Book Features, Meet The Author

Interview with Kevin Brown, Author of Hard Knocks High

Hard Knocks High

Hard Knocks High is the most notorious high school in the Bronx, where the streets and the classroom collide.

As a sheltered, bible-studying teen, when inside of his strict single-parent apartment, and a menacing thug when on the rugged Bronx streets, Tafari King struggles to live a double life. On one side: his overprotective mother, who is unaware that her son is the most feared young thug on the streets; his caring girlfriend, who opposes his new found life style; a devoted teacher who warns Tafari of the unseen traps in the streets; and a budding rap career that may offer a way out. On the other side: an intoxicating freedom of a life in which reputation is all that matters, of living the lyrics, of his corner boys’ crew, thugs, and ghetto star-struck girls all whom Tafari has fooled with his fabricated thug persona. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, an old enemy resolves to reclaim dominance over Tafari while a new threat seeks to remove him from the equation entirely. With his life on the line, a gang initiation looming, and time running out, Tafari needs to make a choice before it’s too late.

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About The Author

Kevin Brown is a teacher, coach and writer. He has a B.A in Broadcast Journalism and a Masters in Education. Kevin has taken the opportunity to inspire a new generation of writers and athletes while still pursuing his own passion for writing.          Project Windows is Kevin’s first novel in the Hard Knocks High series and he is currently working on his second book in the series. Kevin still lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and two daughters.

Q & A with Kevin Brown

Where did the concept for Hard Knocks High come from?

Once I realized my true calling was writing young adult novels, and not adult novels, the ideas just started flowing. I knew I wanted a way to tie the ideas together and I wanted a way to stand out and make it easier to be found. At the time, young adult book series were popular like the Harry Potter series and the Twilight Saga. But my stories were going to be more realistic, with real life situations and consequences. I wanted to tell the stories of at-risk-teens from the projects that are forced to deal with the daily trials and tribulations of the streets and combine that with the issues of having to attend a low income school. With that in mind, the first title I came up with was the school of hard knocks but I thought it was too long and too obvious. Then I flipped it and titled it Hard Knocks High.

Why did you feel you had to write this particular book?

When ever I develop an idea for a book, I make sue there’s a theme or moral message that I want to get across. In this particular book, Project Windows, I wanted to point out that impressionable teens are vulnerable to peer pressure regardless of their background. Whether the teen has both parents at home, or in this book Tafari has an overprotective parent, he attends church and bible study and still, he falls victim to the allure of the streets. He falls victim to the pressure of his peers and the pressure to fit in. This book shows the consequences of trying to be something that you are not. How one bad choice can lead to a series of bad choices that can ultimately cost you your livelihood.

What was the hardest part in writing this book?

The most difficult aspect of writing this book trying to find the time. I am an eight grade language arts teacher and its near impossible for me to write during the school year. Just the day to day job in the classroom is a lot in itself, but even at home, I’m lesson planning, reading and grading papers, attending staff developments, reading educational resources. Mentally it’s a 24 hour job. So, the summer time, was the only time I was able to really dive into the book. In the classroom, if an idea popped up in my head, I would find myself, writing myself notes on sticky notes, and on index cards in the classroom, so that I wouldn’t forget. I wanted so desperately to go home, turn on my laptop and write, but I had papers to read and grade, lesson plans to develop, etc. So I had to put it off.

What do you want readers to take from Hard Knocks High?

When readers read Hard Knocks High, I want them to feel that the story is real and authentic. I want readers who enjoy the written word to get a since of fulfillment from the imagery and the use of metaphors. I want the readers to be able to relate to the characters. Long after the readers put the book down, I still want some of the memorable scenes, the imagery, the conversations amongst the characters and the overall message of the book to still resonate. Hopefully, its good enough for them to come back for the second installment.

What tips would you give a person wanting to write a young adult book?

Being a teacher has helped me a lot just being around teens and seeing their habits, and issues. I pull a lot of ideas from my own teenage years but not all them are relevant. Time changes. So it’s important to understand what makes this generation tick. Spend time with them and pay attention to what they are into. And make it worth their while. And if you do get the opportunity to write for young adults, make sure you put some valuable information in there that can help them grow.

What tips would you give a teenager dealing with issues of bullying or self-identity?

It’s important to confide in someone. Most times the victim doesn’t want to share because they are embarrasses or scared. When this happens, we see the consequences when kids inflict pain on themselves or unfortunately take their own lives. So its important to confide in an adult, whether it be your parents, a trusting teacher the guidance counselor or a friend. It’s also important for parents to be involved in their kids lives and talk to them. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn about your kids just by asking them detailed questions like, “How was school today?” What did you do in school today?” “Anything interesting or unusual happen at school today?” This will only take about 5-10 mins. A lot of parents don’t take the time to talk with their kids after school. Many times, the kids come home and go straight to their rooms and parents have no idea what their kids are going through.

Who is Kevin Brown?

I am a father, a husband, a writer, a teacher, a basketball coach and a mentor. I am a native New Yorker, born in the Bronx and raised in Edenwald projects, the second largest housing development in the Big Apple. I imagine most novelists developed a passion to write by reading other novels. I actually developed a passion to write by listening to hip hop music. I was a big hip hop head growing up and listening to lyricists like Rakim, G rap, Lord Finesse and Nas to name a few. They inspired me to write. I Started out writing rhymes, through junior high and high school. Then once I reached college, the rhymes gave way to stories and manuscripts which are still a burning passion of mine to this day. Outside of writing, I enjoy watching and coaching basketball, I spend a lot of time with family, I’m a bit of an introvert with a small circle and I also make very good cakes.



What has been your biggest challenge/achievement as an author?

The biggest achievement so far was having young adults from as young as fourteen to as old as twenty-four years read my book and tell me now great the book was and in some instances said that it was the best book they ever read because they could relate to the characters and the realistic situations. Having teachers tell me that it is a great read with a great moral message and they want to use it as a book study for their classroom. Having some parents request the book for their teens. That’s why I wrote the book

The biggest challenge was getting my book published. I sent out a different version of my manuscript to different agents only to get rejected. I was determined to get Hard Knocks High published so I rewrote it and decided to publish it myself. I did a ton of research on self publishing by reading books, asking questions of other self published authors, attended free seminars at the library and learned how to secure isbn’s and barcodes. I was able to secure my publishing license soon after. Then I had to seek out professionals to help me with my book cover and the interior design. Finally, when I received the advanced copy in the mail, I was overwhelmed with a great sense of achievement. To have an idea that started in head and end in my hands was a great achievement and the biggest challenge overcome.

What new project (s) are in the works for you?

I am working on the second book in the Hard Knocks High series which will follow Mahogany, who was the girlfriend of the main character, Tafari King in Project Windows.

Where can readers find you?

I am on Facebook under my name. I am also on instagram and twitter as Hardknockshigh…

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