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.
If you love stories about witches, then gather around the Pond, friend – because I think you will love our friend who is visiting the Pond today and our interview. And if you love the idea of a story with Black witches living in 2049 living with modern technology, where their magic is tied to blood and ancestry, then I think you will love Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury as much as I did.
I had the fortune of reading Blood Like Magic a few months ago. Have you ever read a book that just left you with a whirlpool of emotions equivalent to lying wide-eyed on the floor, because what you read was just so riveting and so different that the book you held felt like was the herald of a new stories of its genre? Blood Like Magic felt that way for me. I loved everything about this novel – the complex and morally grey characters, Liselle’s take on witches, the powerful exploration of our connections to ancestry – and I genuinely believe it’s going to change the game of urban fantasy and witches.
I’m honoured and so excited to have Liselle visiting us at the Pond today! She visits us as a witchy Blood Like Magic-themed beagle wearing a pendant with the Canadian, Trinidadian and Tobagonian flag! I really enjoyed interviewing Liselle, and you will love Liselle’s answers! But, before we dive right into the author interview, let me introduce to you Blood Like Magic – which releases next week!
Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury
After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.
Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?
With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.
Author Interview: Liselle Sambury
CW: Hello Liselle! A huge welcome to The Quiet Pond; I’m so excited that you are visiting us today. For our friends out there who may only be meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Liselle: Thank you so much for having me! I’m a Trinidadian-Canadian author currently residing in Ontario and like to think of my brand of writing as “messy Black girls in fantasy situations.” I grew up in Toronto, Ontario where Blood Like Magic was set as an only child in a pretty large household of cousins, grandparents, etc.
CW: Your young adult debut, Blood Like Magic, was phenomenal! It was tense, thoughtful, and incredibly creative, and I really enjoyed the witches and their magic system in the story. What were your inspirations when creating the witches and their magic system in Blood Like Magic?
Liselle: So happy you enjoyed it! I did a lot of the building of the magic system on the fly, but I did set out with this idea that you needed blood to do magic, and the only time you didn’t was when using your gift. Every witch would have their own unique gift which would range from the powerful and spectacular to the mundane and potentially laughable. I also had established that they would need to do some sort of task to become witches because the big thing was going to be my main character failing that task, and getting one more try at it. I didn’t have a specific inspiration for any of this, mostly I just had sort of floating ideas that I thought would be fun and had to make sense of for the story.
CW: Something that I loved about Blood Like Magic – and did not expect going into your book – was how the story takes place in 2049! What was your thought process behind making the story set in the future, and what considerations, including the advancements in technology, did you make when crafting a futuristic Toronto?
Liselle: I honestly just thought it would be fun if it was in the future. But also, I was thinking of ways that my book could stand out from a standard witch book, and that felt like a fun twist on things. I did have to make a lot of considerations when building the world after making that decision, however. I thought not only about the technology advancements but also their intersections with social issues. Who would have access to it? Who wouldn’t? And also how would that interact with magic? There were also considerations about how discrimination would be in the future, what things would get better and what would stay the same. I basically asked myself questions to figure out what I would need to take into account, and in every revision worked on weaving those all in. In particular, a big thing I thought about when crafting my story was how technology and magic would interact, because I didn’t want anyone to question whether the sci-fi aspects could be taken out. I worked hard to weave them into each other so that the genres couldn’t be separated. That meant making sure that how witches operate was directly affected by the technology, and that the technology was also affected by magic.
CW: I love that family is such a central and integral theme to the story in Blood Like Magic, even more so that her family isn’t perfect, they have their moments, but at the end of the day, they are there for each other. What was the ‘place’ that you were writing from when you were writing about Voya’s family?
Liselle: I myself grew up in a household of nine people. It was also a blended family and I found so much comfort in being surrounded by family, but of course, there are also moments of drama. You will have family members that you clash with on a regular basis, or times when you argue, or things go wrong. Certainly, my family was not having the sort of dilemmas that Voya’s is, but to me, it pointed to that experience that no one’s family is perfect. There will be skeletons in the closet. There will be things that adults hide from children that children find out. There will be personalities that don’t work together. And sometimes there will be tragic things that it’s difficult to deal with. I really wanted to be able to express how complicated those relationships can be and how often it is not black and white. I think that’s really what I always seek to express when I write family dynamics into my stories, which I do often.
