#Dabeeside Exclusive: Interview with Ajana Clayton. Center of Gravity!

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What’s up people? It’s your boy Trav Dave. This interview here is special. The young lady is keeping her husband’s spirit alive through his work as an author.

Sharieff A.C. Clayton was an amazing father, mentor, friend and author whose life was taken from him too soon. Before his untimely passing, A.C. had just finished his 2nd book titled Honor Amongst Thieves II: Center of Gravity and his wife Ajana Clayton saw it through to the end. With the book hitting bookshelves on April 25th, I got a chance to speak with her about his life, work, and his writing.

This isn’t A.C.’s 1st book. Tell us about his 1st book “Honor Amongst Thieves I: Abandoned Nation” and the impact it had on him and you?

 

Hi, Trav. First, thank you for this opportunity. I am very honored to have this conversation with you about something that is near to my heart. You’re right. A.C.’s first book was Honor Amongst Thieves I: Abandoned Nation. That book was a pivotal point in his life as an entrepreneur and as someone who is was re-entering into society after quite a long incarceration period. If you are a hip hop head and know the artist Saigon you will recognize the phrase “Abandoned Nation”. This was actually a group that was started by A. C. while behind the wall, as a group of positive and talented brothers who were able to motivate each other and keeps each other focused as they all directed their attention towards going home to their families. Saigon was the first to make it home and he started making mixtapes and gained fame from his music. A. C. came home shortly after and within three months published his own book through his own publishing company. This was unique because most of the authors at the time were just trying to get contract publishing deals for someone else to print, market and distribute their books. A.C. wanted to create a medium where he could tell his story but he could make a way for other authors who wanted to tell a responsible story.

During A.C.’s incarceration, he spent much of his time reading hundreds of books, founding groups and writing his first novel. He used to recall when he would find places to stand and write bits of the story and then mail his handwritten notes out for someone to type the manuscript. A. C. had such a successful re-entry because he had a plan. He knew that the system was designed for him to struggle and possibly fail. The only way that he would guarantee that he would stay out was to have a plan that was based on how hard he worked for himself instead of depending on other people to provide for him. That was very typical of him. His ability to connect with people left him with close friends and associates all over the world.

As for me, I came along after his publishing company Amenta Publications was well-established. He did an amazing job at setting the foundation. He was already managing magazine placements, book reviews, selling, and distributing thousands of books. He was also working on the second book. Honestly, I came along with my marketing/business experience and pushed it to the next level. We negotiated partnerships with some major literary distributors that now have both books available anywhere books are sold or borrowed. We could see from the beginning that we made a dynamic duo.
Describe what kind of person was Sharieff Clayton?


I will start with what I think was most important to him – being a father. A.C. was so honored to be a father. As a father of four, he was always figuring out how to give them all the tools they needed to grow into being intelligent, considerate and well-rounded people. Most of our strategic conversations surrounded around, how we could guide them to greatness. He saw the potential in each of them and was willing to support them at all cost – whatever it took.

He not only desired to be a good father to his kids, he adopted and mentored many people (young and old) along the way. In his role as Program Manager at CASES, a juvenile alternative-to-detention program, A. C. was responsible for changing the lives of many youths that came into the program seemingly on a path of destruction. He was able to identify who needed the most guidance and who he could make connections with by using his own personal stories of living in the streets of New York City.

As a friend, he was unlike any other individual I had ever met. He had such a way with people. “Assume positive intentions” did not resonate with me until I met him. He never gave up on family and friends regardless of how many times he was disappointed. A. C. was the type of person who would remember interactions with people no matter how much time had passed he would then remember to ask about their mom who had surgery, a recent birthday that passed or the new unnerving ailments. He was convinced that people should just operate in that way.

As a husband, let’s just say… he is my very best friend. I am honored that this giant of a king chose me to be his queen. His love was unwavering and I am so glad that our children were able to be witness to real love. I don’t know that I could have imagined a perfect union for myself. He was everything I wanted and even some of what I didn’t know that I needed. He was my biggest cheerleader, constantly pushing me to be more, do more – beyond my limits.

At times, I am certain that my persistence for making this book happen is because we talked, planned, laughed and cheered each other on for nearly eight years to finish this book. This book had become a major part of our everyday life. He would write, I would listen to him read the parts of the story. We would plan writing get-a-ways where he could be in his creative space and I could be quietly motivating him and just be existing until he came up for a break.

