February is Black History Month and currently there are some wonderful kidlit blogs highlighting African American authors and books featuring African American protagonists, such as Lee and Low's Black History Month Giveaway and The Brown Bookshelf. Here at the YA Highway, we thought it would be fun to take a look into the future and spotlight African American YA authors who have debut novels forthcoming. Today, we are so pleased to introduce our very own Sumayyah Daud! Her debut novel, BEGIN AGAIN, will be published by Dutton in 2014.
About the author: Sumayyah is an English literature student (of the medieval and early
modern variety). She lives in the first and most relevant district and
when she isn't studying or writing, she's attending to her cylon storm
trooping duties. She also plans to one day own a hairless cat named
About the book: BEGIN AGAIN is about a
seventeen-year-old girl trapped inside a pseudo-reality of her own
making, trying to discover what secrets she has locked inside her own
mind, before it’s too late.
1. What books did you read when you were a teenager?
Weirdly enough, lots and lots of mystery (I have an entire shelf of Mary Higgins Clark hardbacks), and not so weirdly, I read a ton of fantasy (both high/epic and urban). There was an entire year where the only things I checked out from the library were Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. I also loved Sara Douglass and basically any high fantasy series put out by Tor Fantasy was one I got my hands on. I, strangely enough, don't think I read a ton of YA as a young adult -- I double checked my shelves and all the YA I own I bought in recent years.
2. Can you tell us anything about the main character in BEGIN AGAIN?
Absolutely -- Kiran doesn't have a last name, she's a computer scientist, and she likes to draw architecture.
3. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be patient. Be very, very patient. Publishing is a slow business and things take time. Also! Make friends. That sounds equally silly and self evident, but having wonderful people looking out for you in this business is crucial -- we're such a behind the scenes industry it's easy to get blindsided by things.
4. What 3 words would you use to describe the publishing journey so far?
Strange, rewarding, and mine.
5. Are there any African American authors who have influenced your writing?
John Steptoe! He wrote folk tales but Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters continues to be one of those shining moments in my childhood where I got my own Disney princess that looked like me and was wonderful and kind and lovely. It's one of those shining picture books that reminds me why I should be writing. And most recently (I feel like I've been saying this a ton in every venue, but only because it's true!) N. K. Jemisin, the author of A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms -- she writes brilliant, complex fantasy with amazing main characters (Yeine continues to be one of my all time favorite characters bar none). I found her books in a time in my life where I had to make a decision whether I wanted to make writing into a profession or continue on with it as a hobby (hint: I decided to make it my profession).
Thank you so much, Sumayyah!