Black Buck is a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems. We spoke with author Mateo Askaripour about the inspiration for Black Buck, discovering the joy of audiobooks, and more!
“Perhaps I have a different perspective on this book because I have a younger brother who is a Black, 20-something man in sales, but this book presents an evocative, honest, complex portrait of being a BIPOC person in a white-dominant workplace….This is a book that allows a reader to be seen if this is their experience, but also for a reader to learn about a different reality if this is not their own. Black Buck is a tightly woven, contemporary debut from an author to watch.”BrocheAroe Fabian, River Dog Book Co.
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
It’s funny—the initial idea was pretty different from what the book actually became. After hitting what felt like creative rock bottom in November 2018—I’d written two manuscripts that didn’t earn me an agent or a book deal—I reached what I can only call, “Fuck it mode.” I told myself that while getting an agent and a book deal were things I wanted, I had to focus more on writing a book that felt true—to myself, to those I wanted to serve, and to the reality of the country we live in—which meant facing themes of my own life that I was shying away from. It was then I had the idea of an elite group of Black salespeople who’d end up blowing up buildings and getting into all other kinds of mayhem. A couple months later, even though I didn’t know where it would go, the idea was refined, my goals became clearer, and my sense of purpose was cracking, snapping, and popping like a live wire.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise Libro.fm listeners about your audiobook?
A large part of me prefers it to the physical book—ha! The narrator, Zeno Robinson, brought my characters to life in such a moving, dynamic, and irresistible way that it feels like I’m getting to know them again all over, and even more intimately.
Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?
I’ve listened to a portion of it, and am slowly savoring the rest, like a divorce that one partner draws out to spite the other. Every time I press play, I’m floored by the fact that these characters—who previously lived in my head and now exist on the page—are talking to me through our narrator! It’s trippy and extraordinary all at the same time.
Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?
To keep it real, I’m not. I am a physical-copy reader through and through. But after listening to a bit of my own audiobook, I realized that I’ve missed out on an entirely different, and just as enriching, experience to engage with the works I love most, which means I have a ton of audiobooks to listen to.
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
Everything. Before I had an agent, book deal, or even the idea for Black Buck, I’d walk past independent bookstores, stare at their glass displays, and imagine my book right there, on the other side. But beyond that, bookstores, and those who work there, have always been a place of joy for me. Their programming, dedication to getting out stories that matter—not to mention how incredible some of these physical stores are—inspired me before I was an author and continue to do so.
Anything else to share with readers?
Thank you in advance for listening to my debut novel, Black Buck. I understand it’s not an easy one to consume, and that you may find yourself laughing yourself to tears one second and wanting to punch a wall the next, but I hope that you can feel my intentions through the work, and find something, or many things, to take away from it.
I salute you, listener.
Check out these recommendations from Mateo Askaripour:
Header photo by Andrew “FifthGod” Askaripour