iUniverse author Reuben Sparks talks about his book, One Cowrie Shell, as well as the shopping agreement he has with Hollywood firm Company Legion of Creatives. Congratulations, Reuben!
One Cowrie Shell tells the story of Jaiye, a young Yoruba tribesman in the early 1800s on the west coast of Africa. Jaiye is fascinated by the wars between his Yoruba tribe and their neighbors the Dahomey tribe. He sees prisoners of war being sold as slaves and wonders about their outcome. Jaiye is equally fascinated by Kembi, a young Yoruba girl he wishes to be his wife, but the village elders have chosen Akinya for him. Jaiye petitions his father, who is a high priest in the Shango cult to help him change the elder’s plans. His father declines, which leads Jaiye to hatch his own plan to get rid of Kembi’s intended husband. Jaiye’s plan goes awry which leads him on a journey to “the other world.”
His adventure takes him to find his beloved Kembi. He began his adventure to find Kembi. During his journey, the reason behind the adventure changed after he saw the degradation of slavery. He presents a view of slavery from an African who was never a slave but saw its dehumanizing effects that his village never considered. Jaiye finds his way back home and describes his travels to unbelieving villagers. His campaign to change the two tribes is abruptly ended. This is a story of love, adventure and defiance.
As an African-American, I saw the devastation slavery had on the African communities. I often wondered why African tribes did not band together to stop the practice of slavery. We were introduced to the idea of a boy going off into the woods to get wood for a drum in Roots. Slavers captured him. This is the way we thought most slaves were captured and brought to the United States. I wondered why this didn’t make tribesmen fight to protest slavery in their communities and villages. To my amazement, I saw that most slaves came from slaves taken as prisoners by other African tribes and then being sold to the slave traders for immediate wealth. There was no evidence of African tribes trying to stop slavery. My research made me wonder what if one person began to see the problem and forced others to see the problem. My story comes from those thoughts. This is what inspired me to write this book.
The two main literary influences I admire are John Grisham and Loraine Hansberry with Raisin in the Sun. Both seem to get their ideas from a real event in daily life. Then they start to think “what would happen if this former event changed.” A novel is formed from them mentally seeing what happened in the real world and then saying “what if.” The novels I plan to write are formed this way.
I would like to convey to my readers that they can look at the same event and see it in another way. I don’t necessarily want to teach another item but want readers to be able to look at a common event and see it in another fashion from another point of view.
I have ideas for four other novels and three works of non-fiction. Right now I am not working on a sequel to One Cowrie Shell. I have been asked by editors and readers of the book to consider working on a sequel. I feel as if I have to get what is at the top of my soul and get it out and then work on the next so I want to finish some other things before I get to the sequel to One Cowrie Shell. I had not originally planned to write a sequel for this novel. I did change the ending of the book to offer a reason for Jaiye to return to the United States to do a sequel. After I get some more books published I will begin the sequel.
In July 2016 I was excited to participate in the Las Vegas Pitchfest. About 150 self-published authors got a chance to “pitch” our books to people who produce movies and television shows. Out of the 150 or so authors, me and my book were the most asked about book in this session. The company Legion of Creatives offered me a “shopping agreement.” This agreement is to have the rights to my book to shop around my book to see if and who would want to make it into a movie. I am excited about the opportunity. It feels as if my foot is in the door. I like talking to the people in Los Angeles about my book. I would like to see it made into a small movie. As I began writing I was hoping to be compared to great authors. I have gotten good reviews about my book but no comparisons yet to great ones. I look forward to seeing it as a movie. I believe I will get more notice as I publish more books.
My favorite part of publishing were two things. I was excited when my publicist with iUniverse called and said my book was live and look for it on amazon.com. That was exciting. The other most exciting event was being at one of my first book fairs and seeing my name and book enlarged and projected for everyone to see in lights. I didn’t expect that so when I happened to turn and see it I was very excited.
My best advice to all aspiring authors is very simple: write, finish and publish your work and get it out there. I am shocked at the number of people who once they saw my book out told me they were working on a book. I think a fourth of the people I know are working on books and have them at or near a phase before being finished. Go ahead and finish your book and get it out there for the world to see. I have friends and acquaintances who have been working on a book for 20 years. If you truly have something in your soul to get out, get it finished and out there.