There was so much about him that was incongruous with the life of a felon while living the dangerous life of crime--a life he grew to despise. He was raised in a dual parent home in the suburbs. He was an honor student who never brought the drugs he sold to school and advised those working under him to keep school a drug free zone. When he was incarcerated, there were things he heard some inmates say that he would never repeat--so that he could look at himself in the mirror. He sought to use language and have reading material that separated him from the other inmates. He did not intend to be published when he started writing his memoirs, but he sincerely believes that others can learn from his past. This is a very real and honest account. There are a few passages with mature content. It is written by a man who clearly knows the power of words. One also sees glimpses of the ingenuity of people behind prison walls. There is a culture that those behind prison walls must learn for survival including how to use certain slang words.
After being released after nine years, he found he was unprepared for the changes in the world. He began building bridges to prepare others for their release. He is the owner of ZAE Publishing LLC and publishes STEEL Magazine, a multi-cultural lifestyle magazine. It was love at first sight when I saw the magazine with its sleek graphics and trendy articles. There are exceptional segments on travel. Adrianna Joleigh has a delightful style as she shares her travel experiences with the insider tidbits you get from someone who resides in Europe. I am even more impressed with the magazine after I learned why RoMay started the online magazine in the first place.
RoMay provides heartfelt answers in the Q & A below:
Q. Writing an autobiography is a daunting task as one decides the details to present. Your book gels well from cover to cover. Do you have any suggestions for writers who struggle with continuity in their works?
A. Thank you for what I will accept as a compliment, Barb. Its funny that you ask this, because this is my second publishing of Myths, Memoirs & Confessions of an Ex-Felon. The first, I rushed through it and there were typos and repetitive sentences everywhere. The chapters were all out of sequence, because I never told the story vocally in sequence. I simply wrote and presented the book as I would speak the words to anyone. I was just so excited to be a new author on one hand, but on the other, I was scared of letting people know so much about me. In my "past life", I was very covert in my actions, so it led me to be very guarded with my memories today. When I republished Myths..., I rearranged the chapters chronologically and I added a new chapter to update the readers on where I am today. Plus, there was a stage play that I produced, based on the book, that I wanted to make mention of. Writing my autobiography was a challenge for me, indeed. My advice for other authors that may struggle with continuity while telling their story, is to draw, map or write out a skeleton of topics that you would want to cover and arrange them in the desired sequence before you begin to write around them.
Q. What is your background in writing and your favorite modes of writing?
A. My background in writing is a bit different or unorthodox, so to speak. Unfortunately, I didn't attend college to major in anything pertaining to writing. I always enjoyed creative writing in school as a kid growing up. Outside of that, I probably wrote the best love letters to girls when I was a kid too. LoL. Nevertheless, I developed a true love and understanding of the power of words while I was incarcerated for 10 years in federal prison. I learned quickly that when you have limited means of communication, then its necessary to use what’s available. Since we didn't have much time to use telephones whenever we wanted, I turned to what I once loved. Writing. I would write letters to different people every day and await their responses so that I maintained an understanding of what was happening in the real world. My favorite mode of writing, I would have to say is a hybrid of creative and descriptive with a bit of persuasiveness in it. At least, that’s the way that I've found myself to write, but when reading, it all depends on my mood.
Q. Are there other writers in your family?
A. One of my three sisters used to write as she was growing up. I remember seeing her walk around our house with a notebook and a pen or pencil all the time. She’d write songs, poetry, lyrics to music on the radio, you name it. Then came me, as the youngest of five that needed a way to express myself and to spend my extra energy. I was a hyper kid, mentally. Reading and writing calmed me down. It gave me the space to imagine and build things with words. Now I have three daughters, one of which is in the U.S. Army. She loves to write. There was a time when she and I played with the idea of writing a book together.
Q. What are some of the subjects that you like to read for leisure?
A. For leisure, I love to read other people's journeys through their life. Whether its biography or autobiography, I gravitate to it. It’s amazing that you ask this question just after the passing of Nelson Mandela, because his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom," was the first story about someone’s life that I'd ever read. Ironically, I was in solitary confinement or the "hole" as some call it, when I read it. I don't think that I would have ever read something of such length had I not been confined to one room for long. His story and the length of that book made my time there and after more bearable.
Q. You taught yourself what you needed to develop a top notch online magazine including the graphics. What was your vision for STEEL magazine in the beginning? Has it exceeded your expectations? Do you have any future plans for STEEL magazine?
