Behind the Book: Jay Santiago


Out of all the characters introduced in The Diamond Collection, it seems Jay Santiago is the most popular. I don’t know if it’s because of his protective nature or the description of his looks, but he’s definitely a fan favorite.

The name Jay Santiago came from a couple different places. I will start with his last name only because I’ve gotten the question if it came from The Coldest Winter Ever by Sistah Souljah. In that particular novel, the main character’s last name is Santiaga. While The Coldest Winter Ever is one of my favorite books, I chose the name Santiago because it was of Spanish origin and I loved the way it sounded. It is just a coincidence that the names are similar.

As for his first name, I named the character after the rapper, Jay-Z. I have always admired his career as a business person and knew that I wanted the main male character of The Diamond Collection to follow a similar path. In addition, most of Jay’s businesses have connections to the color blue, which is heavily associated with the rapper Jay-Z (it’s rumored to be his favorite color). For example, the club, Sapphire, is named after a blue gemstone and the soul food restaurant, Blue Magic, is named after a song that appeared on Jay-Z’s American Gangster album called, “Blue Magic.”

In terms of Jay’s background, he was born in Brookstone, New York to Hector and Lady Santiago who are both deceased at the beginning of the series. Both of his parents were born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and moved to Brookstone, New York in their mid-twenties. Jay’s father, Hector, is 100% Puerto Rican while his mother, Lady, is a black Puerto Rican (she was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but has some ancestry in Africa). The idea to make his mother black came from reading an article in Latina magazine that featured La La Anthony. In the article, she says:

A lot of people don’t realize that I’m Latina, which is fine. One thing about being Latina is that there isn’t one look that comes with the territory. I don’t expect people to know my cultural background just by glancing at me. I do, however, expect that when I tell people my family is from Puerto Rico, that I will be believed and not accused of trying to be something that I’m not. It usually goes something like this: a person having a conversation with me discovers one way or another that I’m Puerto Rican and fluent in Spanish. That person then expresses their shock over these realizations for any number of reasons—common responses are, “You don’t look Latina” and “I thought you were black!” I never said I wasn’t black. And since when does being black and being Latina have to be mutually exclusive?

This statement made me look at race, ethnicity and nationality in a whole different light and I wanted to somehow incorporate that into my novel. I chose to do it through Jay’s mother, Lady, and will explore the topic more in The Ace of Diamonds. If you want more of a visual of his parents, think along the lines of Raul Julia (The Addams Family) and Reagan Gomez-Preston.

When it comes to Jay’s physical appearance, several people have asked me to reveal who I see when I am writing about Jay, but I refuse to give up this secret (even for Behind the Book!). However, I will give the list of names that I commonly hear readers say they envision: Terrence Howard (I think it’s the eyes), Laz Alonso, and Michael Ealy.

I must say that Jay Santiago is a character that developed on his own. In the beginning, I had certain intentions for the character, but as I wrote, his character got somewhat watered down. Maybe, I was afraid to show how wild and crazy he really could get. I think that if I had of really let my imagination run wild, his transition from kingpin to family man would be much greater. Of course, this is my own personal opinion. There may be some who think he was crazy enough in Diamonds in the Rough.

What do you think? Feel free to share!

Tidbits about Jay Santiago

-He doesn’t have a middle name.

-He is 6’5 and has beautiful hazel eyes

-His hair is naturally curly, but he wears it closely shaven.

-He is an only child (currently)

-He has a high school diploma, but never attended college.

-He is twenty-seven years old at the start of Diamonds in the Rough and forty-four at the start of Diamonds are Forever.

-He owns a home in San Juan, Puerto Rico where his personal butler, Silvas, lives.

-At the conclusion of Diamonds are Forever, he has three businesses under his belt, Sapphire, Blue Magic and is set to open Iceland, a jewelry store.

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