If you’re looking for a wholly original and superbly written futuristic witchy read that’s the dictionary definition of ‘impossible to put down’, Liselle Sambury has you covered with her Blood Like duology. With the much anticipated release of the duology’s conclusion, Blood Like Fate, Liselle has once again gifted her readers with a book filled with high stakes, complex relationships, history intriguing magic and characters you’ll fall in love with. Liselle has truly created a world and story you won’t want to leave and we’re thrilled to have had the pleasure to chat with her all about it.
Hi Liselle! I honestly couldn’t be more excited to have the chance to ask you a few questions today about your newest YA novel, and conclusion to one of my all-time favourite YA fantasy duology’s, Blood Like Fate! But for readers just hearing about your fabulous Blood Like Magic duology, how would you best describe it to them?
The Blood Like Duology follows a family of Black witches living in a near future Toronto, with a focus on sixteen-year-old Voya Thomas who is given the impossible task of either killing her first love or losing her family’s magic forever. This very difficult situation sends her on this journey of discovering who her family really is, their position in the Black witch community, and who she is as a part of it. Compounded by the fact that she’s struggling with her own self-confidence and decision-making. It features tight but complicated family relationships, an enemies-to-lovers romance dynamic, ancestral magic, and lots of fun Toronto landmarks and Trinidadian food references.
The Blood Like duology is one of the most unique and creative fantasies to have been released in the past few years. Can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations behind it?
The inspiration for the first book was pretty straight forward in that I missed my hometown of Toronto and wanted to write about a family of Black witches, and I mashed it together with a sudden urge to set it in the future. But then in imagining it as a series, I needed to expand beyond that. What ended up being the inspiration for the series as a whole was Voya’s journey as a character and what I wanted for her at the end. As someone who is quite indecisive when we meet her, it felt natural to construct the second book in a way that would force her to directly confront choices she’d made. I really used her as the guiding light for how the series would unfold and then added on the additional elements layer by layer.
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The Blood Like duology brilliantly portrays how history (specifically the enslavement of Black individuals in the US and Canada) still effects our present and future in both a moving and engrossing way. What was your thought process behind merging a fictionalised future with a very real past in this way?
Once I decided that part of the magic system of this book would be that witches could communicate with their ancestors who would then assign and judge them on tasks to decide whether they were worthy to receive magic, I immediately started to think of who those people would be. I had to imagine that entire history of the family in order to figure that out, exploring what experiences they may have had, and how those would affect them mentoring their descendants. This led naturally to discussions of enslavement because most of the characters in the book are Black.
After reading The Book of Negros by Lawrence Hill, I became more and more aware of how much my Canadian education had skirted around our country’s role in enslavement. I wanted to show a past that was rooted in real history and explore how that affects these characters because it also affects us in real life and will continue to in our future. I also wanted to explore the experience of trying to feel connected to your past. For many Black people in the diaspora, enslavement destroyed our connection to our ancestry, and I loved the idea of being able to have that connection through magic and exploring what your life might be like if you could have that ancestral guidance.
Blood Like Fate blends fantasy and sci-fi in such an exciting way, and yet at times it almost feels contemporary. How did you go about fusing these separate genres and was it something you always envisioned for the story? (and a little sidenote, was there anything specific that drew you to set the story in 2049 or was the year a random decision?)
For me, from the start, it was integral that those two genres be blended. Meaning that the magic had to rely on the technology and vice versa. They had to be interconnected. Partially, this was because I was terrified that a literary agent or editor would suggest taking out the sci-fi, and I felt that if they were joined in a way where separating the genres would ruin the story, that would be less likely to happen. And so while writing, I worked on how to continuously keep those two things connected. The main character Voya, from a witch family, gets a romantic genetic match with a boy who is a tech genius from a big tech family, for example. Or even the fact that Voya’s family’s magical beauty supply business relies on things like drones and online ordering systems to run. There are also some very important plot points with those sorts of ties as well. It meant a lot of time devoted to making sure I was always connecting those genres.
