Updated: May 21, 2019
Author Kai Tillman is originally from Broward County, Florida. His family has roots in Nassau, Bahamas but he's spent the majority of his life down in the Fort Lauderdale area. He is now a junior attending Florida State University where he triple majors in Marketing, Retail Management, and Management Information Systems and double minors in Business Analytics and Psychology. Wow.
He, his brother and sister were raised by a single mother before he enlisted in the army at 17. Kai openly admits that he joined the army to be assisted in funding his education. Having spent five years serving our country, he developed a strong sense of discipline and knowledge of his priorities. Going into the process he recalls being "sold a dream" only to realize it applied solely to active duty. The experience of being in the reserves is very different.
He met older people, married folk, and some who didn't even speak English. It was a difficult growing experience but he came to appreciate the relationships he built with his peers that he still maintains to this day. He even had the opportunity to travel to South Korea. From there, he returned home and attended a local community college before landing at FSU.
He's a very articulate, transparent young man so it makes sense he's always had a knack for writing. Writing for him is very personal. It's his expression, therapy, and peace. He doesn't necessarily plan it out or force anything onto paper, aside from names of chapters or titles. Rather, Kai channels his authentic energy sparked by thoughts already in his head. For him, once he starts writing it's difficult to stop. His interest in publishing his work sparked during his second year of college during a dark time of depression, uncertainty and thoughts of suicide. Writing was his outlet and saving grace.
As a result, he prefers his work to be raw and uncut. He opts to not edit books, which lends itself to errors but simultaneously ensures readers feel connected to a fellow imperfect human. He wants people to be reminded that he makes mistakes, and it's perfectly okay. He doesn't constrain himself to a certain length either, but rather ends the books when he's gotten out all of his thoughts. That means it could possibly be a short story or a full-on novel, and he enjoys seeing what becomes of his writing. He feels that art should have no restrictions.
There's surely pressure involved in the path. Socially, regarding the restrictions that the public puts on artists and internally, by putting his story out there for the masses to read. He said "no one should have that much access to you" but the reality is the more genuine the writing, the more readers can relate.
His first book was titled Life, published in February 2017. It wasn't about just his life, but the struggles we all face going through our lives. From there he wrote Feelings of a Black Man in 2018. It still touched on struggles in life, but he personalized it to himself and the perspective of a black man in America. The Afro Pill followed up, also in 2018, which was a general highlight of the Black and minority experience overall in America. 2019 kicked off with Feelings of a Black Man II, diving more in-depth to his story he began in the first edition. He plans to release Black and White either this year or next year.
I asked Kai if his personal writing has ever generated an interest in playwriting, film writing, or any other form of art that he could employ his skill. He said no, though he understands why it could for someone else. Books are his bread and butter and anything else would be a force. It's his best way to share a message. Kai handles his own editing, marketing, publishing, etc.
He coined a term called "the virus theory" upon reflecting on his development as a youth. He defines it as "a social theory made up of other social psychology theories that states we are more likely to engage in mimicry of the people that surround us, are more liked or influential than we are. It happens in such a way that we forsake our own individuality, beliefs, and act like our peers as if we've become infected by them."
He doesn't feel he was raised how people perceive the typical Black youth is brought up, with very few African Americans around him. He didn't make his first black friend until attending FSU, and felt he had to fit a certain mold to be accepted and liked. He realized the effort and need to be someone else and integrate into their friend groups was a virus. As a result, he began to do things he wasn't comfortable with, spending outside of his means, and taking time away from his studies. It was like a "parasite was within him making him do all these things he wouldn't normally do." He acknowledged the toxicity and moved past it, but holds himself accountable with his Instagram name - @thekaivirus.
There's power in being true to yourself, and there's no shame in bettering yourself. Kai feels society can often hold itself back. There's a lot of self-hatred that leads to jealousy and envy, and ultimately people becoming the worst versions of themselves. He is optimistic and hopes more people can internalize "the virus theory."
On campus he's the Executive Vice President of the FSU Consulting Group, Health and Athletic Director for the Black Student Union, a member of the NAACP, Garnet & Gold Key Honorary Leadership Society, American Marketing Association, and a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He hopes to work in Marketing, Retail Management, or Big Data.
He wants to make it very clear that he is not writing to make a living, but rather to be a positive influence on the Black community. Kai has had the pleasure of people in his life telling him his books have helped them through dark periods, which is all he needs. Check out links to his books and social media below! His books are available everywhere in eBook and paperbook format.
Link to my website defining the Virus Theory:
All my books:
Feelings of a Black Man II Apple iBookStore Link: https://books.apple.com/us/book/feelings-of-a-black-man/id1444707245 Feelings of a Black Man II Google Books Link: https://books.google.com/books?id=CsJ9DwAAQBAJ Feelings of a Black Man II Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Feelings-Black-Man-Kai-Tillman/dp/0359250793/ref=mp_s_a_1_fkmrnull_2?keywords=kai+tillman&qid=1555706069&s=gateway&sr=8-2-fkmrnull