Prolific Rebecca Roanhorse (Black Sun, Saga Press, Oct.) has long been a fan of epic fantasy, penning her first such tale in middle school. Her latest, the first of a new Between Earth and Sky trilogy, is an epic fantasy set in pre-Columbian America. “When people think ‘fantasy,’ they think of a sort of pretend England or something along those lines. I wanted to highlight cultures like what used to be called the Anasazi but are now what we call the Ancestral Puebloan—parts of Mayan culture, the mound builders of Cahokia, and the very sophisticated societies that existed in the Americas. I’m Native American on my mother’s side of the family—my mother is Native and my father is black; she’s Pueblo, so the Puebloans are my ancestors. It was important for me to tap into a world like that, which deserved to be portrayed in as interesting, complex, and entertaining a way as what we see in European fantasies.”
She also wanted to bring another aspect of ancient Puebloan culture to light. “One of the other things they did across all societies was have this obsession with astronomy and the ordering of the universe—this desire to mirror what they saw in the heavens to what is below—what they could control on the earth. They built their cities and cultures around this idea and I wanted to have fun with that concept and bring a fantasy element into this world—where there’s magic, for example. I think a lot of people still think of pre-Columbian America as primitive or even savage and it was anything but.”
One of the surprises in her research was what she learned about a Maritimes Mayan culture. “They were a sailing community. One of the early explorers marveled at the size of their ships and how they rivaled anything that the Europeans had. They had complex trade routes as well.”
Asked about what she hopes readers take away from Black Sun, Roanhorse says, “I want them to be entertained, to be able to set aside reality for a few hours and disappear into a whole different world—a fantasy world. Maybe they can also get interested in the history of pre-Columbian America and find out about places like Cahokia where the ancient Puebloans built pyramids to rival the Egyptians.”
This year's BookExpo Online is the author’s third BookExpo. “I was invited by the We Need Diverse Books folks as a new author right before my first book came out and that was an incredible experience. Last year I came as a Rick Riordan Presents author for my first children’s book and I also got to be on a panel with N.K. Jemisin and Anthony Rapp on the future of adult science fiction fantasy. It’s a really positive experience for me—I always meet great people and feel very welcomed.”
For more information on BookExpo Online, visit the BookExpo Facebook page.