Heyy – those were really fun questions – well done! Below are my responses. Let me know if you have any further questions! Looking forward to seeing the final piece. Oh, I’ve also attached some pics in case you wanted to use them 🙂
Today I am interviewing Reni K Amayo on her debut Young Adult book, Daughters of Nri that is coming out October 1st, 2019!
Hello Reni, thank you so much for joining us on JheartLovesBooks. I am so excited to talk to you and ask you questions we as readers are just dying to know!
For starter, what was your reaction when you found out you got your book deal? I know it’s probably in your top ten favorite memories you’ve experienced in your writing career thus far! Also, who were the first people you told? Did you throw a party, or tell your loved ones individually? As an aspiring author myself, I think being traditionally published is the all-time goal! How has your traditional publishing journey been thus far? Did you have a say in your cover design, does your publisher include you in details as far as swag packs, ARCs, and other fun unique things?
So my journey with publishing has not been typical at all, which honestly is basically the story of my life!
It all began with a conversation really. A conversation about how I wanted to get my book into the hands of readers, particularly black readers, who rarely get to see themselves portrayed in fantasy fiction.
I wasn’t too sure about going down the traditional publishing route, because I’m a major control freak and the book is so, so close to my heart. On the other hand, I wasn’t convinced about self-publishing because although it seemed cool, I really wanted to ensure that Daughters Of Nri had the best chance to meet industry standards and I didn’t feel as though I would be able to do that on my own. So I discussed it with a few of my more savvy friends, who introduced me to a bunch of people in publishing, investing and the corporate world – a number of these people were really interested in this dilemma, and soon enough a company was formed. That’s how Onwe Press, a black-owned, innovative independent publisher focused on diverse reads and giving more control to authors, was born! It’s crazy that Daughters Of Nri inspired such a cool, and much-needed organization – but it’s also amazing from a standpoint of an author because I get to be really involved with the delivery of my book from the onset.
I was lucky enough to have a huge say in how I wanted to the cover to look like. I was very specific about wanted to display two magical, beautiful black girls at the forefront. I wanted it to be a cover that I would have picked up in a library or bookstore and yelped with joy – because I finally picked up a book that was made for me. I was really lucky to have been given that opportunity and more! I’m also involved in the conversations about who gets the advanced copies of the book, again something that’s hugely important to me. I really feel as though POC book bloggers are often overlooked when it comes to these things, and I’m so excited about being involved in helping to overcome that!
The synopsis of your book is so intriguing! It’s black girl magic plus, ancient African gods, and twins separated at birth! What inspired all of these great things into Daughters of Nri?
Thank you! For so long, writing has been a secret hobby of mine, so hearing people get excited about Daughters Of Nri and its premise really warms me!
In terms of my inspiration, it’s really is an agglomeration of many things. Stories my dad told me about our ancestors, the legions of fantasy books I’ve read throughout my life, movies, and shows etc. I’m a huge fan of escapism through art, so I’ve consumed a lot of it in my life!
Daughters Of Nri really started with me thinking about what my ancestors were doing before colonization. Every time I searched for black history, I would get back information on slavery or oppression, but I was searching for something more – I was searching for greatness, old magic…I just kept asking myself, who were my ancestors? What did they do? Who did they love? What did they despise? I began to dig a little in ancient African history and the little that I managed to find was amazing!
I loved learning about the wonderful accomplishments of my people and ancient Igbo mythology – I studied classical civilization at school so I’ve always been a mythology nerd, but learning about the ancient African gods was something else entirely.
Soon enough I began creating this magical world, completely drenched in magic and sisterhood. I have two wonderful sisters, so I really wanted to explore the nature of the sisterly relationship in the book – but I’m also a drama queen so I needed something epic to happen – the idea of two twins with an indestructible, magical bond separated by a cruel law, definitely fit into the epic category for me
We readers who are also writers know how hard it is just to finish the first draft, but now you are probably at, or getting close to copy edits and major deadlines! How is the writing experience been since you have an editor and deadlines to deal with?
I thrive off of deadlines and schedules! That’s really what kept me on track with my writing. I was desperate to finish the book, (mostly because I wanted to read it), so I would set myself a small, achievable word count that I wanted to get to each week. So that aspect of working with a professional editor wasn’t too much of a shock to me.
For me, the most notable thing about working with an editor is seeing how they break down the book and plot from a technical perspective. I’ve had beta readers look at the book before, and they come in from the perspective of a reader – a perspective that I’m very well versed with as an avid reader myself. An editor, however, discovers these wonderful little nuances about the structure of the book, the tone, the themes etc. It’s really interesting because you get to analyze a book that you’ve written – and I think the conversations that go back and forth around that are truly fascinating.
I as well as all of your followers on Instagram saw that you had a cover reveal brunch for your book! #authorgoals for life! Can you tell us all how that was planned out, little cool details and of course how the brunch went?
