I received a review copy of the e-book from the publisher. It will be released March 20, 2018 and is available for pre-order now.
Djinn is a twisty page-turner about magic and identity, rooted in folklore but with a 21st century spin. The unfolding tale keeps the reader guessing right to the end.
Bijou Fitzroy just wants to fit in. She knows she’s different, perhaps mentally ill; she constantly shuffles cards to calm her nerves, she’s hypersensitive to the feelings of others, and her color-changing eyes seem to freak people out. She has no idea what’s wrong with her, and Gigi, the wealthy, uncannily young grandmother who raised her, isn’t telling. Home-schooled until the age of 16, everything she knows about high school comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So when she moves to the small town of Sykesville and enrolls in public school for the first time in her life, she hopes to make friends, go to parties, maybe have a boyfriend. She thinks her wish has come true when she meets Sebastian and Amina Sinjin, though she can’t tell what Sebastian is feeling. Her teacher Mr. Jennings has it in for her, and seems to think A Midsummer Night’s Dream is non-fiction. And what’s up with mean girl Mandy, who takes an immediate dislike to Bijou? Is she only jealous about Sebastian, or is something more going on?
When Bijou learns that local girls who share her birthdate have been disappearing, she can’t resist digging into the mystery. What she learns causes her to question everything she thought she knew about her family, her new friends, and most of all, herself. It’s possible she’s not only different; she may be the Chosen One. Who can she trust when no one is what they seem? What looks at first like petty teenage rivalry turns out to have earth-shattering stakes, and Bijou has to choose: escape to safety or risk everything to protect those she has come to care about.
Bijou’s story, like Buffy’s before her, applies a magnifier of myth and magic to typical adolescent issues of identity, belonging, and empowerment. Author Kromah widens the folklore scope to include African (specifically, Liberian) sources, enriching material that may be familiar to some readers and new to others. And this satisfying book’s ending is temptingly left open for sequels. More? Yes, please!
Bijou Fitzroy is delightfully real – despite her unusual abilities. Homeschooled by an overprotective grandmother who’s constantly moving them around the world, Bijou is desperate for a normal life and thinks high school will give it to her.
She’s utterly wrong.
Moving to Sykesville and enrolling in the local high school mark the end of anything normal. Bijou’s world explodes. Her quirks become abilities straight from African myth and legend. Creatures of nightmares don’t stay put, and Bijou discovers worlds within and apart from hers. Oh, and there’s the usual high school drama too. At the center of a war far older than any human living, Bijou must reach deep within herself and the collective abilities of her new friends to save them all.
Djinn is part of the changing face of YA fantasy, one you definitely don’t want to miss!
About Sang Kromah
Sang Kromah was born in Philly, raised in Sykesville, became confident as a writer in New York, but is Liberian at heart. She was a storyteller well before she could write, transforming her family’s African folklore into evolved stories that her teachers would allow her to tell in class. As a communications specialist, her credits range from Seventeen Magazine to UN Women and Half the Sky Documentary. As a model, she’s been featured in Essence Magazine, Jet Magazine, and more, but her greatest accomplishments are with Project READ, a female-run library initiative she started and Project GirlSpire, an online global media platform she started where girls and women empower each other through digital storytelling. Sang can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Project GirlSpire.
1. When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
Honestly, I’ve always been a storyteller. Well before I could read or write, I was taking apart the traditional Liberian folklore my parents would tell me and reassembling them as stories of my own. When I became literate, I always had a notebook and a novel with me, reading and writing simultaneously. I would write down the things I’d see daily, and adding magical aspects to make reality seem a little more fantastical. In the seventh grade, I had the best Language Arts Teacher, Mrs. Norvell, who would allow me to read my stories to the class every Friday. After that year, I knew more than anything, I wanted to be a writer more than anything else in the world.
2. Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you? What projects are you currently working on?
My Young Adult Fantasy novel, Djinn, comes out in March 2018. Growing up, I was told countless tales of powerful mystical beings from my parents’ native land of Liberia. Stories of these beings exist in every culture, disguising their true identity from human eyes. But generally, they were referred to as Djinn. While reminiscing on the many stories of dwarfish baby snatchers, watchers, unearthly beauties, and shapeshifters, I started to think, what if there was one human—different from all others—with the ability to see what wasn’t meant to be seen by human eyes? Someone not quite like them, but not exactly one of us either?
