As readers we know how much books can impact us, but what about how they affect the authors who write them?
When Enishia ‘Nia’ Davenport was faced with racism in her workplace, she didn’t always feel like she could be vocal about it.
In 2016, the landscape for black women living in America wasn’t particularly inspiring, and as a teacher in Texas, Nia had to walk a fine line between being professional and speaking up for herself.
That was until she found Ikenna, the powerful lead of her sci-fi and fantasy series, The Blood Trials, who gave her a chance to challenge the prejudices black women often have to endure in our world.
“I think sometimes when we’re black women moving through the professional workplace, we don’t all the time have those uninhibited freedoms to be like, ‘I know this is a microaggression’, or ‘I know this is clear racist bs’.
“But with Ikenna, when she notices it, she has a freedom to call it out.” Nia explained as she recalled what it was like to develop the character.
“While she goes through an incredible amount of challenges, Ikenna has the freedom and the power to speak up for herself in every instance and fight back either physically or in some other form in every instance.”
“In the very first scene, someone approaches her in a bar, is racist and she literally beats them up. She has the ability to check it every time it occurs. So it was fun to write Ikenna who didn’t have to walk so much of a fine line.”
“She is my cathartic character where I scored so many of my life challenges as a black woman.”
When pulling together the concept for the world Ikenna would be in, Nia took inspiration from her southern culture, but also the mythology she grew up fascinated with.
“A lot of it was creative ideas, but I’m a huge mythology fan in general,” Nia explained as she spoke her writing process.
“I’m pretty sure the fact that I’ve grown up always reading like Greek mythology and West African mythology stories that definitely informed the magic systems and the pantheon of Gods [in The Blood Trails].
“I read a lot of science fiction fantasy and I really love fantasy books with that element of magic. So I do remember collecting a good amount of books that played with that, as like, part of their magic system and mixing and matching those systems to get what Ikenna would do with her blood magic.”
“It was actually the one thing I didn’t do intentionally, it was one of those things that just happened organically,” Nia explained.
“Ikenna means ‘father’s power’ which felt like the perfect name for her because she has this complex relationship with her grandfather, who has raised her to be his powerful scion.
“He put all his hopes and dreams for the future of their family– of getting them a seat at the table— onto her shoulders. Which makes her name perfect as a woman in this world.”
But before Ikenna was born and the concept came to Nia, she was living a completely different life.
Nia didn’t always intend to be a writer, though her love of literature is eternal. It wasn’t until two months after she graduated college with a degree in Biological Sciences and Theatre Arts, that she realised that a career as an author wasn’t anything unattainable.
What once looked like a shot in the dark, became a chance she was willing to take, and it paid off.
“I wanted to see more of myself reflected within the genre that I loved. I was devouring all these reads, and first of all, I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of black women, and not to be super arrogant, but I was like, ‘I know I can write. I’m a solid writer, so why can’t this be me?’”
Today, Nia has established herself as a sci-fi and fantasy writer and has made the impact she always wanted.
“I remember leading up to publication, being terrified and thinking, ‘is anybody going to like it?’ ‘is it going to actually make an impact and find its audience? Or will there just be this collective shrug and then we all move on?’
“But I got this outpouring of overwhelming love, especially from black female readers, which was phenomenal, and just surpassed everything I could have ever wanted for the books. So going into actual release day and sales, I knew it didn’t matter because it had reached who it was written to reach and it was making an impact in a meaningful way.”
With the recent publication of her sequel, The Blood Gift, Nia has not only refined her writing skills as an author but the strengths she found within Ikenna to carry over into her real life.
“The second book really focuses on feminist themes, showing women in the powerful leadership roles and actually interrogating and calling out the patriarchy that exists within this entire world, and starting to not only subvert it, but dismantle it as well.”
“Writing Ikenna made me feel more confident about not always having to swallow things that I clearly see that are wrong.”
If you liked this post then read Why our books need more Black female leads or Think piece: Is discrimination necessary for works of fiction? next.
Nia Davenport is an american author with a love for all things science fiction and fantasy. She studied Biological Studies and Theatre Arts before she realised that she was meant to be an author. After seven years as a teacher, her passion has now become her career. Nia is an advocate for diverse perspectives and protagonists in literature and now lives in Texas with her husand and her kids.
Liseli is a journalism student with a costly love for travelling and new books. She loves a good solo adventure but when she can’t be jetting off to a new destination, the next best thing for her is discovering new places through books. And if she’s not reading a book, she’s looking for her next read. Liseli is passionate about how our identities are represented within literature today.
Favourite genres: Romance and Sci-Fi.