1. How did you come up with the idea for Children of Stardust?
I always wanted to write a fantasy/sci-fi book, but I remember Black Panther was a lightbulb moment for me. I remember being blown away by the story and the aesthetic and the characters. I
knew that I wanted my next manuscript to be a science fiction story after that.
At that point I had sent two manuscripts for fantasy novels to literary agents, but they had racked up more rejections than there are stars in the galaxy. Fast forward a few months and I wasaccepted into a writing workshop in accra Ghana. The workshop was over three days and was an amazing experience, and the wonderful lady who was running the workshops asked to have a sit down with me on the last day of the workshops, so that I could tell her a bit about myself. She asked me if I had a manuscript I was working on and I told her that I did (the truth was I didn’t!). So when we sat down, she told me a bit more about herself and gave me her card, then she gave me the floor. There was a panic-filled moment where I had to find something to say. Should I pitch the one or both of the two manuscripts that I had already sent to literary agents? Should I pitch an entirely new story? When I opened my mouth, the story that came out was that of a young boy called Zero who lived in the City of Children, and dreamed about becoming a Saba , a type of space adventurer , just like his mentor Zoe. Thoughthe story has evolved enormously since then, that was the first time that I had articulated the story that would become Children of Stardust and so Children of Stardust was born during that pitch.
Fun fact , that lady would go on to become my agent, and the rights to the book would be sold to a Norton Young Books and here we are with Children of Stardust about to be published!
I think that sometimes , some ofour stories have a way of imposing themselves on us. They want to be born into the real world and I think that is what happened with Children of Stardust.
2. Were any of your characters based on people you know in real life? Were any based on other fictional or mythological characters?
I would say that many of my charactersare an amalgamation of people I know or have met before. Most of the names of the main characters are taken from people I know.
Beyond that, the inspiration forWanderblatch for instance was Magwitch who is perhaps my favourite character in all of Great Expectations. If I had my way I would have a character like Magwitch in every book I write! I find him so fascinating.
The character of Selima Turkogluwas loosely based on the legend of the Queen Pokou from ivory coast. Peter parker was a big inspirationfor Zero. I wanted to create a wise-cracking and confident main but one who was also trying to understand his place in the world. I think there are shades of
Pip from Great Expectations in Zero too. Zero, just like Pip, wants to be recognized by his mother and his mentor Zoe.
Finally I’d say Bo was based on me as a child!
3. What kinds of books did you enjoy as achild?
I didn’t read many books as a child.I spent most of my time enjoying other forms of storytelling such as mangas, films and comic books.I started reading for fun, outside of classes at the end
Thinking about it I think a lot of the time Ididn’t really identify with the books I found. And I remember quite early realizing that one day I would have to write the stories I wished I had read as a child.
Of course there were someexceptions. A few books managed to force their way into my life and make it through my envelope of disinterest: there was of course the harry potter books.
The Artemis Fowl books were anotherseries of books I devoured. So too were the ‘series of unfortunate events’ books. Great expectation was another book I enjoyed although I’ll admit I didn’t
appreciate it quite as much at the time when I had to study it for my English IGCSE
I also loved greek mythology. Iremember one summer while I was visiting Paris I got my mother to buy me two ancient mythology anthologies from an old bookshop that lined the Seine. I bought An encyclopedia on greek legends andanother one on Nordic legends. I still have these books to this day ( although in very advanced stages of disintegration).
I would say my tastes in books hasremained the same since I was a child. I tend to gravitate towards fantasy books andbooks with supernatural twists, magic and lots of comedy.
I am pleased to say that I now read four to five books a month, so I am more than making up for my tepid start as far as reading novels is concerned!
4. What’s on your to-read list now?
I always read many books at onceand my current to – read list is quite eclectic. I just finished Six of Crows from Leigh Badugo. In terms of the books I want to read next there’s Cimarron Rose by James lee burke, ‘contes initiatiques Peuils’ by Amadou Hampate Ba, Love Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green, and Machines like me by Ian Mckewan.
5. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood? Where did you grow up, what were your
hobbies, what was your favorite movie, TV show, game?
I grew up in lome , Togo in aneighbourhood called La Caisse. I wasraised as an only child, which means that though I am aware of the concept of sharing to this day I’ve never put it into practice.
