Publishers' Preview: Middle-Grade: Five Questions for B. B. Alston

This interview originally appeared in the January/February 2021 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Middle-Grade, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In Amari and the Night Brothers, Amari discovers that her brother isn’t really missing — he’s on an interdimensional mission. How can she help?

1. Which of your talents would get the boost, the way Amari gets her dormant magic upgraded?

I’ve thought about this a lot: I have a talent for reading really fast, so that skill would probably be enhanced to having the supernatural ability to touch any book and instantly know everything inside. Wouldn’t that be cool?

2. What’s your favorite thing that you had to leave out of your book?

I had to leave out so many fun things, otherwise the book might be a thousand pages! I think my favorites are all the fantastical departments that Amari didn’t get a chance to visit in the first book. Some of them are mentioned, but many would surprise you. Not to worry, though, readers will get to explore the mysterious Bureau of Supernatural Affairs even more in upcoming books.

3. Was there a portal to the fantastic in your childhood home?

Books were my portal to the fantastic. There were times when my family didn’t have much money, so maybe I couldn’t do as much as other kids. But that was okay, because I could crack open a book and be in another world or another time — or sometimes both.

4. What in your childhood reading made you the writer you are today?

The fantasy stories I read as a kid are a hundred percent responsible for my being the writer I am today. They made such a huge impact on me because they gave me permission to imagine what could be instead of focusing on what is. Books like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and later the Harry Potter series cemented my lifelong love for fantasy. Being able to write fantasy now, as an adult, is one of the great joys of my life.

5. For whom would you go into another world?

Amari and I are both willing to venture into the unknown for the sake of family. Honestly, I don’t think there is anything I wouldn’t do for them.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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