The Revival of Omar Tyree

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The man affectionately referred to by many as the “Godfather” and pioneer of contemporary urban literature, recently opened up to discuss his literary journey. Boasting more than two dozen books and an upcoming film, it is safe to say that this prominent black author is back in the limelight, after taking a temporary break in the middle of his career.

Submitted: August 17, 2016

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Submitted: August 17, 2016



The Revival of Omar Tyree

The man affectionately referred to by many as the “Godfather” and pioneer of contemporary urban literature, recently opened up to discuss his literary journey. Boasting more than two dozen books and an upcoming film, it is safe to say that this prominent black author is back in the limelight, after taking a temporary break in the middle of his career.

As book sales plummeted at Simon & Schuster—one of the largest book publishers in the world—along with Borders bookstore—a now shuttered international book and music retailer that closed its doors in 2011—executives at publishing companies and national chain bookstores changed their direction of urban fiction novels, while New York Times best-selling author, Omar Tyree, looked on from the sidelines, calculating his next move.

With a penchant for storytelling and a deep desire to start conversations on virtually any topic, Tyree took an unexpected seven-year hiatus from the world of popular urban fiction. Now back from sabbatical, Tyree has returned to push through to the next phase of his career. Gearing up once again to take the publishing world by storm, Tyree brings us Omar Tyree Incorporated (OTI), and a new book, All Access, which will be released in October 2015. In addition, he has an upcoming film, Flyy Girl, featuring Sanaa Lathan (Love & Basketball and The Perfect Guy). Superbly confident that the time to make his return is now, there’s no stopping the skilled scribe.

“It’s called the law of momentum,” he states. “I had a perfect setup like this before in 1999 when I decided to write the Flyy Girl sequel, For The Love of Money. So I promoted the book with my own money for nine months, pushing a Tuesday, August 15, 2000 release date, and that joker hit the New York Times best-sellers list with 50,000 copies sold in two weeks, and it won me an NAACP Image Award and a new seven-figure contract with Simon & Schuster. Now I have a similar setup with Lionsgate finally going into production on the Flyy Girl film. So it’s perfect timing for me to release something hot and new again, like All Access on October 6, with a 26-city book tour. Now watch this explosion happen again.”

With his upcoming projects, Tyree’s big return brings one question to mind. What made the man who published more than 20 books and made a huge impact on readers everywhere take a break in the first place?

“I didn’t like what was going on in the market,” he explained. “With the rise of street lit and erotica books, we got away from the versatility of black writing. Before that, we had black horror, mystery, science fiction, satire and a lot of other out-of-the-box books. But all of a sudden, the marketplace only wanted street, sex and Christian books.”

Responding to the new trends in African-American literature, Tyree penned his last best-selling fiction novel, What They Want, in 2006. As the most sexualized book of his career, What They Want was intended to jump-start a national discussion on the addictive need for African-Americans to constantly read, write and talk about sex. Although the book became a best seller, Tyree felt that he was succumbing to the pressures of “giving the people what they want” as the title implies, rather than controlling his own career and fate as he had done with his past book topics. So instead of following the pack, Tyree followed up with two strong film ideas, The Last Street Novel and Pecking Order, before stepping off the scene.

“I could see myself becoming another apologist who makes excuses for what he writes,” Tyree reflected. “I was also becoming a media whore, where you’re always trying to figure out ways to get public attention. That’s when I knew that I was in trouble. Because if the people want poison and you’re willing to give it to them no matter the cost, then you have to wake up and live with that. So I figured even if I had to lose money, I just wasn’t willing to take folks down that road.”

Instead of continuing on a dead-end path of following others, the skilled writer decided to focus even more on film deals in an effort to pitch bigger stories and messages to the larger public.

“I knew if I could adapt some of my earlier books to film, I would end up in a stronger position. I would be able to market with the heightened popularity that was needed to separate myself from so many others’ books that I was competing with on the bookshelves,” explained Tyree. “But it took a hell of a lot longer to land a film deal than I had anticipated. So I took about three steps back to move forward again.”

In addition to film, Tyree concentrated on writing new material that he felt passionate about, such as his children’s book, 12 Brown Boys, a business book called The Equation, and an international thriller series called The Traveler. Though he was excited and confident in the new projects, produced with a smaller publisher, Tyree did not see himself flourish economically. Moving forward, the author and focused businessman now plans to publish his new books under OTI.

“I asked myself, ‘How can I recreate something and shift us into a new direction?’” he questioned. “The world always needs someone who creates that new shift, or that unorthodox method that becomes a difference maker. So that’s what I’m planning to do now with my own brand and company. I plan to continue to write about phenomenal topics even if I have to put the books out myself. That is what entrepreneurship is all about.”

“Who is to say that you have to be validated by someone else before you know that your art is great?” he continued. “Find yourself and crown yourself. That’s how I got started 23 years ago. Now it’s about utilizing the things that I’ve already done and making it work again to continue pushing forward.”

Shedding a positive light on the future of OTI, the Howard University graduate aspires to produce more autobiographies, like Mayor For life, his 2014 release on the late Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Jr. Using his skills in professional journalism, the seasoned author has outlined book ideas to work with award-winning actress, Cicely Tyson, singer Chris Brown, and world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the near future.

