J. Keith Stewart

J. Keith Stewart

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
March 2002

1. Who is J. Keith Stewart?

What a way to start an interview. What a powerful question! I guess I've never really given that much thought. I tend to just hang out with him every day without considering who he really is. J. Keith Stewart is a comedian, a storyteller, a writer! And so much more!

2. What inspired you to write the novel Episodes?

I've always wanted to be a writer. For a far back as I can remember, I was always writing things; short stories, articles for newspapers and I eventually became the Editor-in-Chief to the Sphinx Magazine...a national publication for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Eventually my piers challenged me to write a novel. Without anything else to do, I decided to take them up on the challenge and started my first novel, January 1, 1999. The rest is history.

3. How did you come about the title for Episodes?

Years prior to writing Episodes existed a small newsletter called the Se'dosipe. Se'dosipe was the word Episodes backwards. During that period of my life, I was surrounded by a group of dysfunctional friends. They had one episode after another; almost daily. I wanted the novel to mirror some of the episodes that engulfed my life at the time. Additionally, I wanted the novel to be a pager turner, very engaging and to the point. I think I succeeded where that goal was concerned and I think you would agree, there are many episodes in the novel.

4. How did you come about the plot surrounding Karen and Wellington?

In the beginning, I knew I wanted Karen's character to have a secret. Just what is was at the time I didn't know. Without sharing with those that have not read the novel and will, I decided on a secret that is rampant today but is not discussed much outside the household. It is my hope that someone will learn from Karen's secret.

5. Why did you choose to make the character Qouston a hair stylist?

I simply needed a place for my characters to hang out. I've had some of my best laughs in salons and thought that would be a great place to have these characters meet, share stories and gossip. After all, isn't that what really takes place in most salons?

6. How did you come about the scene surrounding Juan and Miami?

That's a simply one. I know a Juan and a Miami. I didn't have to do much research where that story line was concerned. In fact, I have enough episodes from the two of them alone to last me six or seven novels. I eventually had to decide to not share space with the two of them and find a positive space to be in. They were taxing and their relationship (as you read in the story) was and probably still is dangerous.

7. Was the guy that was found in Miami's apartment also the rapist?

I would take away from the story line if I tell you that in this interview. I'll talk with you later about who that person was. :-)

8. How did you come about Remi's character?

Remi's and Wellington's characters are based on two people (personalities) that I am very close to; two people I adore. There were things about both of these people that I loved and or disliked and I decided to take their characteristics (my two friends) and develop Remi and Wellington.

9. Why did Remi choose to go ahead with Lenox's funeral?

It was his dying wish. To know Remi is to know that it couldn't have happened any other way than it did. He was determined to be the victor!

10. Why did you choose to make the character Remi gay?

The friend that I modeled this character after is actually gay.

11. How did you come about the plot surrounding John and Marie with Chlamydia?

That story line sort of wrote itself. I knew I wanted to bring an awareness to the STD, Chlamydia. John was just the person to use as the catalyst. He was a little too busy for his own good.

12. Why type of atmosphere do you require to write?

I can write most anywhere. My favorite is the airport. I get to study people. Watch their behaviors; their interactions. I love to write late at night/early morning and on the weekends. That way I can stay in my pajamas and listen and watch videos, biographies about other dysfunctional stars or the news, which is my favorite television programming. I also enjoy writing in hotels, which I try and do every now and again. My own retreat from the ringing telephone and the things that consume me with everyday living. When I experience a writers disconnect (writers block), I much prefer to be at home with soft music on with the television muted in the background. And a glass of wine!

13. Are there any of your personalities in any of the characters from the novel Episodes?

I can't tell you that! :-) Just kidding. Actually, I would have to say that there's a lot of me in most of the main characters in the book. My issues are obviously apparent; my comedy is placed with a number of the characters. Not only that, a number of my experiences are sprinkled within the story. So yes, it is safe to say traces of my personality is reflected through my characters. Which ones? I won't tell.

14. Will there be a sequel to Episodes?

A few of my favorite characters returned in my second novel Promise Me, which will be available April, 2002.

15. What message would you like readers to receive from reading "Episodes"?

My goal was to teach readers about a number of diseases that impact our community. At times, I wanted to make the reader uncomfortable, especially when dealing with homophobia and STD's. I wanted to make the reader laugh, cry and or angry during this tale. And if I did any of the aforementioned, then I am satisfied in knowing that I did my job as a writer; as a storyteller. If nothing else, I hope at it's conclusion, the reader walked away saying, "Now damn, that was an episode."