? 

The amount of time I give to research depends on the story itself. Playdate had tons of notes and articles regarding the subject matter as does its eventual follow up. But Cherry Punch is about life. I have been around for a minute. I know these people, I didn’t have to research them. Same with The Magnificent Mile.

Do you see writing as a career? 

I see writing as that opportunity to imbibe in a passion I have had most of my life. I welcome all who support the vision. I welcome all feedback, crosstalk, opinions, and thoughts. I want a community to take a tour through my mind as far as the elements I am willing to share. I’m not quitting my day job just yet, but I love the support I have had in the last year.

What do you think about the current publishing market? 

The publishing game has changed so dramatically in the last twenty years. I don’t think I would ever have ventured into the field, but it should never have deterred me from trusting my pen. I thank God the opportunity to share has been provided. 

Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre? 

I forget so much about a novel after I start a new one. I don’t think I have read anything other than Black Hawk. Couldn’t tell you the main character’s name from that book. But I remember Molica. Go figure.

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why? 

I need silence, but more important, I need rest. I need to be fresh when I write otherwise my story completely drifts off and I have to find its center over and over.

Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time? 

I try to focus on one novel at a time even when characters from another story are screaming for their moment. I have put novels to the side to write something else. That is pretty much how Interstate, The Expert Witness, and even Every Year, Every Christmas can about. They just spoke louder than the characters I was working with at the time demanding attention.

Pen or type writer or computer? 

Pen and paper first, then I move toward the typewriter. During my typing phase is when I get hit with my next novel.

Describe your writing style.

 I don’t have a style, it’s like asking Lonzo Ball who he emulates as a guard. Have you seen him shoot?

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? 

I know there is an audience for my novels. I have to develop creative ways to get readers to me. Trust me, I am open to writing anything. I never knew I could write a Christmas novella, but a nugget of an idea hit me hard and fast.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

In 2001, an opportunity will fall into your laps. Trust your vision.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I don’t always understand their motives, but I am moving them along to mesh with their counterparts until they fall in lockstep.

How long on average does it take you to write a book? 

Handwriting a book isn’t long, three weeks tops. Typing it out, forever.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

 I don’t suffer from writer’s block as of this writing, but I understand not seeing a story from beginning to end which can also be frustrating especially for those that believe in outlining. I don’t completely outline from start to finish. I may write a few notes, then see where the story is going. If I have to rein it in, I will write more notes. I will call it outlining, but I don’t think based off the books I’ve read, I have mastered outlining.

Cherry Punch
by Marvin Mason
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Urban Fiction

A double cross sends a couple of friends on the adventure for their lives.
A chance run in with an old friend becomes a run for their lives when Sherry Rose and Benny Freeman have a misunderstanding with local drug dealers. Witnessing the massacre of friends of Sherry’s double crossing boyfriend leads them to be hunted down by corrupt law enforcement.
Having a near death experience gives them a chance to start a romance they never knew the other wanted.Will they survive when the bad guys close in on them and finally find the love they always wanted?

Goodreads * Amazon

 “You’re a pushover, Mr. Freeman,” Mrs. Pearson spat. “The children take advantage of you because you are trying to be their friend.”

     No, I thought, it was because I understood them, and didn’t need to yell at them for their indiscretions from the minute the first bell rang until the final bell of the day.

     Maybe it was because my parents didn’t like social workers suggesting I might flourish in a self-contained environment when I was younger. Instead of fighting the system, they removed me from it to one where I was able to grow under the tutelage of caring teachers who worked in a smaller, but less chaotic environment that fostered the need to learn within me. 

     I nodded at her assessment as she made some markings in my file, jotted some notes. Now wasn’t the time to argue. I’d just take it up with my case manager at CSU. He’d have my back. He knew as well as many of my associates at the school that I deserved a shot at a job there or at least in the district.

     Why shouldn’t I work with children that looked like me, lived down the street from where my parents still had a home, and my relatives lived nearby? Why shouldn’t I have the right to work only five minutes from my own lodging mere blocks from the school?

     In two weeks, a decision would be made on new hires. I needed Mrs. Pearson to put a word in for me to be a part of the team. Of course, with new hires meant old employees – uh hmm, Mrs. Pearson – might be rotated out. Could that have been my true issue?

     “You may find yourself taking a position in another district that can afford to nurture your way of teaching,” Mrs. Pearson said as she was approaching her conclusion. “And work on your classroom management skills.”

