Author Spotlight – N. E. Davenport (THE BLOOD TRIALS)
Nia “N.E.” Davenport is the Science Fiction/Fantasy author of The Blood Trials and its sequel (Harper Voyager). She attended the University of Southern California and studied Biological Sciences and Theatre Arts. She also has an M.A. in Secondary Education. She teaches English and Biology to amazing students. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys vacationing with her family, skiing, and being a huge foodie. She’s an advocate for diverse perspectives and protagonists in literature. You can find her on Twitter @nia_davenport, or on Instagram @nia.davenport, where she talks about binge-worthy TV, killer movies, and great books. She lives in Texas with her husband and kids.
Welcome to the Hive, Nia. Firstly congratulations on your debut The Blood Trials! Could you tell us a little bit about it? What can readers expect?
Thank you! I’m thrilled to be talking about The Blood Trials. The novel is a science fantasy where gods, steel, magic, tech, and genetic enhancement converge. The core of the story is rebellion, duty, and revenge. The protagonist is a young Black woman, Ikenna Amari, who’s been raised by her grandfather, a man that’s the greatest military mind her martial society has ever known. When he’s murdered, it sets her on a path to enter deadly military trials to attain the rank and power necessary to bring his killers to justice. Ikenna suffers terrible racism and misogyny along the way all while trying to keep an illegal magic secret that will get her executed if it’s discovered.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
Music actually doesn’t help, especially music with lyrics. My mind always wants to sing along and pay attention to someone else’s creative vibes and words instead of my own. Often, I sit down with silence and have a clear vision of character, setting, dialogue, and worldbuilding elements ready to go for a scene. The moving parts play out in my head as vivid as a movie from there. I’m hearing, feeling, and seeing everything my characters are as they encounter it. It makes drafting pretty fun and entertaining.
Speaking of worlds, what inspires your worldbuilding? Do you have a magic system/s? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
The foundations of my worldbuilding started with wanting to create a world which spanned a planet that wasn’t earth, where a capricious and cruel pantheon of gods created the landscape, people, creatures and magic which populate it. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and I like how fantasy tropes and sci-fi elements mix in Star Wars. That’s the essence I wanted to capture in The Blood Trials. The magic system is based on blessings doled out to select humans by gods who once used them as cannon fodder for their perpetual wars. The gods have long been kicked off the planet, but the humans and magic remain. The blessings left behind are varied and range from gifts of prophesy to elemental manipulation to blood magic.
Ikenna sounds like a strong determined young female character who faces a lot of prejudice. Could you tell us a bit more about her? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
Ikenna was born from my experiences as a Black woman in a society that bombards us with a lot of prejudice. Often, we have to work twice as hard to get as far (or half as far) as others, even when we might be more qualified. That’s the root of Ikenna’s story. She’s a military prodigy, one of the greatest warriors of her time, was raised by a war hero, and yet she still has to endure hell and fight for every scrap of respect, recognition, and acceptance she receives from her peers and those in power, while others of similar ability, background, and rank have an easier time. Aside from the more serious aspects of Ikenna character, she’s also wildly fun, admittedly cocky, and stubborn to her core. She chafes under most authority and is the sort to hurtle into a fight first then slow down and ask the necessary questions later. In other words, she’s flawed, like we all are, and she doesn’t get to skirt needing to grow too. Fierce women who are warriors and stand up for themselves and others, like Ikenna, are my favourite type of character to write.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
My most significant fantasy/ sci-fi influences are writers currently putting out phenomenal stories that I admire. S.A. Chakraborty, R.F. Kuang, N.K. Jemisin, V.E. Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, Susan Dennard, Kalynn Bayron, and Tracy Deonn are all creators I’d be honored to one day with in some capacity.
As a debut author, how have you found the editing process of your book? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
The truthful answer is all three, and it depends on when you ask and the stage of the editing process. At the beginning of edits, after receiving an edit letter that feels insurmountable, I’m usually stressed the heck out. It takes me a few days to wrap my mind around the work and build up the confidence that I can do what’s being asked in the amount of time it needs to be done. But once I conquer the anxiety and fear, I usually slip into a super enjoyable rhythm as I work. I’m plunged back into the story world and the characters and fall in love with everything all over again. The most satisfying part of the editing process is getting to THE END and sending the revision to my editors.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
Harper Voyager was extremely exceptional in involving me in the process. My US and UK editors, David Pomerico and Vicky Leech, asked my feedback at every stage. It was truly a collaborative process where we ended with a cover the entire team was proud of. The aesthetic I suggested to my editor (in these exact ineloquent words) was: Can you make Ikenna sexy, but also like she’s about to murder somebody! I wanted the warrior aspect of her personality to come through, but Black woman also rarely get portrayed in desirable roles in SFF, so that was super important to for us to hint at on the cover and make sure got on page.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
This is an easy question. I’m playing video games for half the day and finding a good movie or T.V. show to binge for the rest of the day.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Is a dragon too cliché? One of the best scenes from the Game of Thrones T.V. show is when Daenerys rides her dragon above her enemies and reigns fire down. I can’t think of a fantasy creature who could do more damage in a short amount of time, and if I’m riding into battle, much like Ikenna, I’m going for the jugular and the win!
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms will always be a treasured story. I’m a sucker for anything that explores court intrigue, feuds, fickle gods, heroines who don’t shy away from a fight, and romance subplots in SFF. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms delivers all of it.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
I can! In addition to The Blood Trials, I’m working on an upcoming YA speculative thriller, Out of Body. It’s the story of a teen girl whose best friend uses dangerous near-future tech to swap bodies, forcing her to reclaim her identity before it’s too late. I always describe it as Black Mirror meets Freaky Friday!
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate The Blood Trials release? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
I’m a huge foodie, so I’m planning a dinner at a yummy seafood restaurant for release day. I’ve also got a virtual event planned tentatively for May 24th. Readers can check my Twitter (@nia_davenport), IG(@nia.davenport), or website (www.nedavenport.com) for details.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope readers see that while The Blood Trials tackles big themes and descends a bit dark, it’s simultaneously a fun fantasy story that offers as much warmth, laughs, and thrills.
Thank you so much for joining us today!