No publisher’s perfect, but I find there’s a lot to love about my relationship with AmazonEncore. Now that we’re ready to move forward with Ship of Souls, I’ve been asked to complete a questionnaire that will help them edit, promote, and design the book. Here’s a sampling of the questions:
Describe the target audience, by factors such as age group, interests, education, gender, etc.
Teens (12+), all genders, African Americans, New Yorkers, Revolutionary War enthusiasts, urban fantasy fans
Please provide a brief summary of the book.
When 11-year-old Dmitri (“D”) loses his mother to breast cancer, he finds himself taken in by an elderly white woman, Mrs. Martin. Fighting against a feeling of invisibility at home and at school, D finds his situation improving when he is asked to tutor a basketball star in the 8th grade. Hakeem (Keem) wants to impress a beautiful girl, Nyla, who’s somewhat on the fringe, and her interest in D draws the three together.
D loves to watch birds and, while in the park, is amazed to find an injured bird that can talk. He takes it home and soon learns there are malevolent forces inhabiting the region beneath Prospect Park and they are hunting for the bird; Nuru is a life force that has been kept hostage by the earthbound spirits who are ghosts of soldiers that died in the Revolutionary War. Nuru’s mission is to guide the ship that will carry the souls of the dead back to her realm. D has been chosen as Nuru’s host, and must carry the bird from Brooklyn to the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan where the dead await deliverance.
What was the inspiration for this book?
For years I’ve passed a boulder in Prospect Park that marks the site of historic Battle Pass; I often wondered what would happen if a boy discovered that after midnight, the plaque on the boulder opened like a door and led him underground. This past fall I found two cowrie shells on the sidewalk near my home and around the same time I learned that an 18th-century ship had been found at Ground Zero. While walking past the park one day, I heard a rustling in the leaves on the ground and suddenly saw three teens battling against a force that was trying to drag one of them underground…and Ship of Souls was born.
How is this book different from others of the same genre?
It’s an urban fantasy that features three black teens—one is Muslim, one’s an orphan, and one is an Afro-punk girl who was raised on a military base in Germany. It’s contemporary but also incorporates NYC history.
Describe ideas that should be captured on the book’s cover. Please be as specific as possible, including elements such as any particular color(s) or types of imagery.
A group of teens in an underground tunnel; the youngest is in front with his upheld hand radiating light. The white ghost teen should be close, but turned away from the light. I like the idea of a comic book/superhero look, but dark (not cartoonish) to match the mood of the story.