Deborah Falaye, The Brilliant Mind Behind Blood Scion

“Deborah Falaye: She’s very complex, it meant so much to me to show this character who has all of this range, so you don’t just label her again as the angry Black girl.”

Check our chat with Blood Scion author Deborah Falaye!

Keshav Kant  

So Blood Scion is not just magical; the way you wove the story together is beautifully done—especially how you didn’t shy away from the darker aspects of writing about colonial violence. So I want to know, Deborah, what sparked your passion for writing the way you do?

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye
Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Deborah Falaye  

I talk at all about the inspiration behind the book, especially with like the mythology and whatnot, coming from my grandmother. Being raised in Lagos, Nigeria, I spent 12 years there before moving to Canada. And I grew up around these stories. So naturally, when I started working on the book, it made sense to tap into a mythology that wasn’t as common as what I was reading back in 2012. We had like the Greek gods and like the Norse mythology, but for me, it was like, how cool would it be to talk about Orisha gods and bring them to the forefront. But I think with the, you know, like you said, with the darker elements, it wasn’t until 2014.

When the Chibok schoolgirls were kidnapped, I had the first draft of the book, but I knew that there was something big missing. But then we had this huge global campaign to bring back our girls. But for me, it hit home. Like I wanted to know what happened to these girls, I wanted to know their story. So I kept thinking about this journey; what were they going through? How did some of the ones who escaped escape? What was that like? And it’s sent me into this spiral of research on child soldiers and child brides.

I remember the first books that I picked up on the subject matter, like the first two books. ‘They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children’ by Romeo Delaire and ‘A Long Way Gone’ by Ishmael Beah. So I read those books, and I was utterly shocked because you hear stories about child soldiers. But I think it’s so far removed from our reality that we’re not processing what happens to these kids.

It felt like I almost naturally just fell into the world’s conflict. So when I just was like, this is the book I wanted to write. I knew it would be dark; it would be very violent and brutal. But I couldn’t shy away from the violence and the brutality of what was going on to these children because that was what felt the truest to the story.

Keshav Kant  

Honestly, it’s refreshing to see authors take such a bold and honest approach to writing there. So many of the books I’ve read are very honest about their analysis of the world. Like Neal Shusterman’s Scythe, The Poppy War series. All of these authors look at the world, and they’re like, “Okay, even if we’re going to be writing for kids, or like young adults, we need to speak to the reality of the world they see,” right? And as we both mentioned, Blood Sion doesn’t shy away from that.

So how was it like writing those things for you? And also, more importantly, how did you make sure that you took care of your mental health while writing those because it’s not easy to write these things?

Deborah Falaye 

It’s not. In particular, there’s a scene in Blood Scion that I just cried throughout the writing process. It was so hard for me to get into this moment with this, you know, these two characters, Sloane and Amara. And the moment when, you know, they came together and it just, it’s a reality again, that’s like, just so far removed from like, what we experience in the Western world.

It was important for me if I went through this process of writing these stories. I would hate for a reader to come out of the book feeling good. But, you know, I want you to feel uncomfortable. I want you to question what you’re reading the same way the characters are, questioning this sense of like morality.

And I love so much that you brought up The Poppy War because I’m like the kind of person who wants to finish my own story before I pick up a book to read it. But I had known that this was like an adult book that also delved into like colonization; it got me so intrigued. So after I got done on my edit, I remember finally picking up Poppy War and reading like this book, and oh my god. I was like, we need more stories like this, like you said, because these are prevalent in society, like the idea of like colonization, the legacy behind colonization and the impact that it left behind. It’s like, it’s so easy to turn your back on, like history and keep going, but history is there.

When it came to mental health, and just like working my way through it, you know, there were many times where, like, when it gets too hard, like, I’ll pause, I’ll remove myself from the story. As an author, when you’re writing these stories, it’s like you almost also fall into the world, alongside your characters, that you almost feel like you’re like, you’re right there with them. And that happens to me a lot with some of these things, some of the scenes, and I would have to take a step back and breathe a little, collect myself and then return to it.

Keshav Kant  

Yeah, that’s something I hear from a lot of authors. And not just authors. I’ve recently interviewed a director who worked on The Sky Is Everywhere, which is, again, a very heavy film. So they were talking about how the process was about creating a space where they could process those emotions but also completely ignore them and focus on something else. So I think that when you’re working on such heavy emotional, at times, triggering topics, it’s essential to make sure that you detach so it’s you’re not just falling into this world as you said, 

Deborah Falaye  

Yeah, absolutely. 

