March of the Sequels: Tatiana Obey
My name is Tatiana Obey.
I am the author, the dreamer, the adventurer. I wander landscapes absent of bounds—limitless—unfettered. I am the mountains I climb, and the valleys I overcame. Every new face carves deeper depths, and no roads are ever the same. Not all who wander are lost, for cookie crumbs baked with love always lead home.
I am that four-hour drive between Dallas and Houston, and the slurpee heat of the summer sun. I am the jambalaya mix of unapologetic blackness. I am the big sister of magic and joy. My bones are blessings and curls are of grace.
I kick. I dance. I walk. I write.
I am the storyteller. Welcome. To my worlds.
First of all, tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel(s).
A Forging of Age duology is a coming-of-age desert fantasy that follows the journey of three teenagers as they complete a dangerous rite of passage to earn the right to consider themselves adults. The series is full of adventure, humor, and dragons. Most of all, though, it’s a coming-of-age story that spotlights coming-of-age experiences rarely portrayed in fantasy or traditional publishing. The first novel, Bones to the Wind, was published in March 2022 and the sequel, Dragon Your Bones, was published in November 2022. And yes! I successfully managed to publish the entire duology within the space of a year.
Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
Honestly, I am uncertain how many readers who have read the first book, have also read the second book. All I have are numbers. I know that 30% of readers who have bought the first book, have also bought the second. But how many of those readers who have bought the first book and then read it to continue on to the second? I don’t know. I know that 42% of readers who have rated the first book on Goodreads, have also rated the second. But not all readers use Goodreads or leave ratings on books that they have finished. I know the reviews for the sequel are generally positive, well . . . except for those readers who are distraught by the ending. Lol. But even those readers generally demand for me to write more books. Are these numbers good? I don’t know. These numbers could very well mean nothing at all or could be more indicative of successful marketing strategies. If your marketing tactics have successfully captured your target audience, then there is a higher likelihood that they’ll enjoy the first book and move on to the second.
How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
It was very easy. Just kidding! In truth, I cheated. I wrote the entirety of A Forging of Age Duology as one large story. Because I already had the entire series written out, I knew exactly which characters needed to be introduced at the beginning that would come back in the latter half.
Although, I admit, this approach does have its own set of pros and cons. Paying for line editing, copyediting, and proofreading can often be costly, especially for big fantasy epics, as you often pay by the word. I didn’t have the money to afford these services for a 300,000 word epic, so I decided to split the story in half and publish it as two separate books. This is why I published both books within a year. Although the first book does end with the primary conflict resolved, there are still a few outstanding plot threads that I think have affected the readers’ enjoyment of the book. Frankly, the sales of book one directly supported the production of book two. I would not have been able to publish this story at all if I hadn’t made this decision, and I truly thank those readers who have granted me grace, understanding, and patience. I hope all your questions were answered in the sequel.
Is it difficult to continue with worldbuilding for a world you have already built in book 1? Do you find it easier to switch locations for the sequel and start again with worldbuilding?
As I mentioned previously, I initially wrote the entire series as one large novel. In the first book, the protagonists are in the desert completing their rite of passage. In the second book, they have now returned home and are dealing with the fallout from their experiences. It was a lot of fun seeding some of the worldbuilding elements in the first half of the narrative that I knew would feature as a large part in the second half.
That being said, readers have demanded more stories in this world, and I have listened! I am planning a few standalone novels that follow one of the protagonists. It will switch locations, not because of any worldbuilding decision, but because I get bored easily and I can’t imagine sticking to one place for multiple books on end.
If I’m correct, you are currently working on a new novel, could you tell us a little bit more about it?
Gladly! I am currently working on a novella titled, Sistah Samurai. It is an homage to the anime, Afro Samurai, while centering black women at the forefront of its narrative. Afro Samurai was an explosive addition to the landscape of black nerdom, and the anime’s legacy was all the more legitimized by the involvement of Samuel L. Jackson and RZA. But for all of the anime’s influence on a very niche subgenre, there were barely any black women present at all. In fact, there was significant pushback from US Funimation against expanding the role of the only black woman with a speaking line in the entire series, which is well documented in the Special Edition Director’s Cut of Resurrection. Imagine that bullshit. We, black girl nerds, deserve to be represented too.
While my novels aim to be expansive in their representation, my novellas will have a very specific audience in mind. This novella gleefully eschews the white gaze that many books by black authors are forced to adhere to if they choose traditional publishing. Sistah Samurai is for those black girls who grew up watching anime, who weren’t often welcomed in nerd spaces, and whose nerdy interests were often met with bullying and gatekeeping. This is my safe space to you.
You organized from your accounts this February a celebration of Black History Month. Could you expand a little about it?
Black History Month began as a way to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans to American History. Since then, Black History Month has also been adopted by Canada and the UK, and with the proliferation of social media, the month has been embraced to celebrate the accomplishments of the Black diaspora all around the world.
