Crafting Truth, Shaping Worlds: A Conversation With Black Nonfiction Powerhouses

We’ve gathered five phenomenal Black nonfiction authors to tell us about their creative process, sources of inspiration, and writing rituals!

5x5 Author's Corner Black Voices
five by five graphics with 5 portraits of black male nonfiction authors

In the latest edition of Bookstr’s 5×5 series, we want to highlight five luminary Black voices in the publishing world. These revolutionary authors inspire readers to think critically and create the best version of themselves with their deeply personal narratives of self-empowerment, leadership, and social justice. Their insightful reflections in this discussion are a reminder to celebrate the critical contributions of Black writers now and always. Let’s hear what they had to say about accessing the writer’s mindset, balancing personal expression with the demands of a broad audience, and much more.

The Authors

Arturo Nuñez

Author Arturo Nuñez smiling in front of a wall of artwork.

Arturo Nuñez is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur with decades of experience at globally recognized organizations, including Apple, Nike, Pepsi, and the NBA. He is the CEO and founder of AIE Creative, providing immersive experiences for a curated selection of brands, and a Board Member of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., The Estee Lauder Companies, and the NBA Players Association. Previously, he was Chief Marketing Officer at Nubank and Head of Marketing for Latin America at Apple Inc. Prior to that, he held various positions at Nike and the NBA. Nuñez is multilingual and sits on the boards of The Miami Underline, The Playing For Change Foundation, and The Nyah Project. He co-founded Black Joy: Thrive’s Black Men’s Retreat and co-owns Dante’s Hifi and Chulita Mexican Restaurant. Recently, he was named one of Latin America’s most influential marketing leaders by Advertising Week.

Arturo’s book, The Culture Compass, is forthcoming in late 2024 to early 2025.

Ed Gordon

Author Ed Gordon standing in front of a glass wall.

Hard-hitting, inspiring, intelligent, honest, and direct: these are some of the words used to describe the style and approach of Emmy award-winning broadcaster Ed Gordon. Known for his stellar interactions with newsmakers from the worlds of politics, entertainment, and sports, Gordon is also president of Ed Gordon Media, a multi-service production company. Gordon’s impressive portfolio includes conversations with newsmakers the likes of Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, television mogul Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, and Michael Jackson, among others. His awards include the NAACP Image Award, as well as the prestigious Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.

Ed’s book, Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership, is available now.

Dr. George James

Author Dr. George James smiling and standing behind a podium with a microphone.

Dr. George James, Psy.D., LMFT, MBA, is a renowned counselor who speaks, consults, coaches, and teaches people how to overcome everyday relational struggles to build successful connections in love, family, and career. With a practical approach to relationships and life, Dr. James helps bring success within reach of those he influences. He works extensively with professional athletes, entertainers, adult men and women, and young adult women and men on various issues including adulting, parenting, love life, leadership, career, and work-life balance. He is also known for his work as a media consultant. Dr. James is CEO of George Talks, LLC, a communication and consulting company. In addition, he is an Assistant Professor for the Couple and Family Therapy Program at Thomas Jefferson University. He is a nationally recognized speaker, seminar presenter, and lecturer on various topics. In his personal life, he is a dedicated husband and father to two children.

Dr. James’s book is forthcoming in 2025.

Marcus Hunter

Author Marcus Hunter smiling in front of a white wall with colorful art hung on it.

Marcus Anthony Hunter is the Scott Waugh Endowed Chair in the Division of the Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at UCLA. He is the coiner of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and author of four books: Black Citymakers: How the Philadelphia Negro Changed Urban America, Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life (co-authored with Zandria F. Robinson), The New Black Sociologists, and Radical Reparations.

Marcus’s latest book, Radical Reparations: Healing the Soul of a Nation, is available now.

Khnum “Stic” Ibomu

Author Stic smiling and leaning against a brick wall.

Khnum “Stic” Ibomu is one half of the duo that comprises dead prez, a hip-hop group that is synonymous with raising awareness for social justice, unity, and Pan-Africanism. Stic is widely considered to be one of the realest and most respected voices in hip-hop, but he is also known for a new sub-genre of workout music that he calls Fit Hop. Since the launch of dead prez’s first Gold album, Let’s Get Free, in 2000, Stic has evolved and maintained a focus on holistic health and wellness advocacy, using hip-hop to inspire healthy living. Born and raised in Florida, with Brooklyn providing the home for his formative years, Stic is currently based in Atlanta, where he continues his music career while also successfully managing multiple projects as an author, certified long-distance running coach, and co-founder of the RBG FIT CLUB lifestyle brand.

Stic’s book, The 5 Principles: A Revolutionary Path to Health, Inner Wealth, and Knowledge of Self, is available now.

The Questions

What inspired you to write your book? How did you take the seed of your idea and bring it to fruition? Are there any topics or themes you’re particularly passionate about exploring in future works?

