I’m so excited to be part of the Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky blog tour! I had the incredible honour of interviewing the author, Kwame Mbalia. The moment I heard about this book, it was an instant add for me. Check out my interview below and then preorder or request TRISTAN STRONG at your local library. Every one of the books from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint have been standout so far; you won’t be disappointed.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Kwame Mbalia’s epic fantasy, a middle grade American Gods set in a richly-imagined world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods.
Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s notebook. Tristan chases after it–is that a doll?–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world.
Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
Q: What inspired TRISTAN STRONG? What made you go ‘This is it. This is the story I’m writing now’?
A: Tristan Strong was written a few months after my father died, and my daughters were really struggling with this idea of grief. Along with that, I’ve always wanted to write a story retelling the folklore I grew up reading and listening to, so when the opportunity presented itself, I had to jump on it.
Q: Tristan is struggling with the grief of losing his best friend and the disappointment of losing his first fighting match. What do you hope readers will gain from the battles Tristan goes through – both internet and external?
A: Above all, I want to convey the idea that it is okay to grieve, to express grief, and that process can take anywhere from a month to forever. It’s natural. Tristan gradually learns what it means to lose something, whether it’s a match or a person you loved, and to continue through life.
Q: What has writing TRISTAN STRONG taught you? What’s your favourite part of the book?
- It’s my debut book so it taught me how to write, lmaoooo. A lesson I’m still learning and will continue to learn into the future.
- My favorite part of the book is probably the ending scene when everyone’s on the page at the same time. I really got to put folktales and gods on the page. That makes me happy.
Q: Your book is based on Western African gods and African-American legends. What kind of research did you do? Was there anything you wanted to include in the book but couldn’t?
A: Have you seen how large the book is? 496 pages. What didn’t I put in the book. No, but seriously, there are plenty more folktales and stories I couldn’t incorporate, but that’s what sequels are for, right? As for research, Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and other historians who collected folklore in their travels were of immense help.
Q: What were the challenges of creating a magical world with a modern setting?
A: Everything. Worldbuilding is hard, yo.
Q: If Tristan existed in our world, what would he be reading and watching right now?
A: He’d be reading everything from Read Riordan Presents… and watching replays of the Spence/Porter boxing match, YouTube compilations of old Vine clips, and Steven Universe.
Kwame is a husband, father, writer, and pharmaceutical metrologist in that order. His debut middle-grade novel, TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY (October 15, 2019) is published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion. A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he enjoys impromptu dance sessions and Cheezits.
Be sure to check out the other blog tour stops as well as the host, Cake Literary.