While it is important to study Black history all year long, February has become an opportunity for unapologetic celebration. It is often a time for self-education, self-reflection, and an opportunity to raise the visibility of narratives that have long been ignored by the mainstream. True to this spirit, to celebrate Black History Month this year, I decided to highlight and uplift Black indie fantasy authors. There is a mistaken assumption that Black History Month is solely about celebrating historical achievements. History is made every day.
It is also important to acknowledge those who are making history in the present. I decided to focus on Black indie fantasy authors for the following three reasons:
1. I discovered that the mainstream indie fantasy community regularly mentions the same black authors. There are several reasons for this. Black indie authors can often get stuck in bubbles created by social media algorithms and therefore, are rarely discovered by the mainstream or it takes a significant amount of time to do so without concerted effort. Black indie authors are also less willing to engage with the mainstream indie community because they often feel unwelcomed and that there is less of an interest in their work. In addition, many Black indie authors turn to self-publishing because of rejection by the traditional publishing industry, and not everyone is a savvy marketer. There are a lot of great books that go undiscovered because they have the wrong title and the wrong cover. I wanted to use Black History Month to highlight the fact that there are black indie fantasy authors writing in every fantasy subgenre that you could imagine.
2. A majority of my readers come from traditionally published books, and I have been previously asked for recommendations regarding diverse indie fantasy books and indie books by Black authors. I wanted to use this month to become more knowledgeable of my peers and their work. My books are not for everyone, but I still would like to recommend a book to my readers based on their likes and preferred genre.
3. It is another mistaken assumption that Black History Month should only be dedicated to non-fiction titles, but it can be equally as impactful to support books within a genre that you actually enjoy reading, for you are more likely to continue to engage and support the author throughout their career. Deconstructing history is an important education that never ends, but it is also important to support the stories where Black people are capable of magic, too. Our dreams and our creativity are just as important as our history and our struggles.
If you would like recommendations for where to start with black indie fantasy authors, my DMs are always open. In addition, the Melanin Library (https://melaninlibrary.com/) is a great resource that includes books by both trad & indie Black authors.
Have you ever been stymied by a worldbuilding or plot detail from book 1 that is very inconvenient to deal with or write your way around in subsequent books?
I have been stymied by an inconvenient plot detail in books that I have shelved, which will hopefully never see the light of day. I was thankfully able to avoid this issue with the duology since I wrote it all at once and I enjoyed the ability to weave worldbuilding details throughout the narrative. When I am ready to write another series, I am tempted to write it all out before publishing to avoid this problem. Only time will tell how that goes…
Would you say your craft has improved with the subsequent books?
I don’t know if I can properly answer this question at this stage of my career. Thus far, A Forging of Age duology and Sistah Samurai have been completely two different animals to write about. I wanted to write Sistah Samurai as a break from complicated and layered epic fantasies, and quite honestly, it has been one of the easiest books I have ever written. I’ve lived in Japan, I graduated college with a degree focused on Asian Studies, and I know this specific subgenre like the back of my hand. I didn’t need to do much research other than a refresher on my kanji. This is the first time a book has just flowed out of me. With A Forging of Age Duology, on the other hand, I enjoy intentionally challenging not only the reader, but also myself. It was a challenge to write. In sum, these are two extremely different books, and I don’t know how the craft has informed one from the other.
Do you have all the timeline planned for the full series?
I barely have the timeline planned for the novella! I have no idea of the release date yet. Now that I have published two books and have experienced everything from cover artist delays to print delays, I have learned to embrace the chaos. You’ll know when I know. Lol.
Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
I knew that marketing for book two would be tough. The audience for the second book is limited to those who have read the first book, so simultaneously you need to market the second book while also marketing the first book to expand that overall readership. I had a limited marketing budget and I had to figure out what strategies would be most effective to reach my target audience. I consider my target audience to be those readers who regularly devour books by diverse authors. I wanted to do a book tour, but many didn’t cater to my target audience and they tended to be pricey for a beginning author, so I essentially decided to organize one myself.
I put out a call on Instagram, where most of my readership are located, and invited reviewers to join my Street Team. I had a Street Team of about 20 people and by the end, 80% of the Street Team reviewed the second book. For those who couldn’t review the book for various reasons, they still helped me with the marketing and promotion. For example: They helped me with the cover reveal, the preorder announcements, the giveaway announcements, and they helped to boost the book on release day. All of these reviewers represented my target audience and I got the chance to create personal relationships with all of them. It was an amazing experience. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the time to do something like that again, but I’ve walked away with several people that I consider my friends. If you are looking to diversify your readership, you should follow diverse book reviewers and see what they’re reading, engage with their content, and most importantly, prioritize them. I am forever grateful to those who answered the call and joined me on this adventure.