Welcome to my stop on Titan Books’ blog tour for A Blade So Black. Author L. L. McKinney has taken the classic Alice In Wonderland narrative and made it her own, blending fantasy, culture and romance to enthral us in this story once again. This is McKinney’s debut novel and I had the utmost pleasure of putting some questions to Ellie for this tour. I really enjoyed reading her answers and they make me want to read this novel more than ever. I have been trying but so many books and almost no time. I will have a review up as soon as I have delved into this tale. Enjoy the Q&A and pick up a copy of A Blade So Black at once!
25.09.2018 / Titan Books / Re-Imagining / Paperback / 400pp / 978-1473218161
About L. L. McKinney
Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, writing as L.L. McKinney, is a poet and active member of the kidlit community. She’s an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtag #WhatWoCWritersHear. She’s spent time in the slush by serving as a reader for agents and participating as a judge in various online writing contests.
Elle’s also a gamer, Blerd, and adamant Hei Hei stan, living in Kansas surrounded by more nieces and nephews than she knows what to do with. She’s @ElleOnWords on Twitter.
A BLADE SO BLACK is her debut novel.
About A Blade So Black
The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.
Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head… literally.
Debut author L.L. McKinney delivers an action-packed twist on an old classic, full of romance and otherworldly intrigue.
Thank you Elle for taking some time to answer a few questions about your debut novel, A Blade So Black. Could you give us your own personal overview of what we should expect in within your book?
You should expect lots of butt-kickery, lots of geeky references, some cosplay, some drama, LOTS of action, a dash of emotions, and a heaping helping of Black Girl Magic. I put in things that I like, references to games and anime and comics, as well as real life. As real as it can get while traveling back and forth to a place called Wonderland, at least. In true Lewis Carroll fashion I would say expect the unexpected.
What was your initial inspiration for such a fierce and intriguing re-imagining of Alice In Wonderland?
I knew I wanted to write a book that featured a Black girl kicking all the ass and taking all the names. Wonderland didn’t enter the picture until after that initial “this is what I want my main character to be.” Because that’s what a lot of my favourite stories featured, but none of them had Black girls as the focus. Wonderland was an addition that was inspired by a haphazard “what if this happened…” I wrote a fight scene, loved it, and I was off to the races.
Can you give us some details about what sets A Blade So Black apart from other takes on this classic story?
For one, it features a Black girl as the protagonist, which just gives it a whole new twist from the start. Also, it takes place in modern times with modern versions of the characters from the Carroll tale. Everyone has the dual function of calling back to these whimsical creatures and people but at the same time functioning as if they were living, breathing beings that could literally step into our world, when usually it’s the inverse.
Is there a particular character or element in A Blade So Black that you especially enjoyed writing about?
I LOVED writing Alice’s mom. There are so few parents in YA literature, particular in books where kids go off on adventures or have to deal with things like this. The parents are missing or dead or somehow incapacitated and I wanted to do something different. Plus, between you and me, if I killed her mom or something, my mom would feel some kinda way, and I’m not about to try explaining that no, it’s not a metaphor for her.
What sort of challenges did you face when approaching a darker, more intense version of Alice and her journeys into Wonderland?
If we think about the monsters and the black magic, it was honestly not that difficult. I knew what I wanted to do, and I did it. The challenging part was making sure the connection between fear, between issues that face Alice and other members of the Black community, felt fully fleshed and not like window dressing.
How does it feel to be releasing your debut novel to the world?
Equal parts terrifying and breathtakingly exhilarating. I hardly know what to do with myself half the time. It’s happening, and I want it to be here and never get here. I want to stay in this moment of anticipation but be on the other side already. It’s amazing.
Had you always wanted to become an author/writer?
I actually wanted to be an astronaut for a while; because writing wasn’t something you did as a “real” career, at least according to all the folk who were happy to give me their opinions. Then I went to school to make video games, but writing won out. Go figure.
Are there any authors that you look up to as a writer that has helped shape your work?
Oh my gosh, so many. Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, N.K. Jemisin, just to name a few.
How long did it take you to plan and write A Blade So Black?
I sort of plan as I write, not really beforehand. Like, I know the larger, ore important beats that will take place. I know I want this to happen in the beginning, that to happen in the middle, and then we end with this over here. But I don’t have an outline or anything that maps out the entire story. I’ll plan five chapters, write to catch up, plan five more, write to catch up, on and on.
Can you tell us in five words what writing means to you?
Truth. Power. Promise. Purpose. Release.
Did you take the time to celebrate the conclusion of writing your book and its release?
I did! Well, I am. I’m having a blowout release party that’s a celebration of this and other in my life called the Turn Up Tea Party! There will be dancing and prizes and a costume contest! There will also be prizes for folks who can’t attend in person but take part in online shenanigans. All of that can be found on my website and under the #TurnUpTeaParty hashtag.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the work and writing?
I play ALL the video games. Seriously, I wind down by getting wound up trying to fight bosses or complete raids or something like that. Or I binge stuff on Netflix!
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
Can… can I give more than one?
THE BELLES by Dhonielle Clayton
DREAD NATION by Justina Ireland
SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE by Ijeoma Oluo
Thank you to L. L. McKinney for these brilliant insights into her debut novel A Blade So Black. This was an excellent Q&A and McKinney is obviously passionate about her work and how she tells a story. I am seriously looking forward to getting into this novel, I read the first couple of pages and knew there and then this was going to be awesome. I hope everyone appreciated this interview and please show your support on this tour. There are plenty of stops (poster at the top of this post) so please get involved with all the great blogs that are celebrating A Blade So Black.