A Conversation with...Angie Thomas
With the Writer Spotlight Series, we create a positive image for young girls to refer to by having conversations with different writers and illustrators. This month we have been doing Q&As with many writers, to get to know more about them and their work. Here, we are showcasing all the questions we have asked Award-Winning Author Angie Thomas. We discuss her new middle grade book,
Nic Blake and the Remarkables.
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"No one else writes like Angie."
- The Guardian
Photo: Imani Khayyam
Welcome Angie. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am an author. I am most known for my first novel The Hate You Give, which was a novel about a 16-year-old girl and she is the sole witness of her friend who got killed by cops.
Which turned into a movie. My second novel, On The Come Up, they also made this book into a movie.. I have a third young adult novel called Concrete rose. Now I am doing my first middle grade novel for younger readers, and it is called Nic Blake in the Remarkables, the manifester prophecy, and it comes out April 4.
Congratulations on your new book, Nic Blake and the Remarkables. What was the inspiration behind the stories?
I always loved fantasy stories as a kid. They were some of my favourites. I read the Harry Potter series, obviously; I read The Chronicles of Narnia, all these original books. But one thing I noticed as a child was that there were not a lot of people in them who looked like me, not a lot of Black people within the stories.
Black children definitely were not the main characters. And I thought, why not? I remember thinking that as a kid. And so once I became an author, I knew I wanted to write a fantasy novel one day, and I knew I wanted to make one about a Black girl, because I did not see that in the novels I was reading. I felt like it was an opportunity to do that. Also, I was inspired by so much African American folklore and history. There are so many stories and mythologies that have been forgotten or are not discussed nearly enough that I thought would be so cool to draw up for a fantasy world. So that was a huge inspiration for the book.
Nic Blake is the main character in Nic Blake and the Remarkables. We follow her experiences as a young Black girl with a magical gift. What do you hope young readers will take away from this story?
There is a line in the book where Nic's dad tells her, “you are the only gift you need”. And I hope that is what my readers take away from reading this book. So often, the world makes us feel like we are not enough. Nic’s dad wants her to know that she is all the magic she needs. She is the gift! I want my readers to know that, with all their strength and intelligence, that is what they need to be the person they want to be. It has to mature and they learn and they evolve, but they have everything that they need already inside of them.
"I hope you leave Nic Blake's
world wanting to make ours resemble it a bit more. And just like Nic, you realise that you already have the magic you need to do it."
- Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give is a book about equality and democracy, which was
inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Were there any lessons you took away from writing this book?
The biggest lesson that I took away from writing that book was to stand in the truth and stand by the truth and be okay with writing that, even when it makes people uncomfortable. So, like all of my books, address things that may make people uncomfortable, but their truths. Police brutality is a truth, unfortunately. And even in Nic Blake, we address some of these truths. We address the truth of the brutality of slavery, and even what Black people in America went through post slavery. These are all things that are mentioned and addressed. And I think, if I would not have written The Hate You Give and saw the success of it, and also saw just how people gravitated towards it and fell in love with it, it would not
have given me the confidence to continue to discuss these uncomfortable truths, no matter what kind of book I am writing.
The main protagonist of On the Come Up is Bri, an inspiring rapper. Who is having a complicated time at school and home. Were there any challenges you faced while writing this story, and if so, how did you overcome them?
The whole reason I kind of wrote that book was because The Hate You Give was being banned in so many places here in America, including various schools. It was very upsetting, however; I was more upset about the messages sent to the readers. Saying that the stories were inappropriate to read. I took offence at these messages, because I wrote these books for young readers so that they can connect with someone that looks like them.
So I wrote On the Come Up, because I wanted to write about a young girl who people are focusing on how she is saying things as opposed to what she is saying, when people need to focus on what she is saying they need to focus on what she is going through. It was to address and be more aware of the things young people deal with daily.
So my biggest challenge at the time was deciding what story to tell. In this story, I was going to address censorship throughout the story. It is going to be my way of answering back to all those people who are trying to silence me. So I think getting the courage to do that was probably my biggest obstacle.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I am a full-time dog, Mama. Besides that, I play video games a lot online. And I am learning to do self care more. So, getting my nails done or something pampering like that. I love shopping; I have a large trainers collection!
What is the last book you read? What are you reading next?
Just finished reading Spare written by Prince Harry. I also read Kindred by Octavia Butler. Because I feel like if you are going to write anything magical fantasy you need to read the OG as far as Black writers. My next read would be Chaos, written by a friend of mine, Nick Stone.
Are you working on any new projects?
I am working on the second book in the Nic Blake series. I am super excited about that, having so much fun with the second book. For the next series, I get to write about different schools based on HBCUs that are here in America, the historically black colleges and universities. This will be HBCU culture, which would be nice to introduce to my international readers.
I am writing the film script for the Nic Blake series. This time I am doing the script myself. Regarding The Hate You Give, I am super excited about it, however, I am not allowed to discuss it just yet.
Quick Fire Questions
What is one of your favourite memories?
Oh, one of my favourite memories is the time I got to talk to one of my favourite music artists. A group called TLC. I was a huge fan of TLC and my favourite member was Left Eye. I was 14 years old; Left Eye spoke with me on the phone. The conversation was flowing. My mother organised this for me, and I feel that was my best memory.
Movie or Book?
Book every time!
Favourite artist and favourite song?
I would say, TLC, Beyonce, Tupac, Drake, Lizzo and Kendrick Lamar. Favourite song would be United in Grief by Kendrick Lamar.
Nic Blake and the Remarkables | Walker Books | Available Here
About the author
Angie Thomas was born and raised in Mississippi, but now calls Atlanta her home. A former teen rapper, she holds a BFA in creative writing from Belhaven University. Her award-winning, acclaimed debut novel, The Hate U Give, is a #1 New York Times bestseller and major motion picture from Fox 2000, starring Amandla Stenberg and directed by George Tillman, Jr. Her first middle age book Nic Blake and the Remarkables is on sale now.