CW: Another thing that I loved about Blood Like Magic (clearly, I loved a lot of things!) is how Voya is written to be a character that teens can relate to. She’s uncertain about her future, she doubts herself, and I loved that you gave her room to be vulnerable and be uncertain. What experiences did you draw from when writing Voya? Did you have a specific goal in mind with her characterisation?
Liselle: It’s interesting with Voya because as a teen, I was very resolute about what I wanted to do with my life. I was naive about it, for sure, but I knew what I wanted. Voya is very much not like that. So I was writing from a different point of view than what I’ve personally experienced. I think there are so many decisions that we force on teens without giving them a lot of room to decide on what they want. I feel that especially when you’re a person of colour, you can feel extra pressure to prove yourself. I really wanted to show a character who had the skills to succeed, but just hadn’t been given the space to decide what to do with them. Because I think so many teens have amazing skills. And it feels like a disservice to look at someone like that and write them off because they haven’t figured out what to do with them yet. Or to force them into something you think is right for them, without giving them space to figure that out for themselves. I wanted to show a character grappling with that, including some extra magic-based pressure, and her journey to finding herself on her own terms.
CW: What is something that you are really proud of in Blood Like Magic?
Liselle: I am really proud of my characters. The cast of characters is the thing in the book that I’ve always felt I did well. It is not a small cast by any means, and juggling all those personalities wasn’t easy. I had to make lists and charts to keep track of the relationships, and who is mad at who, and who is trying to help who, etc. It was a lot of work but also a lot of it felt natural. My characters really just make me happy, and it was so fun going into the sequel and giving some of them larger roles than they had in the first book.
CW: I want to learn more about your writing journey! What was the first story that you ever wrote – complete or otherwise! – and how did that story differ from Blood Like Magic? How have you grown as a writer?
Liselle: My first novel was a werewolf book called The Pack was very clearly a rip off of the Twilight werewolves. I was a teen when those books came out, and very obsessed, but I wanted much more of the wolves and less of the vampires. It was different from Blood Like Magic in that it was very much about romantic rivals, and love triangles, but also it did keep that theme of family drama and was set in Canada. I’ve definitely grown as a writer in learning to develop my own unique ideas. I think when you’re younger and learning, sometimes imitation is how you find your footing. Fanfiction was something I was also entrenched in at that age (just reading, not writing), and I think those communities really do help you figure out your style for when you do truly original pieces. I’ve definitely learned how to be inspired by a work while bringing my own spin to things.
CW: If you could go back to younger-Liselle who was just starting to write, what advice would you give her?
Liselle: Write what you want, not what you think you should. I had a period where I did creative writing classes in university, and I felt very much that I had to write short adult literary fiction. Which was interesting because I did have one of the few professors in academia who would have had no problem with me writing genre fiction. It was just an idea that I had about what people should write. It took me until after university and getting involved in the writing community to realize that writing young adult and genre fiction was viable and valid.
CW: Thank you so much for visiting us at the Pond, Liselle! Here’s a question I love asking all of our guests: What is a food that reminds you of ‘home’ – whoever or wherever that may be?
Liselle: The food that most reminds me of home is “bake.” It’s a type of bread made in Trinidad and Tobago, and some other countries in the West Indies. My grandpa always makes it around holiday times, and it’s such a highlight. I have yet to make my own at home, but it’s definitely on my list of things to try baking.
About the Author
Liselle Sambury is a Trinidadian-Canadian author who grew up in Toronto, and her brand of writing can be described as “messy Black girls in fantasy situations.” In her free time, she shares helpful tips for upcoming writers and details of her publishing journey through a YouTube channel dedicated to helping demystify the sometimes complicated business of being an author. She is represented by Kristy Hunter at The Knight Agency.