Antoine, welcome to Lavender Lass Books, and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
ANTOINE BANDELE IS AN AMAZON BESTSELLING AUTHOR IN AFRICAN LITERATURE.
He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his girlfriend, where he produces work on YouTube for his own channel and others, such as JustKiddingFilms, Fanalysis, and more. During the summer he is a camp counselor. Whenever he has the time he’s writing his debut series: Tales from Esowon.
SINCE 1990 …
I’ve been a creative kid, whether writing stories, drawing comics, or directing home movies. I remember the first time I thought I was a “published” author. My father took my brother and I to an office supply store, where we got our books (which were made out of wide-ruled notebook paper) laminated and copied.
It felt so legit.
In elementary school, I kept filling out more notebooks with my stories. I was even brave enough to share those stories with friends during recess. The underside of the playground slide became my own library, but the only inventory was my books. They were stories about kung fu fighting teenagers who were stuck in their own dreams (still might develop that one day), or fan fiction covering my favorite franchises.
Growing up in Los Angeles, only a few miles from Hollywood, I started flirting with the film industry. This became my focus throughout my young adult years. I majored in Multimedia at California State University Northridge (though my diploma is still incomplete). That eventually got me on YouTube which (for most filmmakers in those early days) was the best place to archive and share your work. YouTube has turned into a different beast today, but I still seek out that sense of community it had among like-minded individuals.
If there is one thing that encompasses my life so far, one theme, it would be the pursuit of art. Whether I’m writing, drawing, editing or otherwise (though I really wish I had a talent for music), I’ve always been drawn to crafting art. That’s all I’m really about when it comes right down to the bare bones, everything stripped away. I’m fueled by creating make-believe, letting my imagination take me to wonderful worlds filled with characters who speak to my inner muse.
So join me here on my small corner of the internet (a bit of an upgrade to the underside of a playground). I want to share my creativity with you.
TJ Young has been surrounded by magic his entire life, yet he has never tapped into it… until now.
Fourteen-year-old TJ grew up normal in a secret community of gifted diviners in the heart of modern-day Los Angeles. His powerful sister was ordained to lead his people into a new age of prosperity, but her mysterious death in Nigeria threatens to destroy the very foundations of TJ’s world.
Desperate to pick up where his sister left off and uncover the secrets behind her questionable death, TJ commits himself to unlocking the magical heritage that has always eluded him. So he enrolls in Camp Olosa-a remedial magic school for the divinely less-than-gifted in the humid swamps of New Orleans.
But little does he know, TJ is destined to cross paths with powerful spirits of old thought lost to time: the orishas.
Delve into this young adult fantasy based on the mythology of the West African Orishas, where TJ will encounter unlikely allies, tough-as-gatorhide instructors, and the ancient secrets of the orishas.
And now to the interview:
1. What do you want to share with us about this story? What really stands out about it and made you want to write it?
The main catalyst to get me writing The Gatekeeper’s Staff was the my enjoyment of both Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. However, both of those works, and the mythology they pull from, are quite Eurocentric and I wanted to write something that was a bit closer to home for me. In one way, that was writing about a Black American as my protagonist, TJ Young. Second, it was writing about a pantheon that is native to West Africa and my own ancestors. Taking from the idea of the magic school trope from HP and the trope of a youngster interacting with ancient gods from PJ was my jumping off point and I’m glad I took the leap. In writing my novel I’ve learned so much about my ancestors’ past and a piece of mythology that is not often given the limelight: the pantheon of the Orishas.
2. Why do you write in this genre? What makes this genre particularly appealing to you?
Because of the tropes, I thought young adult fantasy would make the most sense. What I didn’t realize is that contemporary young adult is where I should have been writing my stories this whole time. It was such a breeze building out scenes and beats for the story because the authorial voice is so close to my own natural voice day-to-day. Previously, I was writing more archaic works of fantasy—things you’d find in a typical D&D campaign. But the language and situations in my TJ Young & The Orishas series are so much more modern and easygoing, I feel.
3. What made you decide to become an author? Can you tell us a little about that journey?
Like many writers, I started because I simply didn’t see the books I wanted to read out there… so I did it myself. However, the cosmos did tell me several times in my life that I probably should have always been writing. First, when I was a small child and my mother encourage me to write and illustrate my books. Then, in high school when I wrote short films and my teachers said I should continue. But what really should have been a sign was when I won a scholarship for a screenplay I wrote when I was entering into university. And then, in university, again, my professors were like… “Yo, you should continue this whole writing thing.” Issue with that is I listened to none of those folks until I got to the point where I am now where I just am not finding the stories I want to read.
4. Why did you choose to self-publish? Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. For five years, I worked retail at Apple. During that time I had a YouTube channel that was taking off because Star Wars was coming back to cinemas and Avatar (The Last Airbender NOT the blue people) was still popping. I did versus videos (Aang vs Korea, who would win, Voldemort vs Vader, that sort of thing) and that set me on the path of making work for myself. I left my job at Apple and haven’t been “officially” employed since 2015. When I decided I wanted to write, I didn’t even look to traditional publishing, honestly. The first thing I did was download the Self Publishing Podcast (which I believe has since ended and turned into the Story Studio) and started figuring out how to do it all on my own. I’ve never been much of a fan of waiting for other people to decide things for me. I very much like being in control. The benefit of being indie is that I can be flexible and I have a direct line to my audience. That challenge, of course, is that dreaded marketing (oh, how I hate thee).
5. Where do you get ideas for your stories? Do they come to you over time, or do you suddenly think of an idea and realize it would make a great story?
I’d say I think of them over time for sure. Sure, I get plenty of ideas that pop up but what I usually try to do is incorporate that into my current story instead of starting new ones.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
At this time I plan on sticking to Fantasy and Sci-Fi for the foreseeable future.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in your genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, research, etc.?)
I’m a big fan of pacing, pacing, pacing. When I’m looking at my stories, pacing is king. I just want to make sure my prose is extremely readable and that the story is engaging, whether by way of plot or characters. Everything else for me is pretty secondary. I like world-building and it’s fun, but it can often get in the way of—you guessed it—pacing. Research is well and good too and I love incorporating West African, Pan African, and African diaspora culture when I can but again… if it gets in the way of pacing, it’s gotta go.
8. What is one thing you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
That I should have bene doing it straight out of high school (when that whole Kindle + Amazon gold rush was happening).
9. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
Yes, I’m currently in Act 2B (I work in four acts technically, with Act 2 split into two) of book to in the TJ Young & The Orishas series. The book is called The Windweaver’s Storm and it’s due out next June (2022). In it the story moves from the States to Nigeria, where TJ has to make good on a very bad promise he made at the end of Book 1. That promise will through him into a new adventure where he’ll need to deal with even more Orishas who are threatening to drown the coast of Lagos, Nigeria.
10. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish?
I usually direct folks to my own holy trinity: Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, and Jenna Moreci.
You can find Antoine Bandele’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Gatekeepers-Staff-Young-Orishas-Book-ebook/dp/B08C9WDXYQ/
Thank you so much for sharing all this with us today, Antoine! And the next book in the series is available right now on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Windweavers-Storm-Story-Young-Orishas-ebook/dp/B097JNFKVD/
You can find out more about Antoine and his books here:
Website – https://www.antoinebandele.com/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/Antoine_bandele/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/AntoineBandele