We asked 2023 Texas Book Festival Author Ehigbor Okosun a few questions about herself and her featured Festival title Forged by Blood.
TBF: Why did you write your featured book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?)
EO: “All my life, I’ve loved reading. I didn’t have many toys growing up, but I was never in want for books–at the library, at school, the one or two my parents gifted me every year–books held special and precious places in my life. But so often, when I opened those pages, I saw characters who shared some of my personal characteristics or originated from one of my cultures were often caricatures at best and nonexistent at worst. So many fantastical and contemporary stories gave me hope, and helped me imagine how I could have a future beyond the difficulties of the post-colonial existence I’d been born into. But just as much as these stories lifted me up, they also often inflicted pain by refusing to acknowledge that people like me could exist within their worlds as whole, realized, complicated characters. So, when I set out to write Forged By Blood, I remembered that feeling. I wanted people to pick up this book and see themselves in ways they might not have had the opportunity to before–to be complicated, multi-faceted people dealing with questions of power and empire and whether peace was possible in a world governed by chaos and hatred. I also wanted to pay homage to the wealth of mythology stories I’d grown up with and to honour their legacy in my life as something to be proud of rather than shy away from.”
TBF: What is the last book you read, loved, and can’t stop recommending? What did you love about it?
EO: “I’ll cheat and talk about two books. The first last book I read was a re-read! Shirlene Obuobi’s On Rotation is a smart, lovely and heartfelt women’s fiction novel about a young medical resident navigating friendship, love, and her identity as a first generation Ghanian American. Loved it. The second last book was Moniquill Blackgoose’s To Shape A Dragon’s Breath–a fantastic novel about an Indigenous young woman who is working to raise a dragon amidst the people who colonized her people’s lands. I’ll cheat again and add S.L. Huang’s The Water Outlaws because it is a gender-bent love story to one of the four great Chinese novels, The Water Margin. S.L. gives you two varied female main characters who grapple with questions of morality, power matrices, and privileges. She also gives you two villains who inspire fear and excitement. Have I tempted you enough?”
TBF: What’s the first book you remember reading and who gave it to you? What inspired your love of reading / writing?
EO: “The first book I ever read was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My dad gave it to me when I was 2. The play that got me writing though was Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I read that at 7 and fell in love with writing and the idea that I could write.”
Ehigbor Okosun, or just Ehi, is an Austin-based author who writes speculative fiction, mystery thrillers, and contemporary novels for adult and YA audiences. Raised across four continents, she hopes to do justice to the myths and traditions she grew up steeped in, and honor her large, multiracial, and multiethnic family. She is a graduate of the University of Texas with degrees in Plan II Honors, Neurolinguistics, and English, as well as Chemistry and Pre-Medical studies, and is a Cynthia Leitich Smith Mentorship Award finalist. When she’s not reading, you can catch her bullet journalling, gaming, baking, and spending time with her loved ones. Forged By Blood, out on 8.8.23, is her debut novel. You can see Okosun at the 2023 Texas Book Festival this November 11–12!