How do you pronounce your name?
It's pronounced "eye YAWN uh," with the stress on the middle syllable!
What's your book about?
BEASTS OF PREY is a Pan-African inspired fantasy that follows two Black teenagers who must venture into a forbidden, magical jungle to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home--before they become the hunted. It promises all the things I adore--monsters, mythos, and #BlackGirlMagic.
When does BEASTS OF PREY come out?
The first book in the BEASTS OF PREY trilogy will publish September 28, 2021. The second and third books will likely publish in 2022 and 2023, respectively! To stay up to date on its news, you can add it to your list of books on GoodReads! It's also available for preorder at Target, Amazon, and my publisher
Why do you call BEASTS OF PREY a “Pan-African” inspired fantasy?
Great question! The word ‘pan’ comes from the Greek language and means ‘all,’ so when something is ‘Pan-African’ it encompasses the entire African continent and the diverse cultures and people within it. Pan-Africanism specifically is an ideology and movement originating in the 1960s that encourages and acknowledges unity among people from the African continent and people of the African diaspora.
BEASTS OF PREY draws from the inspiration of cultures across the African continent, but also from my directly-lived experiences as a Black woman of Afro-descent. Thus, I refer to it as a Pan-African fantasy. It is my feeling that referring to it as simply “West African” or “Central African-inspired” etc., diminishes the plethora of Black cultures that influenced this story.
What inspired BEASTS OF PREY?
Short Version: In my third year of undergraduate study, I took an honors colloquium on political violence that made me begin grappling with how ideas of “good” and “evil” can sometimes become murky, and it stayed with me. Six months later, I studied abroad in Ghana (West Africa) and was immediately intrigued by its beautiful landscapes, complex history, and the connection I felt to it as a person of the African diaspora. The amalgamation of those experiences inspired me to start writing the story that (eventually) became BEASTS OF PREY.
What research did you do to write BEASTS OF PREY?
Because of my degree in African and African-American Studies, I had already been formally educated in topics including the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Pan-Africanism, and West African Decolonization, but my knowledge of folklore from across the African continent was limited, so I spent a considerable amount of time reading academic articles and books about them—(fun fact, many of the creatures in BOP are based on creatures from real lore!).
How did you get published?
Short Version: I wrote a story for four years (2015 - 2019) and had trusted friends read it and give me advice on how to make it as strong as possible. Then in April 2019, I participated in an event on Twitter called
#DVPit where I “pitched” my book idea to literary agents and editors. From that event, I connected with my now-literary agent, Peter Knapp of
Park & Fine Literary and Media. He and I worked together to revise the book, then he submitted it to editors at traditional publishing houses.
A few days later, we received notice that a publisher was interested, and hours later, we learned even more publishers were interested. Everything happened very quickly after that and, shortly after, I sold my book to Stacey Barney at Putnam Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Penguin Random House)!
Is there going to be a sequel to BEASTS OF PREY?
Yes! BEASTS OF PREY is the first of a trilogy, so expect two more books full of monsters and magic. As of now, the books are slated to (probably) publish in 2022 and 2023 respectively, so you won’t have to wait too long after the first!
How long is BEASTS OF PREY?
As a writer, this was a question I was always interested in, so I thought I'd be transparent and share it here. In publishing, books are measured not by their page counts but by their word counts. BOP was 96,000 words when I queried it to literary agents; it grew to 99,000 words when I took it on submission to editors; the last version I sent off to the printers was ~118,000 words, give or take!
Can you critique or provide feedback on my writing?
Due to the volume of my ongoing commitments, I am unable to take on any new critique partnerships or provide feedback on your writing. For resources and assistance, please visit the ‘For Writers’ section of this space.
Can you give any advice to writers and aspiring authors?
Read! You’d be surprised how much you can learn about how to be a good storyteller just by reading. Some people say “read widely” and to read different genres, but honestly… I say read whatever you want. And don’t waste time on books that don’t bring you joy. Instead, if you don’t want to finish a book, take a mental note of what made you put it down and then go find something you love! Life is too short for dull stories!
Reach Out! Find a community of good critique partners to both hype and check your ego and your writing. All the better if you can find people who are both ahead of you and at the same place in the journey as you!
Focus! If you want to write for a living, at some point you have to treat it like a real job. That means dedicating time and resources to it. Protect your writing time fiercely. Invest in yourself! Read books on storytelling craft, attend conferences if you can (some are online/free!), and be prepared to sacrifice other things for the hustle! Nothing worth anything ever comes easy.