Keshav Kant  

So, in your About the Author section at the end of Blood Scion, you mentioned growing up reading a lot of Nigerian literature and hearing a lot of folk tales from your grandmother and watching soap operas with your grandfather. Were there any specific pieces of literature, folktales, or shows that inspired Blood Scion?

Cover of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe a book mentioned by Deborah Falaye the author of Blood Scion
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Deborah Falaye  

One book that I credit a lot for Blood Scion was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. That was a book that I had read when I was young because it was gifted to me by one of my dad’s friends. So I read this book, and I didn’t understand what I was reading; I just knew that this was a book that I fell in love with. It left some impact even without knowing it at the time. So fast forward to 2012, in working on Blood Scion, I had just finished my first draft, and I picked up that book again to read it. And I just started to see the thread. Like the similarities, this idea of colonization that’s woven into Things Fall Apart.

The idea of like the colonizer coming into this world, dismantling the spirituality of this village, dismantling the village’s culture. How the main character like sort of, like, interacts with what it is that’s happening to his world.

There were many other books that you know. My mom was a teacher back in Nigeria, so she always had books around. So she’d always like to tell me stories about these books and like the mythology in them. One of the one of like, the extensive mythology was like the Orisha gods and just like the pantheon itself, like my favourite God amongst the Orisha is like Shango, which is what I based like my main character on is like there’s this mighty warrior and just as fire god and he’s just so temperamental. He’s so larger than life, and I always saw him as the representation of the culture. So in building Sloane, I wanted her to embody all of his aspects.

Keshav Kant  

That’s awesome. I love when I talk to authors of colour, especially those who work in fantasy and mythological work. They mention that they drew inspiration from the religious and spiritual texts they heard growing up and how they inform their work. So it’s lovely to hear as someone who grew up right reading Percy Jackson because you’re like, I want more of this. Like I want to see Indian lore, I want to see Nigerian folklore, I wish for Indigenous Hawaiian mythology.

Deborah Falaye  

Yeah, absolutely. I love that we’re seeing a lot more books that are like covering these topics. I have a book right now, and I’m reading and inspired by one of my friends, Akshaya Raman. She is also a debut author who recently published in January. It’s beautiful to see how she wove Indian mythology into this book. She’s a genius, but I love it. It’s called Ivory Key, by the way, if you’re wondering!

Keshav Kant 

I’ll have to add that to my reading list! But, for me, there have been two fantasy books I was most looking forward to and adored. Blood Scion and Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel. Both of which I gave five stars. I can see similarities between them because Sloane is, as you mentioned, the embodiment of Shango’s energy. It’s very fiery, very passionate. It’s very warrior-like, but there’s also a nurturing aspect to her. Kaikeyi is also like that; she’s described as this warrior princess. You have to check it out.

So this next question is from Portia, our staff writer who introduced me to Blood Scion. She says that it makes her very happy to see Black women create fantastic fantasy stories. How does it make you feel to be part of that, to create these stories for Black women and girls worldwide to read and see themselves in? Because she mentioned there was a particular scene. Sloane’s getting her hair braided after returning from the digging on the hills. She felt seen really because that was such an act of intimate self-care for her.

Deborah Falaye  

Oh my god, um, that’s the first time I’ve heard that. That’s exactly what I was going for in that moment. There’s an experience with Black women, women of colour when we’re like doing our hair. I like that’s like such a nurturing moment for me as well. You know, me with my mom, me with my friends, laying on their legs, and they’re just doing your hair. It’s just such a bonding moment for us where you can let go.

It was crucial for me to put that in the scene between Sloane and Luna so early on because these are two girls who sort of like to see themselves as sisters. They’re not blood-related, but they really care for each other as sisters. So that was a moment for me to encapsulate the sisterhood between them.

So thank you so much, Portia, for saying that. But you know, when it comes to the idea of like adding to like this wave of like Black stories that we see in, in storytelling, in YA, in fiction, in general, I’m so honoured that I’m able to be another person to stand in this position. Because, you know, I credit people like Angie Thomas, people like Danielle Clayton for opening the door that allows people like me to come out years later with my own stories.

