Hello readers! I got the chance to interview author E.Y. Laster about her debut novel Of Captivity and Kings, favorite books, writing process, and more! I hope you all enjoy the interview!
About The Book
The laws are different in the Kushite ruled, southern Kingdom of Nabara. The penalty for involvement in the slave trade is death, and if the King fails to provide justice and order under ma’at, the High Priests can order him to commit suicide. When a Roman slave ship wrecks off the coast of Nabara, peace is shattered. Ancient caravan routes and nomadic hunters are threatened by kidnappings, robbery, and murder, forcing Nabaran High King Amkar Kashta to invoke the power of the six-kingdom alliance that is Nudolla. Each member of the ruling families finds themselves thrust into the rising slave trade and the corruption of everything and everyone it touches.
It is an adventure told from the secret sanctuaries of the desert fathers in the Scetes desert and the massive pyramids of Meroë to the Skeleton Coast and towards the Great Barrier Mountains of Apedemak. Here, kings and queens, princes and princesses, slave traders and gladiators, high priests and slaves, scribes and warriors, caravan robbers, and hermits collide under the thread that links them all – Captivity and Kings.
Hello and Welcome to the blog! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started as a writer.
Thank you for having me! I love the fact that your blog celebrates such a wide range of books so I’m excited to be featured here. My career as a writer began quite unexpectedly. At the time I was working at a department store and had to change out the receipt roll paper. The next thing I knew I began writing the first chapter on the back of a small piece with the black, streak marks on it that indicate the register paper is running out. Over and over again. A few weeks later I explained the world I was building to my friend at work and from there, I couldn’t write fast enough.
Can you describe your writing process for us? What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Sure! I have to admit I never really thought about it as a process, but I do have some guiding principles when it comes to my writing. I ask myself, what haven’t you read or written that you would love to see? Next, I envision how the scene would play out in my head, what characters are involved, the setting, and the tone. Lastly, I ask myself if this will work for the historical setting and if not, but I love it too much, I find a way to make it work! The most difficult part is definitely the editing and the historical research. You think you’ve gotten it just right and then you go back and edit over and over until you’re ready to cry! With the history, it’s easy to get lost and panic about whether or not you’ve gotten it right or you’re missing elements or whether or not your characters are being true to human nature. You have to remember that if you’re characters did everything perfectly and didn’t make mistakes, it wouldn’t be very interesting for you or the reader.
Your first book is called “Of Captivity and Kings”. What is the book about and what inspired you to tell this story?
Of Captivity & Kings is an adventure following various characters as they navigate the world of captivity and kings in an increasing desert climate, through ancient luxury trade, religious persecution, and a rising slave trade in 4th century Africa. It is a story of kings and queens, princes and princesses, slave traders and gladiators, high priests and slaves, scribes and warriors, caravan robbers, and hermits and the thread that links them all – Captivity and Kings. When I wrote Of Captivity & Kings I had no desire to publish. I merely began writing what I wanted to see. An adventure with diverse characters you love to hate, women as warriors and rulers, and a setting full of history and sweeping landscapes that can still be found today.
What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
The most important thing a book should do is to leave an impression on the reader. Everyone knows of one book that made them pause, gave them nightmares, made their heart beat a little faster, made them want to fall in love, change the world for the better, or just be that character if only for a day. I think world-building is such an important aspect of leaving an impression on a reader because if your reader feels like they’ve fallen headfirst into the scene and it’s playing out like a movie in their heads, you’ve done your job.
What books have influenced your life the most? Any particular authors?
My life! Wow, that would be a very long list. The list is too long, but there are many that have left an impression. Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, Antwone Fisher, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Nikki Giovanni, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the list goes on. What I really love is an author’s ability to take a character the world would paint in black and show the reader their humanity.
Of Captivity and Kings is filled with rich culture and history. What was the research process like and how long did it take to write?
The research process only made me more curious, which is the challenge of any author using history – trying not to fall down into the rabbit hole. I used the internet, libraries, the Smithsonian, colleges and universities, UNESCO, but also relied on art from temple reliefs, architecture, news articles, interviews and even translations of court rulings, songs, and stories. It was important that I make sure that while I was telling the stories of so many different African kingdoms that I adhere to the cultural practices and traditions as much as possible. It took me six months to write. Three years after that I decided I wanted to publish and it took me a solid nine months while working full-time to research into the self-publishing process, choose a cover, and edit my book.
What are some things (e.g. culture/historical,etc) that you learned about while writing Of Captivity and Kings?
From the Sao Civilization to the Kingdom of Kush to Axum, the Sotho, the Igbo and more, I had so many ancient African kingdoms to choose from that it only made me more excited to tell the story. I learned more about the many aspects of captivity, which you will see throughout the book such as captivity through slavery, debt, blackmail, gladiators, pawnship, labor, and even marriage. I also learned that many of the early Desert Fathers were in fact former criminals who took refuge from punishment in the desert in the 4th In addition, while ‘Kings’ conjures images of men in modern society, the ancient Kingdom of Kush is unique because of its successive female rulers who often held the title ‘Qore and Kandake,’ Meroitic terms meaning ‘King/Ruler and Queen.’ Several Queens ruled alone and some, such as Kandake Amanirenas, won victories against the Roman army. Another interesting fact is that a Kandake, like the priests, held such a powerful position in Kush that she could depose the King by ordering him to commit suicide – an order he was required to follow.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
I am actively working on Book Two. Book Two will be full of action as I used Book One to set the scene. I love the fact that many of my characters from completely different worlds find themselves in the same spaces and on the same page. I love hearing from readers about who their favorite character is and why, or what scenes they enjoyed the most and why. I’m looking forward to the next release. Thank you for having me!
About The Author
E.Y. Laster is the author of the book Of Captivity & Kings. It is her debut novel and a work created from a curiosity and love for history, travel, film and literature. Having held a number of jobs, including one as a former waitress, she never sits still for long. This book began on the back of old receipts and continued being written during commutes on buses and trains, while sitting in waiting rooms, during lunch hours, and even while running (very slowly) to train for racing competitions like the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon and The Color Run. For any questions regarding this book please feel free to contact her at email@example.com.
Thank you again E.Y. for the lovely interview! If you’re looking for a novel filled with history and adventure be sure to check out Of Captivity and Kings! 😀