Inkling Interview: Kwame Mbalia
Every week, I get really hyped about the writers I get to interview because each story is so inspiring and insightful. In this big scary world of writing and publishing, things get less scary when you just talk to people (especially people that look like you).
That said, I’ve been really stoked for this interview. I read about this writer for the first time last year as Round 5 of Author Mentor Match had just closed and thought this writer’s bio was SO cool (sidenote: AMM is a really awesome writer-mentorship program). A little more reading, and I discovered he had a book coming out that sounded awesome. Shortly after that, I followed him on Twitter and started joining the writing sprints he hosted during #NaNoWriMo 2018 to keep me going while I revised my own manuscript. In addition to being hilarious, this is definitely an author to keep your eye on. Please welcome: Kwame Mbalia.
Hi Kwame! I always like to ask where you’re at in your writing journey and how you got there?
I’m currently drafting book two in the TRISTAN STRONG series, as well as working on some other cool book projects. TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY releases on October 15, 2019, so I’m also biting off all my fingernails as the date approaches.
TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY, pitched as a middle grade American Gods, the book stars a seventh-grade boy who accidentally creates a hole into the Midpass, a world where ancient African gods clash with gods of African-American legend and he must race to repair the rip before the iron monsters wreaking havoc in the Midpass consume their world and ours.
Ah! Congratulations! I have been so excited to read this (preorder it, folks). Can you pitch your current projects?
Lol, a little bit of everything. My current focuses (not including TRISTAN) are another secret MG project, as well as an adult fantasy I’ve nicknamed AfroFae.
*Gasps.* Fairies and black folks??? YES. Okay Kwame, as we talk about writing, I’m wondering what’s most important for you in a story—plot, characters, setting, or theme?
I operate based on the idea that plot and character are intertwined. They form the backbone of the story, and without them everything falls into a mush. At least that’s how it works for me. If I don’t have a character I’m invested in who acts and reacts to new and incredible events, I’m lost as a writer.
I agree! To continue talking about writing for a moment, let’s talk about your process. What is your favorite/least favorite part of it.
The fifth revision. I hate that guy.
Whew. I’m exhausted by #1-4! Kudos for taking your work through so many rounds to get it where it needs to be. Okay, so one of the things I aim to do with this series is highlight the journey of marginalized creators. Do you feel like your background has impacted your writing? And, if yes, how so?
Always. My culture, my life in the sciences, my role as a father, as a husband, as a son--all of these combine to help define the story I want to tell. It is impossible for me to discard them when I write.
YAY. BIG UPS to the parents and spouses who are remain actively engaged with their families while creating, I admire each of you. Of course, that makes me curious about how do you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
Welp, that answers that. Haha. Moving on, how do you combat writer’s block and/or tough critiques of your writing?
Writer’s block usually means my creative well is empty. I refill it through reading, music, movies, or sometimes just staring into the distance while my children bury me in sand at the beach.
I do this too and highly recommend it. (Also, envisioning a stoic Kwame getting buried at the beach by adorable children is a MOOD). Okay, Kwame I know a little bit about your debut novel and that mythology plays a big role in the story. If you could be any god from any mythology, who would you be?
FOLKS: Read--about--High--John--the--Conqueror. Thank you for that, Kwame. I’m so excited to see the inerfuse of black cultures in TRISTAN. You are approaching a pretty big moment in your writing career very soon and many writers from marginalized will be looking to you as a role model. What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
Write, read, and write some more.
It will be hard. Difficult. Borderline impossible at times. Find a community that supports you. We’re out there waiting. Hit me up on Twitter. I love talking (I could really end the sentence there) about writing and reading.
Okay, a fun question! Let’s say that your life was an album. What would it be called, and what would the genre be? Any must-have featured artists?
Title: You Pronounce My Name…
Featured Artists: My daughters
Aw, more love for the kids--yes! And bonus question! You’ve got a plate of food that perpetually replenishes. What’s on it?
YUM. Thanks so much, Kwame!
Also stayed tuned to pre-order TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY (2020) because this book is going to be FIRE! Thanks, Kwame!
I'll be amping up another great round of #inklinginterviews as we move into summer and the line up looks GOOD, you guys. Stay tuned!