Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Adesina Brown, from Atmosphere Press, for an author interview with The Reading Bud.
About The Author
Adesina Brown is a queer, non-binary author who centers QTPOC in all their work. They have been previously published in Rigorous Magazine, Coffee People Zine, and more, and their debut novel Where the Rain Cannot Reach is forthcoming with Atmosphere Press. Check out their recent guest post on LGBTQ Reads, “The Liberating Politics of Queernorm Fiction.”
Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California—where I’ve lived all 21 years of my life, with some stints at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie and an internship at Planned Parenthood in New York City, both in New York. I have two younger siblings, Negasi and Bakari, a dog named Oliver, and my mom and I are very close; my family is my greatest inspiration, and I wouldn’t be anywhere without their support, creativity, and care. I love all kinds of creative expression, which I try to make clear in my interactions and in my general enthusiasm for music, tattoos, paintings… I love it all! I also love plants, which you’ll learn in my author bio or on my Instagram; my greatest pride is my money tree, which has grown about three feet in the two years I’ve had it.
Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?
Be prepared for altered states of consciousness with a collectivist lens.
What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?
I think the greatest lesson I learned from my Room Magazine mentorship with Téa Mutonji is that I can’t control what my readers take away from my works. Every person is going to have such a personal, and ultimately emotional, connection to anything they read. That’s the beauty in literature—and the beauty in all art, really. I’m not so interested in defining the experience my readers have so much as I’m happy they’re having an experience at all.
That said… If I had to choose one message I’m trying to communicate to my readers in this novel, it’s that you deserve to live unquestioned and unburdened by what the dominant culture would question and burden you for. You deserve liberation—but it must be on your terms, for your reasons. I poured a lot of my dreams for the future of queernorm fiction into this project, and I hope you may find your own path to safety through glimpses of this world.
Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
My favorite characters often differ from my favorite characters to write; in the case of Where the Rain Cannot Reach, I’d say Shianna is my favorite character, while King Usnaso, who shows up later in the novel, is my favorite character to write. I love both characters because they’re complicated, albeit for vastly different reasons, and they always kept me wondering as to what they would do next—I never knew myself!
What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?
I came up with the very first scene of this book when I was 12 or 13 years old, made some character notes, and then ignored it for the next decade or so. In 2020, I arrived home from Vassar College after having left to pursue writing—but having no idea what I wanted to write. After some digging, I found some of my old journals, and I decided to rewrite the first scene of the book. I think I ended up with something like 10,000 words in that first sitting, so I like to say I was inspired by my younger self to write this book.
How long did it take you to write this particular book?
This is the toughest question for me to answer. It’s taken almost a decade from inception to publication. More accurately, the initial draft of this book took around three months; and it was maybe nine months before Atmosphere Press approached me with an offer for publication. We had another two or three months of editing after that… I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a project is complete.
What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?
Five years from today, I will have released the entirety of the Doman’s Despair trilogy; I also will release another novel (or two!) that departs from this trilogy. I’ll publish a poetry collection, too. In truth, my greatest ambition as a writer, and my most sustainable goal I think, is simply to write—which means that I want to write a lot. There are days when I don’t have it in me to put a single word on the page, and I’ve learned to accept that. Most days, though, I wake up and wonder what I will write, and I hope that feeling never goes away, not in five years and not in my lifetime.
Are you working on any other story presently?
Currently, I’m writing book two of Doman’s Despair, worldbuilding for another fantasy story, editing a sci-fi novel on-and-off, and shopping around my debut poetry collection.
Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?
I’d love to write in as many genres and styles as I can. I love writing poetry and have had a lot of stuff I’m proud of published online and in independent journals. Admittedly, though, speculative fiction is my happy place. Sci-fi, fantasy, and horror come naturally to me. I find a lot of comfort in the questions about, against, and toward reality inherent in speculative fiction genres. As a queer, non-binary, and mixed-race person, I’ve always gravitated toward stories that did not shy away from life’s complexities but instead showed new possibilities within those complexities. I mostly write speculative fiction—mostly think about speculative fiction—because it requires newness and constant reflection of the self and the wider world.
