Dark Academia and Writing for a Global Audience: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Castle-like school buildings. Ominous libraries. Students in plaid skirts and boxy sweater vests. A campus full of secrets and the occasional murder. Can you guess the genre?
Yep, this week's blog post takes a dive into the twisty world of dark academia.
Our guest author is Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé whose debut novel, Ace of Spades, is set to git shelves this JUNE! And if you haven't heard of this book by now, get your whole life snatch back your would because Faridah has taken a tried and true genre and completely made it her own. QBIPOC leads, Get Out vibes, and real-life history and events that are subtly, but cleverly, injected into a tense, page-turning plot.
1. Welp, the first question for these sort of things usually is the ‘how did you get your agent’ question but YOUR debut, Ace of Spades, is getting buzz that’s louder than a flock of bees descending on a honeycomb. So please tell us all about your journey to that point (querying, going on submission, publication offer).
I started writing when I was really young but didn’t start writing with the intention to get traditionally published until I was 17/18 years old. I wrote a few books before Ace of Spades which were honestly terrible, and then I got the idea for Ace of Spades after watching Gossip Girl for the first time in my first year of university. I wrote ACE in about a month, spent a few months editing, queried, got loads of rejections and then finally got an offer from my agent. We did more edits and then I went on submission to a bunch of publishers. I was very lucky that the process of submission was quite fast and also incredibly lucky that I found the perfect homes for Ace of Spades with Macmillan and Usborne.
2. Your book deal for Ace of Spades is one of those happenings that most can only dream of. But you’re also a university student. So, I’d like to ask what many are wondering. Is it in the cards for you to pursue writing full-time once your studies are completed? Or do you have non-writing career aspirations that you would like to pursue?
I definitely have a lot of interests and passions that I would love to pursue once I graduate. One of them is actually going back to school eventually and getting a Masters in monstrosity studies. I also love the world of books so much, I hope I can work inside publishing, actually helping make books happen someday.
3. You have also established the author mentorship, Avengers of Color, for BIPOC authors? What motivated you to do this? Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to tell to querying, agented, or even published BIPOC authors?
Publishing a book is such a difficult process, especially for BIPOC, and so I wanted to create this mentorship scheme in order to help BIPOC in ways I wish I was helped when I was querying agents. In terms of advice, I think all writers should definitely try to find their own writing community/group. Not just for help with critiquing your story, but also to lean on each other during the ups and downs of your writing journey.
4. The distinction in the dual POV and unfolding of the mystery in Ace has received much praise. What tips would you give to writers regarding writing multiple POV and creating a mystery that keeps a reader connected and engaged?
I think one important tip to note is that not every story requires multiple perspectives. So I’d first figure out if that works for your story. In terms of writing multiple POVs, making their dreams and desires, personalities, upbringings etc. very different can definitely make it easier. Also figuring out the way they speak, what they’d do in different hypothetical situations can really help too. I like to do an exercise where I imagine how my different characters will react to seeing a dead body. Exercises like that can be strangely helpful in figuring out the type of people your protagonists are.
5. South London is your residence. What are the pros and cons to being a writer who doesn’t live in the U.S. ? When creating your setting and characters, do you think more with an American audience in mind or a British audience (i.e. in terms of lingo, places, mannerisms)?
This is such a cool question – I don’t think I have ever been asked this before, despite it definitely being a huge hurdle I am constantly trying to overcome. I think one con is that you have to make your writing a lot less specific – for example, I can’t write how I speak… most people wouldn’t understand the slang used or the specific Black british humour and cultural references for example. I try to write as universally as I can while also staying true to the types of stories I like to write/read. When I’m writing, I definitely write with America in mind, knowing that in order to be published as a Brit in America, your work has to be quite easy to understand to non-brits. I definitely want to write something specific to my background someday though. A pro would be that I think by making my work more universal, I can reach more Black readers across the diaspora.
6. Do you know when you’re at risk of burnout? What’s your form of self-care?
I think I am constantly burnout. I work a lot and hardly sleep, but it is definitely entirely my fault. I am a workaholic and I love it. Have always been this way. I am probably not the best person for self-care tips… still working on learning to slow down and take better care of myself.
Ok, now it’s time for the ‘fun’ questions!
7. Your character Chiamaka experiences the painful trials of toxic friendships. But, your girl prevails! So, let’s say she’s taking a friend's trip to the Cayman Islands for a week. From the list (you can add if you want), choose three peeps that are making up Chiamaka’s travel squad?
Meg Thee Stallion
Hallie and Chloe (two for one)
I think she’d love Hallie and Chloe, Lori Harvey and Meg for sure
8. Unpopular book or writing opinion?
Being a fast drafter doesn’t mean your first drafts are always bad – for me it’s the opposite, my first drafts are really third drafts in disguise because I’m constantly revising as I draft 9. Your dream anthology is about______ and includes__________
I am actually currently working on three of my dream anthologies right now! Can’t wait to announce some of those… but one I am not working on that would be an ABSOLUTE DREAM is a black gothic anthology.
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is a writer from South London who has dreamt of writing books about black kids saving (or destroying) the world all her life. She is an avid tea drinker, and a collector of strange mugs. Faridah currently studies English Literature at a university in the Scottish Highlands.
Her debut novel ACE OF SPADES will be published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan in the US (1st June 2021) and by Usborne in the UK (10th June 2021).