Author Interview: On Worldbuilding and African Identity; A Discussion With Rena Barron, Author of YA West African Fantasy, KINGDOM OF SOULS

interview with rena barron, author of kingdom of souls

Last you spoke to Xiaolong, she said that it was important – absolutely, vitally, incredibly important – that you stop by the Pond today. “We have a really important visitor and she is my newest friend so you have to meet her!”

And so, today, you’re here on your way to the Pond, finding yourself pretty excited to meet Xiaolong’s newest friend.

Rena Barron as a cheetah with dark brown locs (hair) with golden beads.When you arrive, you find Xiaolong sitting at her favourite spot by the water, and sitting next to her is the most elegant and regal cheetah you’ve ever seen.

You call out a hello to Xiaolong, and the two look up at you. Xiaolong gives you her usual enthusiastic wave – she’s happy to see you! – and the cheetah gives you a shy smile.

“Friend!” Xiaolong greets. She gestures for you to come closer. “Come meet my new friend! This is Rena! She is the author of Kingdom of Souls and I invited her here today because I wanted to ask her all about her new book!”

Kingdom of Souls? How exciting! And so you sit down next to Xiaolong, ready to listen and learn about Rena’s new book.

Hello friends, and welcome back to the Pond! 💛

Xiaolong the axolotl, gesturing with her arm up, holding onto a copy of Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron.There is a significant dearth of stories about Black characters by Black authors, and there is a distinct lack of fantasies featuring and centering on Black characters and African culture. Therefore, you could imagine how excited I was to hear that Kingdom of Souls, a YA West-African fantasy, was announced. And when the cover was announced? I think I gasped when I saw it for the first time. A Black woman front and center in the cover! Sitting on a throne that is unapologetically African and Afro-futurist! My excitement amplified tenfold.

Today, I have the honour and privilege of having Rena Barron join Xiaolong and I at the Pond today! Read More »

Author Interviews from the Authors of UNDERDOG, Part 3: Life and What Gives It Meaning

Text: Author Interviews, Underdog: Life and what gives it meaning. Image: xiaolong the pink axolotl wearing a purple flower hat, reading a book 'underdog'.

You think back to the last two weeks, fondly remembering of the wonderful conversations you’ve listened in to between Xiaolong and the authors of Underdog! And it looks like Xiaolong has another four more visitors at The Quiet Pond!

When Xiaolong enters the Pond, she’s ushering in a new group of friends! There’s a green snake wearing a little straw hat with a tattoo on its chest, a magpie wearing glasses and a beanie, a smiley koala wearing an orange dress, and a fluffy cat wearing a bandanna! Now an expert at welcoming guests, you approach and give them your biggest wave and your warmest welcome.

“Hi friend,” Xiaolong says to you. “These are my newest friends! This is Cassi, Felicity, Kaneana, and Sarah! Remember when I interviewed their friends last week and the week before? And remember when I told you about the Underdog anthology? Well, they’re here to discuss more stories today!”

You give Xiaolong your biggest grin and you tell her you’re excited to listen to another round of interviews. So you sit down by the Pond, part of their small circle, and talk about the big things: stories and life.

Welcome back to the Pond, friends! I hope you all are having a wonderful week so far and that you’re reading for the final round of author interviews for the Underdog anthology.

Today is my third round of interviews with the authors at Underdog, an amazing #LoveOzYA anthology that I had the pleasure of reading and absolutely loved. I thought this anthology was splendid and profound; it explored a variety of experiences, from everyday teenage experiences to the very big questions that teens may be grappling with.

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Author Interviews from the Authors of UNDERDOG, Part 2: Exploring The Choices We Make

Text: Author Interviews, Underdog: Exploring the Choices we make. Image: an illustration of xiaolong, her arms raised above her, holding a physical book copy of UNDERDOG.

Last week when you visited the Pond, Xiaolong had four visitors; four of the authors from Underdog anthology! You hadn’t seen so many visitors at the Pond before, but the magic at the Pond felt like it was warmer and merrier with all the good company.

