“Do the work to get what you want,” an interview with authors Sara Connell, Jamilyl & Tracy-Ann Samuels

Sara Connell
Apr 28 · 12 min read

You have to do the work to get what you want. God gives you the talent, but He is not going to put you where you want to be. It is up to you to hustle twice as hard to make it. You get rejected, keep calling, keep showing up, stay in these people’s faces until they can’t deny you. I don’t take no for an answer.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamilyl & Tracy-Ann Samuels.

Jamilyl & Tracy-Ann Samuels have a successful children’s book series based on their son Trey who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Instead of just living their life doing the best they can, they put their son’s unique abilities or “superpowers” into a storyline for their Amazingly Awesome Amani book series. The Amazingly Awesome Amani series follows the adventures of a boy who takes on life’s challenges by day, but is a perfectly “normal” avenger in his dreams, in a superhero kind of wayWhile entertainment is one of the reasons for this series, spreading awareness and starting the conversation about Autism and other spectrum, language and communication disorders is really their main focus. They spend their downtime doing community outreach and speaking engagements in our area.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

Jamiyl:

I was always into creative writing, but I became an author by accident. The first book we published entitled “Pass The Torch: How A Young Black Father Challenges The Deadbeat Dad Stereotype” was inspired by the birth of our son Trey Amani. I was a first-time dad and I was determined not to follow in my own father’s footsteps. The book was the first time I ever shared how my father’s abandonment affected me. When we discovered Trey was autistic, we were inspired to create a series of books to speak about our journey and raise awareness about Autism. Writing is my therapy.

Tracy-Ann:

I kind of stumbled onto writing. It was not a career choice. I am a Social Worker by trade, however I felt it was important to advocate within my community about a topic that is meaningful and important to me. Coming from a culture that does not speak about autism I felt it was important for me to share the journey that we have gone through with our son Trey.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Jamiyl:

I went to observe Trey at a public school he was attending years ago at the suggestion of his teacher. What I saw opened my eyes to what he was going through on a daily basis. For example, I witnessed some of the other kids trying to take his lunch in the cafeteria. He was the only one that had his lunch packed and the other kids had to wait to be served so some of them would help themselves to his food. I watched Trey get upset but could not verbally tell them to stop. I stepped in and gave a little lecture to the kids and was promptly told I did not belong there by them. The bullying scene in the original Amani book comes from that experience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

Jamiyl:

Thinking that everyone will love your work as much as you do! When I was doing my music, I thought everything I recorded was the greatest thing ever. I got mailing addresses of record labels and sent my demo with a typed biography and fact sheet about myself thinking people would be beating down my door. Needless to say, I was humbled real quick when I did not hear from anybody. The lesson it taught me was to do my research. It forced me to step my game up.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Tracy-Ann:

Right now, we are in the process of completing the manuscript for the third book in The Amazingly Awesome Amani series which centers around his sister Sandy. We also have a children’s book on fatherhood in the works. The unreleased YA novel that The Amazingly Awesome Amani is based on will be completed as well. We will be working to push the Awesome Amani brand further outside of the literary world as well.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer?

Jamiyl:

One habit I believe contributed to me becoming a great writer is my love for reading. Since I was a little boy, I always traveled with something to read: a magazine, a novel, a screenplay. Reading helped me learn new words and what they meant by how they were used in a sentence. Once I learned what the word meant and how to use it, I applied that knowledge to my work. I am also my own worst critic. I constantly re-examine and proofread my work to make sure it looks professional.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Jamiyl:

The most interesting story in our latest book “The Amazingly Awesome Amani Takes On JITTERS & FEAR” is the concept of humanizing emotions. Everyone gets nervous on the first day in a new setting and just bringing that to life and seeing what JITTERS & FEAR do in the book is different.

Tracy-Ann:

We wanted to expand on the Amani character from what happened in the first book. The first book introduced the character and gave a little background about him before the action began. With this book we believed having him go to a new school was a natural progression. A lot of our work is based on real life situations we experienced. We wanted to share the anxiety he really felt whenever he started a new school. The school he currently attends was the fifth school we enrolled him in during a five-year period, so we wanted to add that part of the journey to the series.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

Jamiyl:

The main lesson is that it is okay to be nervous about starting something new, however do not let that emotion get the best of you. I think that is a life lesson as well. There are times when we let fear of the unknown paralyze us or keep us from pushing forward. It is only when we face down our fears that we can grow.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

Jamiyl:

My biggest challenge was overcoming doubt in my work. In regard to the answer to the previous question I was pretty much speaking to myself as well. I hate rejection. There were many times where I let the fear of rejection stop me from just releasing my work to the masses. Where I allowed the rejection of my work to stop me from trying to push forward somewhere else. I was afraid that the public would not like it. It came to a point where I had to just say put it out there because you will never know how someone feels about your work if they never know it exists.

Tracy-Ann:

My biggest challenge was communicating my thoughts. Being born in Jamaica I had an accent, so I was always self-conscious about the way I spoke and whether I was using the correct spelling and meaning of words when I wrote. It was something I obsessed about over the years and to this day I send my writing to my husband to proof read for me. He is very encouraging, and it is important to be confident when writing because the reader can sense it in your work.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from?

