Feature: Interview with Daniel José Older author of Shadowshaper


Pub. Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
Pages: 304
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

Cassandra Clare meets Caribbean legend in SHADOWSHAPER, an action-packed urban fantasy from a bold new talent.

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.

Shadowshaper sounds like such a fascinating book, now read an interview with the author!

1. For those who haven’t read Shadowshaper yet, can you sum it up for us?

When a creepy dead guy shows up at the first party of the summer, Sierra Santiago is forced to unravel a mystery that reaches deep into her own family’s magical legacy and the heart of Brooklyn itself.

2. The idea that spirits can be contacted through paintings and music is a very unusual one, what inspired the idea?

I think there’s a connection between art and spirituality in that both are grasping for things we can’t fully confine with a description. We’re always translating – translating experience to canvas or page, translating emotion to notes and sounds – and in some ways never quite reaching what we want to say, but there’s beauty in the reach, even in the failure. Spirituality is similar – it’s beyond description. We talk a lot about history being present, but what that does that really mean? In Shadowshaper, history is physicalized in the form of these towering shadows, and then even more so when they enter a work of art.

3. With Shadowshaper about to be released in a few weeks, what are you planning to work on next?

Currently amidst a few essays, which always feel like a good way to cleanse my pallet after writing a novel. Then I’ll be jumping back into the third book in the Bone Street Rumba series, which I put down at exactly the halfway point to handle a few other projects.

4. You write predominantly in the urban fantasy genre, what’s your favourite thing about it?

I grew up in a city (Boston) and have lived here in Brooklyn for over ten years and to me, cities come to life, pulse with complexity and history and stories. Especially old cities. So much has happened here, so much is happening now. I love thinking about what new mythologies can speak to this new time.

5. Of all the characters you have ever written, who is your favourite and why?

Goodness what a tough question! Characters can be like children in a way – you hear parents say, I love you all in different ways – I kinda feel like that. Sierra is very close to my heart; I put a lot of myself in her and like me, she loves to draw. Kia Summers is a character I first wrote in Half-Resurrection Blues as a very peripheral part of Carlos, the main character’s world, but she instantly took over the page and I ended up making her a main point of view character in the sequel Midnight Taxi Tango. She’s such a raw and deeply human character to write, it barely feels like writing, just transcribing really. Her and Sierra probably share the top rank.

6. What was the process like for writing Shadowshaper, did it take you long to complete?

This has been the longest, most complex writing process I’ve ever been through. It has been amazing and I’ve learned so much. Shadowshaper is actually my first book; I started it in 2009, before I’d written anything from the Bone Street Rumba series. It went through many edits, got torn apart and put back together many times, was splayed across my office wall in a kind of post-it note collage storyboard for a few years and finally came together into the book it is now. It’s been an amazing journey.

7. What is your favourite book so far of 2015?

The best book I’ve read this year is Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer at Wildeeps, a novella coming out soon from Tor.com. If Shakespeare, James Baldwin, George Martin, and Ghostface Killah were to have a baby, it’d be this book. Get it.

8. Thank you so much for taking part in this interview, is there anything you’d like to add to finish us off?

I’m thrilled to have Shadowshaper come out in this exciting time in the YA/MG world. Great authors like Kekla Magoon, Sherri Smith, Jason Reynolds, Tracey Baptiste, Sarah McCarry, Adam Silvera, Sofia Quintero, and many more are pushing the boundaries of the field in ways we haven’t seen before. ¡Pa’lante!

About Daniel:

danieljoseolder1Daniel José Older is the author of the upcoming Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015) and the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, which begins in January 2015 with Half-Resurrection Blues from Penguin’s Roc imprint. Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna. He co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History and guest edited the music issue of Crossed Genres. His short stories and essays have appeared in Tor.com, Salon, BuzzFeed, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs regularly around New York and he facilitates workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis. You can find his thoughts on writing, read dispatches from his decade-long career as an NYC paramedic and hear his music at ghoststar.net/ and @djolder on twitter.

As part of this tour run by Rockstar Book Tours, Daniel is kindly giving away three finished copies of Shadowshaper (US only.) Click here to enter! Thank you for checking out my post on the tour and be sure to click the banner below to check out the other tour stops!


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