By Victoria Finney
Today we welcome to the WNDB blog Liselle Sambury, author of Blood Like Fate, the second book in the Blood Like Duology, out August 9, 2022!
Voya Thomas may have passed her Calling to become a full-fledged witch, but the cost was higher than she’d ever imagined.
Her grandmother is gone.
Her cousin hates her.
And her family doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to lead them.
What’s more, Voya can’t let go of her feelings for Luc, sponsor son of the genius billionaire Justin Tremblay—the man that Luc believes Voya killed. Consequently, Luc wants nothing to do with her. Even her own ancestors seem to have lost faith in her. Every day Voya begs for their guidance, but her calls go unanswered.
As Voya struggles to convince everyone—herself included—that she can be a good Matriarch, she has a vision of a terrifying, deadly future. A vision that would spell the end of the Toronto witches. With a newfound sense of purpose, Voya must do whatever it takes to bring her shattered community together and stop what’s coming for them before it’s too late.
Even if it means taking down the boy she loves—who might be the mastermind behind the coming devastation.
Thank you so much for meeting with me to share Blood Like Fate with We Need Diverse Books! In two minutes or less, tell me about yourself and how you got to where you are today as a writer.
I’m Liselle Sambury. I’m a Trinidadian Canadian author. Blood Like Magic, my debut, was my third book I’d ever written. I’d previously written two other ones, the first one being one that I had worked on since I was a teenager. So from 16 to 18 I worked on that book, didn’t end up being super great, but that was my first kind of completion of a novel, and so it meant a lot to me. When I wrote my second book, I was out of university, and that was my first attempt at getting a work published and being very serious about it and knowing more. That didn’t end up working out, but that was totally fine. I moved on to my third book and that was the one that ended up getting me a literary agent and getting a book deal. I’m very happy that this book ended up being my debut.
How would you describe your writing style? Are you a lock-yourself-in a-room-until-it’s-done type of writer? Do you have a specific skill that you developed over time?
When I write it is kind of regimented. I pick a minimum amount of work to do per day so that I’m not overwhelmed. I’m really not the sort of writer that will sit down and type continuously for several, several hours. That’s not something I enjoy. Usually I sit down, give myself a word count goal that gives me something to strive towards, that also gives me a stopping point. It helps focus my attention. I used to work on a project continuously until it was done, and now I work Monday to Friday, give myself weekends off, and make sure to give myself a lot of time for breaks. I wasn’t always very good at that and I would end up feeling overwhelmed or getting really tired and end up taking long breaks anyway. So now I kind of bake that all into my writing process.
What inspired you to write the Blood Like duology?
I was really looking to create the sort of thing that I wished I had when I was a teenager. I used to read a lot of urban and contemporary fantasy. I was of the “Twilight generation.” Those are the sorts of books I was reading and I was enjoying, but I wasn’t seeing myself in them. Black characters, Black girls, weren’t usually present, and if they were, they were kind of a sassy best friend. They didn’t get a love interest, they didn’t get a lot of character development, and they certainly didn’t get to be the hero. And so I wanted to write a book where that was absolutely the case.
The Black girl did get to be the hero. She got to fight the villain. She got to grapple with all of those things that I, growing up, had really only gotten to see white characters get to do. That was something really important to me in this book, and so I just wanted to write a really fun urban fantasy with a Black girl at the center. At the time I was kind of living in a smaller town for the first time, and I was really missing Toronto, which is where I grew up, so I wanted to set the book there as well. Combining something I wanted to do, along with the city I loved, and this image I had of a girl laying in a bath of blood, I ended up pulling those all together into that story.
Why do you think writing an urban fantasy is so important right now? What can it give our students and our readers that you might have needed?
For me, it’s a mix of seeing some of yourself, your world, and issues that you might be dealing with as a teen today. Getting that piece of realism in, but then mixing that with the fun, magic, fantasy, sci-fi elements that also give you that dose of escapism. Because to me, it’s a balance of wanting to be authentic to things that teens are dealing with today and struggles that they might be going through. I also want this to be a book that’s fun for them to read and feels escapist in that way and feels like they’re getting to explore a new world, a different world, and getting to have that joy with it as well. I don’t ever want to feel like I’m being disingenuous to a real teens experience. I want to give them the fun magic, the sci-fi elements, the magic bites, the witches and the spells, and all of that stuff that makes reading those books really fun and interesting.
And so that’s what I think that urban fantasies and contemporary fantasies can really give you. They can give you the best of both worlds in that way: you get that realism element, but you also get the fun magic bits.
You just mentioned all the different elements in your books: urban fantasy, scifi/futuristic, historical. What is your favorite genre to write in and why?
