Jaxon Grant is an urban gay author who grew up in Orlando, now residing in Tallahassee, Florida. Jaxon is an educator and one of the most successful black gay fiction writers. His published titles include “Crimes of the Heart,” “Incidental Contact,” “Bad Religion,” “What Webs We Weave,” “Diggin’ On You,” and “Life of a College Bandsman,” his first book.
Known mainly as BnTasty by his online reader base, Jaxon Grant started his writing conquest in June 2008 on a popular stories website for gay and bisexual men. With his initial publications, he captivated his loyal fans. He created a healthy following that urged him to move outside the confines of those who flocked to “Da Site” to read his material. After many years of growing and understanding his writing skills, he’s brought his work to a national audience.
PrideIndex recently enjoyed a lively conversation with Jaxon. He shared how his “situation ship” led to his first book, the importance of reaching back to help aspiring writers, and more.
PrideIndex (PI): Tell us about your journey thus far. And why did you become a writer?
Jaxon Grant (JG): I started in high school, I was always a good writer, per se, but I was not looking to write a book. In my last year in the band in college, I was into reading books, and I found this story site. I thought I would try right then and see what would happen. I grew an online fan base, and they encouraged me to publish. So I wrote underground for five years, and then in 2013, I went for it. And now here we are, almost 10 years later.
PI: How many books have you published?
PI: OMG, 35 books. Wow, that is outstanding. I have underestimated you. I understand you studied social science and secondary education. Are you formally trained as a writer?
JG: I wasn’t formally trained, but I had a teacher in high school who I still talk to even today, some 20 years later. She kind of forced us to be better writers. I’ve always loved reading and wanted to write, so I just tried it. I didn’t know what I was doing the first time I wrote a book. I went headfirst, and over the years, I’ve been able to define my craft. It took a lot of trial and error to get there. I never had formal writing training; I guess I’m an amateur.
PI: What’s the name of your first book? And under what circumstances were you published?
JG: The first book I wrote was called “Life of a College Bandsman.” I was in a situation ship. He was one of my best friends, he was straight, and I was gay; it was just a big mess. I didn’t know what the situation was. I just wanted a place to vent, but I had no intentions of growing that series. I was going to write three books in my head, and that would be it. I have 12 books in that series.
PI: Are all of your books self-published? Did you ever attempt to go the traditional route with a publisher?
JG: I wanted to go through a traditional publisher but met this guy who writes under the name Beast. He saw one of my stories on Black Gay Chat (BGC), hit me up, and said, “Why don’t you self-publish?” I thought he was running a scam and didn’t know what to do. I left him alone, and then he said, “I don’t want anything from you; I just want to help because your stories are good. You should make money from this,” he said. I sat on it for half a year, finally hitting him up. Beast showed me the ropes, helped me to write my first two books, and I’ve been self-published ever since.
PI: It’s great to hear there was somebody out there that “wanted to help.” The world isn’t made up of people like that.
JG: Right. Beast didn’t know me from Adam. We spoke on the telephone for 12-13 hours one night; he talked me through everything. He was a big help. I told myself that if anybody came to me for help, I would help. I’ve spoken to many authors over the years and helped them with their publishing journey because someone did it for me. So, I would hope they would do it for other people as well.
PI: Name some of your artistic influences.
JG: Number one is E. Lynn Harris; I remember his first book, Invisible Life. I saw the book cover and thought, what’s this? When I read it, I looked at all of his other books. My Jaxon Universe idea came from E. Lynn Harris. When you see a character in one of his books, that character will make a cameo in the second book. As a reader, I felt connected because I want to do that but make it more profound in my stories. So that’s how I built my network of books out of that. E. Lynn Harris is definitely the person who has most influenced me.
PI: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JG: If you have read any of my books, I love my HBCUs. I like to travel, attend HBCU football games, and love marching bands.
PI: You had better like marching bands. (Laughs).
JG: (Laughs). It is the fall, and my weekends are spent watching and attending HBCU games. Wherever my team is, I am usually right there. My time is spent hanging out with my friends. I am a homebody. I like sports too, but that’s my life outside of teaching. I am very humble and keep to myself. I’m an only child, so I know how to keep myself entertained.
PI: How do you nurture ideas from brainstorming and conception to actualization and putting those ideas down on paper?
JG: Stuff floats around in my head all of the time. I could be at work, for example, and something could happen. I could use any incident and write a note down on my phone, and then when I’m ready to put the story together, I think about the beginning of the story. I think about what the character goes through. I know how the story ends, but the middle part is the fun part.
PI: Have you considered writing in a different genre, such as horror, or the other genres?
JG: I thought about it. But it was just a thought. I’m a realist and don’t like to use sci-fi, for example, because it does not seem realistic. The events in my books could actually happen in real life. I thought about other things, even writing a “straight book,” but nothing ever came of it. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable writing in a different genre. I want to stay in my lane.
PI: Have you ever considered going to a traditional publisher? Or do you find yourself comfortable where you are right now as a self-published author?
JG: I thought about it; going through a traditional publisher would get more eyes reading my books. I like the freedom of self-publishing. I know going to a publisher could be like a double-edged sword. I know you will get that push of publicity going through a traditional publishing house. Still, you lose some of your freedom in that process. I’m not sure. But I’m not closing the door.
PI: Earlier, you’ve mentioned the importance of reaching back and helping other aspiring writers. What advice would you offer them on how to get published or get their ideas out there?
JG: The first thing I’ll tell anybody who wants to write a book is, you have to write the book first. Aspiring writers come to me and ask, how do I do this? How do I do that? The first thing I ask them is, have you written the book? For those that say no, I tell them you have to write the book first. Outside of that, my consistency helped me kind of grow my reader base. In today’s world, people want stuff immediately and fast. It does not work like that.
To build my reader base up, at first, I was putting books out every two months. It literally grew overnight like that. Don’t just write one book; write a couple of them and have them strategically placed so you can push out two or three books within three or four months. That’s going to help to build your reader base. When looking for an author to read, I take a chance with a new author. The first thing I do on Amazon is go to their book catalogs. Do I see one book? Do I see 50 books? I look at the reviews and the number of stars it has. Does it have four stars? Five stars? One star? Before I take my chance on that author, I want to read one of their books.
Having a catalog of good books is helpful to new writers. So, write a couple of books. You also have to consider advertising, because you have to stick out from everybody else. But that’s why I think the gay genre, especially the black gay genre is prime because there is interest in new authors. There’s a place for everybody in the black gay genre because there’s not a lot of us currently writing. There’s money to be made. The first thing, long story short, is to write the book. Once you write the book, everything else will come out.
PI: I was not going to go there, but I will. Have you made a lot of money self-publishing?
JG: Oh, man, this is crazy. Absolutely. I would have never thought that my books would make have made money. I’m not a millionaire. I’m not rich. I’m a teacher. Writing books has made me lots of extra money. I’m not putting out books like that anymore. The money I’ve made has made life less stressful. And the fact that I’m still making money from the books I wrote 10 years ago, you can’t beat that. I’ve been blessed.
PI: What does the future hold for the author, Jaxon Grant?
JG: I have a lot of stories still in my head. I just need to find the time to write them. I have stories that could go from now through 2024. As long as God has put breath in my body, I will keep writing. I just need to keep trying to find the right time to work on it. Otherwise, I will keep balancing everything from a pleasant work-life and spending time with my friends.