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“Why do I write about kickass heroines? Because the women around me are kickass heroines themselves.”

Creating Visible Heroines with Tatiana Obey

Author Tatiana Obey I remember very fondly watching Tatiana Obey’s YouTube debut shouting out about her story Bones to the Wind. I was instantly enamoured with the passion and energy that exuded from this wonderful human. Since getting to know Tatiana a little better, that feeling of utter awe hasn’t dissipated one bit! With each conversation I am more and more impressed and excited about where she is going as an author. Tatiana writes some of the strongest, most resilient and let’s face it, bad ass females in fantasy right now, and I am so chuffed that she has joined me for an interview today. Welcome Tatiana Obey!

Q. First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to chat with me today! Can you give us an introduction to you, your work and where people can find you?

It’s hilarious that you mention that Youtube video! I did that video for Dominish’s Indie Author Showcase series, and it was my first time in front of the camera as a published author. I was in Lisbon at the time, and I figured there wouldn’t be a better opportunity to introduce myself to the publishing world than with the sunset and a Moorish castle behind me. Lol! As an author, I have somewhat of an insane origin story. In 2022, I quit my job to travel the world and spent most of the year focused on launching my author career. I’ve since returned home, but I long for the next adventure, whether it be in real life or on the page. I enjoy writing stories of badass characters slaying dragons, and I currently have available a completed duology, “A Forging of Age,” and a novella, “Sistah Samurai.” You can learn more about me and my works at my website: tatianaobey.com. You can also join my newsletter or follow me on social media (@obeytheauthor) for news and updates!

Q. I want to dive right into the deep and meaningful here, you have done a fantastic job of creating visible BIPOC heroines that just … kick ass. Can I ask the inspiration behind creating these fierce women?

I am definitely a product of growing up in female dominated households on both sides of my family, and to be more specific, a product of growing up in Black female dominated households. This intersectional lens is rather important, especially considering the labor that many Black women do for their workplace, community, and households. While I’ve always been surrounded by female heroines growing up, there was a noticeable lack of them within the speculative genre. But I would be remiss not to acknowledge the visible heroines that did exist and express my endless gratitude for pioneers such Octavia Butler (THE Grand Dame of Science fiction and Afro futurism), Nichelle Nichols for her iconic role of Uhura in Star Trek, and the various authors of magical surrealism, such as Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, that has long been a dominant force in African American literature. For those who are well-versed in African American literary canon, then you know that many of our touchstone works, from Kindred to The Color Purple, from Their Eyes Were Watching God to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings—are women stories. I am nothing but a descendant of their narratives.

Furthermore, I was born a storyteller in a family full of educators and musicians. Many readers have reached out to express how talented I am at crafting stories, but because of slavery and the generational effects of it, I don’t know where that talent came from. I do know that I am called to tell the stories around me, whether it’s the story of a middle-aged Black woman fighting demons every day on her way home, or the story of a young girl coming of age in a harsh and hostile environment when all she wants to do is slay dragons. Why do I write about kickass heroines? Because the women around me are kickass heroines themselves.

Q. Having started the ideas behind A Forging of Age duology in high school, how much has the story changed and developed before publication?

A lot! The story looked completely different in high school. I wrote stories about Rasia later in her life, following her on various adventures akin to serial sword and sorcery classics like Conan the Barbarian. The television show, Xena: The Warrior Princess was also a big influence on me growing up. I wrote those stories all throughout high school, but by the time I finished them, my reading tastes had changed, my writing had improved, and I was no longer happy with the story. Some fanfiction and another trunked novel later, when I had finally decided that I wanted to take the indie publishing route, I returned to these characters that have remained in my heart since high school. I knew that there was no one I would rather debut with than Rasia, and I took this opportunity to finally write a story that I thought was worthy of her. The story became a completely different plot set at a different time in the life of familiar characters. In many ways, A Forging of Age duology is Rasia’s origin story. There are more adventures to come.

Q. Now Rasia and Sistah Samurai are wonderful, but the character work doesn’t stop there. In both A Forging of Age duology and Sistah Samurai we have some incredible sibling and sibling like dynamics. Who has been your favorite side character to write thus far and why?

My favorite side character to write is a character from A Forging of Age duology that is not heavily featured at all. In fact, most readers will likely skim over him. This character is named Vincent, and he provided the epigraphs at the beginning of both books of the duology. His character is heavily featured in the books I wrote during high school, but because the duology is set in an earlier part of Rasia’s life, I was unable to properly introduce him to readers. I think the reason why he’s one of my favorite characters to write is because he represents the nerdy academic side of myself, and he allows me to really dig in and challenge some fun concepts and themes within academia. He’s going to be one of two main viewpoint characters in my next novel, where he’s going to have a very interesting character arc that I personally haven’t read before in the fantasy genre. I’m very excited to share his story.

Q. Sistah Samurai came to you much quicker if I remember correctly. What was it like working on something for four years versus that three-month turnaround?

