The Sweetest Debut: Angie Thomas on Old School Hip Hop and the Allure of Cookie Lyon


Welcome to The Sweetest Debut, a regular installment in which we reach out to debut (or near-debut, we’re flexible!) fiction, poetry and nonfiction authors working with presses of all sizes and find out about their pop culture diets, their writing habits, and their fan-fiction fantasies. Today: Angie Thomas talks about her debut novel The Hate U Give, which is set to be turned into a movie next year!

What is your elevator pitch to folks in the industry describing your book?

The Hate U Give is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Starr, who is the sole witness when her childhood best friend is killed by a cop.

How long was this project marinating in a draft or in your head before it became a book deal?

Years! I first wrote it as a short story back in 2010/2011 and waited until 2014 to write it as a novel.

Name a book you’ve read more than two times.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I try to read it once a year.

Is there a book or other piece of art that influenced your writing for this particular project?

Boyz N The Hood. I’ve always wanted to see it from a girl’s perspective, and that was sort of the approach I took for my book.

What’s your favorite show to binge watch when you’re not writing?


What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?

Hidden Figures, and I want to see it again.

Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what kind?

Yes! I listen to a lot of old school hip hop, from Run DMC to Queen Latifah to 2Pac.

If you could buy a house anywhere in the world just to write in, where would it be?

A beach-side house in the Caribbean (on a private beach, I might add). I would open every window in the house, just to feel the breeze and smell the ocean, and write.

What did you initially want to be when you grew up?

A doctor until I realized that there would be lots of blood involved.

Did you have a New Year’s resolution for 2017? If so, what?

To not live in fear but also to be vigilant and aware.

What freaks you out the most about four years of Donald Trump as US President?

That at some point this will seem normal to all of us or that we will grow weary too soon.

Do you prefer a buzzing coffee shop or silent library?

A silent library.

Do you write at a desk, bed or couch?

All of the above

Is morning writing or late-night writing your go-to-time?

Morning to late afternoon.

Do you tend towards writing it all out in one big messy draft and then editing, or perfecting as you go (or something in between)?

Something in between. I try to do one big messy draft, but the perfectionist in me always wants to edit as I go.

If you could write fanfiction about any pop culture character, real or imagined, who would it be?

Cookie Lyon from Empire. That character has so many layers that it would be incredible to explore them all.

Angie Thomas portrait by Anissa Hidouk.