Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Our Friend is Here: Black History Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond during the month of February, where Black authors are invited to celebrate being Black and Black books! Find the introduction post for Black History Month here.
Friends, do you love dragons? Do you love the idea of sweeping fantasies that explore colonialism and oppression? And a story where the entire cast is Black? If you said yes, then gather around, because I think you’re going to want to learn more about Conquest, an Afro-futurist urban fantasy.
Today for Black History Month, I had the delight of having Celeste Harte, author of Conquest. I’m so excited for you all to read this interview; not only does Conquest sound like such a fascinating and compelling book, I was particularly excited to have Celeste visit us to talk about her journey as an indie-published author. I teamed up with Skye for this interview, and we hope that you enjoy today’s author interview – and Celeste visits us today as a purple panda holding a mug of coffee!
Before we dive into today’s interview, I want to take this opportunity to introduce to you all Celeste’s book, Conquest.
Jashi Anyua has been arranged to be married to the leader of her nation, the Great Faresh. To help her escape her engagement, her future husband’s enemies offer her an out; become their spy and they’ll give her a new name and identity somewhere the Faresh will never find her.
But Jashi gets to know the Faresh, she starts to wonder if she put her loyalties in the right place. Even moreso when she realizes that the Faresh shares the abilities she’s had to keep secret her whole life, and he might be the only one that can train her to use them.
Author Interview: Celeste Harte
CW: Hi Celeste! Thank you so much for visiting us today — it’s so awesome to have you! For our friends out there who may be meeting you for the first time today, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Celeste: Thank you for having me! I’m Celeste Harte, author of the Dragon Bones Trilogy. Conquest is out now, and Rising is due to come out in May! Other than writing, I also love art, dancing, and trying out new music.
CW: Your debut, Conquest, released last year! I love that your story is an Afrofuturist urban fantasy — can you walk us through what inspired the worldbuilding in Conquest, and how you approached creating the story’s world?
Celeste: I love mixing genres, and when I came up with the idea of making a story with modernism and traditional ideals clashing, it felt natural to make it a mix of sci-fi and fantasy.
History is told by the winners, and I feel like modernism is heavily influenced by western beliefs, so I created a world and a story where we stop and try to sift through what we think because we think it and what we think because we feel we should.
Skye: A running theme throughout Conquest is the serious effects of colonialism, how communities become oppressed when draconian laws are enforced without regard for indigenous culture and identity. Can you talk to us a little about how you went about weaving the themes into the story?
Celeste: Fantasy is chock-full of magical races that do amazing things, so I thought why not make it Black? Make the story about a rare tribe of people within an all-Black nation that could change the world if they learned how to cast off the way they were made to think about themselves and embrace what was discarded as “barbaric” by their oppressors. And see them find out that they were more special than anyone wanted them to remember.
For me, the dragons were an allegory for always being labeled as “violent” or “angry” all the time. But it represents any part of any culture that was made to abandon certain beliefs or practices for the sake of their oppressors. At the end of the day, I feel like oppressed people have a right to be angry. The dragons are seen as wild and a little crazy, but maybe that’s what’s needed. I created a world where they embraced that anger and found themselves through not being ashamed of it anymore.
Skye: Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away from Jashi’s adventures throughout the Dragon Bones series?
Celeste: I hope readers enjoy escaping to a world where things turn around. Where oppressed people don’t stay that way forever, and Black boys and girls can be Kings and Queens ruling their own nation.
Skye: Let’s talk about your writing journey and craft! What has your experience been like as a small press-published Black author? Where have you found strength and solidarity in lieu of support from traditional publishing?
Celeste: It’s definitely interesting! I do enjoy the more personal approach, working together with a small publisher, but it can be difficult finding opportunities to get your book out there when most people want to read from publishers they’ve already heard of. But the writing community on social media is extremely supportive, and other indie authors are also very sharing! I think people online are opening up more to different venues for book reading, and I’m excited for it.
Skye: Looking forward to the future a little: what’s your wildest pie-in-the-sky writing dream?
Celeste: I would love to write for a video game! I absolutely love gaming, and would love to see more Black women working in the field. And to look at a game and know I helped make it? That would definitely be a dream come true.
Skye: Before we close, do you have any advice for other aspiring writers out there in the trenches of their various WIPs?
Celeste: Read outside of your typical genre! It can be so helpful to find out how horror stories work if you’ve only ever read fantasy, or try out a contemporary when you usually go for action. Seeing different approaches to story structure across genres you don’t usually read can add a different flavor to your writing if you feel like you’re in a rut. Reading always gives me a burst of inspiration, especially when I spice up my choice of genres.
About the Author
Celeste Harte is an African-American writer living in Spain. She loves reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy, and is obsessed with all things mermaids and dragons.
When she’s not building worlds and getting lost in her own fantasies, she’s probably dancing to random music or watching (yet another) Korean drama. In addition to her native language, she speaks Spanish and Catalan almost fluently, some French, and would love to learn Korean.