This month, we're celebrating amazing women who are making a difference - and this week's post is a page-turner with a few of the amazing authors of Epic Reads! Featuring Roseanne A. Brown, author of A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin, Elise Bryant, author of Happily Ever Afters, and Rena Barron, author of Reaper Of Soulsyou won't want to miss this must-read interview. Covering topics ranging from writer's block, to the books they grew up loving, read on to get inspired by this terrific trio. 

Every author has their own story. What’s yours? Were you always a book lover growing up? How did you transition from book lover to author?

Roseanne A. Brown: "My love of stories is tied directly to my experience as an African immigrant. I was a young child when my family immigrated from Ghana to the USA, and I spoke only our native language of Twi at the time. Even in elementary school, that language barrier was a daunting wall that kept me from connecting with my peers and my new community. Stories, both the ones I discovered between the pages of books and the oral folktales my family would tell me, were how I learned to step out of that shell and connect with others. Thus, from a young age I wanted to create work that would reach people, especially children, in a similar way. My earliest story to date was a hand-scribbled piece of what I now realize was essentially Animorphs 2.0, and I haven’t stopped since!"

Elise Bryant: "Yes, I’ve always loved books! I used to play Little Women with my friends at recess in third grade, if that tells you anything. We always used to argue over who got to be Jo! I was a pretty anxious and sensitive child, and books offered an escape for me when things were too overwhelming. My favorite characters were my constant companions. I started writing at a very young age because I longed to see girls that looked like me at the center of stories. I couldn’t find these books – especially the joyful, funny love stories I wanted to read – and so I started writing these stories myself. I wrote fairytales at eight, moved on to boy band fan fiction at twelve, and started writing romance as a teenager. Tessa, the protagonist in my debut novel Happily Ever Afters, has a very similar writing journey."

Rena Barron: "I grew up on a farm where there were no shortage of adventures. I braved the fearless mother hen always ready to protect her chicks, the discovery of a snake den in our backyard, and explored the perils of the woods in search of blackberries. Before I really got into reading, my first love was making up stories inside my head. Once I started to devour books, I realize that I could write down those stories. More importantly, books taught me that I wasn’t alone in my love for adventure and magic and unreal."

Like any job, being an author can have its challenges. How do you overcome writer’s block? Where do you look for inspiration when writing your stories?

Roseanne: "For me, 99.99% of the time writer’s block means that I made a mistake somewhere earlier in the story. When I get stalled like that, I go back to the last place in the work that feels right, and then I try to tease out what decision I made that derailed it. Sometimes this can require huge, foundational plot shifts, but more often than not, the culprit is as simple as a single line that is implying the wrong thing or a scene that veers off in the wrong direction. As for inspiration, I don’t look for it so much as it clubs me over the back of my head when I least expect it. The inspiration for ASOWAR came when I was walking back from a therapy appointment back in college and wondered what would happen if a ghost possessed a body and then wanted to give it back to the owner but couldn’t. Seemingly small, insignificant moments in my life have spiraled into these vast worlds I never could have consciously conjured."

Elise: "I’m constantly reading. I read all of the books within my genre – YA romance – but also everything else. Adult thrillers, memoirs, middle grade fantasy. I read everything! So I’m always inspired by the amazing work being done by other authors, and it makes me excited to work on my own projects. And I take a lot of inspiration from the world around me. I used to be a high school special education teacher, so a lot of my work is inspired by hanging out with brilliant, hilarious teenagers all day. I also eavesdrop a lot and create whole stories based on people that I’m snooping on from afar!"

Rena: "Perhaps the most amazing thing about being a writer is witnessing the spark of an idea blossoming into a full-fledged story. But the challenge is that sometimes getting from idea to the final story can be a laborious process. I see writer’s block as an empty creative well. Sometimes you need time away—sometimes that might be days, weeks, or longer. If I’m stuck on a plot point, I don’t always try to actively solve it. I push it to the back of my mind, and sometimes the answer will come to me while I’m doing something else mundane like taking a shower or running on the treadmill."

We all have that one book that we can read and reread over and over again. What is that book for you? How do you think that book impacted the way you write?

Roseanne: "Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat. The first time I read that book was for a college lecture, and it’s no exaggeration to say it climbed into my chest and took hold of me in a way no book had ever done before. Krik? Krak! was not the first time I had ever read a book about Black girls, but it was the first time that I saw a book give so much weight and resonance to the beautiful, painful, transcendent realities of being one. Danticat’s writing provided a reminder that the life I had led and that the lives all the Black women who had loved me and raised me had led held great weight within the world. Since then, I strive to give everything I write the same emotional weight and depth she employs so naturally. Even more than the world-building or the plot or even the characters, I strive to make the emotional heart of my work beat as strongly as hers does."

Elise: "My favorite book growing up was The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. I was obsessed with that series in middle school. And I re-read the first book recently and was still cracking up at the same jokes. I definitely think its influence is threaded all through Happily Ever Afters. Tessa is awkward, self-conscious, and realistically flawed – just like Mia Thermopolis. I hope I can create books that are as funny and swoony as Meg Cabot’s!"

Rena: "I’m a bit of an oddball in that regard. There are books that I have reread, but unlike some of my author friends, there’s no single book that I have read dozens of times. My favorite part about reading is the joy of discovery as the story unfolds. I have trouble recreating that level of joy when reading the same story. That said, there are some stories that have stood out to me, and I will return to, even if to read snippets of passages. N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy and The Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor come to mind."

A good book can change a reader’s life. When you are writing, what are your hopes for your reader? What do you want to make them feel with your books?

Roseanne: "I want all readers, but especially Black and other marginalized readers, to come out of my books with an understanding that the parts of themselves they’ve been taught to hate are often their greatest strength. I also want them to know that the path to healing in the wake of trauma and abuse is rarely easy and often painful, but it is always, always worth it. If even one reader finishes my work and feels a little less alone, a little more seen in their personal battle against the wounds that pain them, then I’ve done what I set out to do."

Elise: "The greatest gift of publishing Happily Ever Afters has been all of the messages I’ve received from readers, telling me how much my book has made them feel seen. That is what I searched for growing up, and why I ultimately wrote this novel. I want Black girls to read my books and see that they deserve joy. That they deserve to take up space. That they deserve to make mistakes, be imperfect, and still be loved as they learn and grow. I want to offer a mirror to those that rarely get to see themselves at the center of a love story."

Rena: "There are so many stories to tell that reflect different viewpoints, lifestyles, cultures, identities, values, and ways of processing the world. I truly believe that a lack of diversity in storytelling creates intolerance and bigotry. It reinforces stereotypes and inequality. Books allow us to have a glimpse into perspectives different from our own to foster empathy. I hope that when people read the Kingdom of Souls series or any of my books, they will see something of themselves in my stories but also encounter something they might have never considered before."

Bookmark Epic Reads to Stay Up to Date on New Releases and Follow Roseanne, Elise, and Rena to Show Your Support!