HOUSTON – A Houston-native author is tackling racism, privilege and empowerment in her new, debut novel.
Author J. Elle spoke to KPRC 2 about her book described as the 2018 film “The Hate U Give” meets DC’s “Wonder Woman” taking place in a “Black Panther” world. One of her goals is to bring back the same “pride as Black Panther did when it came out” in a book.
Titled “Wings of Ebony,” a “Most Anticipated Book for January 2021″ from Barnes & Noble, the story talks about a young Black teen demigoddess who fights racism, drugs and violence plaguing her neighborhood block, where her home neighborhood of Third Ward was inspired from.
Elle said she hopes her book can “inspire a movement and plant the seeds of change.”
From inspiration to publishing
Elle told KPRC 2 an image rooted in her mind brought her to the keyboard.
“Writing is like exercise, like I just sat there (at my desk) one morning and started drafting what came to mind,” she told KPRC 2. “But the main character’s voice, a Black, powerless teenage girl in a neighborhood like mine, came to me as an image in my head, standing over a body on the ground that was bleeding.”
Rooted to her imagination, Elle had completed the manuscript for “Wings of Ebony” in 35 days, proceeding to post a snippet of her story on Twitter. In just a matter of hours and even days, Elle received numerous publisher offers and caught the attention of several editors and book agents after her story went viral.
“I was in complete, utter shock,” she said. “To be able to tweet and have a publisher say ‘send me your idea now, I want to read it soon’ is a huge deal.”
After going through several offers, she stayed with one in particular: a Black editor who made a large, preempt offer to take her story in.
ICYMI I got a box yesterday & guess what was in it— J.Elle says buy WINGS OF EBONY, out now (@AuthorJ_Elle) January 15, 2021
Watch full clip https://t.co/l5oR6rDJBJ
PreOrder* NOW https://t.co/0QYM9IthEs
Your preorder is not only SIGNED but it automatically donates a copy to an inner city teen. #GiftWINGS #WritingCommunity pic.twitter.com/Y6a98vKhMS
With her book on the way, Elle developed a curriculum for the book for educators to use, especially for her neighborhood school, Jack Yates High. When she realized Title I schools do not have enough money to purchase books for students to read, she then started a book drive on Twitter.
She told KPRC 2 she donated books to the high school before, and with her new book launching next week, she wanted to make sure the book lands on each student’s hands.
“I wrote this book for kids, for anyone. My neighborhood lives in the pages of this book,” she told KPRC 2. “I hope I can start a conversation with this book because it is very Houston-centered. It brings up many real-life issues that may affect them. I don’t want money to be the reason it wasn’t.”
Elle wrote on her Twitter that any preordered books will not only be signed by her, but her publisher, Simon & Schuster will automatically donate a copy to an inner-city teen.
She hopes with her book now out to the world, she hopes to challenge teens and her readers to “spark tough conversations.”
“There’s always going to be commentary in my books,” she told KPRC 2. “So keeping it contemporary, grounding the setting to Houston, it allowed me to explore those topics directly and putting a twist to a fantastical story.”
“Wings of Ebony” will hit bookstores Jan. 26, just in time for Black History Month. She will be hosting a book launch event at Blue Willow Bookshop, located at 14532 Memorial at Dairy Ashford in West Houston, where registration is required prior to attending.