Saturday Spotlight- Namina Forna

Posted March 7, 2021 by stuckint in Saturday Spotlight / 0 Comments

Hello everyone and welcome to another Saturday Spotlight- where every month I feature an author and their recently released work.

Today I’m thrilled to showcase Namina Forna and her NYT Bestselling debut, The Gilded Ones. You can check out book recommendations based off of key themes from the book as well as a spoiler free review coming your way Mar. 8th.

About the Book

The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1) by Namina Forna
on February 9, 2021

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity--and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki--near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire's greatest threat.
Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she's ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be--not even Deka herself.

About the Author

Namina Forna has a MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She now works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads. The Gilded Ones is her debut novel. Visit her on twitter at @NaminaForna and on Instagram at @namina.forna.

The Interview

1-  For readers who haven’t read The Gilded Ones, can you share in your own words what the book is about? 

The Gilded Ones is a YA fantasy set in an African-inspired empire where a group of girls have been labeled demons because they bleed gold and are faster and stronger than regular people. When actual demons start invading the kingdom, the girls are given a choice: fight or die.

2- The plot revolves around these super human individuals called alaki or those who bleed gold. Can you talk about the inspiration behind these characters?

When I was in undergrad at Spelman College, I’d have dreams of a girl in golden armor walking slow motion into a battlefield. From that dream came the alaki, girls who bleed gold and are conditionally immortal. With the alaki, I wanted to examine womanhood—how it is constructed, how women are seen and used. That’s why the alaki bleed gold. Gold is a metaphor for the monetary value people place on women’s bodies.

3-  At the outset of The Gilded Ones you explain that The Gilded Ones is a novel about overthrowing the patriarchy. Can you talk more about that theme in your novel and the role literature plays in drawing attention to issues of sexism and misogyny (among other things)?

The empire in my book is extremely patriarchal, and women are told that they are lesser, that the awful restrictions people place on them are for their own good. Everything is reinforced by religion, and worse, by other, older women. The horrors the girls experience in my book is a heightened and fantastic version of what happens in our own world. 

For me, literature—especially young adult literature—should not only entertain, but also inform and examine. It should hold up a mirror to the flaws of the real world and point them out. That’s what I try to do with The Gilded Ones.

4- The world of The Gilded Ones is so detailed. What was your research process like? What aspect of your own research did you find the most interesting? 

I spent over a year reading about precolonial Africa so I could get a sense of what the world—especially the capital city, Hemaira—could look like. One of the things I found most interesting, and also enraging is how much of African history had been overwritten, and how much that continues even today. 

If you read history or watch the media, you assume that Africans were living in huts before Europeans came, when in reality, we had massive cities, towns, fortresses, palaces and libraries. The more I read these things, the angrier I get because I realize how much the Western narrative has basically obliterated African history.

5- Throughout the novel, Deka wrestles with trauma and grief over her father and those she loves abandoning her and the torture she experienced at the hands of her village. What was your process like for getting into Deka’s mindset and writing through her thought processes and triggers?  

One of the things that I wanted to do with The Gilded Ones was examine trauma. I grew up during a war and experienced PTSD as a result. It is my real lived experience that allows me to truthfully write Deka’s emotional journey.

6- The novel is quite violent and brutal in spots. What was it like writing these scenes? As a reader do you enjoy dark or violent books? 

Those scenes were painful for me to write. While I knew that they were hard and graphic, I also felt that they were truthful and necessary to the book. What happens to Deka and her friends is a fantastical version of what is happening to women and other marginalized people across the world. I show violence because that’s is the real core of what’s happening in Deka’s world. I’m also careful not to make it gratuitous. The horrors that happen doesn’t happen because it’s cool, they happen because they’re a natural progression of the ideas and structures that make up the world of Otera.

As a reader, I definitely enjoy dark and violent books as well a whole other range of work.

7- What surprised you most in your process of writing The Gilded Ones? 

How painful it was to write. I didn’t realize it when I first approached the book, but I was mining my own lived experience, and doing so is a difficult thing. I didn’t know it, but The Gilded Ones is a deeply personal book. It is the book of my rage.

8- Without any spoilers, can you share anything about book 2?

Everybody dies!

Just kidding, we dig more into Deka’s true nature, her relationships with her friends, and the love story between her and Keita.

8- More broadly, what has it been like publishing a book during a global pandemic? What was it like having the publication date of your book pushed out a whole year?

It’s been interesting, to say the least. Everything’s been online, so I don’t think I’ve had the same experience other authors had in earlier years, i.e., going to events, meeting readers, etc. But I’ve learned how to connect with readers in other ways.

I was sad initially when it happened, but it was definitely for the best. I’m grateful my publishers had the foresight to do so.

9-  What authors currently writing inspire your own writing? Anyone you would love to co-author a book with? 

I am in love with the lushness of Jordan Ifueko’s prose, the humor of Christina Hammonds-Reed’s writing, and the command of Kim Johnson’s storytelling. I love all their works.

I’m a very solitary writer, so I don’t think co-authoring is in the cards for me.

10- Did you always want to be a writer? What are some of the books that shaped your love of reading?

I didn’t realize you could write as a career until my late teens. The moment I did, I wanted to be a writer. 

I loved Ella Enchanted, the Redwall series, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, The Magical Faraway Tree. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy worlds. The earliest world I ever discovered was Greek mythology, and it’s been a love affair ever since.

11- Do you have any reading or writing quirks?

When I’m writing in a certain genre, I don’t read books in said genre because I don’t want other author’s words or concepts in my head. Usually, I just read romance novels because it’s such a complete escape from anything I write. 

My weirdest writing quirk is that I spend twice as much time writing the first fifty pages of the novel as I do everything else. It seems like a time-waster—even to me. I’m deeply ashamed of it, but basically, until I feel that every single word in the first fifty pages of the novel is set and beautiful, I can’t continue on to the rest of the book.

12- When you are not writing (or reading) what do you enjoy doing?

I love taking long walks—especially on the beach—cooking, and watching anime. These are the things that make me happy.

Rapid Fire Questions

1- Favorite season?

Summer in America and Europe, rainy season and harmattan in West Africa.

2- Character driven or plot driven stories?

Can’t we have both? If not, plot.

3- Favorite place to read?

My bed or the beach.

4- What types of books are in your reading wheelhouse?

Fantasy, horror, comedy, romance. I despise nonfiction.

5- What are some 2021 releases you are excited about?

Like Home, Ace of Spades, Lore, Happily Ever Afters, Blood Like Magic, Witches Steeped in Gold, All the Tides of Fate, We Free the Stars 

6- What do you hope readers will take away from The Gilded Ones?

Hope. We can make the world a better place, we just have to try.

7- Lastly, where can our readers learn more about you and your book?

You can find me on Twitter @NaminaForna, on Instagram @Namina.Forna and on my website

What About You?

Do you have any questions for Namina? Have you read The Gilded Ones yet? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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