A few weeks ago I joined the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Readers, Writers and Reviewers Goodreads group, looking for some suggestions for new reading material, hoping to meet some fellow authors, and possibly do some review swapping. In my first week there, the featured author of the week was Angela Norton Tyler, author of Queen Mother. My interest was piqued, as this was a book I would most likely not have found on my own. I emailed Angela and asked for a review copy, which she quickly sent.
In the book, a young woman, expecting to marry the future king of her people, is instead kidnapped and sold into slavery. The prophecy of her ancestors follows her through the forest, past the slave market, across the ocean, and finally under its depths. In the underwater world of The Kingdom, she and her son learn a series of lessons, preparing him to rule. The only question is, where?
Angela’s previous work includes the non-fiction book, Tutor Your Child to Reading Success. Queen Mother is her first fiction novel. Her influences include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Of the latter, she explains, “This book was not only masterfully written, it opened MY eyes to the rich literary history of African-American women.”
I enjoyed the unique magical realism quality of this book. Even when it is seemingly mundane, as in the earlier sections, there are still hints of fantasy, echoed in the folktale flavor of the narrative. Although the main character, Nala, faces challenge after challenge, it is her choices that propel the fantastic events of the book, and her courage that sees her through the events not of her choosing.
Given her influences and this dream-like quality, I asked Angela if she had specific source material in mind when she sat down to write Queen Mother.
“I’ve always had vivid dreams, but the dream I had about The Kingdom one night in 2009 was particularly amazing,” said Angela. “I woke up, heart pounding, and I immediately scribbled the entire dream into a notebook. It goes without saying that slavery was an utter abomination, but the very idea of the Kingdom brought me such peace and a feeling of closure. It was a story I felt compelled to share.”
Queen Mother is a finely-crafted story, with an even, consistent authorial voice that is strong in tone throughout. The only complaint I had was that the story was not longer (I might categorize this as a novella, rather than a full-length novel.) The main character is complex, strong at times, faltering at others. I sat and read the entire work at one go, stopping only once not because I wanted to, but because the dogs needed to go out. Of course, I wanted to know if plans were in the works for more stories from The Kingdom.
In addition to working on revision to the first book in order to clear up some narrative questions, Angela is also working on a sequel.
“This is the #1 question that readers ask me (#2 is “Where did you come up with the idea of The Kingdom?),” explained Angela. “One woman made me promise that I would write a sequel! I told her not to worry. Matai is one awesome brother; there is NO WAY I wouldn’t tell the rest of his story!”
She is also working on a work of children’s fiction entitled Princess Brownie, “…about a princess and her family that live inside a terrarium.”
When I asked if she had anything to add, she replied, “Sometimes writing can be lonely. I’m always in my head- or inside my characters’ heads. I appreciate “talking” to real people about books and writing, even on the web!”
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Angela Norton Tyler is a former a literacy coordinator, teacher and educational consultant. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Wellesley College (MA) and a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Hollins University (VA). As a child, Angela was fascinated by isolated groups such as the Amish, leper colonies and cults and was drawn to magical worlds such as Oz. As an adult, Angela has chosen to create her dystopian worlds through writing and story-telling. A mother of two, Angela lives in northern California where she is usually trying to find time to write- or read- a book.