T.I.’s name used to be synonymous with music.
But then he started branching out into films (“Takers,” the upcoming “Identity Theft”) and in the last two years has turned into a TV presence with his hit VH1 reality show, “T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle” and a meaty role on Kelsey Grammer’s “Boss,” airing on Starz.
Last year, he entered the literary realm with his first work of fiction, “Power & Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets.” Co-written with New York Times bestselling author David Ritz, the partially-set-in-Atlanta book followed the saga of Paul “Power” Clay and Tanya “Beauty” Long.
Since that one ended with a cliffhanger, T.I. knew he had more story to tell. Earlier this week came “Trouble & Triumph,” the sequel to “Power & Beauty,” which finds the namesake couple separated – a situation that obviously cannot last long.
The book, which T.I. will sign at two appearances next week, is filled with numerous characters and action that hopscotches from Atlanta to Miami to Tokyo.
The rapper-actor-author called recently from his Atlanta home to talk about his foray into novel writing.
Q. How long ago did you start writing this sequel?
A. When I was working on the first one, I knew I had more story to tell. I just kind of made it the prequel to the second book. It took about seven or eight months to write.
Q. What’s the most challenging thing about writing fiction, compared to songwriting?
A. To remember that there is no limitation – how far left, right or how far high or low this character can go. There’s no comparison [to songwriting]. Most of my songs are based on a reality that they devise from something, and with these novels, which are the first I’ve ever done, it’s not married to any reality.
Q. What’s the process like working with David? Who contributes what?
A. We definitely have an equal collaboration. We start out brainstorming and the best ideas stick, obviously. Once the main script is drawn up, it’s shared and viewed by both parties, comments are made and we draw up the manuscript and write more. That process continues to take place until you’re satisfied.
Q. There are a lot of characters to keep track of – are they based on people in real life?
A. No, no, they only have traits or there may be certain activities that I could point to in real life. But no one is completely patterned after
Q. Do you feel you’re being respected in the literary community?
A. I think the respect that matters comes from the fans, people who enjoy the book. No one else’s opinion really matters.
Q. How far do you see this series going?
A. I think that the sky is the limit. Right now, I see that the success of each project determines the life of the story.
Q. You’ve said that one reason for doing these books it that you want to promote literacy. Were you a big reader growing up?
A. Early on in life I was, then as I got older, I read more for information than entertainment. I would read anything, man – the newspaper, the Bible, certain biographies, like the Malcolm X autobiography, anything I felt I could learn from.
Q. What do you want people to take away from this book?
A. I just hope that the story continues to captivate them as much as the first one did. I am happy with it, proud of it.
T.I. will sign copies of his book at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26. Books-A-Million, 258 City Circle, Peachtree City. 770-632-1296, www.booksamillion.com ; and 7 p.m. Sept. 27. Barnes & Noble, 2900 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-261-7747, www.barnesandnoble.com .
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene