Roseanne A. Brown: “But even though I loved fantasy, it did not love me back.”

5 Questions With...

Roseanne A. Brown
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[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Roseanne A. Brown and ask her five(ish) questions. Roseanne’s novel A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is out now!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Roseanne A. Brown: So a fun fact about me is that English actually isn’t my first language! When my family immigrated to the US from Ghana when I was around three years old, all I could speak was Twi, our native language. I struggled to pick up English for years, until one day I picked up a copy of a little known book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Not only was that the book that pushed me to really master the English language, it also began my lifelong love affair with the fantasy genre.

But even though I loved fantasy, it did not love me back. Finding fantasy books centered on Black girls was nearly impossible. I wanted a story that had all of the epic action, adventure, romance, magic, and backstabbing that fantasy had to offer but that featured characters and cultures more in line with the people I had grown up around. Thus, the idea for A Song of Wriaths and Ruin was born.

What character do you most relate to and why?

I definitely relate to Malik more than anyone else in the book. My whole life, I’ve been the person who lives inside her own head, and Malik’s character arc from someone who passively lets the world throw him around to someone who plays an active role in his own life is a lesson I’m still learning day by day. Malik’s struggles with anxiety and destructive low self-esteem also came directly from my own life experiences. I’m hoping anyone who has ever been in a situation where they’ve had to choose between their own mental wellbeing and the greater good/needs of the people around them will see themselves in Malik, because I certainly do.

Why do you feel romantic books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

It’s no secret that the world is in a very scary place right now. It feels like every day you’re checking your phone only to discover that another institution you thought existed to keep people safe has crumbled to bits. I think that in the wake of so much justified fear and uncertainty about the future, there is real power in creating and consuming work that celebrates existing with joy. This goes doubly so for those of us from marginalized backgrounds. When the world is telling you that your skin color is wrong, your sexuality is wrong, your ethnicity, your nationality, your religion or any other core part of what makes you a whole and vibrant being is wrong, there is power in saying “I deserve happiness, exactly as I am now. I deserve to fight for the things that make me happy.” I think romantic stories give that to us, because no matter how flawed or broken or scarred the characters are or how scary their worlds get, they get their Happily Ever After. Romance reminds us that not only are HEAs possible—they are worth fighting for.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

Set in a fantasy world inspired by West African folklore, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin features a princess and a refugee on opposite sides of a thousand-year conflict who must murder each other to save their families—even if it means ignoring the growing attraction between them. Or, to put it more simply, it’s basically what would happen if Aladdin and Jasmine had to kill each other.

Readers can expect a slow burn, enemies-to-lovers romance, with a dash of  elemental magic and “oh no I have to kill this person but they’re kind of hot help” thrown into the mix. They can also expect discussion on the burdens of intergenerational trauma, healing and recovering from abuse, the unfair slutshaming of young Black girls, and dealing with grief.

There’s also a talking hyena who is rude to everyone. She’s great.

What’s next for you in the book world?

Right now my priority is getting the sequel to A Song of Wraiths and Ruin ready! As of March, I’ve already turned the first draft in to my editor, so I’m at the stage right now where I’m diving into my research, re-mapping my various character arcs and plot lines, and interspersing it all with furious binges of Talenti gelato. And outside of the ASOWAR realm, I’ve actually started dipping my toes into middle grade! Hopefully there will be more updates soon, but I can say that my current middle grade project involves some spooky Ghanaian folklore, reality TV obsessed forest spirits, and a heroine who Buffy would be proud to call an ally.

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

Oh no, how can I pick just one! I’m going to pick three, for different reasons:

  • Sabaa Tahir: Her novel, An Ember in the Ashes, was the first book that really showed me there was a space in YA for epic fantasies that weren’t inspired by Western cultures. The last book in the Ember Quartet, A Sky Beyond the Storm, is coming out December 1st, and I’m currently trying to figure out how many copies I can fit in my house without seriously pissing off my family.
  • Marie Rutkoski: I only read the Winner’s Trilogy for the first time last year, but it’s already joined the list of my favorite series of all time. Rutkoski has a gift for words that makes even the most mundane conversation feel as tense as a battle. And that romance! I haven’t read her newest book, The Midnight Lie, yet, but I’m planning on being inconsolable for weeks after I do.
  • Brittney Morris: Slay is one of those books that sounds awesome from the jump, and only gets more awesome with every word. The way Morris mixes heavy topics, like intimate partner violence within the Black community and what it means to be Black, with cinematic action scenes of a video game world that would rival Fortnite or Dragon Age is nothing short of genius. And this book is funny as hell! Seriously, try to get through a single chapter of Slay without bursting into hysterical laughter. You can’t. I’ve tried.
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