A. Thank you again for the compliments on STEEL Magazine, Barb. I did teach myself all that I know so far about graphics, building websites, the publishing business, marketing and advertising, only because I want to know about all the components that make up a machine. That way, I have the answers, or some of them, to fix it if ever it breaks or comes off track. Needless to say, STEEL Magazine today is still in its growth stages with so much more potential. My initial idea and vision for STEEL was to educate people that would be in my shoes one day and those that have a direct relation to them. What I mean by "in my shoes" is individuals that were being released from incarceration and needing to understand the world. When I was first released, I wrote almost as many letters back into the prisons to guys that I'd met as I wrote out to friends and family while I was inside. They would ask me so many things about life outside and freedom. A lot of them asked for pictures. Meanwhile, there were people in society that I was now a part of, that wanted to know everything about prison and the people that were there. I decided to bridge the gap between the two worlds with information and entertainment that would educate ad create a climate that would decrease the chances of recidivism. Once I saw that there was a lot more people interested in what STEEL Magazine was about, due to extensive online efforts through internet radio, social networking, websites and more, I knew that it wasn't something that was prison(er) related and surely meant for a more global market. At this point with STEEL Magazine, I'm aiming to take the very same 'SOLID Infotainment' (Information+Entertainment) and bring it to print format that it’s not just on computer screens and cellphones, but also on newsstands and ultimately coffee tables.
Q. You take full accountability for your past mistakes in your autobiography when a reader may certainly see places where you could easily place blame. You state that you are responsible as you were never a follower and only did what you wanted to do. Do you think that is still true today and does this independence help you now?
A. This is definitely still true today. I believe that accountability is the only way to move forward and to become better. I don't like to give false blame any more than I will ever give false credit to anyone or anything. Once I've done that, I may as well stop breathing, because I have no purpose. There’s no power in that.
Q. What does humility mean to you at this stage of your life given where you have been in life and where you are now?
A. Humility at this stage in my life allows me to listen to others, even when I don't agree with them. Its a hard road to travel, because I can be somewhat of a perfectionist and want things done in a certain way. However, I do give everyone a chance to lead the way in whichever way that they can. It wasn't always like that.
Q. What are some of the messages that you share during your speaking engagements with youth?
A. While speaking to youths, I encounter such a surreal feeling. It’s a bit emotional, because I see myself in each kid and at times while I'm speaking, I imagine that I'm them, listening to me. I hid so much of what I was doing that I didn't have anyone to spend the time to tell me what might be around those bad corners. I explain to them how a laugh and a smile can easily be turned into desperation and ultimately death or a long time away. Regret comes in so many forms, but it isn't a requirement.
Q. What responsibility do you think authors have to not glamorize crime?
A. I honestly don't believe that there's a responsibility for authors to not glamorize crime any more than the responsibility to do so. I think that what makes the world and humanity great is the ability to make choices. It’s up to the reader to choose what he or she wants to read, just as every reader may not want to read this interview. I've never written stories to glamorize crime, but I have author friends that do and make well of it. So I figure that anyone that’s avid enough to read an entire book that may or may not glamorize criminal behavior, then he/she is intelligent enough not to be influenced by it.
Q. You did not qualify for a halfway house. Do you think that everyone being released from prison deserves some type of support to help them to transition back into free society?
A. I don't think that it’s a matter of deserving support to transition back into society. The deserving part lay in their freedom once their time has been served. I believe that every person that's released from prison should have some sort of transitional period, be it halfway house or whichever, to allow them to become upstanding citizens of their community in free society. Recidivism rates can only be decreased by way of training and showing a past offender ways to be productive. In my case, I was determined and a bit lucky.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with the pop-we audience while you have the floor?
A. Thank you, Barb for allowing me to speak to your readers and anyone looking for what STEEL Magazine has to offer, log onto www.STEELMagOnline.com and Myths, Memoirs & Confessions of an Ex-Felon can be found on Amazon.com and all other online book outlets. Thank you.
RoMay and I share an appreciation for the genre of autobiography. I add his autobiography to the short list of those that have inspired me. RoMay has had people tell him to just forget his past and move on with his life. He has no intentions of forgetting his past. He has worked so hard to become more than an ex-felon. He said his past fuels him.
-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2014 population-we, LLC
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to leave a comment, 'Pin' or 'Like' it.