Keke Palmer is taking her charisma off the screen and into the world of books. Following up her memoir-like guide “I Don’t Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice,” she’s headed into the world of fiction with a collection of short stories that Amazon Original Stories will publish in the late fall. Based on her original Instagram characters and sketch comedy videos, Palmer will play each role in the Audible audiobook. Following the announcement of her newest endeavor, Variety talked to Palmer in an exclusive interview about how the project came about.
Where did your Instagram characters come from in the first place?
I was working with a friend of mine named Max [Wyeth] that I met actually on “Scream Queens” and he really was into a lot of the different Instagram videos, and kind of saw that I was willing to go there. So we started coming up with different ideas of things to do together and Lady Miss Jacqueline was one of them. And at first it was just a random video. We started to kind of slowly create a world for her that became the hashtag and the sketch #southernbelleinsults. Seeing the fans’ response year after year after year, and really building an audience, it just gave me the confidence to try other characters out that told other, different stories.
Chelsea “Barbie” Taylor, the character that I created, does not go along with those stereotypical things or attributes that you would think of a Black American girl. And I really came up with that concept because I feel like there is often one idea that people have of a Black girl or who we should be, what we should look like, what our vibe should be. And I thought it would be cool to create a character that kind of defied all of those stereotypes and was just kind of her own voice. You know, she’s Cali-bred and she felt very proper.
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How did you get on the path to adapt these characters for a work of literature?
The audience really started to kind of fall in love with Barbie as well. It just encouraged me to continue to create more characters and really own this idea of bringing comedic characters and allowing them to kind of talk about topics and subjects and bring them to the forefront in a very kind of covert and subtle way. I caught the attention of Amazon, and their interest in creating short stories with me and figuring out the best way to go about that and to be able to tell a story and using some of these characters in creating also some others.
I’m just a follower of God and the universe. And so if this is where I’m guided to, in terms of a big stop for any of these characters off of the Instagram page, then I’m going to go there.
How will they be presented in the short stories?
Lady Miss Jacqueline has her own world that she’s in, when it comes to just her living on my Instagram page. Same thing with Chelsea “Barbie” saying that she kind of has her own world, as well. But when it comes to this particular story that I’m crafting, it’s a new world. It involves these characters, but overall, it’s not their story. It’s someone else’s story. And they’re part of it. They live in a more of a two-dimensional way and through the eyes are of the lead character of these short stories. They’re presented in their same way, but they’re more of supporting roles this time around.
It’s not like you’re going to get a new story each time, but you will get a different point of view each time from the same story, if that makes sense without giving too much away. So, you start with the same person and we’re following her story. But each different short story of this whole kind of theory, you’re falling along to the same person’s life, you’re just getting a different perspective by each [short story.]
Did you ever expect to get into fiction, or even the literary world in general?
Yes, for sure. Not necessarily in this kind of capacity. I wasn’t saying I would never, it’s just I never really knew or thought that I could. I think there was a lot of insecurity for me when it comes to writing, which is so interesting. I feel like a lot of that insecurity is shedding away. And it started with my first book called “I Don’t Belong to You Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice.” And that was kind of my first introduction to writing on a big scale. Since then, I feel like I really opened myself up to it.
I’m just really excited for everyone to see it and jump into these stories. And really, I’m just excited for them to see it come off the page, and see the kind of world that I decided to create with these characters and the types of themes. I think there are a lot of important themes that are going to be very relatable to the growing person in this millennium, and so I’m excited to see how they feel it’s expressed.
This interview has been edited and condensed.