Jordan Ifueko is a Nigerian American writer who grew up eating fried plantains while reading comic books under a blanket fort. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their collection of Black Panther Funko Pops. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @jifueko. Raybearer, her debut novel, is out now!
What is your book about?
My elevator pitch for RAYBEARER: In a global empire, a love-starved Black prodigy is coerced by her mother to join a divine crown prince’s council. Her mission? Earn his trust. Swear her love. And to her horror…kill him.
What was your inspiration for this story?
I started writing RAYBEARER 13ish years ago, when I was 13! RAYBEARER features a group of children who are handpicked to be raised in isolation with the future emperor, and groomed to someday rule the empire of Aritsar. At the time, I was attending a tiny school of close-knit kids—my graduating class was only 17 people. We took ourselves extremely seriously, so it wasn’t hard to imagine we would someday rule the world, ha.
RAYBEARER also deals with the trauma we inherit from our ancestors, and so the book explores some difficult familial relationships as well.
Why did you want to explore the themes of loyalty and fate?
Expecting loyalty can be very pure or very abusive, and I found that worth exploring. I also think that when it comes to fate, we tend to think in extremes—that we’re masters of our fates, regardless of the baggage we were born into, or that we have no control over the legacies we inherit. The truth, I think, is a balance between the two.
Is this a love story? Either way, what kinds of Black sci-fi/fantasy love stories do you love to read or would love to see in the world?
Yes and no! RAYBEARER explores the earth shaking strength of all sorts of love—platonic and otherwise. Romance is present but not a central theme. Lately, I’ve appreciated Black fantasy love stories in which dark-skinned Black girls and women are allowed to be vulnerable and cherished, instead of constantly portrayed as strong and invulnerable.
What are the kinds of stories you want to write?
Stories in which Black girls get to be magic, but also very, very human.
In the intro to the ARC for Raybearer, you mentioned the teens who hear ethnic folk tales at home, read LOTR at school, and watch anime after school. Can you talk a little about that and how that led you to be the writer/person you are now?
RAYBEARER is the sum of all my cultural and personal influences! I sourced folktales and customs from my West African parents and extended family, and incorporated their storytelling styles and even some of their childhood games. I grew up with a lot of folktales from my parents, like those of Anansi the Spider. However, I’m a blend of many cultures. Nigeria was a British colony until the 1960s, so British literature and fairytales are a major influence of mine as well. There’s also plenty of my other pet interests, like anime films and East Asian history.
How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
I…don’t, currently! My life has never been more imbalanced in terms of sleep schedule, writing, promotion, and social interaction. I’m slowly working towards something like a routine.
Any advice for up and coming writers?
Save what you write. If it’s bad, you’ll hate it for 7ish years, then 10 years will roll around and it will suddenly become adorable: a priceless, endearing snapshot of who you were at the time. You’ll love what you learn about yourself.