Brittney Morris | Slay
by Brittney Morris
By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man."
But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination."
Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?
September 24th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hi! My name is Brittney Morris, and my debut novel SLAY (out 9/24 from Simon Pulse) is about a Black teen game developer who creates a Wakanda-inspired virtual reality video game, and must duel a racist troll for the rights to it, using duel cards based on Black culture and Black history. It’s Ready Player One meets The Hate U Give!
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
I’ve been taking everything as it comes with minimal expectations, and when you have minimal expectations, nothing really surprises you. But I’m constantly overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the love and support from everyone – my agents and editors, my publicity team, everyone at the conventions and events I’ve been lucky enough to attend, and my readers, who are already freakin’ awesome. I can’t wait to meet even more of them.
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
Shout out to literary genius Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow! Fantasy isn’t even my favorite genre, and this book had. me. FLOORED.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote this book after seeing Black Panther. I left the theater wanting to immediately go back to Wakanda, and wishing someone would make a “Wakanda simulator” video game. Since I didn’t know how to make one, I decided to write a book about one instead, and voila! SLAY was born.
What was the hardest scene to write?
There’s a character in SLAY named Jaylen, who is transgender and closeted, in a living situation that’s less than ideal. It wasn’t technically hard to write the scene showing Jaylen’s experience with SLAY, but I did have to carefully consider how deeply engrained gender is in our culture, and the relationship and intersection of Blackness and gender identity. As a cishet woman, I wanted to make sure to honor Jaylen and the trans community properly, so this scene got extra careful consideration as I wrote and edited it.
What is your favorite word, and why?
I have three favorite words.
Synechdoche (a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa – i.e. I just got a new set of wheels)
Metathesis (the transposition of sounds or letters in a word – i.e. ‘aks’ for ‘ask’)
Tmesis (the separation of parts of a compound word by an intervening word or words, heard mainly in informal speech – i.e. “abso-frickin’-lutely” and “la-dee-frickin’-dah”)
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Oh my goodness – I feel so lucky to have so many author friends. Rosie Brown, Victoria Lee, Margaret Owen, Nic Stone, and so many others. They keep me grounded and remind me that I’m not alone in the mad whirlwind of publishing, especially during debut year. They remind me that there will be other books in my future, and that my career as a writer has plenty of time to grow. I love them so much!
Share a favorite recipe!
I’ve found the best pancake recipe in the world. They’re fluffy, they’re flavorful, and they’re easy to modify for your vegan friends (just swap out the egg for a banana, swap the butter for coconut oil, and the cow’s milk for almond or coconut.) Here it is! http://ohsweetbasil.com/melt-in-your-mouth-buttermilk-pancakes-recipe/
Share a music playlist!
Here’s the playlist I’m listening to as I work on my next WIP: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0Ksla4WfEuOy3ZEe5fkvRm?si=ZFnW-dYST-uscU-ATjTPfA
Share a favorite song!
My favorite song hasn’t changed since its release in 2006. It’s How to Save a Life by The Fray: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjVQ36NhbMk
Thanks for interviewing, Brittney! I'm so excited to read your book on 9/24/19!
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