As a child, there was one story that stood out to me about a strong-willed, mischievous girl named Femeni who escaped—what should have been sudden death at the hands of a notorious Djinn. After hearing the story, I always wondered what happened to Femeni, and did she have any other encounters with the Djinn? As I grew older, the questions became more complex; what was so special about Femeni that helped her escape the Djinn? What if Femeni had a child, would there be something special about that child as well? These questions and my obsession with ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ gave birth to my novel, Djinn.
Currently, I’m working on the follow-up to Djinn as well as a contemporary fiction novel about an anonymous advice columnist, Maggie May I. Outside of writing books, I’m working on an initiative to open Project READ, a female-run library and girls’ drop-in center initiative in Liberia, as well as my online media site for girls and women, Project GirlSpire.
3. What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
I’m proud of the way Djinn has evolved, but to be honest, I feel like the work is just getting started and I have yet to be proud, so I’m working diligently to make sure I accomplish something significant enough to be proud of.
I would be lying if I said that rejection has never hurt, but I’ve heard no so many times that I take it as a challenge, because all it takes is one “yes” to change your life. So I look at “no” as a message from the universe to keep going.
4. Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
Not really. I just usually plan around my work schedule, but I do write every single night. I do outline my novels, because I made the mistake of not doing so before and it made the writing process a nightmare. An outline helps you keep track of things that may seem small to begin with, but if misplaced or forgotten, can send your book into chaos. First drafts usually take about 2-3 months, but it’s the editorial process that takes forever.
5. Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I don’t want to sound full of myself, but I see myself writing for television. If not a series based on my books, then as a writer on a network like Freeform, CW, or Netflix.
6. Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
No. I think that the media plays a major role in ageist thinking, inciting fear in those who want to be bold enough to take a chance. What if the Harry Potter series had been writer by a 70-year-old grandmother? Would it have changed how great those stories were? A good story is a good story, no matter who writes it, but we’re so caught up on appearances that, sometimes, we overlook the exceptional because of our own prejudices. I think the chances of an older writer getting a late start could be high if they have the right team behind them.
7. What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? What’s the first book you read that made you know that you could do this for a career? What book are you currently reading?
This probably sounds very cliché, but To Kill a Mockingbird is the first book that moved me to tears. I actually read it before my classmates, because my mom made me read it the summer after seventh grade. I think I read it in two days. I remember hiding to read it at night, because it was after my bedtime, and crying so hard during the trial.
In the fifth grade, I became obsessed with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Streetseries. After reading Say Cheese and Die, I thought, I could definitely do this too. By that time, I was already used to writing every day, but I asked my mom to make sure I wrote a hundred words a day. I wrote my first book in middle school about vampire cheerleaders.
Currently, I’m really into witches so I’m currently reading A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan. After that, I’m going to read A Discover of Witches by Deborah Harkness.
8. So many writers say that they hate reading their own work? Do you ever just sit down and curl up with your own book?
LOL I won’t say I sit down and curl up with my own book, but I do enjoy re-reading my work, but after various stages of editing, I start turning against my own characters and yelling at them like I do with characters from 80s horror movies.
9. What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is drastically changing? Are you more of an e-book person or a traditional book person?
I do love how writers are creating their own spaces for their work to be seen and heard, but I do believe mainstream publishing has much room for improvement in terms of diversity and the amount of investment that is put into women who write. I still feel that we have a long way to go in terms of diversifying the industry.
I have a Kindle, but I still buy physical books, because I know from experience how fast batteries die and if, you’re like me and travel a lot, a physical book is always your best bet. Of course, e-books are convenient, but there’s nothing like the feel of an actual book or seeing your collection grow into a library.
10. I feel like so many of us writers, us artists in general, are made to conform to other people’s idea of what we should be. I think we creative types should be unafraid to be whoever it is that we feel we have the right to be. So what is your write 2 be? What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity?
I’ve never really been able to conform. As a kid, I was bullied and never truly fit in at school, so I went through a stage, where I didn’t think I was good enough. Even though I was born and raised in America, you could look at me and tell I wasn’t a typical American kid and my name was definitely foreign. Then on the other hand, I didn’t truly fit in with people from my parent’s country as well. I always seemed to be on the outside, looking in. What helped a lot was having parents and a younger brother, who believed in me and supported my endeavors so much that I became so sure of myself that I didn’t mind marching to the beat of my own drum or sitting alone at lunch.
