Rucker Moses is the pen name of Los Angeles authors Craig S. Phillips and Harold Hayes Jr. Together, they have been nominated for three Emmys for writing in a children’s program. Along with Theo Gangi, Rucker Moses are co-authors of the middle grade book Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found (book one of two, Penguin, February 2021).
CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! Your new book has three authors. Wow! How did two of you work together, and then how did your Rucker Moses portion coordinate with the sections Theo Gangi wrote?
RUCKER MOSES: The story of Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found originated as a screenplay but we (Craig and Harold) didn’t go under the name Rucker Moses then. We had often worked together on TV and film projects as SunnyBoy from our company SunnyBoy Entertainment. However, when we began to write Kingston’s story as a novel, we became Rucker Moses, a pen name and moniker that helps us remember to write what is best for the characters, the story, and not so much for our own individual egos.
We have known each other for about twenty years; thus, we talk at lunch, jot down ideas on the phone at night, sometimes we’d each pen pages based on our excitement to get an idea organized on paper. We’d make those pages one voice and bring in Theo either by sharing them with him or through a similar process of lots of chats and brainstorming.
Theo assisted us out of the gate by switching Kingston’s voice to first person from the third person. This really helped us all write through Kingston and solidified the pacing of the book! As we further grew as a trio, we’d pen pages and share, but to stay consistent Theo would make a final pass and we’d edit. It sounds like a long process, but it’s actually a lot of fun and very collaborative.
CVZ: How did this idea of writing together come about, and who came up with the pseudonym?
RM: We’ve written together for many years. For us, collaborative writing is a fun and efficient process we use in order to not get bogged down or stuck on a concept, and we both need to be nimble enough to also manage our production company. Penning a novel is new for us, and we saw this as a unique opportunity to brand ourselves as Rucker Moses since we plan to continue writing more novels. When you add and trade pages and meld them into a cohesive manuscript, we think it’s also the perfect way to share credit.
The pseudonym specifically came from a combination of two individuals we researched extensively while writing Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found. Rucker is the last name of Benjamin Rucker, also known as Black Herman. He was a popular Black magician during the Harlem Renaissance who sold out shows in New York and the northeast with a fantastic act. We even fictionalized Black Herman as an important character within the book. Moses comes from the well-known figure Moses of Egypt. We studied Egyptian culture extensively as spirituality and magic are and were powerful ways of life during his time. So, we combined the names to be Rucker Moses, and to be honest, we also think it’s simply a cool magical name!
CVZ: How do the two of you divide the day-to-day work beyond writing such as updating social media or promoting your book?
RM: Great question. We know each other so well that we understand what interests each of us and then divide the work based on interests, skills, and enthusiasm. We are both learning a lot about social media and promoting the book. Craig has been great at posting while Harold generated a lot of 3D art and imagery for the book trailer. However, we don’t focus on who does what, as we both end up collaborating and attempt to be as efficient as possible in completing the day-to-day work.
CVZ: Your book is set in a magical version of Brooklyn. Why there?
RM: Every time we visited New York, Brooklyn seemed to be an exciting neighborhood with its diverse culture and unique architecture. The brownstone lifestyle felt like a great setting for a magic shop.
CVZ: What did you learn about the real-life Black magicians featured in the book?
RM: First off, we were pleased to discover a wealth of information on real-life Black magicians. We learned that Richard Potter was the first American-born Black magician, and Henry “Box” Brown, an escaped slave, became a magician. Our entry into these practitioners began with Black Herman. Here was a magician that was financially successful and projected a strong image of swagger that helped him weave a narrative and mystique for his magic performances. Thus, Black Herman became the wise sage we were desperately needing for Kingston to gain knowledge of magic and clues to help him on his quest and be someone outside of a family member.
CVZ: What’s your favorite part of writing a book?
RM: Our favorite part of writing this book was when we turned the complete manuscript in to our editor. It was a marathon of sorts completing the book. Then the notes came and then re-writes, but there was nothing more satisfying and exhilarating than seeing the book in its entirety.
CVZ: How has the pandemic affected you as writers?
RM: Our work together allowed us to distract our minds from the horrors of what the world has been going through. We were able to continue working with words that uplifted our spirits and enjoy that we were able to continue creating. We also felt obligated to work hard to hopefully bring a bit of fun and escapism to readers during these trying times.
CVZ: What’s next for the two of you as writers?
RM: We finished Book Two of the series, so we are excited to share with readers the expanded universe that Kingston, friends, and family will encounter. We hope to write more books to expand the Kingston universe, as we love the characters, history of magic, and ways we can intertwine the two. At the same time, we are juggling a few other stories we would like to explore in more novels.
CVZ: In closing, do you have a piece of advice to help other writers?
RM: Outside of creating a regimen for writing and moving forward on your story, we suggest looking to collaborate with someone who is willing to craft a story with someone else. We found our collaboration allowed us to not be totally consumed with the book. We could have a life, write, and enjoy storytelling together.
CVZ: Thank you, Rucker!
Rucker Moses is the pen name of Craig S. Phillips and Harold Hayes Jr. They both hail from Atlanta and started telling stories together at the University of Georgia. Together, they’ve been nominated for three Emmys for writing in a children’s program and have written for TV shows based on books by R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike. They also make virtual reality experiences and own a production company named SunnyBoy Entertainment.
In no particular order, their favorite things to write about are ninjas, magic, space, and abandoned amusement parks. When not doing all that, they are hanging out with their wonderful families at home in Los Angeles.