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.
I have had the privilege of already reading Ace of Spades, an upcoming young-adult thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, and I have already called it one of my favourite books of 2021. Set in an elite high school, the story follows two Black teens as they are taunted, their secrets spilled by an anonymous texter who seems set on ruining their lives. Ace of Spades is absolutely stunning – and jaw-dropping and shocking and it will, as the cliche goes, make you hold a breath you won’t realise that you are holding.
When I finished reading Ace of Spades, an unfamiliar feeling came over me: I wanted to re-read it immediately and relive the horror and fear and dread – because though stressful, the storytelling was phenomenal and addictive. And even though it’s been two weeks since I finished Ace of Spades, I still think about it at least twice a day. Ace of Spades is absolutely, without a doubt, that good. I am incredibly excited to have Faridah here visiting us at the Pond today to talk about her debut, and she visits us as a purple phoenix wearing Dr. Marten boots! (I really enjoyed drawing her; I hope you like it!)
Before I share with you all the awesome interview that I did with Faridah, let’s take a moment to talk and introduce Ace of Spades!
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.
When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.
Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.
As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?
With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.
Author Interview with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
CW: Hi Faridah! The biggest and warmest welcome to the Pond. I’ve been looking forward to your work for a long time, so I am incredibly excited that you’re here today and that your debut, Ace of Spades, releases this year! For all our friends out there who may only be meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Faridah: Thank you so much for having me! Hello, I’m Faridah! I’m from a town in London called Croydon, I currently attend university in Scotland and I like tea (a lot).
CW: You describe yourself as a gothic children’s stories writer, which is so cool! In my reading, I feel like a significant majority of gothic children’s stories are written by white authors. What does gothic fiction mean to you, especially as a Black Muslim woman?
Faridah: I think Black people have been writing and telling gothic stories since the beginning of time. I remember growing up and hearing these dark and creepy Nigerian folktales, and also reading books by Black authors that had these creepy or darker undertones – many of which would fit under even the eurocentric definitions of Gothic Literature. As you said, the genre is really dominated by white authors but I think the genre needs some new definitions and also to expand who it deems the pillars of Gothic fiction. There’s a quote I really love from Horror Noire that basically sums up why so many Black writers are also Gothic writers: “Black history is Black horror.”
CW: Ace of Spades has elements of dark academia, a context that personally interests me (and that fascination comes from my experiences of post-grad/graduate school). What dark academia themes emerge in your storytelling? And what do these themes mean to you personally?
Faridah: I’m a really big fan of the aesthetics of Dark Academia but also find them extremely eurocentric and so with Ace of Spades I took what I love about Dark Academia and twisted it. Some themes from the conventions of Dark Academia that appear in my storytelling – not just in Ace of Spades – is the feeling of dread, dark ‘academic’ clothes, death and asking big questions about the world and life.
CW: Ace of Spades releases in June this year, though you mention on Twitter that you worked on it for three years, beginning in your first year of university. Across your writing and publishing journey for Ace of Spades, what are you most proud of? What was the most challenging?
Faridah: I am really proud of how far the actual story has come. This is definitely because of my fantastic editors Becky and Foyinsi – but honestly I am just in awe at how this tiny strange idea became this explosive thriller. The most challenging parts of my journey has definitely been the waiting around. I hate waiting and unfortunately publishing involves a lot of doing that.
CW: Something that I’m really looking forward to is how Ace of Spades explores queerness in communities of colour – and I often think about how queer spaces can feel overwhelmingly white. What was the ‘place’ you were writing from when you explored the messiness of being queer in communities of colour in Ace of Spades?
Faridah: I watch so many shows and read so many books and just think to myself ‘this could have been queer, but alas’. All my books will have queer characters, because the world has made it so 99% of the content we consume is very heteronormative. I want to flip that. I’ve decided to basically make my books a safe space for queer teens of colour. I wanted to not only centre queer teens in a cool mystery but also show them that happy endings exist for QPOC.
CW: Which character are you most excited for your readers to meet in Ace of Spades?
Faridah: This is such a cool question, I am really excited for readers to meet all the characters. I love seeing who resonates most with readers. Although I am pretty excited for people to meet Bullshit the cat – he is a personal favourite of mine.
CW: Thank you so much for visiting, Faridah! Last question, and a bit of a fun one; it’s a question I like to ask all our guests! What is a food that reminds you of ‘home’ – wherever or whoever that may be?
Faridah: I love this question too – I think Nigerian food in general definitely reminds me of home – but especially this dish called Ayamase with white rice and super malt. *chefs kiss*
About the Author
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is a writer from South London who has dreamt of writing books about black kids saving (or destroying) the world all her life. She is an avid tea drinker, and a collector of strange mugs. Faridah currently studies English Literature at a university in the Scottish Highlands.
Her debut novel ACE OF SPADES will be published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan in the US (1st June 2021) and by Usborne in the UK (10th June 2021).