“I want OTI to be a successful brand where the retailers, distributors and all of the PR people and esteemed readers immediately say, ‘Yes, Omar is putting out another great book that we know will be quality.’ I can go into a lot of different spaces with my new books, but at the end of the day, they each have to work and put OTI in a good light.”

By returning to books that spark conversations, an older and wiser Tyree continues to hold his ground by writing works that speak volumes to the black community. This fall, he returns with an eye-opening novel, All Access, which explores the lengths one may go to for celebrity status. With a 26-city tour planned, he is overly thrilled and believes his new book is one that the community needs. And as his characters experience the pitfalls of fame and infamy, Tyree pinpoints the addictions society has on prying into other people’s privacy, as well as the ulterior motives behind individuals who knowingly expose their personal lives.

“This is a perfect topic not only for adults, but for all of the young college students as they march into this new social media world and try to figure out how much of their private lives they should share to become popular,” Tyree says. “That’s an important subject these days, and with my career revival, and the Flyy Girl film property coming into fruition for next summer, everything is falling back into position for me. That’s what I mean by momentum.”

In his highly anticipated film, readers and audiences alike will be able to enjoy the celebrated Flyy Girl vixen, “Tracy Ellison” on screen, a character famously depicted in Tyree’s 1993 urban classic and best-selling novel.

For more than a decade, Jeff Clanagan, founder of CodeBlack films, a new urban division of Lionsgate, fought to acquire the rights to the film. Tyree remembered first meeting the former promoter during a trip to Hollywood in 2003. At the time, Clanagan was producing straight to DVD movies after working on past projects such as I Got the Hook Up and I’m Bout It with Master P.

Though the concert organizer turned entertainment executive was able to release nearly 200 DVDs, Tyree was not willing to accept a DVD project for Flyy Girl. Not one to give up, the determined CEO continued pushing the idea, and once Tyree was able to witness the successful release and execution of the independent blockbuster hit, Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain in theaters, it was all systems go from there.

“We were not seeing eye to eye until Jeff finally landed a situation with Kevin Hart where Laugh at My Pain had some theatrical release through Lionsgate,” Tyree reflected. “That opened up the door for Jeff to pitch more theatrical release projects to Lionsgate, who were now more willing to back the idea. And Flyy Girl remained a property that Jeff wanted. So I have to give all the credit to him because he never wavered on wanting Flyy Girl, and that’s why the property is finally being made.”

With the film production quickly approaching this fall, book fans and film lovers are now eager to see “Tracy” come to life through actress and executive producer, Lathan. Tyree is confident that Lathan will do the role justice. 

Describing her as both physical and impactful, he reminisced about growing up in Philadelphia during the 1980s, a time when everyone around him had extroverted personalities similar to “Tracy.”

“You want and need a woman for this role who can exude a certain excitability and spirit that we had in the 1980s, and Sanaa Lathan has the goods,” Tyree stated. “Even in that movie in Brown Sugar, she had a very active get up and go spirit. That works perfectly for this property because Flyy Girl is that way too. She wasn’t a sit around at home girl; she wanted to get out there and be seen. She wanted to hustle and flow, and that’s exactly what Sanaa is doing now with this property.”

“She’s been tapped as an executive producer because she wanted to make it happen instead of sitting back and waiting for it,” Tyree added. “She wanted to force the project through the door, the same way ‘Tracy Ellison’ would have done. So Sanaa is already representing the character well.” 

So how does someone who once received an “F” in his second semester of 10th grade English, while only reading comic books prior to attending college, go on to create dozens of best-selling books?

“I was motivated to tell stories about my community. Plain and simple,” Tyree answered. As an urgent person, someone who pushes his way through barriers and creates opportunities for readers to think about issues and different subjects, the award-winning author admits that he was not a big reader growing up. Nevertheless, he noticed his potential once he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh and transferred to Howard University to hone his skills, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree—with cum laude honors—in Print Journalism.

“I got a chance to publish my work early on and people were excited by it. So I already had a following before I graduated from college,” Tyree said. “With the confidence of knowing that people were touched by what I wrote and were able to think about the things that were going on within our community, I felt I had a great skill and was honored to be able to provide a valuable service for the people. That fact alone continues to motivate me to this day. I just figure that we all have a lot to say in books, like any other culture.”

Tyree says his ability to write is all about translation, a word he defines as identifying and mastering the art of your God-given abilities, a skill that he adamantly believes can be found in everyone.

“A person who is a musician hears sounds that you can’t hear. A person who is a photographer can see pictures that you can’t see. Professional athletes are able to translate certain movements of their bodies that we’re not all able to do. And as a writer, I’m able to explain things that are right out in front of us, but everyone may not be able to pay as much attention to or get that story right like I can.”

Tyree may have hit the nail on the head after powerfully referring to himself as an “artist of story.” With a gift to produce narratives that capture book lovers everywhere, Tyree’s comeback is sure to take the nation by storm this fall.

© Copyright 2018 Angelica R. Roberts. All rights reserved.

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