The book cover launch brunch was so amazing! I literally still find myself smiling about it to this day!
My best friend and I were discussing the book cover launch, and we wanted it to something big and cool – because we were both so in love with the cover itself, we just wanted to get it out to everyone so that they could gush over too. My girls and I love a good brunch, and so it felt like an awesome way to get the book cover out.
I’ve always made it explicitly clear that I wrote this book desperate for it to reach black girls, and so for the book cover launch, we invited a group of fabulous black women in London, who were all doing truly amazing things. #BlackGirlMagic was definitely the theme of the brunch, and it was such a beautiful experience for everyone involved. Our waitress, an amazingly sweet Brazilian woman was literally moved to tears because of all the mutual admiration and love in the room. Everyone was smiling and happy and so excited about Daughters Of Nri, and that was a magical moment.
I feel like I always ask this question but it’s one I’m always dying to know!; If your book was created into a movie who would your dream cast be and why?
Oh, this is tough! I don’t think I’ve come across an actress that fully embodies the nature of Sinai and Naala (the twin sisters in the book) in my mind, perhaps I never will! Saying that the closest I’ve come to is Ryan Destiny – I’m honestly in love with her. She’s so beautiful, but in an alluring way – her beauty runs deep and so she’s the first possible actress that comes to mind when I think of the twin goddesses.
I would faint if Viola Davis played Meekulu, a wise and powerful cook in the Palace of Nri and one of my favorite characters in the whole book. Oh and Kofi Siriboe, he is breathtakingly gorgeous, but also seems to be genuinely sweet with a dash of ruthless intensity – which is perfect for Eni, another fave of mine.
We all daydream of the day where our only job is our dream job and that we work on our passion! Are you now a fulltime author or is that something that is in the works of happening in the near future?
Haha – no I’m not a full-time author yet. I think I need to see how the book does once it’s out before I completely abandon my stable salary!
Saying that though, I’m definitely in transition. I have a lot of commitments for Daughters Of Nri coming in the next few months, and luckily I’ve been able to negotiate some flexibility around work (working from home/part-time etc.)
I’m praying that the book garners enough support so that I’ll be able to take time out to fully commit to writing. The second book is already shaping up to be something extraordinary (if I do say so myself!), I just need to find the time to write it all down!
Everyday heroes and of course the heroes we may not know, but do look up, to still exist! Can you tell us some of your heroes?
Oh, I have so many heroes! My family and friendship groups are jam-packed with amazing people who constantly exceed expectations.
I’ve also been lucky enough to consume content from an arsenal of geniuses that have created breathtaking pieces of work. My forever number one has to be Shonda Rhimes, who I’m convinced is an actual goddess! Her body of work – her words have impacted so many people, including myself and that in itself is phenomenal. Then, of course, there’s Beyoncé, who is literally incomparable – I mean do I even have to say anything? She’s Beyoncé – The Beyoncé, it’s been such a blessing in itself to be able to witness her amazing journey. Oh, and of course, my forever fave, J.K. Rowling, who literally created a world that I, and millions of others, still cannot forget – that is pure genius.
Now my biggest question, I’m jumping straight to the point to is, will Daughters of Nri be a series or standalone???? I am praying you are allowed to answer this question, lol!
I am allowed – and the answer is YASSS (*cue in Oprah meme*)!
Haha, I love book series, particularly fantasy book series, so I absolutely had to write one. They allow you to really develop not only the characters over time but also the broader themes and concepts. I’m really excited about feeding things into the story slowly, so by the last book the reader is like Woah so this is what she was trying to say in the first book – mind blown! I personally love those moments myself, so creating them is another level of fun.
Our final question, the viewers and I will greatly appreciate is… Is there any advice you can give to all aspiring writers who are trying to get to the finish line; whether it’s getting done with the first draft, or in the process of trying to get published?
So it’s advice that I’m sure everyone has heard before and it is simple: write. Just remove all the umms and ahhs, and all the extra nonsense and write the story. Discover your writing process, flesh it out and write. Even if it’s 100 words a day – if you stick to it, you’ll eventually have a fully-fledged book in your hand. Once you have that then this journey kicks up an extra gear. Now you can explore how you want your book to get out into the world, who you need to talk to, the steps that you need to take etc.. That part isn’t easy, but once you have the finished book – it’s literally like a key to the next level, without it you can’t move forward. So write the book, rewrite it, get friends and family to critique – and then work on getting it out into the world.
Oh and also – you’re a writer. Unpublished, published, book in progress, book done – you’re a writer, so act like it, and write 🙂
Thank You again, Reni! I enjoyed having you on JheartLovesBooks, to not only get to know you better but of course to get some details on Daughters of Nri ( that will be released October 1 !)