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untitledKelbian Noel was born on a warm June night in Moncton, New Brunswick. From a very young age, she loved to read. She found herself engulfed in novels by Janette Oke and L.M. Montgomery, but never seemed to find herself in the pages. At the age of 11 she declared she would simply have to rewrite them and become the youngest author in history. Decades later, having studied writing in college and pursued it as a career, she rediscovered her hobby. She is excited to introduce The Witchbound Series to the world with hopes readers will love the beginning of this saga as much as she does.

Kelbian lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two children. She is the founder of Diverse Pages and blogs there often in the company of some pretty cool people.

Kelbian’s first two novels are available *now* under special pricing. On April 1, Sprung will be available for $0.99, and Roots will continue to be free until the end of the day! Visit the author’s website for more information.

1. Your Witchbound Series is quite ambitious—can you tell us about the first two books and what we can expect from the other three?
untitledWitchbound tells the story of four very different girls. The five-book series follows each character as she discovers the truth about her magical destiny, how it affects her and the people around her. What I love most about writing this series is that it focuses on people with very different backgrounds and outlines how, despite those variances, they’re exactly the same.

Re-released on March 15, 2013, ROOTS (book one) introduces Baltimore Land, a biracial (African American and Native American) girl who, for the past two years, has lived in Utah with her Wiccan parents. She’s deeply averse to her parents’ religion and believes the only purpose Wicca serves is to make her life miserable.

After she receives a message from her twin brother, who disappeared prior to the move, she runs off to find and ultimately rescue him. But she soon discovers her exile to that small Utah town was the direct result of who she is, what she can do, and the danger it could bring to her and the lives of her family and friends. Baltimore must learn to embrace her identity in order to keep herself safe, but it may mean letting her brother go for good.

untitledSPRUNG (book two) will be released on April 1, 2013. In Solana Beach, California we meet Skye Jackson, a seventeen-year-old girl who believes everything Baltimore never did. Ever since she was introduced to it, magic has come easily to Skye. She uses it for everything from extending her curfew to her personal GPS. But when she decides to teach a guy a lesson in order to avenge her friend, she comes to the realization that there’s a lot more to her powers than she bargained for.

In a race to fix her mistakes, Skye stumbles across a family secret which reveals a twisted destiny that may mean giving up magic forever.

SMOLDER (book three) is set for release this coming August. At least that’s my hope! Currently, there is a contest taking place on my website. Readers can take a stab at guessing the name of the next Elemental. So I won’t reveal it here, but I will tell you a little bit about Elemental #3.

She’s a Latino orphan from Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from high school, she decides to spend the summer learning more about her family. Her magical journey leads her to a historical building, a long-lost family member, and a destiny that makes her more than she ever believed she could be.

The fourth book in the series is entitled SURFACE, and takes place in Hawaii. The fourth Elemental is a bit of a know-it-all. Well versed in the girls’ destiny and purpose, she leads them to their final battle.

The fifth book is still untitled but recaps the first four stories from the point of view of Ramon, a character readers will come to know well throughout the series.

2. Tell us about your childhood in the Maritimes. How did you evolve into the writer you are today?

I like to think of the story of my life as both unusual and interesting. I was born in Moncton, New Brunswick to Guyanese immigrants. My father was a Baptist minister who first settled in New Brunswick to study at St. Thomas University and what is now known as Crandall University. We lived there for the first few years of my life.

I fondly remember, and still visit, the tiny town of McKee’s Mills, but vaguely remember time spent in Turtle Creek, New Brunswick and then on Ben Jackson Road in Nova Scotia. One of my earliest memories is when we lived in Scot’s Bay, Nova Scotia. I can still recall that little house on the hill, with a mile long driveway, tire swing, and cows in the pasture beside it. I was four or five when we moved.