Finally, as a story-teller, A.C. could command a room full of people with a story. He was able to speak in such a way that engaged most people and they hung on to his every word. Which is why this book is so important.

How much of Center of Gravity was inspired by Sharieff’s real life?

Parts of Center of Gravity were based loosely on his real life. There are just so many different facets of the story. This fast-paced novel includes love, romance, street hustle, betrayals, and some political resistance and revolution. At this point in his life, he was more into the revolution and political resistance but knew that a classic tale had to have the heart-thumping drama intertwined throughout. There are several characters in the book that I could see bits of him in.

 

How important was it to you to finished up the book and get it out to the public?

 

I know that he poured his heart and soul into this book. There are so many powerful messages relevant to the struggles that are being faced today. Currently, we are surrounded by news of political opposition and the need to reform the corrupt system from within. We are also looking at whole communities who are challenged with overcoming poverty and making choices that do not further advance the crime degenerative mindset that leads to imprisonment or even worse, death. All of these topics are addressed this novel. His story is important and this is my last gift to him.


You had the Editor-in-chief of Vibe Datwon Thomas write the Forward for “Center of Gravity”
How did that happen?

 

Listen Datwon Thomas writing this forward was major for us. We talked about it so much and believed that he would live up to his word, but we weren’t really sure if he would be able to find the time to make it happen. Datwon tells the story of how he met A.C. in the forward and how much he loved the first book Honor Amongst Thieves I: Abandoned Nation.

Because A.C. had just formally finished writing the book about three weeks before he passed, I kind of buried myself in the work because the essence of our last conversations was “I did my part, now it’s time to do yours”. I was ready. I started making those awkward phone calls to his industry connects and asking people to complete tasks or request favors that I know he had contemplated doing. Datwon was one of those requests. He was so great. He didn’t hesitate. He said that he would and he did. We are blessed to have him in our corner, he is genuinely a great guy who A.C. considered a brother.

 

I have seen the symbol of the bird and a rat quite often and know it’s on the cover of Center of Gravity. What exactly does that mean?

 

An eagle clutching a dead rodent is what we have deemed an ancient warrior symbol. A few years back, A.C. joined a team who developed a clothing line called Morerall (more-rall). This is the signature logo for the brand.

Basically, it stands for the bringing focus to the ongoing battle we all face inside of ourselves – between our heads and our hearts. The eagle represents the head and the rodent representing the heart. Our logo promotes self-discipline by being a symbolic reminder that the true battle lies within. It also reminds us to mind the company we keep as we seek to stay away from those who constantly allow their hearts to win the battle.

The symbol and the clothing line meant so much to A.C. that it played an important role in the development of the series.

Doing my research, I learned that Sharieff impacted a lot of people in his community. Do you think he would’ve turned his writings into series or movies?

 

Absolutely, we were in the process of developing a web series when he passed. He had garnered up some support from local people that read his first scripts and were completely sold. The night he passed I was at home setting up a casting call for the series. We also talked about the Honor Amongst Thieves books becoming a movie. A.C. had talked to a major film company a few years back, but he wasn’t willing to give up 100% of the rights to his work. I am still open to his books becoming a movie…. or two.


A lot of people might not know this, but can you explain the connection between Sharieff and the Character Rafe from the youtube/tidal series Money & Violence?

 

Good question. So the team behind Money and Violence were very close friends with A.C. They all grew up on the same block as kids in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. The team created characters that were loosely based on people that they knew from around the way. Rafe was very similar to Sharieff (A.C.) in a way of being very philosophical. A. C. was very much a wordsmith.

What can the readers expect from the Center of gravity?

 

Readers can expect an experience from beginning to end. The story is fast-paced similar to a James Patterson novel. Center of Gravity is full of history and jewels in the way that A.C. would drop some knowledge in a casual conversation. A non-stop visually stimulating tale that transports you to another place as you turn each page. Center of Gravity is engaging from the very first page all the way to the cliff-hanging end that makes you a little sad when you realize book 3 will never happen.

 

How much does it mean to you to carry out his legacy for him and your family?

 

Carrying out this legacy means the world to me. I am holding this torch with pride. I know that this is going to change someone’s life. I know that our children will appreciate being able to read these words when they are older. This must happen and I gladly accept the challenge.

 

Where can people get their hands on this book?

 

The book is available now at www.amentapub.com for $14.99. It is also available as an ebook through Kindle and Nook. An audiobook will be available on our website and Audible by June. It will also be available in bookstores and libraries near you.