4 min read

Finding My Way Back To Places I’ve Never Been

A Guest Feature by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Finding My Way Back To Places I’ve Never Been
Photo by Manuel Ruiz

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is an award-winning author of fantasy, science fiction and general speculative work. He has published various novels for adults, the latest of which are Warrior of the Wind and Son of the Stormboth of The Nameless Republic epic fantasy trilogy—and the forthcoming Lost Ark Dreaming. His debut novel, David Mogo, Godhunter, won the 2020 Nommo Award for Best Novel. His shorter works have appeared in various periodicals and anthologies and have been nominated for various awards. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, and lives in Ontario, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @suyidavies, or via his newsletter, SuyiAfterFive.com.

Writing the second novel in a trilogy is hard.

Everything they say about it is true. Not only do you have to meet the expectations of the first novel and up the ante, you also need more of everything to get the work going. More inertia to start things, to return to the story world, to recall each character and their motivation. Just the very act of clearing out your Scrivener file and word count log to begin fresh ones is like, Whoa! You mean I have to fill these up again?

Now, imagine all this, but smack dab in the middle of a pandemic, and while the world is on fire because people exist who believe that those who look like you don’t matter. Obsessively washing your hands, worrying about catching a deadly virus in a foreign country miles away from your family you’ve left in Nigeria. And between intermittent grocery runs through empty streets, on a bike you were forced to buy and learn to ride in a few days, you wonder: Does any of this even matter, what I’m doing?

I’m here to tell you, Past Me, that if you look past the fog of fear and despair and uncertainty of the time—the answer is a resounding yes.

To get to this answer, though, you must first return to a few places and re-immerse yourself in the why of your telling. To Bassa, the imagined city-state hewn from your own Benin City, in which you were raised for your first twenty-some years but never saw its riches, its ancient history and thriving past, unfortunately obliterated by imperialist urges. To Oon, the fictional unicontinent in whose imagining you discovered new angles to not just the ancient Benin Empire of the middle ages, but also other empires that existed in West Africa and other parts of the continent at the time, bearing similar epics and legends of their prowess and achievements. Back to the moment when the desire to write this story was first sparked; when, upon returning to Benin City after almost a decade away, you stumble upon a statue you’ve walked past many times but whose nameplate you’ve never read; and upon pausing to wipe the grime off the plate, a portal to a magical world beyond is suddenly opened, and you realise that this is no longer the city you once knew; here is something bigger, wider, epic, and you must tell the whole world about it.

You will return to all the places you’ve never been but always loved—to their breathtaking mountainscapes and intricate cities, their fearsome beasts and magical lore; their mismatched bands surviving through the toughest odds, wielding weapon and passionate wordplay both. To Middle Earth, to the Patternist, to the Stillness, to Janloon. And when you come up for breath, the real world will have a different tilt and shine to it, and you will know, now, why your story matters. You will understand that for others to sink into your world the same way, you will first have to create it, and unfortunately that means getting your butt in chair and hands on keyboard.

So while the fires of the world rage, you rage against them by writing: the first tale, but also the second, and other tales after, if only to keep this portal open, so others like you may one day find it and slip through.

Warrior of the Wind by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

There is no peace in the season of the Red Emperor.

Traumatized by their escape from Bassa, Lilong and Danso have found safety in a vagabond colony on the edge of the emperor’s control. But time is running out on their refuge. A new bounty makes every person a threat, and whispers of magic have roused those eager for their own power.

Lilong is determined to return the Diwi—the ibor heirloom—to her people. It’s the only way to keep it safe from Esheme’s insatiable desire. The journey home will be long, filled with twists and treachery, unexpected allies and fabled enemies.

But surviving the journey is the least of their problems.

Something ancient and uncontrollable awakens. Trouble heads for Bassa, and the continent of Oon will need more than ibor to fix what's coming.

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