When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?
I truly started writing in my preteen and early teen years. At that time, it was abandoned ideas, like the one I had for Where the Rain Cannot Reach, and fanfiction—my first taste of writing publicly for something other than school. Back then, it was largely anonymous, mostly for fun, and I don’t think I told anyone what or where I was publishing… I probably never will! However, it was my first taste of writing for an audience, and the confidence I gained from the realization that I can write and someone will be interested in it has since proved essential. When I decided to leave Vassar College halfway into my sophomore year, I also knew I was sacrificing institutional structure, stability, and support. Without those things, I had to cultivate and redefine my definitions of wellbeing and success. I’m inspired to keep going whenever I reflect upon what I’ve already accomplished.
What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?
For whatever reason, I can only write in the afternoons, usually starting around 1:30PM. I first change the lighting in my room from warm white light to cool, and then I light a stick of incense. The most important step is choosing the music to accompany my writing: it creates ambience and places me into the world I’m writing. If I’m working on a longer project like a novel, I have one or two songs that trigger my brain to get into writing—my “go song(s).” For Where the Rain Cannot Reach, it was “Human” by Molly Sarle; for the second book of Doman’s Despair, I’m loving “I’m Going Away” by Elizabeth Cotten and “Heavy Horses” by Jethro Tull. When I edit, I always start with Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.”
With the space set, I aim for over 2,000 words a session, which I break into parts: after the first thousand words, which takes about 30-45 minutes, I take a break to stretch, drink some water, and make a meal; I then sit down to write whatever I have left in me that day. I’m a total pantser, so I often don’t know what I’ll write until it’s on the page.
How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
I write on my laptop. More specifically, I write with Microsoft Word in “Focus” mode on my Mac, which is essentially a blank page against a plain background. It’s perfect.
What are your 5 favourite books? (You can share 5 favourite authors too.)
Although it’s ever-changing, my current favorites are: Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown; Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo; Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Sadiya Hartman; She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan; and The Black Poets by Dudley Randall. The lattermost is a lifelong favorite—and probably my most traveled book.
How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
I’m a very self-motivated person, so I usually only take one or two days away from writing at a time. By then, I’m usually desperate to write something. However, if I’m truly unable to move a story forward, I have to change it. With the second book of Doman’s Despair, I wrote about 100 pages before I stopped; because I stopped, I knew I was not writing the story I needed to tell. I decided to scrap it all, and now I’ve almost finished writing it. Sometimes I need to take a step back and remind myself that it is not a block but a necessary break.
What advice would you give to aspiring non-fiction writers?
Anyone can write, so if you’re aspiring to write, I’d recommend getting some words on the page! If you’d like to publish your writing, though, you need time—and you need to take the time you give yourself seriously. I only say this to be realistic about how elitist and inaccessible the publishing world can often be. Be truthful with yourself about how much time you need for this process, take it at a speed that suits you, and remember that your writing deserves to be read.
Thank you, author Brown, for your honest answers!
About the Book
Where The Rain Cannot Reach
Tair has never known what it means to belong. Abandoned at a young age and raised in the all-Elven valley of Mirte, the young Human defines herself by isolation, confined to her small, seemingly trustworthy family.
Abruptly, that family uproots her from Mirte and leads her on an inevitable but treacherous journey to Doman: the previous site of unspeakable Human atrocities and the current home of Dwarvenkind. Though Doman offers Tair new definitions of family and love, it also reveals to her that her very existence is founded in lies. Now, tasked with an awful responsibility to the Humans of Sossoa, Tair must decide where her loyalties lie and, in the process, discover who she wants to be… And who she has always been.
In their debut fantasy novel Where the Rain Cannot Reach, Adesina Brown constructs a world rich with new languages and nuanced considerations of gender and race, ultimately contemplating how, in freeing ourselves from power, we may find true belonging.
You can find Where The Rain Cannot Reach here:
Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Atmosphere Press | Goodreads
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