And it seems like today, there are four more visitors! When Xiaolong enters the Pond, leading and talking to a group of new friends, you approach to give another round of warm welcomes. (You’re getting used to this!) Behind her is an orange octopus who, upon seeing the Pond, rushes over and dives in! The water and magic of the Pond invites him, and the octopus gives a sigh of contentment. Also behind Xiaolong is an orange fox wearing a red scarf, and an orange cat wearing a red cape!

“Friend!” Xiaolong greets when she sees you. “Please meet Jes, KM, Sophie, and Stacey! They are authors from the Underdog anthology that I told you about, and they’re here to discuss their stories with us! Isn’t that exciting?”

It sure does! You help Xiaolong usher the visitors to a comfortable and sunny spot at the Pond, and listen intently to the questions that Xiaolong will ask today.

Friends, welcome back to the Pond and I hope you all are having a wonderful week so far!

Today is my second round of interviews with the authors at Underdog, an amazing #LoveOzYA anthology that I had the pleasure of reading and absolutely loved. This anthology is one of the few that really explores meaningful and relatable teen experiences, and I think teens everywhere will find a piece of themselves in this anthology.

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Author Interviews from the Authors of UNDERDOG, Part 1: Discussing Relationships and How They Shape Us

Text: Author Interview, Underdog: Discussing Relationships and how they shape us. Image: Xiaolong the pink axolotl, holding a copy of UNDERDOG edited by Tobias Madden, walking towards you and waving.

You’re sitting by the Pond, talking to Amina about her travels across distant lands and the many different magical beings she’s met, when you hear Xiaolong calling to you in the distance.

You know by the sound of her calling your name that there’s probably a visitor at the Pond today. So when you turn away to see her, you notice that it isn’t just a visitor – there are four visitors trailing behind her! You’ve never seen so many visitors at the Pond before.

“Friend, come meet my new friends!” she calls to you.

You get up, and shuffle over. There’s a meerkat wearing a blue plaid shirt, a red panda wearing glasses, an otter wearing a red shirt, and a bunny wearing a black shirt! They were chatting among themselves, but now they’re waving over at you, introducing themselves.

“These are four of the twelve authors that contributed to the Underdog anthology! Remember how I told you about the book? I loved it so much that I had to ask them to come and visit me so we could talk about it more!”

That sounds like a lovely idea, and a nice way to spend your day. You help Xiaolong welcome the visitors to the Pond, help them make themselves comfortable by the Pond, and listen as Xiaolong asks them big questions about the book.

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GUEST FEATURE: Love Speculative Fic? Crave Aromantic Characters & Platonic Friendships? Then Meet the Common Bonds Anthology and Claudie Arseneault!

Text: Common Bonds Anthology. Friends at the pond: Guest feature, Common Bonds and Claudie Arseneault. Image: A green, white, and grey squid wearing glasses, holding the aromantic flag.

You’re at Gen’s garden today, helping him plant his new seedlings for the coming change of season ahead. And you’ve got to say: you seem to have a knack for helping Gen’s plant babies into their new home!

“Friend! Come quick!” comes the sound of Xiaolong’s voice.

You look at Gen – you’re almost finished helping him though! – but he gives you a big smile and tells you that you’ve done plenty today.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing an upside down flower hat, waving at you and holding an aromantic flag (five horizontal stripes: dark green, light green, white, grey, black).When you find Xiaolong, she’s standing by the pond’s edge and is adjusting a flag pole that she has pushed into the ground. The flag flutters gently in the wind (though, you think it’s Varian’s probably air-magic that is helping the flag fly) and the flag has a five-stripe design, with dark-green, light-green, white, grey, and black!

The aromantic pride flag! you say, recognising the flag.

Xiaolong gives you a big grin. “Yes, friend! We have a special guest today, and I’m really excited to introduce you to her. But before she arrives, I want to share with you the book that she is editing. I can’t wait to read it, but it needs a little help first!”

Help?! you exclaim. We always help our friends, right Xiaolong?

She gives you a big thumbs-up. “Right! We always help our friends!”

Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening friends! ✨

I have such an exciting feature to share with you all today, and I also have an exciting guest that will be visiting the Pond today! But before I introduce you to our wonderful guest, I’d like to tell you a lovely, upcoming anthology that will feature speculative fiction, aromantic characters, and stories about platonic relationships!

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