Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Eden Royce, the author of
It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven—and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going train them in rootwork.
Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs…and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.
Let’s talk to this fantastic author about her wonderful book!
This is Eden. Everyone say, “Hi, Eden!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Eden! Tell us about yourself!
Thanks so much for inviting me! I’m Eden Royce, author of ROOT MAGIC. I’m a Gullah-Geechee from Charleston, South Carolina now living in the United Kingdom. I write full time and when I’m not doing that I enjoy reading, roller skating, and gardening. I also have an enormous collection of notebooks and a small collection of fountain pens.
Someday, we’ll have to do a KBKL post featuring authors with their enormous notebook collections. It seems to be a pretty regular author hobby! 😂
What was the inspiration behind ROOT MAGIC?
My inspiration came from listening to stories my elders told when I was younger. I wanted to tell tales they would recognize, ones that hadn’t had the chance to see the light of day very often, if ever. I also wanted to portray rootwork in its original form and with its original intent: as protection and healing for the rootworker and their loved ones, instead of the evil practice most film and other media depict it as.
Setting is important in any book, but for historical fiction, it’s almost like another character! For our aspiring writers reading this, how did you decide what details to include to set the stage for your novel?
Setting is super important! Especially with Southern Gothic books like ROOT MAGIC. I wanted readers who weren’t familiar with the part of the world I grew up in to be able to feel like they were actually visiting the Sea Islands off the coast of Charleston. For people who know the South Carolina Lowcountry I wanted them to recognize it. So I made sure to include sensory details describing the weather, the scents and sounds of the tidal marshlands, the flavor of the food, and the fragrance of herbs and plants to help readers picture the world.
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on ROOT MAGIC?
I didn’t delve into lots of research to write ROOT MAGIC because much of it is based on stories from family members that I listened to when I was growing up. Especially stories from my great aunt who was a rootworker and my mother who was a social worker on Wadmalaw Island in the early 1960s where and when ROOT MAGIC is set.
While working on this book I found I was teaching people about the Lowcountry and Sea Islands of South Carolina where I grew up. I discovered so few people knew about my culture or my people. Lots of people didn’t know about rootwork either. If they had heard of it or something similar, they thought it was an evil magic from a horror movie out to destroy them. That’s so far from the truth! Because that level of unfamiliarity can cause inaccurate and unfair judgments, I wanted to write a book that explored the part of the world where I grew up, some painful and difficult history, along with joy, love, and community.
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
Just South of Home by Karen Strong. Jez and Jay would love to team up with the quartet to solve a ghostly mystery.
That would be an epic crossover!
Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?
So much of empathy and acceptance of other people and cultures begins at a young age so I wanted to introduce younger readers to characters from a background they may have never heard of but make it a fun learning experience. I also wanted to help younger Gullah-Geechee children to see kids like themselves in the pages of a book facing their past, speaking their language, and knowing they have a connection to their ancestors and infinite possibilities for the future.
Any hints about your next book project?
My next project is magical adventure middle grade novel set in present day.
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
All of it really. Learning about publishing as an industry, meeting wonderful new people, working with other creatives, meeting deadlines, talking about my work, the joys and frustrations that come with being a debut author – it’s all been a surprising yet incredible journey.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a friend’s poetry collection that I hope will be out in the world soon. When I’m not doing that I’m reading Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (YA) and A Visitation of Spirits by Randall Kenan (Adult).
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Don’t compare yourself to others. Your journey in this life is uniquely your own.
Yes! Love how you phrased this.
Thank you so much for joining us, Eden!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out ROOT MAGIC!
It’s on shelves now!
Add ROOT MAGIC on Goodreads!
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Contest ends Saturday, February 13th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!