Surreal, to be honest. If we’re going off technicalities, I spent four years writing those initial stories in high school, and then another four years working on the revised novel, so in total that’s … eight years. After finishing the duology, I was honestly scared. There is a lot of pressure within indie publishing to produce books at a high turn-around rate. I questioned my ability to write a story within a reasonable timeframe at the quality that I expect of myself. I decided to start small with a novella that I’ve always wanted to write, so it was absolutely a surreal experience to have written the entire thing in three months. Although, I do want to mention that I wasn’t working at that time. Working full-time and writing is an entirely different beast, as I did when I rewrote A Forging of Age. Technically, I managed to produce two full-length novels while working full time in the span of four years, which isn’t that bad considering, but in the realm of indie publishing can feel like molasses. I’m nervous about how long it’s going to take me to write this next novel, but I also refuse to publish anything that I’m not proud of. All I can really do is put the work in every day and go from there.

Q. Coming back to the stories themselves, another aspect of your tales I adore is the culture and family dynamics. How has the love and passion you have for your culture inspired your worlds?

I love finding unique and creative ways of merging Black culture with the fantasy genre. Currently, traditional publishing favors [insert country here]-inspired fantasies, such as Nigerian-inspired fantasy, Egyptian-inspired fantasy, Chinese-inspired fantasy etc. This puts many African American fantasy authors at a disadvantage because of the history of slavery and the systematic erasure of the same cultures that are lauded in modern fantasy novels today. While Sistah Samurai is overt in its Blackness, which unapologetically builds off the fantastical conceit of various 90s anime, A Forging of Age is a far more subtle piece of work. Names are important to the Black community. There was a time when Black people weren’t always referred to by our names and often addressed disrespectfully, which in some circumstances continue to this day. How we use and how we pronounce each other’s names has become a matter of respect. I always knew I wanted to create a fantastical world that placed as much importance on the value of names as my own culture. For someone who may not be familiar with Black culture, these sorts of details will fly right over their heads and will be dismissed as an interesting quirk of the worldbuilding. But for me, it’s to be seen.

Furthermore, the central theme of my next book will revolve around culture shock and cultural exchange. I chose those themes because I wanted the opportunity to use the fantasy genre as a metaphor to explore what it’s like to be a Black woman who travels. It’s my chance to reclaim, subvert, and challenge the genre from what was traditionally the “barbarian’s” point of view.

Q. Speaking of world-building, I know you are a world building nut! What do you think is the most fascinating aspect of your worlds that you want readers to pick up on?

That the representation is in my world building is intentional. I grew up with a very diverse friend group that spanned a range of genders, sexualities, and ethnicities. I cherish how much those friendships have enriched me, challenged me, inspired me, and helped me to become the person that I am today. So of course, I’m bringing my friends along on my adventures. My worldbuilding will always reflect the diversity of the world that I live in. Therefore, when I am world building, I’m always conscious and considerate of representation and how that representation is reflected through intersectional experiences. It is both important and imperative to me to build worlds with ample space for my friend’s stories where they are heroes too. After all, there are some dragons so colossal, you slay them together.

Q. To finish off today, I want to extend a personal thank you for educating me on some fantastic BIPOC authors and offering advice when it comes to my own writing. Can you share with us who some of your favorite authors in this space are right now?

One of my top favorite authors operating in the indie space today is Zamil Akhtar! Not only does he do a fascinating job of blending epic fantasy with Lovecraftian horror, the amount of historical specificity that he packs into his books is sheer breathtaking. I have read three of his books so far and none of them have disappointed. I love a consistent author that delivers! Seriously, if you haven’t read Zamil yet, you really should check him out.

Another author that I have recently been impressed by is Jason Michael Primrose. He is the author of 205Z: Time and Salvation, a science fiction doomsday novel that is perfect for readers who grew up on X-men. He also recently collaborated on and released a companion comic book to his novel. Jason is always up to really interesting things and he’s definitely one to watch as a creative.

Other authors I recommend include Jonathan Neves Mayers, C.M. Lockhart, Delilah Waan, Dr. Joel Anthony Hamilton, Natalia Hernandez, Tony Debajo, & Dawyone Combes. In addition, there are still plenty of books and authors on my TBR that I can’t wait to read such as Intisar Khanani, B.S.H Garcia, Isabelle Olmo, & Sienna Frost. I suggest following me on Goodreads for more recommendations all throughout the year!

Want to check out a review of Sistah Samurai! Check it out here! 

Check out Tatiana Obey today!

Check out Tatiana Obey today!

Check out Tatiana Obey today!

Check out Tatiana Obey today!

Check out Tatiana Obey today!

Check out Tatiana Obey today!

Check out Tatiana Obey today!

Check out Tatiana Obey today!

The Fictional Escapist

Kris has been an avid reader for most of his life, forever escaping into various worlds, far beyond his imagination. Now at the ripe old age of 32, he spends his days in a sea of authors, review copies and unedited manuscripts; and he is having a blast!

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