What do you mean when you say you are a Yankee-Southern hybrid with a dash of Hillbilly?
Ha! It's my summary when describing the three big moves I had as a child. My dad worked for the federal government, so we moved around a lot (3 times to be exact) during my childhood. I was born in Hartford, CT. We moved away from New England when I was 5 and settled in West Virginia.
Why did you write BLOOD KISSED?
Um, because I just did—SIKE. I grew up during the YA boom of the mid-2000s (Twilight, Divergent, Ellen Hopkins books, The Hunger Games). You know, the time when books sold millions of copies and the movies made gazillions of dollars? I devoured those books and saw the movie adaptations multiple times. But as I grew older, I noticed something about those books: all of the characters—the ones who really MATTERED—were ALL white. I thought to myself: Why can't there be any black, kick-ass rebel girls? Black Blair Waldorfs? Black books that show the experiences of ALL black people, not just the black stories that take place in the hood or deal with police brutality. So, I started my own little story about my favorite creatures: Vampires! But, I always knew I didn't want to write about European vampire mythology or Harriet Tubman the Vampire Slayer.
To make a long story short, my mother bought my family Ancestry DNA kits for Christmas, and a few weeks later we all got a piece of paper breaking down our spit swabs. About 70% of my ancestry pointed to West Africa ( the main hub for the Transatlantic Slave Trade). As expected, it was a mixture of regions but mainly the Gold Coast area (Ivory Coast/Ghana, Benin, and Cameroon/Congo). Through reading and research, I learned about the Obayifo vampires from the Ashanti tribe of Ghana. From there, I thought about what I could draw from this folklore and how I could fuse it with my experiences as a Black person in America while making it a larger story about being a teen, identity, and coming-of-age.
And although Blood Kissed the vampire mythos is very much "loosely inspired by", creating this story was not only a journey for the characters but also for myself. Exploring the Obayifo mythos and thinking about my own identity and teen experience was like finding a missing piece that others have said isn't worth looking for.
What is your writing process?
I'm a plotter. However, I'm not the type to draw up a 50-page outline detailing every scene and line of dialogue. I write with the end in mind (I think that's why the beginning of a story is what I tussle with the most). I also write in terms of what themes I want to express in my book. For me, this means brainstorming what needs to happen in my plot and how my characters should develop in order for those themes to be understood by the readers.
Do you have go-to's for writing? Like a playlist? Chocolate?
This really depends on my mood. Sometimes I need utter silence and other times I need background noise (usually 90 Day Fiance). I don't really have a music playlist, but I do listen to movie and TV scores when I'm working on a character's POV or writing a particularly moody scene.
Can you describe your querying journey?
Oh, boy. Hehe, dragging up some writer's trauma. I'll be the first to say that my first query was A MESS. I sent it out prematurely and then came the rejections. I had one partial request but it ended in rejection. After that, I revised it no less than ten times. Reworked my pages. Asked for feedback. Sought professional advice. Lots of Aarghs and Boo-hoos. FINALLY, I had a query that I felt captured the main plot of my story had decent comps, and showed the damn stakes. I sent it out and was met with silence. More silence. Then a rejection. And then another. Not gonna lie...I panicked. I was like, "I don't know how else to fix this thing?!"
I ended up with 1 partial request, 6 full requests, and 2 offers of representation. And so, I signed with my lovely agent: Jennifer Herrington at Harvey Klinger Literary Agency!
What books do you want to write in the future?
As of now, my writing heart is in YA. My next WIPs mostly fall into the contemporary, fantasy (mostly spec fic and contemporary fantasy), paranormal space. Overall, I think I tend to write stories that are layered and aim to make you cry, laugh, or both. Life is messy and bittersweet. Sometimes we get what we want, or we find what we didn't know we needed. That's what I want my books to reflect.
Oh, and I do aspire to write women's fiction and adult speculative fiction, someday
What are your favorite books?
This is the hardest question to ever be asked. I enjoy so many books, but if I had to whittle it down to ones that are my ALL TIME FAVS...
Naughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Tricks and Traffick by Ellen Hopkins
The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds-Reed
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Dime by E.R. Frank
Life is Funny by E.R. Frank
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter Erika L. Sanchez
Intercepted by Alexa Martin
Animal Farm George Orwell