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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Interview: Anthony Hewitt

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This morning, it's my stop on the blog tour for Joshua N'Gon: Last Prince of Alkebulahn and to celebrate, I'm sitting down for a quick chat with the author, Anthony Hewitt.

Can you tell us a little about the book?
Joshua N'Gon: Last Prince of Alkebulahn came about because of my love for fantasy fiction and Young Adult literature. There was an abysmal lack of black main characters with a fresh perspective, so I created a story my younger self would have fallen over himself to read. I was lucky to have so many great writers that came before me for inspiration. Joshua is a cool character and his adventures I'm hoping will resonate positively with young and old people alike.
Joshua is African but living in London; the setting is distinctly London, but ties in with African history and heritage and the protagonists are Black and Asian. What cultural elements did you draw from yourself? 
I didn't have to look very far for cultural inspiration because London is a truly diverse city. If I look out my window at this very moment, I'm touched by the United Kingdom, East Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, India, Pakistan and West Africa. It's a great city with its own distinct history but whose past and future are intertwined in the history of the people who live here.
Did you have any concerns about creating a new African country? 
Not really. How many people get the opportunity to create a country and its unique history? The real thrill is how I can weave present history into this alternative world and making some subtle changes to the continent of Africa. It is so rich in culture and mythology but is so underutilised in literature. I'm hoping I can add my voice to what could be a proud tradition.
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What were the parallels with creating an alien world and technology?
Because technology is developing so quickly in the real world, I had to consider what an alien civilization who had the capability for faster than light travel and everything that represented would feel like in 1st Century AD. What kind of creatures would they be and how would their technology hold up in the modern world after crash landing a thousand years ago in Africa? There were a few techniques I used to keep it real in the subtext and also added limitations to how alien technology could be used in the world I created. I want you to feel this is all possible and that you live in the world of Joshua N'Gon.
There are some heartfelt moments in the book, in particular, the feelings for Joshua as he is confronted by racism both casual and systematically institutionalised. Was this something you were trying to do?
Yes. Although it's Sci-Fi/Fantasy, I wanted to bring home the challenges our protagonists will face regardless of who he is and the gifts he may possess. Certain sections of our society will judge you because of the colour of your skin. Harry Potter would never face that particular challenge and neither would Percy Jackson but Joshua N'Gon will and the readers need to be reminded of that. If I'm skilful enough readers will begin to walk in the same shoes as the characters.
There are many local references for readers - food, music, language - what do you hope the reader takes from these?
I'm hoping it will bring the story to life for the readers. You have to understand that creating a character like Joshua. with his age, race, background and his culture is not a familiar thing. The more I could make him 'real', so to speak, the better his chances of acceptance from readers. Allowing him to interact in a real way with the London I'm familiar with gives it a resonance you can feel when you're reading the book.
How do you see the series developing?
There is so much ground to cover in the world of Joshua N'Gon and I promise it will be a fun ride. Look for globetrotting adventures on land, underwater and in outer space. There will be the revelation of Kanu's evil plans, the secret history of alien contact on earth, how the city of Alkebulahn came about, Joshua's developing powers, his coming of age ceremony in Rumundiland, his life at St. Augustine’s, becoming the Last Prince, new friends, and new enemies. As I said, much ground to cover.
You've got some lovely imagery on the website and book covers; can you tell us about that?
The character concepts were an integral part of the writing process too. I'm very visual so I worked with artists to produce the characters and it was amazing how the artist's interpretations added new story ideas or character traits that I never thought of. On the cover, there are some major characters that may not have been explained in book 1 and only hinted at but will be fully featured as the story progresses.
Joshua N'Gon: Last Prince of Alkebulahn is available to buy now. For more about Anthony and his writing, you can visit his website.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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