What is bestselling author Kamilah Cole reading?

Article | Issue: Feb 2024

KAMILAH COLE is a Jamaican-born, American-raised writer who is a graduate of New York University. Her novel So Let Them Burn is a Jamaican-inspired fantasy that follows a gods-blessed heroine who’s forced to choose between saving her sister or protecting her homeland. Good Reading for Young Adults caught up with the author to discuss everything from her reading habits to her new book.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Faron Vincent can channel the power of the gods. Five years ago, she used her divine magic to liberate her island from its enemies, the dragon-riding Langley Empire. But now, at seventeen, Faron is all powered up with no wars to fight. She’s a legend to her people and a nuisance to her neighbours.

When she’s forced to attend an international peace summit, Faron expects that she will perform tricks like a trained pet and then go home. She doesn’t expect her older sister, Elara, forming an unprecedented bond with an enemy dragon – or the gods claiming the only way to break that bond is to kill her sister.

As Faron’s desperation to find another solution takes her down a dark path, and Elara discovers the shocking secrets at the heart of the Langley Empire, both must make difficult choices that will shape each other’s lives, as well as the fate of their world.

WHAT’S ON KAMILAH COLE’S BOOKCASE?

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading Begin Again by Emma Lord, a YA contemporary, King of Dead Things by Loni Crittenden, an upcoming YA urban fantasy with Afro-Caribbean folklore, and True Love and Other Impossible Odds, an upcoming YA contemporary by Christina Li. 

If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have five books – what would they be?

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah, My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams, Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman, A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee, and Legendborn by Tracy Deonn.  

 Where is your favourite place to read?

I like to be in my apartment, in bed, lying on my back while my cat is curled up beside me. It makes me cozy, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the story. 

Do you read one book at a time or multiple?

I read multiple books at a time. I can’t help it! I’m a mood reader, and sometimes my mood is all over the place in a given day, let alone a given week, so I try to have a range of books I can pick up until I finish one. 

 Do you use a bookmark or fold the corners of pages?

I prefer hardcovers of books because then I can use the inside flap of the dust jacket as a bookmark. Otherwise, I’ll use whatever I have: a receipt, a piece of paper, a napkin. 

What sparked the idea for your latest novel, So Let Them Burn?

It was a combination of things percolating over a decade, but the two largest influences were Zendaya’s 2018 Met Gala outfit and the movie Pacific Rim. Zendaya came to the Met Gala dressed as Joan of Arc – a teen whose story I had always been fascinated by – and that gave me the idea of a gods-blessed Chosen One in a fantasy land inspired by Jamaica. Pacific Rim solidified the idea that there should be giant metal dragons fighting real, biological dragons in the wars. And then it took me about 39 drafts to get the story right. 

 What can you tell us about your character Faron Vincent and the challenges she will face? 

so-let-them-burn-hachetteFaron is a difficult girl to like because she had the weight of the world put on her shoulders at the tender age of 12 – which included becoming a child soldier. Five years later, she has PTSD, and her reckless impulsiveness, paranoia, and self-sabotage still bleeds into every area of her life. She can’t move forward from the war, even if anyone else has, and she has trouble conceiving of her own future. And that’s all before her sister is bonded with an enemy dragon and she’s forced to confront the possibility of going to war again. 

What inspires the fantasy elements in this story? 

I’ve just always loved dragons, from Dragon Tales to Eragon, from Dealing with Dragons to House of the Dragon. I didn’t necessarily expect to debut with a dragon book, but there was no other route for me when I saw an artistic rendition of Zendaya done by Twitter user BossLogic: she was wearing the Joan of Arc outfit while holding swords and standing on the head of a dragon. I wanted to write a story worthy of that image. On top of that, the specific magic wielded by everyone but Faron in the story is inspired by Afro-Caribbean ancestor worship, because I wanted to weave my culture into this book. 

What book character would you be, and why?

In my own book, I would probably be Elara. We’re both people pleasing eldest daughters with anxiety. In general, I think I’d be Emeric from Little Thieves. We’re both rule-abiding nerds. 

If you could meet one author (living or dead) – who would it be and why?

C S Pacat. I love her books; her prose and plot are intricate yet accessible, and her characters linger with me long after I read the last page. She also seems like a really nice person. 

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kamilah-Cole-author

Photo by Lauren Banner

Kamilah Cole was a writer and entertainment editor at Bustle for four years, and her nonfiction work has also appeared in Marie Claire and Seventeen. A graduate of New York University, Kamilah lives on the East Coast, where she’s usually playing Kingdom Hearts for the hundredth time, quoting early SpongeBob SquarePants episodes, or crying her way through Zuko’s redemption arc in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Visit Kamilah Cole’s website 

Author: Kamilah Cole

Category: Children's, Teenage & educational

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Atom

ISBN: 9780349125442

RRP: $19.99

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