To write in? Gosh, that’s really hard because there’s so many different bits and pieces that I like. I love the fantasy elements, I love the magic, but it’s also so difficult to do all the magic rules and to make sure all that works. Even with the technology. But I think something that I really enjoyed as part of this series as a whole was the historical elements. It’s funny because there was a time when people would be like, “what’s the genre you absolutely never want to write?” I would always say historical because I would think, oh, you have to do all of this research and you’ve got to get all these points accurate and you’ve got to do all this stuff. It’s so difficult, and I could never see myself doing that because in school I didn’t like history and I didn’t feel like I was good at it. I was one of those students who was good at so many other things in school that it was frustrating when I wasn’t good at something, so I tended not to like it. But with Blood like Magic and the Blood Like Duology I was looking at history that I was interested in, history that I was included in, and included in not always in a negative way, which was also refreshing.
It was really interesting to look into that because I feel like in school the way that Black history was taught to me was very much in a vacuum. It was very much a narrow focus, and it was very focused on Black pain, and it was very focused on a few set things. But when I was doing research for this book I got to look into all different sorts of Black history. I got to learn things about my own history, and it really brought it together. It was interesting for me because I could feel myself being a part of it.
And so then those historical elements became things that I really liked and I really enjoyed because it got me thinking about my own history and people that came before me and my own ancestors and what interactions between the past and the future would be like. Those elements ended up being something that was really fun and exciting and interesting for me. It’s really funny to say that the historical part of the book was something I loved so much because I never thought I would be someone with any interest in historical fiction whatsoever.
Do you see yourself most in Voya, or any of the other characters in the story? What about them draws you to them?
That one is interesting. I think I see bits and pieces of myself in different characters, but I think I end up seeing myself the most in Voya, though I don’t think I am at all like Voya. I do think we have a lot of similarities, and not just from a cultural background, but I gave a bit of my own indecision to Voya and I blew it up, and made her extremely indecisive. Whereas I’m a person who’s always very decisive. In her, I see a desire to make her family proud, and to feel that she is living up to her family name, and feel like she’s making a positive contribution, and I think that’s something that I can definitely relate to.
I can also relate to a little bit of the other characters. Keis’ rebellious spirit of, “I’m going to do what I want.” Alex’s ability to be responsible and level-headed, while still succumbing to emotions in certain periods. And I can also relate to Keisha’s flair for the dramatic in some ways in my life. So I think there are really bits and pieces of all the characters I can relate to, but I would say Voya just because I’m in her head and I’m writing from her perspective so it’s a lot easier to see those connections.
What books would you recommend for readers who are wanting more urban fantasy? Is there anything you are loving right now?
Well, not an urban fantasy/contemporary fantasy, but of course I would always recommend Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn. It is absolutely amazing and fantastic and it’s a really great contemporary fantasy that also incorporates historical elements and takes place in a real location. Another would be A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth. The first book is set in Toronto as well so if you couldn’t get enough of reading Toronto in the Blood Like Duology, I would definitely recommend that series. For LGBT+ teens in Toronto solving a fae murder, it’s got a really, really lush, fantastic worldbuilding. If you love that immersive feel in contemporary urban fantasies, that’s definitely one for it.
Then I guess my final question is, can you give us a hint on what you might be working on next, where you’re going from here?
Yes. So right now, it’s funny, I’m actually working on two books at the same time, but they’re also the next two books that I have coming up. So I would say kind of most imminently in 2023, I’ll have a YA standalone that follows a girl and her single mother. They end up inheriting a mansion in northern Ontario that has some secrets hidden in its depths. And then we’re also seeing the perspective ten years later of a budding investigative journalist who’s trying to figure out what happened to them. So you’ve got the two POVs. There’s some mysteries in there. There’s some creepy elements. It’s set in Timmins, Ontario—well, close to Timmins, Ontario, where I currently reside. I’m really, really excited for it—a very cerebral suspense with, yes, spooky elements and paranormal elements.
So you’re going a totally different direction from your last book—I love it!
Yeah, it’s funny because they’re very similar themes. They’ve both got that complicated family dynamic that I think is really present in the Blood Like Duology, but it’s got a different tone to it for sure. I would say they have a very different tone, the two books, but they’re overlapping a lot of those sorts of elements.
Liselle Sambury is a Trinidadian-Canadian author who grew up in Toronto, Ontario, 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.
Victoria Finney is a high school librarian in north east Kansas and a blog volunteer for We Need Diverse Books. Each year she facilitates a YA book club for staff, encouraging teachers in her building to read diverse books and model a love of reading to their students. Victoria lives in Topeka, KS with her husband and cat, and when she is not reading she can be found crafting or outside with the garden, chicken coop, or the beehive. You can follow her reading journey on Goodreads @librarian_finney.