The Nameless Republic fantasy trilogy signed to Orbit: A prelude

So, the news is out. Orbit (Hachette Book Group US) has acquired my fantasy novel trilogy inspired by an amalgam of West African middle-age empires. You probably saw me squee about it all over on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Here, though, I want to talk about The Nameless Republic itself for a bit, about what it is, and about the time before this unwieldy thing even had a name.

The journey to Oon

*Which you may not care to know, so skip to next header if that’s the case!

I started this story during my first ever NaNoWriMo in 2016. I didn’t write up to 50K words, and I dumped it mid-month because I only had time to write short stories alongside my day job. But that was mostly an excuse; the truth was that I felt ill-equipped to handle the kind of story I wanted to tell.

I did have a clear idea of what I wanted this story not to be: not another fantasy novel about some dude running about trying to save everything/everyone, and not another fantasy novel that’s more notable for the fact that it’s African-inspired than for its story-wise or craft-wise positives. I wanted to tell the manner of story only I could tell, and to do that, I needed time to get to know myself as an author, to know what engines the story needed to run on. So I trunked the half-finished manuscript, and all was soon forgotten in the dark corners of my Drive.

Enter 2018. I had just made a good amount of life changes: got married, left my tasking day job, published a number of short stories, completed one novel (David Mogo, Godhunter, which I sold) and inserted myself into the SFF community somewhat. I’d also attended Milford, as well as gotten into an MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. I felt good.

So, I knew it was time to write something new. I looked in my trunk, and there was my forgotten manuscript. Gah. What a gift.

Or, so I thought.

On my first read, I was like: “Nope. This won’t cut it.”

Friend, when I tell you it was a wreck! I found myself questioning literally every aspect of what I had written, from character motivations (“Why is this character so dumb?“) to conflict and tension (“Nothing even happens in this scene, smh”). So I stripped it down to its bare bones–my three to five main characters + world–and started from scratch.

I have not looked back since.

What you’ll see in the [yet unnamed] first novel is the result of countless iterations. I basically picked everything I ever thought this story could be apart, poked holes and refilled them. I asked countless questions about its protagonists and villains, about the world, about the point-of-view; even about its genre (I initially thought it to be a YA novel, lol, but it def is not, so please don’t add me to YA lists, thank you!).

What it is

Basically, The Nameless Republic series follows a novitiate scholar–a jali, what most people know as griots–from the most renowned university in the biggest city on the continent of Oon: the University of Bassa. He is also betrothed to someone influential. But then a young woman who isn’t supposed to exist shows up in his barn, questions resurface about his personal history and that of Bassa, and everything in his life goes haywire from there.

Orbit lists what I’m most excited about for the series, so you could go look at that to see what to expect!

What it isn’t

The question I’ve been asked the most since the announcement is: “Ooh, what West African empires? Ghana? Dahomey? Mali? Songhai? Benin? Ife? Tells ussss!” *in Smeagol’s voice* My answer remains the same: None of them.

Oon, the world/continent, and Bassa, the city where most things happen, are only inspired by a lot of the history I have from West African empires of the middle ages. Key word, inspired. My aim is not to represent the totality of any experience. I’m very cognizant, as an African and a person of colour in fantasy, that our work could easily be whittled down to a representation of our true history (it is definitely not). I drew from every empire I knew/could–Benin (where I’m from), Ghana, Mali, Songhai, the likes. Even an element or two from Great Zimbabwe and from Xhosa lore. All of this makes Oon its own thing. If you come into these books seeking alignment with West African history, I’m sorry to disappoint you, lol.

How can you keep up?

Three ways:

  1. I write a monthly newsletter where I offer the roundups on my WIPs and anything you might’ve missed that’s coming from me. Sometimes, I write special issues with tips & tricks, writing/general professional advice, and exclusive newsletter-subscribers-only giveaways. There will be likely more Nameless updates on here than social media. I have a new letter forthcoming in a few weeks, so you should sign up now if you want to catch it.
  2. Social media. Twitter is where I’m most engaging; Facebook is more news-y/update-y, while Instagram is, well, photos. Choose your fighter, lol.
  3. My Street Squad: This is for those who are most interested in keeping a very close eye on things, e.g. book bloggers, reviewers, journalists, etc. I run a private street squad where I offer very exclusive information to a select group of people (I call them my squadron, lol) about my work, alongside some other privileges like the option to read my books before they go to press. It is invite-only, so kindly complete this form if you’re interested!

Looking forward to Summer 2021!

– Suyi.

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