LockeportWe ended up in Lockeport, Nova Scotia after that, where Dad was called to serve at the Baptist church in the middle of town. We were the only black family in Lockeport, as far as I knew. Those were some formidable years, but still filled with great memories. Our house overlooked the harbor and had a huge forest of bamboo-like plants we called Roman Sailors in the back yard. We’d go crashing through those in the summertime, playing “scouts” after hours of riding our bikes around town. It was that time (mid-eighties) and that kind of town where kids could pretty much roam free.

Memories of Lockeport are still firmly engrained in my mind: the “haunted” house just up the street, my first teacher (Ms. Nickerson), first best friends (Sarah and Gina), the beach, the waves, the smell of the salt water. Of course,those are accompanied with some less desirable ones. Like the first time I was told I was different from the other kids. My lips were bigger, my skin darker, and my parents talked funny. I was called the “N” word on the first day of school. I was five and didn’t even know what it meant.

Like most ministers’ kids, I had to learn to adjust and adapt to new surroundings very quickly. The years from age eight to fifteen were spent in rural Nova Scotia. In the small town of Morristown in the Annapolis Valley we were again the only black family around for miles. And there were still formidable experiences to be had. But, for the most part, the people in that town were accepting and I felt like I belonged. This is where I first discovered my love of writing. I spent hours in a cow pasture adjacent to our house, behind the church and right next to a graveyard. There was an oak tree in the middle of the field and I’d sit under it with a blue writing folder, loose leaf paper, and a pen.

untitledMy mother had been selling Christian books through one of those mail order companies. That’s when I discovered Janette Oke “Christian” romance novels. My sister introduced me to L.M. Montgomery. Every Anne of Green Gables book she brought home, I read too. I also read The Babysitter’s Club and R.L. Stine (my first intro to Speculative Fiction). But in all of those series, except for one (thank you for Jessi, Ann M. Martin!), there was no one who looked like me. I decided I’d just have to write those kinds of stories myself.

After we moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I was excited to finally be around people like me. Only after years of living like and amongst “the other half,” I didn’t fit in. I was the Black girl who acted like she was white. That was fun. But I didn’t let it get me down. I was who I was and I liked it.

My first job was in the Halifax North Memorial Public Library where my love of books was fed on a weekly basis. I couldn’t get enough. But for years I forgot about my writing endeavors until I started studying it in college. In my first year, I was introduced to the works of Octavia E. Butler (who quickly became my favorite author) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Still, it wasn’t until my final year during a Literary Theory class that I picked up a pen again and started writing a story, based on a dream, about werewolves in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve never stopped.

ABOUT KELBIAN

Name: Kelbian Noel

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Education: B.A. Professional Writing & Communications Studies

School: York University

Major: Professional Writing

Minor: Communications

Occupation: Author & Freelance Writer/Editor

FAVORITE THINGS

Books: Kindred, Blood and Chocolate

Writers: Octavia E. Butler

Quote: There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

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osiris god of the underworldI’m 1200 words away from reaching my 10K-word goal for this month. I was a little worried that this novel, unlike Wish and Ship of Souls, didn’t have any connection to African American history. The Deep feels much more contemporary—it picks up a few months after Ship of Souls ended (in March 2011) and so I’m writing about the tsunami that devastated Japan and the mass shooting in Norway. Yesterday I worked on a scene that takes place at the Central Library here in Brooklyn; Nyla has been chosen to join The League but she resists her guide’s efforts to lead her underground. I was somewhat obsessed with ancient Egypt as a child so I don’t know why it took me so long to make the connection between the deep and the underworld. I’ve decided to name the guide Cyrus/Siris/Osiris, Egyptian god of the afterlife. Far better than Alistair, which is the name of the annoying, yappy dog in my building. My theory of Afro-urban magic requires me to incorporate African spiritual practices into contemporary urban fantasy. There isn’t much room for that in The Deep but maybe I can tweak the plot. That’s the good thing about having a third of the novel still to write—there’s plenty of room for improvement…