Jamiyl:

I’m inspired by Shakespeare first and foremost because I love to read it aloud. The language is brilliant. Just the challenge of trying to decipher the meaning of the dialogue in plain English along with the story in the plot of the tragedies. It really sharpened my vocabulary and how I wrote.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

Jamiyl:

It is definitely a priority of ours that anything we put out into the world makes an impact. We have received so much positive feedback about the original “The Amazingly Awesome Amani” and what the character means to us and what he stands for. My wife has had literal therapy sessions at our events with people who can’t help but share their stories about autistic family members with us. It is the same with “Pass The Torch”. My story of abandonment is unfortunately all too common in the Black community. My message of forgiveness has motivated a few young men to reconcile with their fathers. We can’t ask for anything more.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

Jamiyl:

I would advise an aspiring author to just write. It’s not easy to write a book so don’t be discouraged. Write what you know, write what you feel in your heart, write down whatever comes to you in the moment. Because all great literary work starts as an idea first. For me I see the characters in my head and whenever I get an idea for a chapter or scene, I write it down. If I’m in the shower I will repeat the words until I get to pen and paper. If I don’t have pen and paper handy, I will grab my phone and type the idea in my Notes app.

Tracy-Ann:

Writing can be therapeutic as well. If you have things on your mind and you have trouble verbally expressing your thoughts, write it down. You will be amazed how much better you will feel knowing that you communicated your thoughts.

Jamiyl:

I have my wife to thank for making me an author. Our first book “Pass The Torch” was written at the behest of her. I had some unresolved feelings about my father leaving our family when I was young, and I was carrying that baggage into our relationship. So, what she said is awesome advice.

Tracy-Ann:

Thank you, hon.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?

Jamiyl:

1. Learn your craft — I was just freestyling as a kid and teen before I got to college and actually started taking courses in fiction writing and screenwriting. It is so important to learn the technical aspects of your field of expertise. I look at some of my old work and I cringe because there is no structure.

2. Have a backup plan — I spent half of my young life trying to be this great writer and recording artist and I never had a plan B if it didn’t work out the way I hoped. For example, I was very good in Psychology in high school and criminology was also an interest. My wife also talks about how I could have gone into the medical field.

Tracy-Ann:

Yes, don’t get me started with that. I just feel it is important to have something solid to fall back on while you chase your dream. The media/entertainment field is not a given. You don’t want to waste time.

3. Hustle

Jamiyl:

I just thought completing a task was enough. I learned the work is just beginning once you finish the draft. I wasted a lot of time accepting the “no” or lack of response to my queries instead of trying again. It goes back to having confidence in yourself and your writing.

Tracy-Ann:

You have to do the work to get what you want. God gives you the talent, but He is not going to put you where you want to be. It is up to you to hustle twice as hard to make it. You get rejected, keep calling, keep showing up, stay in these people’s faces until they can’t deny you. I don’t take no for an answer.

4. Invest in yourself

Jamiyl:

As a kid I created things out of love for the art. I created comics because I loved to draw, I recorded music because I loved Hip Hop and Reggae and I dreamed of doing a song with my favorite artists, I write screenplays because I dreamed of seeing my film on the big screen. I didn’t want to think about or deal with the business. I hated the thought of having to pay someone else money just to get my work reviewed. I learned that investing in your work is a big part of having success. Copyrights cost money. Trademarks cost money. These are all essential to protecting your work and your brand.

Tracy-Ann:

Having money to invest is so important. You see a lot of these major companies spend a lot of money to market and promote themselves. As an independent company, a small business it is hard for us at times because we don’t have the budget of the bigger businesses. Then we still have real expenses like a mortgage and insurance and child care needs to think about. It is hard.

5. Make a Plan

Jamiyl:

A lot of times I did things in the moment. For example, I would go to the studio, record a song and then on to the next. I would finish a screenplay with only one competition in mind to send it to. I didn’t give myself any options. I did not know what was available to me because I did not do proper research.

Tracy-Ann:

I ask my husband this all the time. What is your plan? Where do you see yourself in six months? It is so important to have an idea about what you are going to do before you start. It makes the road so much easier. You are not just working for yourself. If you succeed, then we succeed as a family. There are people counting on you that you will have to answer to outside of all of this.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Jamiyl:

I would start a community center where kids can come to read, play organized team sports and young adults and adults can take part in discussions about their thoughts on different issues affecting their lives. I would incorporate improvisational performances about topics such as fatherhood, peer pressure, drugs and alcohol, teen pregnancy and more.

Tracy-Ann:

I feel like Autism awareness is a movement right now. It is impacting children at a high rate and we need to know the reason. I would advocate to have every child who is suspected of being on the spectrum receive early intervention. Counsel parents who are in denial and help them mourn the child they thought they would have. Have the appropriate testing available in every community to identify spectrum disorders. I would continue to bring awareness to this issue all over the world. I would educate parents about how to teach their kids to deal with a child on the spectrum. I would advocate for children and adults who are living on the spectrum to have the services they need to be productive members of society. I’ll stop there, but I am very passionate about this cause I could go on forever.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow us on Instagram at w.r.e.a.c_havoc_enterprises on Facebook at theamazinglyawesomeamanibookseries and passthetorchbook and on Twitter @wreachavocwritr

Our website is www.wreachavoconline.com

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

Thank you 🙏🏾 We appreciate it.


About the author: Sara is an author and writing coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared in Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View and Katie Couric. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tri-Quarterly, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, IO Literary Journal, and Psychobabble. Her first book Bringing In Finn was nominated for ELLE magazine Book of the Year. www.saraconnell.com

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Sara Connell

Written by

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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