Arturo Nuñez: I wanted to help people. I had an experience in corporate America and learned many valuable lessons I wanted to pass on.

As for future projects, I am interested in writing about the power of culture to drive business and community.

Ed Gordon: I have been asked to write a book about my career for years, but I never thought it was time. A year or so ago, I felt I was ready to share some of the behind-the-scenes moments and details from the big interviews I’ve conducted and my impressions of historic events I’ve been witness to. I have told many of these stories over the years during my speaking engagements and always had great responses. Now, I’ll be sharing them with a much wider audience.

Dr. George James: After 20-plus years of working with clients to overcome emotional and relational challenges, I saw something shift with the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and reckoning with racial injustice. So many of my clients and attendees of my speaking engagements and workshops were emotionally empty. Many of the leaders, executives, athletes, and entertainers I worked with felt depleted. I was asked to speak at a self-care retreat, and I titled my talk, I Give Myself Permission. What I had to share resonated deeply with the audience and many audiences since. I wrote the book to share the message with a larger audience.

I usually work to meet deadlines. With this book, the idea continued to develop with each audience I spoke to, from leaders and executives to students to faculty members at universities and more. I learned more about people during each talk. Then I would reflect on my clinical work, and I saw that there were similarities between what I was doing clinically to what I was saying during my talks. I shared with my wife and close friends, and the idea started to build that this could be a book. Then, I worked on shaping the idea into a book proposal.

Yes. I have plenty of ideas of what I would like to share. I would love to write a book about my work helping family-owned businesses through transition. I would also love to write a book to help couples in their relationships.

Marcus Hunter: The power of love and imagination inspired Radical Reparations. Love, peace, reparation, healing, change, and joy are among the many themes.

I am passionate about storytelling from a mosaic of the Black experience. From mystery to YA to adult learners, I look forward to composing works in a range of areas and topics.

Stic: I wanted to humbly share my truly life-changing journey in health, fitness, martial arts, and wellness in a way that would be a reflective and insightful endeavor for me and, at the same time, a relatable, inspirational, and actionable undertaking for the reader.

My agent Regina helped me consider what might make sense in the current market, and we went on to develop what became the memoir, manual, and manifesto that we titled The 5 Principles.

I’m passionate about learning, growing, and being creative. Whether it’s music, health, fitness, martial arts, running, psychology, or really any aspect of self-development. I’m definitely aiming to explore deeper into those topics and more in both nonfiction and fiction in my next works. I really enjoy the audiobook format as well.

When it’s time to delve into your writing, do you have specific rituals or elements around you that you find crucial for entering the writer’s mindset? Can you share insights into the environment or practices that help you immerse yourself in your creative process?

Arturo Nuñez: Meditation, walking, and witnessing unique creative endeavors inspire my writing: poetry, music, art, theatre, and books.

Ed Gordon: I usually play music as I am writing. No particular kind, whatever fits my mood at the time. Sometimes, I match it to what I am writing about. For instance, when I was writing the chapter on my relationship with Whitney Houston, of course, I played her music.

Dr. George James: When I write I like to have music on in the background. Depending on what vibe I’m in that could be an inspiring gospel mix to a body-moving reggae/salsa/soca/afrobeats mix. I might not get as much writing done with the latter but it gets me in a great energy space. Then I can focus on what I’m trying to write.

I use the music to block out any thoughts, saying that I can’t do it. Then, I remind myself of the goal. Usually, at some point, I get a moment of inspiration, a spark that feels like this is it. If I don’t use that spark at that moment, the drive to write about that topic decreases but never goes away. Then the spark comes back. So if I don’t use it at first, there’s another opportunity coming.

Marcus Hunter: Prayer, devotion, meditation, and jogging are core rituals. Contemporary and classical music animate my environment and are drawn from self-curated lists.

Stic: I do have a few ritualized quirks that I find essential to my writing flow and process. Here are three:
1. I write on my phone. It’s terrible on the eyes, but it’s convenient as a motherfucker.
2. I listen to rain sounds while writing. There’s something about the sound of water that centers me in my most peaceful state and helps me focus.
3. I read other books on similar subjects or of particular styles while working on mine. I never have a shortage of original thoughts or ideas, but I also don’t believe you have to keep reinventing the wheel in every aspect, so I like to learn and apply in real-time how other authors are approaching the subject, and I take inspiration and best practices and techniques from them and apply them in my own way to what I’m doing.

Balancing the need for personal expression and the desire to connect with a broad audience can be intricate. How do you navigate this balance in your creative process, ensuring that your personal voice is maintained while also fostering a connection with a wide range of readers?

Arturo Nuñez: I can only be me; everyone else is taken. I believe my personal expression and experiences can polished, synthesized, edited, and remixed to reach numerous broad audiences.