As an early child I also learned tooccupy myself and I would spend a lot oftime inside in my head to ward off loneliness. Very early on I remember that I spent a lot of time inventing tall tales. I would tell my friends that I had all these rare animals in my house like cheetahs and lions and giraffes and I
would be adamant about it! I would invent new types of animals, new types of food and gadgets and insist that they were real. Mostly my family would play along with it. I think somehow I just assumed that I could make things real with my mind. I’d get bored with the real world and imagine better versions of things and try to think them into existence.
A case in point there was when Itried to rewrite some vcr tapes which my parents had gotten me containing recorded tv shows from America. I watched these vcr tapes until I knew every story back
to front. Eventually I got bored and I decided I wanted to watch some other shows, so I took out the vcr tape, and with a felt tip pen I wrote the names of the shows I wanted to watch on the front of the vcr and then let it dry in the sun thinking that the sunlight would download the shows I wanted onto the VCR. It didn’t work of course, but the anecdote was indicative of how I thought as a
Growing up my hobbies were football, basketball and swimming.
I watched a lot of anime cartoonssuch as Dragon ball Z, City hunter, saint seiya but also looney tunes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Tom and Jerry! In terms of video games, I think my favourite game was probably final fantasy 7.
My parents were concerned I playedtoo much video games. So they would tell me that I would grow square eyes if I wasn’t too careful, and then everything I would look at would be square shaped! I think I was scared for a few days. But then I thought about it and I realized
that with all the tv and video games I had watched already , if I hadn’t developed a severe form of square eyes already then it probably didn’t exist! So needless to say I got back tomy TV watching ways with a vengeance.
6. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Where do you write? What can you see
from your desk?
It sounds cliché but I think one ofthe earliest realizations I had in my life was that I would be a writer. I
always loved storytelling, and inventing stories.
I have always been writing. Englishliterature was my favourite subject at school and though at different points in my life I had different ideas about what I wanted to do as a career, I always
knew that writing was what brought me the most joy and the most fulfillments and that I would eventually end up becoming an author.
The way I consumed content as wellwas a sign I might want to be a writer someday. Anytime I read a book or watched a cartoon, I would invent new storylines, or episodes in my head. I would imagine new characters that I would bring to life in my daydreams and imagine them evolving in the stories with the ‘real characters’. Sometimes I would change the appearances of characters in the novels or films ( or tv shows)
So for me watching tv shows or reading,or playing video games was never a passive activity. I was always analyzing the things I watched, deconstructing them, finding similarities, inventing new
characters or plots or exploring plotlines I liked and felt were not developed well in the story. I was always trying to peek under the bonnet and that told me that perhaps one day I would make a good writer.
Another moment which made merealize I would want to write was playing the video game Final Fantasy 7. It was such a complex and enthralling story,that I remember thinking that one day I wanted to be able to create an
expansive and immersive world, just like Final Fantasy 7.
I write from my bedroom most of thetime. In front of me is a blank white wall. I feel like nothing beats a great big blank white wall! It is a great material on which to project your ideas. I
try not to look outside my window from where I can see the garden. If I’m staring out the window it usually means that I’m procrastinating. My best ideas are when I’m daydreaming in front of a section of white wall or in complete darkness. That helps too.
7. Were there any people in your life who had an important influence on your writing?
I’d say my English teachers. The English teachers I had during my time inschool had an important influence my writing. Mr. Allen, Ms Fuchs and all the English teachers I whose names I can’t remember. They all introduced me to books that opened my world.
But I would say that anime, andvideo games also had a huge influence on my writing. I think of my writing, as bringing the unique type of storytelling I enjoyed in anime and video games to the
world of fiction books.
8. Do you have another job, besides writing? How do you like to spend your free time?
Most of my free time I like to spend reading, or exercising. I love playing basketball and recently I’ve discovered boxing.
9. Where in the world would you most like to visit?
Japan would certainly be first on my list. Anime and manga furnished my childhood memories and I definitely would love to go the place that birthed all these incredible stories. After that I
think I’d love to visit LA. Haiti too. It’s my mother’s country and I’ve never been there. Then there are a few countries in south east Asia ( Vietnam , Cambodia, Singapore) I’d love to visit. The list is long!
10. Who (living or dead)would you most like to meet?
That’s a tough question!
