Author Interview, Blog

Faith, Rage, and Jamaican Mythology with Lauren Blackwood

author interview lauren blackwood WILDBLOOD

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Lauren Blackwood returns with her second novel, Wildblood. The story centers around eighteen-year-old Victoria, who is a Wildblood. She has worked as a tour guide to protect travelers in a sentient Jamaican jungle (!!) full of monsters. She was kidnapped at six years old and denied a promised promotion upon turning eighteen (this is important). She has to work with Dean, who received the promotion she was entitled to and, who is a backstabbing ex. Thorn, a charming and renowned gold miner, holds Victoria’s attention. Victoria is working to prove herself and enjoying a love interest. With the dangers of the jungle and proving her power, is the promotion at this company what she desires?

Below is my conversation with Lauren Blackwood, which includes world-building, what rage means to the story, and why faith was important for the characters to have.

Ashley Paul: What is your definition of feminism?

Lauren Blackwood: The freedom to choose what we want from our lives and to be treated as equal humans

AP: Victoria is compassionate and powerful, among other attributes. How did you write her to honor her attributes?

LB: No matter what she did in the book, I wanted her to be true to herself. And even the moments where she wasn’t, she admitted she wasn’t. At the beginning of the book those attributes are more in service of others, so I love that she grows throughout the book and eventually saves some of that for herself.

AP: Bunny says, “Rage is all I have left”. Why did you want him to have rage?

LB: Rage has a double meaning in Wildblood. As a metaphor for the stigma that is Black anger and how society punishes Black people for expressing it. But it’s also a side effect of Wildbloods using their blood science too often, where they seemingly lose control of themselves. And yet, it’s one of the few things they can control in their life of near-slavery

AP: A characteristic of Rare Beauties is having lighter skin. What did you want to say about colorism and beauty standards?

LB: These are standards that were created by society based on racism, but they have nothing to do with actual beauty. Which is why I made a point to make Thorn—a dark-skinned Black man—described as beautiful throughout the book. So the boss categorizes Wildbloods by this white societal construct, pinning their value to their looks. Meanwhile, once they’re facing the dangers of the jungle, looks are meaningless.

Cover of Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood

AP: How do you build your world to complement your story?

LB: The characters definitely come first, and since the world is a character in this case (in the form of a sentient jungle) the plot events I settled on definitely were heavily influenced by the jungle’s mood. I built it a bit like a video game—the characters work their way up from the lowest threat to the final boss (literally).

AP: Faith is part of this story. Why was faith important for these characters to have?

LB: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Because when you’re stuck in a sentient jungle that could kill you in a thousand ways, faith may be the only thing you can trust in.

AP: Mourning is an experience Victoria says she does not have time for. How does mourning play into the world of each character’s experiences?

LB: Wildbloods live a pretty brutal life and are killed without mercy if they step out of line. The threat of death is sort of part of their life, and so mourning would take too much time and energy they can’t afford. But I also wanted to show that rich or poor, society doesn’t allow Black people to mourn because they’re expected to move on and get to work.

AP: What organization would you like to amplify to our audience?

LB: We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit that strives to nurture and promote diverse voices as writers and part of the publishing industry.

Ashley Paul is a traveler, runner, and baker. She is an Everlasting Bookworm and Culture Maven. She is passionate about supporting high school juniors and seniors to write compelling stories for their post-secondary careers. She loves stories with social commentary, atmospheric writing, and compelling characters.

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