Ed Gordon: This book is different. These are very personal stories. Over the course of my television career, I have been the eyes and ears for the viewer or, in this case, the reader, so I want this book to very much be in my voice. This book will put the reader right next to me as I share the inside scoop on what really went on during my headline-making interviews and on the ground during some of the biggest news stories of our time. This is Ed giving you the “real deal.”

Dr. George James: When I write, I combine clinical experiences, theory, and personal experiences in what I am trying to share. I try to communicate in a way that feels like a friend or slightly older relative sharing their perspective versus the all-knowing therapist. In sharing clinical stories and personal stories, I hope to convey the main point in a manner that feels relatable. I also write to inspire people with stories, believing that if someone else can overcome a particular challenge, maybe the reader will feel that they can do the same.

Marcus Hunter: The law of rhythm is very important. That pacing and timing align in the composition is crucial. The balance rests on the understanding that the readers come for storytelling and to be intellectually stimulated. Therefore, aspects such as voice are integrated into the composition based on how they advance and complement the reading experience the book provides.

Stic: That’s kind of a natural thing for me that I kind of rediscovered in the context of writing The 5 Principles.

Having been a hip-hop artist for decades, I’ve learned how to speak my truth unapologetically and yet engage folks from all walks of life. You might be surprised to see thousands of white kids around the world singing along to Black revolutionary lyrics at the top of their lungs, but with dead prez, I’ve literally been there and done that thousands of times. And I think the same applies to writing. It’s as simple as this — authenticity resonates.

As the saying goes, “Real recognize real,” and I believe that is what is at the heart of connecting — it’s that palpable earnestness that people can feel that creates a genuine engagement and connection with others.

What criteria do you use to evaluate and decide whether to undertake a new project? Can you provide insights into your decision-making process and the key factors that influence your choices when considering new opportunities?

Arturo Nuñez: Inspiration is my guide. That and whether I believe people will benefit from the material.

Ed Gordon: This was easy. When I have told these stories over the years, the reaction has been overwhelming. Many times people have wondered, What was Tupac really like? What was it like to be in the White House with Barack Obama? Do you think OJ Simpson is guilty?

People have questioned me about so many things that I have covered over the years. I know what things are of interest to many of them.

Dr. George James: I think about my areas of expertise, topics I’m interested in/passionate about, and the message I want to convey. Some topics might not be a good fit, even if they’re within one of my areas of expertise.

Marcus Hunter: Am I curious or intrigued? Could I sustain passionate investment over the full journey from curiosity to reality? If these questions return with an internal “yes,” then I am off to the races.

Stic: The bottom line for me is inspiration. Of course, on the business side, there are always those market and marketability-related considerations too, but at the end of the day, it’s the inspiration and the curiosity and the passion for the idea that fuels the work it takes to see the vision through to fruition.

I’m currently working on two new book ideas; one is nonfiction, and the other is my first foray into fiction, and both of them are topics that I am insatiably curious and passionate about. That’s how I know. It’s like the shit starts writing itself!

What challenges did you face while writing your book, and how did you overcome them?

Arturo Nuñez: It was a challenge to know which stories to include. Which people to include and which to exclude.

Ed Gordon: The accurate recall of events and timelines is the biggest challenge. It’s taken a lot of fact-checking and calls to others who were engaged to match recollections. Sometimes, what you remember isn’t exactly the way it happened. What year was that? Who was there? What color was that sign over the president’s head? It’s up to me to make sure my memory is accurate, so there is a lot of research involved.

Dr. George James: The biggest challenge I faced is time. Between a busy practice, speaking engagements, and other work commitments, time can be hard to find. Even more important is my time with my wife and children. Being there for them and spending quality time is very important to me. So, finding time to write in between all of my responsibilities was a challenge. Thankfully, I believe in what I am trying to share. My family is very supportive, and I found ways to make the time I needed to write.

Marcus Hunter: My father, Marcus Allan Hunter, died of a sudden heart attack in late 2020. The healing journey required reflection and building tools to process and convey pain and joy. This healing journey was foundational to my writing and the book’s messages.

Stic: Writing The 5 Principles was a fun and engrossing journey overall, but it almost didn’t happen. Firstly, I initially didn’t even intend to be the writer because of so many other responsibilities that I was managing as an artist, father, business owner, etc. I had hired a writer whom I respected and who I thought would be a great choice to tell my story to, but unfortunately, after months of interviews, he ended up flaking, and I had waited and wasted months to no avail. So I decided (or life decided) that if the book was going to happen, I’d have to make it happen. So in my first draft, I got about six chapters deep and realized the shit I was writing sounded like an essay for school, and I was like, wait a minute — this is boring me, and it’s my story, LOL.

