It is my pleasure to introduce a visionary, author, and herbalist- my second youngest sister who co-authored Elemental Alchemist with me. Grace graced me with an author interview. Let me allow Grace Banda to introduce herself:
Tell us about yourself, your writing journey, and how you came to become a co-author of Elemental Alchemist.
From a young age, I have been a reader and storyteller, and as soon as I learned to write in 1st grade, I wrote my first story. I was still more a reader than a writer until about high school when indulging in the accounts of others to escape wasn't enough. I had vivid places and stories from everywhere, all around me, within me, within my past, imagination, and future, and ultimately only I can tell those stories. I used to journal before I joined my high school's poetry club which inspired me even more to be around raw creativity. I started writing more seriously despite the pain of truth that can come with storytelling, the strongest and most powerful tales lie in our DNA waiting to be crafted into meaningful, impactful stories that are needed.
I came to co-author Elemental Alchemist with my second oldest sister, Nyasha Williams, after overcoming a really bad case of writer's block. Collaborations are an ally to creativity, and it was great to be able to write with my sister. She invited me to write this Oracle Deck with her, which aligned perfectly with my spiritual awakening and path already in motion.
Why did you choose to become an author of Elemental Alchemist?
I felt called to it when my sister first mentioned it as it was a perfect way to relearn and reconnect with the elements and the aspect of our lives they represent. Any knowledge and wisdom that flows within, coming from spirits and guides, resonates, and Elemental Alchemist resonated with me when I first heard about it. We each connected with different elements more than the others, so our collaboration aligned.
Have you ever co-authored a writing project before Elemental Alchemist? What was the experience like?
No, The Elemental Alchemist is my first authored and published writing project. It's been exciting to be a part of it coming to life. I have co-written other projects and manuscripts, and I believe that the right collaborations are an ally to creativity and expansion.
What do you hope users of Elemental Alchemist receive as one of the authors of Elemental Alchemist?
I hope users receive a deep connection with the five elements that we built while writing Elemental Alchemist. It showed me how much energy and power flow through the elements that I had overlooked before.
In the Elemental Alchemist, you have included five elements: water, fire, air, earth, and spirit. Expand your co-authoring decision to include spirit as an element.
Again the timing was just written, I wouldn't have understood the need for spirit before my spiritual awakening. Treating the body, the mind, and the spirit separately not as one with individual solutions. The elements wouldn’t have the same effect and vibration without the flow of spirit. So it resonated because I felt spirit within me, awakening and transforming.
How does your spirituality present itself in your writing?
Since my awakening, I became aware that the places I sometimes write about are real and I have spiritually traveled to them, through dreams, meditation, through past life regression. Writing is energetically and vibrationally charged with the creation and with the potential to be destructive when paired with a negative spirit (like books written by colonizers to paint an untrue series of events without the voices of the harmed ever being heard).
Tell us about your inspirations.
Honesty, I was inspired by trauma. As a reader I would escape through books, and through storytelling it was a longing to be anything, any place other than here. Then at the height of my trauma, that pain turned into magic and creation and I fell in love with writing. I started writing for myself and even though I share some of that work, it will always be for me and the stories before me from my ancestors that have wrapped themselves in my DNA for me to discover. Dreams also inspire me, always dreams and nightmares too, shadows inspire us too.
What inspired you while writing Elemental Alchemist?
The Elemental Spirits. In order to write this deck, decolonized research of and connection with the elements was needed. Our Ancestors interacted with the elemental spirits much more intimately than we do in the modern world, and it was a rediscovery of the elements while writing the deck. Learning something between the days we wrote, brainstormed, and took time to figure out what each card's intention is. I discovered a strong connection I hadn't had before with fire, and it's been absolutely an essential part of my spiritual journey.
How has traveling and moving affected your writing as an author?
It's not ideal, and it has slowed down significantly as it takes a lot of time to create a space for it. I've heard some say they can write from anywhere however, I don't think that is the case for me which is okay, I haven't found my spot yet. Different places ignite different energy.
