From the depths of Park Avenue in South Saint Louis, Missouri emerges one of the quintessential literary voices of the 21st century. The Pride of Park Avenue is Toriano L. Porter’s first published book. He is a former All-Conference football player at both Eureka High School in Eureka, Missouri and Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg and a former minor league football All-American for the St. Louis Bulldogs. His work has appeared in publications such as the St. Louis American, St. Louis Evening Whirl, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Riverfront Times, The Kansas City Pitch, inBox Magazine, Playback STL Magazine, Central News Magazine, ENVY Magazine in Kansas City, http://www.stlhiphop.com and the Houston Press.
When did you first know you wanted to write a book?
Back in the fall of 1992 I was a freshman in college and I was sitting in a family living class bored out of my mind and began to piddle. Prior to enrolling in college I played on a high school football team that so underachieve that it really made me want to tell the story of how we never meshed as a team, and alas, I told myself then I’d write a book one day about that experience.
What do you know now that you wish you did when you first started writing?
I have no regrets or wishes that I’d done anything different. I feel my writing has evolved since the first day I walked into a college creative writing class with nothing but raw talent and a story to tell without a clue on how to tell it.
Are you a traditionally published author or indie?
Indie all the way.
If indie, what made you decide this route?
One, who has time for a pile of rejection letters and turn backs? Not me. I come from an environment that is not conducive to waiting on someone to recognize your talent. Which means, growing up in South St. Louis I’ve lost dozens of close family members and friends to guns, drugs and violence and I’ve taken the mantra that tomorrow is never promised. Two, I figured agents and publishers respond to numbers. A woman once told me something nearly a decade ago that I’ve never forgotten. She said a person is only willing to invest in you if you’ve invested in yourself and I firmly believe that.
What was your biggest resource of information as an indie author?
The Internet without a doubt. I researched the pros and cons of going the indie route, sort out the best publishing companies to align with and also researched the drawbacks of going the indie route. Of all the negatives that I found going indie, they far outweighed sitting back hoping an agent or publisher would see the vision I had laid out for my project.
How many novels have you had published, or is this your debut?
I’m currently working on my first novel as we speak. My first project, The Pride of Park Avenue, is a collection of personal essays, short stories and a few poems that I butchered before including them in the final manuscript. The final few pages of that book include a preview of the novel I’m working on now.
What genre do your write in?
Yes, the million dollar question that I have not yet been able to answer. In all honesty my work is like an orphaned child with no home. If I could describe my strength I’d say I’m leaning more towards creative non-fiction more so than fiction, but if fiction then I’d say young adult novelist once I complete my first novel because I want to impact kids and young adults in a positive way.
What made you choose this genre?
I’ve never chosen a genre; the genre chose me – or has yet to choose me to be honest with you.
Tell us a little bit about your latest novel (or upcoming novel)?
The Pride of Park Avenue is basically a collection of inter-woven pieces that combine personal essays on love, loss and pain with short and flash fiction pieces centered on the pursuit of the American Dream and adds painstakingly written poems. The overall theme is triumph in the face of adversity in the quest for a better life.
Which of your characters do you most relate with?
In my fiction pieces I have characters that I’ve developed over the years that mimic the relationship I had with my best friend of 23 years Rory L. Watkins. He’s a featured writer in The Pride of Park Avenue.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I was born and raised in the 3400 block of Park Avenue in South St. Louis. If you do a search of the local newspaper’s archives it would show that Park Avenue was a dangerous place to live during the late 1980s, early 1990s. I wanted to flip the newspaper account of my neighborhood on its head and project a different type of community; one with love, hard working people and the overall desire of the collective to be successful.
Did you know the title before you started writing, or did it come to you later?
The working title was The Pride of St. Louis before I found myself during a trip to NYC in the middle of Manhattan wondering if I could sell a book in that city entitled The Pride of St. Louis. My answer was a resounding no. In fact I was standing on the corner of Park Avenue and 34th Street in NYC when I had an epiphany: Darn near every city in the United States has a Park Avenue. And from that epiphany came The Pride of Park Avenue and it all tied in to the theme of being proud of where I’m from.
If you could use only FIVE words to persuade us to read your book, what would they be?
‘Sex, drugs, humor and pathos’ maybe or ‘Real-life American success story.’
What do you find are the biggest obstacles to overcome when writing a novel?
Time, time and more time. I have the idea, I’m halfway through it, but I find the time to actually sit down and write a great American novel more time-consuming than I thought.
For those writers who have not yet completed their first novel, what advice would you give them?
The best advice I have is to just do it. Write everyday, even if it’s just a sentence. Write everyday.
What famous writer would you most compare yourself to and why?
Literature buffs who have read my work compare my style to Langston Hughes and James Baldwin because of the ability to relay to the masses the plight of inner-city Americans. Of course I’d never say that about myself, but coming from a third-party, I’ll take the comparisons.
What is one book (besides one of your own) that you think everyone should read?
“What is the What” definitely and I’m reading this fascinating novel right now I’d have to recommend entitled “The Help.”
What book are your currently reading?
The aforementioned “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. I have no idea who she is, but her novel is a tremendous read.
eBook or hard copy, or do you not have a preference? I’m old school brick and mortar, but my book is available in both paperback and e-book form. Got to give the book readers the choice of which they prefer.
Have any new and upcoming authors caught your eye?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say myself. No self-promotion or vanity or anything, but I’m competing with these up-and-coming authors so I can’t show any weakness right now and admit to checking for them or their work.
If you were a superhero what would your name be?
I’d be Toriano Porter, father, son, author, journalist, motivator, role model. Super hero indeed.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I guess I’m a combination of the two.
Have you ever thought of a great opening chapter and a devilish closing chapter but just can’t work out how to get from one to the other?
No never. I write in a more cohesive form so the story evolves. I don’t want to know the ending until I write it.
Have you ever written a story where the antagonist made a better protagonist than the one you used?
Yes. A character named Cochise in some pieces contained in The Pride of Park Avenue. He is a maniac; a real-life sociopath in some ways – but his love for the protagonist sort of makes him the much-loved villain. Readers really see through his hard and rough exterior and see a genuinely compassionate person when it comes to the protagonist. He often comes off as a hero in the book.
What kind of routines do you keep when writing ( i.e., exercise, food, chores, etc.)?
Music, no television and plenty of ice-cold beverages.
What current project are you working on?
A novel with the working title of “James Cool (circa 1985).” It’s my labor of love. A seven-year work in progress.
Can you share any of it with us?
It’s a coming-of-age novel told through the eyes of an 11-year-old baseball fan during the summer of 1985. All the kid wants to do is watch the St. Louis Cardinals try to win a World Series and see his mom and dad work out the differences they have as they struggle to make ends meet.
Tell us a funny unknown fact about yourself.
I was named after Michael Jackson’s brother Tito, whose real name is Toriano. An aunt was a huge Jackson 5 fan and Tito was her favorite and she suggested the name to my mom. Before that I was Eddie Hollins, Jr. for two days, which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like Toriano Porter.
The Pride of Park Avenue
Combining cool, reflective narrative, free-flowing prose and authentic character dialogue, The Pride of Park Avenue is a collection of emotionally charged personal essays about life, loss and pain, character-driven flash fiction passages of love and betrayal, action-helmed coming of age short stories centered on the pursuit of the American Dream, painstaking, tragedy-filled poetry and insanely written gonzo blog entries that form one of the more daring works of the last quarter century.
Available on AmazonBecome a fan on facebook (The Pride of Park Avenue) Follow Toriano Porter on twitter @torianoporter Website: www.prideofparkavenue.com