If I had the philosopher’s stone fromHarry Potter I’d use it to meet Charles dickens, Mark twain, and Terry Pratchett. I would love to have a sit down with them, and understand how their minds
worked and how they got to be so funny. The amount of humor that would be
gathered in that room would be frankly dangerous! I have a fascination with athletes so I’d love to meet athletes like Lebron James, Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton. I think with athletes I’d love to talk routines and try and understand how they were able to achieve excellence through consistency and remain dominant over many years.
There are a few singers I’d love tomeet too! I’d love to meet The weeknd, Drake, Daft punk and Stromae because I love their artistry. I’d love to talk about their creative process. I’m sure I could
learn a lot of things that could feed into my own writing!
I’d love to meet James Lee Burke to ask him how he writes so well.
I’d also love to meet Eichiro odathe creator of the manga One piece to ask him how he came up with the idea and the plot!
The list is endless!
11. Do you have a favoritescene in Children of Stardust? Were there any that you found difficult to write?
Hard to choose! I think all thescenes resonated with me in some way. But I think all the scenes with Bo I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed writingthe break-in of Arsene Ramondo’s home and also the scenes on Mama Dabi’s ship.
12. There is such a perfectbalance of humor and tenderness alongside action and adventure. Did you find
achieving this balance difficult?
Yes I think it something I had towork on. I had to learn the importance of shifts in rythmns of scenes andshifts in tone. Left to myself I think I would write an endless succession of comedic scenes. But you have to mix things up. Shifting the emotional tone once in a while makes the moments of levity funnier. Use humour too much and it ends up being like beating people over the head with a slab of wet ostritch meat . After a while you grow numb to the humour. I love seeing my characters dealingwith different emotions and circumstances. I love seeing them when they are funny, but also when they are vulnerable or doing spectacular things.
13. Found family and friendshipare the most powerful themes in Children of Stardust and help drive most of Zero’s choices. Why were these important themes for you to center your book
on? Are there any literary friendships you admire?
I really wanted to celebratefriendships and found family. There is a certain beauty to the lottery of who gets to be our friend and how these friends help make us whole and better versions of ourselves. I wanted to celebrate that. Growing up, my friends were animportant part of my support system and this found family really helped me through tough times but also helped me grow as a person. I just wanted to honor
that in some way. I feel like family, the colour ofour skin , what country we come from or what environment we are born in are allcards that are dealt to us. Some people have perfect families. Others are in an environment where they can thrive. Not everybody is in this situation. Thesethings are outside of our control and it is really important to not let these things limit us. I believe life isreally about breaking out of the confines of the things that are outside of your control. The friends we have, the choices we make, the things we build, these are things we can control and it is up to us to harness the things we can control to achieve our objectives whatever they may be. Children of Stardust is really about that. Zero has no family and lives in an environment that is not conducive to him achieving his dreams. Found family and friendships are essential to his success. I feel like people who don’t tryand invest in friendships are leaving wonderful experiences and incredibly beautiful moments on the table.
14. If you could have one Kobasticker, whatwould it be and why?
This is a tough one. I have five! I think everyone would want to haveJupiter, the main character Zero’s Kobasticker. Jupiter is an Origin serieskobasticker, every kobasticker in the Origin series collection is named after one of the objects in the solarsystem. Everyone would want to have Jupiter and be the thirteenth user (or the26th user) and be granted immortality! The second kobasticker I would liketo own is Mapnix. Map-nix materialises a map that leads you to any object youown and might have misplaced. Perfect for finding lost keys or misplaced items. Then there’s Rekipernix which allowsthe user to summon any object that he owns and materialise it in his presence. Lastly there is Japo-japu-julu-jako-vuvu-vovo-nonix whichis a legendary kobasticker which when worn makes everyone around you feelhappiness. That would probably be my favouritekobasticker actually, although it would be impractical in a duel. You don’t want to make your adversary happy. Not to mention it would be a nightmare having to pronounce that in a battle!
15. What’s one thing you hope your readerstake away from Children of Stardust?
I forgot who said that ‘talent is equally spread across the world, but opportunity is not.’ That is something that has always resonated with me. Zero represents all the people who have big dreams and are striving to achieve them despite living in an unfavorable environment. I would want readers to take away from Children of Stardust the importance of believing in your dreams, working hard, and not taking shortcuts. No matter how silly your dream might look or what your environment is telling you about yourself or your dreams- stay true to them. That is the only way success will find you: if you persevere. It has certainly worked for me.