What do you enjoy most about being an author? What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
I enjoy the actual creating, the act of writing, planning, visualizing, and researching is very therapeutic and exciting, it's the feeling of creative newness. Challenging aspects include writer's block and what comes after writing, editing, critiquing, and all the fixing up for it to be ready to share.
What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?
Very English school literary style planning. This is what we did in school for essays and literary essays, which includes brainstorming, mindmaps, character analysis, worldbuilding, research, and plot planning. I do a lot of planning before I even start writing and working on a project. The planning can sometimes be more exciting than the starting of the project itself. The planning brings excitement and newness, and writing brings focus and escape.
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
Music, aromatherapy, candles, clarity and creativity, my book planning Binder, notebooks and pencils, my laptop, and most important of all, my hands from which my creation vibrations flow.
What was your favorite part of structuring and writing Elemental Alchemist? What was the most difficult?
My favorite part was research, writing, and watching the illustrations come together with the words in the oracle deck and journal. The most difficult was the editing and clean-ups, and they weren't really difficult, just not as much fun.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?
Rupi Kaur (poet), El James (Erotic Romance writer), Julia Quinn (Briderton), or Luisah Teish (Jambalaya)
What is your daily schedule like when you’re writing a book?
I don't have one; as much as I am a planner, I don't write on a schedule, and creativity and creation aren't something I can really schedule. I can operate between and on deadlines very well, though. How do you celebrate when you finish a writing project? How do you celebrate your wins as an author?
I've never had any reason to celebrate wins as an author until The Elemental Alchemist was picked up by a publisher. I went out for a lovely dinner with my sister and her partner to celebrate. And I don't really celebrate after finishing a project.
Do you have a list of author goals and creative ambitions? Have you achieved any of them yet?
I don't have a list of author goals. I was not originally into writing to be an author, just pure love, and I loved being the writer, narrator, and storyteller of whatever I wrote. But I do have writing goals, creative ambitions, and endless ideas; that's where the really important bookbinder comes in handy, to store until I'm ready to write them.
My goal is to finish writing another novel, a time-investment undertaking, and there is a binder full to choose from, too. It is worth every minute invested. That’s why a great novel has the effect and emotion it does. Ultimately, finish every project stored in the Binder.
Elemental Alchemist is centered around both the elements and seasonal living, how do you experience them in your daily living?
I follow the Seasonal Wheel of the Year, which honors the Earth's bounty, sun, moon, planetary, and agricultural cycles, and not the traditional commercialized holiday calendar. I connect daily with all the elements in my body through elemental anatomy and through my altar.
What risks have you taken with your writing that has paid off?
I’m not sure. I think maybe deciding to share some of my work.
Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
Rupi Kaur, Maya Angelou, Sugar Plum Ballerina Series (Whoopi Goldberg), Taking Flight (Mikayla DiPrince), Wattpad (Writers and Readers platform)
Who has been the biggest supporter of your writing?
My high school poetry club, my partner, and my sisters.
Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?
Yes, I still do consider it. Not all the stories that I write belong to me, and they come from guides, spirits, and Ancestors who wish to tell their stories through me. They come from cosmic pasts and divine timing, worlds where I was not who I am now.
How many books/writing projects have you written, and which is your favorite?
About ten, and I would say my favorite is Foodie Fairytales and Summer Fruit. Though I would say I have plenty of favorites still in the binder still in the making.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I know technology is a great aid to the world of writing, but never forget the feeling of writing from your hand to paper. That's where the raw magic is. Some of my best ideas and stories hit the paper and notebooks first.
What other projects do you have cooking up?
I've worked on a children's book about little dragons, but after that one, I have been working on a blog as well as my novels, about three different novels, and genres with plentiful planning, brainstorming, and world-building in progress.
Support both Grace Banda and myself by pre-ordering and ordering the Elemental Alchemist Deck and Journal: