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Author Interview - Meet Shade Lapite (Goddess Crown)

Updated: Oct 24, 2023


"Author Interview" "Shade Lapite" "Goddess Crown" “Creator Interview Series”  "Nyasha Williams"


I received my first ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of the summer from Candlewick Press. I got a chance to review a new YA Afro-fantasy by debut author Shade Lapite, Goddess Crown. I cannot describe the healing for my inner child in reading fantasy books written by members of the African diaspora centering stories around the African diaspora.


The book comes out on September 23, 2023, and it was a delightful binge-read. Thank you, Shade for this author interview.


The premise:

Kalothia has grown up in the shadows of her kingdom, hidden away in the forested East after her parents were outed as enemies of the king. Raised in a woodland idyll by a few kindly adult caretakers, Kalothia can hunt and fish and fend for herself but knows little of the outside world. When assassins attack her home on her sixteenth birthday, she must flee to the king’s court in the West—a beautiful but lethal nest of poison, plots, and danger, overseen by an entrenched patriarchy. Guided by the Goddess herself, can Kalothia navigate this most worldly of places to find her own role? What if she must choose between her country and her heart? Excitement, romance, and a charismatic heroine shine in this first book set in the unforgettable kingdom of Galla.

"Author Interview" "Shade Lapite" "Goddess Crown" “Creator Interview Series”  "Nyasha Williams"

I had so many questions and thoughts for the author after finishing the fantasy novel that connecting with the author felt like a must. Shade Lapite obliged with my request, gracing me with an interview.


What was the timeline of Goddess Crown from idea, to word doc, to complete manuscript to months before its book birthday?

I wrote the very first draft as part of National Novel Writing Month back in 2008. However, that version is vastly different to the version I wrote in 2018 when I took a year off from work and really focused on sitting down and redrafting the book. I spent 2019 editing that draft, got an agent in 2020, we sold the book in 2021, then worked with Walker Books redrafting until the end of 2022. The book will be out September 12, 2023, so you could say it took 15 years, or 5 years depending.


Goddess Crown has themes of monarchies, loss, and new beginnings. Can you tell us a little about why you felt these themes were important to include? Any aspect difficult to write about?

I find monarchies fascinating. In the past they’ve been extremely cut-throat. Especially when it comes to succession. There’s so much drama inherent in the system of inherited wealth and privilege and responsibility. Then you throw in the idea of a woman as heir and it’s like petrol on a BBQ.


Personally I love new beginnings and I like to see what people and characters do with the new opportunities that appear. Sometimes you’re forced to make a new beginning, as Kalothia is, sometimes you choose it for yourself. Either way, life can get better or much worse.


I think loss shapes you. When you lose the people that anchor your life it scrambles everything. Kalothia has never known her parents, that loss is a gaping hole in her life. Then she loses the guardians who raised her, the only family she has known. After that she has nothing to lose which makes her very dangerous to her enemies.


The setting and landscape plays such a key role in this book. What places inspired the book’s landscape and setting?

The heroine of the first version of the book was white. It took me years of unpicking barriers in my own head before I got to a place where I realized I could make a Black girl the center of the story. Once I did the world around her changed. I wanted to situate her in a Black world. For the first time I started to explore African civilizations. I just figured, this history is all mine and I’ll borrow what I like and make up what’s missing.


Growing up my parents would take us on holidays to visit family in Nigeria. It was so disorientating going from London to Lagos. As I built Kalothia’s world, I thought back to those trips, and so many cultural things I’d grown up with and hadn’t understood or appreciated. I re-examined those things and found they added an up-close, richness to the foundation of the world of Galla.


When Kalothia visits a city called Ijanikin, that’s based on Abeocuta in south east Nigeria which I love for its red sand and corrugated iron roofs. Port Caspin has a bit of a middle east vibe with the white, flat roofed buildings. I was in India in 2012 and loved the palaces in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. I used those as the inspiration for the Gallan summer palace.


Can you expand or explain the choice of red hair in the story?

I like the energy of red hair. It’s a bit cliché when it comes to feisty, adventure story heroines but I’m okay with that. I think I was inspired by the ‘woman in a man’s world’ royal vibes of British monarch, Elizabeth I and rap queen, Lil’ Kim.


How would you sum up your novel in three words?

Self-discovery, adventure, opulence


Which character do you relate to most in your book?

Kalothia. I wrote the first draft of the book and thought I was done. But I kept on coming back to it because I was so fascinated by her. She was so driven, compassionate, unable to bend to rules but willing to learn. I really wanted to see her win.


Do you do any sandboxing with other creatives and authors regularly?

Usually when I work with other creative friends, we’ll meet up and do a work session where we focus on individual projects. It’s nice to be in a group environment where you can chat and bounce ideas off each other and feel motivated by the other person even though you’re working alone.


If you co-author with any writer, who would you love to co-create with?

I’m currently reading Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. The writing is beautiful and the world is incredible. I would love to co-create and do an ancient China meets ancient West Africa adventure story.


Do you have anything else in the works?

There is another book set in Galla currently in the works.


"Author Interview" "Shade Lapite" "Goddess Crown" “Creator Interview Series”  "Nyasha Williams"

Pre-Order a copy of Goddess Crown here.


Shade Lapite is British-Nigerian and has drawn on her heritage to create the world of her debut novel. She spent a significant slice of her childhood nestled in the library, inhaling books by Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, Lois Duncan, and Mildred D. Taylor. Her love for the arts led her to a degree in media arts at Royal Holloway, University of London. She now lives in Toronto and juggles writing with her career in digital marketing.


Connect with Shade

Shade’s website: https://shadelapite.com/ and also https://coffeebookshelves.com/ (where she reviewed books first before becoming an author!)

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