About the Author: “Lauren Blackwood is a Jamaican American New Yorker living in Virginia who writes Romance-heavy Fantasy for most ages. When not writing, she’s a physical therapist assistant and violinist who really doesn’t know how to settle on one career field. Her debut YA novel, Within These Wicked Walls, is a NYT/Indie Bestseller and the Reese’s Book Club Fall 2021 YA Pick.” (bio taken from author website)
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Lauren Blackwood: Thank you! It still feels like a dream, honestly. It’s unreal but lovely at the same time.
LB: I probably don’t sleep as much as I should, haha! And I used to write a lot on the company computer (on Google docs, so there was no evidence, haha!) It’s all about balance.
LB: I’ve been in love with YA books since middle school, but I decided to write after I read the book Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. That book really spoke to me, and it showed me that books with all the tropes I love were being published, so why couldn’t I do that too? Also, there were no fantasy books with characters who looked like me, being anything but slaves, never the heroes of their own story. Black girls need to see themselves as the main character—this was a book I needed when I was a teen.
LB: I love movies that aren’t outright scary, but frightening in that they keep you guessing in the most unnerving, visceral, intimate manner—Black Swan and The Prestige are great examples of this. That’s why I gravitate toward gothic romance. It’s about the yearning, but let’s unsettle the reader along the way.
LB: The romantic dynamic, for sure. Two souls entwined, but also both incredibly stubborn, battling with words at every opportunity. Also the ethereal, eerie vibes of the 2011 movie adaptation of Jane Eyre were the biggest inspiration for my book.
LB: The back and forth between Andi and Magnus was really important to me, as well as maintaining the bleak atmosphere of an empty, grand house. The racism was definitely the first thing that needed to go—no wives in the attic, thank you very much.
LB: I’m a true fan of the romantic tropes and the overall vibes and presence of the story/setting. But, as I stated earlier, there are a few things that are problematic enough that I couldn’t overlook.
LB: It’s sort of a tradition of mine that every book I write has at least one character with a name from Greek Mythology (Yes, readers have only seen this one book so far, but just wait!) Andromeda is an Ethiopian princess who is chained between a rock and a monster. Metaphorically, that fits my Andi’s situation perfectly.
LB: I loved the Eye Evil lore but it felt wrong to bring the curse to England just to hold on to the gray Jane Eyre vibes. This story is distinctly not British, and Ethiopia is a country that had never been colonized and so rich in culture and identity that setting it elsewhere would be doing the story a disservice.
LB: I love Magnus! I drew his eccentricities out through his artsy nature/hobbies and his boredom rather than just being sort of awful. When he’s awful, it’s the “he lives in a bubble” sort of way, because he truly does—he hasn’t been out in three years, and that’s taken a toll. His earnest efforts to adjust and learn to be social again, to engage with Andromeda and impress her…he’s trying, poor thing, haha! He has no filter or tact, but he’s trying.
LB: The scene in the library where Magnus catches Andromeda looking at his drawings is absolutely electric with sexual tension (am I allowed to say that?), and everything I love about gothic romance.
LB: Beast of Prey by Ayana Gray, The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland, A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow, to name a few
LB: Especially my fellow writers of color— work on your craft. That’s the most important part. And make sure you have good critique partners you trust who will give real feedback.
LB: I definitely have more novels in me, and some ready to go. Can’t talk about any of them at the moment, but there are definitely some more classic retellings in my future.
PRR Assistant Director, Grace Kennedy