As for the timeline, the story was actually originally set in 2099, but as my editor wisely pointed out, some of the technology I had in the book was closer to some things we already had in present day. And so we edited to bring the timeline a little closer to match that and 2049 felt far enough away for the advances in the book to work, but not so close that those technologies would feel unrealistic.
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If found yourself having been Called, what would you want your gift to be and how would you use it?
I feel like I answer this question a little different each time, but if I could choose a gift, I would love to be able to turn fear on and off. I’m a very nervous flyer, and it would be wonderful to get on a plane and just turn my fear off so I could have a pleasant flight. Or when I’m driving in the car with someone who goes a little too fast or is inattentive. Sometimes I’m in an Uber and I’m holding onto the handle for dear life! But I wouldn’t keep it off because I do think that fear can be necessary sometimes for being vigilant about your own safety. But since gifts are based off the sort of person you actually are, realistically, I would probably be given something very A-type and functional, like always being able to remember scheduling details.
Blood Like Fate features such a gorgeous and superbly developed cast of characters but was there a character you found particularly hard to create or one who’s scenes you always found yourself looking forward to writing?
I have really had my struggles with Voya. As the main character of my series, I absolutely love her, but that also made her challenging to write at times. In the first book, I had a lot of missteps in the editing process trying to nail down who she really was and what she wanted out of life. I put a lot of time and effort into getting her right. But once I did, it was great! It was so much easier to write her for Blood Like Fate because I felt like I had such a strong handle on her character.
In terms of a character who I look forward to writing, it is no secret that I love Keisha. I love the nails, and the hair, and that her gift is the absolute worst and she uses it in the most annoying way, but I also love how much she really cares about her family and siblings, and how despite how tough she can present herself at times, that she’s still a vulnerable character who sometimes puts way too much pressure on herself. She’s similar to Voya in that way, and I had so much fun with her journey in the series.
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Voya’s world, family and story was utterly captivating and one I truly didn’t want to leave behind. Can you see yourself revisiting the world or its characters again at any point in the future?
I do have a spin off idea that I would love to explore one day, but it wouldn’t be from Voya’s point of view. I think Voya’s story as a main character is over in my mind, in that all the things I wanted to explore about her character from a POV lens I’ve done in the Blood Like series. However, I would love for her and characters from the series to be involved and incorporated, because I do think they still have something to contribute to that world. Though I did see your tweet about a Keis/Keisha book and I do think it would be fun to see the dynamic of those two being forced to work together on something. But at the end of the day, I would need to have a really good new idea to pick back up right where Blood Like Fate ends.
The Blood Like duology is one of my absolute favourites and because of this, I can’t finish this interview without mentioning the food! So I have to ask, out of all the delicious and drool inducing dishes you describe between both books, which would you most highly recommend trying?
I will say, because it is also my favourite, I have to say pholourie. And it must be dipped in the tamarind sauce! Both of those are very necessary. I feel like it’s hard to go wrong with fried food and it’s also vegetarian-friendly, so that would be my suggestion. But I think roti in general is a good second choice because you can try different meats in it or no meat, and different types of roti skins. There’s good versatility.
Finally, do you currently have any projects in the works and if so, if there anything you can tell us about it?
I do! Next year, Delicious Monsters will be out on Feb 28th. It’s a YA about a girl who can see the dead whose mother inherits a mysterious mansion in northern Ontario and another girl 10 years in the future who’s investigating what happened to them. It’s got creepy unsettling vibes, a lot of psychological suspense, and those complicated family dynamics that seem to be present in all my books. I’ll also be in a horror anthology featuring Black authors called All These Sunken Souls next year which I’m super excited about. I’ve got a story about a sleepover gone wrong in that one.
Get your copy of Blood Like Fate by Liselle Sambury here.