The road to publication is not easy for anyone and comes with a number of hurdles. For black writers, these challenges are multiplied and because of institutional issues, the path seems almost impossible. But the resiliency of black folks always finds a way and for many black SFF writers that way was in the form of self-publishing.
At FIYAH, we do not snub our noses at those writers who chose this path. We salute them because they have decided to embark on a journey by themselves that in traditional circumstances would involve a team. So we wish to acknowledge those black indie SFF writers out there working hard and dropping a good product. Our Indie Spotlight feature seeks to amplify self-published Black writers with features of their work in our magazine and interviews featured here on the website.
This quarter’s spotlight feature interview is with Antoine Bandele. A segment of his novel THE KISHI can be found in the PILGRIMAGE issue of FIYAH.
I’ve been writing in the genre since I was in elementary school. But I lost sight of prose fiction during high school—as I became fascinated with the film industry. What brought me back was HBO’s Game of Thrones. A few years back, after one of the seasons ended, I googled “African Game of Thrones.” Though I found many African American authors like N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor, I couldn’t find a Dungeons and Dragons-esque fantasy set in Africa, and in particular, an African fantasy set in pre-colonial times. Instead of waiting around for that book to come … I did it myself. My brother was the one who brought the kishi to my attention. He knew it as a demon from Dungeons and Dragons and I dug in to find the origins of the myth.
Where do you normally draw inspiration from when writing?
I draw inspiration from everything, from books, video games, television, and movies, to travel, daydreaming, history, and people watching.
How did you come up with the story for The Kishi? Any particular moment that sparked its creation for you?
As stated above it stemmed from my brother. My debut series, Tales from Esowon, is not yet the epic fantasy I want it to eventually become. When I explain it to others who are familiar with A Song of Ice and Fire, I’m essentially writing books about Robert Baratheon or Ned Stark or Littefinger before they are featured in A Game of Thrones. I’m writing about all the side characters who’ll end up in the great epic down the line. I also did this because I wasn’t confident in handling so many characters at once, as well as the world they live in. So now I’m doing the world-building and character development gradually. I knew I wanted to write about a failed monk, and when my brother came up with the kishi, who are masters of deception, I thought they’d be a perfect foil for the protagonist. And it helped that it aligned with my mission to expose more African mythology in the same way we are familiar with European mythology or even Asian mythology. For those who do not know, the kishi folklore originates from the kimbundu tribe of Africa. It was this tribe plus the chokwe people that I modeled Bajok (the fictional village) in the story, the kimbundu for their folklore, and the chokwe for their culture, particularly their ancestor worship.
What’s your workspace like? Do you have a designated one or do you just plop down wherever you need to and write?
I believe I do most of my writing on my laptop because it’s so portable. I’ve done the coffee shop writing scene a few times but it’s not really for me. I find I do better in that setting when I’m editing my work, rather than created new words. However, one of the best places I’ve written at was during my brother’s Dungeon and Dragons sessions with his friends. I wrote the whole cave sequence in The Kishi while he was DMing (Dungeon Mastering) for his own game.
If you had to tell someone three things about your style as writer to help them understand you, what would those things be?
I’m still trying to figure how what kind of writer I am. I’m not exactly Tolkien, Martin, or Sanderson, who have extensive world-building to the point where they know the tectonic plates of their made-up realms. Many of my readers enjoy that I don’t get caught up in the world-building too much. I put story first and all the other stuff is scene setting. As a writer, I’m most comfortable constructing action sequences, particularly one-on-one fights. My readers say those are their favorite scenes and it’s my favorite to write. I’m a very fast writer (not fast as in I can write a novel in a month) but my prose generally reads quickly. I’m most drawn to page-turners when I do my own personal readings. That’s the sort of craft I strive for. I can get indulgent here and there, but it usually means I’m putting too much detail into a fight scene.
If you had an unlimited budget, which one of your works would you want adapted into a film and who would you want directing it?
Well, I only have one official work that’s released though I have another coming out soon called The First Sky Pirate. I bring up that second title because that’s probably the one I’d want to see on screen (I mean, it’s got an airship!). I don’t think I’d want to direct it. Though I would want to be an executive producer or show runner on the project.
You have one SFF book to shove into someone’s hand and absolutely demand they read it. What book are you going for?
If we’re talking just one book I’m going to say series are off the table (sorry Harry Potter) so the answer would be The Giver by Lois Lowry.
What work do you have upcoming? Tell us about your projects in the works.
Right now I’m working on a few things all tied to Tales from Esowon. The first, as mentioned, is The First Sky Pirate due out early 2019, which is a pirate fantasy based on the middle age Swahili coast and Arabia. The second is The Vaaji Prince, which is a military fantasy based on middle age Arabia and ancient-ish Egypt (best thing about fantasy is I can mix the two). And the third project is an anthology with a handful of other independent authors called Lost Tales from Esowon, a set of short stories revolving around the books I’m putting out.
Thank you, Antoine, for being part of FIYAH.
ANTOINE BANDELE IS AN AMAZON BESTSELLING AUTHOR IN AFRICAN LITERATURE. He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his girlfriend, where he produces work on YouTube for his own channel and others, such as JustKiddingFilms, Fanalysis, and more. During the summer he is a camp counselor. Whenever he has the time he’s writing his debut series: Tales from Esowon.