I think the anxiety of writing it myself and under the pressure of the time wasted had me uptight and had me unconsciously writing in this kind of disconnected academic tone that I didn’t even know where that was coming from. Reading back over it, I was like, this is my story, no doubt, but it doesn’t sound like me saying it at all. With so much time already lost and my deadline quickly approaching, I didn’t want to start all over from scratch, but it was necessary. I had found my voice, and that was just the breakthrough I needed.

So I start the rewrite in my natural speaking voice, and it’s flowing, and then boom, my father dies. And then, not even a month after he had passed, not even having a moment to properly process my grief, I found myself also dealing with what ultimately became a very nasty split from a 29-year relationship with my kids’ mother.

Shit was crazy, to say the least.

But my team at Serendipity — Regina and Kelly — was the best support I could have dreamed of in helping me stay the course, weather the storms, and eventually deliver the goods almost on schedule, LOL. A few weeks behind, but we made it!

Bonus Questions

While this series is about interviewing five authors and asking them five questions, we sometimes have a few extras to share. These amazingly insightful and talented authors’ answers to our additional questions were too important and interesting not to share.

How do you hope your book will impact readers or contribute to ongoing discussions around its subject matter?

Arturo Nuñez: I hope people struggling to cope in corporate America will find the lessons valuable and lean into their unique abilities to lead them to success.

Ed Gordon: I hope my book provides a unique glimpse of many of the great people and events I’ve been contacted to over the last three decades. Often, in reporting, the most fascinating things about a person or place take place before the cameras are turned on or when they are turned off. What’s a celebrity or newsmaker really like? What incidents or actions lead up to a major event? What things happened “behind the curtain”?

These are the things people long to know. I have been in a unique place to see much of this. I want to give readers some insight and perspective. Some stories are funny, others are poignant, and they’re all interesting or entertaining. They will put the reader right there with me, with some of the day’s biggest individuals and stories of our times.

Dr. George James: I see so many people from all walks of life struggle to give themselves permission. To really work through the emotional and interpersonal narratives that keep them from living their life fully. My hope is that this book will inspire people to give themselves permission to start a new business, practice self-care, heal from past hurts, move on from a past relationship, and so much more. I believe my book will help people understand why they struggle with giving themselves permission and inspire them to make the necessary changes in their lives.

Marcus Hunter: If we can imagine it, we can manifest it. I hope Radical Reparations provokes and stimulates the collective and individual imagination to build a more beautiful, more inclusive world than the one we live in.

Stic: I wrote the book and read the audiobook in a very conversational tone, and I really hope readers can relate, apply, and benefit from the simplicity of The 5 Principles. Besides all the actionable elements to explore, from recipes to workouts to meditations to productivity tips, the biggest takeaway I hope for is that the reader is inspired to break unhealthy cycles and feel empowered to make wellness a part of everyday life.

If your book had a soundtrack, what three songs would be on it?

Arturo Nuñez: Superfly – Little Louie Vega EOL Mix by Curtis Mayfield, If You Believe Your God Is Dead, Try Mine by The Swan Silvertones, and Follow Me – Faith by Sunday Service Choir.

Ed Gordon: What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, When You’ve Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven) by Patti LaBelle, and The Story Teller by Jean-Luc Ponty.

Dr. George James: Break My Soul by Beyoncé, Good Day by Forrest Frank, and Toast by Koffee.

Marcus Hunter: Optimistic by Sounds of Blackness, Egyptian Song by Rufus ft. Chaka Khan, and Bitch Better Have My Money by Rihanna.

Stic: Besides the dead prez joints Be Healthy and Way of Life, my book actually does have a soundtrack! I released not one but two “fit hop” albums (The Workout and The Workout II), and they both celebrate the “Wellionaire” lifestyle that I share in The 5 Principles.

Fit Hop is a sub-genre of hip-hop music that I started back in 2011, dedicated to creating authentic hip-hop that embodies my healthy gangsta ethos. Select cuts: Back On My Regimen, White Belt, Runner’s High, Let it Burn, and Uplifting.

Thank you to Arturo, Ed, Dr. James, Marcus, and Stic for sharing their time and wisdom with us. Each of these men brings an invaluable perspective to the publishing industry, and their literary contributions will undoubtedly go on to inspire future writers with equally important experiences to share.

Find Arturo Nuñez here.

Find Ed Gordon here.

Find Dr. George James here.

Find Marcus Hunter here.

Find Stic here.

The authors interviewed in this article are all represented by Serendipity Literary Agency, a Black woman–owned agency dedicated to helping aspiring writers and illustrators build successful and sustainable careers. Serendipity represents clients in adult and young adult fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature. The experienced agents at Serendipity have the contacts you need, the knowledge required to market your work effectively, and the skills to negotiate the most favorable contracts on your behalf. To learn more about Serendipity, click here.

For more engaging roundtable discussions, read our 5×5 with female authors here.

To browse these books and more, check out our Black Authors shelf on Bookshop.