     She handed me the file which I snatched from her prune-ish wrinkly hands. I stood up glancing at my wristwatch. If there was a God, I’d be no more than five minutes late for my meeting with Professor Donaldson, my cohort leader.

     “Thank you, Mrs. Pearson. I’ll keep that in mind,” I said calmly as I took quick steps out the classroom with every intent to dash toward the parking lot and high tail it to 95th Street and State.

     As I descended down the stairwell facing the parking lot through the large glass pane windows, I could see a traffic jam of parents still arriving to pick up their kids and teachers’ cars crawling bumper to bumper out the one exit.

Even though it was nearly six am, it was still pitch dark outside. I had my high beams on to cut through the spring morning fog. A set of lights fell behind me as I approached the light on Fifth Avenue. The two lanes became one as the lane left of me merged with the right. The beams from behind distracted me. I had to hold my hand up to block the glare.

     A roar of a hemi shot through my windows. My focus shifted when my peripheral vision noticed a car to the left of me. With my right hand still blocking the glare from behind, I slowly turned my head to the left. It didn’t take long to process the sound of the V8 engine humming to know I was next to a long-time nemesis. The sleek black Dodge may have been upgraded over the years. The driver’s hair thinning and whiter, but that stare was unmistakable belonging only to one, Harold Jasper.

     When I was growing up in the neighbor, we weren’t worried about what the white cops would do to us. It was the Black ones who abused their power and authority on us. No cop was more feared than Harold Jasper.

     More than thirty years on the force and the biggest crime the courts could hang on him was being guilty of misconduct. That was before he became the Chief of Detectives. Now he oversaw Narcotics, Vice, and Homicide in my town. In many instances, I was sure he had a hand in many of the crimes his staff investigated.

     When I was younger, I’d seen the backseat of his squad car plenty of times as he would occasionally harass me and my cousin, Ray.  We were guilty by association. Ray for being the eldest son of a dealer in the hood and me for being Ray’s kin. I stopped hanging out with Ray by the time we were seventeen. Before then the harassment became more routine. But after Ray’s father was gunned down by Jasper in broad daylight, allegedly for fleeing the scene of a crime, Ray and I went our separate ways. I haven’t talked to Ray since. It didn’t help that Ray stole the girl I was crushing on right from under me either. 

     The light turned green and I softly patted the accelerator creeping away as I broke the staring contest under the impression that Jasper would be making a turn at the light.

     Those high beams still blinded my vision, but I figured once Jasper was out of sight I would put as much distance as necessary between me and Mr. High-beams as quickly as possible. I was halfway up the block when I glanced in my sideview mirror to see Jasper’s Phantom fall in line behind us.

     Shit, Jasper was following one of the two of us. Immediately, my mind flashed back to those times when Jasper would haul us into the back of his car on bullshit. I couldn’t afford to have him pull me over now. Of all days, not this day. My nerves were all over the place as it was, but if Jasper started fucking with me, it was over. I wouldn’t dare take that interview.

     The dipshit behind me was killing me with the lights when he suddenly just took a chance crossing the solid double yellow lines to pass me. Relieved as I was that he was off my tail, now I had to contend directly with Jasper. I had half a mind to tap my break even though I was driving one mile slower than the signs posted. Jasper crept closer as I shook my head muttering, “Not now, Jasper, not now!”

     The strobes began to flash and my heart sank and my bubbling stomach intensified.

     “Shit!” I grumbled to myself. I couldn’t wait to see what chicanery that bastard was going to pull this time.

     I pulled my car toward the right when I realized Jasper was blaring past me. Our eyes locked again briefly before his car all but disappeared in the morning fog. All I saw was a haze of blue and red flashing through the darkness. I pulled back into the lane finding myself whizzing by Jasper and Mr. Headlights. I shook my head at the unknown driver. He had no idea how much he’d fucked up.

     Better him, than me.

Marvin Mason has arrived as a refreshing new storyteller with this fun adventure of young people and African-American Midwest life, the seemingly quiet but oh-so interesting world that molded me but rarely shows up in the media.”Kalisha Buckhanon, American Library Association ALEX Award-winning author of Upstate and Conception, winner of the Friends of American Writers Literature Award. Since his debut Mason has brought you novels such as Expert Witness and Interstate that took his audience on a thrilling ride.
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