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Up at 2am. I’ve *never* had insomnia like this before. Once a month I’ll have a restless night but I’ve never found myself progressively losing sleep like this. It was happening in Brooklyn, too—over the past couple of months I started to wake at six, then five, then four. So what could it mean? Around 4am this morning I decided that it must be related to my ancestor search. Each time I find another generation and reach farther into the past, I lose an hour of sleep! The only good thing about this is that I have moments of lucidity while self-directing my waking dreams. I realized this morning that I want to open a museum. Not just an arts center, but a museum. What I haven’t found here in Nevis so far is a critical, comprehensive examination of slavery. The perspective of colonizers and slave owners is still being privileged—the one ghost story that’s mentioned in the tourist material I’ve gathered is a white woman whose fiance shot her brother in a duel and then proposed to another woman. So she shut herself up in her great house and now haunts the crumbling remains. THAT is the ghost story we’re supposed to care about? I realize the intent is not to alienate tourists who are primarily white, but I think it’s a mistake to assume that whites don’t want to know the truth about slavery. In fact, the greater risk is getting too deep, too graphic, and turning the past into another kind of exotic artifact. I mean, we have to have a conversation about language—what’s in a name? Why does the word “plantation” trigger positive associations for tourists and negative associations for me? I can already see a panel in my museum that will list “Ways to Be a Better Tourist.” All the grant-writing experience I’ve been accumulating will come in handy because I’ll need a major grant to make this happen. Everything prepares you for what’s next. I’ve been teaching this course on neo-slave narratives, and now I can select the best slavery novels for my museum bookstore. I’m going to enlarge those slave registers and line the walls with them. I’ll find an artist to develop a rendition of the mass suicide that took place in 1736 when 100 slaves jumped from the Prince of Orange slave ship anchored off the coast of Nevis. The history book I’m reading suggests it was a “cruel joke” that prompted an enslaved man to board the ship with his owner and tell the slaves that they were to be eaten once they were taken ashore. Maybe what he really said was, “Life as a slave on this island is unbearable,” and the newly arrived Africans decided death was the better option.

Ok, I better get myself ready to go. Alexander Hamilton House, lunch with Amba, and then all that other stuff. And maybe another nap on the beach…

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I will never again book 20 school visits for one month! but I’m grateful for each and every opportunity to meet students and educators across the city. Yesterday I spent the morning at a school in Park Slope and after my presentation on Ship of Souls, I was treated to a feast—the parents put out *quite* a spread, and I was seated in a virtual throne with the kids ringed around me. Overhead dangled the names of their ancestors and loved ones who had passed on—the kids *and* their teacher were so serious about the concept of life after death. We shared ghosts stories and no one was freaked out; they fully accepted that the realm of spirits and the realm of the living sometimes merge…amazing! That particular class was remarkable in another way: every month their teacher walks them over to Barnes & Noble and they BUY a book to read as a class! You know I have issues with books being given away for free to low-income kids; I think it’s important to develop book-buying habits, and this teacher has found the way! When I asked if she encountered any resistance from the mainly black and Latino parents, she laughed. “One child was sent with $100!” Where there’s a will, there’s a way…

Speaking of ancestors, another luminary from the kidlit community has sadly passed on. Leo Dillon, illustrator extraordinaire and partner to fellow illustrator Diane Dillon, made his transition a few days ago. I got to meet the Dillons at the 2010 A Is for Anansi conference at NYU. His legacy will live on in all the breathtakingly beautiful images he created with his wife over his lifetime. Rest in peace…

