Omar Tyree is riding high on the sweet smell of success. With twenty-eight titles written and published since penning his first novel, “The Diary of a Freshman” at age 23, we are not surprised that he is one of the most recognizable names in modern African-American literature. Tyree’s latest book, “All Access”, is about the intrusive world of having too much access to our individual lives.
Tyree explained, “With the technology of social media: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, we witness people doing similar things when you are allowed into their world– inside their house, inside their dorm rooms, inside their bathrooms. It’s become the new norm. So, I asked the question, ‘How much of your private life are you willing to expose for fame?’ That is what they’re seeking. They want to become famous from their exposure. That’s the book that I wanted to write,” He said. “I created a broadcast journalist, who is given an all access pass into the life of a guy who is always getting in trouble. When the all access pass is extended to her she inherits his trouble. She is then viewed as an extension of his world yet she has a husband, kids and a normal family life.”
The book centers around the two fictional characters, Judy Pierce an Atlanta broadcast news anchor and Shawn Blake, a temperamental superstar who constantly finds himself in precarious situations which bring drama into his personal life. Tyree poses the questions, ‘How much exposure is too much exposure?’ And ‘has the fast lane of grabbing short headlines and instant clicks gone too far between the media, publicity teams and bringing personal battles into the public?’
“When you see that lifestyle mixed with a ‘normal’ lifestyle, you can see how quickly it can escalate. The reality is that most people on reality shows are viewed as crazy anyway and those who have been in the industry are known as such within their family. However, if you’re a normal person and your family calls up to ask ‘What is this X, Y and Z, I heard that you were doing?’ that’s not normal. So, I wanted to give people a taste of that and flip it on its head and take it to the extreme,” Tyree said.
“I looked at the Ray Rice situation where he knocked his wife out in the elevator. They worked out the situation between the two of them and moved passed it. Then, TMZ intrudes on their personal life with the video, broadcasting to the whole world. When I saw the video over and over again – I thought more about the wife than anything. Who wants to see themselves get knocked out like that?” Tyree said. “The whole world wanted her be the victim– like she’d been beat all of the time. I observed her body language. I saw that she’s a hard woman who got caught in a situation where now, she couldn’t deny it.”
Tyree the kind of writer who needs to sit in an isolated room to get in touch with feelings to let the words flow onto the page. He’s a journalist who likes to get out in the field and find out what’s on people’s minds.
He has become a prolific and popular American writer encompassing life observations and current affairs from an urban Black perspective. He grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from Central High School, and attended University of Pittsburgh as a pharmacy major and aspiring football player. It was there that he penned his first three novels and decided to transfer to Howard University from which he graduated cum laude, with a degree in Print Journalism.
During his early years as a writer, still a student at Howard, he established his own publishing company. After graduating, Simon & Shuster offered the young talent a $250,000 advance for a two-book publishing deal. He was twenty-six. Since then, Tyree has written a range of books from fictional novels for mature readers to penning children’s story books.
Over 300 of his articles have appeared in Black publications over the years as a columnist. His books have generated 2.5 million copies, sold worldwide bringing close to $30 million over his career span. Tyree likes to describe his approach as an inside look at realism with a touch of street swagger and truth. He unapologetically shoots from the hip and says,
“I’m old school so I write with an intention – it has a purpose for me. I’m not just creating something because a tree hit me upside the head, no – I don’t create stuff that way. I’m very calculated in what I do,” he said.
Tyree enthusiastically breaks down his books. “Every single book that I’ve published, I can sum up in one subjective word. Fly Girl is about materialism. Do Right Man is about integrity. Single Mom is about family. Sweet St. Louis is about love. For the Love of Money is about art. Just Say No is about indulgence. Leslie is about poverty. Diary of a Groupie is about being opportunistic and What They Want is about sexuality,” he said. “I want my signature on every book. The book Pecking Order is about business and All Access is about exposure.”
Today, the bookselling/publishing world has had to succumb to competition with big chain cyber-hubs such as Amazon.com. The economic backlash of this reality is that brick and mortar stores are a dying breed, forcing many authors to create their own publishing companies. The days of jockeying traditional publishing houses are not the same. So Tyree recently launched his own publishing imprint OTI (Omar Tyree Incorporated) with “All Access” as the company’s first book release.
He’s excited about his latest ventures, which include lecturing and consulting aspiring writers. “I’m rein- venting the wheel. I’m going manage distribution of my books, and my own set up. We’ve lost a lot of bookstores, and some publishers are scared now. They’re not putting the same money on the table, or marketing and I’m looking at that and saying, ‘Why would I put my book in their hands if they don’t have confidence anymore in what they’re doing?’”
Just like independent music artists, writers find themselves doing a great deal of the heavy lifting. However, writers like Tyree see this movement as an asset and not a liability. Both Code Black Productions and Lions Gate Films have picked up the film production of Tyree’s classic “Fly Girl” trilogy starring notable actress, Sanaa Lathan (Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, The Best Man, Best Man Holiday, The Perfect Guy), which is slated for a late 2016 release.
“This whole thing now is about my execution. Just knowing that I have a film coming out next year is like riding a tidal wave with my new book as my back up. I want to get out in front of the wave so that I can control it then I can roll out a new OTI book,” he smiles confidently. “I got this old brick truck coming behind me, it’s like when you’re picking a fight because you know you have 50 cousins coming – that’s what I’m doing right now and I’m feeling great.”