LaDarrion Williams Debuts Groundbreaking YA Fantasy Novel 'Blood at the Root'

LaDarrion Williams releases his debut novel "Blood at the Root", a fantasy story about a Black boy with magical powers at a historically Black college. The book, born from a viral tweet, provides representation for underrepresented communities and marks a milestone in Williams' career.

Waqas Arain
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LaDarrion Williams Debuts Groundbreaking YA Fantasy Novel 'Blood at the Root'

LaDarrion Williams Debuts Groundbreaking YA Fantasy Novel 'Blood at the Root'

LaDarrion Williams, a self-taught playwright, filmmaker, and screenwriter from Helena, Alabama, releases his highly anticipated debut novel, "Blood at the Root," today. The book, the first in a three-book deal, introduces readers to Malik, a 17-year-old Black boy with magical powers who attends Caiman University, a historically Black college or university (HBCU) with a "Blackgical culture" and a magic program.

The idea for "Blood at the Root" started from a viral tweet Williams posted in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, expressing his frustration with the lack of diversity in the fantasy genre. He posed a thought-provoking question: "What if Harry Potter went to an HBCU in the South?" This tweet sparked an online dialogue and motivated Williams to further develop the concept.

Growing up, Williams felt unseen and unrepresented in popular fantasy stories. "Growing up, I watched 'Twilight,' I watched 'Hunger Games' and 'Divergent' and 'Percy Jackson,' which is one of my favorite books. I didn't see myself in those stories, and I didn't feel seen by them," Williams shares. He aims to create a character that reflects his own experiences and provides representation for underrepresented communities.

Initially written as a TV pilot, Williams struggled to secure meetings with production companies and studios, leading him to fall into a deep depression. A friend suggested turning the idea into a book, which Williams initially doubted on account of the civil unrest at the time. Despite multiple rejections from publishers, including one on his birthday in December 2022, Williams persevered and secured a three-book deal in late January 2023.

"Blood at the Root" follows Malik's coming-of-age journey as he explores friendships and connections with his family and ancestry at Caiman University. "I wanted to create a Black boy from Helena, Alabama, which is where I'm from, who has cool magical powers. It's a coming-of-age story about a 17-year-old who gets to attend this really cool school,"Williams explains.

Williams was adamant about featuring a Black boy on the book cover, depicting the character in a hoodie to challenge the criminalization of Black boys in hoodies. Despite initial resistance, he eventually got his way. "I got what I wanted. I was a little bold, but it's all right," Williams states.

The release of "Blood at the Root" marks a significant milestone in Williams' career, offering a fresh perspective on the fantasy genre and providing much-needed representation for Black readers. Talks of adapting the novel into a TV series are already underway, with Williams hoping to recreate the buzz and fandom of movies like "Twilight" and "Black Panther."

"I remember going to watch Twilight as a 6-foot-3 Black kid in Alabama. It was such a cool era to go to the movies and be in this fandom and meet other people that you would never meet. I want to recreate that moment when Black Panther dropped," Williams shares, expressing his desire to create a similar experience for Black kids with his own work.

As "Blood at the Root" hits bookshelves, it introduces a compelling new voice in the fantasy genre and serves as a powerful example of the impact of representation and diverse storytelling. LaDarrion Williams' path from a viral tweet to a published author inspires aspiring writers everywhere, proving that perseverance and a compelling vision can bring dreams to life and make a meaningful impact on readers.

Key Takeaways

  • LaDarrion Williams releases debut novel "Blood at the Root", a fantasy story set at a historically Black college.
  • The book idea started from a 2020 viral tweet questioning the lack of diversity in fantasy.
  • Williams aims to provide representation for underrepresented communities in fantasy stories.
  • The novel follows 17-year-old Malik's coming-of-age journey at Caiman University.
  • Williams hopes to adapt the novel into a TV series, recreating the fandom of "Twilight" and "Black Panther".