You know, a lot of you know, early Black authors who are writing during those times would echo the same sentiments of like, Damn submitting your stories, and, you know, editors or agents being like, they can’t relate to the character that they can’t, you know, whatever. And I think we started to see that shift when, you know, these books began to come out, and they saw how readers were being so receptive towards them.

Keshav Kant  

Yeah, I like that you bring up how writers of colour often hear that I don’t like or empathize. Especially because that’s a recent conversation that’s happening online. With Pixar’s Turning Red, a white reviewer of the movie said, I don’t like I don’t get it.

And I was sitting here as, like, I’m Indian. I’m not Chinese. But I saw myself in the movie Turning Red. I’m not a Nigerian woman, but I see myself in Blood Scion. I remember being in Indian middle school, like my friends who are not my blood relatives. But I’d call them di, sister in Hindi, and braid their hair into plaits. So in Blood Scion, there’s a passage where Sloane gets her hair cut off for spiritual reasons. And I’m sitting here, no hair, because I cut mine off for spiritual reasons. And I was like, you don’t need to be of a particular ethnic group to see similarities. You need to be open to recognizing them.

Deborah Falaye  

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I love so much that you said the idea of being open to recognizing that because I think for some readers, I don’t know why it’s so hard for them to perceive these realities. Yeah, sure. These characters are not white. But why can’t you see it? What do you mean you don’t get it? Don’t you know what it means? It always throws me off when I hear that; I can’t relate. Or I didn’t get it. It’s like, what don’t you get?

Keshav Kant  

Yeah, like this is just a human experience! I especially appreciate that in Blood Scion, you took the time to show the different facets of Black womanhood. We see Sloane and Amaya, how different they are, their different motivations, and what drives them. And we see their conflicts. And it’s refreshing to see such varied representations of Black women. Especially in Western media, there’s like three things: you’re either this type of Black woman, this type of Black woman, or this type of Black woman. And to see, like within the same book, within the same page.

Deborah Falaye  

I love that you picked up on that! You saw that because that was what was important for me about that. This is a character that’s very; she’s a complicated character she has. She’s very complex. She goes through a range of emotions, and we see that throughout the story. But her anger is unshaken. We saw how that pushed her to do what she does at the end of the book.

You know, and I think, it’s-it’s so important one of the things that, you know, rest in peace, John Lewis, but the whole idea of like, Let’s make some good trouble. It’s like, that was something that, you know, you-you to see in the book, it’s a part of the story. But for me, the idea of like good trouble also stems from being angry enough to facilitate change, right? Because that’s what- that’s her mission. That’s what she ends up doing. That’s what she ends up like, you know, focusing her mind on like, it’s time to correct this injustice.

But it’s still so much more. Again, it meant so much to me to show this character who has all of this range, so you don’t just label her again as the angry Black girl; you get to see her vulnerability. You get to see tiny, tiny moments of hope that she has, you know, you get to see her just going through it. And just like you said, being afraid, being terrified. Feeling hopeless at some parts of the story to then still picking herself up, tapping into those emotions and forging those emotions into her weapon, you know, to affect change.

Keshav Kant  

Yeah, and you did a phenomenal job with that.

Deborah Falaye  

Thank you.

Keshav Kant 

So this is going to be my last question for you. Is there anything you can share about book two or any other future projects you’re working on? What you’d like our readers to know about?

Deborah Falaye  

Yeah, I mean, I am working on book two. That’s just been so much fun to work on. Although, I will say that, you know, there’s a lot more we get to see the world expand. But, you know, I felt like, one of the constraints of like working with Blood Scion was that, you know, she’s a soldier, and, you know, she’s in the military, for like, a long duration of the story, you’re kind of like, limited in terms of like, how far you can go.

She is also a character who does not know too much about her culture. And so there’s really like a, how much can we share? How much can she know, and you know, all of these things, and just like feeling limited in that regard? But we both to us, like, by the end of book one, we see that she’s now on a different journey. So it’s just going to be so cool to bring a lot of like new characters into the book, very dynamic characters, just a range of like just different characters who have all these different Orisha God powers. I’m excited to dive into the Orishas more and bring them in. So many fun things are happening with book two that I can’t wait to share with everyone.

Keshav Kant

That does sound exciting! Well, I will let you go now; thank you for taking the time. It was a pleasure chatting with you today!

Deborah Falaye  

This was great; thank you so much for having me!

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Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!

You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.

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25-year-old trans, 2-spirit queer obsessed over media, what's new?

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