By the time I made it to middle school, I knew exactly who I was and what I was capable of. As I’ve grown, I’ve seen that there are other kids who can relate to how I felt and what I went through, so even when I write fantasy, my stories and characters reflect those experiences, how to cope, and how to rise above it. It seems easy to try to conform, but the more time you take trying to fit in, the longer it takes to find yourself.
The Willamette Valley town of Independence is home to a small book-publishing company whose mindset reflects its town's name.
Not a Pipe Publishing, founded in 2013 and co-owned by spouses Benjamin and Paige Gorman, appears to be the sole U.S. publisher that accepted a challenge to publish only women authors this year.
In 2015, the British Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie formulated a challenge to publishing houses. According to the website SheKnows.com, she wrote, "I'm going to assume that the only people who really doubt that there is a gender bias going on are those who stick with the idea that men are better writers and better critics. Enough ... Why not have a year of publishing women: 2018, the centenary of women over the age of 30 getting the vote in the UK, seems appropriate." Shamsie did not respond to requests for comment.
A few British publishing houses took up the challenge. And so did Not a Pipe.
"Publishers, reviewers and prize committees are not intentionally shutting women out, but the financial incentives support male authors," said Benjamin Gorman. "Who would be foolish enough to buck that system? I am."
Taking on the challenge is "consistent with our values and it's actually helped us find some incredibly talented authors who wouldn't have noticed us otherwise," he said.
First up of Not a Pipe's nine women-authored books in 2018 is Mikko Azul's "The Staff of Fire and Bone," a work of fantasy with metaphysical elements that hit shelves in late January. The book's main character, Cedron, a privileged 16-year-old, is thrust into war and the challenge of making tough choices about when and how he should use his magic powers, all while fighting demons and deities.
Azul, 50, is a previously published author and social worker. "It's surprising that only one (publishing) house took on the challenge to publish only women," she said from her Grapeview, Washington, home. "But this is Not a Pipe's values: Let's lift up the people that are underrepresented."
Gorman, who teaches high school English in Independence, said that in his classroom, he wants the boys to "read books by women to see women's words are more powerful than fists and bullets. And I want my female students to see the names of lots and lots of women (authors) so they can learn their opinions matter just as much as any man's."
Such as Heather S. Ransom, 46, of Grants Pass, who teaches seventh-grade life and earth science.
This summer Not a Pipe is publishing "Greener," her second dystopian novel inspired by her 165 students.
"Students at these ages are still full of those 'What if' questions," she explained recently from her classroom while grading assignments on the spreading of the seafloor.
"Greener" and her first book, "Going Green," feature an 18-year-old female protagonist and take place in a world where people can choose to become literally green, fed solely by sunlight, just like plants. The change is permanent and expensive, so not everyone gets to go Green.
"What if you've made a choice that's permanent and then it's the wrong choice for you?" she asks rhetorically, citing an oft-discussed question she poses to teens.
Not a Pipe is also publishing Portlander LeeAnn McLennan's "Supernormal Legacy" trilogy, about a 14-year-old girl coming to terms with her supernatural powers. A server engineer, McLennan is aware women are gaining ground and finding their voices in her field and in others. Books like hers help, she says. "Women's voices now are surging, like the sea," said McLennan.
McLennan also expressed concern that publishing only women could lead to a backlash. But she added, "If there is a backlash, it won't silence the voices; they'll be louder than when first the voices surged, like a natural ebb and flow."
Not a Pipe also has male authors on its docket; two agreed to have their books postponed to make way for the Year of Publishing Women.
"I was happy to support my publisher in this, especially in the current climate when so much is coming to light about harassment and abuses of power," said Kurt Clopton, of Marshfield, Wisconsin, author of 2017's "SuperGuy," about a city government intern who accidentally becomes a superhero. "Sometimes it can be hard to find useful ways to show support," added Clopton, "so this was an easy decision." His second "SuperGuy" is slated for 2019.
Portland's Jason Brick, author of the 2019 time-traveling urban fantasy adventure "Changing Streams," said, "Taking a year to help balance the scales in an industry that has favored men for centuries ... that seemed a small sacrifice."
Until the author playing field is level, Brick said, "the art won't be as authentic as it should be."
