Stone & Steel Q&A With Eboni Dunbar

STONE & STEEL is an upcoming book from Neon Hemlock’s first wave of novellas. Eboni Dunbar, FIYAH’s Managing Editor, is the talent behind it and we’re catching up with her today before the book’s release on September 5th. Mark your calendars everyone! It’s a great book with plenty of material to chew on.

#1- What inspired the world of the novella? How did it seize your imagination?

Eboni: I was inspired by a prompt that was given by FIYAH a few years ago. I think the essence of it was mash together Game of Thrones and The Fifth Season. What followed was a scene of Aaliyah winning the crown for Odessa and I wondered what happened after.

#2- Why the name Aaliyah for the MC?

Eboni: I want to say it has some profound reason but truly I like the sound of the name and I think of it as being black as hell probably because of the singer.

#3- This novella deal with themes of power and how we choose to utilize it. Was that something you consciously had in mind when writing the story?

Eboni: I don’t think that’s how I started but it certainly ended up that way. I think there are so many ways to gain power and to use it and we get to see a few options. Its incredible to me that with everything that’s happening in the world Aaliyah’s fears feel so real and prescient. Do you want to weild power? Do you have what it takes to do it? How do you go about getting it? Can you risk loss and pain to get it?

#4- In terms of craft, what would you say you find to be the personal strength of the story?

Eboni: I think relationships tend to be my strengths and I hope that the multitude of close relationships in this story both old and new feel strong craft wise.

#5- Was the biggest risk you took as a writer when constructing this story?

Eboni: Great question! No clue! I think I’ve grown so much as a writer from when I wrote this that I honestly don’t know what felt risky at the time. Reading it now I think more about the things I could have improved.

#6- If you had to point to a comparable book that would help entice a reader into checking out the novella, what would it be?

Eboni: Lol I think the prompt that helped create is a good one: Imagine if Game of Thrones and The Fifth Season had a magical baby and everyone was queer as hell.

#7- STONE & STEEL has a beautifully visual magic system. How do you go about constructing these systems in your stories? Do you prefer more or less structure in them?

Eboni: I’m a complete pantser when I write so often I just move forward and hope of the best. I think I was inspired by something I read and wanted to be able to do my way but I also think I wanted things to be easy. Making the magic system feel concrete and simple helped keep things moving forward.

#8- Queer folks are allowed to exist as the norm in STONE & STEEL. What value do you think exists in these worlds specifically for Black LGBTQ+ folks?

Eboni: I think if you’re writing secondary worlds there is no reason why queer black people shouldn’t be the norm. There is no reason why queer black people should have to suffer. I think its important for black people to see better worlds. I think its important for queer people to see better worlds. To consider that its possible and beautiful. I usually think of my writing as really escapist. I’m not often dealing with trauma or pain with in the black queer community, I’m imagining the worlds where those things don’t exist and can’t hurt us.

We thank Eboni for taking some time with us today to discuss her work. Once again, it drops on September 5th and you can place your pre-orders here:

Comic books, SFF and good cooking are the essential elements of Brent Lambert. A full-fledged military brat, he is consistently struck by wanderlust and has a keen sense of things never really being permanent. A writer with an insurmountable TBR list, he strives to make Black gay characters exist in all worlds and all times.

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