BGC Author Spotlight: Tracey Baptiste, "The Jumbie God's Revenge"

Black Girls Create got to speak with author Tracey Baptiste, who wrote The Jumbie God’s Revenge, the last novel in the popular middle grade series beginning with The Jumbies and Rise of the Jumbies. The series follows Corinne La Mer as she uses her latent, but ancient, magical powers to save her island home from jumbies, dangerous storms, and vengeful gods.

Check out our chat and get the book, which comes out September 3. Get The Jumbies and Rise of the Jumbies on Amazon, at your favorite indie retailer, or check them out at your local library.

Tracey Baptiste, Credit: Latifah Abdur Photography

Tracey Baptiste, Credit: Latifah Abdur Photography

How did you write THE JUMBIE GOD’S REVENGE? All at once, or did you outline the story? 

I didn't think I had a 3rd Jumbies book in me when Elise Howard, my publisher, asked me for one. And I was working on two other books at the time. So I started writing down little ideas on post-it notes and sticking them on the wall in my office. Eventually, I had enough little ideas that I could see how the whole thing would come together. I outlined the story, something I usually don't do, and then I started writing.

What were some surprises (good or bad) in creating a trilogy? 

This wasn't intended to be a trilogy. It has expanded by single books every time. Who knows where it will end at this point? The great part was that people wanted more and more jumbies, and if I had thought of a series at the beginning, I definitely would not have come up with the ideas that I did under pressure. The difficult part was that because I didn't intended for it to be a series there were things I didn't set up in the first novel which made things hard in book 2 and then book 3.

What gave you the idea for the series, and for how the story develops in THE JUMBIE GOD’S REVENGE in particular? 

I originally thought I wanted a series, but then it wasn't bought as a series, so every book has had to develop on its own. The good news with that is that a reader could pick up any book in the series and start there. The idea for the jumbie god came while I was watching the awful hurricane season in 2017 and how it was devastating Caribbean nations. The Weather Channel mentioned a Carib god called Huracan. The Caribs are the indigenous people in Trinidad where I grew up. That was the very first thing I wrote on a post-it that went on my wall.

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Do you have a favorite scene, quote, or moment from THE JUMBIE GOD’S REVENGE

The moment that Corinne comes into her full jumbie powers when she is up in the mountains and goes to the fire to have a chat with Papa Bois is easily my favorite. It's powerful and surprising and also a little bit gross.

If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

That it has to be treated like any other skill. It takes time and patience and courage, but it also needs to be nurtured. I'd remind myself to be gentle. I went to Catholic all girl schools my whole life, so being gentle was never on the menu.

What are you currently reading? What’s in your TBR pile? 

Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli (I read at least one physics book a year), Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly, Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby, Ancient West African Kingdoms: Ghana, Mali, & Songhai by Mary Quigley (for research for a nonfiction book I'm writing), An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and quite a few others for both research and pleasure.

Do you write to music? If so, what were you listening to while you wrote THE JUMBIE GOD’S REVENGE

I find it too distracting to write to music, but I often take dance breaks where my assistant Barkley and I let off steam in between long writing sessions. My music choices for dance sessions are pretty eclectic. It could be anything from classical to pop to rock. Barkley is quite fond of Motown, but he is a terrible dancer. Two left feet. Two right ones, too.

what is a thing you learned while creating this series?

Sometimes it's good to just let the field go fallow for a while. Creativity needs a break sometimes so you can get creative again. 

Do you have any advice for Black women creators?

Find your people. There are a lot of obstacles to being a Black creative, so it's really important to find groups that support you. Go where you are celebrated. Don't stay where you are simply tolerated.

Tracey Baptiste is a New York Times bestselling author who grew up in Trinidad and Tobago on jumbie stories and fairy tales. Moving to the United States at fifteen was one of the hardest and most exciting times of her life. Tracey is a former elementary teacher and editor. She writes everything from picture books to middle grade and young adult novels, both fiction and nonfiction. She currently teaches at Lesley University’s MFA program in Creative Writing. You can find her online at traceybaptiste.wordpress.com and on Twitter: @TraceyBaptiste.