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…brave as winter roses…

I’ve been writing down bits of verse lately. Last month I went to the garden and saw a bright yellow rose named Obedience. That’s a haiku waiting to happen, right? But I couldn’t settle long enough to compose anything. Today in the garden I was contemplating the soft jade moss that grows between the cobblestones when I noticed that some rose bushes still have buds despite the chilly temperatures. Somehow that led to the above simile, though I don’t quite know where to place it. I thought of Genna and the sequel to Wish that I haven’t yet finished. I’m ready to start Nyla’s book, but that’s set in the summer. I wrote a grant for a book I want to write about my enslaved ancestors who bought their freedom and moved to Canada in 1820. And I’ve got an academic book—Magical Blackness—the proposal for which is due in January. So why have I spent the entire day planning yet another book set in the Caribbean? Last week I checked the price of a flight to Nevis and then last night I met Terry Boddie, a Nevisian artist who is part of “AQ/Art Quake,” an exhibit in Brooklyn designed to “honor Haiti’s history in artistic leadership, and address the impact of the January 12, 2010 earthquake.” I was at the gallery to see my friend Gabrielle Civil‘s performance art/installation—you can watch some of it here—but I knew Terry was part of the exhibit and hoped to have a chance to speak with him. I very rarely meet people from Nevis. At the post office last week a woman revealed herself to be Nevisian but she was “going postal” at the moment so I chose not to introduce myself. She wanted to cash a check and three postal workers turned her away from their window because it was almost closing time and they didn’t have enough cash on hand. She walked off muttering to herself (quite loudly) about how it was no wonder the postal service was facing bankruptcy. Then one black male clerk sent another customer after her; she came back to his window and handed him her check and ID but within seconds they started bickering…she claimed her taxes paid his salary; he insisted he paid more taxes than she did and then added, “And I was born here!” Which, understandably, set her off: “MY FATHER WAS BORN ON THE ISLAND WHERE THE FIRST TREASURY SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES, ALEXANDER HAMILTON, WAS BORN! I AM PROUD TO BE WEST INDIAN!”

So am I. But I’ve got a lot of digging to do and outside of my immediate family, the Caribbean people I encounter generally see buried roots as no roots at all—you’re a piece of flotsam adrift in the sea. But last night Terry talked about his connection to Nevis (where he spent the first fifteen years of his life) and how he sometimes uses hair in his work. “Because it’s in your DNA,” he said, “and your blood.” What binds us to a particular place? And what gives us the right to call that place “home”? For me, I had to spend time in Brooklyn; I had to watch the seasons change and become part of the history of this place. I wrote about Brooklyn before I moved here, but I couldn’t truly weave a compelling narrative until I knew the city intimately. I need to develop that kind of intimacy with Nevis, and meeting Terry last night gives me hope. To some, I will always be an outsider. But not to all. Maybe people from a small island are too accustomed to being dismissed to be dismissive themselves. Time to test the waters…

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In June, after attending the ChLA conference, I posted my paper here on the blog along with some of the photos I’d shown in my Powerpoint presentation. Yesterday something miraculous happened: a man who once attended college with my father wrote this email that sent my heart reeling. He has kindly given me permission to share it here on my blog. I know it likely won’t mean anything to those who never knew my father, but as Mr. Greene pointed out, others might come across this blog and find meaning in his memory of that place and time. What I’ve learned from this amazing encounter? Time passes. Love endures.

