The young novelist’s bestseller explains how she became a writer and what reading and storytelling mean to her.
Author of the New York Times bestseller, “Predatory Beasts”
Ayana Gray, 29-year-old author of the New York Times bestseller novel for young people “Predatory beasts”Knows the meaning of the story. She knows this may seem trivial, but books and stories were her retreat even before she became old enough to read.
“I think I’ve been a writer my whole life,” Gray says. “I clearly remember trying to tell stories through illustrations before I knew how to write, and I was very upset that my family members couldn’t understand what I was trying to tell. I realized that I needed words. ” She explains that her authoring career began when she was about eight years old, when she wrote stories about her friends on the family desktop computer. “I wrote in school, and it was always something I went to as a fun place to go and give free rein to my imagination.”
Discovering new worlds
Books are often described, especially to children, as a way to discover new worlds – and this was certainly true for Gray. “There was a period of my childhood when my family moved quite a bit and I was a new child for five years in a row,” she explains. “School is hard; finding friends is hard. So for a while, books were a constant thing in my life. ” She adds: “I may be saying this funny, but the books were my friends. They were the ones who came with me, no matter what city I lived in. ”
Gray’s love of reading and storytelling did not leave her when she grew up. Her favorite books not only became friends when she was in school, but her love of literature also helped her build new friendships and connections with others who love books just as much as she does.
Now Gray’s own books connect people around the world. Gray notes that books can foster empathy, which is why diversity in literature and media is so important. “It’s very important for children not only to see themselves in different roles and see themselves as heroes, but also to see many different people as heroes,” she says. “I think storytelling is how we connect with each other and how we create empathy for each other. The more accessibility we can create, the better. ”
Gray never wants to preach, she says, but she does hopes the children who read her books will pick up something valuable. “I wrote“ predators ”for the children’s version of myself,” she says. “I tried to run away from my problems, not face the things that scared me. The hard lesson I learned as a child was that running away from their problems doesn’t really make them disappear. It just lengthens them and makes the monster bigger. ” Gray says that when she learned to face what scares her, and to rely on her friends and society, she realized that scary things aren’t so scary, and she hopes readers will take that away from the book.
For young writers developing as she once did, Gray gives two tips: “A lot of people will say read, and I totally agree. Reading books is the best way to learn to write. ” But Gray also has tips that are a little more practical. “I don’t hear that advice that often, but if you’re really interested in becoming an author and doing it your job, don’t bother really spending time to sort out the author’s business.”