Also in the works for Not a Pipe's 2019 plans is a focus on authors of color and from the LGBTQ community.
Not a Pipe Publishing
What: Independence-based publisher that is publishing only women authors in 2018
- January: "The Staff of Fire and Bone," an epic fantasy by Mikko Azul (Grapeview, Washington)
- February: "The Supernormal Legacy: Dormant," a young adult superhero adventure by LeeAnn McLennan (Portland)
- February: "Shadow Girl," a young adult Irish folklore fantasy by Kate Ristau (Portland)
- March: "Djinn: The Book of the Concealed," a young adult fantasy romance by Sang Kromah (Sykesville, Maryland)
- April: "Survivors' Club," a sci fi/action adventure by M.K. Martin (Raleigh, North Carolina)
- May: "Daughter of Magic," a young adult high fantasy by Karen Eisenbrey (Seattle)
- June: "The Supernormal Legacy: Root," a young adult superhero adventure by LeeAnn McLennan
- July: "Greener," a young adult sci-fi dystopia by Heather S. Ransom (Medford)
- November: "The Supernormal Legacy: Emerge," a young adult superhero adventure by LeeAnn McLennan
SYKESVILLE, Md. - Feb. 24, 2018 - PRLog -- Not a Pipe Publishing—the only U.S.-based publishing house to accept British Pakistani author, Kamila Shamsie's challenge to publish only women authors in 2018 for #TheYearOfPublishingWomen—announces the pre-order of author, Sang Kromah's young-adult fantasy novel, DJINN, set for publication on March 20th, 2018.
Throughout history, countless stories have been told of guardian angels or watchers, watching us from afar, but never seen. Truth is, there are certain people, special people, born of this world and of the other, who need that extra protection. They go their entire lives, unaware of the Otherworld, and unaware of the existence of their own personal watcher—a djinn—watching from afar. But what happens when fate takes a turn for the worse, and the one who needs the aid of a djinn most can't be found to be protected?
DJINN is a powerful #ownvoices novel about Bijou Fitzroy, a sixteen-year-old, orphaned girl who simply wants to know who she is and to be normal. She's sixteen-years-old and has never been to school, never had friends, and knows nothing about her family history. To add insult to injury, she sees things that others don't and is sensitive to the emotions of others. After being homeschooled by her nomadic grandmother all her life, they finally settle down in Sykesville, MD, where she attends high school for the first time. She thinks things will change for the better, but she's wrong. When local girls who share her birthday go missing, the truth about who she is begins to unravel and the creatures from her imagination begin to take shape in reality.
"Growing up, my parents would tell me djinn lore from Liberia and beyond. In these stories, the characters were girls like me, from families like mine. Because I wasn't fortunate enough to see representations of myself in the books I read, these are the stories that stuck with me, so I spent my childhood writing stories where extraordinary things happened to girls like me or like the diverse people in my world," Sang Kromah said. "There was one story that stood out to me about a mischievous girl named Femeni who escaped—what should have been sudden death at the hands of a notorious Djinn. After hearing the story, I always wondered what happened to Femeni, and did she have any other encounters with the djinn? As I grew older, the questions became more complex; what was so special about Femeni that helped her escape the djinn? What if Femeni had a child, would there be something special about that child as well? These questions gave birth to DJINN. This story is the evolution of those stories merged with my experiences in high school and in Sykesville. I feel like I've been writing this book in my head since I was six years old, and I'm happy to share this story with the world."
Karen Eisenbrey, author of The Gospel According to St. Rage and the forthcoming Daughter of Magic said, "Bijou's story, like Buffy's before her, applies a magnifier of myth and magic to typical adolescent issues of identity, belonging, and empowerment. Author Kromah widens the folklore scope to include African (specifically, Liberian) sources, enriching material that may be familiar to some readers and new to others."
"Hauntingly captivating," wrote YALMC (Young Adult Literature Media and Culture Research Network). "DJINN is part of the changing face of YA fantasy, one you definitely don't want to miss."
Sang Kromah is obsessed with books and is opening a female-run library café in Liberia. She can usually be found with her head in a book or writing on http://www.projgirlspire.com. You can find her online just about anywhere at @SangWrites. DJINN (https://www.amazon.com/Djinn-Sang-Kromah/dp/099838805X/re...) is available in all formats on Amazon.