Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Liselle Sambury, the author of
BLOOD LIKE MAGIC
After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.
Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?
With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.
Let’s talk to this brilliant author about her fabulous book!
This is Liselle. Everyone say, “Hi, Liselle!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Liselle! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!
I’m a Trinidadian-Canadian author and describe my brand of writing as “messy Black girls in fantasy situations.” Blood Like Magic is my debut novel.
What was the inspiration behind BLOOD LIKE MAGIC?
I really just wanted to write a fun witch story and thought it would be interesting to set it in Toronto. I was living away from my hometown at the time and felt really homesick, so setting the story in Toronto was a way to feel more connected to my city. Overall, I wanted to create the sort of Black girl led fantasy I would have loved to read as a teen.
What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book?
I was at work! I used to do social media marketing at a travel company, and I was just doing my usual thing when my phone lit up from my agent about hopping on a call. I immediately ran off to call her, because I knew we had interest from my now editor Sarah. I thought it was going to be a call saying we were going to second reads aka that more people at the publisher were going to read it first and maybe it could go to an editorial meeting, but it ended up being an offer. So, it was a very happy surprise.
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on BLOOD LIKE MAGIC?
I learned a lot about my own family history and how they went from being enslaved in the United States, to being given land in Trinidad and Tobago, to immigrating to Canada. I learned what rotten sugar cane tastes like (I needed to describe it in the book) first from my grandma’s account and then accidentally from personal experience. And finally, I learned quite a bit about slavery practices in Canada that were very much concealed in my education.
How did you tackle the world building with BLOOD LIKE MAGIC? Was there one key aspect that you built everything else around or did it grow organically from the plot or something else entirely?
I initially did not plan any world building which I came to regret later. I had the idea that they needed to use blood to use magic, and that otherwise they would have a gift that didn’t require blood. I basically ran with that, and I added rules as I went, and edited things that didn’t work. It was the same with the DNA modification in the book. I essentially just ran with the idea that there now existed a machine that made simple modification of genes in living humans possible, and like the magic, built things as I went on. I would not recommend this method because I had to do a lot of editing, but that’s how it came together.
Sometimes a book just wants to take a twisty-turny path on its way to being finished, right? 😀
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
This is hard because so many fantasy worlds are terrible, and I’m already so mean to my characters. I feel like I owe it to my main character Voya to transport her to the world of Like Home by Louisa Onomé. It’s set in a neighbourhood very near Toronto, and it’s got this wonderful group of friends that I feel like she would love, since her friends are basically just her family members. I also think she would enjoy the break from non-magical conflict and would appreciate helping Chinelo in standing up for her neighbourhood. Like Home very much examines the reputation of certain neighbourhoods and how they can be treated like moveable objects instead of real people. I think that’s definitely something Voya could get behind and that she would be happy to do everything in her power to help out.
Any hints about your next book project?
I am working on the sequel to Blood Like Magic, which I won’t chat much about because there would be so many book one spoilers, but I will say that I’m excited about it. I also have a young adult novel called Butcherbirds coming in 2023 which has a mysterious inherited mansion, family secrets, complicated mother-daughter relationships, and ghosts.
So excited for both of those!
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
To me, the most surprising thing has been the genuine and strong connections that I’ve made with other authors along my journey. When I first joined the writing community, I truly didn’t expect that—writing is a solitary activity after all. But the friendships that I’ve made as I’ve gone along on my journey have been the thing that has played the biggest role in me not giving up, in me fighting to get my stories published, and in helping me through bad times and hyping me in good times.
What are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading the physical book of Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas, which is a spooky Peter Pan inspired fantasy, and on audio I’m listening to Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire because I’ve heard so much about this series and I had to try it out for myself.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Focus on what you can control—the writing.
In this industry, it’s very easy to get caught up in things like wanting to be on lists, or featured in blogs, or getting into a book box, etc. Almost all of that, you don’t have control over, and so it can be so frustrating or devasting when you don’t get any of those accolades that you wanted. It’s very easy to get consumed by those things. But when you focus on writing the best book possible, that’s something you have full control over. Now, I always say to myself “you wrote the best book you could” and move on, and good things that happen are great, but I can’t freak out if something I wanted doesn’t come because I already did the work. I already did my best. My job from now is to do that on the next book, not obsess over what I did or didn’t achieve with the first. I just find that attitude to be very freeing.
Such good advice and one of the most important things to always try and remember!
Thank you so much for joining us, Liselle!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out BLOOD LIKE MAGIC!
It’s on shelves now!
Add BLOOD LIKE MAGIC on Goodreads!
Click here to enter to win a copy of BLOOD LIKE MAGIC!
Contest ends Friday, June 18th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!