Tochi Onyebuchi talks mythology, YA books, and Hogwarts houses in our exclusive blog tour interview!
We recently had the chance to talk to Tochi Onyebuchi about the highly anticipated sequel to his book Beasts Made of Night called Crown of Thunder, which was released on October 16th, finds our protagonist, Taj, on the run. Along the way, he learns more about himself, his abilities, and his feelings. See what Tochi Onyebuchi has to say below!
Was there any mythology that directly inspired Crown of Thunder and Beasts Made of Night? If so, what?
Taj’s story was inspired more by a personal mythology than anything else, although I did draw from some of Nigeria’s animist pre-colonial history. There’s a large emphasis on exorcisms and on making inner turmoil into something external, something that can be cast out. That played a sizable role in how I went about constructing the system around which sin-eating is structured.
Crown of Thunder deals a lot with owning one’s own power – something that is increasingly prevalent and important in the current political and cultural climate. Was this intentional?
Absolutely. As someone from a marginalized background, it can become too easy to feel as though the world is happening without me, as though I have no say in it. But each of us, both as individuals and as members of a community, contain immense power within us, the power to make ourselves heard, the power to act on our environments. What I wanted Taj to learn is something I have to remind myself over and over again: no matter how loudly the world screams that you are powerless, it is wrong.
What was behind the idea of including sin eaters? What inspired such a targeted and pointed creature?
I grew up in a very Christian household. Very early on, we were taught themes of sacrifice, and I spent a lot of time thinking about sacrifice and choice, how some people have the luxury of choosing to sacrifice while, for others, it’s a burden that’s been thrust upon them without their say. My work in social justice after law school only made these concerns more pressing, particularly when I saw the ways in which the criminal justice system in America worked. The burden for society’s ills seemed to fall disproportionately on some backs more than others. The sin-eaters came out of that.
Similarly, while the idea of sin eaters has been around for a while, the idea of casting sins out only to have them become beasts is pretty novel – it’s a wonderful depiction of facing one’s own demons. What can you tell us about the idea to have the sins become these creatures?
Guilt is such a powerful sensation. It can feel as though it is physically eating you from within. And I wanted to externalize that. What would guilt look like when taken out of a body and given its own separate form? The sin-beasts also gave me an opportunity to write all the cool battle scenes I, an avid anime fan, have wanted to write since I was a kid.
What Hogwarts house would you sort yourself and your characters into?
All evidence would seem to point towards me being a Ravenclaw. Aliya, I think, would be a great fit too, though she’s far smarter than me. Princess (I mean, Queen) Karima is an easy Slytherin. One of the themes in Crown of Thunderis recognizing how power or recognition of that power can change us. So I’m tempted to place Bo in Gryffindor, though he may not seem like it in this book. Taj would probably bristle at me saying this, but I think, deep down, he’s a Hufflepuff.
What are you reading right now?
I recently read The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton and I’ve been absolutely salivating for its sequel, The Everlasting Rose. I’m currently in the thick of Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi and it’s such a smart book I can’t get over it. I’m honestly taking notes, because reading her is making me a better writer.
In the sequel to the acclaimed Beasts Made of Night, Taj has escaped Kos, but Queen Karima will go to any means necessary–including using the most deadly magic–to track him down.
Taj is headed west, but the consequences of leaving Kos behind confront him at every turn. Innocent civilians flee to refugee camps as Karima’s dark magic continues to descend on the city. Taj must return, but first he needs a plan.
With Arzu’s help, Taj and Aliya make it to the village of her ancestors, home of the tastahlik–sin-eaters with Taj’s same ability to both battle and call forth sins. As Taj comes to terms with his new magic, he realizes there are two very different groups of tastahlik–one using their powers for good, the other for more selfish ends.
Aliya is struggling with her own unique capabilities. She’s immersed in her work to uncover the secret to Karima’s magic, but her health begins to mysteriously deteriorate. With the help of a local western mage, Aliya uncovers her true destiny–a future she’s not sure she wants.
As Taj and Aliya explore their feelings for each other and Arzu connects with her homeland, the local westerners begin to question Taj’s true identity. Karima is on his heels, sending dark warnings to the little village where he’s hiding. Taj will have to go back and face her before she sends her most deadly weapon–Taj’s former best friend, Bo.
About the author, Tochi Onyebuchi
Tochi Onyebuchi holds a BA from Yale, an MFA in screenwriting from Tisch, a master’s degree in global economic law from L’institut d’études politiques, and a JD from Columbia Law School. His writing has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction and Ideomancer, among other places. Tochi resides in Connecticut, where he works in the tech industry.