Hello Ms. Elliot:
Yes I knew your Father. I was not in the graduation picture you have in your blog because I am a few years younger than George. I have thought about things I would like to say to you and now that I am sending you this email I hardly know how to begin. So I’ll relate to you the things I remember about George. The first thing one noticed about George, besides his good looks, was his dignity. His bearing and graceful way he carried himself. Not once do I recall ever hearing him complain about anything, and he had much he could have griped about.
EPC [Eastern Pilgrim College] was racist to its core. Generations of ingrained racism that seemed absolutely normal to us whites at the time. And I my dear Lady was the worst of the worst. I was born in Mississippi. My family was Klan, and some knew about or participated in the murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Miss. in 1964. The year I first went to EPC,  I was vocal in my disrespect of black people. I was known on campus as THE racist. So why George chose me, out of all the guys at EPC to accompany him on his home calls to the projects and ghettoes of Allentown and Bethlehem, Pa. I did not know. But I went. He never preached to me. He never said anything to me about my racist views. What he did do was take me from apartment to apartment as he counseled with all of those poor desperately needy people. Most were single mothers with a lot of kids. George selflessly gave of his time and money to help as many as he could, and always sharing the Gospel. Ms. Elliot, he showed me people trapped in poverty with no hope for the future. No way out of their situations. And so we went from place to place and it was all the same, children going hungry, mothers trying to feed four or more kids on a few meagre food stamps, and no husband in sight to help out. He did more to change my attitude and perspective by quietly having me accompany him on his rounds than a thousand lectures ever could have.
But that’s not all he did. George did not follow the example of the people at EPC and limit himself to only helping black people. Because they were content with helping only the whites. He reached out to the white gang members in the projects. He worked with them. Talked their language. Arranged for them to play basketball. And took them to Church. Well, that opened up a whole can of worms because the good people of the Pilgrim Holiness Church in Bethlehem, Pa. were none too thrilled with all those rough ghetto kids attending their Church. That was the first time many of them had heard of Jesus Christ outside the context of a swear word.  But those good people started to murmur and complain, and soon those kids knew they were not welcome. And all the headway George had made with them was wiped away.
On campus, in the churches, and in the neighborhood George was surrounded by girls. White girls. Now just try to imagine being a handsome, healthy young man, and all those girls everywhere, and he can’t be with any of them. There was a young girl, I think she was a sophomore, and she was beautiful, and she did have a thing for George. It was obvious they liked each other. They became bold and began sitting with each other on the campus park benches just talking. But George knew he would never be allowed to take her out on a date to a concert or anything like the rest of us did. He would never get to hold hands with her, and God forbid if he ever actually got a goodnight’s kiss, like the rest of us did. There was no chance that they would have engaged in sex or immorality because they were Christians, with principles like every one else. But George was black and she was white and that’s all anyone could see. No sympathy to their plight at all. And I remember thinking what would be the harm? Wow, talk about me doing a 180 degree turn around.  But the tongues started wagging and George and the young lady got warned by the administration not to see each other any longer. And I thought that’s just not right. George is a good guy, and she’s a good girl.
In your blog you alluded to George going through a period when he became militant. I don’t know what happened to George after EPC. I got drafted in 1966 and I never saw him again. But down through the years I have thought about him. I just always thought he probably became a preacher. For if ever anyone had a pastor’s heart it was George Hood. In the late ’70s a black minister, one of two brothers, came down to our Church to preach. He was from Canada, and very soft spoken and eloquent. After one of the services I asked him if he knew George and he said yes he knew him very well. I asked him how he was doing and the minister said George was doing very well and active in the work of his church. I asked him to tell George hello for me and he said he would.
I for one would never blame him if he became bitter. Ms. Elliot, your Father gracefully endured more racism among and from his Christian brethren than most black people are ever exposed to. And he conducted himself with dignity and in doing so in the end he won. Because that college no longer exits. In fact the denomination no longer exists. It was merged with the Wesleyan Methodists.
I hope that I have in no way offended you. I said all of these things to you because sometimes children do not see the tough times their parents may have had. I wish I could see George again just so I could tell him how much I admired him.
Sincerely,
Tom Greene

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One of my goals in writing about black history is to ignite the imagination of urban kids—many of whom walk past historical monuments every day without understanding or appreciating their significance. Ship of Souls will come out next year and since the book is dedicated to my cousin Kodie (who lives in Canada), I decided to make a short film for him featuring all the sites mentioned in the story. Today I stopped by the African Burial Ground monument and was lucky to find Ranger Doug Massenberg on duty—I first met Ranger Doug a couple of years ago and had the privilege of taking his fantastic tour of lower Manhattan. His passion for African American history is evident—and contagious! I’m definitely sending my students here for an assignment; my college is just a few blocks away and yet I wonder how many students (and faculty members) have stopped to pay respect…if YOU haven’t visited the African Burial Ground museum and monument, put it on your bucket list now. It’s necessary viewing…

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