An Interview with Ayana Gray

BEASTS OF PREY debuts Sept. 28th, 2021.

Hello and welcome to the next interview of 2021! To read past interviews, click here. Today’s spotlight is on debut author Ayana Gray. Let’s dive in.

“Nulla dies sine linea.” – This translates to ‘never a day without a line,’ and is one of my favorite writing mantras. I don’t take it to mean it’s necessary to write every single day, but instead to make writing a part of your everyday life by creating a disciplined routine when you can, fiercely protecting your writing time and space, and looking for inspiration in the world around you, even in the most unlikely places!

Ayana’s Advice for other writers

What are your favorite parts of the writing process? Do any of them change from project to project?

My favorite part of the writing process is the revision, making something good become great. For me, drafting is often a bit of a “muddling” process, wherein I’m still trying to learn the story’s world and characters, but in revisions these things become more realized, and I’m able to add the organic flourishes that truly bring it to life.

What tropes do you love to read? To write? Do you think including a certain trope in a story can throw the reader off, or can doing so add an interesting curve ball?

’There are so many tropes I love as both a reader and writer, and I’m finding new ones all the time. The age-old “enemies-to-lovers” dynamic is one I’ll never tire of, but I also enjoy bookish boys and crude girls and tragic family backstories.

I’m sure some tropes will deter certain readers, but the thing is, they’re tropes for a reason — they feel familiar, and attract readers who enjoy those story elements.

Your debut novel, BEASTS OF PREY, releases in September of this year (2021). Do you have any advice for someone looking to debut? What’s been the best part of the process so far? The most stressful?

You know, I’m still very much in the midst of the debut process, so it’s hard to be retrospective about it just yet, but the advice I would give is the advice I’m currently trying to give myself, which is to try to enjoy every single moment, even the challenging parts, because you only truly debut once.

As for how my process has been so far–it’s been fast-paced, incredible, heartwarming, and inspiring. I am so lucky to be an author at Putnam/Penguin Young Readers; their team manages to be dynamic, innovative, and also incredibly kind.

The best part of the process has been watching what was once a messy document on my laptop “come to life” in so many ways; it was surreal to see the cover and the book in proper typeset for the first time. The most stressful thing has been the time crunch, there was so much excitement for the book that my publisher moved its publication date up a year, which has created some pretty quick turnarounds!

If you didn’t write fantasy, what other genre(s) would you dabble in? Why those specific ones?

I truly love historical fiction, and hope to write in it someday! Some of my favorites authors of all time are historical fiction authors like Stephanie Dray and Kate Quinn, but I’ve also noticed that the fantasy books I love tend to have a slightly historical nod to them, like The Gilded Wolves trilogy by Roshani Choksi, or the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty.

Please describe your typical writing day. Do you schedule time? Do you have a 9-5 job and have to write around that time? Do you like to write in silence or with music? Etc.

I typically write at night and on weekends. This is in part because I work another full-time job, but also because my best ideas have always come to me when the sun goes down.

I also typically need silence when I write, but I do really love using music as a muse, and will sometimes go on walks and just listen to certain songs to create imagery in my head.

How did the concept for BEASTS OF PREY come about? A dream, perhaps? Or via real life experience? How did writing the manuscript for this project differ from prior ones?

I would love to say that that there was a single moment or idea that created BOP, but the truth is it came from an amalgamation of experiences starting in 2014–a life-changing trip to Ghana, a course on political violence, a horrific account I read about involving man-eating lions in Kenya–it all gradually came together in my head to become BOP. 

As for how it differed from other manuscripts, BOP is actually the first complete story I’ve ever written. Previously, I would start stories with lots of passion and gusto, only to lose steam when I wasn’t feeling inspired or got tangled in a “plot knot.” This project was different because the story and the world wouldn’t leave me alone. I shelved it many times only to pull it back out again, because I knew what it could be. It was the hardest thing I’ve written, but also the thing I knew I had to write.

And now for a bit of fun! Answer with the first thing that comes to mind with these Either/Or questions:

Strawberry or Blueberry: Strawberry.
Hazelnut Spread or Peanut Butter: Peanut Butter.
Romance or History: History.
Coffee or Tea: Tea.
Bubbles or no Bubbles: Bubbles.
Apple or PC: Apple.
Rain or Snow: Rain.
First Person or Third Person: Third Person.
Physical Book or eBook: Physical Book.

Care to share any plans for future projects? Do they continue along the same thread as BEASTS OF PREY, or follow something completely new?

Sure! Beasts of Prey is the first in a trilogy, so I’ll be working on that for next two years at least. I have very, very loose ideas for more stories within that world after the series ends, but it’s just as possible that I’ll branch out and try to write something new. Regardless of what happens, you can be assured that the stories I write will always have a dash of magic!

Okay so that was more than five questions, but still loads of fun. Many thanks once again to Ayana for participating in this year’s interview series!

Check back next week, Wednesday, February 17th to meet author LC Helms!

Interested in being interviewed? Message me here.

Let’s hang out


Ayana Gray is an author of speculative works and lover of all things monsters, mythos, and #MelaninMagic. Originally an Atlanta native, she now lives in sunny Florida where she reads avidly, follows Formula 1 racing, and worries over her adopted baby black rhino, Apollo.Her highly anticipated young adult debut, BEASTS OF PREY, is forthcoming and will be published on September 28, 2021.

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home—and discover much more than they bargained for.

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand—and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six—an elite warrior—and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani—a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century—but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon—each keeping their true motives secret from the other—form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.