Name: Kamilah Cole
What you Write: YA Fantasy
Agent: Emily Forney
Why BookEnds? In addition to representing some of my favorite authors and one of my friends, BookEnds Lit has a warm, welcoming, almost familial-vibe that made me feel at home right away. My agent, Emily Forney, is a fellow WOC who understands my work on a deep level, and from that very first call I not only connected with her vision but with her thought processes and taste in pop culture. It was like talking to a new best friend with the drive, skills, resources, and training to help me get my books out in the world!
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I’m extremely organized, so I take a very rigid approach to drafting. I choose a target word count based on genre conventions, then handwrite a 1,000 word a day schedule that will get me to that word count. To repeat: I handwrite a schedule, one that simply lists the date and what the word count should be by that date! I’m not handwriting 1,000 words a day! Once I get in the range of the projected word count, the story might end up shorter or longer, but it’s so satisfying to hit the next word count market and check it off the schedule like a to-do list!
How did you know your book was ready to submit?
It took me two years to write this novel, and I rewrote it from scratch thirty-eight times during that period. And then revised it three times, incorporating my own thoughts for edits as well as CP and beta notes. And that’s how I knew it was ready. Two years and thirty-eight tries and I still loved the story as much as I did the first time I tried to draft it. I’d never had that feeling with a work in progress before, and it’s just important to me to let people know that the story you can’t stop thinking about but can’t get right or finish is worth it, even if you have to revise a bunch of times OR quit and work on something else until you’re ready to get back to it. I’m a much better writer now than I was when I first started my book, and I’m glad this is the version that my agent got to see in the end.
What do you love about writing young adult or fantasy or both?
My teenage years are where I really became hungry for stories that felt true to me, that made me feel seen, or that helped me navigate the emotions I was too insecure or awkward to say out loud. So that’s the age group I most love to speak to, in the hopes that my stories help them on their journeys to figure out, for the first time, who they are independent of their families and in relation to their friends and the world around them. I want to write the sort of stories I lacked, and I want future generations of Black girls to never know a world where they were excluded from those stories.
In addition, fantasy has always been my favorite genre. Believing there’s magic in the world waiting for me to find it — and that injustices and evil villains that can be fought or overcome — provided a perfect escape from the struggles and microaggressions I lived with every day. I love to write worlds where people who look like me are the heroes, are having the adventures, and have different problems than I do.
What is the hardest part about writing fantasy?
Worldbuilding, which is also paradoxically my favorite part. I love creating new worlds, governments, and magic systems, etc, but, as a BIPOC, I am always conscious of the fact that our cultures have been used as window dressing for “exotic” (a word I despise) locations in many fantasy novels in the past. “It’s fiction!” is no excuse for causing harm to already marginalized groups even while trying to make sure your secondary world is inclusive. So I am always trying to navigate that in as thoughtful and careful a way as possible, and aware that there may well come a time I get it wrong despite my best intentions.
Do you belong to any writing organizations?
I am a member of three writing groups: the Finer Things Club, Raiders of the Lost Drafts, and the Cool Kids Table. I cannot imagine having gotten this far without the support, resources, love, and advice I’ve gotten from them all at various stages, and I already have my fingers crossed that all the wonderful people in those groups will achieve all of their writing dreams!
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
I am most active on Twitter, where you can find me at @wordsiren, usually screaming about other people’s writing, Zendaya doing anything, and the latest Marvel movie. I’m currently working on getting a website up, and developing content for my currently empty Instagram (@wordsirena).