Husband and wife duo Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman have amassed a comfortable living penning fast-paced, cliff-hanging and exciting urban crime-ridden novels. With inspiration bolstered by their personal experiences with their upbringing in the squalor of Flint, Mich., Ashley, 31, and JaQuavis, 32, compose tales of hair-raising drug deals, intoxicating sex, perilous and paralyzing dilemmas, drug-related kidnappings and poor ghetto kids-turned-neighborhood superstars.
As in real life, the bombastic and lavish lifestyles of the characters Ashley and JaQuavis paint often end in death or long—even eternal—prison sentences. So nah, they’re not glorifying the underworld. Ash’ and Ja are, to a degree, only regurgitating stories that many poor black men, women and children live everyday. “All of our characters are people we know, people around us or people that inspire us in our neighborhood, so it’s so dear to our hearts,” JaQuavis says.
Before writing urban fiction, JaQuavis was engrossed in the very lifestyle he now pens about. With no sturdy family structure to guide him, the then-future New York Times Best Selling author was raised in foster homes. The trauma of foster care can be mentally crippling. Throw in the poverty, poor education, limited resources, military style policing in the ‘hood and the everyday baggage of just being black in America, you get disaster, ugliness, defeat, hopelessness and anger.
With this, JaQuavis took to the drug trade early. At 16 years old, the father of one was playing with, at least, a nine pack (a quarter kilo of cocaine). Moving yams through Flint was a gift and a curse; had it not been for an attempted drug bust by an undercover officer, JaQuavis may not have met his wife.
“I met Ashley when I was 16 in Flint. They set up a little sting for me. I was supposed to have sold my man a nine-piece,” JaQuavis recalls. “I heard his walkie talkie go off, so we got into this high speed joint down this road. I’m doing like a hundred. I was in an old-school whip and I knew I couldn’t last long, so I hopped out. I had the joint in my draws and threw it in the bushes and proceeded to let them catch up with me. They caught up with me, and they were asking me where it was. I was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
With JaQuavis in cuffs and staring down at a possible lengthy prison sentence, police attempted to uncover the weapon, to no avail.
“To be honest, I’m like, yo, I’m f**ked up. They went and shook down the bushes, but nothing came up. [One cop] was like: ‘No, I saw him throw it in the bushes.’ [The other] was like: ‘I don’t want to go check again, you go check.’ He went to check; nothing in the bushes.” Flint Police Department spent the next twenty minutes unsuccessfully looking for drugs and a gun. They had to let JaQuavis go.
“Two days later, I got a call from a friend saying that a lady wanted to talk to me,” he says. “She put her on the phone and it was Ashley. She said she was looking out the window and the bush that I threw it in was in her backyard, so she went and got it for me.”
Armed with charisma, wordplay and clever ear candy, ‘Ja convinced Ashley to be his woman. The Bonnie and Clyde duo got an apartment together, and shortly thereafter Ashley became pregnant. Unfortunately, the pregnancy was brief and she lost the baby during an ectopic pregnancy.
“It was real bad to where it almost erupted her fallopian tubes,” JaQuavis says. “The doctor told her that she has to stay in the bed for four to six weeks for her to heal. She was depressed, crying night in and night out.”
8 years ago today I married the love of my life. We love, we fuss, we shine, we grind, we smile, we travel, we rise, we fall (not really tho), we trust, we laugh, we fight (always fair), we toast, we inspire…I could go on and on. Point is whatever we do, we do it together. I am so in love with you @realjaquavis. We got forever to go. Happy anniversary babe! #vegasthisweekend #ourfavcity #imbettingheavyonus #myking #bestfriends #hisrib
After weeks of depression and JaQuavis running low on ideas to crease his queen’s face with a smile, he finally mouthed something about writing, igniting Ashley’s spirits.
“We both had a love for reading, so I wanted to do something to deter her thoughts so I wasn’t a distraction. My wife is real competitive, so I was like, ‘I bet I can write a better book than you.’ She looked at me like, ‘No the f**k you can’t.’ That was the first time I saw her smile in two weeks. In that small apartment in Flint, I started to write a book and she started to write a book. And we would switch. She was like, ‘This is the best sh*t I ever read,’ and I was like, ‘This the best sh*t I ever read.’ We just merged it together and in two and a half weeks we wrote a book, Dirty Money.”
Shortly after penning what would become their first novel, Kensington Publishing Company offered the duo a deal. By now Ashley and JaQuavis were freshmen at Ferris State University, but JaQuavis still had a leg in the illegal world.
“After we submitted it to the publisher and went off to college, I was still moving coke,” he says. “I used to hide it at Ashley’s dorm. One day I was on the highway and she called like, “I was on the phone with a publisher. They want to give us a deal. Come back.’ I come back to the dorm [and] she was dumping my coke. I was little under a brick (a kilogram of cocaine). I think I sold a couple ounces. She dumping all the sh*t out in the toilet. Mind you, I wasn’t rich. That was all I had. Sh*t wasn’t moving. Two days later we find out [the book deal] only gave us $5,000, but she flushed almost $40,000.”
A photo posted by Ashley Antoinette Coleman (@ashleyantoinette) on
The minor setback wasn’t enough to get deterred. The measly $5,000 was motivation as well as the root of their prolific output of massive catalogue. Cash Money’s Birdman even took notice to Ash and Ja’s talents and work ethic.
“We just started grinding, and from that day forward we were trying to get our money back. It turned into a passion and forty books later, New York Times Best Sellers. We had a situation with Cash Money. [Birdman] gave us the biggest check we ever had in our life. I will forever be indebted with Baby, that’s my n***a. Baby is a close friend of mine. That’ll never be over with. We did like three books with him.”
Now, Ashley and JaQuavis have released the sixth installment of their gripping and fast-paced book The Cartel 6: The Demise. “It’s takes you to the black market, and then it gives you nuances and the things that go on in the streets from the kidnappings, murder and deception. It revolves around a drug family in Miami. They are calling it one of the best series of all time. But we’re just really appreciative, because it comes from a real place.”