On Tuesday, October 15, 2019, the latest edition to the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, is set to be released. Pitched as a Middle Grade version of American Gods, this fast-paced, fantastical novel is a debut for author, Kwame Mbalia.
I had the opportunity, thanks to, CAKE LITERARY, to ask Kwame a few questions about his work and what this release means to him. Before we get into that however, for those who may not be aware, let’s go over a bit about the Rick Riordan Presents imprint; its purpose and why its so important.
I think we would all agree that being able to see yourself in a story, to be able to relate to characters in some way, can be an important part of the reading experience. Unfortunately, not all readers are able to easily access books that they can relate to in this way. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint was developed with this issue in mind.
Their goal is to publish stories from Middle Grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds. The stories are heavily inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage. This imprint, a part of the larger Disney-Hyperion Publishing family, provides a huge platform for these much needed, underrepresented stories to find a wide audience of readers.
I have greatly enjoyed the books released from this imprint so far and many of you may have read reviews for these titles on this blog. Tristan Strong has been one of my most anticipated releases, mainly because it is inspired by West African mythology and African-American folk tales, something I rarely have the opportunity to read about.
I can tell you, as I am currently reading it, this is one of the BEST releases yet! Kwame Mbalia has a fluid, organic writing style and is clearly a very gifted storyteller. Without further ado, let’s get into my questions for Kwame and his responses:
Meg: I would love to know what advice you have for young people who may want to grow up to become writers themselves?
Kwame: The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to be a writer is to write. Write write write. You can’t get at something, whether it’s a sport or a skill, unless you practice. Writing is no different. Find something you enjoy and write about it! Essays. Poetry. Fan fiction. Start with different elements of the craft, like dialogue or description, and just write!
Second to that is to read. Read in the genre you want to write, and then read outside of it. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read short stories and novellas as well as novels. There are some brilliant writers out there and whenever I feel the need for inspiration, I look at what others have done and are doing.
Meg: Can you tell me a little bit about why you chose to write in the Middle Grade genre specifically?
Kwame: There’s a special sense of wonder and exploration that you find in the Middle Grade genre that appeals to me. There’s this idea that you’re just realizing how enormous the world is, and you learn how varied and diverse the different people and creatures that occupy it, and combining that idea and that wonder with a little bit of history and magic brings me joy.
Meg: What does it mean to you to have your debut story out in the world?
Kwame: Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, don’t remind me!!!! PEOPLE ARE GOING TO READ MY WORDS!!! How dare y’all? No one informed me this would be the case. I would like to crawl back into my bed and pretend the floor is lava.
I can’t do that?
Well then, fine. I guess I’ll just thank everyone who has read or will read or wants to read my book. It’s been an incredible journey so far and hopefully it’s only just beginning.
I want to thank, Kwame, for being so kind as to answer my questions for him. I feel so blessed that CAKE LITERARY provided me with the opportunity to be included on this blog tour. Also, as always, a huge thank you to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with an early copy of the book to read and review.
I am seriously loving this one, guys, and am anticipating finishing up on Monday, at which time I will post my full review. All I will say thus far is that Mbalia’s writing style is super impressive and I love Tristan so much and the journey he is on. I hope to read more about him in the future!!!
This story can definitely be enjoyed by readers of all ages, so be sure to pick up your copy on release day, Tuesday, October 15th!!!