Interview with YA author Sang Kromah

Author Sang
Kromah joins me today to chat about her new young adult fantasy, Djinn.
Sang Kromah
is a Liberian-American author and digital storyteller who provides a digital
space for women and girls to create their own narrative with Project GirlSpire.
After receiving her master’s degree in communication arts from New York
Institute of Technology, she’s landed her skills to ambitious projects like
Nick Kristof’s “Half the Sky Documentary” and much more, but her
passion project is the female-led library project she’s starting in Liberia,
Project READ.
Welcome, Sang. Please
tell us about your current release.
Some believe
that at birth, we’re each born with a guardian attached to us, watching from afar,
but never seen. Truth is, there are certain people, special people, born of
this world and of the other, who need that extra protection. They go their
entire lives, unaware of the other world, and unaware of the existence of their
own personal watcher, watching from afar. But what happens when fate takes a
turn for the worse, and The One who needs the aid of a watcher most can’t be
found to be protected? This is where Djinn
Bijou Fitzroy
is strange. With the unwanted gift of being an empath, she has spent her entire
life as a sheltered recluse, homeschooled by her secretive and overprotective
grandmother, who never allows them to stay in one place long enough for Bijou
to settle and make friends. When Bijou and her grandmother move to Sykesville
and she starts to attend the local high school, Bijou’s world begins to
crumble. Town locals begin to disappear and the creatures from her nightmares
begin to take shape in her reality. She finds herself at the center of a war
she never knew was being fought all around her.
What inspired you to write this book?
When I was a
kid, my parents would tell me stories about djinn. In Liberian, these stories
are very popular, but one particular story always stuck with me about a girl
named Femeni that escaped what should have been certain death at the hands of a
notorious djinn. For years, I re-wrote different versions of that story,
wondering if Femeni ever had any more encounters with the djinn, what happened
to her, and what if she had a daughter of her own? I hounded my dad with
questions about the story’s origin. He couldn’t give me much other than the
Arabian and Islamic origins of the djinn, so I created my own legend, based on
tradition and lore.
What exciting story are you working on
I’m working on the follow-up to Djinn.
It’s called Folon, which means the
past in the Mandingo language. It picks up where Djinn leaves off. The first
book was about Bijou finding out who she is and who she’s meant to be and Folon
is more about Bijou finding out more about where she comes from and how it
shapes her present and her future. There’s more magic and the rules of the
djinn change, so I’m very excited about that.
When did you first consider yourself a
I was a
storyteller well before I was literate. My parents spent their evenings telling
me stories from their native country, Liberia, so I started taking those
stories and telling them to my younger brother when he came along. As I would
tell those stories, I would change portions and soon enough, they were brand
new stories. By first grade, I was writing those stories down and told my
mother I wanted to be a writer. My mother made sure I proved it. We traveled a
lot and my mother would make me write a story about every place we went. Soon,
it was no longer an assigned task, I carried a notebook with me, no matter
where I went, and like Harriet, the Spy, I would write down EVERYTHING. I was
so annoying. I would stare at people to get their physical descriptions and
quirks perfect, and I almost got punched because of it in the fourth grade. I
would spy on my parent’s conversations and add exaggerated bits and pieces to
my stories. Like I said, I was an annoying and precocious kid.
By the
seventh grade, I actually considered myself a writer. My Language Arts teacher
Ms. Norville, would give me the last 5-10 minutes of class on Fridays to tell
my stories to the class, and that really boosted my confidence.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I wish. I’m a
communications specialist and I spent nearly seven years in the non-profit
sector. I specialize in media management, content management, and public
relations. I also do a lot of editorial work as well. No matter what kind of
contract I have, I always write at night. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a day
without writing. It’s like breathing for me.
Outside of
these endeavors, I created a digital space for and by girls and women, Project
GirlSpire. It’s a place where we create the narrative, so our thoughts and messages
don’t get lost in translation.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I can’t write
without having ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ or ‘Gilmore Girls’ or music on in the
background. My writing playlists are very eclectic. They range from Radiohead
to Zero 7 to Salif Keita to System of a Down. I should probably include insomnia
to this list because I often go days without sleep when I’m completing a
manuscript. I get a little crazy when I’m writing, particularly about the
djinn. I know to most people that read this, it’s nothing but fiction, but I
come from a culture, where it’s believed that the djinn are as real as the
people next door. So, while researching, interviewing people, and writing, I
began having nightmares and paranoia started to set in. It’s embarrassing to
admit, but I occasionally sleep with the lights on because of some of the
things I was told.
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
As I
explained earlier, I always wanted to be an author, but I would have other
sporadic interests as well. For the longest time, I wanted to join the circus
or the carnival and run away with them. If it had been the circus, I would have
been a contortionist and if it had been a carnival, I would have been a fortune
teller. By elementary school, I was determined to be a librarian because that’s
where I spent most of my time. I love libraries, which is why I’m working to build
one in Liberia. I have a master’s in communications, but I’m going on to study
library science, and specializing in young-adult services.

Thank you for being here today, Sang!

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